Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy wanted to compare the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. These two contemporary magnum handgun cartridges have been popular for decades among generations of shooters. Our goal here is to provide an overview of both of these cartridges while delving into some of their traits and use cases among other things. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
The .357 Magnum cartridge is the product of a collaboration between Elmer Keith and Smith & Wesson and was introduced in 1935. Initial production of the cartridge was carried out by Smith & Wesson and Winchester. The cartridge has a long and storied history in the world of law enforcement and personal defense. For a considerable portion of the 20th century, a .357 Magnum revolver was a common service weapon utilized by law enforcement officers. The round is also quite popular with hunters of various generations.
The .44 Magnum cartridge is another handgun magnum caliber designed by Elmer Keith and Smith & Wesson. The round debuted in 1956 alongside the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver which was specifically designed for the cartridge. Initial production of the cartridge was done by Remington. The cartridge, specifically when paired with the iconic Smith & Wesson Model 29, has been romanticized by films such as Dirty Harry (1971) and Taxi Driver (1976), contributing to the popularity of the round among shooters and in popular culture. The round has acquired a reputation as a highly potent magnum round which excels at personal defense and in hunting applications.
The market has a great deal of firearms available in .357 Magnum. These firearms will generally range from revolvers to lever action rifles. While not nearly as prevalent, semi-automatic pistols have also been available in .357 Magnum. Noteworthy examples include .357 Magnum chambered variants of the Desert Eagle and Coonan Classic. Marlin and Henry Repeating Arms manufacture a wide variety of lever action rifles in the caliber. It should be known that the firearms chambered in .357 Magnum are also capable of shooting .38 Special ammunition. This allows an end user to take advantage of two different calibers and save some money by shooting cheaper .38 Special loadings. Essentially, you will have no issue finding something chambered in .357 Magnum if that’s what you’re looking for.
As far as acquiring the firearms in .44 Magnum, one will also find a fair amount of firearms on the market to choose from. Like the firearms available in .357 Magnum, firearms chambered in .44 Magnum will generally be in revolver or lever action rifle form. While not as prevalent as these typical firearms, .44 Magnum chambered semi-automatic pistols and rifles were also produced. Notable examples include the .44 Magnum chambered Desert Eagle variant and Ruger’s Model 44 carbine. Companies such as Henry Repeating Arms and Marlin produce lever action rifles in .44 Magnum. It is also worth noting that firearms chambered in .44 Magnum will also be able to utilize .44 Special ammunition. This allows an end user to shoot cheaper ammunition and take advantage of two types of ammunition. If you want to get something chambered in .44 Magnum, you will have no issue finding a firearm that best fits your needs.
The .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum are classified as pistol cartridges but are quite effective when used in rifles. These rifles will generally be in the form of lever action rifles. The longer barrels present on these carbines and rifles considerably increase the velocity and accuracy potential of these cartridges. These types of firearms are also generally easier for most shooters to shoot accurately and effectively than pistols. This increases their efficacy in a wide array of applications such as hunting and target shooting applications.
In today’s market, .357 Magnum is one of the most plentiful and popular magnum handgun cartridges. The round is slightly less prevalent than more contemporary and common non-magnum pistol ammunition offerings. One will generally encounter .357 Magnum loadings which range between 125 to 158 grains. Loadings will feature a wide variety of projectiles which include traditional and specialty options. Traditional examples include full metal jacket (FMJ), jacketed hollow point (JHP), lead flat nose (LFN), and jacketed soft points (JSP) to name a few. Specialty projectiles such as Barnes’ XPB and Hornady’s MonoFlex are also present in some .357 Magnum loadings. Hornady offers a specialty line of ammunition designed for use in lever action rifles in the form of the LEVERevolution loadings. The .357 Magnum is represented in this product line, allowing shooters to take the cartridge to the next level when used in a rifle package. Essentially, one will be able to find .357 Magnum ammunition if you need it.
