.44spl vs. .45ACP for HD


July 18, 2006, 08:19 AM
Hi all,

I am relatively new to handguns. I just purchased my first handgun of any kind recently. It's a S&W 5946 from CDNN. I love it. I do already have an 870P as my primary HD gun, but let's say I wanted a backup gun also. I was just curious what your opinions were about a .44spl revolver versus a .45ACP for home defense.

I know many people recommend revolvers for HD simply because they are simpler to operate and *can* be more reliable. Let's not talk about bullet delivery mechanisms, but rather the cartridge. How does the .44spl round copmpare to the .45ACP round for defensive purposes? What are the pros and cons of each, and what particular brands of ammo do you recommend? Also, are either of these recommended over a .38spl +P round?

Thanks for your insight!


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Bill B.
July 18, 2006, 08:56 AM
This is just my opinion ............ 45 ACP is easier to find in different bullet designs, weights, and with moon clips offers very fast reloads in a 45 ACP revolver. The 44 Special is more commonly found factory loaded with lead round nosed bullets. If you plan on handloading the 44 Special throw out what I said and go with the one you like best. I wouldn't make any difference between the two if both were shooting lead round nosed bullets. The 44 Special and the 45 ACP calibers are both excellent!

As far as comparing either to a 38+P I personally feel that a lot comes down to the person doing the shooting and the revolver they are using. If you flinch from the recoil of the larger calibers and have trouble making follow shots the 38+P may be a better choice. If not I would always go with in my case the 45 ACP. I have 2 S&W 625's in 45 ACP with the 4" barrels. Both are loaded 90% of the time with 45 ACP 230 grain FMJ. I never feel undergunned with either.

July 18, 2006, 09:36 AM

Both good choices, I have the S&W model 21 (44 spec) and with Houge grips it is my favorite wheel gun.


July 18, 2006, 09:52 AM
I like both cartridges, as well as the guns that shoot them. Good defensive rounds are available for both, but if you want to use hollow points for defense I think it is easier to find .45ACP ammo for practice that will give the same performance (POI) as your defensive ammo. For example, it is easy to find both hardball and hollow point 230 grain .45ACP ammo. It might take more looking to find practice rounds that closely approximate your choice in hollow points in .44 Special.

Of course, you could also choose to practice only with the same ammo you use for defense. Pay the money and buy only hollow points and practice with them, or buy only hardball or -- especially for .44 Special -- cast lead semi-wadcutters. Lots of choices, just find what works best for you.

For personal and home defense I use .45ACP in both revolvers and semi-autos. I use my .44 Special revolvers as field guns, loaded with hardcast bullets. I shoot a lot more .45ACP than .44 Special.

July 18, 2006, 10:43 AM
Delivery Systems
.44spl can be had in med (5-shot) & large frame (6-shot) revos. The med frame revos in .44spl are generally found only in 2nd-tier manufacturers' lines (Taurus, Charter, etc.).

.45ACP can be had in large frame (6-shot) revos and small (5-shot) to large (8+ shot) autos. Everybody & their brother produces 1911 autos and non-1911 .45ACP autos abound. The police trade-in S&W .45ACP autos are a screaming value, if you don't mind a DA auto.

Both sling a large projectiles at moderate velocities (.429 vs .452). .45ACP has, by far, the greater development when it comes to social ammo. Speer produces a SD round in their Blaser line.


I have decided on a SW1911 in .45ACP for my HD pistol, as my wife does not do well with revolvers & prefers the 1911 manual of arms.

July 18, 2006, 12:58 PM
With .45 auto you are using one of the most, if not the most, supportable defense sytems on the market. 45s come in single action autos, double action autos, and revolvers. Ammunition is plentiful, inexpensive as compared to .44 special, and can be gotten in a variety of grains and manufacturers in almost any sporting goods store from speciality gunshops to Wal-Mart. Parts are widely available for the 45 autos and its not too likely in the foreseeable future that 45 autos will dry up anytime soon.

July 18, 2006, 01:06 PM
can't go wrong with either platform.

July 18, 2006, 01:37 PM
Let's not talk about bullet delivery mechanisms, but rather the cartridge. How does the .44spl round copmpare to the .45ACP round for defensive purposes? What are the pros and cons of each, and what particular brands of ammo do you recommend? Also, are either of these recommended over a .38spl +P round?

If you don't handload, and are not really rolling in money, and want to shoot enough to learn to shoot well with a given gun, then either the .45 or the .38/.357 is a better choice than the .44 special. The .44 is a neat cartridge, but (sans reloading or riches) not a good choice for your first or only revolver.

