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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright, I feel a minor rant coming on.
I lurk and post on other boards besides this one, and have noticed a trend in thinking that irks me in regards to acceptable power levels for self defense. No, it's probably not what you're thinking.

There is a range of calibers/power that the general public seems to have settled on for self defense. We have 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 mag., etc. Rounds that fall in this power range seem about "optimal". Rounds above and below this power range could be considered less than optimal.

Now for my question and frustration.
Why is it acceptable if we drop a bit below this power range, but not above it? If someone asks about carrying a .380 or even .32, there will be a few replies about getting something more powerful if possible, but overall the conscensus says they will work just fine. Often times, someone will even chime in saying it's a better choice since you can get faster followup shots.

But God forbid if someone asks about carrying a modest sized .44 mag. Then the replies are all negative. Now, we have muzzle blast and noise, that aparently don't exist with other rounds. We have a gun that's impossible to control in rapid fire. (as though the split times between the 5th & 6th shots matter as much as getting the first shot on target quickly from the holster) And my God, we have overpenetration. (without any regard for bullet type) How irresponsible can you be??!! You'll be sued!!

These may sound like strawman arguments, but I'm sure I'd have no problem finding examples of this behavior if you force me to.

There are a lot more folks on gunboards recommending the .380 than .44's. I don't have the statistics, but I believe you would all agree with that assumption. And no, it's not just because of the gun's size and weight- this usually happens in threads about the caliber without regard for the gun. Why don't they just come right out and say, "The .45 ACP/.357mag is the absolute maximum power that anybody should carry for defense." How come no one can objectively say, "Well, the .44 mag may not be perfect, but from a power/controllability standpoint it's no worse a tradeoff than the .32 H&R mag."

If we can agree on an "optimal" power range, then there should be rounds below and above that range which could also suffice.
 

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Hello. I have no problem going with calibers more potent than those normally used for self-protection purposes. There is at least one company offering ammunition designed to deliver "plenty" to the target w/o the penetration normally associated with such calibers. I had personally rather go up than down from the "usual" calibers chosen for self-protection.

Best.
 

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There is evidence which suggests that the .44 Magnum is so overpowered that it loses a great part of its effectiveness in penetration, i.e. not delivering energy to the target. My own use of expanding bullets has little to do with worrying about the effects of a bullet that perforates the target; I'm concerned about a bullet perfortating a target at the expense of transferring energy.

That having been said, somewhere there's probably a good .44 Magnum load for soft skinned, two-legged creatures. I think a hot 185- to 200-grain JHP would do a bangup job taking the fight out of the occasional lowlife. My own argument against the .44 is that it's just too darned big to carry concealed in comfort on a daily basis, not every once in a while. Where I live summer comes early and stays late, so I dress to fit the temperature. That includes not only my clothing, but my armament.

On a few occasions I've carried a .41 or even a .44 under a light jacket, but I've also gone into businesses where the jacket became uncomfortably warm, and I was left suffering.
 

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Hiya Leland,

Size is the main reason I quit carrying an N frame years ago, though the size prolly helped the one time I pointed it at a coupla muggers. Big hole, big cylinder, 200gr Silvertips peeking out. They apparently remembered pressing business elsewhere, 'cuz they sure left in a hurry.

I suspect you're right about the .44 mag, from short barrels especially. OTOH, a friend dumped a couple of deer with a 10mm (using Ga Arms loads, 155gr Gold Dots) and the wound path was rather spectacular. Surface wound like they were hit with a .220 Swift, pulped the innards, yet the bullet exited (broadside hit) with a nice 2" wound channel all the way. DRT.


Possum,

I really don't comprehend the 'overpenetration' BS. Any bullet/load that gives adequate penetration on side shots, bad angles and intermediate barriers will likely exit on unobstructed frontal shots. Any bullet/load that does its thing and doesn't exit on a frontal shot isn't likely to do the job on a side hit.

Which would the 'experts' prefer? Seems illogical to me.

Obviously we need bullets with built-in ultrasonic systems that will control the amount of expansion based on the amount of tissue yet to be traversed. For under 20 bux a box, please.

For hunting I prefer exit wounds.

Regards,

Pat
 

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Hi there pff,

I'm in the camp of those that "shot placement is more important than power range".

In other words and previously quoted "a hit from a .22 is better than a miss from a .44 magnum".

Personally, if I can hit with more consecutive shots with a .38 special than a full bore 125 grain Federal Jacketed .357 magnum hollowpoints, than I am going with the .38 special in the best load I can find and shoot with confidence.

My personal experience with the .44 magnum has shown that in bowling pin matches, it was tough for me to handle the recoil and muzzle flash for repeat shots and it is embarrassing to miss all of the time. So I went with handloaded .357's in a S&W 686. My scores improved considerably.

