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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
  • bullet reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
hodgdon load data

.44 Special (Handgun) (using Sierra bullets)

Author: Brian Pearce / Wolfe Publishing Co.
Date: Mar 11 2019

The .44 S&W Special was developed around 1907 by lengthening the .44 Russian case from .97 inch to 1.16 inches. Early loads contained a 246-grain lead roundnose pushed with 26 grains of black powder for 780 fps velocity, with smokeless powder loads being introduced at about the same time. The cartridge was developed for the first Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolver known as the New Century but often nicknamed the “Triple Lock,” which referenced the third locking point of the cylinder assembly that secured the yoke to the frame. This feature increased durability but not strength. In the decades since, the .44 Special has been chambered in a variety of revolvers, with classic guns being offered by Smith & Wesson and Colt. U.S.F.A. Ruger, Charter Arms, Taurus and several Italian manufacturers have also offered a variety of guns including rifles.

 In 1955  Remington and Smith & Wesson developed the .44 Remington Magnum, essentially the .44 Special case lengthened to 1.285 inches and loaded at much greater pressures and velocities. It has become widely popular, and as such has limited the popularity of the .44 Special. There are still many dedicated .44 Special enthusiasts who recognize its virtues that include lighter revolvers and lower recoil while still offering significant performance and accuracy.

The .44 Special has historically suffered from rather sluggish, smokeless powder factory loads that have been advertised to push a 246-grain lead RN bullet to 755 fps (as offered from Winchester and Remington); however, in checking the velocities of these loads over many years, they often clock below 700 fps from most revolvers with 4 to 5.5 inch barrels. As a result, most .44 special shooters handload to enhance accuracy and performance.

The accompanying data shot with Sierra Bullets is for the most part, within industry maximum average pressures of 15,500 psi. The most accurate powders included Alliant Bullseye, Red Dot, Unique and Accurate No. 5, With the most accurate loads often being those that contain maximum charges and ignited with standard (non-magnum) CCI 300 primers.