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The “other” 44. What do I mean? Well, if you look at this gun for more than 2 seconds, you will see that it looks an awful lot like a Smith & Wesson. Why does it resemble the other gun? We’ll get into that. Suffice it to say that this gun is a winner in its own right, no matter what other guns it might resemble.
The Taurus Model 44
The Taurus model 44 revolver has been around a while. It, along with the model 66 .357 have been in the catalog for years. The very first product that Taurus made was a revolver, in 1941. The company’s history is really interesting; without rehashing that complete history, go here and you will learn not only the company’s history but also why some Taurus guns can legally look like guns from S&W and Beretta. For the short version, suffice it to say that Taurus had, once upon a time, a working relationship with both Smith and Wesson and Beretta. The S&W connection occurred because, for a while, both companies were owned by the same parent corporation and a flow of technology went between the two. That’s why some Taurus revolvers look a lot like S&W guns and can do so legally. The Beretta link happened when Beretta, who had just concluded a contract to build 92FS 9mm pistols for Brazil, sold the factory, blueprints, machines and related items to Taurus. Taurus was required to make a version of the Beretta that had an expired patent, so that’s why Taurus PT-92s use a frame-mounted decocker. Beretta 92-series guns (most of them) have a slide-mounted decocker. At any rate, when you see a Taurus that looks like a S&W or a Beretta you’ll know why now. See below for my quick comparison photos I took of the Taurus 44 and my S&W 629. But first – why would you want one?
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Why This Hand Cannon?
OK…so you’ve always wanted a revolver, but not just any revolver – it has to be a .44 Magnum! A major thumper. Please allow me to insert some unsolicited advice here from a guy who has shot .44s (Specials and Magnums) for more than a few decades. If you are an experienced revolver shooter, feel free to skip to the next section. If you are not, unless you are willing to start with either reduced mid-range magnum or even .44 Special loads, you are not going to do yourself any favors by buying a .44 Magnum of any type.
I remember seeing, back after “Dirty Harry” came out and the .44 Magnum craze hit, more than one recently-purchased magnum handgun in the gun shop’s used gun case, often with a box of ammo with it that had 6 expended cases and the rest unfired. True story. It was too much for the average shooter. Plus, they tended to forget that Harry shot .44 Special ammo in his S&W 29, his “this is the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off!” notwithstanding. If you took the time to really learn the gun and the loads available for it, you stood a much greater chance of actually keeping your new acquisition.
The 29, 629 and our Taurus are all DA revolvers. There are also SA guns out there. The Ruger Super Blackhawk, Magnum Research BFR revolvers and others are built tough. Tough or not, these SA guns still pack quite a wallop on the back end. Add more felt recoil pounds to a DA revolver that does not allow the grip to rotate in your hand like most SA guns will do and those pounds can hurt your hand over an afternoon of shooting. Ask me how I know.
Another use for a .44 is as a shotshell dispenser – my friend who owns this gun carries it when he and wife hike and always has a shotshell or two in the cylinder as snake medicine. We only have a couple of poisonous snake species in our area but even one snake could sure ruin your day.
Holey Barrel, Batman!
I know, I show my age – I loved the ‘60s Batman TV show hence the borrowing and paraphrasing of Robin’s favorite epithet. If you do opt for a .44 Maggie, think it through. How can you avoid pounding your palm and wrist into proverbial muscular mush yet still have an effective deer or other game stopper? By getting one with a “hole-y barrel”. Allow me to explain. When I shoot my 629 (or any other regular-barreled .44), I expect, anticipate, am ready for the recoil. Now, with my mid-range deer loads, it isn’t too bad as you might surmise but when I shoot full-bore factory loads it does kick, quite a bit. True story – one of my son’s friends was shooting the gun with my reduced load when he was old enough to handle it. His dad told him to back away from the gun – he had his head very close to the rear sight. Told him twice. He backed up, then went forward again and pulled the trigger. He had a perfect indent the size of the hammer spur in his forehead. It bled a little, but the lesson, according to the dad (I wasn’t so sure) was worth the small amount of blood it drew. I’ll admit, that kid held the gun properly afterwards. The moral of the story – for our purposes at least – is that the .44 will kick so you need to be ready. What can you do to help lower the felt recoil? Port the barrel.
