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Old February 10, 2013, 09:44 PM   #1
AL45
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.45 Colt vs. .44 magnum. Who is King?

I have read many times that there are .45 Colt loads that are ballistically superior to the .44 magnum. I have also seen this disputed as many times. If it is true, can anyone state a specific load and the specific ballistics of the load? I realize it would only be safe in a Ruger Blackhawk, Redhawk, Freedom Arms, Thompson Center or any revolver chambered for a .454 Casull.
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Old February 10, 2013, 09:47 PM   #2
MarkDozier
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You have read. Why have you not researched and read the hard data for each caliber?
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Old February 10, 2013, 10:24 PM   #3
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MarkDozier, I have seen discussion on several forums such as this, but no one has produced any hard evidence. I was hoping by asking the question here, one of the knowledgeable people on The Firing Line could answer the question and save me the trouble. Perhaps while I await an answer, I will take your advice and do a more thorough investigation.
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Old February 10, 2013, 10:49 PM   #4
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Until Buffalo Bore came out with the +P .44 Mag they were close. In a five hole revolver the .45 Colt can out do the .44 Mag, but in six shooters, the .44 mag has more energy.
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Old February 10, 2013, 11:02 PM   #5
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In my humble opinion the 44 mag is the king of revolvers and always will be. I dont beleive there is anything in North America that can with stand it.
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Old February 10, 2013, 11:06 PM   #6
AL45
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According to Handloads.com they show a .45 Colt 350 grain lwsc at 1246 fps. They show a .44 mag 310 grain lwsc at 1275 fps. They don't mention foot pounds of energy on either one. They really don't need to. Either would obviously do extreme damage.
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Old February 10, 2013, 11:21 PM   #7
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Neither!

My 45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk will do everything I'll ever ask of a hunting handgun, so would a similar 44 mag. I just happen to prefer the RBH over the Super Blackhawk. On paper the 45 Colt seems to have an edge for max loads but my RBH's role is a backup hunting weapon and a quick follow-up shot is part of my requirements. I can launch a 300 gr JSP from my RBH at somewhat over 1300 fps but can't find a way to enjoy it, let alone launch a quick follow-up shot. My current hunting load is well short of a max load, BTW. Matter of fact it's less than my black powder "play" loads. A big chunk of lead doesn't need to go very fast to get the job done, IMHO.
One possible advantage of the 44 Mag is that almost all guns are designed to handle full-house loads, most 45 Colt revolvers are not.
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Old February 10, 2013, 11:49 PM   #8
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Good points, TexGunNut. I too shoot a Ruger Blackhawk and while I find a 300 grain JSP at 1100 fps tolerable to shoot, I shoot a 250 grain rnfp at 900 fps more accurate. And I have read the 250 will shoot through a deer and like one fellow said, you can't get more penetration than that.
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Old February 10, 2013, 11:54 PM   #9
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"In my humble opinion the 44 mag is the king of revolvers and always will be. I dont beleive (sic) there is anything in North America that can with stand it."

Well if we pretend that the .454 and .460 and .480 and .475 and .500 don't exist, then the .44 could "with stand it."
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Old February 11, 2013, 12:12 AM   #10
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And I have read the 250 will shoot through a deer and like one fellow said, you can't get more penetration than that. -AL45

I beg to differ. I recently had a 255 gr 45 Colt bullet fail to penetrate the forehead of a rather agitated boar. Seemed to stun him a bit but didn't resolve the situation. Velocity was a rather modest 850 fps or so and the thickness of a boar's skull combined with the angle make this a poor choice of targets but I couldn't talk him into a broadside or ear shot. A subsequent shot slid around his skull and exited behind his ear, didn't help his disposition much. A third shot between his eyes and he became a bit more compliant.
A new hunting load with a bit heavier and harder bullet is in the works, possibly moving a bit faster as well.
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Old February 11, 2013, 12:12 AM   #11
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I've used them both quite a bit and it really comes down to personal preference. As to which is more powerful, you could beat your guns & hands silly figuring that one out (and I have). I finally decided that the 45 Colt worked better for me.

I use it in an old Vaquero and my heaviest load is a 335 grain Keith style gascheck wadcutter at 1190 fps, give or take 20 depending on which chamber fired it. It shoots these close enough to the sights, which are regulated for 255's, to make it useful for swatting big critters out to 50 yards or so. I could never get a 44 to agree on two loads, that far apart, without cranking on sights.

It may be a quirk of this particular gun, but it works for me and I like it.
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Old February 11, 2013, 12:16 AM   #12
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Quote:
Well if we pretend that the .454 and .460 and .480 and .475 and .500 don't exist, then the .44 could "with stand it."
I think perhaps he was saying simply that until you head over to Africa, there aren't many game animals on this continent that won't fall to a .44 Magnum. That point can certainly be argued (boy howdy, has it EVER) but I don't believe he was saying that the .44 Magnum is the most hardcore hand cannon ever developed or that it's better or more powerful than all the ones you listed.
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Old February 11, 2013, 12:40 AM   #13
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Define your criteria for measurement, please

There are three types of ballistics, internal, external and terminal.

Internal ballistics defines what firearms can launch the 44 Mag or 45 Colt with what energy levels and throw weight. This is basically where the muzzle energy arguments take place. This is usually pretty easy to determine from loading data, but does nevertheless produce a lot of heat.

External ballistics is concerned with the bullet path between muzzle and target and aside from bullet drop and how far you can shoot accurately has produced little heat.

