.44 Magnum The Most Versatile Handgun Caliber…?

Mr Revolver argues that the .44 Magnum is the worlds most versatile handgun caliber

I know this is going piss-off many of my readers but before moving on to your other favorite firearm blogs take a deep breath and continue reading. Keep in mind I am not saying the 44 Magnum is perfect or best suited for a firefight, the best range cartridge or even the best hunting round. But what I am saying is paired with the right handgun or carbine the 44 Magnum is the most versatile cartridge known to man.

The Remington 44 Magnum has been my favorite handgun caliber since I was a youngster. As a matter of fact when I became of age with enough cash saved my first handgun purchase was a Colt Anaconda with an 8in barrel.

My person opinion is that the .22 Long Rifle is by far the most versatile cartridge every made for pistol or rifle. Sure, if I was in Alaska I would much prefer to have a .44 Magnum on my hip than a .22 LR, but if I was ever in the situation where I was forced to depend on only one cartridge, chances are I would have 100-500 times more .22 LR on hand (and able to carry) than .44 Magnum cartridges. Also, if the S really hit the F, .22 will make an admirable currency.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Andrew Tuohy


    • Nicks87

      Yes! Just because Andrew said no.

      You cant hunt deer with a 9mm. I’d call being able to hunt most North American large game with the caliber a prerequisite for “most versatile”. 10mm might be a happy medium but 44mag trumps it in performance by quit a bit. As far as .22lr is concerned, I hope you like eating squirrels.

      • bbmg

        Most large game can be taken with a 9mm or even 22LR given the right shot placement, maybe not legally but one assumes that in a SHTF situation poaching laws are no longer being enforced.

        • Nicks87

          I see your point and agree somewhat but the key is “shot placement” and if everyone was that good of a marksman then .22lr would be legal for large game. Also, how many people do you think have the tracking skills to find a large animal when it runs off after being shot with a .22lr? It is possible to take some large game with a .22 but it’s not ideal and for the average person it’s just not feasible.

  • Doc J

    .44 mag, I agree, is impressive, and the .22lr is extremely versatile. But for my money (and money is a factor), .357 mag/.38 spl has my vote for best all-around caliber. Yes, it’s a compromise. It doesn’t have the value or ease of use that the .22 does, and it doesn’t have the stopping power or sheer overkill factor that the .44 does. But for my purposes, it’s just right. Not as cheap as buying .22lr…but I can reload it. And reloading .357 is a whole lot cheaper that doing so for .44, especially if you can cast bullets. It’s fun to shoot all day, and good for most any game in the lower 48 (except grizzly and moose, perhaps).

    • Burkefett

      I’m inclined to agree with you. Not only is reloading for the .357 cheaper, but it uses significantly smaller amounts of components, which is a good thing for your average plinker or your SHTF survivalist types. Plus, with factory .38 loads, you get recoil just about as light as a .22LR when fired from a carbine. Speaking of carbines, the .357 can get some phenomenal (up to 800 FPS or more) velocity gains when using a carbine with a 16-18 inch barrel, while the .44 generally only gains 300-500 FPS. Faster bullet = flatter trajectory = easier to shoot at known or unknown distances. Personally, I’ve shot a mite over 250 yards with my 16″ Winchester 94, and with Leverevolution bullets I’d be willing to try out to 300 or further.

  • Blake

    I must admit that shooting light .44 loads (with bullets we cast on the kitchen stove) out of my Dad’s humongous Ruger is good fun :-).

  • bbmg

    You would have to bore it out a little but it makes a handy silent shotgun too, how’s that for versatile 😉 http://iaaforum.org/forum3/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=10566&start=15

  • RoCr

    Going to have to vote for a shotgun cartridge; either 12 or 20 gauge, take your pick (though there’s more loads for the 12 gauge).

    Just about anything you’d care to do (other than long range shooting), you can do with a 12 gauge. It will take everything from small game and birds to some of the biggest game there is with the right ammo/barrel choices. Great home defense round, and with a SBS/AOW like a Serbu Super Shorty you can even CC it (though, admittedly, it’s not the best choice for that).

    • bbmg

      I think the long range shooting gap can be filled if manufacturers put their mind to it. Not having a rifled barrel is not an excuse.

      The APFSDS M829 ammunition from 120mm smoothbore tank guns according to Fr. Frog’s pad has an accuracy that “is sub-MOA and the stated effective
      range is about 3000 meters (3270 yards). However, first round killing hits have been
      obtained out to about 6000 meters (6540 yards).”


      A scaled down round for a 12 gauge shotgun would likely be capable of mach 2+ muzzle velocities and being streamlined and with a high sectional density would have a correspondingly flat trajectory, The big issue would be to make a round that is reliable enough to be consistently accurate while also being easy to manufacture.

      • Marc

        Sauvestre makes fin-stabilized, discarding sabot shotgun slugs.

        • bbmg

          I’m aware of these but they don’t seem to be particularly accurate, they have the sectional density but not the aerodynamic shape, while the two-part sabot is not particularly favoured for “proper” APFSDS rounds.

          One route that might offer better accuracy is something with full bore fins like some Russian anti-tank rounds:


      • DW

        Bore pressure is too different from tank guns and shotguns.
        You won’t be getting mach 2+ from conventional shotgun pressure.

        • bbmg

          Bore pressure might be different, but high supersonic velocities are still possible.


          Hornady claims 2000 fps for this sabot round, and it weighs almost 20 grams. A ten gram dart is going to exceed that for sure.

  • AD

    He said most versatile, not most useful etc. Technically almost anything you can do with a 22 you can do with a 44 (even if it costs a lot more), and you can do far more besides, making it more versatile.