Since you are at a relatively early stage in the process of gun-gathering and learning to shoot, I suggest you think hard about getting two things:

First, get a medium-framed .357 revolver, like a S&W 686 or 620, or a Ruger GP100. The .38+P is entirely adequate for HD, and if you don't believe that, then you can use .357. Ammo choices are too numerous to list, but let's just say the standards in .38 +P at present are the classic 158 gr. LSWCHP (Remington) or the Speer 135 gr Gold Dot. There's a vast array of reasonable choices in ammo for the platform, from light target wadcutters to thumping heavy hunting loads, and you'll doubtless want to try a variety. Learning to shoot a double action revolver will make you a better shot with any handgun, and every American shooter owes it to him/herself to learn this skill. If you want to stick with the .45, the S&W 625 is an excellent choice enjoyed by thousands. For learning a revolver, however, I feel the medium-framed .357, using .38's for practice, is a faster and surer path to proficiency, and will do anything you need to have done by a handgun.

Second, start reloading. Once you start making your own ammo, you'll look back with wonder at how you lived with the expense and limitations of factory ammo choices. The .38/.357 is a great, great place to start reloading; scads of reasonable components are available, along with scores of years of reloading data. Reloading will enable you to produce the thousands of rounds you need (yes, thousands) to become a proficient revolver shooter. Then, you won't just have a gun or two; you'll have a skill. And that will make a whole heck of a lot more difference than the difference between any two pistol rounds.

Kramer Krazy
July 18, 2006, 02:19 PM
Never really thought about those two for comparison before. I'd probably have the 44 Spl edge out the 45 ACP, despite the 45 as my favorite caliber. I'd say the 44 because, as the factory loaded ammo for both calibers have similar velocities, the 44 will reliably shoot anything and everything you put into your cylinder without having to fire off 200+ rounds of an ammo to feel comfortable enough to believe that the gun will function. The revolver is also less prone to malfunction, in general.....and there are no worries of whether you put one in the chamber or if the safety is still on.......I reload both calibers, so I can custom load anything I want with both being about the same cost to reload with existing brass (I use Winchester #231 powder for each).

Vern Humphrey
July 18, 2006, 02:44 PM
If you hang around these forums long enough, you'll find as many cases of revolvers failing as automatic pistols -- everything from broken transfer bars to crud under the ejector star. There is also a myth that "revolvers will eat anything you feed them" -- yet look at the cases of heads dragging on the recoil shield and tying up the gun, bullets jumping crimp and so on.

If there is a reliability difference between properly maintained automatics and revolvers, it's too small to measure.

The .45 ACP has a slight edge in a couple of important areas -- it holds more rounds and is faster to reload. In addition, the .45 ACP is considered a top defensive round, and ammo makers have produced some superb defensive ammo for it in recent years. The .44 Special just isn't in that category.

All that said, for a home defensive gun, choose a 12 gauge pump shotgun. Use you handgun only to fight your way to your shotgun.

July 18, 2006, 02:47 PM
Yes, with moon clips the reload is fast, but it is still slower than an autoloader with magazines, and besides, the capacity is far less. Furthermore, revolvers are NOT more reliable than autoloaders. As our Advanced Tactical Shooting instructor said, he has had 3 revolvers (all S&Ws) jam on him over the course of his 20ish years as an L.E.O. (including S.W.A.T.).

Per that instructor, "When an auto fails, usually a stove-pipe, you simply rack it and fire--at worst drop the mag and go to the next one. But, when a revolver fails, you're in deep s%@&!"! You can NOT fix it in the field. It has to be torn down and repaired." As he puts it, he will never carry a revolver for defense if he can carry an auto load.

So, I base my decision or position purely on potential for failure and ease of correcting said same. Others have rightly touched upon cost of ammo, availability, etc.

But, I musty admit, few toys are more attractive than some of the wheel guns of the market. My daughter will not have an autoloader. She shoots only single shot, or single action revolver. Can you guess which is HER favorite? Yeap--the wheel guns!


July 18, 2006, 06:31 PM
"The police trade-in S&W .45ACP autos are a screaming value, if you don't mind a DA auto."

I've bought guns at gun shows, gun stores, and sporting good stores like Gander Mountain, and I wonder if you could direct me to the right place to find police trade-ins.

