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.44 Special vs .45 ACP

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Para-Medic, Feb 23, 2012.

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  1. Para-Medic

    Para-Medic Member

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    I see some saying the .44 Special has the same terminal ballistics (or similar) to .45 ACP, then after looking into it more I see those saying that .44 Special has inferior terminal ballistics (or "stopping power", that overinflated term) than .45 ACP because of it's 11% less frontal area and .03 less diameter. .03 isn't that big a difference, but 11% frontal area? Isn't that a bit more significant?

    Looks like the best .44 Special load is a Doubletap HP 200 grain going 1,100 fps

    The .45 ACP is 230 grain JHP going 950 fps. 150 fps slower, but 11% more frontal area.
     
  2. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    So what is the question here?

    Bullet "frontal area" is subject to bullet design. You can find bullets meant for the .44 Special that have a very wide and flat meplat. It's also hard to compare the both because bullet development for the .45 Auto has been ongoing while the .44 Special isn't popular as a SD round so bullet development has been stagnant. Another point, any bullet designed to expand completely negates your assumption the bullet in the .45 has more frontal area.

    I still don't know what you're asking though.
    Welcome to the forum...
     
  3. calaverasslim

    calaverasslim Member

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    Some push one calibre over the other due to personal preference. I promote the 44 special but feel whatever floats your boat.

    When I carry, I carry a 44 special revolver and load the Speer GDHP.

    There are so many different PD rounds sold today that individual comparison is hard but just using the GDHP, I checked the Speer info and I find there really isn't too much difference. The GDHP is designed to expand reliably at lesser velocities.

    44 sp 200gr GDHP MV is 832 and 340ft lbs at the muzzle

    45acp 230gr GDHP MV is 890 and 404ft lbs at the muzzle

    Bottom line is there is a small difference between the 2 but not enough to worry about. Either will get the job done.

    So make your choice and have some fun.
     
  4. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    I'm going to wager that on actual bullet cutting area the 44 holds the advantage over almost all 45acp loading since a 44 doesn't have to account for feeding.

    11% isn't actually very much when you're comparing a cartridge that can shoot full wadcutters vs one that hanging bullets up on a feed ramp is a concern.

    Now change the comparison to 45 colt and the advantage is clear assuming you ignore the fact that there's only one degree of DEAD

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  5. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    The velocity differences between the two cartridges has more to do with the type of handgun, autos vs revolvers, than the cartridges themselves. I have experimented with hand loading the .44 Special and .45 ACP with the exact same powder charge under the exact same weight bullet. The .45 has an edge simply because it is being fired from a 5" non-vented barrel. The .44 Special was fired from a 3" revolver. In an apples to apples comparison where they are both fired from revolvers with the same length barrel performance should be just about equal.

    The advantage the .44 has (for now) is that it can be had in a compact 5 shot revolver and the only .45 ACP revolvers currently made are six shooters and are built on a much bigger and heavier frame. I say (for now) because there is a rumor that Charter Arms may be making a .45 ACP version of their Bulldog that does not need moon clips. If they succeed you can probably expect a velocity loss of close to 100 fps when a .45 is fired through this vented revolver with a 2 1/2" barrel rather than a 5" non-vented 1911.

    The reason velocity is so critical with both of these rounds is that hollow points may fail to open if they are going much slower than the manufacturer intended and a drop from 800 to 700 fps could cause failure. Using a short barrel revolver MIGHT result in failure with a round designed for a full size 1911.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  6. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Another factor to consider is that regardless of the platform, the .45ACP is what it is. Unless it is a gun that can be safely converted to .45Super. However, in the proper platform, the .44Spl has LOTS of room for improvement through handloading.
     
  7. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

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  8. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    It has been said the old 44-40 WCF cartridge killed more men and beasts then any other commercial cartridge before or since.

    Discounting the military calibers, I don't doubt it.

    And it was a lighter bullet then either the .44 Spl or .45 ACP.

    However, I bet the .22 RF is in the running with it, if you count small game as "beasts".

    rc
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  9. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    With the right loads, it does. By comparison, the old "standard" load - 246-gr. LRN at 755 fps - is pretty anemic. But these are more expensive and harder to find than .45 ACP premium ammunition. On the up side, you don't need moon clips for ejection.
     
  10. OregonJohnny

    OregonJohnny Member

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    In off-the-shelf commercial loads, the .45ACP probably wins, just because there is so much more to choose from. Low-recoil, +P, hollow point, flat point, round nose, frangible, etc. Not to mention that a quick glance on MidwayUSA shows 123 different .45 ACP ammunition products available, and only 33 .44 Special. .44 Special was the platform used to develop the .44 Magnum, so ever since the Magnum hit the mainstream, the Special has suffered in popularity.

    If you are talking about handloading, however, .44 Special all the way. The fact that Elmer Keith used the .44 Special as his platform to develop a medium-sized game handgun hunting cartridge (the .44 Remington Magnum), should say a lot about what you can do with the .44 Special using proper powder and bullets.

    Plus, if you're comparing the 2 cartridges using their most likely launchers (semi-auto for the .45, and a revolver for the .44), the .44 shows even more versatility, since it's not nearly as picky about bullet shape, overall cartridge length, seating depth, recoil spring weights, etc.

