State Your Case: .357 Magnum vs. .44 Magnum

State Your Case: .357 Magnum vs. .44 Magnum

It’s that time again, friends. Yes, that’s right, it’s time for a faceoff between two of the most popular magnum revolver rounds out there: the .44 Magnum and .357 Magnum. This is bound to be an interesting edition of State Your Case because there’s a very wide division between faithful shooters of each of these venerable rounds.

Despite being brothers in nearly every way, including who came up with them and the way they were designed, the .357 and .44 Magnum have come to occupy very distinct niches in the shooting world. Both emerged, essentially, as the result Elmer Keith’s tinkering with hunting revolvers. For the uninitiated, Elmer Keith is considered the father of handgun hunting and was a famous author, arms inspector, rancher, and general gun enthusiast. Keith is, in my opinion, a more significant contributor to the gun world than almost anyone. Even, yes, John Moses Browning.

While I’m sure I’d ruffle every feather in the coop by writing a John Browning vs. Elmer Keith article, I stand behind this opinion as, while Browning did a great deal, most of his work was centered around mass manufacturing and government needs. Keith, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with the practical use of guns for everyday life. Keith’s opinions influenced gun design and public thought, which has created a lasting legacy, especially in the hunting world.

The .357 Magnum was the result of Keith’s desire to improve the power of the .38 Special cartridge. I have fired the .38 Special extensively and it’s my favorite handgun cartridge. Keith pushed the .38 Special very hard with what was available in his day, but he wanted to go beyond those limits. The .38 case was extended and heavy, and fast bullets were loaded in the new brass. Thus the .357 Magnum was born.

About as soon as it was introduced a myriad of famous people began to use it, including General George Patton and Skeeter Skelton. It achieved pop culture status as a result. It has starred in hundreds of films and TV shows as well as books and comics. The .357 Magnum is a widely recognized symbol of propriety and class and is probably the most powerful cartridge in common use by the general public. I will go so far as to say that it’s the most powerful ‘normal’ handgun round out there.

In contrast, I believe based on my experience with it, that the .44 Magnum is the most powerful handgun round the average person will typically fire in their life. It was developed by Keith after his experiments with hotrodding the .44 Special. The .44 S&W Special is an excellent and severely underrated cartridge even today, but unlike the .38 Special, it faded into obscurity as the .44 Magnum became more famous.

The fame of the .44 Magnum and its reputation are the undeniable result of the movies, to the point that it is almost impossible to think of the .44 Mag without thinking about how lucky a given punk is feeling that day. This cultural link has established the .44 Magnum in the minds of the public and it’s still widely viewed, although erroneously, as the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world.

While it has never actually held the title of the most powerful, it certainly is in practice due to the fact that most people have no interest in shooting anything bigger and consider many of those upper-end rounds to be excessive and unnecessary. Is the .44 Mag as powerful as the .500 Smith & Wesson? Not at all. Is the .500 too powerful to be practical? Probably, but that’s up to the individual shooter.

When it come to a head-to-head comparison, there’s a world of difference between these two brother cartridges. The .357 is categorically less powerful in terms of available foot-pounds and bullet mass. But the .44 is almost too much to handle when it comes to the same two criteria. Given a similar gun and barrel length, the .357 will always be easier to shoot and generally more accurate. It could be said that the .357 has a slight edge in terms of firearm weight and capacity, with some models weighing only a bit over a pound and holding eight rounds.

A lightweight .44 Magnum is downright painful to shoot and hard to control. I know that most people, myself included, take no joy in firing a cylinder of Hornady 300 grain XTPs from a Smith & Wesson Model 69, but would happily shoot it with 200 grain .44 Specials all day long. The .357 never really gets painful to shoot, even in higher ft-lbs loads.

As far as general performance in a revolver, I have to give the edge to the .357 Magnum. The average person is much better suited to it and can practice readily with both 38 Special loads for less recoil and full-house .357 Mag hollow points. The practical end uses of the .357 are many and varied, such as hunting, self-defense (plenty of stopping power), home defense and target shooting. It’s also very forgiving to make handloads for. Guns as small as the S&W J-Frame are readily available and carry easily.

The .44 Magnum, on the other hand, struggles greatly in small guns. The aforementioned Model 69, shown above, isn’t even remotely fun to fire with anything .44 Magnum. It’s essentially a .44 Special revolver as a result. Bigger handguns do well with .44 Mag, but they lose practicality rapidly for every ounce gained. Where the .44 Mag excels is in rifles, such as the Ruger 77/44 I reviewed here. Even the most savage .44 Mag +P rounds are docile in a gun like that.

Still, neither of these great rounds will lose popularity any time soon. If anything they will continue to specialize, with the .44 Mag swaying towards the hunting crowd and the .357 dominating the streets.

If I had to only pick one, I’d probably choose the .357 Magnum. It is suitable for the woods and daily carry alike and can be had in fast-handling lever action rifles as well as some bolt actions. There’s very little that can’t be done with it, but there are certainly rounds that can do a given thing better.

Don’t agree with my assessment here? Tell me what you think in the comments.


  1. avatar jwm says:

    It’s not the Bill of Needs or Wants. Unless you live and work in areas where really large animals can be a threat there is no need for a .44 mag or any handgun larger. If you need a .44 mag then you probably actually need a rifle.

    But in this country it’s about what you want. If you want the new .600 S&W magnum(some day this will happen) then by all means, buy it.

    1. avatar Bloving says:

      I’ve described the .44 Magnum as plenty of gun for most, too much gun for some, and not enough gun for only the insane.
      If a .44 can’t solve the problem you are facing, you made the mistake of thinking a handgun would suffice in the first place.

