Why the "special" cartridge in a magnum?

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Rclark

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Why the "special" cartridge specifically in a magnum handgun? and "I'm asking this mainly for those who reload" That means handgun chambered for a magnum cartridge.
If you reload (which I do) there is no good reason. If you don't reload, then there is a good reason. Ie. Be able to shoot comfortable loads in a magnum revolver. In my .357s and .44 Magnums, they only get magnum cases.... But not magnum loads :) . I can load from 600fps to +1300fps as I desire in my magnums. For a 'reloader', there is absolutely no reason to use .44 Special brass in a .44 Magnum revolver IMHO. That said, I do like my .44 Special only revolvers (flattops and SAA style). Wish there was a blued/case colored .44 Special New Vaquero in 5 1/2" in fact :) to add to my stable. The .44 Magnum has been moved to the back of the bus and gathering dust so to speak in favor of .45 Colt and .44 Special. These two big bore cartridges more than meet my every day wants/needs. Plus they make shooting 'fun' rather than a chore.
 

dannyd

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I use Large Rifle primers for my 44 special in the TC, 50 rounds, Extreme spread 36 fps, SD 8, average 754 fps.
 

Stantheman1986

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You may ask why I own 10+ GP100s and Sixes chambered in .38 Special, and also an SP101.

Including 2 "rare" adjustable sight GPs in .38

Just because they're neat and probably 90% of what goes through my .357s is .38 Special anyway. If I want to shoot .357 I have .357s

I don't handload, maybe someday when I have time. A .38 Special case can obviously be loaded to .357 pressures i.e. the old 38/44 loads.

I've fired countless .38s through .357s and I get lazy with cleaning. I've never not been able to load a .357 . The crud ring thing is over stated. When we used S&W 65s at my job we shot only .38s through them and those guns were from the 1980s. One guy brought some .357 once and we fired it through some of the guns, no problems . Those guns were never cleaned all that well
 

contender

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Well, I'll throw in my measly thoughts here.

If you reload,, and use .357 brass in a .357, and download it to .38 spl levels,, especially light target loads,, there is the potential for a pressure spike problem.
A small charge of powder,, in a revolver,, will lay the length of the case,, up to the base of the bullet. The primer will burn across the top of the powder,, instead of against the powder, With SOME powder/primer/bullet combinations,, the potential exists for a pressure spike.
In the dark ages of my handloading beginnings,, I used a fair amount of .38 Spl cases,, with a light target load, (Bullseye powder,) under a 148 grn WC bullet. An oldtimer,, who shot bullseye competition,, taught me to add a "filler" between the powder & the base of the bullet to get a safer & more consistent burn rate.

But using .38 spl ammo in a .357 chamber, or even a .44 Spl case in a .44 Mag,, can often cause the dreaded crud ring. Since I hate the amount of cleaning necessary to be able to easily shoot .357's or .44 Mags,, in those guns,, I load a normal charge in each caliber. I use my .38's in a .38 cal revolver, and 44 spls in a .44 spl gun.

But knowing I can USE other calibers in a Magnum,, if necessary,, I can appreciate the option. But generally, I don't reload very light loads in a magnum case to help prevent the potential pressure spike that might happen.
 

Stantheman1986

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All of these "Special" calibers were formerly Blackpowder Cartridges, the only reason a .357 case is what....about 1/32" longer is so that .357 won't chamber in a .38

.38 Long Colt is even shorter than a .38 Special, again because the cases held 25- 30 grains of blackpowder give or take.

.38 Short Colt cases would then be the best option then, since it would easily hold the same smokeless powder charge as a .38 Special or .357 with less "air space "

More and more I enjoy my 9mm revolvers because they have just as much "pop" for range fun as a .38, but are cheaper to shoot . For a non reloader, having a 9mm version of all my favorite .38 and .357 revolvers is nice. My 9mm SP101 is fun and the paper targets don't know a 9mm from a .357 and I don't get bored like I do with .22s
 
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Ohio! Way too freakin' close to the city!
I have a S&W 629 that I bought a few years ago after watching some Dirty Harry on YouTube. Just bought it to shoot for some hoots. I've shot the 44 Mag in it and some 44 Specials also. The Specials seem to be slightly less accurate and don't have the kick. I like the 44 Magnums better because it just feels right in that big gun. You sure get attention on the firing line with the Magnums and a lot of Wows! I shoot it more than I thought I would. I'm not a hunter or a reloader so my opinion isn't as knowledgeable as others. Now my Rossi Ranch hand in 44 Magnum was not actually fun at all.....it was brutal and was sold off long ago. Specials in it was less brutal but it just wasn't fun after the first few minutes.

I'm trying to finish the restoration of the car in my avatar and it's getting expensive. I sold off one black gun I had duplicates of earlier to get car resto funds and need to sell another gun and the S&W seems like the logical choice but I don't want to cause the Magnums are so much fun. If I sell it, at my age, I likely will never own another so I am hesitant.

