.44 Special vs .45 ACP in a CCW


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fireside44
August 27, 2010, 01:08 PM
Figured I'd toss this out there. Lots of guys say that the .44 special, .45 acp, and .45 colt (standard loading) are more or less similar in ballistics and all make excellent SD cartridges.

If this belongs in General Handgun then I hope a mod puts it there, but my question is more related to revolvers, being that I shoot revolvers more or less exclusively.

I guess my question would be "why .44 special instead of .45 ACP?"

Reasons I could find for .44:

1. More compact cartridge
2. Reputation for outstanding accuracy
3. No moon clips required in revolver
4. Potential for slightly superior ballistics (dependent on gun used)

Reasons for .45:

1. Cheaper
2. Better factory ammo selection
3. Interchangeability (in terms of being able to use it in an auto)
4. More widely available in general

I guess I'm just looking for another take on it. I am real dang happy with the Special, but the question crosses my mind every time I hear someone say they are more or less the same.

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JoelSteinbach
August 27, 2010, 01:12 PM
I guess whatever you are comfortable with. Personally my 44 Bulldog stays in my cars console, my Kimber Ultra stays on my hip, and my S&W 360PD stays in my pocket.

Sam1911
August 27, 2010, 01:44 PM
I'd say IF you are going to limit this to revolvers, then the answer is almost wholly dependant on which load you're shooting.

I've purchased .44 Special Winchester Silvertips thinking they might be a good defensive round. Imagine my surprise when I chrono'd those 200 gr. JHPs at just a hair over 700 fps!

I normally carry the Hornady .45ACP+P 230 gr. TAP load at around 950 fps (IIRC) and consider that a pretty decent, middle-of-the-road carry load. ('Course, having 9 in a 1911 instead of 6 is also a plus.)

I have a sort-of-.44 Special I load for carrying in my 629 that makes 1250 fps with a 200 gr. Hornady XTP, and there are some DoubleTap and Corbon loads that make almost those energy levels in "true" .44 Special loads.

There are even more extreme differences between vairous .45 Colt loads -- from cowboy-fart loads to bear-hunting monster loads.

So, it comes down to what ammo you buy or build to shoot in it. Taken as a whole, you can't make any meaningful generalization.

rcmodel
August 27, 2010, 02:41 PM
3. No moon clips required in revolverMoon clips are actually an advantge.

They are faster then any other method of reloading a revolver in a gun fight.
And there no possible chance a single stray case can slip off or get hung up under the extractor star and stop you cold while you clear it.

I love my .44 Spl S&W 1950 Target.
But I rather would take my 625-6 .45 ACP Mountain Gun to a fight because of the moon-clips.

With all that said, all 6-shot revolvers in any of those calibers are just too big for CCW unless you go about all summer wearing an army field jacket.

rc

jhvaughan2
August 27, 2010, 05:25 PM
Reasons I could find for .44:

1. More compact cartridge
.
How do you figure this?

bsms
August 27, 2010, 05:36 PM
I've been debating a BHK/SBHK in 44 or 45 acp convertible...right now, I'm leaning hard to the convertible. Why?

I don't handload. The 44 special ammo is generally pushing a 200-250 grain bullet around 700 fps vs a 230 grain bullet at 850+ in 45 acp. There is 44 Special ammo that runs much hotter, and I've got some in my 44 Mag right now - but I'd be content with a 230 going 850+.

Factory ammo is much cheaper in 45 acp - roughly 0.40/bullet vs 0.65-0.70/bullet. Good ammo in 44 special runs well over $1/round, and is in stock less often.

I will probably start handloading in the next year, but it will probably be to make light 44 Mag loads. And the price difference is such that I cannot help wonder if reloading 45 acp will still be cheaper than reloading 44 special.

But in a double action, I'd probably go with the 44...just something about moon clips that seems weird. I understand they work, but if efficiency was all I cared for, I'd buy a Glock. And I think I would as soon be emasculated as do that!

