44x356 Ultimate 44 caliber

The Ultimate .44 Handgun Round

Stronger, thicker brass and optimum powder capacity for handgun use make the .356 Win. case opened up straight for .44 cal. bullets a strong contender for the title Ultimate .44 Handgun Round.

Comparison of the larger .44 cal. cartridges

Left to right: 

.445 Super Mag., 1.6" long, 

.44x356 Win., 2.015" long, 

.444 Marlin, 2.205" long. 

Empty Cases: 

Standard .356 Win., 

.356 Win. expanded to .44 cal. 

.444 Marlin Die Set modified for the shorter .356 Win. round.

All three dies have been shortened. 

The neck expander plug has been lathe turned and shaped to expand .356 Win. case necks to just under .429" for correct case neck tension for jacketed bullets. 

Neck expanding is done in one pass. Simply expand the case necks, load, and shoot.

Rationale behind the .44x356 Win.

I have both made and rechambered 100s of Contender barrels in .444 Marlin. It actually produces the most energy you can squeeze from a Contender. The case is the same as is used to make the renowned .375 JDJ, the pressure limits for both are exactly the same, but the .44 cal. bullet has a larger surface area for the pressure to act on, making the .444 more efficient than the .375 JDJ, bullet weight for bullet weight.

However, in handgun length barrels, the .444 case actually holds more powder than optimum. This means one has to go to larger charges of the fast-to-medium burning rate powders. 

On the other hand, the much smaller .445 Super Mag. will produce essentially identical velocities in handgun length barrels with lighter charges of faster powders that burn more completely in handgun length barrels as short as 10."

I have chambered quite a few of the older, discontinued 12" Hunter barrels with the factory Muzzle Tamer brake in both .445 Super Mag. and .444 Marlin. Both work well in barrels this short, but the .445 and its faster powders work best. 

The downside to .445 Super Mag is its thinner brass, and if steps are not taken to correct headspace problems created by the factory .44 Mag chamber having been cut a bit deep, as is usually the situation, the .445 brass will often separate within the first few firings.

he .356 Win. case represents the best of both worlds, thicker/stronger brass and a better balanced powder capacity.  Test firing this chamber in the 14" barrel pictured 05/06, I went all the way to 28 gr. of Blue Dot, which is on the fast side for even standard .44 Mag. This was with a 240 gr. bullet. No chronographing was done. I was simply curious to see how high the loading density might be with a powder this fast with rechambering curret production 12" .44 Mag. barrels to this cartridge in view.

With bullets seated as shown above, I am estimating the loading density to be 80% or higher. Pressures were sufficient to get a full form of the case, but certainly not maximum. The G2 frame it was test fired on opened easily, and cases fell out. Primer face indications showed pressures lower than where I normally stop with other rounds based on .444 Marlin and .307/.356 Win. cases. 

Another key reason for revisiting this round, which by the way was once tested extensively by Don Bower who may have possibly been the originator of the round, is that unlike a .445 Super Mag. rechambering of a .44 Mag. barrel that leaves part of the original factory forcing cone in the barrel, the .356 Win. case opened to .44 is long enough to get rid of all of the original forcing cone, thus permitting me to cut an entirely new, true throat in the barrel for top accuracy. 

Cases can also be made from .444 Marlin of course, and more easily.

.444 Marlin brass eliminates the necking up process, making it easer to prep cases.

444 Marlin brass handles pressures & stretching nearly on par with .356 Win. brass. Working with both cases in numerous wildcat cartridges, both appear to work equally well, but the added thickness of the .356 Win. case will take more stretching before it separates. 

.444 Marlin brass is thinner, so if reducing powder capacity is an objective with faster powders in view, you will get less reduction of capacity with the .444 case.

In summation:

Whether for a long barrel or shorter barrel, the super thick .356 Win brass offers the optimum in case strength and case life. And because of its extra strength, it also takes more of the pressure load off the frame. 

It cleans up factory .44 Mag. chambers and permits proper throating for accuracy. 

Its powder capacity is optimum for 14" barrels and not excessive for 12" barrels.

.44x.356 Win. uses standard .444 Marlin dies which I modify for $35. 

Making cases is simple. Run .356 Win. cases over the stepped expander plug, chamfer, prime, and load.....simple as that. 

Start with standard .445 Super Mag data and work up. 

An over looked point, another in favor of the .44x.356 Win.:

The powder charge is part of the recoil produced. Both the added weight of the powder and the thrust it generates produces recoil. Ie, the more powder is burned, the greater the recoil.

On the other hand, if the same velocity can be reached with a smaller powder charge, less recoil is produced.  If you produce the same velocity with the .44x.356 Win. as you do with a .444 Marlin, you should expect to do it with slightly less recoil and muzzle blast. Both will be significant, true, but somewhat less from the smaller case and smaller charges of faster powder.


Recoil of the large .44s is significant, and there is no way I would recommend anything over .44 Mag. without a muzzle brake.  

 The best value in a choice of barrel to rechamber is one of the discontinued TC factory "Hunter" barrels that came with the factory Muzzle Tamer brake, both in 12" and 14" lengths. These can be found used at good prices.

  Next best option is either a S-14 .44 Mag. barrel or the current production 12" .44 Mag. barrels with my muzzle brake machined into the barrel, then rechambered to .44x.356 Win. 

 There are a lot of choices in after market muzzle brakes. However, my machined in brakes are the neatest, most precisely aligned with the bore, most effective, and only take up only about 1" or less of barrel length.

Getting a barrel rechambered to .44x.356 Win.

If you have a .44 Mag. or .445 Super Mag. barrel you would like to have rechambered to either .44 x .356 Win. or .444 Marlin, you may send it in for conversion.  If you do not have a barrel, you may obtain one of your choice from the various sources available, or you may purchase it from us. 

Applies to both Contender/G2 barrels and Encore barrels, any effective barrel length approx. 11" or longer. 

I do not recommend the tapered 10" barrels and will not rechamber them to .444 Marlin, .445 Super Mag., or .44x.356 Win. unless a brake has been added. I hand hold test fire all rechambers, and I will not fire one of these barrels without a brake. Nor do I recommend these larger chambers in the 10" barrels.

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