In 1953 while at Camp Perry, Ohio, I had several long sessions with C. G. Peterson of Remington. He was very much interested when I asked him to bring out a heavy 44 Special load with my bullet at 1200 feet. He asked me to come up to the Remington plant and handload it for pressures and velocity readings. I also had several long talks with Carl Hellstrom, President of Smith & Wesson, and he also urged me to visit his plant after Camp Perry. When I finally arrived at the Remington plant, Mr. Peterson was away on vacation, but Henry Davis took me to Gail Evans, who made notes on all my work and findings and promised to take it up with Mr. Peterson as soon as he returned. They promised me nothing, except to see what could be done about a heavy factory 44 Special load.
They were afraid that the old Triple Lock, even though it had been handling my heavy loads for many years, might, in some instances, blow up. They said, and rightly, that it was made long before the days of heat treatment or magnafluxing, and some could have dangerous flaws.
After several days at Remington, I put in a week at the Smith & Wesson plant, urging them to get together with Remington in the production of a heavy factory 44 Special load with my bullet and, if necessary, make a new gun to hold it. If they were afraid of the old gun’s strength, I said a new gun could be made with a longer, recessed-head cylinder, the amount of barrel extension through the frame cut to the minimum, but with room for a gas ring.
During my last day at the Smith & Wesson plant Mr. Hellstrom told me he could build a safe gun around any heavy 44 Special load that Remington would make. I then suggested that they could lengthen the 44 Special case until it would not enter any of the older 44 Special guns, and again strongly urged them to get together with Remington and bring out a powerful 44 gun and load. I vamosed then but continued, in letters to both companies, to urge such a load and, if necessary, a gun to handle it. Actually, all this had been covered in my book, Sixguns, years before!
From the late summer of 1953 until early in 1956 I had no word from either company on what they were doing about the heavy 44. In January, 1956, Smith & Wesson phoned me one evening to tell me they had built a big 44, and that the first one finished would be sent to me! This was great news, and I learned also that Remington would ship me some of the new “44 Magnum” ammunition with 240-grain bullet at 1570 foot seconds velocity. I immediately gave General Hatcher — he was also being sent the new gun — the good news.
Well, that’s the story behind the Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum gun and the Remington 44 Magnum cartridge, and it’s all well documented. Thousands of shooters the country over, their interest spurred by my writings and the articles of others, created the demand.
Mr. Peterson and the Remington ballisticians put in a lot of hard work designing and perfecting the load, Mr. Hellstrom and his staff of gun makers likewise did endless work on the new gun. At last my dreams of thirty years are a reality. Today we have the world’s finest big sixgun and load, and my hat is off to every man in both organizations who had anything at all to do with the development. They did a wonderful job.
First the men behind the gun. Carl Hellstrom, Bill Gunn, Harold Austin, Walt Sanborn, Fred Miller, Harold Steins and many others at the Smith & Wesson plant, had their part in the production of this fine arm.
About the Author: Elmer Keith (March 8, 1899 – February 12, 1984) was an Idaho rancher, firearms enthusiast, and author. Keith was instrumental in the development of the first magnum revolver cartridge, the .357 Magnum, as well as the later .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum cartridges. He was a regular contributor to Gun Digest.
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