If I remember correctly, factory loads for 44 Magnum and 44 Special look the same when loaded up?? Can you use either brass to reload both Magnums and Specials? Just checking cause I will have brass to sell if I part with my 629.
 
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If you reload (which I do) there is no good reason... For a 'reloader', there is absolutely no reason to use .44 Special brass in a .44 Magnum revolver IMHO...

People who reload come in all shapes and sizes. With that in mind, there CAN be a very good reason to use .44 Special brass in a .44 Magnum revolver - BUDGET. In my experience, 44 Special range brass sells for half of what similar Magnum cases go for - $10 per 100 for Specials, $20 per 100 for Magnums (over the last few years, with prices slowly dropping). So, if you're wanting to load another 500 rounds for practise or target use, you can spend $50 for the cases, or $100, with no difference in performance. Generally speaking, I might choose to spend $50 on the cases, and use the $50 I saved by not buying magnum brass to buy bullets, primers, or propellent.

And budget can affect what revolver you use, also. I hadn't owned a .44 in years, until I traded into one during the virus lockdown. The revolver I own is chambered for magnums - and I think there are a lot more of those out there, than .44 Special revolvers. So even folks who intend to shoot mostly target loads might end up with a magnum revolver, because it was available and didn't bust their budget.

Now, some folks will say, "I've got a ton of magnum brass I've had for years, and it lasts forever", or "I never use range brass, I buy new brass." Congratulations! If you were able to build up a lifetime's supply of 'free' brass by buying factory .44 ammo over the years, more power to you! Ditto if you always buy brand new brass. Some folks drop thousands of bucks on Dillon progressive reloading equipment (good stuff!), while others still use the Lee hand press they started with 40 years ago, and nothing but range brass (if it ain't broke, don't fix it). What's the difference? BUDGET.

As my good friend Captain Obvious always says, "One size never fits all!"

As always IMHO, FWIW, YMMV, etc.
:)
 
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Rclark

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, 44 Special range brass sells for half of what similar Magnum cases go
Never have found 'any' .44 Special or .44 Mag range brass. Nor does anyone sell that around here. I've never used .357 or .44 anything range brass. No one leaves them on the table :) . That said over on StarLineBrass the cost of new brass is the same. I've only used 'new' brass.

I don't reload very light loads in a magnum case to help prevent the potential pressure spike that might happen.
I disagree somewhat (imagine that! Ha!) . Depends on what your call really light loads :) . For firelapping as an example, I've used Trail Boss for 'very' light loads. Barely get out the end of the barrel loads which worked well. Now, if you use .38 Special Loads from the reloading manuals, you'll definitely be fine in the .357 case, same with data for the .44s. I stay on the high side of the tables though as I want my loads to be +850 fps and less than 1100fps for my use (either caliber). What I've done for my load testing is start at the high side of the special table and adjust accordingly for what I am looking for (speed and accuracy) in the magnums. Never have run into a problem or disconcerting event... BUT, I use the manuals to glean the information I need.
 

woodperson

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I purchased a 1000 .357 cases from Starline and that is what I load. Light or heavy. Before I started reloading for .357 I would buy and shoot Winchester white box .38 special. I do know that if there is a difference in accuracy between .38 special wad cutters and the same bullets in the .357 case. I do know that I will never be a good enough shot to detect it if there is. My other revolver is a .41 Mag so I am used to downloading long cases. Yeah, I know there is a wildcat .41 Special but have never been much interested in it. My ranges only care that one not shoot steel cases or bullets, it seems.
 

Stantheman1986

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I've left some .44 Special and Magnum brass on the ground at my local , small gun club that my Dad is a member of, and they limit their membership to a small number to keep idiots out. They let me go up without my Dad to shoot as kind of a "proxy" member so I leave brass I don't need on a table or on the ground as a courtesy 😀

It's ALWAYS gone the next time I go. I imagine an old timer finding a neat little pile of .45 LC and .357 brass on the firing line and that's just me saying Thank You for seeing me and leaving me alone because you probably know I'm not "officially " a member because it would probably take me 20 years to actually get in . If I see an older guy shooting I'll leave a box of brass on the table and give him a thumbs up like you need this ? And the guy is always like "hell yeah I'll take it"
 

weaselmeatgravy

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small gun club that my Dad is a member of, and they limit their membership to a small number to keep idiots out.
My dad belonged to a range like that in Colorado, they limited the membership to 150 and had no staff, it was more of a co-op, you just had a key to the gate and were on your own after you entered. Basically, they just provided the space to shoot, the benches, target frames, and backstops. Annual dues were $20 and no other fees (except they expected you to come to at least one of several work parties they held per year to help rebuild target frames, touch up berms, or repair benches - and the old guys who couldn't do much work would instead bring food and beverages). You pretty much had to wait for someone to die or move to become a member. My dad recommended that I get my name on the list when I was 14, reckoning I'd be able to join by the time I was 19-20. Well, by the time my number came up, I was 26 years old, living in Minnesota, and about to make the move to Vermont. So I passed on that opportunity. Last time I was out to that part of CO where that range was, out in the desolate rolling plains far away from civilization, it had been replaced by condos and a strip mall.
 

dannyd

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I am almost even on 38 and 357.

