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barrel length opinions
11-25-2016, 07:17 AM
Post: #1
barrel length opinions
I have been wanting to pick up a Ruger 44 mag revolver for a while and would be ok with a single action blackhawk with a barrel no longer than the 5.5 inch.
(not into the long barrel stuff, used to 4 inch revolvers)

I've recently seen an Alaskan model double action stainless with 2.5 inch (I guess that is the standard length for these) competitively priced and it has sparked my imagination.

My main question is the loss of velocity anticipated with the shorter barrel. I'd hate to be trying to rescue my butt from a bear and start wishing I had a longer barrel.

Any opinions regarding the snub being a bad choice? I am proficient with snub nose revolvers so that isn't an issue.
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11-25-2016, 06:48 PM
Post: #2
RE: barrel length opinions
My limited experience tells me that the longer the barrel, the better the accuracy at longer ranges (assuming the firearm is decent to begin with). Assuming that concealability (which is not a word) is not an issue, I'd like my handgun to be accurate out to a distance where I am comfortable being able to hit my target a considerable way out, especially if that "target" can do me harm.
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11-25-2016, 08:13 PM
Post: #3
RE: barrel length opinions
When bow hunting elk in Wyoming and Montana, I carry a Taurus Raging Bull revolver in 454 Casull with a 4" barrel. It is a good compromise between handyiness and accuracy. It is amazing how well it shoots out to twenty yards.
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11-25-2016, 10:20 PM
Post: #4
RE: barrel length opinions
I have an Alaskan in .454. It is not a lightweight gun by an means.

I knew quite a few black bear hunters in Washington County when I used to live down there. Many carried a 44mag for a sidearm. They say that chasing a wounded bear, in the dark, is one of the most dangerous things they could think of. The 44 mag seems to be universally admired by that crowd! The Redhawk seemed to be the most popular. The Alsakan is derived from the Redhawk.

I have a Super Blackhawk in 44 mag, with the long barrel, but that is very heavy to carry as a sidearm. I think it would be pretty accurate at long range but you don't need that for close up stuff. I think the short barrel is NOT a handicap at all, in a carry gun, where the shooting would be close up and personal. If you are going to shoot 150 yds then the long barrel is nice to have. For short distances I don't think the loss of velocity is going to be much of an issue!

I got interested in the 44 mag back in high school in the mid 60's. I followed the exploits, and writings, of Elmer Keith, the godfather of the 44 magnum and a sensational shooter with a revolver. He was reported to have shot a bull elk, in the head, with a revolver at 600 yards.....and it was witnessed. I read everything I could read about big game hunting....with a revolver. I wanted a 44 magnum with a Redfield 2 3/4X "Widefield" scope on it. Still want one but now my son has taken over that dream!

Actually there was "another" 44, the "44 automag" developed by a man named Harry Sanborn. In the late 60's he designed a large semi-auto pistol, made of stainless steel (before that was in vogue), and it fired a 240 gr .429 lead bullet from a 30-06 case that had been shortened to 1.3 inches. This was a powerful cartridge that worked well in a semi-auto pistol because of the rimless case. This was the most powerful handgun round in production in 1970! But the "automag" faded away due to manufacturing and pricing issues, as well as being rushed into premature production and sales.

Check out the "Automag" here

If you have seen the Dirty Harry movie "Sudden Impact" then you have seen the "automag" in use as Eastwood just loved the gun, in real life as well as in the movie. I had a chance to buy one on Gunbroker, in 2006, for $1800 and it was still in it's original wood box with the red velvet lining. I had the money at the time and have regretted NOT buying it ever since.! Ammo was almost impossible to get but you could make the cases yourself pretty easy by cutting down 30-06 cases as they did in the beginning.

I have strayed a bit from the original question due to my love of big handgun ammo. But you will like the Alaskan I am sure. Kinda makes the blood move a little faster to hold that puppy in your hand, take it from me! The recoil is pretty stout but one can start with lower power stuff in 44 Special to get the hang of it. Nobody has ever made a better revolver than these folks at Ruger have made for many years now. I have loved the "big iron" since I was a teen!

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11-26-2016, 05:38 PM
Post: #5
RE: barrel length opinions
Thanks gentlemen. I appreciate your responses.
I have much to say but no time during this weekend.

Hope to talk more about this soon.
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11-27-2016, 08:58 AM
Post: #6
RE: barrel length opinions
What can be done with a 44 magnum, by a gifted shooter.

Bob Munden, using a model 29 S&W with a 6 inch barrel.

......."Many of you have heard of Bob Munden. He's famous for both lightning fast quick draws with a Colt Single Action Army (SAA), and just about any other handgun, and long range shooting. In one demonstration that's been shown on Shooting USA several times he used a stock 6" iron sighted Smith and Wesson 44 Magnum (629) and factory ammunition to pop a balloon at 600 yards using a truck hood for a rest. That doesn't prove that Keith made his shot, it does show that it is possible for someone to shoot that well"........

