Go to your saved Cartridges

Your Armory

  • Your Armory is empty.

Can't find what you're looking for? Open a ticket and we will help you find it!

44 Special


Introduced in 1907, the 44 S&W Special uses a longer version of the case used for the 44 Russian, loaded with the same bullet, but likely launched with a charge of bulk-smokeless propellant. I use the word likely because I am only guessing. But, I can find no other reasonable explanation for why the 44 Special retained the ballistics of the 44 Russian, despite the significant increase in case capacity.

Had the goal been to improve performance, the 44 Special would have been loaded to at least the same pressure as the Russian and it would have given significantly higher velocity. As it was, it was loaded to significantly less pressure to match Russian ballistics, which made sense only if there was another motivation for using the larger case.

One possible explanation is the above-noted use of bulk-smokeless. These propellants were common in that era and were designed, primarily to allow Shotgunners to use dram-for-dram substitution for blackpowder to achieve equivalent results. In small revolver cartridges, most likely the bulk substitutes did not quite match blackpowder results.

However, this theory is problematic because Hercules Lightning, now known as Unique was introduced in 1898 and it was no secret that it worked perfectly in any blackpowder revolver cartridge to achieve blackpowder ballistics with a far lighter charge while generating less pressure. So, unless there was some other reason to prefer the use of bulk-smokeless, my theory seems to fall flat.

The 44 Special was the progenitor of the 44 Magnum (see that discussion). It is still a fine revolver cartridge. When loaded to reasonable pressure with modern components it is a capable hunting round and a superior self-defense round.

As with any revolver round, best practice is to apply a roll-crimp after seating the bullet. A roll-crimp eases loading of rounds into the cylinder and can help limit bullet pull under recoil if only modestly. I cannot too-strongly recommend getting a second seating-and-crimping die so you can have one adjusted to seat the bullet and the second adjusted to only crimp the case mouth. Generally, attempting to do both operations in one step is a recipe for damaged and destroyed cases.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
Die Sets
Lee Collet Necksizing 2-Die Set
Lee Full-Length Sizing Die Set
90516 (Carbide 3-Die set)
90966 (Carbide 4-Die set)
Lee Breech Lock Die Set
91881 (Carbide 3-Die set)
91938 (Carbide 4-Die set)
Lee Loader
Single Dies
Full-Length Sizing Die
Carbide Sizing Die
Undersize Sizing Die
Powder through Expanding Die
Charging Die
Seating Die
Factory Crimp Die
90863 (Carbide)
90930 (Collet Style)
Taper Crimp Die
Inline Bullet Feed Die
92071 (44CAL)
Die Accessories
Guided Decapper
Case Conditioning Tools
Case Length Gauge and Shell Holder
Quick Trim Die
Shell Plates and Holders
Priming Tool Shell Holder
90211 (#11)
Universal Press Shell Holder
90528 (R11)
X-Press Shell Holder (APP)
91544 (#11)
Pro 1000 Shell Plate
90657 (#11L )
Auto Breech | Pro 4000 Shell Plate
90648 (11)
Six Pack Pro Shell Plate
91846 (11L)
Inline Bullet Feed
Inline Bullet Feed Die
92071 (44CAL)
Inline Bullet Feed Kit
92072 (44 CAL)
Inline Bullet Feed Magazine
92016 (Large Inline Bullet Magazine)
Bullet Casting
Classic Bullet Sizing Kit
Breech Lock Bullet Sizer and Punch
Bullet Molds

Challenger III

From $117.00

Ultimate Turret Press

From $320.00

Deluxe APP Press Kit


The Lee Deluxe Automatic Processing Press gives you the same priming convenience found only on expensive progressive reloading presses.


Six Pack Pro Press

From $400.00