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        I hunt elk with a .460. I don’t think a .44 is enough gun to be reliably humane. Others use .454. I think .44 is ok for deer, but that’s about the limit. You’ll hear others say they use a .44, but you’ll also hear people claim that old timers used .22s.
        As for .44 v .357, I’d say their different animals for different animals. .357 is excellent for 2 legged varmits, especially in a 7 or 8 shot version, but I worry about .44 mag overpenetrating. Downgrading to .44 special is better for 2 legs, but the same size gun will only hold 6 rounds. For 4 leggers, the .44 can get bigger ones than a .357, and I don’t care about overpenetrating a hog.

        1. avatar Wade Hughes says:

          When fishing or packing in Bruins country the 44mag shines the recipe for well being is 4.3.1 40 cal or bigger 300 grain flat nose bullet or bigger and 1000 fps or faster nuff said

        2. avatar Bill says:

          Elk are just skin and bone, hard cast 44’s will penetrate truck rims. If you think the 44 is too weak to humanly kill an elk then you’re probably drinking the latest and greatest must have gadget koolaid.

          If it’s taking you 5 or 6 shots with a 44 to end an elks life, you really need to evaluate your own skills, not the round.

    2. avatar Marty says:

      Needing a rifle is one thing but having one is another. One does not always have a rifle handy, but a 44 mag handgun can always be carried.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      If you need anything BIGGER than a .44mag, you probably actually need a rifle (or as I usually phrase it, you need a buttstock). That said, if anybody’s got a great deal on a .454 Casull or .460 S&W, I’m all ears.

    4. avatar allan says:

      This has to be the most stupid article ever. Why shoot a deer with a 357 if you can shoot it with a 44? Why shoot a swimming impaired car jacker with a 44 if you have a 357? They are different calibers for different situations.

    5. avatar Big Bill says:

      ” If you want the new .600 S&W magnum(some day this will happen) then by all means, buy it.”

      Probably not. Anything over .50 caliber is considered a “destructive device,” and requires a few bureaucratic hoops (and some $$$) to own (other than shotguns or other smoothbore firearms).
      Not enough market for it.

  2. avatar Bloving says:

    Can’t get enough .44 specials to feed my Vaquero. I eat those things like candy. Magnums get too tiring too quickly but I can blaze away happily until my Ruger gets too hot or I run out of ammo – usually the latter.

  3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The .44 Mag is overkill as a CCW round. For handgun hunting, it’s perhaps one of the best all-around rounds, in both a revolver and a carbine.

    For self-defense purposes, the .44 Special was and is an excellent round.

    That said, for people who want the smallest/lightest handguns for concealed carry, you’re not ever going to get those in anything that “starts with a 4.” Simple engineering will require a larger frame, more weight, etc. Therefore, for CCW purposes, the .357/.38 probably wins – one or two more rounds, lighter weight, etc.

    1. avatar Bloving says:

      Probably me just wanting to root for the underdog, but id really like to see the .327 Federal Magnum pick up more market share. I really think it has a lot of untapped potential.

      1. avatar joel says:

        I am a big fan of the 327 as well. Most J-frame style 327’s will hold 6 rounds, and they also have the power factor scale-ability that the bigger magnums have. My VERY FIRST gun ever was a 32 magnum.

        That said, if i could only have ONE gun, it would be a 3″ barrel .357 mag 686 plus….

        1. avatar David says:

          I would probably go with my snub security six In 357

      2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        i find it intriguing. i am not intrigued by .32acp, which gives the versatility nod to the .38’s and .44’s.

        1. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

          You also have 32 h and r magnum, 32 long, 32 Sw to that list

      3. I would like to see the .41 Magnum gain in market share.
        In power, it’s in between .357 and .44 Magnum, but closer to .44 Magnum in power, and shoots flatter than either (especially out of a lever-action rifle).
        The .41 Magnum is a great round, better than .357 or .44 Magnum.
        Several lever-gun manufacturers make lever-action rifles and carbines in .41 Magnum, including Henry Repeating Arms.
        The .41 Magnum it has three things going against it:
        1) Ammo selection (due to the fact that fewer guns are chambered for it, so it’s a niche market).
        2) Ammo price (again, due to the fact that fewer guns are chambered for it, so it’s a niche market).
        3) Lack of a .41 Special cartridge, which means you can’t use .41 caliber rifles for Cowboy Action Shooting, and the round is never going to be popular until they create a .41 Special version so it can be used for CAS!
        Why the hell did they make a .41 Magnum without a .41 Special?
        Sure, you can reload .41 Magnum down to mouse-fart velocities if you want, but good luck getting your local Cowboy Action Shooting club to allow you to shoot any caliber called “Magnum” at their events, which typically have steel targets at less than 25 yards, so they’re worried about ricochets from steel targets at that close range.

        Today, there is no .41 Special, but if there were, the .41 Magnum would quickly skyrocket in popularity.
        If .41 Special existed, someone might even make a .410 shotgun that can fire .41 Special too, or a .41 Magnum rifle that can fire .410 shotgun shells too! (Warning: never fire .45 Colt or .41 Magnum or any other pistol round in a .410 shotgun unless the manufacturer DESIGNED it to handle both calibers, like the S&W Governor, Taurus Judge, and certain T/C Encore barrels. I do own a S&W Governor designed to use both, as well as a T/C Encore barrel designed to handle .410 , .45, and .454 Casull, but none of these can use .41 Magnum).

        1. avatar LKB says:

          Actually, there *is* .41 Spl. ammo out there:

          But it’s not common and definitely not cheap.

      4. avatar LazrBeam says:

        Roger that on the .327 Fed Mag. I’ve got four different revolvers in the caliber, one Taurus and three Rugers (LCR, LCRx, and SP 101 with a 3in barrel) in addition to a long gun in a Henry Big Boy. I’ve mentioned it before and will do so again. How about a comparison of the .327 Federal Magnum and the .357 Magnum on here? Hmmmmmmm?

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      It may be a bit big for CCW, but if you break into my house in the middle of the night, the first indication of the gravity of your mistake will be a 180gr. SJHP slug out of the barrel of my .44mag Blackhawk. If you’re still kicking after 6 of those, I’ll find something else to shoot you with.

