Which is the Better .44 Special Defense Bullet: 200gr Gold Dot or 250gr Keith?


Magnum Opus
March 23, 2008, 02:03 AM
Which do you think is the better bullet in .44 Special for defense against the two-legged variety of threats...the 200 grain Gold Dot, or the 250 grain Keith style bullet?
This would be firing from a full size revolver, and the velocity would be in the 860 to 900 ft./sec range or so.

Am interested to hear any opinions. Thanks.

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Jim March
March 23, 2008, 04:09 AM
Gold Dot. Except you can and should run the GP up closer to 1,000fps.

Optimum means getting it as close to the sound barrier (about 1050) as you can without crossing it.

1,100ish is the most pressure available for most guns, but that extra 50fps past the sound barrier isn't worth it when you factor indoor noise in.

P. Plainsman
March 23, 2008, 05:31 AM
Gold Dot. Except you can and should run the GD up closer to 1,000fps.
Though only recommended for .44 Mag guns, the Speer Gold Dot "Short Barrel" .44 Magnum factory load is basically just what Jim's describing:


Brutally expensive, but man that's an imposing self-defense load. It's a true mid load, not a full blown .44 Magnum but far more powerful than most factory .44 Special. I'd put it right up there with the most sledgehammer factory .45 ACP+P loads.

I've shot it from a 4" S&W 629 and it is very accurate and controllable in that full-sized, steel framed gun.

Jim March
March 23, 2008, 07:17 AM
Yup. But at 1075fps from a 4" barrel, it's a leeeeetle bit too fast. There's major benefits to staying barely subsonic. From a 2" or 3" barrel 44Mag that stuff would rock.

Several ammo houses load that same projectile in 44Spl cases. Last I checked Black Hills was loading barely subsonic in 44spl.

On edit: the reason a lot of 44Spl gets loaded weak is the Charter Bulldogs. Speer's version of this load is rated 875fps from a 4". That's pathetic. It's about not shaking the Charters loose. Sigh.


Anything else in 44Spl can run hotter than this, including the various Taurus 44Spls and every single action from 1955ish forward and Colts before that.

March 23, 2008, 07:35 AM
Given your original parameters, .44 spcl speeds, and human targets, Gold Dot is by far superior.

If you need to blast through elk or ursine muscle and bone, then we can talk about the benefits of a hard cast Keith. But you made it clear this was for human targets...

I do respect Mr. March's comments above - any gun that wants to call itself ".44 spcl" should handle the upper limit of that round, not be a a cheap gun for lower loadings only. But that's why we don't buy cheap guns, right?

March 23, 2008, 08:17 AM
I agree completely with Jim on this one. If it weren't for the little Charter Arms I think the .44 Special would be much more popular. Even the SAA copies could easily handle the Keith style bullets in the plus 900 fps range, similar to the original .45 Colt. I load a 255 GC at 950 fps for a very accurate do everything load in my SBH. That is the range I think the .44 Special was originally meant to occupy.

March 23, 2008, 11:20 AM
There is only two points difference between the bullets on the Hatcher relative stopping powder scale. the 200gr (I only have figures for XTP) is 40 and the 250 gr Keith is 42. The 200gr bullet is moving at 1079 and the 250 gr bullet is moving a 946. I hope this helps. By the way my Charter Arms 44 SS Special is proofed to 21000psi lower end and 23000psi upper end. the same as any 44 special. that is SAAMI Spec. I shoot Cor-Bon in my Charter Arms , and called Cor Bon and they say they load to SAAMI. I Think the best self defense loan in a 44 Special is a 267gr SWC at 925fpm = 45 on the RSP scale. The heavier the bullet the more stopping power. Just for example a 357mag loaded with a 158gr bullet moving at 1435 has a 43 on the RSP Scale.

March 23, 2008, 11:30 AM
Speer claims that their 200gr Gold Dot does not require and should not be pushed to 1000 fps to get expansion. I have not tested this but this is their claim. They claim it will open at 875 fps. Personally I kind of agree with Jeff Cooper's statement, "Put not your faith into hollowpoint bullets." And Elmer definitely thought all you need is a heavy flat pointed semi wadcutter. So carry whatever makes you feel all warm inside. As long as it begins with a .4.

March 23, 2008, 11:37 AM
Both are good loads. I could be happy with either. I have seen what a heavy hard cast SWC can do to game. Problem is, it needs some pep to drive through, all the way through, to be most effective. I would take the Gold Dot in my 696 if I carried it. I used to carry heavy, and I do mean heavy ;), loaded hard cast SWC's in my 3" Charter Arms. (Pre .44 Spl. Gold Dot days)

March 23, 2008, 12:03 PM
That 250 Grain Keith isn't going to fail. It will penetrate in a straight line, not be inclined to go off at wierd angles when striking bone, leave a nasty wound channel and not be affected by heavy winter clothing, automobile glass or doors, etc.
In optimal conditions the gold dot is devestating and will perform better than the keith. If everything goes wrong with your terminal ballistics the keith would be the bullet to have.

