.44 Special or .45 Long Colt?

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Apr 10, 2012
im going to start picking up more 19th century firearms.. and well, i want to decide on a pistol cartridge to get them all in.. i dont want to have to feed a bunch of different handguns and rifles with many different types of ammunition.. so id like to collect these all in the same cartridge

my options are 45 colt, and 44 special.. i have eliminated 357 magnum for a few reasons, first, most these pistols are still full size, so the chambers are smaller leaving a lot more meat on the cylinder and increasing weight... second of all, these cartridges can be loaded with black powder in a pinch, and 357 just wouldnt have the case capacity to be of much use with BP.. and lastly, i like the heavier, slower bullets for hunting (firing 44 special or 45 colt from a lever action), and the added expansion for self defense if needed

what 44 special would offer me is this.. ballistically its a very close match for the .44WCF, which was historically the most used cartridge in the 19th century.. also, reloading components are much easier to find than for the wcf, and there are a lot of rifles and revolvers available in 44 mag i can fire the special from, and still have the option of stepping up to a 44 mag if i ever needed more power

the reason i dont want to go with 44WCF though is because the thin walls on the casing and slight taper makes them not the friendliest cartridge to reload, they dont use the same .429 bullets the special uses, and firearms available are limited

the 45 colt though is today the most widely used in modern firearms.. though omitted from rifles in the 19th century due to a short rim, im not aware of them having many feeding problems in todays rifles, though i could be wrong.. the 45 colt also seems to be a lot more available, and should i determine to convert my 1860 army to cartridges, or instead just buy an 1858 conversion revolver, i can fire 45 colt through that as well, so it would be EASIER to get all of these older designs in the same cartridge, but not many newer options


44 special
-reloading components more available than 44wcf
-easier to reload and more reliable to reload than the 44wcf
-ballistically the same as the 44wcf
-many modern handguns and rifles available in 44 mag i can fire 44 special through

45 colt
-more common in these reproduction firearms
-larger case capacity for better performance in loading black powder rounds
-black powder conversions are available in 45 colt
-much larger selection of pistols


so... which cartridge would you get behind and why?.. and what would you tell me to sell me on that cartridge?
The Colt lightning, I believe was in .45 Colt. Cartridges used to be company specific, and Colt had the .45, and Winchester had the rifle, and Colt wasn't going to let Winchester make money off of their cartridge.

I had a similar choice at one point, and I went with the .45LC. One of my best shooting guns is a Winchester 1873 Uberti clones, and I'm talking 200-300 yard shots with a factory buckhorn sight. .45 Colt has plenty of thump without bad recoil, especially in full sized reproductions. Watch out for loading all six though, good things don't always come of it.

The .44 special I have limited exposure to, but if you plan on using it instead of .44 magnum, I would capitalize on the .45 Colt using the full potential of the given weapon. The .44 magnum rifles and whatnot are not true copies, they usually have rubber buttpads and such added on for modern shooters as stock features.
Let me see. .45LC sucks to be shot by. It can be loaded up to .44 magnum performances, but not .44 magnum pressures. .45LC is great at small game and varmint control, even with factory ammo. Top breaks are awesome, and the Cimarron 1858 smokeless powder conversion is supposed to come with the black powder percussion cylinder, as per the originals. I agree the .44 Winchester Center Fire is too hard to come by.

It's hard to find a .45LC double action.
The Colt lightning, I believe was in .45 Colt.

The Colt 1878 Double Action Frontier was.
And if you meant the Lightning pump rifle, no 19th century rifle was made in .45 Colt. Nor .44 Russian. And the .44 Special is 20th century.

So it just depends on how authentic you want to get.
The Colt Lightning pump rifle was NOT made in .45 Colt, for the same reason few (or no) rifles were until recently. The small rim of the .45 Colt makes extraction problematical in a rifle. (No problem in a SAA with its rod ejection.)

Choosing the .44 Special effectively limits gun choice to S&W. If you want the cartridge with the widest choice in gun availability, the best is .44-40 (.44 W.C.F.). You will be able to choose from Winchester, Marlin, and Colt rifles; Colt, M&H, Remington and others in revolvers.

There is a .44 Special Colt SAA in the next room. Several of the copies are available.

Not authentic, but you can shoot .44 Special in the various .44 Magnum lever actions, although it might take some creative loading or gunsmithing to get them out of the tube magazine.

Were it me, I would favor performance over authenticity and get the Ruger .45/.45 convertible and a Marlin.
im not sure if im just going to restrict this choice to single actions and lever actions though.. would be nice to have a double action or two in whichever cartridge i choose.. i like ruger redhawks and smith 29s.. but there are a couple companies that make nice concealable 44 special 5-shots that i like.. what options are there really in 45 colt for a double action option.. smith makes a couple im sure, and the redhawk IS available in 45 colt as well.. how much of a difference is there in cylinder diameter between 44 mag and 45 colt?.. i could consider carrying a 5-shot.. but im also considering a 4 inch birdshead or 3 1/2" thunderer SAA for that purpose as well

how many people here have lever actions in 45 colt, and how reliable is the extraction?
I also have an SAA in .44 Special, but the SAA was not made in .44 Special until 1940. (In fact, there was no .44 Special at all until 1908, so it is stretching a bit to include it in the 19th century category.)

