Lever actions: 444 or 44 mag?


April 19, 2003, 11:56 AM
I've been drooling over the Marlin catalog and considering a purchase. From what I understand, the 444 and 44 mag use the same bullet and can be reloaded with up to 300 grain bullets.

I'd like to hear some opinons about the 444 vs. the 44 mag in a lever action.

Since they use the same bullet, how much will velocity be affected by the longer rifle case of the 444 over the 44 mag?

Which would you recommend? This would not be for hunting, so that's not a consideration.

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April 19, 2003, 01:25 PM
The .444 is a totally different cartridge than the .44. Yes, they do/can use the same bulllet. However, the .444 case is larger and produces higher velocities. The Marlins chambering these two are not the same rifles. Loaded with 300 gr bullets both of these rounds can lay out deer and bigger critters. If you're not hunting I'd go with the .44 - easier to shoot and cheaper ammo. The .44 rifle is also a bit smaller and lighter.

April 19, 2003, 06:57 PM
i've loaded 444 for friends and have and have shot them on occasion.....i shoot light 44 mags in my cowboy rifle and for me there is no question for me,,,,,,,,,,,44 mag all the way....the 444 kicks too much and for a play gun it is too much recoil.....DICK

April 19, 2003, 07:11 PM
I think of the 444 as more comparable to the stoutish 45-70 loads... not the Buffalo Bore or Garret loads but not 100 year old velocity loads. Has the smaller diameter of course and should have a bit more penetration and flatter trajectory... not that it should make much of a difference at most ranges that woods hunters would be shooting it.

Friend of mine has an old 444 from right when they first came out. Very smooth handling rifle but it definately packs a wallop. I wouldn't want to go putting 50 rounds through it which isn't a problem at all with even the lightest 44 Magnum long gun.

Bill St. Clair
April 19, 2003, 07:12 PM
I have a Marlin 444P, the "Guide Gun" in 444 Marlin. Haven't been hunting with it, but I love shooting it at paper. Commercial ammo is in short supply. Remington makes a 240 grain load for about $1.10 a shot, and I think Hornady makes a load, though I've never seen it in a store. You have to load it yourself unless you like burning money that quickly. 300 grain Hornady hollow points cost about 20 cents apiece. Add powder and primer and it comes to a little over 35 cents a shot. It costs me about a quarter a shot to load my .30-06. The 444 is a lot more fun to shoot, and doesn't kick as hard.

Cheaper Than Dirt has a PMC 240 grain 44 magnum load for 32 cents a round in boxes of 50. Much more affordable than the 444 Marlin, and 44 magnum, being a common revolver round, is widely available from many manufacturers.

I've never fired a 44 magnum. The maximum loads for a 300 grain bullet in my Sierra reloading manual get 1503 fps from a .44 magnum rifle and 2211 fps for the 444 Marlin (20" vs 24" barrels). That's almost 1.5 times the velocity, which is over twice the energy.

You could probably hunt dear with no problem with the 44 magnum, but I wouldn't use it for larger game. The 444 Marlin will dispatch anything that North America can dish out.

If you decide you prefer the 444 Marlin, you might consider a 45-70. Ammo is more available, and you can throw over 400 grains with it. Still expensive to shoot, though, and bullets cost more if you decide to reload (that's what made up my mind to buy the 444). Or, if you like punishing your shoulder, go for a 450 Marlin.

I put a Wild West Guns Ghost ring sight (http://www.wildwestguns.com/Accessories/body_accessories.html) on my 444. Much easier to use than the leaf rear sight that comes with it, especially for my middle-aged eyes. Recommended.

April 19, 2003, 07:24 PM
If you handload, get the 444. You can always load the 444 down to 44 velocities, but cant load the 44 to 444 velocities. The 444 is more versatile, in my opinion.

April 19, 2003, 08:23 PM
This may come as a shock to the members of this board, but I own a .444 Marlin.
I have a set of AO ghost ring sights on it and a Leupold scout scope.
Contrary to the fac that I named myself after this caliber on every internet forum I use, I seldom shoot the rifle. I bought the rifle on a whim, used, because the price was something I couldn't pass up. I didn't know anything about the caliber and started researching it on the internet. The search led me to the internet gun forum world. Since I was looking for info on the .444 Marlin, I used that as a name.
My rifle is extremly accurate. Amazing accuracy for a lever action rifle. As Fatelvis mentions, the cartridge is a very versitile little number if you handload. I have loads that are almost silent, up to the 300 grain loads. You can shoot heavier bullets, but I have never done so. I have shot both cast and jacketed bullets and both work great. I also own three .44 mag handguns and being able to use the same bullets in four different guns is a plus for me. Factory ammo leaves a lot to be desired in terms of selection and availability.
Among big bore lever action aficionados, the debate between the .444 Marlin and the .45/70 rage eternal. To me, the point is moot. Yes the .45/70 is more gun. It is better capable of shooting very big bullets. But, if you have enough power to easily shoot clear through any animal in North America from any angle with either one, who cares if one has more "power" than the other one ?
If I was looking for a big bore lever action rifle, and I didn't own a .44 mag handgun and never intended to buy one, I would go with the .45/70. But I think the difference is cutting it pretty fine.
I have shot a few .44 Mag lever action rifles. I have nothing against them. It won't come close to doing what a .444 Marlin can do, but if this isn't needed, the .44 Mag is certainly more pratical than the .444 Marlin. Brass is cheaper and more readily available. Factory ammo is cheaper and more readily available. Recoil is significantly less (I have broken two Lyman reciever sights from the recoil of my .444 Marlin). Range is pretty close to the same since both calibers provide a rainbow like trajectory compared to "normal" long range rifle calibers.
If you are a handloader (or even if you are not), this is a great website for info on all three cartridges out of a lever action rifle (or handgun); http://beartoothbullets.com/ go to the shooter's forum.

