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Old May 20, 2011, 08:19 AM   #1
Theophilus
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.44 Special recoil vs. .38/.357

This must have been discussed before, but if so I can't find it. I'd like to hear opinions/experiences - how does the recoil of a 44 special out of the lightweight Bulldog compare to smaller bullets such as 38+p or .357 in a similar weight gun? I'm used to the feel of a Colt DS (which weighs something like 24 oz)...and I've pretty much avoided 357 because I doubt I'd like that kick. Does the .44 spc represent a middle ground in recoil between the two? How much of a step up in recoil from the 38 would the Bulldog be?
Reason for asking is I just looked at a first generation 3" Charter Arms Bulldog @ a local shop (for $200) which I think weighs about 20 oz. I have read some things about the need to practice with it to learn control - but I know that I would not shoot it excessively because of the cost of the ammo.
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Old May 20, 2011, 09:31 AM   #2
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It must be 44 special morning...

Here is a current thread (somewhere else) that talks about some of the pluses and minuses of the Charters...

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=591349

I've got a Taurus 441 in 2 1/2" (all steel though so it isn't a fair compare). It takes practice to control. I don't think it compares to my Model 60 (J frame S&W) shooting 125 gr 357 Mag rounds. (that is quite a bit like setting off a grenade in your hand if it isn't gripped correctly).

I use the Silvertip loading (200 gr?). I practice with mild handloads. I love the 44 special! You can do it!
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Old May 20, 2011, 10:02 AM   #3
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I often carry a recent production .44 Special Bulldog 2.5" (22 oz. unloaded... 25 oz. loaded).

"Does the .44 spc represent a middle ground in recoil between the two? How much of a step up in recoil from the 38 would the Bulldog be?"

I'm going to say yes, basically, it feels somewhere between .38+P and .357 magnum recoil-wise for me. I prefer the .44 Special overall for SD carry... Nice big round that's close to perfection for me... adequate power & size without overpenetration. I'm currently loaded with 240 gr. JHP's... nice!... To me, shooting .44 Special is very similar to shooting .45 Auto... The loadings and ballistics are ballpark comparable.
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Old May 20, 2011, 10:04 AM   #4
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If fired from the same platform, and using "standard" factory loads, the .44 Special will have less felt recoil than the .357 Mag and more than the .38 Special. This is both theory and my experience with a S&W 686 4" barrel and a 629 Mtn Gun, also with 4" barrel. Similar weight and style guns. That said, you can buy light .44 Special loads that are going to take the recoil down a little closer to a .38 Special +P or beef them up to approach the .357 Mag, especially true if you reload.

Reduced gun weight increases felt recoil proportionally (cut the weight in half, you'll double the recoil). Short barrels tend to reduce recoil because less than the full energy is developed, but shorter barrels feel the recoil differently. The shape of the butt makes a big difference, too. Some are designed to rotate more, converting some of the recoil energy to angular momentum and reducing the force on your hand. Some put more of the force/energy into your hand and arm. And features like ports or compensators can make a big difference.
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Old May 20, 2011, 10:43 AM   #5
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I don't have a 44, but if the 44 is fired in a larger frame gun you will find that the bore axis is higher above the hand than with a smaller frame gun firing 38/357. Even if gun weight is similar, a higher bore axis will probably increase perceived recoil a bit.

In addition to the shape of the butt as mentioned by mes227, the contour of the grips, particularly the surfaces that the web of your hand wraps around, can also influence how recoil feels.
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Old May 20, 2011, 11:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
I'm going to say yes, basically, it feels somewhere between .38+P and .357 magnum recoil-wise for me.
+1, but another important factor is noise and muzzle blast. .44Spl, in my experience, has less muzzle blast than either .38Spl or .357Mag, particularly the latter; of course, in a short-barreled CCW gun, firing a hot .357Mag load is like setting off a flash-bang grenade near your face.

.44Spl is a very low-pressure round by late 20th-century standards. Although lots of shooters casually compare it to .45ACP and/or .45 Colt, it's actually a step below both of them in pressure and velocity. It fires a similar-sized bullet, so recoil is comparable, but muzzle blast is closer to .380ACP or .38S&W; more of a "Pop" than a "BLAM!!!" This may equate to lower felt recoil to some shooters. (Felt recoil is a funny thing and is often influenced by psychological factors such as noise level.)

Mandatory Footnote: I'm not talking about some of the hot, modern .44Spl+P self-defense rounds, but you should avoid using those in an older Charter anyway.
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Old May 20, 2011, 11:35 AM   #7
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...but I know that I would not shoot it excessively because of the cost of the ammo.
FWIW .44Spl is one of those rounds which you really need to handload in order to really enjoy it. Factory ammo is hard to find, it's expensive, and the selection is limited. OTOH it's a very easy and forgiving cartridge to handload because nice big cases and big bullets are easy to handle, and the generous case volume makes it tolerant of slight overcharges (provided you don't double-charge the cases, which is a possibility with big cases like this).

