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S&W Revolvers: 1980 to the Present All NON-PINNED Barrels, the L-Frames, and the New Era Revolvers


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  #51  
Old 07-25-2011, 01:08 PM
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Paladin85020,
Exactly why I shoot 44 special loads out of my 44 mag. I dislike recoil. So what is the difference in in N frame in weight in 44 mag vs. a 44 special????

As for a 357 penetrating for bear????? They can do it but............................ it is not all about penetration to kill a bear. Believe me I know!!

John
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  #52  
Old 07-25-2011, 02:18 PM
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Paladin85020,
Exactly why I shoot 44 special loads out of my 44 mag. I dislike recoil. So what is the difference in in N frame in weight in 44 mag vs. a 44 special????

John
The main difference in S&Ws is that the cylinder is shorter and barrel is thinner. May be only a few ounces, but on long hikes, every ounce counts!

John
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  #53  
Old 07-25-2011, 02:18 PM
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There's a certain elegance to it.

Hand loaded it is equal, if not superior, to the 45 colt which is known for its power and considered the magnum of the west back in the old days.

Yeah, they had the 44 Walker back then, but relatively few were made and used.

The accuracy is what's so amazing IMO.
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Old 07-25-2011, 02:55 PM
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From this thread alone, I haven't seen a picture of a .44 SW Special that I haven't liked yet.
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Old 07-25-2011, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PALADIN85020 View Post
The main difference in S&Ws is that the cylinder is shorter and barrel is thinner. May be only a few ounces, but on long hikes, every ounce counts!

John
That may or may not be the case, I'm really not sure as I own an M29 44mag.

What I DO know:

Checking multiple reloading manuals and the overall cartridge lengths of the 44 spcl and 44mag reveal that many 44 special loads have overall lengths LONGER than 44 magnum.
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:05 PM
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Paladin85020,
Exactly why I shoot 44 special loads out of my 44 mag. I dislike recoil. So what is the difference in in N frame in weight in 44 mag vs. a 44 special????

John
I don't know about all the .44 specials, but the 624 has the shorter cylinder as mentioned, but it also has the short underlug and tapered barrel profile so it's very similar to the .44 magnum 'Mountain Gun'. Very light for an N frame.
Full power .44 specials (240 gr x 900 fps) have good, solid recoil. Nothing painful, but not the same as shooting specials in a bull barreled, unfluted, full underlug 629.
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:20 PM
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Just 'cuz!

Was at the range yesterday. Shot two of my favorite 44 spl: my Blackhawk and a Colt Anaconda (shot 44 mags in it once!). Also, shot my 45 AR (another real joy to shoot). Wife felt the Anaconda was too heavy-really liked the Blackhawk (still likes her 41 mag better). Those mid-speed, Forty-something cartridges just do the job and do it well=45 Colt, 45 acp, 44 spl and 45 AR.
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:57 PM
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OK, I'm going to extremes here and see what you guys say---just for fun! OK?

So is the 44 special lighter in weight than the 44 mag mountain gun? It would seem that the weight issue is mostly a mute point to me anyway. Even with a shorter cylinder. Not so in a Ruger with the OM blackhawk frame and alum. grip frame.

As I have said before I shoot 44 special handloads in my 44 mag. Therefore I have less felt recoil than someone shooting the same loads out of a lighter gun.

Snapping Twig, aawwwwww..... I don't think so! Check your reloading manuals.

Bear bio, I will let it rest unless I just have to jump in, but your answer of "just cuz" is the reason most of us have a favorite caliber/ frame style firearm. That is the best answer I have heard yet. No justification------JUST CUZ....It works for me!

John
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  #59  
Old 07-25-2011, 06:14 PM
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OK, I'm going to extremes here and see what you guys say---just for fun! OK?

So is the 44 special lighter in weight than the 44 mag mountain gun? It would seem that the weight issue is mostly a mute point to me anyway.
John
Boy, it's got to be razor close. The Mountain guns have a round butt, and the specials have the shorter cylinder.