RidgwayCO
August 27, 2010, 05:58 PM
You'd be hard pressed to beat a S&W M296 as a CCW piece, as I'm certain there's nothing similar in .45 Auto or .45 Colt. 18-1/2oz of air lite goodness in a 5-shot .44 Special package not a lot bigger than a 642.

This doesn't mean the .44 Special in the 296 is the BEST for concealed carry, just better (IMHO) than the options available in .45 Auto or .45 Colt.

Cosmoline
August 27, 2010, 06:18 PM
I think the .44 Special is the finest all-around CCW cartridge in existence. The .45 Colt makes a better hunting round when powered up, but the round is too large to fit well in most compact revolvers. The .45 ACP is a pistol round with the inherent limitations of a pistol round. Most ammo for it is FMJ, or has a partial jacket. At handgun velocities this is a limiting factor. Plus it has an upper limit on power well below the ceiling for .44 Special handloads. The .44 Special has the ability to dish out pure soft lead HP's at stout velocities with devastating results. But at the same time it fits and shoots comfortably in a compact revolver. It's a mystery to me why it's not more popular than it is. And why the mainstream makers have mostly ignored it.

Of course, because .44 Special is a niche cartridge with few platforms it's much more expensive and hard to find in factory than .45 ACP. That's one of the main reasons I've stuck with .357. And even that is tough to find!

fireside44
August 27, 2010, 06:20 PM
So, it comes down to what ammo you buy or build to shoot in it. Taken as a whole, you can't make any meaningful generalization.

I was aware of hot loading for .44 special and .45 colt, but was mainly referring to stuff you'd shoot through a three or four inch K frame sized piece.

I mainly shoot wheel weight cast stuff so my loads are under 1100 fps but still plenty stout through the smaller gun. I am happy with what I'm shooting, but my loads do seem more or less like a hot ACP in terms of recoil.

Moon clips are actually an advantge.

They are faster then any other method of reloading a revolver in a gun fight.

Did not know that. Thanks.

How do you figure this?

In a five shot .44 S&W special, the cylinder is small enough to be fairly easily concealed.

Factory ammo is much cheaper in 45 acp - roughly 0.40/bullet vs 0.65-0.70/bullet. Good ammo in 44 special runs well over $1/round, and is in stock less often.

Yeah, the prices on .44 are nuts. I bought some Magtech 200 grain GDHP and wasn't all that blown away for the cost. My hand loads are at least as accurate and stout, though, they are all cast SWC in the 200-230 grain range. Still, the power is satisfying and not as abusive as .357 magnum.I guess I need to grab some XTP's and give those a try. I guess I've just grown partial to hard cast lead.

Walkalong
August 27, 2010, 06:20 PM
For carry, a .44 Spl, because it comes in an L frame, instead of an N frame.

http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=101383&d=1247408017

I shot some plates with this one yesterday. Man is it a sweet shooter. Great double action.

fireside44
August 27, 2010, 06:31 PM
For carry, a .44 Spl, because it comes in an L frame, instead of an N frame.

My Rossi 720 is k frame size. In fact, it is k frame size with a j frame size grip. About as good as it gets for compact .44 special. Better trigger than my model 10 and packs quite a punch to boot!

I shot some plates with this one yesterday. Man is it a sweet shooter. Great double action.

Is that a 696? It is beautiful. And no hillary hole either. I wanted one but just don't have that kind of money.

Ultima-Ratio
August 27, 2010, 07:11 PM
The 44 Special was obsolete the day Elmer got his first 44 Magnum!

The S&W 696 has dangerously thin forcing cones, the gun is a vault queen/collectible not suited for regular use.

Sam1911
August 27, 2010, 07:33 PM
I don't tend to think of a .44 as a "K-frame sized" gun, period. If your Rossi works well for you that's awesome. I don't have any experience shooting Rossis, Charters, or very many Taruses, so I can't speak for them. I find S&W's issues with the 696 are somewhat illustrative -- especially so since the .44 can be such an effective round if loaded well. That power comes at some costs, though, and one of them is a slightly larger/heavier gun to handle the energy and tame the recoil.