      1. avatar 33Charlemagne says:

        Years ago a drunken fugitive was attempting to kick in the front door of my uncle’s then isolated house. He had two handguns at the time a Walther P-38 and a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum. My Uncle went for the Ruger because he figured that it would stop the miscreant far more quickly and reliably if he had had managed to get through the door. In such a situation the .44 Mag’s extra power more than balanced out it’s slower rate of lower capacity, slower rate of fire and less handy nature. Fortunately for all concerned the bad guy decided he had better things to do when my uncle warned him in a loud voice that he would be hurt badly if he got in.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Those 180s are just Magtechs, which are about the cheapest full(ish) power .44 loads I can find. But they’re light for caliber and SJHP so they’ll blow a mighty big hole in a robber. I figure over 1000ft/lbs out of the 6-1/2″ barrel. Of course, any time you use a SAA it’s good to have other weapons you can retreat to since reloads take about 3-1/2 days.

          Added bonus, not only does the .44 automatically alert the entire neighborhood and let them know to call 911, but it also allows you 2 or 3 hours of answering every LEO’s question with ‘WHAT?!?’ while you work out your story in your head.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I second the commentary from Dyseptic Gunsmith.

      I don’t care what anyone says, the .357 Magnum round is sub-optimal for handgun hunting of medium game. And even then, I believe shots beyond 25 yards are not ethical because the bullets just don’t have enough oomph to promptly drop a deer reliably. Will they create a wound that kills a deer every time at 50 yards? Sure, although the deer could very well go more than a 1/4 mile before bedding down and dying who knows how much later.

      If you shoot a deer with even modest loads of .44 Magnum out of a handgun, you are golden out to at least 50 yards. A .43 caliber, 240 grain bullet WILL punch broadside through a deer every time and make a LARGE hole in the process. And that deer probably won’t go much beyond 75 yards in most cases.

      If I were in an end-of-the-world scenario, I would want a .44 Magnum revolver. I could shoot magnum loads when hunting and .44 Special loads for self-defense against human attackers.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        One caveat for the .357, most loads aren’t full power .357s. For that you have to go to Buffalo Bore, Double Tap etc. A 158gr. soft point coming out of the barrel at 1500fps should reliably go through both lungs at 50 yards.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          At 50 yards that 158 grain bullet would be down to about 1,300 fps. The important question: how large a hole would that bullet create through both lungs at that velocity and how far would a deer typically run after that?

          The other important question: what if the deer is quartering toward or away from you presenting a less than ideal broadside shot at 50 yards? How would that 0.357 inch diameter, 158 grain bullet perform in that situation? I can guarantee you that a 0.43 inch diameter, 240 grain bullet will be a passthrough in that situation and make a BIG bole.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I punched in the Double Tap Nosler 158gr SJHP load I keep in the chambers (wish I could find a full power 140gr. SJHP for defense) into Honady’s ballistic calculator (adjusted to my approximate elevation of 1000′) at 1500fps (6″ barrel) and came up with 1348fps @ 50 yards and 1280fps @ 75. That’s more stink at 75 yards than most factory loads (even the ‘hunting’ ones) have from the muzzle of a 4″ barrel. But no, it’s still no .44 mag.

          That load would probably be fine with a straight broadside or quartering away at 50. If your deer is quartering toward you you should be using a heavy hardcast bullet in either .357 or .44. You’re likely to hit bone first.

          You’re not going to drop a deer in it’s tracks unless maybe you’re using a .50 bmg. Even a heart shot deer can make it 50 yards. Take your shot, hopefully take out both lungs, and sit back and wait 10 minutes. The deer will run over the hill and bed down and bleed out. Come up on him when he’s got any strength at all left and he can run for miles. So maybe wait 15 minutes if you’re using a .357. .44’s definitely better though.

        3. avatar Bill Beaudry says:

          Dear Gov poteman S&W got that much velocity out of 8 3/8″ barreled s&w Registered Magnum. Aka model 27.

      2. avatar frank speak says:

        you want to hunt with a .357?….you better be a good tracker!…..

        1. avatar Ron Holley says:

          Have shot two deer with my .357/158gr factory loads(one at 75 yards) and dropped it with one shot. I own a .44 mag also but still prefer the .357. Don’t really care to hunt bear, but being an avid backpacker have come across them in the past. I always give them a wide berth as I don’t want to have to shoot one if I can avoid it.

    4. avatar anonymoose says:

      I do believe I read somewhere about people converting K- and L-frames to .41 Magnum. That would be pretty awesome but again you’d be limited to 5 shots in a full-size revolver.

  4. avatar Ken says:

    I would hate to shoot anything larger than my 5 shot snub nose 357 Magnum revolver. It’s almost painful and it really gets your attention. I can handle 38 Special +P much better.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      You’d probably find a full size .44mag more pleasant to shoot than your snubby.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Definitely. I compared a light weight (16 ounce) snubby shooting standard .38 Special rounds side-by-side with a large revolver shooting .44 Magnum and average magnum loads. The .44 Magnum was far more comfortable to shoot.

    1. avatar Marcus says:

      Mary Robins “Big Iron”

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Good stuff. Hadn’t heard that one in a long time.

        1. avatar Marty says:

          That’s MARTY Robbins, one of the all time greats.

    2. avatar Owen says:

      I first heard this on the “radio” in Fallout New Vegas. Really get’s you into the “western” mood.

  5. avatar Michael says:

    If it’s my size and weight or smaller, .357. If it’s bigger than me, has a bad attitude, claws, fangs or can stomp a mud hole in me, .44 Maggie is strictly the entry level position.-30-

  6. avatar ellis johnson says:

    The 44 is superior. Everything the 357 does, the 44 does with reduced reduced power, yet with high power, it is capable of things the 357 cannot do.

    1. avatar Andrew lias says:

      How about carry 8 rounds and be somewhat comfortable to shoot in a scandium gun?