The new Bisley Blackhawk, even with the '.357' frame, is a heavy brute with the steel ejector rod housing and grip frame.
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  #60  
Old 07-25-2011, 07:15 PM
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I am the guy that has 7 44 specials. I also have a nice model 29-2 with a 5" barrel. In the past I owned other 29-2s, a 4" and a 8 3/8", had other rugers in all the calibers.
The regular (Not mountain) 29s all have the straight heavier barrel and some the stupid full length heavy lug. The only thing that comes close IS the mountain gun. I just dont have one. In the 4" 24-3 it would be pretty close to a 29 mountain gun, yet weigh slightly less because of the slightly shorter clyinder. I am a beliver in the magna style stocks, I have faux ivory on mine. Elmer keith even used magnas on his 29. I havent yet. The magnas along with the tapered barrel make the gun noticably more desireable than the straight barrel heavier 29 with the bulkier target type grips. I like what I call "sweetheart" guns in all type guns. The 24 and colt saa qualify in .44 special. In shotguns a 16 or 20 gauge might be sweethearts, or in rifles 25/35, 7X57, etc. They all seem to be old proven non magnum cartridges that worked a hundred years ago and still work. All the sweetheart guns traditionaly are no heavier than they have to be, usualy have good looking wood and good blue.
Unless you figure you might have to defend yourself from a kodiak or grizzley the 44 special will do any popular realistic job for you with less weight to pack, less kick and muzzel blast. Now except for exspendsive special rounds like buffalo bore, the special does need handloading to make it as usefull as I am talking about.
I will say the 44 mag in a mountain gun does sound appealing, but I have so much other stuff I cant justify getting one.
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  #61  
Old 07-25-2011, 07:55 PM
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feralmerril,
I think you have 7 44 specials ----"just cuz". Nothing wrong with that.

Hey guys we don't have to "justify" our choice of calibers to each other---we are not each others wives!!!!! LOL LOL

Thanks you all for your input. I always learn something with these forums.

John
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  #62  
Old 07-25-2011, 07:57 PM
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I hear ya, Feralmerill. I have too many 629s to justify a dedicated .44 Special. I DO love those snubby 624s, however. IDP4570'S is a BEAUT ! !
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  #63  
Old 07-25-2011, 09:45 PM
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7 Smiths and a Ruger. I kinda like .44 specials too.

Oops! Found another one that was tucked back.............Rossi 720.
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  #64  
Old 07-25-2011, 09:55 PM
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I feel like such a piker. I only have 3!
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  #65  
Old 07-25-2011, 10:02 PM
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Just because I like 'em.

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Old 07-25-2011, 10:11 PM
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So, to the guys that have 629's. I have been thinking of adding one to my collection. What version though is the question. I like the look of the full underlug guns. I also wonder about a ported vs non-ported barrel. Lots of 629's on Gunbroker to chose from, new and used. Any opinions guys? This would be for plinking, occaisonal target shooting.
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Old 07-25-2011, 10:17 PM
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I have .44 Special and .44 Magnum revolvers. I think the .44 Special is a great cartridge and so is the .44 Magnum. The last time I checked the 24-3 or 624 in a 4" barrel (41 1/2 oz.) is 1 1/2 ounces less than the 29 or 629 with a 4" barrel (43 oz.). In my mind, the difference in weight is negligible and doesn't really make the .44 Special that much easier to carry.

If you handload, you can shoot reduced loads in the .44 magnum or shoot .44 Special loads. You can also shoot hot handloads in the .44 Special that approach the .44 Magnum.

Could it be that the .44 Special with the tapered barrel justs looks cool?
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  #68  
Old 07-25-2011, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m4bgringo View Post
So, to the guys that have 629's. I have been thinking of adding one to my collection. What version though is the question. I like the look of the full underlug guns. I also wonder about a ported vs non-ported barrel. Lots of 629's on Gunbroker to chose from, new and used. Any opinions guys? This would be for plinking, occaisonal target shooting.
I would opt for a 4", full lug, 629 w/o the infernal lock. That length delivers excellent accuracy, can still be carried, and dampens recoil. I would stay away from a ported weapon, if you ever envision using the weapon for self defense. (it certainly is not needed when firing .44Spl) The upward blast in your field of vision in low light, or across your torso if you are forced to point shoot from the hip should the SHTF will be unpleasant and detrimental to accurate follow up shots. I haven't noticed a HUGE advantage in the reduction of felt recoil in the few ported weapons that I've shot. Resale is limited by the porting as well........
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  #69  
Old 07-25-2011, 11:10 PM
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I haven't seen much 44 spl ammo out there? Is it hard to find? What's the difference in cost btwn the 44 Spl and 44 mags? Just curious?
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Old 07-25-2011, 11:47 PM
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We really shouldn't hijack this thread to 44 mag, but since it is already going........ I have a 629-3 with the full underlug in a 5" barrel. Shooting 44 special handloads the recoil is minimal at best. Accuracy is great. I do not care for the looks of the full under lug barrel and do prefer the looks of the mountain gun barrel,(44 special taper).