April 19, 2003, 08:43 PM
444: I've always wondered can you shoot a .44mag in the .444? I know the jump into throat is long like a .22short in a lr chamber but can it be done in a pinch?

April 19, 2003, 09:04 PM
I don't know. I would think that if this could be safely done, it would be common knowlege and Marlin would advertise it. I vaguely remember reading about this years ago on-line and I remember it was advised against, but I don't remember why and don't know if the reasons were valid.

Another good website to find information about any of those three calibers is: www.sixgunner.com look under the back issues and then in the articles written by Paco Kelly.

April 19, 2003, 09:49 PM
I think there might be at least a few reasons not to make a habbit of firing 44 mag in a 444 rifle but in, say, a TC Encore, I think it would be perfectly safe if a bit accuracy challenged.

April 19, 2003, 09:58 PM
A couple of points about this debate. Firstly, one of the difficulties with the .444 cartridge is that many ammo companies load it with the same bullets that they use in their .44 Magnum ammunition, but at much higher velocities. Since the bullets are designed to work at lower velocities, there have been numerous reports of them breaking up (rather than penetrating) when impacting at velocities up to 50% higher than their designed speed. Of course, if you're using a well-designed solid, this isn't too important.

Another factor is - how much power do you need? Out of a carbine or rifle, the .44 Magnum cartridge edges close to .30-30 territory in terms of energy. I've shot whitetail with both of these calibers, and if anything those hit with the .44 Magnum (out of a 20" barrel) go down faster than those hit with a .30-30! The wider bullet, greater expansion, and equal penetration seem to deliver more "shock" to the deer. The .444 will probably shoot right through a whitetail with solid bullets, and may not penetrate deeply enough if the JHP bullets break up on impact (something I've seen more than once on hogs with my hunting buddies). Also, the recoil of a .44 Magnum carbine and a .30-30 are pretty similar. The .444 can be rather more brutal...

Another factor is ammunition compatibility with a handgun. I can carry a .44 Magnum revolver and carbine, with good hunting loads like the Federal 300gr. CastCore, and do very well with either. I don't have to carry two different cartridges with me.

For whitetail or hog hunting out to 100-125 yards, I'm very comfortable with the .44 Magnum carbine. If I wanted to move up to .444 territory, I prefer the .45-70 cartridge, as being just that bit wider and heavier, and more a rifle cartridge than a jumped-up pistol load. The availability of Garrett Hammerheads in this caliber also makes me smile broadly!

April 19, 2003, 10:04 PM
I did 90% of my big game hunting with an old Marlin 444S, I still have it, even tho I haven't fired it in probably 3 years. All of my friends had .30-30's and the difference in performance was quite impressive. No offense to the .30-30 users out there, but they sure used that second shot alot. I was using a handload of my dad's that threw a 265 gr bullet at a little over 2100fps IIRC. It poleaxed anything unlucky enough to be in front of it. Unfortunately, it wasn't much more friendly to anything unlucky enough to be behind it either. It will loosen your fillings. But I still love the cartridge. Maybe it's time to shoot her again.

Bill St. Clair
April 20, 2003, 06:36 AM
My 444P is ported. That's probably why it kicks less than my 30-06. I've read that it makes a big difference: less kick for the shooter and more noise for his companions.

April 20, 2003, 07:41 AM
Something that I always get a kick out of is that when you read a thread like this, everyone is down on the 444. They beat the drum for the .45/70 non stop. Yet Marlin has been selling the 444 for 30 years. They must have sold a ton of them by now to people that don't read internet gun forums. I know there are a lot of them out there because I see the ammo in stores pretty often. And there has bascially only been one gun in this caliber; I know you can get it in a single shot pistol and there have been Turkish Mauser conversions etc. but the vast majority of the ammo is shot in Marlin lever actions.

April 20, 2003, 07:29 PM
i have a one of a kind DRC custom takedown w/ exhibition grade wood.
the thing looks like a weatherby deluxe MKV.
i probably have near $2K into it so you could say i am very fond of the cal.

April 20, 2003, 08:36 PM
Thanks for all of the replies. Lots to consider and think about before making the purchase. I know that I will handload, so that gives me one less thing to think about when comparing the rifles.

Preacherman's comments make me lean toward the 44. Also, it holds double the capacity of the 444.

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