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44 Magnum is now well into its fifth decade and it seems good to look back at the history of this excellent, even all-around sixgun load and some of the fine guns that have been made and are still being made for the big forty-four. If you are not a reader of Elmer Keith I would suggest that you become one. It is impossible to discuss the .44 Magnum without him. For much of his life Elmer was way ahead of his time. His books on sixguns, SIXGUN CARTRIDGES & LOADS (1936) and SIXGUNS (1955, 2nd Edition 1961) are still viable and still make good reading. His features and columns in AMERICAN RIFLEMAN in the 1920's through the 1950's, and GUNS and GUNS & AMMO from the 1950'S until the time of his stroke in 1981, still make fascinating reading. As Keith closed his book SIXGUNS in 1955, he said: "We desperately need a modern up-to-date, fullpowered factory loaded .44 Special--the King of all Handgun Cartridges." Keith was right, but it would not be his .44 Special load but a totally new cartridge. For thirty years Keith had been writing about his heavy handloads used in .44 Special sixguns, namely Smith & Wesson TripleLocks, and Model 1926 Targets, and in Colt Single Actions. His standard load was 18.5 grains of #2400 and his 250 grain Lyman #429421 bullet loaded over standard primers in balloon head cases. This load was changed to 17.0 grains of #2400 with the advent of modern solid head brass. Both loads give around 1200 feet per second from seven and one-half inch barreled sixguns. For those same thirty years Keith had been trying to convince ammunition manufacturers to bring out his 250 grain/1200 feet per second .44 Special load but to no avail. Product liability is nothing new and they were afraid that someone would blow an old .44 Special apart. Elmer claimed there would be no problem with any Colt or S&W heavy frame sixgun, as he had been shooting this load in pre- World War II sixguns for years. It was my good fortune to inspect and unload many of Elmer's sixguns after his death in 1984. I was able to lovingly fondle all the sixguns we had seen in pictures in magazine articles and books for so many years. None of the .44 Special TripleLocks, Model 1926's, Model 1950's, or Colt Single Actions showed any evidence of `shooting loose" by any means. One person that did listen to Keith was Carl Hellstrom, president of S&W in the 1950's. He showed interest in Elmer's pet load and discussed the prospect of a new forty-four sixgun with him. Who would supply the ammunition? Only with the dawn of silhouetting and the explosion of handgun hunting would we see firearms being produced without factory ammunition available. Hellstrom went to Remington and they agreed to supply the ammo if Smith & Wesson would supply the sixgun. Remington produced the first lot of ammunition in 1954. The new ammunition was one-eighth inch longer than the .44 Special, and this was done so it would not chamber in .44 Special sixguns. This had to be done since this was not Elmer's .44 Special load but truly a full-house big bore Magnum load. Please note carefully: Keith did not invent the .44 Magnum as others have stated. He simply lead the way with his .44 Special load and the ink he gave it for so many years.
As a kid fresh out of high school. With . I fired it and said the recoil wasn't bad.44 Target Model was definitely too light for the recoil of the new . These were standard . fired with one hand." . thirty-five years later. Keith had asked for 1200 feet per second and the new round was claimed to achieve 1500 feet per second plus! To provide the desirable increase in weight. pleasant to shoot. I lied! Reporting in the AMERICAN RIFLEMAN for March of 1956. we found it advisable to use gloves. tests were completed and Smith & Wesson began tooling up to produce what at the time was known simply as the .38 Specials.44 Magnum. however. The factory load. which give the highest recoil. nor have several old sixgun men complained who have fired it extensively. we suddenly experienced a sharp stinging sensation over the entire hand. a "new" . the checkering hurts the hand. This brought the weight of the six and one-half inch barreled original . The recoil has not bothered me in the slightest.44 Magnum.44 Magnum up to three pounds. Major Hatcher said: "In shooting the .44 Magnum Mountain Pistol would be offered with a ." Keith writing in the GUN DIGEST looked upon the .44 Specials except for the rechambering and specially heat treated cylinders. At the first shot the gun rose up a bit.44 Special. and does not jar the hand as much as do my heavy .44 sixguns that a local dealer rented out at six shots for fifty cents. The eight and three-eighths inch length would follow in 1958. By the end of 1956 more than 3000 Smith & Wesson . the next two were completed and one went to the NRA for testing by Major Hatcher and the other was shipped to Elmer Keith in Salmon. After firing many heavy handloads in the . Without gloves. and the first reaction was that it was not as bad as we had expected.44 Special barrel! By early 1955. It is definitely not a ladies gun but I have known women who would enjoy shooting it. as though we were hitting a fast baseball with a cracked bat. including Hank Benson and Don Martin. The recoil is not as severe as that of a two-inch Airweight Chief's Special with high speed . The first factory revolver was completed on December 29.44 Magnum loads. After all it was his baby. It was a real attention getter at his range and it certainly got my attention. flips the barrel up almost to the vertical. and the sharp edges of the cylinder latch are almost certain to shave off bits of skin.44 Special S&W guns.15" greater in diameter and a cylinder that was . it will not bother a seasoned sixgun man at all.44 Special Magnum. 1955 and shipped to Remington.inch . I fired one of the first four. as the recoil can only be described as severe. In January.44 Magnum quite differently than Major Hatcher.44 Special loads from the much lighter four-inch barreled . I fired quite a few shots with this gun. we expected a heavy recoil with this ultra-powerful new cartridge. "The big gun is. I would say.Smith rechambered four 1950 Target .18" longer. Just about that time. Strangely enough.44 Specials for the new round in 1954. Recoil with my heaviest loads of 22 grains of 2400 and the Keith 250 grain bullet is much less than that of the factory load.44 Magnums had been produced in the original six and one-half inch length as well as the easy packin' four-inch length. Idaho. but I must honestly confess it is not an unmixed pleasure. S&W introduced a sixgun with a barrel that was . Remington received one of the "new" revolvers for testing and it was soon obvious that the thirty-nine ounce weight of the .44 Special factory loads it is just as pleasant to shoot as a K-22 and with the .