  • Legion3692

    well, I asked a few acquaintance of mine over the net, and not surprisingly, many had argue that the 7.62×39mm round is more versatile than anything else……(although respectfully I disagree with them.)

    • Legion3692

      and furthermore, they argue that if there isn’t a single fully automatic firearm that utilizes that ammunition, it can’t be called “versatile” at all.

  • Cameron

    I’m going to echo Doc J’s view that .357 Mag is the most versatile, for the simple reason that firearms which chamber .44 Mag (handguns anyway) tend to be pretty big and fat – handguns, anyway. This makes it harder for children/women/small-handed shooters to enjoy the cartridge. .357 is small for its power potential and fits in some pretty easy-to-handle guns. Add that to the fact that it chambers .38 Special and .357 loads can be tailored from powder puff to rip-snorting powerful, and .357 Mag gets the W.

    Which is not to say that the .44 Mag is not highly versatile. It clearly is a wonderful cartridge. But I put the wider range of shooters that can handle .357 Mag firearms at a narrow advantage over the higher-end power capacity than .44 Mag has.

  • Stan Robertson

    It makes a diff as to what is going on. If it’s a SHTF scenario, I’d choose the .22. All else aside, you cannot reload in the field. And I can carry about 4 times the ammo

    • RocketScientist

      I agree with your point re. .22 versatility and weight. But it definitely IS possible to easily and quickly reload in the field. The Lee Loader has been around forever and this little kit is a small (size of a pocket flashlight) cheap ($30) way to deprime and reload a spent casing in about 30 seconds (with some practice). All you need are components and a hammer (or heavy stick, or hard surface like a rock or truck bedrail). I have a small pouch that holds a Lee Loader, and a handful of powder/primers/bullets I toss in my pack whenever I’m hiking/camping/hunting with a gun. Never know when it might come in handy!

      • Stan Robertson

        I agree on that. I forgot about the Lee Loader. I used one years ago

  • Squidpuppy

    If I could only have one revolver and one carbine, say a lever action, I’d choose this caliber too. I’d just as soon never see that day when “…the barr gits you”.

  • Martin M

    Any dual-platform round could be argued for. 44-40, 45LC, 357, 44Mag, and even 9mm. The American Frontier was easily handled by the former two, and the newer rounds would likely perform just a well. All are easily reloaded. All are capable taking small and medium game. All can handle self defense. All have great firearms in both handgun and rifle platforms. By and large, the only differentiating factor is personal preference.

  • Zius Patagus

    If ones goes by the definition of “versatile” then the 22lr outpaces the 44 mag by a wide margin.

  • Jim

    All of this theoretical debate seems to possess little or no purpose. Why can’t we just all accept that certain calibers are better for certain applications, and that there is no ‘do all end all’?

  • Nicks87

    Versatile? Yes. I’ve wanted a firearm chamber in 44 mag for a long time, but the price of ammo always scares me away and I’m not that fond of revolvers. However, In a lever action rifle with a 16in barrel like the Rossi R92 it could easily find a home in my gun safe.

    • John

      For a lever action, I’ve been looking at the Marlin 1895 in 45-70, now that is one versatile hunting rifle.

  • smartacus

    Domo Origato Mr. Revolver;
    8 inch 44 Magnum was my first handgun purchase too.
    B’guess wha’: Today; that’s the one single caliber I will never buy again and will never miss. Why? For the same reason pliers, screwdrivers, blades, saws, and scissors haven’t been replaced by Gerber multitools.

    Because every time I start looking at another 44Mag to replace that first one i ended up trading up for an AR-15 a few months later anyway; I can’t think of a single job that can’t be done by some of my other tools.
    Oh my 44Spl can do that, oh my 357 can do that, oh my 45 colt can do that, oh my 410 Judge can do that, oh my 454 snubbie can do that, oh my 500 can do that, oh my 41 Magnum can DEFINITELY do that, oh my 10mm can do that, oh my 45 ACP can do that, oh my 45GAP can do that, oh my 30 carb Ruger can do that, oh my Draco can do that.

    Brag about versatility? Oh my 327 Federal can do that.

  • Laserbait

    I can get on board with this, but you really need to be a reloader to get the most out of it, in my opinion. I have a plethora of other calibers, but I end up shooting my 44 the most. I have light target loads, I have personal defense loads, I have 4 different “heavy” loads, 2 different shotshell loads. There’s not much a 44 Mag can’t do.

  • Icis

    Anyone recognize the make / model of the revolver in the picture? It looks very interesting.

  • Mazryonh

    The only thing that .44 Magnum can’t do (aside from pierce Level IIIA or higher body armour) is reliably feed from a staggered-column box magazine, being a rimmed cartridge. That’s one reason I’d stick with 10mm Auto since you can get a nice high-capacity magazine for a semi-automatic pistol caliber carbine, and follow-up shots are easier while still having good effective range and stopping power.

  • Mac

    I think the idea here is that the big old .44 magnum can be hand loaded to satisfy pretty much any need. From mild target loads to heavy hunting loads, and everything in between. You can’t reload the .22 long rifle, so it’s limited by factory loads and is as powerful as it’s ever going to be. BTW, if you decide to hunt bear with a .22, get really drunk first so it doesn’t hurt so bad when he shreds your sorry carcass.
    The 9mm is a very fine cartridge and with modern loads can punch well above its’ weight. Alas, not much room to experiment in such a small case.
    The advantages of the .44 mag are its’ flexibility with a good number of bullet weights and shapes, large case capacity and the ability to generate 1200 lbs of muzzle energy if needed. There’s something about a 250 grain Keith style bullet at 1400 fps that commands some respect. Besides, is there anything more fetching than a S&W model 29 gleaming in the sunlight ? OK, maybe a swimsuit model, holding a model 29? Happy hunting.