I would advise against any ported guns. They are detrimental in shooting as has been aleady stated. I think ported are fine for target, long barreled guns.

Both of my sons have the newer IL 4" barreled 629's and one has shot 9" groups at 100 yards. I can't see that far without a scope. LOL

John
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  #71  
Old 07-26-2011, 12:26 AM
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Thedane, perhaps you are right that the spec versus mag is only 1 1/2 oz. I think why I notice more differance simply is that on the 29 for mags I use the larger target style grips, and on the lighter kicking 24 I get by fine with the smaller magnas, that alone is a big factor and part of the comparison. Maybe I will put magnas on the 29 one of these days and give her a test run. I probley actualy have as much or more experiance with the 29 than the 7 specials as I have owned that 5" 29 for close to 38 years or so. Three of the 7 are safe queens that I shot and just put away.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:34 AM
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Holy qwap, 9" at 100 yards? I can't see that far either!

When I shoot one of my RIFLES at 100 yards I have my wife sitting next to me with the spotting scope so she can tell me where I am hitting. Old-age kinda stinks at times....

Now, shooting a HANDGUN accurately at 100 yards with iron sights is quite a feat, I gotta hand it to your boys.

Some like the full underlug look, some like the short underlug. Heck, I can buy one of each. That is what I love about S & W, lot's of choices! Well, besides they make good stuff that seems to last forever.

I want to buy a .44 Magnum (gotta keep the .357 Magnum company) and shoot mostly .44 Special with it. We shoot mainly .38 Special Wad Cutters with our 686. Once in awhile I want a real kick so I'll shoot a box of .357 Magnum. I have the same plans for the .44. I like the 629, but I know there are several models for this specific caliber.

I like the idea of loading the .44 anywhere in-between a .44 Special and a .44 Magnum.
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  #73  
Old 07-26-2011, 05:19 AM
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Until you own and shoot one, there is truly no way to understand what is so great about the .44 spl.
Once you do, it will be LOVE!!!
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  #74  
Old 07-26-2011, 05:31 AM
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This is a great thread and just at the right time too. I've never fired a 44 magnum or a 44 spl., but that will change in a few days. My son in law has made me a gift of his Ruger Blackhawk, so I'll soon find out just how good the 44 spl. is. I don't plan on shooting any magnums, but nice to know it's there if needed.
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  #75  
Old 07-26-2011, 10:19 AM
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Default Magnaporting does not increase muzzle flash

One eye joe,

I have to say that regarding this one you are wrong. You cannot group all types of porting together. I have all my revolvers magnaported and my 3" 696 .44 special has no recoil at all (even with a 255 grain Keith that is chronoed at 980 fps---from Buffalo Bore). That same bullet made my M396 Night guard (24 oz Scandium) jump like a .357 magnum LOL....I had that gun magnaported and it reduced muzzle rise by 25% (angle theta as I measured was reduced by 25% using that same round). For follow-up shots magnaporting helps with control and accuracy. If you have any questions about that process talk to Ken Kelly at Magnaport.

It should be noted that Mag-na-porting a firearm:


* does NOT reduce velocity
* does NOT affect inherent accuracy
* does NOT raise noise level

Mag-na-porting:


* DOES reduce muzzle lift
* DOES reduce perceived recoil
* DOES increase the value of a firearm

Mag-na-port International--The Company


I have tested my revolvers with both magnaported and unmagnaported barrels and there is really hardly a difference. You need to use flash suppressed self-defense ammo if you are worried about it because revolvers due to the fact there is a cylinder gap and a cylinder are going to have some flash anyway.