Story also gives an accounting, in Elmer Keith's own words, of his 600 yd shot. It was a mule deer buck, and not an elk, and he hit him in the rib/chest area. (can't trust my memory these days).Still an amazing feat, with iron sights on a revolver

Elmer Keith did much of his work with the 44 special, which he eventually called the "44 special magnum". The 44 special case is the same dia but .125 shorter. This work led to the 44 magnum. I have a revolver and lever action rifle that both shoot 45 long colt. I have several hundred 45 colt cases and often look at that big fat case and imagine the possibilities. A good friend and gun shop owner, loads 45 colt and has for years. He says they can be loaded to approach 44 mag velocity but need to be fired in a revolver that says RUGER on it as they are the only ones strong enough to contain the beast.

Been "rolling my own" for over 50 years and there is always something new and interesting to come along.

BTW did some research and the 44 automag is going to have a rebirth soon as the design and the patents have been sold to a company that is doing R&D right now and has intentions of building new ones within a year or so if all goes well! Can't wait!

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11-27-2016, 04:31 PM
Post: #7
RE: barrel length opinions
I want to premise this post by stating that I am not a hunter. Yes, I have taken a shotgun out in the woods for a walk a few times, but I was never taught the skills as a youth and really, (forgive me guys), I would be delighted to never have to go and seek with the expected results of terminating a life. I am prepared physically and spiritually to repel any attack. Hostilities though, will not be tolerated.

I did get a nice doe recently but mostly the bumper of my pickup got the worst of it. Sad

I understand what you are saying. I'm hopeful that a hazard 100 yards away may choose to keep going rather than insist on a confrontation.

I know that is my plan, but the old fat guy moves slow and aggressive animals move fast.
My worst case scenario has the hazard 50 yards and closing so distance accuracy isn't a concern.

As Rodney King once asked, can't we all just get along? Most of the time, the answer seems to be a resounding, NO.

I hear people mention the .454 frequently but had to do a little research on it. It sounds like a great caliber but
it may be a bit more than what I want to shoot. Looking briefly at the Taurus revolvers, it looks like they offer them in an ultra light weight, titanium frame, etc. I had to wonder if that thing kills at both ends when touched off.
I guess the recoil hasn't bothered you.
I saw so many variations of the same gun on one page that it starts to get confusing as to the best choice.

Thank you for all the great information. I am aware of Elmer Keith's contributions to getting the 44 magnum revolver manufactured. I've been blessed with a brother with like passions as yours and have learned much over the decades from him. One thing I hate is going to range with him, must be as much fun as going with Elmer.

I shoot paper targets and do OK, my idiot brother shoots the thumb tacks that hold the target to the frame. How do you deal with a guy that shoots bees with a .45ACP citing they charge if they are only wounded, while you are struggling to hit a 16 ounce tin can at the same distance?

One reason I am looking at 44s right now is that I had to send him the 4" Smith model 29 I have had for 15 years as I had gotten it from him. He killed a wild boar with that same pistol more than 30 years ago and even though he sold it to me in a moment of weakness, started whining about wanting it back, sentimental value you know.
I sent him the speed loaders too, we now live a distance away, but have quantity of ammo that I will hang on to.
I still have a few 44 specials from when I had a charter arms bulldog, but that is a very unimpressive round.

I currently use the 45 colt in my Ruger Blackhawk (5.5 inch barrel) with specialty loads. I have some Corbon loads (300gr @ 1300FPS) and some Grizzly (335GR @ 1175 FPS). Both would be a 45 LC +P. I don't consider myself to be under gunned at present, although these loads are below the .454 Casull ratings.

As you state, my research when looking for these loads always cautioned:

but need to be fired in a revolver that says RUGER on it

I am not familiar with Bob Munden but sounds like the same kind of guy that is a treat to shoot against at the range. Actually, I have found that striving to not be totally humiliated at the range actually brings about better marksmanship. I guess no pain no gain works here also.

I prefer revolvers to semi-auto while living in the woods. When I was a city person with potential multiple targets, yes a good 45ACP with extra mags
provides comfort. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the new and wonderful, but I kind of like to fall back to the time and field tested tools available.
I've even shot the old 1917 5 screw smiths in 45ACP with full moon clips, so I have some history under my belt.
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11-27-2016, 05:07 PM (This post was last modified: 11-27-2016 05:10 PM by Roger Ek.)
Post: #8
RE: barrel length opinions
A good thread with no grievous errors so far. I too have a Ruger Blackhawk .44 Mag. I was testing some loads from a bench in 1969 in Newport, NH. My elbows were on the bench. The pistol was hand held. I was shooting at a 50 yard pistol target at 100 yards.

Four men walked up and asked what I was shooting at. I said, "Take a look." I had 9 rounds solidly in the center of the black and one round at seven o-clock that was half way out into the white. One man said, "Here, try this." He was Tom Ruger, son of Bill Ruger. Another man was Leonard Brownell.

