Why the "special" cartridge in a magnum?

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Aug 10, 2016
That thought had never crossed my mind as large pistol and large rifle primers are nominally different dimensions. A quick search found this:
Primer dimensions and tolerances
Primer TypeHeight MinHeight MaxDiameter MinDiameter Max
Small Rifle/Pistol0.11500.12600.17450.1765
Large Rifle0.12300.13600.21050.2130
Large Pistol0.11500.12600.21000.2120

You've not encountered any issues with seating large rifle primers in small pistol primer pockets?

What is the advantage(s) of doing so?
For the small primers I just milled out the primer pocket.

I understand the numbers, but most manufacturers only make tools for large and small primers, Sinclair maybe the only manufacturer that actually makes a large rifle tool.

So, I just used the large rifle in the 44 special and 357 magnum to test.

The 357 magnum look uglier than they are because the pocket does not have a radius like if it were manufactured that.

The number on the 357 magnum were; Average 1212 fps, ES 87 fps, SD 18




Jul 4, 2023
My take away from all of this is for reloaders only.

"If" a vital component for a longer cartridge is no longer available or is prohibitively expensive, then a special or shorter cartridge if available is the best way to continue using a firearm. It makes good sense because in this case the longer cartridge is unlikely to ever be shot in the longer cylinder.

I'm seeing the 500 JRH / 500 Special in this situation. Starline no longer even lists JRH brass, and what may be available is ~$1 more than .500 special which is still listed at Starline.

Hmmm... Those .500 JRH chambered BFR's look a bit more attractive now because 1k JRH head stamped brass costs more than the whole revolver :)


Jul 13, 2007
People's Republic of Maryland
Just a few thoughts.

There are legitimate reasons to use special brass loads in magnum chambers. Many are listed above. If you choose not to, that's fine. You lose the versatility and options, not those of us who do. If you have to ask why, you don't know enough.

If having one more caliber brass on hand overwhelms your reloading supply system or room, that's the problem. Not the special brass itself. So you only load one caliber? Loading one more breaks the system? Ok. Many of us have multiple chamberings we load for....rifle, handgun, and shotgun. Adding 38 or 44 special brass isn't debilitating or life altering. Sorry.

Ruger uses amazing alloys in their revolvers. "Permanent cavitation" in your cylinder? Nope, not buying it. The only legitimate possibility would be if someone fired corrosive primer loads or blackpowder loads at some point and let it sit. Then, that would be the issue, not the practice of firing special loads in magnum chambers. There is no way firing modern smokeless 38s will EVER cause "permanent cavitation" in a Ruger cylinder. Not in your lifetime, not in your great grandchildren's lifetime.
Dec 2, 2021
Tyler TX
John Taffin writes a lot about 44s. The 44 spc is cool historically. Elmer Keith hot rodded it for decades before the 44 mag came out. Elmers swc bullets are designed to fill the chambers, they are too long for some revolver cylinders and most rifles. But Elmer switched to 44 mag once it was an option.
The assessment that 44 spc guns are typically smaller is fact. Skeeter is famed for his 44 spc converted flattop 357 ruger blackhawk.
I dont think many hunters are loading 44 spc in their 44 mag guns.
44 spc gives case efficiency. Saves some powder. You can deep seat 44 mag but why when you have spc brass.
I like 44 spc because I can. I will say that not all 357 or 44 mag guns like their shorter brethren, but when you find one that does, have fun.
Oct 24, 2007
I use .38 Special brass in my .38 Special gun and .357 Magnum brass in my .357 Magnum guns.

I use .44 Special brass in my .44 Special gun and .44 Magnum brass in my .44 Magnum guns.

Bullets and powder as indicated in the appropriate load tables.

Just because I want to . . . and couldn't resist joining this thread. ;)

To each his own. 😁
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Nov 13, 2007
I honestly see no benefit to a Snubby Magnum unless you want to light your assailant on fire which can be more effective than shooting them.
That, and the fact that full magnum loads are NO fun to shoot in a snubby!

I know there are guys that say that recoil with magnum loads in a snubby does not bother them, and maybe it doesn't for a cylinder-full or two. But I challenge them to come shoot 100 or 200 rounds or more and see how they like it!
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