History Of The .44 Magnum

BY Herschel Smith
4 weeks, 1 day ago

Shooting Illustrated.

By any reasonable standard, the .44 Magnum cartridge is a milestone in handgun history. The big round came along in the mid-1950s, when America was on top of the world and American industry could make anything a sportin’ handgunner might want. By consensus, the guru of handgunning in those times was a little Idaho rancher with a big hat and gun savvy for the ages—Elmer Keith. He had been around for many years, shooting, hunting, handloading, experimenting and writing for the major outdoor magazines. Keith was widely read in the mid-1930s when Smith & Wesson took the bold step of stretching the .38 Spl., loading it hot and creating the first magnum revolver—the .357 Mag. One of the first to write a review of this new concept, Keith was still hard at it when World War II ended and sport shooting was popular once again.

For many years, Keith had hot-loaded .44 Spls. with bullets of his own design and sold them via the U.S. Mail. He developed a great deal of information about the feasibility of such a gun on a commercial basis. Smith & Wesson was exceptionally open-minded in the early ’50s and cooperated with him on a .44-caliber cartridge, which paralleled the concept used in the .357 program. It stretched the .44 Spl. case enough to increase its capacity and came up with an ultra-strong N-Frame revolver to fire the new round. The resulting gun and ammo opened to roaring acclaim and brisk sales. The now-famous Model 29 .44 Magnum was a spectacular success as a product.

[ … ]

There is another event that had at least significant effect on .44 popularity and it just might be one of the most important. Elmer Keith had a wonderful outdoor life, but one of the things that actually helped him make a living was working as a hunting guide. Keith put many hunters onto game—deer and elk mainly—over a wide span of time. On one of these trips, he encountered a situation that people still argue over. Keith was guiding a hunter on a mule deer hunt, when they turned up a really choice buck.

The animal was about 200 yards off along a ridgeline. Keith’s client hit the deer with an early shot, but the hit was in the jaw and it was obvious the shooter wasn’t quite up to the marksmanship challenge. In the next few minutes, the animal first disappeared, then came out of the timber even farther away. With no other arm available, Keith drew his brand-new .44 Magnum and began working his shots into range. After several ranging shots he got a hit and then another. The buck was down for the count, an animal that would have been subject to a lingering death had it not been for Keith’s skill. He was too much a man of the outdoors to let something like that happen. The shot was debated for years to follow—it was 600 yards. It was among the first (if not the first) game animal taken with a .44 Magnum.

That’s quite a shot!  Jerry Miculek can do that too, at least with 10mm rounds.

But then again, 10mm isn’t .44 magnum.  Jerry needs to get a better game!  I want to see Jerry do this with .44 magnum.

It would have been an honor to have met Mr. Keith.  They made them stout back then.


Comments

  1. On September 17, 2019 at 6:25 am, Badger said:

    Read of Mr. Keith’s accomplishments for years. He routinely shot his .44 Specials out to the 100’s of yards (those not destroyed testing seriously hot loads). He said something once that I’ve always remembered, when some pundit call a shot “lucky”:

    “The more I practice the luckier I get.”

    As Ol’ Remus would say, “wisdom in one breath.”

  2. On September 17, 2019 at 12:55 pm, MTHead said:

    Elmer Keith, Told a judge once. “I never did anything I wasn’t proud of”! What Badger mentioned, wisdom in one breath. He’s right up there with St. Browning in my book.

  3. On September 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm, JoeFour said:

    Here’s some trivia that may or may not be solid truth — I read somewhere long, long ago that Elmer Keith never fired more than 400 rds in a year.

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You are currently reading "History Of The .44 Magnum", entry #21903 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published September 16th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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