After I shot this Taurus I was a believer in barrel ports. Now, barrel ports are nothing new – I remember reading in gun magazines of 40+ years ago about Mag-Na-Port. Mag-Na-Port was a company in Michigan run by a good guy named Larry Kelly. You send them your gun, they cut via EDM two trapezoidal ports (and two oval ports in longer barrels) in the barrel behind the muzzle. Voila – instant recoil reduction. The company is still going strong – starting at about $100 plus shipping, you can have your carry revolver (or semiauto!) ported. Check the link for details. This is one way to help reduce felt recoil – another way is to apply port cuts at the factory.
In the photo below, you will see how Taurus does their porting. They cut 8 circular ports, 4 per side, in the barrel below the front sight. The ports are over an unrifled section of the barrel called an expansion port. This allows the escaping gases to expand a bit and then vent out of the barrel, upwards. This action does two things – it reduces muzzle rise as it causes the gun to come more or less straight back into your hand, and the gases venting upward hold felt recoil down. I know, it seems crazy but it works, believe me.
When I shot my 629 as a type of control (something I was familiar with) then shot the Taurus, the Taurus won hands down the recoil battle. There was virtually no muzzle rise with it. It did come back fairly stiffly but in terms of the muzzle heading for the wild blue, it did not do that. I am a believer in ported barrels now. A muzzle brake does roughly the same thing for those guns that will accept them, but most plain-jane revolvers won’t allow their installation. Hence, the ports:
The ports, from the muzzle after cleaning the gun. The gas expansion chamber did tend to catch my brass brush’s bristles as I pushed it into the barrel – there is a definite ledge between the port’s expansion chamber and where the rifling starts. This is a small price to pay to have recoil reduced by a substantial amount.
Here are some photos I took of the Taurus 44, along with some I took of both the 44 and my 629 using a cleaning towel as a backdrop – I thought that might add something but now I’m not so sure. At any rate, let’s look first at the gun under review…
The red insert (and front sight dots) were added by the original owner before my friend bought it. I remember using a red piece of plastic cut from a Plochmann’s mustard bottle lid long about 1976 to add a red insert to my Super Blackhawk’s front sight ramp after epoxying it into the groove I filed for it. We do what we must to get the results we need with the resources we have…it worked great!
The grip shown is an aftermarket Pachmayr wrap-around number with obvious finger grooves. Pachs must be popular for .44s or at least were so a few years ago as my 1982-vintage 629 wore the exact same model grip shown here when it was given to me. The grips do work in helping to cushion recoil a bit and when you add in the ported barrel, the gun is downright pleasant to shoot.
Comparison With S&W Guns
I am asked, with some frequency, by shooters who know that I have reviewed many Taurus guns and have researched the Taurus company history about “why do Taurus revolvers look like S&W’s – isn’t that illegal?” I linked, above, my history of the company and how they can legally look like S&W guns, so we won’t go over that again. But, I did think that it might be a good thing if I illustrated the similarities and differences between the two. I’ll use my S&W .44 Magnum as the guinea pig as we compare the two. So, let’s look at the Taurus model 44 alongside my S&W 629. My gun has an 8 3/8” barrel, with the Taurus coming in at 6.5” so that is one obvious difference but you can get either gun in either barrel length.
Overall, both guns are very similar. Same type of grip frame, cylinder, cylinder release, ejector rod, etc… very much like each other. Here are some photos I took to show each gun. We’ll talk about differences later.
As you can see, the guns look remarkably alike. There are some differences, though. Here’s a quick list of ways the two guns are alike yet different…
- The S&W’s barrel’s top rib is grooved to break up reflections while the Taurus has a vent rib.
- The Taurus’s rear sight is adjustable and works in a similar manner to the one on the S&W.
- Both guns’ cylinders rotate counter-clockwise, unlike Colt guns.
- The firing pins are mounted differently – on the frame, Taurus and on the hammer, S&W. But…newer S&Ws use frame-mounted pin on most revolver models.*
- The triggers are different in terms of pull weight – see Specs below. Nothing unusual about that.
- The Taurus’s cylinder diameter and gun weight are greater. The Taurus weighs about 4 ounces more but has a shorter barrel. There is more “beef” with the Taurus, but (to be fair) it uses a full-length barrel underlug and my 629’s barrel is built the “old” way, with just the ejector rod covered. I’ve seen this referred to as a “quarter lug.” A new S&W 629 with a 6-inch barrel weighs 45 ounces, still not exactly a lightweight.
