On ammo: How Joel got hooked on .44 Special

Here at Joel’s Gulch, this never happens.

Both for reasons of geography and of finance, obviously. And yet somehow I end up being flush with ammo. Maybe not “Hamas called, and the paragliders can’t make it till 4:30” flush, but for my rifles I’m good enough for normal purposes and a bit beyond. In fact, that’s true for every caliber except that of the gun I actually carry and shoot daily. Naturally, this is entirely due to my own poor planning. I broke the Cardinal Law of used car shopping: Don’t Fall In Love. Like I always do.

(This turned into another wall of words – sorry. More below the fold…)


I fell in love with .44 Special when I was quite young. I used to compete in a Hunter Pistol Silhouette match at the local rifle & pistol club, and that requires a heavy pistol caliber. I started out with a Super Blackhawk just because I had one and it was the only thing that could reach out to 100 yards with any authority. The Ruger had a peculiarity: It didn’t like to group with light loads. I have no idea why but the hotter I loaded the ammo the tighter it grouped. Ended up with the load I called “24” because it was 24 grains of 2400 with a 240 grain cast semiwadcutter. It was punishing on the hands but the Ruger liked it for some reason*. So I became quite familiar with .44 Magnum.

Around the same time I ran into a couple of guys shooting S&W .44s. They didn’t know I was already familiar with .44 and tried to play a little trick on me. One of them wanted me to shoot his pistol – I was of course amenable to the idea, because S&W was as far out of my budget then as it is now – and my god this was the sweetest shooting revolver I’d ever fired. It was just right. The next guy handed me his gun, I fired it, and of course this one was loaded with the hottest magnum ammo he owned. I don’t know what things are like these days, probably a lot more uptight, but this was what passed for firing range humor in those days. I think they were disappointed at my reaction, because I’d been competing with handloads that would have caused these guys to weep into their lace hankies, but actually I was thrilled by the first gun – which was of course loaded with .44 Special. I’d heard about it all my life but that was the first time I’d ever fired a cylinder of it and it was a revelation. Not too hot, not too light: Just right.

All this was well over 40 years ago: I was heavily into IPSC and of course my carry pistol was a 1911, there was no gun designer but Browning (Peace be upon him) and Cooper was his prophet, blah blah blah. I’d never have considered carrying a revolver. But many (many) years later I moved to the boonies where it turns out revolvers are really quite practical weapons and when I switched I never considered any caliber but .44 Special. I did my usual excellent job of market research and due diligence, which is to say none at all. If I had done better I’d have known that in the intervening decades .44 Special had for some reason become even less available on store shelves than .45 Colt and what was available was stupid expensive. But I had already acquired my first .44, which was only chambered for .44 Special, and there I was. That was like 12 years ago and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. I did finally acquire a S&W m69, possibly the perfect trail gun**, and it’s as wonderful a pistol as I’ve ever shot but ammo is a constant issue. Thank heaven I handload so I can afford to practice, but I dole out commercial ammo like the foulest miser.

Anyway: In the past few years things have gotten a lot tamer around the Gulch and in the fullness of time I hope to replace my Model 69 with a modern 9mm for daily carry, just because a big gun isn’t a constant requirement anymore but damned if I’m going to walk around naked. Hasn’t happened yet and I don’t know when it will but last month a very generous friend stopped overnight on his way through and brought me a huge gift of 9mm practice ammo and maybe a hundred rounds of defense ammo. So I’m even flush for a gun I don’t own yet, but the caliber I use every day is in perennial short supply. (sigh) That’s Joel’s typical approach to longrange planning in a nutshell, right there.

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*Funny story: Shortly after I developed that recipe I loaded every .44 magnum case I had with it, just because it’s easier to do things in big batches. And then I traded the Ruger for a Thompson-Center Contender with a thick bull barrel. I practiced with it and things seemed to go okay but on my second round at the very next match – happened to be turkeys – I suddenly couldn’t hit a damned thing. My spotter started saying things like “Joel, what are you doing? That one was halfway up the berm!” I had no idea what was wrong until I brought the gun back to the van and found molten lead extruding from the end of the barrel. Ended up wearing out two packages of Lewis Lead Removers and a bullet puller. The Contender wanted much lighter loads and really preferred jacketed bullets.

**Seriously, I’ve carried the m69 for several years now and I have a SINGLE complaint, which is that the trigger guard is so small it’s impossible to use it with any but the thinnest gloves.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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7 Responses to On ammo: How Joel got hooked on .44 Special

  1. You and Skeeter Skelton. Must be something about desert living.

    I have a Smith 24-3 4″ I bought when I was but a lad of 19. Its my favorite pistol and the gun I’ve owned the longest. .44 Special is a fine, fine cartridge.

  2. Mike says:

    The dude in the meme lifting the bolder looks like a Sontaran from Dr. Who. 🤣

  3. Chris says:

    Ha, Mike, that was my first thought, too. 🤓

  4. Robert says:

    I third Mike and Chris.

    “a big gun isn’t a constant requirement anymore” Unruly neighbors moved away?

  5. Joel says:

    On the contrary: So many people have moved in that the interesting animals have moved away.

    In dealing with unruly people I’d much rather have a 17-shot 9mm than a 5-shot .44.

  6. Robert says:

    “Interesting animals” Huh. Hadn’t thought of that. Other than four-legged rodents, I think I’d prefer animals to most people.

    “17-shot 9mm” also my choice. Quantity cuz I’m a terrible shot.

  7. Anonymous says:

    ” . . . I’d much rather have a 17-shot 9mm than a 5-shot .44.”

    Could be a Glock in your future. I’m not a big fan, but they appear to be quite trouble-free.

    Kentucky

To the stake with the heretic!