They had the world's first .30 cal carbine revolver. It was still in the white. It wasn't stainless. It was unblued steel. It had been fired with proof loads indoors and this was the first time it had been out of the plant. I loaded six rounds and fired at my first target. The round hit about 4 feet below the target at 100 yards. I fired again. Same result.

The pistol had a huge muzzle blast. I cranked up the rear sight two full turns.The next two rounds hit below the target. I cranked up the rear sight so there was only a half turn of thread in the sight base. and by holding on the top edge of the paper, fired a good group low on the paper. It turns out that they had used a .44 Magnum front sight. I told them they would need to file a lot of metal off the top of that front sight. That little 110 grain bullet was out of the barrel before the pistol even began to recoil.

There was some good natured banter over all this and the .30 cal revolver became popular for a few years. It was a good long range pistol cartridge for varmints as was the older .256 Hawkeye pistol. Such novelty firearms have a limited market and soon everybody who wanted one, had one. Production ended years ago.

That range was at Rody's Gun Shop in Newport. Bill and Henry Rodeschin run it. They both worked at Ruger for many years. My wife grew up next door to the gun shop. I was there last year and they were still open. Bill and Henry are expert gunsmiths. I bought my wife a .44 Mag "Deerslayer" when they first came out. She got an 8 point buck with it the following day. Now they call it the .44 Carbine.

Incidentally. the carbine is more accurate than the revolvers because of the longer sight radius.
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11-27-2016, 06:17 PM (This post was last modified: 11-27-2016 06:22 PM by woodcanoe.)
Post: #9
RE: barrel length opinions
The 454 will definitely "rock" your hand and arm. I have fired it in a Taurus "Raging Bull, also, and it's about the same. Definitely want a nice pair of "ear muffins" when playing with them. But the 44 mag gets the ears pretty good too. I first fired one, as a kid, in 1965. Couldn't believe the sound and recoil! Left very nice memories though!

Nobody I know could say a bad word about 45 acp. My youngest has a Kimber for a carry gun but it is too much for the way he works. He drives dump trucks, hauls heavy equipment and helps clean up major truck wrecks on I-95 in the area around Bangor. The weight and bulk is just too much for how he works. He works for a local contractor and MOST of the men he works with carry guns in the trucks. They are not looking for trouble but won't run away from it either. Last spring several of them were threatened by an idiot who came out of his trailer and said he would shoot them all, for turning around in his driveway! My son had a Charter Arms Bulldog, the new lightweight one, in 44 special for a while and liked the fact that it was not too bad to carry but it had bad reliablity problems so it got traded in.

My son and I go to gunshows and sell whatever, including guns now. I have been looking for a S&W model 625 which shoots 45 acp with clips. Love the round but don't like the bulk of the 1911, plus I am NOT a fan of semi-auto pistols all that much, with a few exceptions. I come from the school of thought that thinks you want to throw the biggest piece of lead you whatever the problem is! You can tell I think! Those loads you mentioned in 45 sound real interesting. Like to try some of that, but don't have a RUGER right now.

Don't know what to make of a man who can shoot "bees" with 45 acp. A 225gr "fat boy" is much bigger than a bee so you have some leeway! Guess I would NOT want to be a bee.....and be anywhere near your brother!

Re Roger's story on the .30 carbine round, when I was in high school, before Kennedy was shot, you could buy a war surplus, M1 carbine from Kleins in Chicago, the same place Oswald is supposed to have bought his old Carcano crowbar, for $29.95, and ammo was dirt cheap. My friends and I used to argue about how good a round that would be on deer. Never found out sadly. Obama squashed the return of several hundred thousand of them from Korea. Too bad! At the same time you could walk into Frati's pawn shop in Bangor and have your choice from several German Lugers......for $65! God I wish we could go back sometimes!

My middle son has his FFL and a gun shop and gunsmith business. He likes the 44 mag a lot. But for close up and personal he likes a 12 ga pump gun, or maybe a Saiga if really serious. We also build, and admire highly, the invention of Mikhail Kalishnakov! My son builds custom one of a kind ones when he has the time. He has one in the works now for somebody!

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11-27-2016, 07:17 PM
Post: #10
RE: barrel length opinions
Roger, you certainly could entertain a crowd stranded on an island with all the adventures
you have had the privilege of embracing.

I shy away from the M-1 carbine round because I always heard that they were under powered. Gut shoot someone with an M-1 carbine and they lay there, can't die but can't do anything else. Likely a lot of
folk lore comments based on bad experiences.

I recall the broom handle Mauser was available in 30 caliber. I always thought that was 30 cal carbine, but I am likely wrong.

Carbines are great but the idea of the sidearm is having hands free and a rifle on sling isn't as freeing either. If I need a long gun, my door to door choice is the AK/SKS. I know it is odd but I never warmed up to the .556 M-16.

Minor errors, I got to thinking about the smith revolvers, 1917 is questionable but I sure think they made some in 1905 through 1909. Of course the 105 year old Colt 1911 is a benchmark in history. My very first pistol was a colt commander, (not the combat commander model), and those have always had fond memories.
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