Chris
 
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Possum,

Your rant is a justifyable one. The .44 magnum is fine for those who can handle it. I prefer the 210 grain Winchester Silvertip in that caliber for defense, but more often than not, I'll go with the .44 Special load.

Like Stephen, I'll take more power than less any day of the week. The .44 mag does have some liabilities about it that make it a less than optimal choice for defense. Although I have no first hand experience, I'm sure a slick lawyer could press that you're some kind of monster for using such a powerful round, but that's just hearsay on my part.

Recoil, noise, muzzle flash and overpenetration are real factors to consider whether we like it or not. Auto pistol cartridges really shine in this department where the magnum revolver cartridges are at a decided disadvantage here.

I'll take the .44 mag over a .32ACP any day. I wont take it over a 9mm, .40S&W or .45ACP though. These rounds were intended for humans first and foremost. The .44 Magnum was not created as a "fighting" round, so it's logical that it's not the "best" choice...But it 'aint a bad one either.

GunGeek
 

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Hiya Chris,

I agree with you, to the extent that placement is paramount. One should pick a caliber that one can control.



All,

The .44Mag/Dirty Harry thing sidetracks the main issue; namely, are we going to compromise performance at odd angles and intermediate barriers, just to prevent complete penetration on unobstructed shots? That's the line of reasoning I find illogical.

Assuming, of course, that the caliber of choice is capable of either type of performance.depending on the bullet/velocity range chosen. .38 Special and up are capable of either.

.32 and .380 may not get enough worst-case penetration no matter what load is used. Either tactics must be altered to fit, or one has to accept that the piece will fail in some scenarios.

Just my non-expert opinion. :)


Regards,

Pat
 

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I believe that the "arguments" that are raised against using a .44 mag as a carry weapon are fallacious only to this extent: If they apply to me (for instance, if I find the recoil and muzzle blast a deterrent to good combat shooting), then I should not carry one. Unfortunately, it is all too common for people to over-generalize their own experience, and think that it must apply to others. "Eww, how can you stand eating snails, I think they are icky". I, personally, find well-prepared snails to be a real treat.

On the other hand, neither is it necessary to counter those arguments. If they don't apply to you, they don't apply to you. S&W is selling a raft-load of those 329PDs. I bet most of them are being carried a lot more than they are being shot, and I wonder how much they are being shot with .44 spl, but there they are. There must be a lot of people who agree with you, because if this was not meant to be a daily carry gun, what the heck is it for?

Me, I'm fond of the .44 spl for combat purposes. I have one on my belt right now. These 200 gr. Gold Dots at around 950 fps are plenty good thumpers. In the Blazer configuration, they even cut down a little more weight. I can shoot 'em as well as I believe I would ever need to. The same is not true of my .44 mag rounds, which I use for plinking and hunting. Unless I download them to .44 spl specs, in which case ... Well. A man needs to know his limitations, that's all. The .44 spl is roughly equivalent, in numbers or in track record, to the .45 ACP (which I also carry occasionally), and those are about as big as I care to go. I'm happy with a .357 mag also, and often carry a Model 13. I prefer the experience of shooting the .44s and .45s, but the Model 13 is easier to conceal and often gets the nod. I wouldn't recommend the .357 to anyone who hadn't practiced enough with it to become comfortable with it. So it keeps coming down to, what do you shoot well?

And that is why you will always see more people deciding that they can live with the limitations of the .380, or the .32, than you ever will with the .44: because the number of people who can handle a sub-caliber cartridge will always exceed the number who can handle a magnum-caliber cartridge. No point getting exercised over it.
 
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I think the bias, if there is one, comes down to portability and rapid placement of follow up shots.

I know folks who know better but carry a .380 anyway because they're so tiny. They reason that when backed into a dark corner, a weak caliber is better that no caliber at all. So I think that's why there's a wink and a nod about calibers smaller than .36.

As for the .44 mag, well, mine is hard to conceal. And i can't get off a second shot on target very fast at all. So for me, it's a poor choice for PD, probably worse than a .380 would be.

As others have said, it's all about placement. I can't rapidly place two .44 mags with accuracy, let alone six. .44 special is another matter all together for me...

Also I think missing the target is a bigger risk than overpenetration. Personally, I believe a round should be able to penetrate a shoulder and continue into COM.

Max
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well thanks for the thoughts, folks. Gettin' fired up again because I just came across another one of the threads like I was talking about... I really didn't mean for this to be about the .44 mag specifically; it's just that that's the round that seems to recieve the most negative press.

