Callahan Target Model

The .44 Magnum cartridge chambered in sixguns is one of the all-time great success stories. However, it did not begin that way. Elmer Keith was ecstatic about the new Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum and said the recoil “would not bother a seasoned sixgunner.” Meanwhile General Hatcher of the NRA said shooting it was like getting hit in the palm of the hand with a baseball bat. For most shooters the actual feeling was somewhere in between. It was not unusual in those early days to find very slightly used .44 Magnum sixguns for sale along with a box of cartridges with six, or less, rounds being fired. I bought such a Ruger Flat-Top Blackhawk and a box of .44 Magnum rounds with six empties and 44 rounds still loaded.

The .44 Magnum was not an immediate success for several reasons. One of the major reasons, of course, was the tremendous recoil offered at a time when the heaviest handguns available fired the .357 Magnum, the .45 ACP and the .45 Colt. Add to this the price tag, which for me was four weeks take-home pay. The Smith & Wesson sold for almost double the price of a brand-new Colt Government Model .45 ACP, which everyone knew then was all the recoil any mere mortal could really handle.