44 special is rapidly turning into a favorite caliber (of mine). Am liking lighter bullets, 180 + 200 jhp's with 200 rnfp for practice. Course , mqany like the heavier swc lead rounds. Any preferences out there of 44 special fans?
For me, the .44 Special is at its best loaded with a 250-grain Keith-style LSWC cast moderately hard and loaded to 800 or 900 fps. Such a load combines excellent terminal ballistics with great recoil control. It will serve you well for anything from plinking pop cans at 50 yards to harvesting a deer or protecting yourself from a cougar.
It depends on the mission, the weapon and the personal skill of the operator.
For a G.P. load (hunting and defense) I have to say I would go along with Steve's preference of a 200 at about 1000 fps, unless it was really big stuff we were hunting (not likely I would choose the .44 spl for that though).
For strictly defense and with a lighter more concealable firearm (like one of the Taurus snubs or a Charter arms) I might be tempted to try a lighter bullet. When I did carry the Charter as a backup back in the 70s I loaded 200 gr. Speer bullets to about 900 fps but there weren't any 165s or factory loads that compared. Today for the light guns I might experiment with the light bullets.
Still my gut tells me to go medium weight at about 1,000 fps.