I tend to think of the .44s or .45 Colts as powerful rounds -- worth the loss of capacity necessitated by the revolver platform over the very good and very easily carried 1911/.45ACP combo. So I have a hard time picturing a weakly loaded .44 Spc. in a smallish Rossi or Taurus as a good alternative. Is it more compact or easier to carry? Not for me.

Does a Rossi 720 with decently stout .44 Spcs. meet some happy mix of shootability and concealability that favors it over a .45ACP auto? Or is the question moot as autos are out of the question for this discussion?

Further, I don't know of any small-framed .45ACP wheelguns so that puts the question even more on it's ear. Does the .44 Spc. "win" because there were a few guns made to shoot it that were a bit smaller than the N-frame .45 Colts and ACPs? Maybe, but that seems to be somewhat tangential to the original question.

fireside44
August 27, 2010, 08:26 PM
So I have a hard time picturing a weakly loaded .44 Spc. in a smallish Rossi or Taurus as a good alternative. Is it more compact or easier to carry? Not for me.


No sir, it is not weakly loaded by any means. I shot Magtech aluminum GDHP out it no trouble, with accuracy. Not superb or extremely hot ammo, but not horrible either. My basic range handloads were a bit more stout, but comparable in accuracy. The gun isn't meant for Keith loads, that's all. I just load realistically for the gun which is basically sub-1000 fps SWC.

The idea of the thread was that it is more or less an ACP round (for my gun/purposes) in the CCW sized package and what the differences of opinions were. I don't really consider 45 acp the pinnacle of power. Maybe that's where I'm differing, viewing them more from a SD standpoint.

Does a Rossi 720 with decently stout .44 Spcs. meet some happy mix of shootability and concealability that favors it over a .45ACP auto? Or is the question moot as autos are out of the question for this discussion?

For the money, yes, it was ideal for me. It is shootable, with 3" barrel, and concealable, with K frame size and j frame grip. Warm loads are as controllable as the model 10.

Further, I don't know of any small-framed .45ACP wheelguns so that puts the question even more on it's ear. Does the .44 Spc. "win" because there were a few guns made to shoot it that were a bit smaller than the N-frame .45 Colts and ACPs? Maybe, but that seems to be somewhat tangential to the original question.

Wasn't really looking for a "win", just everyone's take on that from a revolver standpoint.:)

Walkalong
August 27, 2010, 08:52 PM
My 3" CA Bulldog (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=114638&d=1265038277) is more like a K frame size. Very slim. I lucked into a great deal on the 696. A fellow THR member sold it to me for what he paid for it. It is actually a great shooter.

Walkalong
August 27, 2010, 08:54 PM
The 44 Special was obsolete the day Elmer got his first 44 Magnum!

The S&W 696 has dangerously thin forcing cones, the gun is a vault queen/collectible not suited for regular use. Nonsense, on both counts. :)

meef
August 27, 2010, 09:07 PM
My Rossi 720 is k frame size. In fact, it is k frame size with a j frame size grip. About as good as it gets for compact .44 special. Better trigger than my model 10 and packs quite a punch to boot!I can vigorously second that statement.

I bought a 720 on an impulse about a year ago to have something else to shoot .44 special out of besides my Smith 21.

I finally took it to the range last weekend.

Highly under appreciated little revolver, I say!

Shot some fairly hot rounds out of it and never considered recoil an issue. Feels good in the hand, it's very solid without being cumbersome, has a very decent trigger.... and, well - I just liked it!

That's what counts for me. All the other stuff is just numbers and words on a piece of paper... or a computer screen.