The only drawbacks are (a) the larger bullets are more costly than smaller calibers if you don't cast your own, and (b) your local range probably doesn't have a bunch of extra brass laying around.
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Old May 20, 2011, 12:17 PM   #8
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44 Special, to me, feels the same as 38+P. Not as much power as a .357, for sure.

But the recoil is only half of the equation. I'd prefer a standard pressure 44 Special for self defense to a 38+P. Less reliance on expansion.

Charter and Taurus makes inexpensive small guns in 44 Special, S&W makes expensive ones. There's no middle ground at the moment. With Charter or Taurus, you're tossing the dice, and with S&W you're tossing the wallet.

The only real problem with 44 Special other than a lack of guns in the cartridge, is ammo price. It is through-the-roof expensive, unless you reload.
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Old May 20, 2011, 01:31 PM   #9
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Lyman old 180 gr full wad cutter works great in my Bulldog.

Quote:
.357Mag load is like setting off a flash-bang grenade near your face.
That's why I never bought a 357. One wouldn't think so, but even the 44 Mag is more pleasant to shoot than 357 Mag is. Of course, ymmv.
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Old May 20, 2011, 04:12 PM   #10
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I have a 2010 Bulldog and it likes 200g bullets to shoot POA. 240s shoot higher. I just shoot ~80 rounds (loaded to standard .44Spec velocity) last weekend with it no problem. The recoil is 'sharp' but very manageable and comfortable. What I mean by comfortable is I could shoot it all day and wasn't stinging the hand. BTW, I was consistently knocking down steel targets at 25 Yards, clanging 8" plates at 50, and hitting a 'man' sized steel target at 77 Yards.... Not bad for a snubby! I have .357s but all are BHs. Because of their weight they are almost like shooting .22s.... Well.... Almost.... So no fair comparisons!
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Old May 20, 2011, 05:08 PM   #11
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When I shoot magnums out of my 2.5 inch smith snubbie, people next to me on the line can feel the shock waves hitting them. It always turns heads.

I like to shoot some mild, tame powder puff .38 loads for a while, and then load up with some magnuns. It always gets a....
"what the heck are you shooting?"
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Old May 20, 2011, 06:02 PM   #12
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I have an early Charter 3", and used to carry a 21/2" M19, so this is alloy frame vs. steel frame. To me, the .357, even with 110g bullets, is a sharper recoil than the .44 with 240s. All recoil is subjective, but to me the .44 Spl is softer. And, as noted, the muzzle bast is something - about a 2 foot fireball in the bright AZ sun.
(When we were issued Super Vel 110g JHP, we said "If you hit, it cauterizes the wound, and if you miss is sets their clothes on fire to mark them for identification.")

BTW, my Charter wears the Pachmeyer rubber grips, which also softens the recoil. They may be hard to find these days.
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Old May 20, 2011, 06:08 PM   #13
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I've found that the .357 magnum, when loaded hot, has a certain "snap" that some people find objectionable. It's not so much the recoil impulse, but the speed of the recoil impulse.

The .44 Special, on the other hand, doesn't seem to "snap" so quickly.

Don't get me wrong, I love them both, but the .44 Special seems much easier on the hand.
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Old May 20, 2011, 06:36 PM   #14
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I have a Charter Arms Bulldog 3" bbl in .44 special, but I haven't shot any factory loads through it in over 2 decades. I can't remember what it felt like.

I use stout hand loads, with a 180 gr. wadcutter bullet at about 950 fps. The recoil is quite noticeable, more so than a .38 special +P 125 gr. out of a S&W model 60 2" barrel.

Just for informational purposes the following are the SAAMI pressures.
Cartridge . . . . . . SAAMI pressure
.38 Special . . . . . 17,000
.38 Special +P . . .18,500
.357 Magnum . . . 35,000
.44 Special . . . . . 15,500
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Old May 20, 2011, 07:44 PM   #15
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I've never fired a .357 snubbie. But the .44 definitely kicks harder than the .38. It's still a manageable round from a small gun, and still not a lot of fun to shoot more than a few dozen rounds at time.
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Old May 20, 2011, 09:24 PM   #16
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Thanks for the information. I think I'll just have to buy the gun and try this for myself. It sounds like the logical next step for me.
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Old May 20, 2011, 10:20 PM   #17
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Just a thought: if I was buying a Charter 44Spl, I'd seriously consider a 4" barrel target model if I thought I had a way of concealing it. Weight will still be low, and with the right high-ride IWB rig and boot grips it's doable for some folks.