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I'm asking this mainly for those who reload as I get folks who are compelled to buy factory ammo have to buy what's available.

I've owned and reloaded for DA/SA and SAO magnum revolvers in .357, .44, and .41 over the last 50 years or so and while I'm not particularly an accuracy seeker I never found their "special" counterpart the equal of the magnum in achievable accuracy. I've also found the same with autos from a Coonan .357 mag / .38 and even a S&W model 52 .38 special with cut down special brass to use LRN bullets.

Add to that the other issues of cylinder crud encountered by loading special ammo, one can have one bin of brass, one die head and dies for a progressive press, and magnums can be downloaded sufficiently. All this to me makes using special brass in a magnum not an option.

One exception I can think of may be the .327 with its brass being unobtanium and loaded ammo so expensive, but other than doing something "just because I can" why shoot a "special" in a magnum handgun if you reload?
Do you have to use "Specials" for the Special Olympics???
 

Paul B

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I don't handload, maybe someday when I have time. A .38 Special case can obviously be loaded to .357 pressures i.e. the old 38/44 loads.
Interesting you should mention the old 38/44 loads. I'm always on the lookout for an S&W .38 Spl. Heavy Duty or Outdoorsman. The 38/44 was a good round but not quite loaded to .357 Magnum Pressure. Yhe only guns considered safe with those loads were the two I mentioned already plus the Colt SAA Army, and the heavy dutt Colt .38s in the very large frame Colt double action. Sorry, I forget the proper name.
I have one Outdoorsman that I got lucky in finding. I had another back in the 1950s that I used to kill a Black Bear on Labor Day weekend, 1959. I sold that one way back then so I could take a pretty girl dancing. Big mistake. I should have kept the gun.
Paul B.
 

Stantheman1986

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My dad belonged to a range like that in Colorado, they limited the membership to 150 and had no staff, it was more of a co-op, you just had a key to the gate and were on your own after you entered. Basically, they just provided the space to shoot, the benches, target frames, and backstops. Annual dues were $20 and no other fees (except they expected you to come to at least one of several work parties they held per year to help rebuild target frames, touch up berms, or repair benches - and the old guys who couldn't do much work would instead bring food and beverages). You pretty much had to wait for someone to die or move to become a member. My dad recommended that I get my name on the list when I was 14, reckoning I'd be able to join by the time I was 19-20. Well, by the time my number came up, I was 26 years old, living in Minnesota, and about to make the move to Vermont. So I passed on that opportunity. Last time I was out to that part of CO where that range was, out in the desolate rolling plains far away from civilization, it had been replaced by condos and a strip mall.
I emailed the President trying to officially join a couple years ago and he didn't even reply 😀 it's like he's probably trying to tell me he knows me and to just keep using the club. He's seen me lose enough rounds of Turkey Shoot to basically pay for 50 years of membership anyway

Nobody moves away here so basically when someone passes the wait list moves up. I use the combo to the lock to get in the gate. My Dad rarely goes by himself and when he does go I go with him, so I don't feel like a trespasser, more like I share a membership with my Dad

There's no staff, it's up to you and anyone else that's there to conduct yourselves accordingly and everyone has always been extremely safe and friendly. 90% of the time no one is there. Only before Rifle season does it get a little busy.

The members see me and I've interacted with them plenty of times. They never "challenge " me and I'm usually shooting stuff like cap and ballers, rifle muskets or revolvers so it's not like I'm clangin and bangin with ARs or mag dumping when they see me. They have basically just seen me and my Dad there enough and accepted me as a member since I've been going there since 2005.

There had been issues with people letting family members in that blasted up target stands and were apparently walking down the rifle range spraying 5.56 everywhere because they found about 1000 spent steel cases all over the whole range area up to 100 yards forward of the line. I stay respectful and quiet, and just punch paper , clean up and leave

It's a very small club, some of the older members come to hang out in the club house because theres a kitchen, a TV and they can smoke cigarettes in there. I don't go in there, it feels like a little private inner sanctum that I don't mess with 😀 there's a definite hierarchy even among the members. There's members and theres the "old heads" that actually run everything

I was just there. I left 50 pieces of once fired .38 brass in a pile on the floor of the pistol area. Some guys drove by going to the rifle range and saw me shooting a Vaquero. These guys have an Eagle Eye for this stuff because a single action usually = nice brass if I don't pick it up so I guarantee they came to check after I left 😀 I have never seen my brass still there even if I go back a couple days later.

9mm brass feels like leaving trash on the ground. No one picks that up, most reloaders I know don't bother to load 9mm. I usually pick it up and put it in the trash bucket

I used a .303 Enfield at a Turkey Shoot recently and it took all of 5 minutes "hey are you keepin that brass??"
 
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