:D

Drail
August 27, 2010, 09:17 PM
Ultima Ratio, I have no idea where you got your info about the 696's "dangerously thin forcing cones" but I have been shooting one purchased in late 96 pretty regularly ( i.e. thousands of rounds) and I'm not having any forcing cone problems. The guys who were breaking these guns were the guys who load Elmer Keith loads or hotter. Same guys who trash Charter Arms revolvers with the same loads. I have also been shooting a 1987 Bulldog Pug since it was new and it is still in perfect shape. These two guns are my daily carry revolvers and I have complete faith in their quality and performance and they are both perfectly fine for regular use.

engineerbrian
August 27, 2010, 09:32 PM
I have all three calibers that you mentioned, and love them all the same, but the 44 spec ammo is so damn exspensive compared to 45 acp. i think youd be better off with 45 acp since the cheaper ammo makes for more trigger time

Cosmoline
August 27, 2010, 11:22 PM
Hey, PLEASE give me your "dangerous" 696!! I've been outbid on a half dozen of them on GB over the past year. Just because a few guys decided to try to turn them into magnums doesn't mean they're inherently dangerous.

As far as the .44 Magnum, it fills a totally different niche. The .44 Mag is NOT a good CCW round for obvious reasons having to do with not breaking your fingers and such. The .44 Special has reasonable recoil and a heck of a punch, plus it makes a good size hole.

Prosser
August 28, 2010, 01:44 AM
HMMMM.
.45 ACP was developed to carry in an auto, as a backup, going into war. The goal was to equal the .45 Colt loads, about 250-260 grains, at 1000 fps or so, that has proven for over a 100 years to be the Holy Grail.
.45 ACP never did this, but, you can fire 45 Super/451 Detonics/451 SMC which will give you a 260 grain bullet at 1000 fps. You should also be easily able to fire these out of a .45 ACP revolver.

The .44 special doesn't reach this level with factory loads, but, it does easily with
240 grain bullets, using loads with VERY low pressure, on the bottom end of the 44 magnum reloading tables. If you hand load, you can easily find a fast powder, that will give you 1000 fps with a 240 grain bullet, low pressure, and work in a short barrel.

Factory ammunition for .44 special, and .45 Colt have been HUGE money makers for the ammo makers. They have long used cheap powders, terrible ballistics, and VERY high prices, and people still buy their garbage. You really need to handload for both the .45 and .44 to get value, though now with the boutique ammo guys you can get what both calibers are really about, and, soon, we hope a reasonable price for .451SMC/DoubleTap,
and, the only commercial .45 Super going buffalobore, though they are NOT cheap.

All that said, both the .44 Special and .45 Colt cases are REALLY big, when you use modern powders, and, this can lead to velocity variation, since the powder can shift around.
.45 ACP/Super/SMC are all pretty much full cases at the max to get 260's at 1000 fps.

Bottom line is for most .44 Special lovers the line is:
"If you have to ask, you don't get it."

When I was loading .44 Special, the 240 grain bullets where, you kind of know right off, PLENTY effective, if going at least 1000 fps.

Likewise Speer 200 grain flying Ashtrays at 1200 fps, ala .451 Detonics.

The .44 special gives you more potential upside then .45 ACP, if you are willing to go into the nice big area between .44 special and .44 magnum.

Stock ammo wise, the .44 Special is well, you know already.

The Lone Haranguer
August 28, 2010, 04:14 AM
There are a lot more defensive loads for the .45 ACP than the .44 Special. Even the widest mouth "flying ashtray" hollowpoints can be used in a revolver.

RidgwayCO
August 28, 2010, 11:09 AM
Remember, we're talking about concealed carry of a big bore revolver. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me about a .45 Auto or .45 Colt revolver that weighs less than 19 oz in a design made for concealed carry... Bueller?... Bueller?...

Also, the Speer 200gr Gold Dot HP (as loaded in CCI's .44 Special rounds) has a pretty large cavity if you ask me...

And as far as the statement that "The 44 Special was obsolete the day Elmer got his first 44 Magnum! The S&W 696 has dangerously thin forcing cones, the gun is a vault queen/collectible not suited for regular use.", I agree with Walkalong's short-but-concise comment; "Nonsense!"

Surefire
August 28, 2010, 11:30 AM
The 696 is perfectly safe with standard loads, and occasional use of "warm" .44 special.

They hold up well as long as you don't use the hottest .44 special loads excessively.

I would gladly take a 696 off someone's hands that doesn't want it. To me it is one of the finest pure .44 specials out there.