I am not sure if the OP meant "19th century firearms" literally, or "19th century-type firearms." I took it to mean original guns, where on re-reading the post, I think he meant "type". His latest post clears things up a bit, as the Model 29 and the Rugers are definitely not 19th century guns.

i like the option of black powder in a pinch.. like when reloading supplies get very high in cost due to future panic buying, such is the case now, i could case the bullets and make the black powder for reloads and keep shooting

downside though is it doesnt seem either of these cartridges are all that great ballistically when fired from a lever action, the 357 magnum far surpasses both of them even with standard pressure loads... so the 357 mag would offer an incredibly improvement in energy out of a lever action than the other two.. am i wrong about this?
archaic, if one were to offer much better performance when fired from a lever action, id be more inclined to choose that cartridge because it would give me the option of hunting close range.. i know the 357 magnum from lever actions is very capable of taking deer inside 50 yards.. i dont know about the 45 colt or 44 special though... so that is one thing the 357 mag offers over the others
I'd be very surprised to see factory .357 mag ammo outperform Buffalo Bore .44 Spl or .45 Colt loads from a rifle.
Elmer Keith was getting what, 1200 fps from .44 Spl in a revolver?
That's the same as most current factory .44 mag loads. (must be downloaded to keep M29s happy).
Nothing weak about 240-250 grains at 1200.
Real .44 mag is a good bit hotter.
I'm a lifelong .44 Spl fan. It can be loaded mild to wild.
However, I'm also a lifelong .45 Colt fan.
It can also be loaded mild to wild, and even wilder.
I like .357, but I don't think a hot .44 Spl or .45 Colt from a revolver or carbine would leave you wishing you'd bought a .357 instead.
Both are more than capable hunting cartridges.
If you get a .44 mag carbine, you have the option of some hot, hot mag loads for hunting, if you desire.
I shoot my .44s and .45s a lot more than my .357s, nowadays.
Lotsa thump, less flash and bang.

A Ruger Blackhawk, not the flattop version, in .45 Colt will do anything you need a single action revolver to do. You have 3 different pressure/performance levels you can load for it.
I like .44 Spl better, but .45 Colt is capable of more power.
A .44 Spl Ruger Blackhawk flattop can be loaded to about 1000-1100 fps with a 240 grain bullet and will make a lot of meat.
Either one is a good choice.
Both will require reloading or buying ammo from Buffalo Bore to maximize their performance.
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.45 Colt is the closest thing I've seen to a "do-all" revolver cartridge.
If you could only have one centerfire revolver/carbine cartridge, you'd be hard pressed to find anything as good, much less better.
Big fan of the 45 Colt. Suggest a Ruger Blwckhawk so that you can take advantage of the full versatility of the round, everything from plain base collar button 185 grs over Trail Boss to full house 300 gr GC LFN over H110. Great revolver / carbine combination. Fantastic BP cartridge throwing large hunks of lead.

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Unless one is looking for light weight revolver I would choose between .44Magnum and .45Colt both being excellent revolver cartridges. In right revolver like Ruger Superblackhawk or Freedom Arms the .45Colt can be a fearsome cartridge. Georgia arms had 320gr hard cast bullet at about 1300fps if I remember correctly. Be careful that one is devastating at both end and very stout firearm is needed. The most powerful handgun cartridge used by US Military was 255gr .45Colt at about 950fps from giant Colt double-action revolver.
And those figures are blackpowder loaded, not possible smokeless capabilities. In the right handgun, such as an old top break, that recoil is easy on the shooter. A little revolver weight and barrel go a long way for accuracy and recoil taming. And do not believe all of the hype. With training and a good holster, a 7" barrel skins leather only a hair slower than a shorter barrel.

I hate to point it out, but Deadliest Warrior had a cowboy fast draw draw and fire in around a third of a second, hit his target, with a Colt SAA with a 7 1/2" barrel. The opponent, lifting a cocked Thompson SMG from foot to hip, started firing in just shy of half a second. Food for thought.
I currently own 4 leverguns and I'll probably own a few more before I'm done. The ones i currently own are chambered in .22LR, .357 Magnum, 30-30 and 45-70. I know I also want one in .45 Colt. Maybe even one in .338 Marlin Express. And maybe..... (I like leverguns!!!)
I already own a SXS 410 shotgun. I think shotshells should be shot in a shotgun, not in a levergun, bolt action rifle or even a revolver. That's just me though...
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