Here's the thing. One of the best rounds you can feed a Charter 44 is the Blazer 200gr JHPs with Gold Dot slugs in aluminum cases. As premium ammo goes the stuff is fairly cheap. But it's not that hot. Which is great if you're trying to keep the strength-marginal Charter alive, but not so great at 2" barrel performance.

But from a 4"? OK, now we're talkin'. We should have enough boost to make 'em expand, recoil will be moderate, the gun's not getting beat up either. It's a really sweet setup.

Again: this is IF you can conceal it somehow. That's based on your lifestyle, how deep a cover you need to go, are you doing a fanny pack, ankle carry, etc. Having it on you is step one, optimal ballistics is of secondary importance to that.
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Old May 20, 2011, 10:57 PM   #18
Theophilus
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Jim - the gun I'm interested in has a 3" barrel (it's from the 70's). Your points on the 4" are well taken, but I would have an easier time, I think, concealing the 3". How do you think performance/expansion would be with the Blazers from a barrel 1" shorter than the optimum?
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Old May 20, 2011, 11:53 PM   #19
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I have found that hot loaded 125gr JHPs 357 mag from a 2.75" Ruger Sec Six with Pachmayr Presentation grips is a handful. But when loaded with a max charge behind a 180gr Jacketed bullet the recoil seems more polite and manageable, even though the 180gr load carries about the same amount of energy.

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Old May 21, 2011, 12:02 AM   #20
Jim March
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Well 3" beats 2", that's for sure .

3" might do. I dunno.

As near as I can tell, the 44Spl 200gr Gold Dots are a fairly early Gold Dot variant, and really started the "flying ashtray" trend. They're sort of the ancestor of the 135gr 38+P loads, in that sense. My understanding, and I'm not 100% sure, is that while Speer says they'll expand at 800fps, they really need 850 or a bit more.

Now, some companies have driven these up to 1,100ish and they still work. In typical Gold Dot fashion, they hold together when "overdriven". Exactly where the sweet spot is I couldn't tell you but...at a guess, it's somewhere around 950-1,000 range. (Which is also where the 135gr slugs get peak performance - they go fatter than they usually do at 850ish out of a 2" barrel in Speer's 38+P loading.

Anyways. I've seen test data on the 200s that show them at 800fps or even a tad lower out of a 2" barrel. It was a while ago but I don't think this projectile has changed much. Speer's R&D focus is on the 9mm/40/45 families just like everybody else right now, with some secondary interest in the 38+P and .380 and everything else taking a back seat. We can thank the rise in CCW for the trend, and that's cool .

So. If we hit 800 from a 2", we ought to hit 900 in a 4", maybe a hair more. That should be an excellent stopper. Energy levels are a bit below the 45ACP at that point, but above the 9mm so that's pretty decent for a snubby wheelgun.

I dunno. I'd like to see some speed tests on that load from a 2", 3" and 4" barrel.

Separate issue: I *think* the older Charters including the 44s were set up as "tight lockup" guns. In other words, the cylinder is locked hard in the rotation direction by the trigger pull, which is similar to double action Colts like the Python, Dick Special, etc. When it's running right it leads to above-average accuracy. When it's "off" and the cylinder is hard-locked in an improper alignment, it'll try and tear itself apart on every shot. This is one reason a lot of people considered the 44 Charters "overly ambitious". My understanding is that the new ones have gone to a "very slightly sloppy" setup (in the rotation direction) same as S&W, Ruger, Taurus and most others. For a slight loss in accuracy that really doesn't matter in a close-quarters gun, you get better reliability.

So...if you check the gun out using "the checkout" (the 2001 edition posted now will do!) and the cylinder feels "welded to the frame solid" while the gun is in the "full lockup" state...well...first, make damned sure the alignment is right and second...if you do buy it, don't expect it to run for 5,000 rounds of even mild stuff, or 500 rounds of extra-spicy.
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Old May 21, 2011, 01:25 AM   #21
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A former bro-in-law was a Fed and wound rather tightly. He carried an old model Charter Bulldog, with .44 spec handloads as his personal off duty carry. I took him to our local range while the wives (sisters) visited and do whatever wimmins do. I was carryin a Combat Commander... natch we swapped weapons.. yikes! That recoil was nasty, sharp and muzzle-blasty! I emptied the pistol but didnt ask to shoot it again, definitely worse than my 4 inch .357 Python.
I have found that the .44mag in a longer bbl is actually easier to control/deal with. Certainly .44 spec in those same platforms (my handloads loaded warm) are comfortable and no comparison. The larger bores are less muzzle blast and less sharp compared to .357 and I much prefer to handle the .44s and .45s. YMMV
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Old May 21, 2011, 07:23 AM   #22
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Quote:
A former bro-in-law was a Fed and wound rather tightly. He carried an old model Charter Bulldog, with .44 spec handloads as his personal off duty carry. I took him to our local range while the wives (sisters) visited and do whatever wimmins do. I was carryin a Combat Commander... natch we swapped weapons.. yikes! That recoil was nasty, sharp and muzzle-blasty! I emptied the pistol but didnt ask to shoot it again, definitely worse than my 4 inch .357 Python.
What spec were those hand-loads loaded to?