      1. avatar Scoutino says:

        Your comfort zone must be much larger than mine. I can shoot hot .44 magnum all day long. Out of Super Redhawk. Light weight. 357? Thanks, I’ll pass.

  7. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    As an old timer who started in law enforcement right at the end of the wheel gun era I always felt pretty good about my 4″ Smith 686 duty pistol. For service against 2 legged critters I always felt that the .357 was in the sweet spot of power, accuracy and controllability. I bought a Smith 640 J Frame in .357 as soon as they came out but I learned pretty quickly that the .357 loads available in those days were wasted in a short barrel pistol. So I went to Federal +P .38s in the snubby. These days I’m carrying a Springfield XD9 as a duty weapon, but the 686 and 640 both sit in my safe for occasional trips to the range. I also have a Uberti Cattleman with the pretty case hardened frame and Rossi 92 with the John Wayne lever chambered in .38/.357. Yes I like the round. Its easy to reload and these days most of the rounds I build are 158gr Keith style semi wadcutters.

    Now let’s talk .44s. I’ve got an 8″ Ruger Super Redhawk that I bought to hunt with and I load a pretty stout 300 grain hollow point round for it. The Redhawk is a great pistol – lots of fun to shoot and so strong that I never have to worry about blowing it up. I also have a Henry Big Boy in .44. I don’t load my ammunition quite as hot for the Henry as I do for my Ruger, but its a pleasure to shoot. Its accurate and reliable and I’m certain that it would take any game animal in the lower 48 with the proper ammunition. My third .44 is a Charter Arms Bulldog. I know that Bulldogs don’t have a great reputation, but mine is solid. I was suffering from an attack of acute nostalgia when I bought it and wanted a big bore hard hitting revolver. I load it with 240 grain semi wadcutters for plinking and defense and it seems to be able to do the job.

    In this tired old man’s opinion the .357 and .44 serve two different missions which only occasionally overlap. The .357 is still a superior defense round. It works best from a medium frame service pistol – which is what it was designed for back between the wars. It is effective from carbines and can be used as a hunting round at short ranges on lighter game up to white tail deer. Today the .44 magnum is seen as a hunting round. Its effective from heavy frame pistols and rifles and works on just about everything at shorter ranges. I would be less inclined to consider the .44 special or magnum as a defense round – despite what Dirty Harry said – simply because its too powerful to use in a combat application. I’ve shot law enforcement qualification courses with my Bulldog but I was hitting the Tylenol bottle the next day because my hand hurt – and this is from a guy who doesn’t consider himself to be recoil shy.

  8. avatar S.Crock says:

    .44 mag is obviously king of the outdoors and .357 is a better choice for two legged predators. Does anyone have any experience with Hornady American Gunner 125 grain .357 out of a 3 inch barrel? I just picked some up.

    1. That’s what is in my cylinder but that is as far as my experience goes.
      Used to carry soft points but these Hornady’s were on sale at Academy and I believe in lighter, faster, hollow points.

    2. avatar Tim says:

      You may find these tests interesting if you haven’t seen them yet:

      (and, if you haven’t, apologies if you lose your evening looking through them!)

      Specifically that round:

      with an XTP and around 1200fps seems to perform fairly decently, expanding with lots of penetration.

      1. avatar S.Crock says:

        Tim, Luckygunner is such a great resource for looking at ballistic tests! Thank you and yes I have watched their test on that ammo as well as for my carry ammo. Everyone should check out those links.

    3. avatar TomL says:

      Yes, I have shot the American Gunner .357 125 grain rounds in my S&W 327 Night Guard, my Model 19 and my 60 Pro. It’s quite invigorating. It has some punch in the 19 but it’s quite a kick from the 60 Pro with a 3” barrel. It’s not brutal but you won’t shoot many.

    4. avatar Tom says:

      Yes, I have used Hornady 125 XTP ammo, in a Rossi 92 with a 20 inch barrel. For Blacktail Deer hunting. Very effective up to 75 yards. Muzzle velocity through my Chronograph was about 1,850 fps..

  9. avatar RGP says:

    Elmer quit carrying everything else once he had a sixgun in .44 Magnum.

    Personally, I prefer a .45 Colt, and old Elmer stated more than once if he was restricted to factory ammunition before the development of the .44 Magnum, he’d have used the old Remington 255 grain blackpowder .45 Colt load over any .357.

    1. avatar LKB says:

      Then why did he develop the .41 Magnum?

      1. avatar RGP says:

        He made no secret that his daily carry was a 4″ Model 29.

        .41 Magnum was developed for the same reason most things are developed, to make more money.

        1. avatar Craig in IA says:

          The .41 Mag was envisioned for law enforcement use. S&W even made the Model 58 with no rear sight for that in mind. As the FBI couldn’t handle the 10MM later on, you can see this option was doomed from the start.

          Comparing the .357 Mag to .44 Mag to me is apples to oranges: .357 was primarily designed for 2-legged varmints, Keith wanted the .44 Mag was for his hunting. I have several examples of both and took my first deer with a Model 29 in WY around 1980 when it was a new fad to use a handgun for hunting. I’ve not killed anything other than steel and paper with a .357 but can see no need to use it for deer even though it is legal. Bigger than deer I’ll carry my FA .454 Casull.

          BTW- why in the hell would anyone contemplate writing an article comparing Elmer Keith to John Browning??? I’d think even the uninformed could see through that one. Maybe just need to make a deadline or something…

      2. avatar Specialist38 says:

        For law enforcement.

        The idea was a 200 grain lead bullet at 900-1000 fps for general duty and a jacketed 210 grain loaded to magnum velocities for use against armored targets.

        Guns were too big and heavy and cops didn’t like them.

        They also don’t like the recoil.

        I have a model 57 with a 4 inch barrel. Great gun. Silvertips are the best compromise to me. 1100-1200 fps with a 175 grain hollow point. Effective on deer and all sorts of varmits.