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Old 07-26-2011, 10:54 AM
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Hi .357 Magnum. NOWHERE in my response to m4bgringo did I imply that porting INCREASES muzzle blast/flash. It merely re-directs it UPWARD. If that were not true, it would not lessen muzzle lift as YOU NOTED in your post. Your statement that Magnaporting "DOES increase the value of a firearm" is merely company Kool-Aide that you are regurgitating from their website. You will find that out when you try to sell your collection off, and notice that un-molested examples of your weapons are fetching more than buyers are willing to pay for yours. Unless it is "FACTORY" you lose value. BTW, welcome to the Forum.......
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:38 AM
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I know I won't pay extra for a Magnaported gun. I won't buy it at all. If it really increased value then folks would be Magnaporting them for the profit motive. Most folks seek originality and don't desire additional openings in their barrels.

Back to the .44 Special. It's easy to see why it's loved. It's a bit exclusive. The traditional .44 Special Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers from bygone times are classy and elegant. From the handloader's perspective, the cartridge is very adaptable for most any chore requiring the application of a handgun bullet. It really is accurate. It doesn't appear in handguns utilizing plastic as a featured component.

I only have one .44 Special, a Model of 1926 that shipped in March of 1932. Shown here with a long-barreled Model 29.

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Old 07-26-2011, 11:56 AM
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Sidetrack here on the porting issue. I own a 3" 66-3 lew horton special that comes ported. One of a 300 run. When the performance center does something the price is through the roof. You have someone else do the same thing and it cuts value by half.
Along the same thinking, commemortives: Usualy a given model S&W or colt, also winchester will take a standard model, give it a higher grade polish and wood along with gold filled engraveing, the gun has to cost more than the standard model to produce. Yet when sold used/new they usualy go for less than a regular beat up well used model!
Us gun people are funny/strange sometimes!
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
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Sidetrack here on the porting issue. I own a 3" 66-3 lew horton special that comes ported. One of a 300 run. When the performance center does something the price is through the roof. You have someone else do the same thing and it cuts value by half.
Us gun people are funny/strange sometimes!
I agree feralmerril.
Not only does aftermarket Magnaporting detract from the resale value of a weapon, it also significantly narrows the field of potential buyers. Like bmcgilvray posted above, I wont buy one.........
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  #80  
Old 07-26-2011, 12:53 PM
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On the sidetrack of porting...

I have 4 revolvers ported and IMO, it DOES reduce recoil. I have many more than 4 revolvers, but 4 are ported.

One is a 3" custom 629-2. In a friend's 3" 29, my 265g cast load over 22g W296 is HARSH to say the least. Painful really. In my ported 629 these same loads are smooth. Make no mistake, they kick hard, but the porting makes them manageable. Same gun side by side test.

Resale value issues, I fully understand that it's polarizing and some are put off and won't own ported guns while others will and like anything else, custom mods are lost in resale - you never get your money back.

I own guns to shoot them and give myself pleasure and resale is the furthest thing from my mind. Others are different this way and it's all good.
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Old 07-26-2011, 01:29 PM
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Resale value issues, I fully understand that it's polarizing and some are put off and won't own ported guns while others will and like anything else, custom mods are lost in resale - you never get your money back.

I own guns to shoot them and give myself pleasure and resale is the furthest thing from my mind. Others are different this way and it's all good.
I TOTALLY agree, Snapping Twig........
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:23 PM
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Thanks for the welcome one eyed joe. I do
Have to say I have sold several of my magnaported
Guns over the years and got more money for
that feature! Lol. Maybe I am just a good salesman! I sold
a magnaported night guard for 900.00 when I payed
750.00 for the gun new and 150.00 for scandium sleeve
Barrel magnaporting! No loss for me but in reality I don't
intend to sell my Magnaported guns as they are functionally
superior to stock and look better. Remember S&W
Performance Center uses Magnaport for it's
porting. I sent in two modified guns by MAGNAPORT
and Smith serviced them no problem with my
warranty intact.
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:31 PM
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I conclude that you're a HELLUVA salesman, son...........
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:43 PM
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Nostalgia
The 44 special round has been around over 100 years now its’ an American classic. Gun sages such as Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton were able to develop “improved” loads for it then write about their adventures for the rest of us, and the best part was they got paid to do it. Is that cool or what?
IMHO the 44 special and the 41 Magnum are hand loaders dream, you can go anything from “mild to wild.” For those of us who don’t reload our options are somewhat limited. Yet I would still love to have the right, for me, 44 special revolver.
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:47 PM
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Default My 44 Specials

Pictured here a just a few of the .44 Special revolvers I've owned over the years.

