My dilemma was 357 Magnum versus 44 Magnum. I will get some crap for saying this, I'm sure but...the 357 magnum is one of the most effective handgun Calibers. It's more effective than 44 special.
I was torn between a S&W 629 44 magnum 6" or 8" barrel or the 357 Magnum in the S&W 686 or Performance Center 627. Bear in mind, I already have a Colt Python. But if I actually NEEDED to use it for self defense, I wouldn't use a collectible gun. I'd rather use an expendable weapon that I wouldn't mind being in some dusty police locker.
The cost of 357 ammo is much less than 44 Mag. It's more readily available.
44 special is not as effective, unless you go to 44 +P but how readily available is it? I don't know. I also don't really care. There are other proven rounds out there to mess with some less common ammunition. For home defense, I don't know how it would be interpreted in a court of law using a hunting round for self defense. Then again, my first choice is a 12 Gauge Shotgun.
When it comes to home defense, it's also important to understand the velocity from a longer barrel versus a snubby. 4" or 5" barrels give you that additional velocity that makes it more effective as a projectile.
So what did I end up with? An EIGHT shot 357 Magnum (Performance Center 627 357 Magnum) with a 4" barrel. Recoil is easily manageable. Velocities are effective. For home defense, size matters and it's best to have the proper tools.
Lifetime NRA Member
In a snubbie I would pick the 44 spcl every time. I load mine using a mild load of Unique with a 240 gr cast SWC or the standard 246 gr casr round nose bullet. I see no reason to attempt to hotrod the load for close range use.
This is a low recoil load in a lightweight Charter arms revolver and the muzzle blast will not blind you the way a .357 would. It kicks a whole lot less than the 357 will in a snubbie too.
While both rounds are going to do the job, the sharper 'jump' of the .357 recoil seems harder for me to comtrol than the 'push' of the .44.
Just came across an bullet energy calculater online! Basically you type for example 165 grn 44 special at 900 fps going out of a 2" barrell specs for corbon dpx and it gives you an energy number like 144.77. From everything i typed in compairing the 357 mag to the 44 special the 44 special beats it every time! I guess heavy and slow is better then light and fast as far as energy goes! Also found some crazy ammo out there for the 44 special like Grizzly 250 grn 1480 fps and 1100 ft pounds of energy! Good lord thats more then the 44 mag specs of box of ammo i have in the gun cabenet.
There must be some sort of printer's gremlin in the quoted performance of that Grizzly .44 Special ammunition that is claimed to give 1480 fps and 1100 ft./lbs. of energy. I simply don't believe it's true.
Grizzly's web site has an error in the listing for that particular .44 Special loading and Midway apparently took that information at face value and ran with it in their ad. See the two links below.
44 Special 250gr BCFP
44 Special 250 Grain Bonded Core Jacketed Flat Point Box of 20
Grizzly's wording of their specifications shows:
44 Special 250gr BCFP
Caliber: 44 MAG
Bullet Wt: 250 Grain Hawk BCFP
Velocity: 1425 fps
No. of Rounds: 20
Right under ".44 Special 250gr BCFP" it says "Caliber: 44 Mag.
So, which is it?
Those velocities and performance figures are easily attainable in the .44 Magnum. I have used a handload to take a couple of deer that clocks 1480 fps with the Sierra 240 grain bullet and H110 powder when shot from an 8 3/8-inch barreled Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum. That particular bullet can be run up to 1550 fps if maximum Sierra manual published charge weights are used for H110 powder. It would be no stretch to get 1480 fps from a bullet only 10 grains heavier.
In the .44 Special though, there ain't no way, no how. Not if one intends to stay within SAAMI pressure guidelines. Not if one intends to keep his .44 Special revolver in one piece. While Buffalo Bore can work some magic with their heavy loadings and perhaps the Grizzly company can too, it's too much to ask of a revolver designed to shoot the .44 Special, a cartridge with a maximum operating pressure of 15,500 psi, to launch a 250 grain bullet to that velocity.
Max Chamber Pressure - SAAMI Specs
I lean toward the .44 Special over the .357 Magnum for an effective defensive cartridge. I also think that more can be done with the .44 Special performance wise than ammunition makers currently provide in factory loads. But even the old loads cooked up by Elmer Keith were several hundred feet per second slower than that quoted figure. A figure that is out of reach for the good ol' .44 Special.
Bmcgilvray is exactly right. The Keith loads maximum velocity were 1200-1250 fps. When Remington finally produced the load Keith wanted, they had come up with the 44 magnum, which was 1450 fps, much more than he wanted.
A properly loaded 44spl will make a 357 mag " weak in the knees".
If I were the OP, I would but me a single stage press, some 44 spl dies, and handload the 44 spl. Then you would have the peace of mind of knowing that no matter how big or small the task was, you had a gun that could handle it.
I have killed squirrels, coyotes, deer, hogs, and dogs with the 44 spl. It can be loaded to 900 fps, with Unique powder, under a 240 weight hardcast swc bullet, and do all tasks with a no fuss, only asking the shooter to make good shots.
Like a good woman she can be sweet or mean, gentile or bad in a good way.
A good 38spl, and 44 spl are all anyone ever needs in a revolver.
As mentioned before, 44 is better in a short barrel configuration. Otherwise you are getting the same power as a .38. You mentioned woods gun I would go with a .44 in a 4" barrel or bigger. But that's just my opinion.
It's a shame I can't "strongly like" Gman's post above for I'd click it if I had that option.
I too have taken the usual run of Texas critters and varmints, with the .44 Special on a few occasions, but mostly with the .44 Magnum loaded down to about 950 fps with 245-250 grain lead SWCs, just about like the great ol' .44 Special. Such performance clobbers things very well and doesn't spread chunks all over the countryside, only asking for decent bullet placement, the same as any other cartridge.
No cartridge made will make up for poor shot placement. A friend once made a bad hit on a small Texas whitetail deer with a .458 Winchester Magnum and it got back up and ran off, leading him on a merry chase. He'd previously been arguing with me that the .300 Winchester Magnum (the .300 Winchester Magnum, mind you!) wasn't enough gun for whitetail deer after having one run on him ... after a bad hit. After the .458 incident I snarkily said: "Well, the .458 isn't enough, Chris. Where you gonna go from here?"
My first handgun was a .38 Special and I use and carry more .38 Specials than anything else but the .44 Special is about the most admired handgun cartridge in my mind.
Alot of good advise on here i really apreciate it. Most likley im going with the 44 special because i feel its a better all around gun for woods carry and CCW. If i were going to cary just for urban use id probably go with the 357 mag because it holds 7 rounds and its a proven man stoper supposedly..LOL But since im looking for versatility 44 special seems to be it!
6 of one , half dozen of another.........357 smaller and fast, .44 bigger and also fast. With modern day loads I prefer a bigger bullet because it spreads out large and causes a lot more bleeding. don't believe the myth of one shot stops.
At SD ranges you do not have to load your own ammo, and you can practice with any had gun just as long as you fire the last 18 rounds through your .44. But thats JMHO, FWIW
If you are going to use factory ammo go with the 357 because you have options. If you want to reload then the 44 spl.
38 spl is fun to shoot at the range!