.444 Marlin (using Hornady bullets)
Date: Mar 25 2016
The .444 Marlin cartridge was introduced in 1964 as a joint effort between Marlin and Remington and offered in Marlin’s Model 444 lever action. Early rifles featured a 24-inch barrel (used herein) that was later standardized at 22 inches. In recent years even shorter versions have appeared. Early ammunition was advertised to drive a 240-grain JSP to 2,400 fps, but in 22-inch barrels typical speeds are between 2,260 to 2,300 fps. When referencing velocities in the accompanying data, expect between 75 and 110 fps velocity decrease when fired from a 22-inch barrel.
For the big game hunter the 240-grain bullet (actually designed for the .44 Magnum revolver cartridge) failed to perform properly at rifle velocities. The Hornady 265-grain FP bullet was designed specifically for this cartridge and was a huge improvement. When various 300-grain .429/.430-inch bullets started to appear, many considered them too heavy for the one-in-38-inch barrel twist used in the Marlin rifles. However, in these tests they stabilized fine and often grouped under 1 ½ inches at 100 yards. With that said, the loads that usually gave the best accuracy with the 300-grain Hornady HP-XTP bullet reached or exceeded 1,750 to 1,800 fps. At longer ranges - ranges far beyond normal distances that game will be taken with this rifle - these bullets can become unstable.
When handloading the Hornady 265-grain FTX, cases should be trimmed to 2.065 inches and the bullet seated to the upper edge of the cannelure for an overall length of 2.580 inches, then a heavy crimp applied. If cartridge length exceeds this figure, feeding problems may occur.
Using cases that are not uniform in length will probably cause some frustration in obtaining perfect crimps (which are important to obtain reliable feeding and aid with accuracy). The best solution is to trim all cases to the minimum length of 2.215 inches (or 2.065 inches with the FTX bullet). Another good option includes using a Lee Precision factory crimp die, which will provide a uniform crimp on cases that are of different lengths.