The .44 S & W Special Ctg. just fits my needs in a revolver cartridge.
Be it a hard cast bullet or swaged and even jacketed with a dollup of 2400...I'm good to go.

Oh, I shot 10 of thousands of 44 Magnum rounds in handgun metallic silhouette competition, so I've fired my share of magnum loads.

I am not a collector of firearms...I'm a user of high end shooters.
I like 'em nicely engraved and ivory stocked, even my everyday sidearm.



For more of the story...
The .44 Spl. and The Scapegoat Mtn. Bull

Or

The .44 Special Re-visited w/add'l pics

And
http://smith-wessonforum.com/s-w-han...no-longer.html


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Old 07-26-2011, 03:56 PM
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WOW! More nice guns! I really like ivory too!

John
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Old 07-26-2011, 04:20 PM
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Magnaporting reduces the value of the firearm. As does any custom modification. It might increase the value to a few select purchasers who plan to have it done to the gun, however even with these buyers, the increase at most is the same as the cost to have the porting done.
It does reduce felt recoil
It does redirect muzzle flash, into the field of vision of the shooter. Some do not mind this, some detest it.
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Old 07-26-2011, 05:27 PM
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Magnaporting reduces the value of the firearm. As does any custom modification. It might increase the value to a few select purchasers who plan to have it done to the gun, however even with these buyers, the increase at most is the same as the cost to have the porting done.
It does reduce felt recoil
It does redirect muzzle flash, into the field of vision of the shooter. Some do not mind this, some detest it.
I'm in complete agreement, Andy.........
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:25 PM
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It's certainly my favorite cartridge - as others have said the .44 Spl does so many things perfectly adequately (ballistically, accuracy-wise, and it's comfortable to shoot) and the guns so chambered are just the right size and weight for totin around. I never feel underarmed with a .44 Spl. I've carried 3 and 4" 44 mags on foot all day long hunting, and those few ounces DO make a difference by the end of the day. I don't have a picture yet of my 296, because it's usually in my pocket.

TripleLock


A few others
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Old 07-30-2011, 12:59 AM
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To port or not to port, that is the question........

Seems like some like it, some don't. For self-defense in low-light situations it may be a big disadvantage. If you shoot a Magnum round in low-light from a ported barrel I can't imagine what that is going to look like!

I honestly like the way my 686 rolls-up when I shoot .357 Magnums with it. I shoot it, it rolls-up, I pull the trigger back with my thumb on my shooting hand, get the gun back down on target and fire the next shot. Seems like such a natural way to shoot that revolver.

A 629 is certainly on my list of guns to buy, thanks guys!
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Old 07-30-2011, 06:21 AM
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Bubbajoe what is the model on your last gun bottom pic? Nice collection BTW.....
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Old 07-30-2011, 07:28 AM
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A little article by Elmer Keith from 1936:
The .44 Special



The .44 Russian is a very fine target cartridge, but neither it nor the .44 American which is now about obsolete, needs to be discussed here, as the .44 Special will do all that either of these shorter cartridges will do and a great deal more either on the target or for more serious sixgun work. I consider the .44 Special our finest large caliber revolver cartridge by a wide margin. It will do all that any .45 Colt or .44-40 will do and more. Any weight bullet that works well in either the .44-40 or the .45 Colt will do good work in the .44 S & W Special. The .44 Special will also give higher velocities with any weight bullet from 200 grain up to 250 grain or even 280 grain than will the thin-walled-cylinder guns chambered for either the .44-40 or the .45 Colt. The case, being straight, will withstand complete resizing and reloading a great many times. It is full as accurate as anything ever produced for use in a sixgun, not excepting the .38 S & W Special and is a great deal easier to hand load for fine accuracy than some .38 Special guns. Some may wonder at this statement but they will find the reason if they load the two cartridges for different guns of each caliber, especially if there is any variation in groove diameter from the standard. A variation of .001" is not so much in a .44 Special, but makes quite a difference at times in a .38 Special.