When it comes to .44 Magnum ammunition, one will find that there is a fair amount of options on the market. While the round is not as prevalent as some of the more common handgun calibers on the market, it is still certainly obtainable. .44 Magnum weights will generally range from 200 to 300 grains. Projectiles features in .44 Magnum loadings encompass traditional and specialty bullets. Traditional projectiles often come in the form of FMJ, JHP, LFN, and JSP form among others. Specialty bullets include Barnes’ Expander and Fort Scott Munitions’ Tumble Upon Impact (TUI) projectiles to name a few. Like the .357 Magnum, Hornady also offers LEVERevolution loadings for .44 Magnum optimized for use in rifles. At the end of the day, if you want .44 Magnum ammunition, you will be able to get it.
When compared to other popular pistol calibers, one will find that .357 Magnum ammunition generally costs more than other handgun calibers. While not as affordable as something such as 9mm Luger, the cartridge is not nearly as expensive as larger magnum calibers. At the end of the day, the cartridge is not prohibitively expensive by any means.
Generally, .44 Magnum ammunition will come with a higher price tag when compared to other pistol calibers. It is not as expensive as some of the larger magnum calibers or specialty loadings, but there is certainly a jump in price from something like .45 ACP or even .357 Magnum. Ultimately, .44 Magnum ammunition may be pricy, but it is not going to break the bank.
The .357 Magnum has proven itself to be a capable hunting cartridge in both handgun and rifle form. The round has proven itself with hunters of various generations as it has effectively dispatched a wide range of game. The .357 Magnum cartridge, particularly when used out of a rifle, has been especially effective at taking deer. This cartridge was essentially the king of handgun magnum cartridges until the introduction of the .44 Magnum. As always, one should ensure they are using sufficient ammunition for the game they are after to ensure an optimal and ethical hunt.
As far as hunting goes, the .44 Magnum has proven itself as a capable hunting cartridge. The cartridge has become very popular when being utilized for handgun or rifle hunting applications. Famously, Robert E. Peterson dispatched a record-setting polar bear with a Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. Big game such as elk and bison are also effectively taken by the cartridge. .44 Magnum loadings benefit from their traditional flat-point projectiles as they defeat light cover and obstacles such as brush and twigs with minimal trajectory deviation.
The .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum are straight wall cartridges. This is important in the realm of hunting as some states and regions only allow for the use of straight wall cartridges when hunting with a rifle. States like Iowa previously only allowed for the use of shotguns when hunting, mainly due to geographic factors which made rifle hunting risky or suboptimal in terms of safety. Both these rounds will satisfy the legal requirement for straight walled cartridges in areas with restrictions of this type.
In terms of personal protection, the .357 Magnum has proven itself to be a reliable and effective cartridge. As far as defensive loads go, the cartridge is supported by a variety of ammunition companies. The .357 Magnum has proven itself as a reliable duty loading as many police entities have utilized revolvers in the caliber throughout the 20th century. Aside from being utilized as a primary duty round, the round has also seen a significant amount of use in the realm of concealed carry. The round boasts impressive fight-stopping capabilities, a trait made even better thanks to modern defensive loadings. Simply put, the round is definitely suitable for self-defense.
The .44 Magnum has also established itself as a capable defensive cartridge. Like the .357 Magnum, the cartridge is also well supported by defensive loadings from a variety of companies. One can simply compare the round’s record for being able to dispatch large game to determine whether the .44 Magnum is suitable for two legged predators. The effectiveness of the .44 Magnum against potential assailants may have been slightly exaggerated in 1971’s Dirty Harry, but it is certainly an effective loading. While the round will not blow people away like it does on the silver screen, it will certainly end fights and life-threatening encounters. This effectiveness is enhanced further thanks to the wide variety of defensive loadings on the market. So yes, the .44 Magnum is a good defensive round.
All in all, the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum are venerable cartridges which have stood the test of time and remain popular in the modern era. This is particularly evident in the wake of the recent renaissance of tactical lever action rifles. Whether you’re after one of these magnum handgun cartridges or something else, we here at True Shot have you covered. As always, happy shooting.
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