*Here’s another picture of the firing pins:
Perhaps you, eagle-eyed reader, can spot more similarities and differences but these are what I came up with. I did not remove the side plates and grips – didn’t want to do that to a gun that wasn’t mine – but if I did, the first thing I would notice would be the leaf mainspring in my S&W and the captured strut-and-spring of the Taurus, a la Ruger. There are other internal differences but these are enough for our purposes. Both guns are well-built.
|Weight:||52 oz. (52.1 oz.)|
|Trigger Pull, Average, Single Action:||3 lbs, 11 oz.|
|Trigger Pull Average, Double Action:||7 lbs, 10 oz.|
|Rear Sight:||Adjustable, W&E|
Comparable S&W Measurements:
|Trigger Pull Average, Single Action:||2 lbs, 5 oz.|
|Trigger Pull Average, Double Action:||7 lbs, 6 oz.|
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Shooting The 44
I have already described the recoil reduction experienced because of the ported barrel (and the gun’s weight – 52 ounces will help to dampen recoil), so I won’t go over that again. Here is a target I shot with two loads – a CCI aluminum-cased 240 grain JHP and my handload of a 260 grain Lee cast SWC over 6.5 grains of Titegroup that clocks about 1060 fps out of my 629.
This was shot at 25 yards from a rest. I do confess that sometimes my target-shooting procedure isn’t very scientific – all those holes, from two different loads – which is which? Well…I don’t really think it matters. I was just having fun, shooting a .44 that didn’t beat me up and didn’t mind mixing the loads a bit. There is no question that this gun is accurate – I have that on authority from its owner – so I figured I could have a little fun. With the ammo situation the way it is, I can’t find much to shoot so I use whatever I have left at home and then utilize my handloads as well. I have no idea where I got aluminum-cased ammo from, but I used it nonetheless. If I were to take this gun hunting, I would dial in the rear sight so that the point of impact would be just on top of the front sight. That seems to work well for deer.
Whether you hunt, punch paper or knock steel down, you will want a load that allows a lot of practice without beating yourself (or the gun) up. After shooting the Taurus, I am of the opinion that you could use a slightly stiffer load in it for not much gain in recoil. Even a top-end midrange load (1100 – 1200 fps or so) would be comfortable to shoot in this gun. For those who enjoy shooting them, full-tilt top-end loads would show a similar reduction in recoil. Granted, ports tend to make shooting louder (a subjective assessment) but if you’re wearing hearing protection as you should that would not be an issue.
In terms of handling, the Taurus was great. The full-length barrel underlug helps keep the muzzle down and the overall gun weight surely doesn’t hurt. This is not a one-hand-shooter… you will want both hands on this when you pull the trigger unless you are built like Arnold Swartzenegger used to be. The sights were basic but allowed excellent target acquisition and precision shooting (my ability notwithstanding). If the gun were mine, I’d move the rear sight a bit right to center the groups on the target. I like to be dead on at 50 yards with my hunting handguns so that if a 75-yard shot is presented, I won’t have to hold high. You could sure do that with this gun. If you want to add an optic, you might be better off with the Raging Hunter and its railed top strap. One thing’s for sure – you might want to investigate a chest holster for it if you go far afield. Otherwise you might list a bit to starboard (or port, for lefties) after a day of tromping through the great outdoors with it on your hip. Fifty-two ounces is a chunk.
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What did I think of the Taurus model 44? It is well-built, reliable and seemingly accurate. Its recoil is much less than that of my 629, which might allow more precision in the placement of shots…the ports really work. I do believe that I would like to own one of these, but maybe with the 4-inch barrel since I already have the longer tube covered with my Smith. Speaking of 4-inch Taurus 44s, another ported option might be the 5-shot Tracker model. It is lighter (35 ounces) and gives up one round in its slightly-smaller cylinder but might be a good choice for toting around the homestead or even into the hunting field. After shooting this gun, I am a believer in the ported barrel – with my everyday mid-range loads it would be fun to shoot.
If you are in the market for a .44 Magnum wheelgun, you might want to give this one a try. With its weight, construction and ports, I think you might end up with a gun that gets out of the safe more often than some you own. Whether you want this 6.5-inch barrel version or opt for the shorter 4-inch or longer 8 3/8-inch tubes, I think you might be pleased with your choice. If you’ve had experience with the model 44, please leave a comment below. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!