Lucky Derby
August 28, 2010, 12:49 PM
I own revolvers in all three calibers.

My 14 year old 696 has seen many, many thousands of rounds with no issues what so ever. Just don't hot-rod it. it is not a 629, or even a 624.

I own revolvers in all three calibers.

The ACP is the easiest to find factory loads with the greatest variety and lowest price. The moonclips are a nice advantadge for carry. Smaller, and easier to use than speedloaders. Also no way you are going to accidentally "spill" the rounds out of a moonclip like can happen with a speedloader. The downside is they can be a pain at the range.

With the right gun the .45 Colt can easily be loaded beyond what any of the others can do. It can even excede the .44 magnum, with less pressure. For urban carry this is not really important, but in a more rural setting, where 4 legged predators are as much or more of a concern than 2 legged ones, it just might be.

The .44 Special is the equal of the .45 Colt in standard loadings. Their are more smaller guns available for this caliber. I do think that Taurus offered a small 5 shot .45 Colt a while back, but I don't recall the model number.

Any will serve well.

AKPastor
August 28, 2010, 04:30 PM
Reasons I could find for .44:

1. More compact cartridge
2. Reputation for outstanding accuracy
3. No moon clips required in revolver
4. Potential for slightly superior ballistics (dependent on gun used)

Reasons for .45:

1. Cheaper
2. Better factory ammo selection
3. Interchangeability (in terms of being able to use it in an auto)
4. More widely available in general


I CCW my .45 ACP S&W 25-2 and have no problems with it - love the revolver, love the cartridge, and love the variety of defense loads available.

Still, I think both are great and you should try to find one that feels good in your hand and you're comfortable with.

As to your reasons for a .44
1. I see no great advantage here
2. my .45 is very accurate
3. the moon clips are an advantage, but are not even necessary in mine
4. I can't really answer to that

The reasons for a .45 I concur with

Anyway - that's my thoughts. As to N frame, etc - I don't have any difficulties carrying daily.

Stainz
August 28, 2010, 04:41 PM
I can carry my 296, the 2.5" hammerless AirLite Ti brother of my 696, in a Mika pocket holster in over half of my pants front pockets. Of course, a 642 fits them all, but the question was .44/.45. My only .45 ACP revolver is an N-frame - 625JM. Even the current 325 Night Guard is larger and heavier than that 296, not to mention quite expensive (~$900!). The 296, new, was $359 nearly eight years ago - admittedly, on closeout. The 696 - bought the same day - was $439 - and they gave me another $10 off for buying the pair at the same time - my largest S&W expenditure until this year!

http://s171.photobucket.com/albums/u307/Stainz_2007/IMG_3867.jpg

It's only diet: 200gr Gold Dots from GA Arms. It's an easier carry, at 19.7 oz, than the 696 is at 35.5 oz, despite the latters less tempermental palate. Yeah, I like Benchmades, too.

Stainz

Deltaboy
August 28, 2010, 04:47 PM
Any cal that begins with a 4 is ok with me.

Grey Morel
August 28, 2010, 08:24 PM
Moon clips are actually an advantge.

They are faster then any other method of reloading a revolver in a gun fight.
And there no possible chance a single stray case can slip off or get hung up under the extractor star and stop you cold while you clear it.

THIS!

A moon clip is noticeably faster, even than a "speed loader". Cartridges all eject together, and they all feed together - no knob twisting or button pushing required.

My 310 Night guard loads like a flash, and its recoil is quite tame with 40 S&W loads.

ironhead7544
August 28, 2010, 11:40 PM
Six of one and half a dozen of the other. The Charter Bulldog is small and light. The older 3 inch models fit in a holster for the 3 inch Colt Detective Special. The S&W Nightguard 5 shot 44 Special is lightweight and looks good. The 45 ACP ammo is a good bit cheaper but only matters if you are not a handloader. Using the gun just for home defense the 45 ACP might be better due to the 6 shots and moonclip reloads. I prefer the 44 Special as Im a handloader.

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