One BIG "problem" with the 44 Special in the past was that people would try and Elmer Keith the 44 Special into a 44 mag, then complain about the "poor quality guns" when they shook loose and failed, completely oblivious to the real cause of their problems.
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Old May 21, 2011, 07:42 AM   #23
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QUOTE: SLEUTH

"I have an early Charter 3", and used to carry a 21/2" M19, so this is alloy frame vs. steel frame. To me, the .357, even with 110g bullets, is a sharper recoil than the .44 with 240s. All recoil is subjective, but to me the .44 Spl is softer. And, as noted, the muzzle bast is something - about a 2 foot fireball in the bright AZ sun."

I also now own a Charter Arms 3" Revolver (Stratford Conneticut) early version that has not been fired but a few rounds. At the gun range a
month ago I fired about 10 rounds with it and plan to fire another 100
next month. I am firing Cowboy Rounds 240 grain. Mine has (looks like Walnut wooden grips). I was pleasantly surprised that the gun has much
less recoil than i expected. It only has slightly more recoil than my Smith&
Wesson 38 Revolver firing practice rounds. So I now carry the CA 44 Bulldog
Revolver as my primary carry weapon. Also the gun fits my 38 Holsters
very well. Only problem I have is getting practice ammo locally and the
expense. I like it better than the 38 S&W Airweight 38 Special I carry. You mentioned Rubber Grips. Would that improve my weapon and could a gunshop somewhere put them on for me? Mine came with a custom holster (right handed) but I am left handed, so ordered new holsters for it. With problems getting 44 SPL ammo for practice, I was thinking the next one I buy might be a 45 Revolver since the rounds might be more available. Oh, mine is dark steel frame, a bit heavier than another Taurus 38 Special I also own.
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Old May 21, 2011, 08:31 AM   #24
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.44 Special ammo variety can be somewhat hard to find these days so I post this suggestion just 'cause I like it and have had good experiences with this co. ordering online shipped to my door via FedEx... (Easy, I just have to sign for it when it comes.) If interested just go to this site, click on Handgun Ammunition, then .44 Special...

cheaperthandirt.com

This is the one I like: .44 Special BVAC (Bitterroot Valley Ammunition Company) Jacketed Hollow Point 240 Grain 810 fps 50 Round Box
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Old May 21, 2011, 11:42 AM   #25
Jim March
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If you reload, here's a source for 185gr full wadcutters at a pretty reasonable price:

http://www.pennbullets.com/44/44185dbbwc.html

These things at about 900fps would be a great defense option in the shorter-barrel Charter44s.

I don't think I'd trust a 240gr JHP from any manufacturer to expand well out of a 2" or even 3" barrel. I'd want something moving faster - the Gold Dot 200gr slug is the most advanced projectile being spat out in 44Spl that I know of, with the possible exception of the Cor-Bon/Barnes DPX which is also 200gr:

http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/15507-5.html

That's rated 950fps from a 4" barrel so Even there, from a 2" barrel doing 800-850...will it expand? Dunno. From a 4" Charter "target model", yeah, now we're talking...and that gun is only 23oz:

http://www.charterfirearms.com/produ...dog_74440.html

That's less than an SP101...of course, once you add .44cal ammo they'll probably weigh about the same but...still, it's a lot of problem solving in a pretty small package.

Charter's site also says a 5" barrel version that weighs LESS (21oz) is coming - must be a "pencil barrel" profile. And those work better than most folk would expect, so...that might be of interest too. Plus, because the 5" barrel will have the front sight way out there, this might be a great starting point for a barrel chop, re-crown ad custom sight setup. I can see chopping the 5" down to maybe 3.5" to build the best "combat monster" Charter 44 possible .

Oh, and Charter says they're bringing the 3" barrel back soon:

http://www.charterfirearms.com/produ...g_Classic.html

That's a good idea.

Look...there hasn't been a lot of ammo development money tossed into the 44Spl in a very long time. It's a niche caliber. So we're at the same point the 38Spl was 10+ years ago: from a snubby, a full wadcutter was your best bet because the primitive hollowpoints wouldn't expand out of a 2". That's no longer the case in the 38 (you still have to be picky about your ammo!) but in 44Spl, esp. in a Charter that can't take "+P", yeah, I think we're still there, more or less. So from a 2", I'd be ordering those 185s from Penn and try and push 'em anywhere past 800fps, past 850 if possible (and it should, even from a 2"). I suspect those would be as effective as a lot of the 38Spl loads even when the latter expand, and those .44 full wadcutters would be absolutely reliable in terms of what they'll in target.
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