which was smaller than today's . during which time the gun blew up.half inchers. In 1959. to the `improved' Super Blackhawk." Keith than goes on to relate the improvements he asked for which resulted in the Super Blackhawk two years later.44 Magnum.44 Magnum was starting to show up on gun dealer's shelves. He told me to pick it up before leaving for Idaho. he decided to proof fire it. with barrel lengths of four and five-eighths inches. now lovingly known as the Flat-Top. Bill then wrote that I was right and he was redesigning the whole gun to handle the big load. and seven and one-half inches. ten and one-half inch models were offered for silhouetting and hunting and just recently Super Blackhawks have been available with shorter barrels and standard Blackhawk grip frames.44 Blackhawk. to . and I told him (Bill Ruger) then the frame was too small and the cylinder also too small in diameter for the heavy load. The Three Screw Ruger Super Blackhawks were offered only in seven and one-half inches in length except for a very few that were one inch shorter.44 was much closer to Major Hatcher's. so Bill said he would send it to me. before shipping. By 1957.44 Special loads.44 Blackhawk was finally dropped in 1963 when Ruger went to the Three-Screw or Old Model frame and grip frame.44 Magnum handload. At first they had rechambered their .357 New Model Blackhawk.44 Blackhawk became a reality the barrel length was six and one-half inches.357 frame were in the standard Colt Single Action barrel lengths but for some strange reason when the .000 each were made in seven and one-half inch and ten-inch lengths and all the rest were six and one. Ruger's offering in . With the coming of the New Model Super Blackhawk. However. the Super Blackhawk was introduced and the standard .44 Magnums on the . Bill asked me if I wanted one and I told him I would like the four and five-eighths inch and would use it with . I much prefer the balance of seven and one-half inch length . The frame would be made larger and also the cylinder. It proved to be very fine single action but I was still not satisfied.I'm afraid Keith's assessment sold many . but when I went to get it the boys had packed it for shipment back to the Ruger factory.357 Blackhawk.called Black Hawk design in four and five-eighths inch barrel. Of the nearly 30. For myself.44 Magnum handload. I much prefer the original .44 Magnum sixguns which then wound up back on the dealer's shelves as slightly used guns since the shooter found that their reaction upon shooting the .000 . Three of these were shown at the NRA Convention. around 1. . five and one-half inches. For some reason the original Blackhawk was never offered with the shorter easier packin' four and five-eighths inch length that was made up for Keith or the five and one-half inch length. Elmer relates: "They were very nice looking sixguns.44 Blackhawk and had my first year six and one-half inch Blackhawk first cut to four and five-eighths inches and then later rebarreled to seven and one-half inches with an early Super Blackhawk barrel. He sent me one in the so. The original was much lighter and had the Colt Single Action-style grip frame that I still prefer over the Dragoon style Super Blackhawk grip frame that Colt dropped in 1851! The first prototype Ruger .44 Magnum Blackhawks produced. but the cylinder was too short to accept my . and it would be longer to handle perfectly my 250 grain .
F. . High Standard. The . Texas Longhorn Arms.44 Magnum TripleLock from Rossi of Brazil. The fortyfour has been around for nearly forty-five years and I can't see anything in the future except more popularity for this excellent cartridge and the fine sixguns made for it. U. El Dorados. Two prototypes that never saw production are very interesting.44 Magnum is no longer the World's Most Powerful revolver. and also at the front of the cylinder.475 and . the . Enter Detective Harry Callahan. Where is it now? The second protype was a beefed up Colt Single Action in. InterArms. R. Mossberg.S. but Great Western as well. The first is a .44 Magnums were available from not only Ruger and Smith & Wesson. But for most shooters.500 Linebaughs. Whoever designed this . aft.G. Iver Johnson. Dan Wesson.44 Magnum with a vent rib barrel and a cylinder that locked fore. Arms. This sixgun also had smooth wood stocks that looked much like the Skeeter Skelton style now offered by BluMagnum.By 1958. It looked much like the later Abilenes.44 Magnum that never saw production.454 Casull and the . As we are in the closing days of the twentieth century.E.44 Magnum craze and we have since seen forty-fours from Freedom Arms. Arminius.445 SuperMag as well as the wildcat . Llama..44 "Go ahead.44 Magnum and the Ruger Super Blackhawk. Make my day!" Magnum created such a demand that Smith & Wessons soon doubled in price. and Sauer.44 Magnum will be regarded by most sixgunners as the premier cartridge development of the last 100 years. In a way this false demand turned out to be a good thing as other manufacturers tried to get in on the . The Great Western did not last long as the Great Western factory folded and the only .44 understood sixguns.I. and Sevilles. This was a very good looking four-inch . and perhaps even more than they bargained for. It has been overtaken by both the .44 is plenty gun. Astra.44 Magnums available in the 1960's were the Smith & Wesson . I think it will be safe to say that the .44 Magnum in the excellent Anaconda. It has been king for nearly fifty years to which we simply say: "Long Live The King!" . Clint Eastwood's unrealistic portrayal of a San Francisco cop who carried a . Finally after thirtyfive plus years Colt offered a ..
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