Shooting the 44 Magnum
The new gun is the finest target arm I have ever fired with standard 44 Special factory ammunition or a light reload with my own, or any, accurate target bullet. It holds steadier than any gun I have used on target. Double action pull for fast work is superb and for the target shooter the broad hammer spur is ideal for fast cocking in single action, timed, and rapid fire matches.
The rear end of barrel projects through the frame about 1⁄8-inch and with the long cylinder adds strength to these, the two weakest parts of a sixgun. The 6½” barrel job is ideal for the hills, for target shooting, or for hunting with a sixgun, and a perfect gun for running cougar with hounds. It gives maximum sight radius as well as maximum velocity. It is a great two-hand weapon for game shooting, as it feels muzzle heavy and hangs well on the object.
In a 4″ barrel the weight lies more in the hand and is better balanced for emergency double action shooting, hip shooting and fast aerial double action work. The four-inch job will also be the gun for the peace officer as he can stop either man or automobile, and yet it is short enough to ride high on the waist belt where it will not poke the seat of a car or chair. It will also be the faster to get into action.
External finish of the new gun is the traditional Smith & Wesson high bright blue. A new high in polish has been attained on this gun and even the edges of the trigger guard and the hinge of the crane are polished like a mirror. The ramp front sight is pinned through the rib with two pins before polishing, so that careful examination is necessary to detect the two pins. Attractively packaged in a presentation, hinged-lid case of blue leatherette, it sells at $140.00 and is worth every cent of its cost. It all adds up to a finer gun than I thought anyone would ever build.
Remington has produced the greatest and most powerful sixgun cartridge ever made. The new case is an eighth-inch longer than the 44 Special and it will not fully enter any 44 Special chamber we have so far tried, including S. & W., Colt and Great Western. The solid head case is the heaviest sixgun brass I have ever seen. There are no worthless cannelures to cause the case to stretch when fired and resized. The new case appears to be of the same length as the 357 Magnum brass. The bullet is a modification of my design, with two narrow and shallow grease grooves instead of one heavy, wide and deep grease groove, and with the case crimped down into the soft lead of the forward band, leaving a very small full caliber band in front of the case. The crimp is heavy, and so far no bullets have jumped their crimp from recoil.
The 240-grain bullet has a shorter nose than my slug, the same wide flat point, slightly larger on the flat surface. It is made of very soft lead, a necessity because it is extruded in long ropes fed to the cutting and swaging machines. The soft bullet requires a gas check cup, not only to prevent deformation of the base but to help hold the soft slug in the rifling at high velocity. The slug upsets to fill the chamber mouths perfectly and the gas check is the best I have ever seen on a bullet, being crimped into the rear grease groove. The factory bullets do not carry as much lubricant in both grooves as my original bullet does in its one grease groove. The slug mikes .431″ and the groove diameter of my gun is 429″. Pressure is high with factory loads; I would estimate it to be at least 40,000 pounds and possibly 42,000.
The gun is made to take it, and the case is made for high pressure; fired cases fall out of my gun with a tap on the extractor rod. Accuracy is high at all ranges and the gun shoots good to a half mile. Once we managed to put five out of six bullets on a rock one foot high by 18 inches long at over 500 yards (two of us paced it), shooting with both hands out of a car window, which is plenty good enough for any sixgun. They would have hit a buck deer at that range five times out of six.
At close range it shot quite small groups on targets and, like my original bullet, cut clean full-caliber holes in the paper. My first shot at game was a big Goshawk in the top of a cottonwood 100 yards away. I used both hands, rested my left arm and shoulder against a post and shot with just his head showing over the front sight. The gas check slug caught him dead center and splattered him all over.
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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