I'd like to find .45ACP S&W *revolvers*, but Hey, I'd be curious anyhow ;)


Bill B.
July 18, 2006, 06:52 PM
They have 2 S&W autos here: http://www.kyimports.com/sw.htm#s&w

They offer the 4516 and the 4506. Per what I read on the S&W forum some like dealing with them and some don't. As far as I know they will take a return if it don't meet your expectations. Seems I recall a thread where one forum member had to return a police trade in revolver that arrived without a firing pin. As with any internet gun deals I would ask their terms before buying.........

July 18, 2006, 09:52 PM
Bill B. & timothy:

Those are the ones I saw in my latest KY catalog.

I thought I saw some in another of the (many) catalogs I get (CDNN, others).

I was sold on S&W autos when I shot their 5" 4506. Built like a brick shinola house & this one had a great trigger. Very easy to shoot well. Alas, they are TDA & I am a C&L kinda guy.

So, now that S&W produces a 1911, I am happy as a pig in slop.

July 18, 2006, 10:32 PM
As for performance for defense, they are very similar. I have both, and would not be worried about either ones ability to get the job done.

July 19, 2006, 07:21 PM
Performance out of similar guns is similar but, .45 acp is much less expensive to buy than .44 special.

That said if I was going to use a revolver and it was available in .45 acp and .44 special (think S&W Thunder Ranch model 22 in .45acp & model 21 in .44 sp.) I would get the .45 acp - lower cost for ammo and much more available , more variety of loads available too.

July 19, 2006, 07:35 PM
With good loads your S&W Model 5946 will do just fine for HD. If you are set on the bigger rounds I lean toward the 45acp. Why? It is a .45 caliber bullet and the 44 Special is a .429 bullet. This doesn't mean much as you will be well served by either the 44 Special, 45acp, or 9mm. Regards, Richard:D

July 19, 2006, 08:05 PM

Hornady TAP (http://www.hornady.com/story.php?s=149) doesn't come in .44 special. :D

July 20, 2006, 05:15 AM
45ACP! Hornady TAP doesn't come in .44 special.

Hornady does put out a doozy of a .44 special load in the XTP lineup; basically the TAP line uses the same XTP bullets, just loaded over powder that burns with less muzzle flash and brass that is sealed with nickel oxide...still a great XTP product...:evil:

44 Special, 180 gr. JHP/XTP 9070
Velocity (fps) / Energy (ft-lbs)
Muzzle 50 yd 100 yd
1000/400 935/350 882/311

Barrel Length (inches)

July 20, 2006, 02:29 PM
I like the WW Silver tips in 44 spec

they shoot just right for me.

July 20, 2006, 02:54 PM
I keep a .44 loaded with Glasers as one of my house guns. They can be kept loaded for decades with no problems with springs taking a set. That being said I'd prob grab my duty H&K .40 since I'm "practiced and qualified" with it.

July 21, 2006, 12:52 AM
I have both and I have carried both CCW. The .45ACP is both inexpensive and highly effective. Where I live, I have a selection of exactly three commercial loadings for the .44spl. Two of them are cowboy loads which aren't all that exciting. The third is the Black Hills Ammo "Thunder Ranch" load which sports the Keith Style wadcutter. That bullet is confidence inspiring both in terms of mass and accuracy. Reloading the .44spl is easy, especially if you've a notion to obtain a .44 magnum. I still wouldn't recommend using reloads for carry for legal reasons however they make practice ammo affordable and accurate. If you're really looking for your first gun I'd have to say that the .44spl is appreciated by some whereas the .45ACP is appreciated by MANY. Should you decide later that you'd like to get something different by selling, the .45 will sell WAY faster. In fact I can count the number of .44spl's that I find at an average gun show on one hand. Please note that there are tons of .44mags out there, nearly no .44spls.

.357 magnum
July 21, 2006, 11:35 PM
If you are more comfortable with a revolver then an auto for home defense, as I think most people are- esp. when you are first starting out. I would eliminate the.44 spec right off [not enough ammo choices, not as much stopping power] My advice is a .357 magnum revolver [most of the good brands are 7 shot now] I really recommend a four inch barrel its perfect for HD. Learn to shoot well. The recoil is really not that bad. The best defensive round for the .357 is federal 125 gr jhp-1450 fps [not real expensive] If recoil is an issue you could use a federal hydrashock 130gr- 1300 fps. If recoil is still an issue [work out w/weights] or get some Winchester .38 special +p 130 gr sxt ammo. Pentrates well and expands nicely for .38 spec. I have found that Smith and Wesson and Taurus offer some real nice .357 mags. Taurus has a Tracker that is ported, shoots very accurate and recoil is not an issue [even in the titanium model recoil is very acceptable, because of the porting] You will find The Taurus less expensive, but I have found the quality of their revolvers excellent.

