.44 Special Loads
Factory Options Keep It Versatile
Some handgunners don’t handload and have no interest in doing so. The great competitive shooter Tommy Campbell shot factory ammunition exclusively. World speedshooting champ Mike Plaxco once told me a story of Campbell’s handloading experience. They were shooting on Plaxco’s private range, preparing for a world championship match. While they were looking over Plaxco’s reloading setup, Mike had Tommy pull the handle of the Dillon progressive machine, kicking out a loaded round. Apparently it was the only round Campbell ever reloaded.
Cost aside, handloaders have the luxury of loading to different power levels for different needs. In recent years I’ve noticed an interest in compact and lightweight .44 Magnum revolvers. While it’s nice to have the option of full-power loads, most handgunners would practice more and shoot better with lighter loads. Heck, even Dirty Harry said he used “light .44 Specials” in his Model 29. Fortunately even non-handloaders have factory options available.
Dave gets a .44 Special
Oddly it was an S&W K22 revolver which led to acquiring a .44 Special. I like big-bore revolvers, and own several in .41 and .44 Magnum, a couple of Colt .44-40 single actions, a .45 Colt and a Freedom Arms .454. But a .44 Special stayed on my “to do” list. Then a friend introduced me to an acquaintance who wanted to sell a few firearms. One was an absolutely gorgeous 1951-era K22 Masterpiece. I wanted it in the worst way. The owner also wanted to sell his .S&W .44 Special and offered a discount to take both. It was a 24-3 model, made in 1983, and appeared to be in like-new, unfired condition. The more I handled and dry-fired the .44 the more I liked it. It appeared to be very well fitted and finished, the action was oily smooth, the trigger pull exceptional both single and double action. I bought the both.
I wanted two load levels for it; something along the lines of a 200-gr. bullet at 750 fps for plinking, informal target shooting and small game and a 240- to 250-gr. load at 1,100 fps for hunting. I can’t think of the .44 Special without thinking of John Taffin. I sent John an email telling him of my purchase, a bit embarrassed to admit I’d never owned one before. John was much too kind to point out my shortcoming though. He suggested some loads using Unique and 2400 powders, ending with, “Welcome to the wonderful world of .44 Specials! I got my first one in 1959 and am now up to 113 of them. Good Shootin’ And God Bless, John.” Yes, JT is as much a gentleman in real life as he comes across in his writing.
By Dave Anderson
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