I can't really say I disagree with a lot of what's been said. Yeah, I know more powerful guns are usually bigger and thus harder to carry. No arguement there. I'm only talking about ballistics here, though. Even so, along those lines, is that "big" .44 any harder to control than an ultralight .357 or sub-compact .45?

Well wait a minute, what kind of ammo are we comparing here? Aha! Exactly! It's like people think only one kind of ammo is made for the .44- 300 grain hardcasts going full throttle. And that's where a lot of illogical opinions arise in regards to overpenetration as well.

How come a 200 grain gold dot going 975fps will certainly go through a bad guy, three walls, a car, and the neighbor's sleeping kid; whereas a 200 grain gold dot (from a .45) going 1000 fps is "just right"? And the magnum loading is only 1075fps. Sure, the .43 cal bullet will have more sectional density to start with, but once the bullets expand all bets are off. So 75 fps and .022" make the difference between an "ideal" round, and one that's grossly overpowered? HA!

Controlability-
Of course this is a very real factor. The general rule is more power=less controlability, and likewise more contolability=less power. So how much are we willing to compromise one for the other? A regular 180 grain load for the .40 S&W travels, what, 100-200 fps slower than a 185 grain load from a .45. All else being equal, the .40 load should be more controllable, right? So how come people still use the .45? Because it really ain't that big of a difference? But if we were to push that same bullet (weight) 200 fps faster than the .45 loading, whoa!!! That's a huge friggin' difference! You'll never be able to get off a second shot with that cannon! It's acceptable to shoot .357's instead of light .38's at the expense of quick follow-ups, but it's not acceptable to shoot a .41 mag instead of .357 mag for the same reason? I may not have the numbers exact here, but that's the general mentality I'm ranting about.

And, in regards to power-
Again, I completely agree placement matters more. But allow me to make a series of observations. These thoughts are independent of each other, so don't take this as an apples to apples comparison, but each thought should be valid by itself.

"A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .44"
Yes. And a hit with a .44 is better than a miss or hit with a .22, assuming proper expanding ammo is used to harness the extra power.

"They're all just handgun rounds anyway- you won't see as big a difference compared to a rifle."
Two things-
Some of the more powerful loads (not thinking of any load in particular here, just musing on what's possible with the cartridge) can indeed approach rifle ballistics. My .454 is more than twice as powerful as my SKS; surely there are .44 loadings that could easily approach it. How foolish is it to sacrifice some controllability in exchange for the stopping power of a rifle? I mean, you'd be far less likely to need that 5th or 6th shot, right?
Also, if power isn't that important, then why aren't we all carrying .38 specials? Why would anyone carry a .40 S&W when the .32 will do just as well?

"The .44 mag will overpenetrate."
A blanket statement like this is pure hogwash. Glasers or Magsafes from a .44 won't penetrate nearly as deeply as 9mm hardball. Oh, you agree? Then maybe you should acknowledge that bullet design and construction play a greater role in penetration than "power". Likewise, the same regular hollowpoint bullets will usually penetrate less when pushed faster. I usually shoot 185 grain gold dots at varmints from my .45. I made some experimental loads pushing those same bullets much faster out of my .454, and they barely exited the critters.

Oh, and by the way, those .45 rounds usually just punch a hole in the critter without even slowing them down. But those same bullets out of my .454 sent pieces flying 10 feet, spraying me several times in the process. Now if there's a bad guy shooting back at me, do I want to punch a little hole in him, or splatter him? Hmmm.... Let me think about this one for a minute.... Not saying I'd use my .454, but there is a difference in terminal effects when stepping up in power.

Gosh. I feel a bit better. Thanks all for letting me get this off my chest. I'm not trying to chastize anyone here for packing a gun that's easy to carry. I'm just saying that from a purely power/controllabilty standpoint, all our common handgun rounds should form a bell curve. We'd have .22 short on the low power end, .500 S&W on the high end, and our "ideal" rounds like .40 and .357 at the top of the bell in the middle. The .44 ain't any further from the top of the bell than the .380. Just a different compromise.
 

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Hi there Possum,

I agree that a hit with a .44 is better than a miss than a miss from a .22.


"A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .44"
Yes. And a hit with a .44 is better than a miss or hit with a .22, assuming proper expanding ammo is used to harness the extra power.
But in the cinamatic words of Detective Harry Callahan,

"a man has to know his limitations..."


I agree that most of the medium range calibres are up and along the top of the bell curve, but with the advancement in bullet designs and powder improvements, a lot of the older arguments are starting to "fade away",i.e. bore size=relative stopping power.

Only time and improvements in cartridge technology will even the playing field.