        If 41 mag didn’t exist, we would get along just fine with other rounds. Could say the same about 40 S&W and 10mm I guess. They fill a ballistic gap in factory ammo.

      3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The idea was to get most of the power of a .44 in a round that could go into a smaller framed revolver.

        The .41 Mag met a sort of dead-end when S&W put out the first revolver in a N-frame. That made it just as large and heavy as the .44 Remington Magnum – and that was pretty much the end of the uptake of the .41 as a upgrade to the .357 or a replacement for the .44.

        Once you get to a N-frame in the S&W line of wheelguns, you’re packing around a hefty sidearm. Never mind the issues of concealing it – even carrying a N-frame in the open, with whatever your choice of carry rig – and you’ll likely get tired of it by the end of the day. My .45 Colt in a N-frame gets tiring by the end of the day – and it has a slimmed-down barrel over the normal barrel.

        1. avatar Roger Pemberton says:

          I agree and now with an L frame 5 shot 44 magnum like the model 69 in my opinion further discredits the 41 magnum. The 41 caliber is so unpopular there’s just too little options for bullets and ammunition. Bringing the 41 magnum into a conversation about the 357 and 44 Magnums is like talking about a still born, it’s a non-starter. This is just my opinion of course.

  10. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    If I could only have one gun it would be my first.
    The S&W Model 66 with a 2.5 inch barrel.
    I still have it and its the only gun I wont ever sell.
    Next to my Hi Power anyway.
    Never fired a 44mag. Never had the urge to.
    Now Ive always wanted a 44spc. But haven’t found the need yet.
    Or the right gun. I cant force myself to buy a Charter Arms revolver.
    HEAR ME Smith and Wessonnnnnnn. Or Maybe HENRY!!!!!!!!
    Want one yessssss Need it nope.

    1. avatar Marty says:

      The Charter Arms Bulldog is actually a great carry gun for those in the wheel gun mind. It’s just not a good everyday shooter. But that’s the same with the S&W K frames in 357 mag. The K frames were not designed to handle a steady diet of hot 357’s. For that you need either an L frame or N frame. If I remember correctly, S&W published this info back in the early 70’s.

  11. I own one revolver: a .357 magnum GP 100. Enough.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      If you could only have one gun, that should be it.

    2. avatar Tony says:

      Same here. I own a few plastic 9s in various flavors, but my 4 inch stainless GP100 is my spirit animal.

  12. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    .44mag was my first purchase all those years ago, so i’ve just acquired other things based on that caliber. i certainly don’t regret it, and enjoy turning heads (usually) at the range.
    for someone starting out the diminutive, more anemic cartidges referenced above will probably prove more versatile. from lightweight “special” revolvers to magnum rifles with deer season friendly straight walled brass you’d be good to go.
    there is a lot to be said for the long colt / casull setup as well.

  13. avatar DJ says:

    But begin this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and how it would blow your head clean off……

    The 44 May be the most versatile caliber of all. From light special or light magnums loads to heavy loads, wide range to choose from.

    For parts of Colorado it’s one of the most practical calibers for bears, mountain lions and people. For a bear or mountain lion I would much rather have the 44 magnums opposed to a 357 magnums. If I really expected to cross a bear it wouldn’t be a handgun.

  14. avatar mark1955 says:

    Sorry for “Hijack thread”!

    False Flag Warning!

    Possible FBI staged mass “shooting” attacks between tonight and this weekend, as tomorrow is sixth week anniversary of alleged Thousand Oaks mass shooting attack ( FBI likes to hoax false flags every six weeks

    Also, Sandy Hook anniversary is this Friday ( December 21st )

    The NWO likes to stage False Flags on anniversary’s…If “Anything” happens, please call it out for the staged farce that it is.

    1. avatar Jack says:

      Seriously? Take off the tinfoil hat.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      pg2, is that you?

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Now you’re catching on!

    3. avatar S.Crock says:

      You can’t even get your fake news lies correct. The sandy hook anniversary was December 14th.

    4. avatar Serpent_Vision says:

      Sandy Hook shooting was on December 14th. Clearly, THEY are trying to convince us that it was really on the 21st as part of their deception.

  15. avatar Hannibal says:

    If I could find .44spl as easily and cheaply as I find .38spl I’d go with that. But until then my switcharoo is between .38 and .357.

  16. avatar tdiinva says:

    No versus here. What are you using it for. Self defense? .357 mag Hunting medium sized game? Doesn’t matter. Big game like moose or defense against big bears? .44 mag.

    And between Keith and Browning it isn’t even close. Inventing cartridges is not in the same league as Browning’s firearm designs

    1. avatar rosignol says:


      Sometimes, it seems like Josh enjoys gently trolling the commentariat. Or maybe it’s a clever plan to generate more ad impressions by sparking an argument^W ‘lively discussion’.

    2. avatar Napresto says:

      I was wondering if someone was going to push back on this. Not to mention Browning’s designs are equally civilian and military – universal really. Far more influential in my opinion, though I’ll admit I could stand to learn more about EK and would be willing to having my mind changed if facts merited.

    3. avatar Michael in AK says:

      if Browning was really a genius the 1911 would have been a double stack that takes Glock magazines. Sheesh

  17. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a .44. No Les, no more.

  18. avatar LKB says:

    What would Elmer Keith do?

    Oh, actually we know . . . split the difference and go with a .41 Magnum!

  19. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Love ’em both.

  20. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I really like both. I can load specials and hard fast magnums for both.
    My S&W is a model 27 6”.
    My .44 is a 5 shot 5” compensated model.
    Both shoot exceptionally well.

  21. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Uh, both.

  22. avatar Logan says:

    If I could only have one gun, I would have 3. 4″ 686, 69, 500.

    A 44 can use specials and that makes it an all around great gun. A 357 can use specials and that means the same thing. Do you need to shoot large wild animals?

