By Combat Controller
I was asked why someone would consider a .44 special over the .357 magnum for carry or general defense. Lets take a look at a few numbers first.
180 gr XTP bullet with 10.7 gr of VV N350 will clock you about 1173 fps. Not too shabby. That is 549 foot pounds of energy from a .44 diameter bullet. Toting that around in a .44 snubbie will let some Goblin or Wild Critter know you were thinking of them.
180 gr JHP over 12.5 gr of WC820 clocks at about 1,013 fps for 410 foot pounds. To push it up to 747 foot pounds we would need to go to a TMJ round over 13.8 gr of VV N110 for 1,368 fps. Possible, but really hot and quite the penetrator. In a hunting load that is great, in a defense load not so much. The average 180 gr hollowpoint handload will give you performance more in line with the first load, not the second. The hole of course will be a bit smaller and present less bullet surface. the hole will be .358 or so in diameter.
Lets take the .44 down to 145 grs. 356 foot pounds can be expected with a velocity of 1,056 fps.
The .357 on the other hand can get really moving with a hot loaded JHP and perform rather stunning feats. 920 foot pounds with a screaming 1,691 fps. A factory loading will give you something more like 1261 for 511 foot pounds though.
Moving up to 250 gr bullets we see a velocity of 1186 for 780 foot pounds in the .357.
The .44 special on the other hand will give you 1032 for 591 foot pounds.
Now the .357 typically gets loaded with lighter rounds, as it is a smaller diameter. Lets look at factory loads for a minute with off the shelf loads that a typical shooter might find themselves with and not the handloader.
110gr Winchester White Box 1,298 fps out of a 2 1/4 ruger SP 101 for 411 foot pounds. A 124 gr load will give you 1350 fps for 501 foot pounds. A 158 gr will give you 1320 fps and a foot pounds of 611. These are standard winchester factory loads I have clocked.
Now with a .44 you tend to get heavier ammo out of the chute. 180gr loads is where it starts for 920 fps and 338 foot pounds. Standard load though is 240 gr at 950 fps for 480 foot pounds.
For out of the box performance it is a bit of a wash, the .44 having the edge with a bigger diameter by a third again as much. Now the .357 might be a bit much according to some folks for self defense, as it is known to go through something and keep on going out the other side. Whereas a .44 special tends to plow into more stuff and come to a halt having dumped more effective energy into the target. The amount of energy the target retains is what it is all about. How many of those foot pounds is lost keeping that .357 trucking along after it exits? This is why the thunder ranch guys have semi-recently become enamoured of the .44 special in a combat wheelgun, and there are special models of .44 special (mind the puns there) for sale with the TR logo on it. Both will most certainly do the job on a goblin. The cost of practice ammo is a consideration though, so getting into handloading is a good idea if you do a lot of shooting.
I find the recoil on the .44 a bit less in a snub nosed revolver FWIW, YMMV.