The new autos are reliable enough for home defense. I would stick with the .45acp or .40 sw. If recoil is an issue go with the .40- You are not giving much up [if anything, in the way of stopping power] you can get a 15 round mag now-one in the chamber in a .40 sw] Practice a lot with the auto, make sure you run a couple of hundred rounds thru so you know it is not prone to failure[even a revolver can fail I've had it happen] Smith and wesson has a new MP model that is excellent and Taurus has the new 24/7 Pro that is also an excellent weapon. For the .45 acp you cannot beat Federal 230 gr hydrashocks for HD. In the .40 Federal 155 gr hydra shocks or Speer gold dot 155 gr JHP Also Reminton 165 gr Golden Saber is an excellent defensive round. Whatever you get, become familar with it. I wish you the best Chris whatever you decide.

July 23, 2006, 01:20 AM
You are kidding right? Not enough stopping power in a 44 special? Since when? They have been stopping action for years!

As to a ported revolver to be used in an indoor enviroment for self defense, well, just say it would not be my first choice, as the gas escaping from the ports will obscure the sight picture retained by normal muzzle blast.

The .357 mag is a very good SD round in trained hands, but as an in-house gun, it's penetration in the case of a miss makes it less than desireable to a lot of people.

As stated above, either the .45, or .44 special have about the same effect on a BG.

.357 magnum
July 23, 2006, 10:58 AM
I agree with you on the porting issue. I currently use a smith and wesson performance gun .357 mag-5inch barrel 8 shots as HD wepon. Having powder, and flash come up thru the porting at night is an issue you are correct.

I still have two issues with the with the .44 spec compared to the .45/ The .45 has a 96% one stop rating using either remmington 185gr golden saber or 230 gr hydrashock. The 44 spec highest one stop rating is at 76% with 200 gr winchester silvertips. Now there may be ammo you could use that could get you higher than that. But like the .357 the .45 is a proven man-stopper on the streets with LE. I really believe give the BG all you can at your disposal, you may not get a second chance. The other issue I have with the .44 spec [I was going to buy one last year] Is the extreme limitation of ammo choices and the fact that you can get either a .45 revolver or auto loader. There are no .44 spec autos. Autos [as it is hard for me to admit] are being made much better and could be a good HD weapon. [ most of my experience has been with revolvers, and I am no spring chicken] Have a good one Warwagon enjoy your Sunday!

July 23, 2006, 12:21 PM

a lot of good advice has been offered up here and the one thing that I'd like to add is for you to get some NRA pistol safety instruction and training with range time for each of these platforms before you decide on which weapon that you want to purchase.

Many instructors and, or ranges can supply Revolver's and Semi Auto pistols for you to try before you buy.

Welcome aboard.

NRA Life member.

July 23, 2006, 01:37 PM

A few thoughts. First as many have said, the cost of 45ACP gives it an edge over the 44. It is cheaper and more advailable. The cartridges are similar in power and performance.

Now on a safety issue that many will dispute. In my opinion loaded DA revolvers are a safety problem when not properly secured. The problem stems from their ease of use, as we all know, all one need do is pull the trigger to fire the gun. Unfornatuly, most four year old children know this as well and so we get these children discharging firearms from time to time. I would recommend that you find a method that works for you to secure your gun if you have any possiblility of children or the untrained curious being in your house.

If you wish to keep a loaded gun around, I would highly recommend that you get a single action autoloader, get enough training and experence to use it comfortably, and leave it with a cartridge in the chamber with the hammer down. This then requires at least two seperate actions to cause the gun to fire, and provides some addtional safety. The best way to keep a gun around the house is to put a loaded mag into a autoloader and only put a round into the chamber when you want to be able to shoot the gun. This is the way I keep my house guns.

July 23, 2006, 04:22 PM
A few thoughts. First as many have said, the cost of 45ACP gives it an edge over the 44. It is cheaper and more advailable. The cartridges are similar in power and performance.

For self defense "cost" should not be the overwhelming factor.

What suits one best should be.

If cost is a factor, one could take up a Lee handloader even if it was a small kit one.

July 23, 2006, 11:51 PM
If you only plan on having one revolver or pistol I would go 44 spec for home defense. You can shoot it from a 44 mag revolver which can be used for outdoors or hunting with the 44 mags. Just a little more versatility.

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