In 1927 I abandoned the .45 Colt for my own use in favor of the .44 Special, and have seen no reason to change back. I soon found that I could load much more powerful cartridges for the .44 Special than for any other revolver. These powerful hand loads extracted easily and shot more accurately than any .45 Colt I have ever owned or used. The factory .44 Special load is little more than a squib, with a velocity of 800 feet or less and owing to the shape of its round-nose pointed bullet, gives very little killing power. I have shot sage hens with Western factory .44 Specials and wounded them through the bodies, and then have them run off and hide themselves in the brush. Yet if you hand load this cartridge with a properly shaped bullet of 230 to 250 grains weight then it is a killer, and if a hollow point bullet is used, the same sage hens can be scattered all over the ground and torn up too much for table use. The 230 grain bullet can be loaded safely to 1200 feet and in long barrel guns possibly up to nearly 1300 feet with Hercules #2400 powder. The 250 grain bullet can be given a velocity of around 1100 feet with the same powder.

I once designed a 260 grain bullet for Belding & Mull, using their blunt nose shape and Croft and I also worked out a similar shape for the same firm weighing 280 grains, both for the .44 Special. These bullets were very good killers and quite accurate at reasonable ranges but did not do so well or tear as large holes as those I later designed for Lyman Gun Sight Corporation. Last, I did considerable experimenting on chucks, jacks and other pests with the .44 Special, handloaded with my 235 grain hollow point bullet and 18.5 grains of #2400 Hercules to see if it was as good or a better killer than the .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum. In all cases it proved to be a much more powerful load and gave nearly twice the amount of destruction as the .357 Magnum, even when the latter was loaded with a 160 grain Keith hollow point bullet at standard velocity for this cartridge. Jack rabbits shot in the chest had their whole hind part or rear half blown away. On rump shots the front end of the Johnnie was completely torn to ribbons. I have never before seen such destruction of tissue from any sixgun or automatic pistol cartridge and really believe it is the most powerful handgun load in existence. I went up as high as 20 grains of #2400, but the cases showed some signs of pressure, not nearly as much, however as I had found with the #80 loads I had used for years. I found the limiting factor to be leading, the 20 grain load leading the guns badly with the bullet temper I was then using. A different alloy or grease wads might have stopped this, but at the time, I cut the charge to 18.5 grains, causing the leading to almost be eliminated. The pressure signs on both case and primer seemed less, even with 20 grains of #2400, than with the same bullet and 13 grains of duPont #80 powder. The velocities were much higher, as was clearly shown by the expansion and killing power. The recoil was heavy, although not unpleasant in a Colt Single Action or in the Smith & Wesson with the new S & W Magna grips, but after some fifty rounds was very unpleasant in the S & W gun with the standard style of grips.

I have handloaded a great many heavy .44 Special loads for friends who have killed elk, bear, moose and mule deer here, and one sportsman took some to Africa and kept twelve men supplied with antelope meat with my 250 grain handloads in a S & W .44 Special military model with 6 1/2" barrel.

The consensus of opinion among the most experienced sixgun shots of this country indicates that the .38 and .44 Special cartridges are the best of all from any standpoint for the handloader particularly. These two are made in greater quantity than any other revolver cartridges; hence, more experimenting has been done with them than with other loads, and they are held to closer tolerances in loading. The guns chambered for these two loads are also held to closer tolerances as to groove diameter and chambering than most other sixgun calibers. To get the best out of them, they have to be handloaded, as all standard factory loads for both are very light and offer a high trajectory curve with very little actual stopping and killing power. Nevertheless, they are accurate in the extreme.


Elmer Keith
Sixguns Cartridges And Loads
December 1936
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Old 07-30-2011, 10:10 AM
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Rugers weren't around then. Elmer was a bit bias and wrote that way.
He hadn't yet then help develope the 44 mag either.
John

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Old 07-30-2011, 10:43 AM
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Rugers weren't around then. Elmer was a bit bias and wrote that way.
He hadn't yet then help develope the 44 mag either.
John
Also note that Elmer had blown up at least two Colt SAA in .45 Colt by this time.
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Old 07-30-2011, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by timpitera View Post
A little article by Elmer Keith from 1936:
The .44 Special



The .44 Russian is a very fine target cartridge, but neither it nor the .44 American which is now about obsolete, needs to be discussed here, as the .44 Special will do all that either of these shorter cartridges will do and a great deal more either on the target or for more serious sixgun work. I consider the .44 Special our finest large caliber revolver cartridge by a wide margin. It will do all that any .45 Colt or .44-40 will do and more. Any weight bullet that works well in either the .44-40 or the .45 Colt will do good work in the .44 S & W Special. The .44 Special will also give higher velocities with any weight bullet from 200 grain up to 250 grain or even 280 grain than will the thin-walled-cylinder guns chambered for either the .44-40 or the .45 Colt. The case, being straight, will withstand complete resizing and reloading a great many times. It is full as accurate as anything ever produced for use in a sixgun, not excepting the .38 S & W Special and is a great deal easier to hand load for fine accuracy than some .38 Special guns. Some may wonder at this statement but they will find the reason if they load the two cartridges for different guns of each caliber, especially if there is any variation in groove diameter from the standard. A variation of .001" is not so much in a .44 Special, but makes quite a difference at times in a .38 Special.

