Look, .44 Magnum rifles are some of the best carbines for practical purposes. They’re better for home defense, because you can load them with hollow points. They pack more punch at close range, meaning they’re better both in a home defense role and for hunting. They make one of the best brush guns you can get for most game. And you don’t have to be Dirty Harry (that’s the first thing most people think of when you mention .44 Mag) or into cowboy action shooting to own one.
Additionally, a carbine’s longer barrel gets far more out of these handgun cartridges than a pistol does. Data from Ballistics By The Inch indicates that .44 Remington Magnum gets another 300 fps to 400 fps from an 18-inch barrel compared to the 6-inch barrel of a Model 29, depending on the load.
There aren’t too many .44 Magnum rifles being made these days which makes them a little more unique and therefore more interesting. Everyone and their brother makes an AR-15; they’re virtually a cliche at this point. The cool thing about a .44 long tun is you can also do the old cowboy thing and load a packin’ pistol with the same loads.
Capacity isn’t outstanding by modern terms; the typical tubular magazine will hold 8 to 10 rounds, but that’s 8 to 10 very powerful pills. Cost can be anywhere from about $700 to almost $2,000, depending on the make/model and, of course, the store you buy it in.
That said, which guns should you look for? Start with these six .44 Magnum rifles and you won’t go wrong. Get ready to see lever-action rifles, because that’s most of the long guns made for the caliber. But let’s face it: They’re a lot of fun to shoot!
First is the Marlin 1894. While you shouldn’t expect custom-shop quality, Marlin makes good workhorse guns with modern features like a hammer-block safety (you can carry with the hammer down without a problem) and a tapped receiver for a scope along with iron sights.
The base model holds 10 in the tubular magazine, has a 20-inch barrel, and comes with a blued finish and walnut stock. Not too shabby for just under $800 MSRP.
Henry USA, of course, also makes a few. A number of rifles and carbines in the Henry Big Boy series are offered in .44 Magnum (most actually, and plenty in .357 Magnum and .45 Colt as well) so there are a number to choose from.
A good starting point is the Big Boy Classic (that’s the Golden Boy, above) , with Henry’s signature brass receiver and octagonal 20-inch barrel. Like the Marlin, it holds 10 in the magazine and has a side ejection port, so it can be scoped if you prefer. MSRP is $945, but expect to pay much less for the same reason as the Marlin.
The big darn heroes among us may find it interesting to note that Henry also makes a Mare’s Leg in .44 Magnum.
If you insist on nothing but the best in lever guns, Winchester – of course – still makes the Model 1892. This pistol-caliber carbine (one of John Moses Browning’s finest guns) is their only model offered in modern pistol cartridges; the others are offered in the old chamberings like .44-40 and .45 Colt, though they didn’t actually make their rifles in .45 Colt originally.
The 1892 is a top-ejector, so no optics. But you get a 20-inch barrel, blued steel finish with walnut stock and furniture, 10 rounds on tap in the magazine, and Winchester’s attention to fit and finish. MSRP is $1070, but you can expect to pay more like $900 in-stores, which isn’t too shabby for one of the classic all-time American firearms.
Prefer something a little more modern, a little less cowboy-ish?
There are two outstanding Ruger .44 Magnum rifles worth getting, one of which is in current production, but the other has to be found used…though it’s well worth it if you find one.
First is the Ruger Deerfield Carbine. Inspired by the earlier Ruger Model 44, the Deerfield Carbine (in production from 2000 to 2006) is a semi-automatic based partially on the Mini-14 and partially on the 10/22. It has an open-top receiver (a la the Mini-14) but is fed by a 4-shot rotary magazine (a la the 10/22) with an 18.5-inch barrel and open sights.
If you’ve ever wondered what an M1 Carbine would be like if it actually had some punch, this is it. The Model 44, which has a closed received and tubular magazine, is a bit more common on the used market (it was in production for longer) but parts are hard to come by, so tread carefully.
However, Ruger DOES still make the 77/44, formerly known as the M77. It was designed by Bill Ruger as a modernized Mauser, though the line was updated to include rifle calibers in the Hawkeye line. This is a bolt-action rifle, with a Mauser-style receiver, 3-position safety and stainless alloy bolt. The rotary magazine holds four rounds, and has an 18.5-inch barrel.
The receiver has scope mounts machined onto the receiver, but also has iron sights as standard. There are three models, two with synthetic stocks (blued or stainless receiver) and a walnut-stocked model with a blued receiver. The base model (blued with black synthetic stock) lists for $939 and the other two for $999.
All of these would be excellent candidates if you had a yen to add some .44 Magnum rifles to your collection. For deer hunting or hog hunting in thick timber, all would be excellent choices, but also make very serviceable home- or self-defense carbines as well.
Did we miss one you think merits inclusion? Sound off in the comments!