Elmer Keith developed the .44 Magnum cartridge after years of custom loading and writing many articles about the .44 Special. Keith wanted to develop a cartridge based on the .44 Special that would be suitable for handgun hunting. In the process, he created high pressure loads that pushed a heavy bullet. Manufacturers were quick to recognize the potential of these cartridges, and the .44 Magnum was born through a collaboration between Remington, which made the ammunition, and Smith and Wesson, which made the revolver. It was not actually Smith and Wesson that introduced the .44 Magnum to the market, however. The iconic single action .44 Magnum Blackhawk revolver was released by Sturm, Ruger in early 1956.
.44 Magnum bullets commonly weigh 200 to 230 grains, travel about 1,500 feet per second, and generate a muzzle energy of 1,200 foot pounds. The .44 Magnum case is 1/8" longer than the .44 Special, which can be fired in .44 Magnum handguns.
Originally, the .44 Magnum was introduced as a handgun hunting cartridge. It is still a great cartridge for this purpose, but it has over time become much more than just a cartridge for handgun hunting. Many types of firearms have been manufactured to accommodate the .44 Magnum, including rifles with bolt action, lever action, and semi-auto. These rifles have been used for medium sized game, such as whitetail deer and feral hogs with great success. The Desert Eagle is a semi-automatic pistol that has been chambered in .44 Magnum as well.
There are likely hundreds of different firearms that have been chambered for the .44 Magnum, yet one gun stands alone to represent all things .44 Magnum - the Smith and Wesson Model 29. The character “Dirty Harry” Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry series of movies, carried this revolver and introduced movie viewers to the “most powerful handgun in the world.” The popularity of the Model 29 and .44 Magnum skyrocketed as a result.
Ammunition manufacturers for the last fifty years have produced enough innovative cartridges for this caliber to keep up with the steady demand. Federal Premium offers .44 Mag in their Hydra-Shok line, as well as Vital-Shok and Power-Shok, and traditional hollow point and soft point bullets. Hornady produces their Critical Defense line in .44 Mag. These are only a few examples of the many choices buyers have in .44 Magnum cartridges that are made by nearly all major ammunition producers. The .44 Magnum remains a powerful and versatile cartridge, useful for hunting and self protection, not to mention just shooting with friends.