Chris
 

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Watched an old Bond movie last night. His office made him give up his Beretta (Tomcat?) and take a PPK 7.65mm instead. Said he had missfires with the Beretta (bull,bull).
All his shots during the movies with the PPK were "OSS" (ha,ha,double ha,ha). But it makes you wonder. Both guns are real popular at my dealer's shop.
og
 
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125 grain in.357 S&W Magnums from a 4" barrel and/or the 135-grain, 10mm GDHP projectiles, both launched @1600 fps from standard handguns, (Ruger GP100 and Glock Model 20 seem to work for me!)

Both rounds penetrate less than 12" in 10% ordnance gelatin. Each "dump" their energies (710 and 767 fpe) quite handily within a human target simulation.

Mike McNett at Double tap ammunition seems to know what he's doing in this department! Check his website @ www.doubletapammo.com. His ammunition will exceed all of your expectations...and then some!

Thesy seem to meet my "needs!"


Scott
 
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If you want to go Dirty Harry, then go Dirty Harry.

We've become too afraid of lawyers in this country. If the opposition can come up with good excuses, then we can come up with good reasons.

I'm so sick of gun people going into court and getting hammered because they pretend to be nice guys. The fact is that most of us AREN'T nice guys. In general, we're hard-edged, mean, and spend a great deal of our time thinking of good ways to kill people, if and when we have to. However, all this doesn't mean we're bad people!!

A lawyer comes up to a defendant and asks him, "Why would you ever think a .44 magnum was necessary for self-defense!?"

Which response is most likely to get him out of here NOT wearing handcuffs?

1. "Well, I felt it was necessary to use as powerful a round as possible to insure that anyone who attacked me would be neutralized as quickly as possible."

2. "I don't think it's necessary. I don't even think a gun is necessary for self-defense; I could defend myself with my hands if I wanted too. The trouble is that I don't want to! I have the option to carry a gun, and I use that option. By extension, I have the option to carry a BIG gun, and I use that one, too! Are you saying that it's only okay for me to defend myself if I only defend myself a little bit?"

Take away the "too much force" card by admitting, up front, that you meant to use too much force, and make everyone focus on why you used too much force, and who you used too much force on, instead of the force itself!

The next thing that average-joe lawyer is going to go into is penetration. The gun person pretending to be a nice guy will respond in this way:

Gun guy: "I was aware of the possibility of penetration issues, but I planned to identify my targets before I fired, thusly mitigating such concerns."

Lawyer: "Well, what if there was a little girl beyond your target that you hadn't seen?"

Gun Guy: " I... Ummm..."


The gun person not pretending to be a nice guy is going to handle this situation like this:

Lawyer: "Blah, Blah, over-penetration, blah."

Gun Guy: "Yeah, that can happen. That's why we aim our shots. Also, we have a rule for that: Rule number 4: Know your target, and what's beyond it, but you wouldn't know that, because you've never touched a real gun in your life, have you? On that note, what authority are you asking me all these gun questions on?"

Lawyer: That's not an issue, here. Anyway, what if there had been someone beyond the target that you simply couldn't see? What would have happened if there had been a little girl lying down in her bedroom on the other side of a wall?

Gun Guy: The same thing that would have happened had a little girl run behind your car when you backed out this morning. It's a good thing neither of those things really happened, isn't it?



My money is on the guy who's basically being a jerk getting out of this one a free man. Why? He's confident. It's obvious to everyone that not only does he believe what he's saying, but that to him, all these things are incredibly common-sense-based. They all see that this guy is trivializing the lawyer's questions because they are, indeed, trivial! That stabs at the lawyer's credibility, and makes everyone question his motives.

In court, we're not trying to win an argument, we're trying to win a crowd. Make them like you more than they like the other guy, and you are victorious.
 

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Personal experience with a Mod 29 4 inch I had, indicates that I can't fire a large framed revolver rapidly with accurate round placement. I reload my own and have fired from slow 180 gr to fast 240's and they all seem to go south when fired rapidly. I can shoot my 686 4 inch better, with.38 or .357.

I shoot USPSA with a 9MM so maybe auto vs. wheelgun is more the issue then the caliber or frame size. I think maybe I will shoot my 686 in a few matches and see if I can improve my follow up placement. Sorry, off the subject for a moment.

I am one of the people that went down instead of up for a carry gun. I carry a P3AT as my "with me most of the time gun". Can't carry at work. I can shoot it fairly well and it's much easier to conceal and I guess the "having a gun" thing is also important.

So all that being said , I guess I am a little more inclined to go with shot placement is more important than shot size crowd. If I could find an affordable 44 that I could conceal and shoot fast and accurate I would have no problem with carrying it. Over penetration is not the deciding factor for me because knowing what is in the line of fire is important with any caliber gun.

Thanks
 
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