The .44 Magnum

With the arrival of the .44 Magnum in the mid-1950s reloading manuals reported wadcutter loads for the new S&W — which was not only a powerful revolver for hunting but also had the attributes of the finest target revolver. These old Lyman designs are long out of production but are worth looking for at gun shows. For my current use I go with two wadcutters from Matt’s Bullets, a 175-gr. version with the small nose and a 185-gr. full wadcutter.

With the coming of the Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special pocket revolvers in the mid-1960s full wadcutters were often employed for self-defense loads. These days I use the 175-gr. wadcutter from Matt’s Bullets loaded over 4.0 grains of Red Dot, 4.0 grains of Bullseye, or 5.0 grains of Unique. In the 3" barrel of the Charter Arms muzzle velocities are 665 fps with Red Dot and 725 fps with the other two loads. At seven yards all of these are very accurate. If there is a better self-defense load for these Bulldogs I don’t know what it is.

I also like to shoot these wadcutter loads in a pair of custom .44 Specials built on Ruger .357 Blackhawk Three-Screw frames. One is a 3" barreled, nickel-plated, round-butted .44 Special from Bob Baer while the other from Andy Horvath is also round-butted, blued with a 4" barrel. The 175-gr. wadcutter over 5.0 grains of Unique clock out at 775-800 fps with 3/4" groups from them. I’m not necessarily recommending the single-action sixgun as the best choice for self-defense, however it’s still a choice and these sixguns and loads are very effective.