The Lone Haranguer
March 23, 2008, 12:29 PM
In Mr. Keith's time, definitely the Keith load. Today, I would go with the Gold Dot.

A two-legged varmint that needs to be shot is likely to be at close range and facing you. Mr. Keith's experience was with hunting of game animals, many of which are tougher than humans, usually at some distance and caught unawares. He never actually was in a gunfight, though he came close once. Also in his time, the Gold Dot, let alone almost any hollowpoint, was not around.

March 23, 2008, 03:15 PM
I recommend the Gold Dot, and I practice what I preach. The Short Barrel load WILL expand at lower velocity, that's why you pay a premium price for it. It Works. I've tested Gold Dots in every caliber I shoot, and I have yet to come across one that doesn't perform as advertised.

If I was in bear country, or needed to kill a hog, I'd use the Keith bullet. But in those circumstances, I wouldn't be carrying a 44 Special!


CSA 357
March 23, 2008, 07:53 PM
Well I Know What My 624 Will Do With My Handloads, 240 Swc, Not So With The Gold Dots, So Ill Carry What I Have , But Would Not Have A Proublum With The 200 Gd, But I Have Shot My Hand Loads To Out Past 100 Yards, And They Shoot Good , Thats The Thing About Big Bullets It Dont Realy Matter If They Open Up! But These Are Just My Thoughts! Csa:)

Magnum Opus
March 24, 2008, 02:10 AM
Some interesting replies....:)

I'll have to get some 200gr flat points and experiment with them going at 1000velocity.
I recall doing the same thing a time ago with 240 gr SWC's (my typical practice bullet), and I found it unsatisfactory in double action for the pursued purpose.
Perhaps 200gr will be different at that speed.

With the 250 Keith I was pretty much imagining something comparable to the traditional as I've heard .45 Colt loading, which was a 250 or 255 grain bullet with a velocity of 900.
Speer actually makes a rather interesting Gold Dot for the .45 Colt that is a 250, that's supposed to expand at moderate velocities.

The 200 gr .44 Special Gold Dot was specifcally designed for the Special, and from Speer I had heard it will expand at 800 velocity (or even 780)....with a, I believe 1100 limits before the petals break off.

I guess when it comes between the two...the Gold Dot and the Keith, outside of the Keith having advantages where a hollowpoint may have a disadvantage, is whether the expansion and energy transfer for th Gold Dot overcomes what qualities the Keith has in being a heavier weight bullet (which was addressed a bit by the stopping stuff shown earlier in the thread here).

March 24, 2008, 03:22 AM
Why the 200 gr. Gold Dot HP vs the 250 gr. Kieth?

Is there something wrong with the 240 gr. GDHP?


Jim March
March 24, 2008, 03:27 AM
By the way my Charter Arms 44 SS Special is proofed to 21000psi lower end and 23000psi upper end.

Ah. Here we have the classic failure to understand that "resists blowing up" strength is NOT the same as "action and lockwork strength".

Any revolver will hold together so long as the cylinder remains one piece of metal. And as you state, the Charters will do that fine.

The problem is, the *cumulative* effect of the frame and action being shaken around will loosen them up. Note: not "may", WILL.

That's simply a fact.

Compare and contrast with, say, a Ruger Blackhawk in...well, any caliber really. You CAN blow one up with stupid handloading, although in some calibers (357 in the large frame) it's borderline difficult. But it's not just the cylinder that's tough - the rest of the gun will stand up too, so we often see old ones, slick as snot, obvious massive holster wear, grips worn out, obviously has 20,000+ magnum rounds through it and it's still "tight and right" and an excellent shooter.

Even the vaunted S&W N-frame 357Mags have the same problem as the Charters, although not as extreme: while they won't blow up, lots of fast fire (even with 38s!) will pound the action parts to scrap as that heavy cylinder starts and stops on inadequate action parts. Which is why in fast-fire competition (PPC) the K-frame S&Ws were preferred over N-frames because the Ks stood up better even though the Ns were "proofed" WAY higher.

Upshot: what the Charter Bulldogs are "proofed" to has nothing to do with long-term reliability.

Personally I kind of agree with Jeff Cooper's statement, "Put not your faith into hollowpoint bullets."

Sorry, but a LOT has changed since Cooper's day as a teacher. Hollowpoint designs have come a long way.

On top of that, the basic shape of the Gold Dot 200 if it fails to expand isn't half bad, down on the Keith by only a bit. So your "gamble" isn't extreme. If you were comparing the Keith .44 250 to, say, a Federal 327 (.32cal) hollowpoint which IF it works will expand to .50ish, well then you have a point - a gamble is being taken with the .32.

