January 04, 2018
By Lane Pearce
The .44 Special was introduced in about 1907 and is an extremely accurate cartridge. However, as factory loaded with a 246-grain lead roundnose bullet at approximately 750 fps muzzle velocity, the .44 Spl. does not engender a reputation as a "hot" cartridge.
That changed when Elmer Keith and the other .44 Associates of the 1920s and 1930s began handloading it to its maximum potential; then, the .44 Spl. could legitimately claim top gun performance. Even the potent .357 Magnum delivers less muzzle energy than a 240/250-grain cast SWC on top of a case full of 2400 or 4227.
Of course, the situation changed when S&W introduced the .44 Magnum 50+ years ago. Since then, even the .44 Magnum's performance has been eclipsed by several bigger bore and more powerful handgun cartridges. But there are limits to the bigger-is-better scenario, based upon your tolerance to recoil.
My experience shooting those behemoths suggests they exceed my limit.
The handloads listed on this page encompass a suitable range of performance from plinking to personal protection.
Lane's Favorite .44 Special Handloads
|Bullet||Powder (Type/ Grs.)||Velocity (fps)|
|Hornady 180-gr. JHP-XTP||Power Pistol/ 8.8||1015|
|Clements 200-gr. Cast SWC||Unique/ 8.0||1086|
|Clements 200-gr. Cast SWC||Univesal/ 8.1||1135|
|Lyman No. 429421 240-gr. Cast FP||AA Plus/ 5.1||805|
|Magnus 240-gr. Cast SWC||2400/ 15.3||1028|
|Magnus 240-gr. Cast SWC||AA Plus/ 5.1||815|
|Magnus 240-gr. Cast SWC||Titegroup/ 4.8||815|
|Magnus 240-gr. Cast SWC||Trail Boss/ 5.5||776|
|Magnus 240-gr. Cast SWC||W231/ 5.8||843|
|Keith-style 250-gr. Cast SWC||2400/ 15.8||1096|
|Keith-style 250-gr. Cast SWC||IMR-4227/ 16.5||947|
|Keith-style 250-gr. Cast SWC||Unique/ 7.7||941|