Good write up, great pictures!
I have several friends that own M44s and M38s that use them for hog hunting in the piney wood flatlands. They originally bought them when they were half what they are today as truck guns, but they have grown to like them so much that they have become primary hunting arms.
I picked a M44 up several years ago at the same time which I restored and posted pics in this thread.
It cost me under $100.