In 1927 I abandoned the .45 Colt for my own use in favor of the .44 Special, and have seen no reason to change back. I soon found that I could load much more powerful cartridges for the .44 Special than for any other revolver. These powerful hand loads extracted easily and shot more accurately than any .45 Colt I have ever owned or used. The factory .44 Special load is little more than a squib, with a velocity of 800 feet or less and owing to the shape of its round-nose pointed bullet, gives very little killing power. I have shot sage hens with Western factory .44 Specials and wounded them through the bodies, and then have them run off and hide themselves in the brush. Yet if you hand load this cartridge with a properly shaped bullet of 230 to 250 grains weight then it is a killer, and if a hollow point bullet is used, the same sage hens can be scattered all over the ground and torn up too much for table use. The 230 grain bullet can be loaded safely to 1200 feet and in long barrel guns possibly up to nearly 1300 feet with Hercules #2400 powder. The 250 grain bullet can be given a velocity of around 1100 feet with the same powder.

I once designed a 260 grain bullet for Belding & Mull, using their blunt nose shape and Croft and I also worked out a similar shape for the same firm weighing 280 grains, both for the .44 Special. These bullets were very good killers and quite accurate at reasonable ranges but did not do so well or tear as large holes as those I later designed for Lyman Gun Sight Corporation. Last, I did considerable experimenting on chucks, jacks and other pests with the .44 Special, handloaded with my 235 grain hollow point bullet and 18.5 grains of #2400 Hercules to see if it was as good or a better killer than the .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum. In all cases it proved to be a much more powerful load and gave nearly twice the amount of destruction as the .357 Magnum, even when the latter was loaded with a 160 grain Keith hollow point bullet at standard velocity for this cartridge. Jack rabbits shot in the chest had their whole hind part or rear half blown away. On rump shots the front end of the Johnnie was completely torn to ribbons. I have never before seen such destruction of tissue from any sixgun or automatic pistol cartridge and really believe it is the most powerful handgun load in existence. I went up as high as 20 grains of #2400, but the cases showed some signs of pressure, not nearly as much, however as I had found with the #80 loads I had used for years. I found the limiting factor to be leading, the 20 grain load leading the guns badly with the bullet temper I was then using. A different alloy or grease wads might have stopped this, but at the time, I cut the charge to 18.5 grains, causing the leading to almost be eliminated. The pressure signs on both case and primer seemed less, even with 20 grains of #2400, than with the same bullet and 13 grains of duPont #80 powder. The velocities were much higher, as was clearly shown by the expansion and killing power. The recoil was heavy, although not unpleasant in a Colt Single Action or in the Smith & Wesson with the new S & W Magna grips, but after some fifty rounds was very unpleasant in the S & W gun with the standard style of grips.

I have handloaded a great many heavy .44 Special loads for friends who have killed elk, bear, moose and mule deer here, and one sportsman took some to Africa and kept twelve men supplied with antelope meat with my 250 grain handloads in a S & W .44 Special military model with 6 1/2" barrel.

The consensus of opinion among the most experienced sixgun shots of this country indicates that the .38 and .44 Special cartridges are the best of all from any standpoint for the handloader particularly. These two are made in greater quantity than any other revolver cartridges; hence, more experimenting has been done with them than with other loads, and they are held to closer tolerances in loading. The guns chambered for these two loads are also held to closer tolerances as to groove diameter and chambering than most other sixgun calibers. To get the best out of them, they have to be handloaded, as all standard factory loads for both are very light and offer a high trajectory curve with very little actual stopping and killing power. Nevertheless, they are accurate in the extreme.


