44 Magnum In Prepping

29 Oct

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the 44 Remington Magnum caliber as a prepper choice. What are the pluses and minuses of the 44 Magnum? Which preppers could benefit from this caliber?

The 44 Magnum was originally developed as a hot-loaded 44 Special by Elmer Keith.  By modern standards, it’s not as powerful as many handgun calibers out there. For those of us who grew up way back when, it was the most commonly available powerful handgun caliber. It’s used by big game handgun hunters. It’s carried as a sidearm by many guides in bear country.

One famous prepper says he carries a 45 ACP for protection against bears. In my opinion, that’s not a great choice. Even the 45 ACP 230 grain FMJ bullets only penetrate about 4″ to 5″ of pine boards. The 44 Magnum can easily penetrate double that. If something big and mean is charging you, the most important thing is that your bullets can penetrate adequately to reach vital organs. They might need to get through heavy bone.

If you bug out to Alaska or hunt big game with a handgun, the 44 Magnum is a round to consider. The 44 Magnum has impressive ballistics for a handgun.

Double action 44 Magnum revolvers are rather large and aren’t the best choice for shooters with small hands. But a small handed shooter can shoot them successfully with two hands. The Smith & Wesson Model 29 N Frame comes in a 4″ barrel length and a 6″ barrel length. For defensive carry, the shorter barrel is best. For hunting and more accurate shooting the longer barrel is better. Barrels longer than this are just too long in my opinion. When hunting aim to fire it single action for enhanced accuracy.

For shooters who want to go really-old-school, you can purchase single action revolvers in 44 Magnum. Many shooters shoot these with one hand and just let the gun ride up under the powerful recoil.

You can even find lever action carbines in the 44 Magnum. While not as powerful as a 30-06, a 44 Magnum from a carbine barrel can easily kill anything in North America within 100 to 150 yards. In wooded areas, it’s really all you’d ever need for big game. In terms of effectiveness it’s considered about comparable to the 30-30.

One bit of advice I’ve heard over the years is that shooters who like revolvers for defense and who like the 45 ACP caliber should purchase a revolver in that caliber. I’ve never really liked the 45 ACP in revolvers. To me, it just seems out of place. It’s a round designed for autoloaders. If you have big hands and want a big bore revolver for personal defense, the 44 Magnum with a 4″ barrel is a great choice.

What about the heavy recoil of the 44 Magnum? Isn’t this a problem for defense? For personal defense and for practice, you don’t need to shoot full power ammo. Heck, I own a 44 Magnum revolver and don’t have nary a box of the full power stuff anymore. The most powerful ammo I use is the mid-velocity ammo. It fires a 240 grain bullet at about 1,000 feet per second. Yes, I’m a wimp.

Because the 44 Magnum is an elongated 44 Special, you can fire 44 Special ammo in your 44 Magnum revolvers. It’s similar to using 38 Special ammo in a 357 magnum. If you do this, be sure to clean up any build up in the cylinders which could cause the longer shells to stick or could lead to corrosion in the area. Loaded with 44 Special ammo, a 44 Magnum is a pussycat to shoot.

With the right ammo, you can essentially match the ballistics performance of the 45 ACP, if that’s your goal. The 44 Magnum is popular with reloaders.

In the prepper classic The Road Warrior, a 44 Magnum made a cameo when Lord Humungus used it to try to stop a truck by shooting holes in the radiator. I don’t think things will ever get so bad that we’ll have a long term breakdown of society, but if we did, the 44 Magnum caliber has an advantage. Humungus only had three or four cartridges. With a bit of ingenuity, he could have had more.

Being a big bore, the 44 Magnum can be effective with black powder and cast lead bullets. Some cowboy shooters use black powder. Modern smokeless powder is superior. But you can make black powder yourself if you run out of the good stuff.
Making black powder was written about in the Firefox books.
Important Note: I’m not sure about the legality of making your own black powder today.  Because of safety issues, there are laws restricting how much black powder you can store.

Even easier than making your own black powder is casting your own lead bullets. Obviously, be careful when you mess with molten metal.

Your brass cases would eventually fail. The real problem in keeping your 44 Magnum shooting indefinitely would be lack of modern primers.   Primers are small and you can store a lot of them. Some shooters say you can reuse primers “as a last resort” (part 1 of 2):


You could even try to make your own primers from aluminum pop cans, but everything I’ve heard about this venture is that it’s a flop.

According to several shooters, there are legal limits to how many primers you can store.

If you had a lot of brass cases, bullet molding equipment, knew how to make black powder, and stored a bunch of primers, you could keep your 44 Magnum going when the rest of us would be throwing bolos and shooting arrows.

If you’re interested in taking up bullet casting and reloading and like revolvers another great caliber is the 357 magnum. We’ll look at it in a future blog post.

Charlie Palmer -author The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

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