    1. avatar Marty says:

      Only if your life depended on it. For that reason, I’d definitely carry my Super Redhawk. We have seen numerous cases of Bear attacks here in Utah. Do I want the Bear to survive or me? Yup, doesn’t take a genius to answer that one.

  23. avatar Mad Max says:

    I like them both but my S&W Model 69 Combat Magnum is the most accurate handgun I have ever owned, right out of the box (I have about 40 different handguns, you all know most of them).

    I took the Model 69 out of the box and shot Magtech 240 grain JSP .44 Magnum at 25 yards and my first 4 shots were a 2 in. group in the bullseye. The 5th shot was just below and left of the group, almost touching the 2 in. group. I usually don’t shoot that good.

    My hand was quite a bit sore after 50 rounds, though.

  24. avatar mike_dee says:

    Stopped reading when you placed Elmer above John Moses Browning. Are you crazy?

  25. avatar TomL says:

    I have nothing at all against the .44 Magnum or the .44 Special. I just don’t own any handguns that fire them. I have shot quite a few of my friend’s and relative’s handguns in .44 Magnum. The round just doesn’t do it for me.

    I prefer the .357 Magnum and the .38 Special. If I need a handgun round that’s hotter or has more oomph I have a .45 Colt. But, if I were to go hunting for deer I wouldn’t use a handgun anyway so the hunting aspect of the .357 vs .44 debate is a moot point for me.

    I do believe that someday I will own a .44 Magnum just because Dirty Harry had one and I love Smith & Wesson revolvers. Until then I am perfectly happy with my .357 / .38 firing revolvers…but now I have this funny itch that I can’t explain 😉

  26. avatar The Rookie says:

    Off on a tangent, but I’m curious: assuming a mid-range loading in a weapon about the same size and weight, how does .45 Colt/Long Colt generally compare to the .357 and .44 in terms of recoil?

    1. To answer The Rookie’s question, “how does .45 Colt/Long Colt generally compare to the .357 and .44 in terms of recoil?”
      I own several .45 Colts, and it’s my favorite caliber. It gives you three choices of power level:
      1) With light loads (cowboy-action loads or even 45 Schofield bullets), the recoil is as soft and gentle as a .38 Special!
      2) With full-power loads (e.g. Hornady LeverEvolution), it’s recoil is similar to .357 Magnum, .44 Special, or .45 ACP, so it’s much less recoil than .44 Magnum.
      3) With +P loads (if your gun is built to take them, e.g. Ruger Redhawk), its recoil (and power) is similar to .44 Magnum, but .45 Colt +P loads should be reserved for hunting or bear defense and used only in modern, strong revolvers built to handle it, such as the Redhawk (or in .454 Casull revolvers).

      If you plan to shoot a lot of +P loads in .45 Colt, you’re better off just buying a .454 Casull revolver such as the Ruger Super Redhawk. A .45 Casull revoler can shoot .454, .45 Colt, or .45 Schofield, so you have many choices of power levels. And FYI, .45 Casull is much more powerful than .44 Magnum.
      It’s basically a Magnum version of .45 Colt.
      And .460 Magnum is a super-magnum version of .45 Colt which can shoot .460 S&W, .454 Casull, .45 Colt, and .45 Schofield, giving you any range of power from mouse-fart level to elephant-killer!
      But guns chambered in .460 S&W are very large, heavy, and expensive, so unless you’re literally hunting elephants or T-Rex dinosaurs, a .454 Casull is powerful enough for anyone.

      1. PS: Another benefit of .45 Colt over .357 Magnum is that it has recoil similar to the .357 Magnum, but with a lot less noise, flash, and blast, because it shoots at subsonic velocities, lower pressure, and the powder burns up in a shorter length barrel.
        That means the .45 Colt is helpful for home defense situations, shooting indoors when you might not have time to put on your ear protection! I know it’s better to be deaf than dead, but you’re less likely to go deaf from firing .45 Colt without ear-pro than with .357 Magnum.
        The same advantages are true for .44 Special, although there might be some .44 Special ammo that’s supersonic, but there’s no .45 Colt ammo that’s supersonic (except for +P loads).

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Dave covered most all the points, but I wanted to add two items:

      1. If you’re loading hotter .45 Colt rounds as Dave has outlined, you need to make very, very certain that those rounds never find their way into older .45 Colt handguns. The older Colt SAA’s in .45 Colt (eg) could be blown apart by a hot load.

      You should also know that it is possible to nearly triple-charge a .45 Colt case with some hot pistol powders. If you’re using a progressive press, you must pay attention to what you’re doing and how much powder is bring dropped in the .45 Colt.

      2. A big, but unappreciated issue in older .45 Colt guns with high-pressure loads is that that their chambers are cut to generous (ie, large) dimensions, so allow for easier extraction in dirty/fouled situations. This fails to support the case as well as it should be, and this leads to cracked brass and case failure. When you have modern firearms with chambers cut as they should be, the .45 Colt is capable of being loaded hell-for-hot, right up there with a .44 Mag.

      Most .45’s have mass to them, so their recoil with to-spec loads (ie, not the modern hot loads) is really quite reasonable. eg, a 250 grain pill at 800 fps is very pleasant to shoot.

      In general, I believe that if someone knows what they’re doing with a .45 Colt, they have no need of a .44 RemMag in a wheelgun.

    3. avatar The Rookie says:

      Many thanks to Derringer Dave and Dyspeptic Gunsmith!

  27. avatar Bushman says:

    This article was very thought-provoking for me. I had never really considered the 357’s advantages in the light of being easier to shoot and easier to build smaller. I live in Alaska, so a 12 guage with bear loads is probably better than a handgun for self defense where practical. I once read an article that referenced an experiment in which it was found that a .44 mag was the minimum caliber that had enough penetration to kill a bear. I read a book which described several bears being killed in self defense by a Ruger Blackhawk in .44 mag. That’s my dream gun. Until then I am sticking with powerful bear spray. I have fired a Taurus Raging Bull .454 Casull with some solid cast bear loads, and it really kicked, but I thought it was manageable. In a lighter gun it would have really hurt. It all depends on the shooter.