But in this comparison, both rounds in .44, the "risk" of an expansion failure doesn't set you back that far.

March 24, 2008, 03:29 AM
Hey there:
That gold dot will do very well. You don't need high velocity. The 250 cast bullet will over penetrate. And recoil is much harsher. I had a .44 Bull dog. the 250s are terrible for fast shoot recovery. Sight up and point of Impact change with the heavier loads too. More recoil ....

Magnum Opus
March 24, 2008, 04:01 AM
Concerning the 240 Gold Dot, according to Speer the minimum velocity required for expansion is 950.

While the 200gr was designed especially for the Special and to expand at moderate velocities, I got the impression the design of the 240 leaned more towards the magnum.

This is opposed to the .45 Colt Gold Dot...which is a 250 that also seemed to be designed for expansion at moderate velocities.

March 24, 2008, 04:17 AM
Much thanks from a fan who loves the caliber almost as much as you do. :)


March 24, 2008, 11:28 AM
Mr Jim, first of all let me say this I am not pushing Charter pistols. I own one because it was the only 44 Special I could get. I had shot a large feral dog that tried to get me on my farm. I hit him solid with a 38+P+ and he walked a way That bullet was fired from a Charter Arms Pistol that was over 30yrs old. I wanted a larger bullet than a 38. In the military I fired the 45 ACP for thousands of rounds. I wanted something that I could load to the performance of the 45ACp, but would not cost me and arm and a leg. Something small that I could strap on that did not get in the way while I worked. The Charter fit the bill.
It is not a Ruger Blackhawk nor a S&W; I did not buy this gun to keep but to use, and when It no longer functions I will throw it away. It only cost $275.00, and it has already paid for itself.
My practice round is 240gr lswc and 5grs Greendot. It 's velocity is about 595fps. in 2.5" barrel. I have shot hundreds of rounds of this load through the gun to break it in. For work I load it with 200gr SWCHP, in my barrel the velocity should be about 765. Another load I use is Corbon 165gr at 1050, but in my barrel it will move about 890fpm. Nothing earth shaking,
You are not going to get any better performance than this out of any snub nose gun. Why go pay more for something that is not going to work any better?
My max self defense load is 180gr XTP pushed by 13.5grs Bluedot or 9grs Unique. This is not a hot load, but the gun does bark. If it holds to gather for all five shots it has done it' job. It is a tool and tools wear out.

Seven For Sure
March 24, 2008, 11:54 AM
The answer: http://www.doubletapammo.com/php/catalog/index.php?cPath=21_65

March 26, 2008, 02:33 PM
Bringing back this thread as I just got home from picking up my new .44M and the owner didn't have any Magnum HPs in stock but He had one box of Hornady 180gr XTP Specials that he let me have a lil cheaper than tagged.

I had not seen this cartridge mentioned above, any thoughts?


March 26, 2008, 02:52 PM
RFB, Hornady makes good stuff, usually pretty pricey, but also worth it. The XTP's are all designed for specific velocity ranges, the 180 in the Special load is probably not the same one they put in the magnum, or I miss my guess. I'd shoot one or two into a couple water-filled milk jugs and see how it performs, I bet it comes out looking like the advertising photos!

What 44M did you buy? Enquiring minds (and nosy folks like me) demand to know more! You gonna pack it or hunt with it?


March 26, 2008, 03:05 PM
What 44M did you buy? Enquiring minds (and nosy folks like me) demand to know more! You gonna pack it or hunt with it?

Got a great deal on a Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk Flattop .44M on Gunbroker. Probably never hunt with it, I am a paper puncher for the most part, maybe pack it if I go into Brown Bear land. I like to keep a box of HD ammo for all my calibers though, hence the Hornady 44 Spec.

I'm kind of dipping my toes into .44Magnum land as I love .357s and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And especially if I even enjoy shooting 44Magnums before I invest (its invest nowadays) in a S&W (6?)29. I have another thread (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=350666) going where the store owner is selling his Magnums and his 29-2 is really tempting me.


Bailey Boat
March 26, 2008, 05:35 PM
Don't forget to consider the SilverTips......

Jim March
March 26, 2008, 09:03 PM
For the record, I love my late '70s vintage Charter Undercover 38Spl - it's a hell of a nice snubbie.


Charter just shouldn't have done the 44Spl without beefing up the design a bit more.

March 27, 2008, 02:03 AM
I know what you mean about dipping your toes in, I was a dyed-in-the-wool 357 guy for a long time, then got a sweet deal on a 3-inch 44 Special revolver, and then added a 44 Magnum rifle. I had a 44 Redhawk but I never shot it, the rifle was lots more fun, I actually bought it for deer hunting but prefer rifle hunting, so I sold that. But I'm hot on the trail of another 44 Special, and just put a new scope on my Marlin 44. Bring on Spring!

