The .44 Magnum for Survival?

It's Good Enough for Dirty Harry

"This is the .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and it can blow your head clean off."  "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

I've always been a fan of the .44 magnum.  Some would argue that it is too powerful for defense use by most folks.  Others might say the guns are too big to carry concealed or that the ammo is too heavy.

In the classic novel series, The Survivalist, by Jerry Ahern, one of the heroes, Michael Rourke, is a .44 magnum man, carrying a long barrel Ruger Redhawk with a scope and sling and a custom short barreled model as well.

My first .44 magnum was a blue steel Ruger Redhawk with a 5.5 inch barrel that I got for Christmas in 1984 or 85.  Over several years, I put a couple hundred rounds of full house loads through it and carried it in a Bianchi shoulder holster as I traipsed through the woods.  I put Pachmayer grips on it to help make it more controllable with the hot loads and had a handful of HKS speedloaders for it as well.  I even had a "Tackleberry" moment when I carried it to the range for my private security armed guard license training when I was 18 or 19.  At some point in my misspent mid-20s, I sold it and bought something else.  One of many guns I regret selling over the years.

A few years later I picked up my next .44, a 5.5 inch Ruger Super Blackhawk.  The Super Blackhawk is a large frame single action revolver with adjustable sights.  I picked up a western holster and belt rig for it with about 20 bullet loops along the belt and wore that on many camping and hiking trips, again putting several hundred 240 grain semi-jacketed hollow point rounds through it over time.  I realized it needed a mate, so I picked up a used Winchester Model 94 Trapper lever action carbine.  With the two, I had a stylish, old West combo that could be used to take any game in the eastern US, an amazing round that is more than capable against man or machine, accuracy out to about 125 yards, a fast 9 rounds from the carbine, and with the right holster and jacket - a relatively concealable sidearm.

That was my woods setup for a couple of years and then I got into Cowboy Action Shooting.  I eventually sold the Super Blackhawk and bought a pair of Ruger Bisley Vaqueros.  They are single action revolvers with fixed sights and a more traditional old West look than the Blackhawk.  I still use the 94 Trapper, but I shortened the magazine spring so that it would take 10 rounds of the .44 special rounds that I load for competition.  I have to replace the spring every couple of years.  I switched out the hammer and trigger springs in the Vaqueros to make them lighter and crisper.  I shoot "gunfighter" style (both guns simultaneously) and the Wolf springs really make it nicer to shoot.  With this setup, I use the lighter, slower .44 special rounds that I handload, I'm ready for competition.  With a change of ammo to my 240 grain SJHP, I have capable hunting and defensive rounds.  Plus, with my competition shooting, my skill with the lever action rifle and single action revolvers has risen dramatically. 

I still would not plan to carry the revolvers for defensive use on purpose, but I would certainly not feel undergunned with one of them.  The carbine is not as effective as my "black rifles" but would more than do the trick in a pinch.  Under all but the worst case gun control scenario such weapons would likely never be outlawed.

There are numerous other .44 magnums that are available and of use in a homesteading or survival scenario.  The Smith & Wesson 29/629 series is a classic double action revolver.  The Redhawk is available in a wide variety of barrel lengths and style ranging from scoped hunting weapons to short barreled small run "sheriff's" models.  In rifles, the 92 Winchester clones from EMF are probably a better choice than my 94 Trapper, and a fellow named Steve Young in Texas is the premier 92 gunsmith to get it running smooth and reliable.  The H&R HandiRifle is available in a number of different calibers including the .44.  There are even derringers in .44 if you are "man enough."  The round itself is available in a wide range.  You start with low powered and slow but hard hitting "cowboy" .44 special loads, the standard 240 grain SJHP defense round and hot, hard cast 300 grain bear rounds.

Consider the .44 magnum for your arsenal.  "Go ahead, make my day."

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