  28. avatar Anthony leavell says:

    You have nailed it. 357 mág is best of both. Anything bigger than 44 is just over done. 357 is good both as defense against 2 legged pretators or 4 legged as well as snakes.

  29. avatar RayS says:

    Being “gun guy” I was gifted a S&W 629 from the guys on retirement. Love plinking with specials, and gives a secure feeling when hiking and it’s in a chest rig. But for EDC, I will keep my .357.

  30. avatar Herman says:

    Love both calibers,

  31. avatar Colton says:

    357 reliably bounce off windshields 44 mag reliably goes through windshields

    1. avatar Ron Holley says:

      Why are you shooting at windshields? I suspect too many episodes of “The walking dead”. I do own an old video showing penetrating values of different calibers. The
      .357 mag was the only caliber to reliably pass thru the door of a car and hit a target placed on the seat. The .44mag fragmented and only hit the target in too small pieces to be effective.
      One other caliber did pass thru the whole car
      front to back: .50 bmg.

  32. avatar 22winmag says:

    State your case: 16oz beer vs 22oz beer

  33. avatar John Fields says:

    I have a great old model SW 19 357 magnum, a SW 629 44 magnum, and a Glock 32 SIG 357 , and can shoot each just fine with great accuracy with any cartridge. The 44 is much more powerful than the 357 cartridge. I would always choose the 44 if I were in the woods, or for open carry. I would, and do, carry the Glock most days.

  34. avatar Tom Worthington says:

    I’m just a .357 fan. IF I were somewhere that a bear might sneak up on me, I’d probably want a .44 mag or even .454 Casul. Otherwise, the .357 does all the things I’d want a handgun for. I’ve fired several rounds of .500 S&W. Not a fan.

  35. avatar Jeff w says:

    I have quite a few guns – enough that I’m actually not sure how many. Strangely though, I dont have a 357. I think it is an excellent choice for self defense against to legged critters – perhaps the best. But, my self defense needs are met by semi autos. I use my revolvers for plinking and hunting. For that, I have .22, .327, .44, and .460 to cover the bases.

    The 69 is a fine handgun. One of my favorites. I dont find the recoil bad; but the 500 grips will help if you do. Search for paul105.

  36. avatar Piller says:

    I have a .480 Ruger, a .44 Magnum, a .357 Magnum, and a .327 Magnum. Each has a purpose for me. The .480 is wonderful for large hogs in the brush. One good hit with a 410 grain wide flat nose lbt style bullet and it has been an instant stop on everything so far. I said good hit. It is not a miracle gun. Like everything else, you have to place your shots. The .480 doesn’t need the high velocity. I sort of follow Linebaugh’s idea of a long heavy lead bullet at modest velocity. Great penetration and great killing power with a backwards shove that is not painful. My Super Blackhawk works well for close range work as well. My GP100 is better for when I have a few more feet to work with as I have to handload 158 grain jfp bullets to practically maximum power level to achieve close to the factory results of a .44 Magnum. Such loads are way more uncomfortable than a Winchester White Box 240 grain jfp from my Super Blackhawk.

    In an appropriate sized gun, many big boomers are great for hunting. My limit is the .454 Casull or the .475 Linebaugh. As Dirty Harry said, a man’s got to know his limitations. I know and can work with mine.

  37. avatar Kendall says:

    Im going to have to go with the. 44. Mostly because i dont have, nor have ever shot a .357

  38. avatar Roger Pemberton says:

    I own both S&W model 69 Combat Magnums, 4″ and 2 3/4″. Having shot both with max charges of H110 under a 240 gr Hornady XTP I would agree with your observation of the 2 3/4″ variant. It isn’t fun and is painful to shoot. I haven’t shot 300 gr bullets yet although I intend to and anticipate that they will be more painful and less fun to shoot. The 4″ variant on the other hand isn’t bad at all with full power ammo. I am actually going to try to duplicate the 10mm 180 gr load in my model 69 Combat Magnums. Some may ask why and all I can tell them is first I’m a fan of the 10mm, second for a pistol round the 10mm is no slouch, and third I would have no problem facing off with man or most beasts (except for the biggest of bears) with a 180 gr Hornady XTP 44 loaded between 1200-1300 fps. Especially in the 2 3/4″ model 69 that for me is a justifiable carry gun. I’m an equal fan of the 357 magnum too I just don’t currently own one. I would also agree with your observation of Elmer Keith. He was innovative and contributed not just to manufacture and government but in every facet of the handgun culture.

  39. avatar Specialist38 says:

    My 44 Flattop Ruger weighs 39oz empty – pretty light by big bore standards.

    My hunting load is a 240 g Keith at 1250 fps. My knocking around load if the same bullet at 950 fps. Great for Coyotes, armadillos, raccoons, and such. No maiming or wounding.

    I favor single actions. Most of my big bore stuff is single action. I would feel unarmed with a Vaquero 45 with hollow point ammo. I use Corbon 200 hp in 45 colt for deer in my Winchester trapper. Not as stout in a handgun but still warm.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Would NOT feel unarmed with a Vaquero.

      Bring back edit……

    2. avatar Marty says:

      Love the Winchester Trapper. Mine is in 44 mag, small, light and a great short range deer gun.

  40. avatar LickedButt says:

    The 357 can do everything any of us “need” to do.
    The 44 is for guys with little penis’s.

  41. avatar Paul Wilson says:

    I have carried a 357 for over 30 years. It is the best all around caliber that I know of. My weapon and that round have never let me down!

  42. avatar possum says:

    One of my son’s and I argue this( he’s almost as bad as a woman 😉 He likes 357 , I can not get it through to him that .44 is better. Lol, . I can download the 44 to recoil similar to 357 but you can’t upload a 357 to 44 power. Having shot a plethora of handguns it’s .44 Mag for hunting and .45acp for defense, for me.