And Bailey's right......for home defense, Silvertips are hard to beat, particularly in 44 Special!


March 27, 2008, 02:39 AM
While I was doing research on buying my first .44mag I was shocked to find out how neglected the .44Spec cartridge was. It seems like an excellent platform and if .44Magnums prove to be too punishing this Blackhawk will be one heck of a 44Special thrower! :)

As for dipping my toes in, the only 44Magnums I have fired were out of Ruger Redhawk and Super Redhawk (7.5"bbl iirc) with the ranges reloads which were -5% SAAMI, and weren't all that pleasant (although the Redhawk was much nicer than the super to me). So I really have no idea how a full strength load will be with a lighter gun with a really small handle (although a nice plow handle might work better for me since the range rentals Hogues were warping in my hands after some shots and I could feel where the rubber meets the backstrap sepperate and dig in to my hand a little.) will be.

The two things I got going for me are I have since learned to let those magnums roll up in the hand instead of trying to shoot Miculek style straight on all the time with high hand positioning (which I had been trying for some painful reason ;)), and I have some PAST gloves on the way.


Marvin KNox
January 1, 2009, 06:00 PM
Georgia Arms 220 gr. Gold Dot - box of 50 $23.25.


A little slow at 850fps but fun to shoot and no more "pathetic" than the Speer loading in this round.

January 3, 2009, 12:33 PM
A new baby is born after being in the womb for a few days more than nine months!

Dang, I just wasted five minutes. Glad I didn't post a detailed reply!;)


January 3, 2009, 03:37 PM
You guys have renewed my interest in .44.

Are the cylinders in revolvers made to shoot .44 Special significantly shorter than those in revolvers made to shoot .44 Magnum? If so, about how much shorter and does it effect the overall size of a S&W .44 Special revolver?

I have a S&W 629 Classic that I only bought because it was a killer deal and have fired exactly eight rounds through, but I'd be interested in a 3" round butt .44 Special version if any were ever made.

Old Fuff
January 3, 2009, 04:18 PM
Prior to the introduction of the .44 Magnum (pre-model 29) in 1955 all N-frame cylinders were 1.57" long, except for the .357 Magnum (model 27) with recessed heads that was 1.62" and those chambered for use with moon-clips and the rimless .45 ACP cartridge (1.55"). However in the case of the ,44 Magnum (model 29) and 41 Magnum (models 57 & 58) the cylinder was lengthened to 1.74"

But all of these cylinders were used in the same frame, with a shorter or longer barrel shank as necessary. A shorter length cylinder doesn't affect the overall size of the revolver, but it does slightly reduce some weight.

Other makes of .44 Special /.44 Magnum revolvers are a law onto themselves, so you'd have to check with the manufacturer.

I would have to check the reference books, but I believe that S&W has made some short runs of N-frame .44 Special revolvers with 3 or 3 1/2" barrels, round butt, and 1.57" long cylinders in both blue and stainless steel, but it might be difficult to find one.

January 3, 2009, 04:47 PM
Old Fuff said....
I would have to check the reference books, but I believe that S&W has made some short runs of N-frame .44 Special revolvers with 3 or 3 1/2" barrels, round butt, and 1.57" long cylinders in both blue and stainless steel, but it might be difficult to find one........

Difficult to find no... difficult to pay for maybe!!

Look here:

January 3, 2009, 06:31 PM
S&W makes occasional runs of the 3" 624s. If you watch gunbroker, auction arms, or some of the other sites they turn up occasionally. They are slightly lighter than their 629 counterparts as the cylinder is shorter. In the case of the one shown below, which is mine, the barrel is also tapered which also reduces weight. Handy guns for an N frame.



January 9, 2009, 07:39 PM
Gold Dot

.38 Special
January 9, 2009, 08:00 PM
Old thread, but I do note a bit of "bashing" of the Charter Arms gun. I'm not a fan; have never owned one and almost certainly never will, but I have talked with many owners who have used the guns extensively and have never shot one loose. At this point it looks to me like the guns suffer the same undeserved reputation as Hi-Points.

As for the original question, I would be happy with the Gold Dot, I would be happy with the Keith bullet in the hot-rodded Skeeter load (which he got from Keith, BTW) and maybe the Skeeter load with a hollow pointed Keith bullet would be the best of all.

January 9, 2009, 08:15 PM
I carry both 200 gr gold dots in the blazer aluminum cases and also 250 gr keiths in the black hills thunder ranch loading.
However my own load of 7.7 gr of Unique under a 226 gr Venom Ballistics hard cast HP is getting very close to being my carry load.
Accurate, HARD hitting... I really nead to order more lead.
I am thinking of looking for some combat grips for my M21 S&W and swapping in a 3" barrel.


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