Elmer Keith
Sixguns Cartridges And Loads
December 1936
I think what Elmer Keith wrote here is just as relevant today as it was nearly 80 years ago. The .38 Special and the .44 Special are the best revolver cartridges because of their versatility. More specifically the .44 Special can do it all. Everything from light target loads to heavy, nearly .44 magnum loadings with excellent accuracy.
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Old 07-30-2011, 04:35 PM
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Rugers weren't around then. Elmer was a bit bias and wrote that way.
Like this Ruger Vaquero (.44 mag), one of the first.
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Old 07-30-2011, 04:49 PM
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Didn't Elmer do most of his loading back then with balloon head brass that had considerably more case volume than modern .44 special brass?
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Old 07-30-2011, 06:41 PM
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Groo here
As far as porting and low light,,,, ALL REVOLVERS ARE PORTED !!!!!!!
It is the barrel/cylinder gap........
Any of the older shooters [ for me that is 30+ years ago]
that shot 357 mag can tell you about the flash..
Compared to modern lowflash powders -- we shot flamethrowers!!
The porting at the end of the barrel pales in comparison..
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Old 07-30-2011, 06:53 PM
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Groo here
As far as porting and low light,,,, ALL REVOLVERS ARE PORTED !!!!!!!
It is the barrel/cylinder gap........
Any of the older shooters [ for me that is 30+ years ago]
that shot 357 mag can tell you about the flash..
Compared to modern lowflash powders -- we shot flamethrowers!!
The porting at the end of the barrel pales in comparison..
I've been shootin' revolvers for over 50 years, Groo. Yes, all do have a b/c gap. ALSO, all barrels produce flash/blast @ the muzzle when a round is fired. Ported barrels SIGNIFICANTLY add to the problem in low light, because they direct the muzzle flash/blast UP into your field of vision.......
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Old 07-30-2011, 07:53 PM
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This is really oriented toward reloaders, but that's what most of us here are, I think.

To anybody buying the gun to shoot, rather than collect, you must get one chambered in .44 Magnum, because that's what the .44 Special really is, just lengthening the case by about 1/10" and making it thicker and stronger.

And don't worry about porting one to control muzzle jump. Just stay with longer barrels and you don't need it. A 6" to 8" barrel is the only way to get top performance and accuracy out of the round anyway, unless you want a shorter barrel to carry. And the frames are a bit large for that. This is a fun range cartridge and a hunting cartridge, at least the way I think of it.

I love this/these rounds because no matter how I load it, up or down, heavy or light bullet, I never seem to have to adjust my sights. They are all just plain accurate, right to point of aim. And practically all my loads, in Magnum cases, are really .44 Special loads.

But the versatility goes further. The origin of all this was the .44 S&W Russian round, using the same basic case dimensions, just shorter, and a .429" diameter bullet. I load these, mildly and carefully and rarely, for an 1880s S&W top break DA.

Then the case was lengthened 1/10", and power was increased almost not at all, to come up with the .44 Special round, with the same .429" bullet diameter.

Much later, that case was built stronger and 1/10" longer for .44 Remington Magnum, same .429" bullet diameter.

So for reloaders, you buy the gun chambered in .44 Magnum and shoot whatever you want in it: .44 Russian, .44 Special, or .44 Magnum. After a lot of reloadings, with heavy crimping, you might start to get very short mouth splits, mostly from work hardening. Just trim them to .44 Special length and you have an extra strong .44 Special case.

Starting to get those mouth splits in .44 Special? Just trim them to .44 Russian length and keep shooting. But you may have to ream the necks a bit at this point, if you started with .44Magnum cases.

If you use any of these .44 Russian rounds, made from .44 Magnum cases, you have an extremely tough case, which greatly adds to the safety factor in an old gun which may be safe for mild loads, especially this way.

So I love this family of cartridges, whatever the name. They all use about the same weight and diameter of bullet, with the same outstanding accuracy, sectional density, and trajectory. We may all have a lot of different opinions on Elmer Keith and his penchant for getting carried away on some things, but about the .44s, he really had it right. .38 Special/.357 Magnum is versatile in much the same way, but it doesn't have quite the broad usefulness as the .44s. They just do it all, depending on how you load them.

And there's no way you can beat a S&W 29 or 629. It's really just a beefed up .44 Special which can be used for anything from target shooting to hunting brown bear. The 29 no-dash I ordered new, as my 1960 Christmas present to myself, was one of the best investments in long term pleasure I ever made.
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