    The .45ACP is a fantastic cartridge in a semi-auto platform, but if given the choice between a .44 Special revolver and a .45ACP revolver, as a handloader, I'd take the .44.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  11. benzy2

    benzy2 Member

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    I like to use factory loads for any defense type situation. One less variable in the courts if something should go wrong. For that application then i find .45acp to be the more versitile round. If we are talking about a hunting round then i may change to a .44 special or more so a .44 mag and use the job appropriate ammo be that in the special or mag case.

    I also shoot a bit of .45 acp in an auto loader as well as a revolver so having all the components and dies already makes loading ammo for both a pretty easy switch. I wouldnt expect a person/animal/target to know the difference between similar designed bullets out of either firearm. Id worry more about which i could get ammo/components for and which style/model firearm is my preferred option.
     
  12. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    44 Special, Lyman 429421 at 250 grains and the 800 or so fps load of Unique trumps hardball any day. That said, I also load the RCBS 255 KT in the ACP with enough Unique to get about the same velocity. Both penetrate well in the few media I have available and cut nice clean holes in paper.
     
  13. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    An age old discussion. Can't go wrong with either one. The thread JShirley linked to was a good one. :)
     
  14. lathedog

    lathedog Member

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    They are pretty similar cartridges overall.

    If I was looking to buy, I would consider other factors. I am already invested into 45acp, and do not have any 44 mag/special "stuff", so the acp would be my hot pick.

    I prefer moonclips to speedloaders, but you can also get moonclip conversions for a 44 special. However, 45acp works better with the clips, most 45acp revolvers come from the factory set up that way, and there are multiple sources and better prices on 45acp moonclips.

    How available is 44 special in stores in your area? Is there a price difference? I am pretty sure 45acp is going to be more common, cheaper, and in more variety in more stores.

    I wouldn't get all hung up on mathematically calculated single digit differences (sorry - 11% is double digit - technically). I am a lot more into lifetime sustainability of a system.
     
  15. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

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    The major difference in these similar preforming rounds is the case. The .44 Special was designed for black powder which is much bulkier and takes up more room while the .45 ACP was designed for smokless powder and did not need to be as big. This accounts in the the disparity in length. In a modern .44 Special cartridge the case is only about half full of powder. The same is true with the .38 Special which is similar in preformance to the much shorter 9MM round that was designed for smokless powder. The extra room in the .38 and .44 cases allows them to be hot loaded in stronger modern revolvers. This led to the development of the .357 and .44 Magnums.

    Reloading these old black powder designs poses a safety risk to handloaders as they can hold a double or even tripple charge of powder. If you double charge a 9MM or .45 ACP the extra powder will compleatly fill the case or even spill over the top and become very obvious. With a .38 or .44 it can be hard to see.
     
  16. Krusty

    Krusty Member

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    I would not want to be shot with either round. I'm certain both would take you to the same level of dead. I personally would rather own a 44 special. Not because it's better but because I like it.:evil:
     
  17. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    While this is true it does not hamper the cartridge like it does with the .38WCF, .44WCF and .45Colt. The .44Spl is a wonderfully efficient cartridge. Problem is, it has never been loaded to its potential by ammunition companies. Even the original Triple-Lock could handle more pressure than its modest blackpowder roots might suggest. While the big .45Colt case is a lot of wasted case capacity at these pressure levels, the .44Spl is terribly efficient and offers a lot of room for improvement through handloading.
     
  18. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    Technically 44special was designed for SMOKLESS POWDER and the whole reason we don't still shoot 44russian is the first SMOKLESs powders were too bulky to work well in the smaller case capacity of the Russian.

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  19. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    The .44Spl was indeed originally loaded with blackpowder.
     
  20. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    When do you think 44 special was introduced?

    Ill give you a hint 45acp and 9mm are both older cartridges. 44spl was NEVER a black powder cartridge until recently for CAS games.

    Its an absolute myth that 38 and 44 special were originally black powder cartridges.

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    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  21. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    It was introduced in 1907. But I reckon you're smarter than John Taffin who says in his book "The Gun Digest Book of the .44" when he says that the .44Spl was originally loaded with blackpowder. Or maybe you know better than the folks who wrote Cartridges of the World too??? :rolleyes:
     
  22. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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  23. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    Funny you should mention cartridges of the world. Its sitting in my lap now and it clearly says 44 spl was not a blackpowder cartridge.

    The black powder blurb is in reference to the RUSSIAN not special

    The placement of the comma is key



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  24. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Perhaps reading comprehension is not your strong suit and/or you should stick to AR's.

    "Though originally a blackpowder cartridge, the .44 Special - which is about 0.2-inch longer than the Russian - eliminated this problem and provided more power, while using the same bullets as the older .44 Russian."

    Powder capacity was increased from 23gr to 26gr. Of what? Blackpowder.


    From Mike's article above:
    "While a couple of loud an vociferous Internet experts (that would be you) loudly dispute the fact, everybody who has read even one of the major reloading manuals is aware that the .44 Special came out as a black powder cartridge. It arrived in 1907 along with the Smith and Wesson New Century Hand Ejector revolver otherwise known as the Triple Lock. It was a lengthened version of the .44 Russian containing, according to Elmer Keith, 26 grains of black powder-three grains over the Russian loading. Nominal velocity was 770 Feet Per Second. It was a target-level load and when the smokeless powder loads came out in the same velocity range..."
     
  25. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    I guess it all boils down to which source you believe most.

    Answer this though. Why would a brand new cartridge introduced FIVE YEARS after 9x19 and two after 45acp be loaded with black powder?

    You do realize that just because a gun writer wrote it doesn't necessary make it true?

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