  43. avatar Toni says:

    i used to have a ruger super blackhawk and i found it beautiful to shoot though i only ever used factory loads in it as i was never set up for reloading myself at that point. I did have pachmar grips on it though but it came with them when i bought it (second hand)As for 357 mag i have shot a mates 686 with full house loads and did not find it too bad to shoot either. I would love to be able to say i have shot larger calibre handguns than these as well but have not as yet though living in commiestralia you dont often see anything much bigger anymore

  44. avatar Ardent says:

    As other have noted, .357 vs. 44 is an odd comparison since there isn’t much overlap in their uses. If you can only have one handgun, and want to hunt with it, the .44 wins, if you can only have one but only intend to carry it for SD the .357 wins. The old adage “Use enough gun” still applies, but the caveat to that is “don’t pack more gun than you need to”. Everything is a compromise with a gun in general and a handgun in particular.
    All that said, among the great many handguns I’ve carried as primary SD weapons over the years there was a Dan Wesson. 44mag. I don’t now recall what .model, but it was a work of mechanical art with fit, finish and operation all top notch. With a 4 inch barrel it was concealed, barely, and with 6 round capacity it was capable. This is where the addage about the person being the weapon and the gun being a tool comes in. These days I pack a G19…and train to put many hits rapidly in the general mass of the target. When I carried a 6 shot .44mag I trained to deliberately put each round in the vitals as quickly as I could positively deliver the rounds to said vitals.
    Is one way superior? The G19 and it’s cone of lead technique is easier to learn and pull off under stress, it if you have the right sort of calm nature under fire and the practice to make every round count that .44 was far more than adequate for personal protection.
    Either works fine…but the Glock weighs half as much and practice ammo cost half as much and it carries 3 times the ammo of the .44. Meanwhile the .44 is twice as powerful and extremely accurate out to massive distances over the 9mm Glock. There is no definative answer, only an endless series of compromises.

  45. avatar P-Dog says:

    I’ll choose .357 magnum — Definitely potent enough for the job, cheaper to buy/reload, and enough recoil to remind you that you have balls, but not so much that it feels like a baseball bat smacking your hand. And hey, it can even be shot in a Desert Eagle (with a barrel conversion) !

  46. avatar raptor jesus says:

    Shot a .44 Magnum out of a Smith and Wesson Scandium revolver (329 PD). Once was enough for me.

    I shoot .357 Magnum routinely out of my Wiley Clapp GP 100 and occasionally out of my Chiappa Rhino.

    I shoot .38 Special all the damned time.

  47. avatar Jackass Jim says:

    Debating the superiority of Keith vs. Browning is just a futile and as pointless as with Revolver vs. Semi-auto.

  48. avatar George says:

    For simple private security duty, or home protection, a 4″ barreled .357 shooting .38sp +P is plenty of umph. If you need more persuation carry a load half and half and carry an extra speed loader of .357’s.

    Where I live now, depending on location and assignment, I may require something that will provide a real one shot smack down. For me, a .44mag does better then a good job, ….. and for those of you that haven’t seen what a 200 gr/jhp 44sp can do to a bad guy, well, let’s just say it will quickly change their bad habits.

  49. avatar Ralph says:

    Recoil shooting .357 Mags from my S&W M586 with a 6″ barrel is manageable. Recoil shooting .44 Mags from my S&W M629 is unpleasant. Period.

    But shooting .38Spl from the M586 and .44Spl from the M629 is delightful. The recoil is like a powder puff.

  50. avatar Stan Geisz says:

    357 for defense and varmints, 44 for medium game. Better review your history as Phil Sharpe and the S and W folks had more to do with the 357 than my hero Elmer. He, and the 44 associates including John Lachuk brought forth the big 44.

  51. avatar Chris Mangold says:

    The .44 special has as much power as a .357 (125X1400=250X700) the .44 mag just makes it that much more versatile.
    I carry .44 special in town and mags in the field.

  52. avatar BONN says:

    If you can shoot, .357 is plenty. If you can’t, get the .44. If I’m worried about a [black] bear, I’m not carrying just a handgun. If I am, I’ll just take my .357 lever action 92 carbine with a heavy load, and put it in his head (again, if u can shoot). Not hunting deer, etc with a handgun caliber. Period. .44 is like having a 12 inch dick: cool in porn, not necessary in the real world. And for a working man with a wife and 3 kids, ammo prices are always a factor.

  53. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    Elmer Keith while important, doesn’t even come close to Browning. Seriously that comment is just ridiculous.

  54. Why not try ( yes they made some ) a 50 cal. BMG revolver?

  55. avatar JM says:

    I solved the problem by buying one of each. S&W model 692 .44 mag 6.5″ barrel and a S&W model 686 Plus in .357 mag 2.5″ barrel. I love both of them. For sure I shoot the .357 the most cause you can economically buy the big bucket of .38 specials for range time. Haven’t had the chance YET to shoot a hog with the 44 but that’s what I bought it for.

  56. avatar Curt Henderson says:

    I have a 629 and 686. The one I love the most is the one I have in my hand at the time.
    Both are reliable and accurate. And for self defense which ever one is closest to me.
    And it is a privilege to own both of them.

  57. avatar Bob says:

    Pay your nickel; take your choice. Everybody has their preferences. The 44 magnum is not as powerful as some give it credit for. I shot a dog from a dog pack at 40 yards, with a 44 magnum, Ruger, 7.5″ barrelled revolver, in Alaska. Hit him broadside. There was a pool of blood where he was shot, but I found his body 200 yards away. No caliber replaces shot placement and penetration.

  58. avatar Rick says:

    I have all 3 mags. I would choose the .41 Mag, over all, for deer or elk. Its lighter than a .44. But has less recoil, while still having nearly the same impact. The .500 kills and guts in one shot.

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