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Updated: 07/17/2014 08:00:02AM

Evolution of the .44 Magnum

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shooting straight • ryan ingle

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Today, we will take a look at Smith and Wesson’s .44 Magnum! The .44 is quite possibly my favorite caliber to shoot for many reasons. First, it is very capable of distance shooting for hunting in handguns and rifles. It moves out at about 1,500 feet per second with just as much knockdown power in foot pounds.

In 1954, Elmer Keith, an avid outdoorsman as well as custom reloader, developed the .44 magnum cartridge based off the .44 Special. The .44 Magnum cartridge was the end result of years of tuned hand loading of the .44 Special. Keith specifically chose the .44 Special over the .45 Colt due to the .44 special being smaller with a thicker cylinder wall, thus it would accept a higher pressure and heavier bullet. So in late 1954, Elmer Keith approached both Smith and Wesson, as well as Remington. Well, in short, Smith and Wesson jumped all over it and produced the model 29. On Jan. 19, 1956, the gun was made public for a cost of about $140. It was a bit pricey for 1956, and only 3,100 were made. After that year, the price was backed down a bit to about $115, but nonetheless still a lot for the time. The gun had made a nice niche in the day for hunters, but did not catch on well until 1971. In 1971, a guy by the name of Harry Callahan, aka Clint Eastwood, debuted a new movie called “Dirty Harry.” In one of the classic lines in cinema, Eastwood’s character “Dirty” Harry Callahan describes his Smith & Wesson Model 29 as “the most powerful handgun in the world” in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. The .44 Magnum was the most powerful then in production. Demand for the Model 29 skyrocketed, so much so that the revolvers were selling for up to three times suggested retail price. Well, as fate would have it, “Dirty Harry” carried the Model 29 and sales skyrocketed on the gun and its popularity.

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