The king of the heated argument is terminal ballistics. Aside from the indisputable fact that the 45 bullet is 5% larger in diameter, 10.5% larger in frontal area and 16.2% heavier for the same profile the performance on the target at whatever bullet construction, velocity, spin rate and distance will never be settled (in my opinion) because there is a great deal of overlap in the abilities of both rounds.

You MIGHT be able to get a definitive answer on which is better against an easily reproduce target like a steel plate hit by a specific weight bullet from either cartridge, but on a target as variable as even any one specific game animal, there is too much variability in the target to ever get a sure conclusion.

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Old February 11, 2013, 01:34 AM   #14
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44 mag
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Old February 11, 2013, 02:00 AM   #15
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I don't believe there is any game animal in the world that a 44mag can not take down with correct bullet selection.
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Old February 11, 2013, 03:24 AM   #16
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Either one will do the job. The 45 Colt will do everything the 44 Mag will do but with less pressure because the case is bigger. By the time you get past the 44 Mag in power with the 45 Colt it's not much fun to shoot.

Either one launching a 250 or heavier bullet at 1200 fps or faster will take anything on earth, with good bullet selection, that being the key. Good bullet selection is code talk for hard cast solid with as large of a meplat as you can find. I like them both. It's really preference since they both will do what you need them to do.

The 44 Mag is cheaper to load for and components are more available.
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Old February 11, 2013, 08:31 AM   #17
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Lost Sheep has the answer in post #13...
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Old February 11, 2013, 09:19 AM   #18
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Quote:
Who is the King?

Elvis. Always was....always will be.

The debate between .45 Colt and .44 mag comes down to personal preference regardless of what some want you to believe. Do a search....there are probably hundreds of threads on this subject here on TFL alone over the years, and still, the debate rages on.
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Old February 11, 2013, 12:32 PM   #19
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The truth is that there is virtually no difference between the two. Yes, the 45 slug is larger and heavier, but that means the 44 has a better sectional density for the same weight bullet. Yes, weight for weight, the 44 can be fired at a higher velocity, but at the expense of extra pressure. Every comparison between these great cartridges is a trade off with a different comparison. And all the differences are so slight that they are virtually meaningless in their effect on game.

I prefer the S&W Model 629 to any other commonly available and affordable revolver in the two calibers, so I shoot the 44 mag more often. But I also have a Ruger Bisley Blackhawk in 45 Colt. Here is a numbers comparison for you between max loads with equivalent SDs:

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Old February 11, 2013, 12:50 PM   #20
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The fofo....
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Old February 11, 2013, 01:31 PM   #21
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.44 Mag. and you can buy .44 Mag ammo anywhere,even WalMart. biker
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Old February 11, 2013, 01:56 PM   #22
Sevens
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Hmmmmm.
In the Handloading area of one of the planet's foremost online gun forums...
being able to buy ammo at Wal-Mart isn't a very strong argument.
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Old February 11, 2013, 02:16 PM   #23
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The truth is that there is virtually no difference between the two. Yes, the 45 slug is larger and heavier, but that means the 44 has a better sectional density for the same weight bullet.
Yep. They are both fine cartridges, and each has small advantages over the other. If you want a single-action revolver, get a .45. If you want double-action, get a .44. If you are dead-set against reloading, get a .44. In a rifle, the choice probably comes down to something like the twist rate.
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Old February 11, 2013, 02:36 PM   #24
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Sometimes, it's how you LOOK at it

You can make an argument that:
--.45 Colt is an OLD cartridge and for it to compete in the horsepower race with the .44 Magnum, it needs to be hotrodded beyond the scope of it's original design (which it seems to do fairly well)

while...

--the .44 Magnum was designed from the ground-up to be a hardcore, power-spewing revolver round that leaves a big hole.

Using this argument, you might make a vote for the .44 Magnum sticking true to it's design envelope and then perhaps...it's a more natural "king."

But you can counter the argument with the .45 Colt's larger bore and thusly providing similar energy with LESS pressure, or MORE energy with the same pressure. But make no mistake, it's fact that for the .45 Colt to compete in any race where "power" is a concern... it must be run outside the scope of it's original design to compete with the .44 Magnum.
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Old February 11, 2013, 03:06 PM   #25
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Sevens hit it on the head. (Post # 24)

They were developed under completely different standards.

The .45 Colt started as a 'black powder' loading for a 'Plow handled' pistol. Further handicapped with 'balloon head cases' and some inferior weapons along the way (made in shops by unknown persons, using no or minimal metallurgical knowledge). Bores run from .451 to as much as .455 and more (don't jump on me, I'm not talking about any quality weapon here). Modern commercially loaded ammunition must be wimped down for some of these 100 year old black powder weapons.

The .44 magnum started out as a lengthened .44 Special, just so the rounds could be loaded up to greater potential in 'Modern' revolvers using modern steels and metallurgy techniques. About the only handicap being the design flaw of the Smith with the cylinder cut right on the thinnest point of the cylinder (over the chambers).

So we end up with two Kings. The Cowboy King, the true handgun of the old west. And the 'Dirty Harry King', of the 'modern' design.

Energy, velocities and size is transient. Someone can and will build something bigger, faster and more powerful. But, does that make it a King?

For me, revolvers are too slow to reload as a personal defense weapon. I want an auto loader. For target use and or hunting, give me a longer barreled revolver. I will not specify caliber as long as it starts with '4'.

Enjoy and be safe,

OSOK
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