When it comes to the world of firearms, one debate that has always piqued my interest is the age-old comparison of 45 Colt vs 44 Magnum. These two iconic cartridges have long held their positions in the hearts of handgun enthusiasts, each boasting its own set of merits and historical significance.
As a passionate firearm aficionado, I’ve often found myself drawn into discussions revolving around their respective attributes, ballistics, and applications.
In this exploration, I aim to shed light on the distinctive characteristics of the 45 Colt and the formidable 44 Magnum, delving into their origins, power, and versatility, ultimately helping you make an informed choice in this enduring caliber showdown.
What is .45 Colt?
The .45 Colt (11.43×33mmR) is a rimmed, straight-walled, handgun cartridge dating to 1872. It was originally a black-powder revolver round developed for the Colt Single Action Army revolver. This cartridge was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1873 and served as an official US military handgun cartridge for 14 years, before being replaced by the .38 Long Colt in 1892.
The .45 Colt is a powerful cartridge, and its original black-powder load was so powerful that many soldiers could not handle the heavy recoil. However, modern loadings use smokeless powder and can be tailored to a variety of different uses, including hunting, self-defense, and target shooting.
The .45 Colt is still a popular cartridge today, and it is used in a variety of different firearms, including revolvers, lever-action rifles, and carbines. It is also a popular cartridge for reloading, as there are a wide variety of bullet weights and powder charges available.
- Caliber: .452 inches (11.48 mm)
- Bullet diameter: .452 inches (11.48 mm)
- Case length: 1.28 inches (32.64 mm)
- Overall length: 1.6 inches (40.64 mm)
- Case capacity: 1.62 mL (25 g H2O)
- Maximum CIP chamber pressure: 14,500 psi (1000 bar)
What is .44 Magnum?
.44 Magnum (10.9x33mmR) is a rimmed, large-bore cartridge originally designed for revolvers and quickly adopted for carbines and rifles.
Despite the “.44” designation, guns chambered for the .44 Magnum round, its parent case, the .44 Special, and its parent case, the .44 Russian all use 0.429 in (10.9 mm) diameter bullets.
The .44 Magnum is based on the .44 Special case but lengthened and loaded to higher pressures for greater velocity and energy.
The .44 Magnum was developed by Remington Arms in the early 1950s and introduced in 1955. It was intended to be a powerful and versatile cartridge for hunting large game, such as deer, elk, and bear. It also became popular for self-defense against dangerous animals, such as mountain lions and brown bears.
The .44 Magnum is a powerful cartridge, but it also has a significant amount of recoil. This can make it difficult to shoot accurately, especially for inexperienced shooters. However, with practice, the .44 Magnum can be a very effective hunting and self-defense cartridge.
- Bullet diameter: .429 inches (10.9 mm)
- Case length: 1.61 inches (41 mm)
- Overall length: 1.79 inches (45.5 mm)
- Rim diameter: .514 inches (13.1 mm)
- Primer: Large pistol
- Maximum pressure: 36,000 psi (250 MPa)
- Velocity: 1,000 to 2,000 fps (305 to 610 m/s), depending on bullet weight and barrel length
Quick 45 Colt vs 44 Magnum Comparison Table
|Characteristic||.45 Long Colt||.44 Magnum|
|Bullet diameter||0.454 inches||0.429 inches|
|Case length||1.280 inches||1.285 inches|
|Overall length||1.600 inches||1.610 inches|
|Muzzle velocity||850-1300 fps||1200-1500 fps|
|Muzzle energy||350-1000 ft-lbs||800-1500 ft-lbs|
|Availability||Widely available||Widely available|
45 Colt vs 44 Magnum – Ballistics and Performance
When comparing the 45 Colt and the 44 Magnum, it is important to consider their ballistics and performance. Both cartridges have their own strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these differences can help determine which one is better suited for a particular use.
1. Muzzle Velocity
The muzzle velocity of a cartridge is the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun. On average, the 44 Magnum has a higher muzzle velocity than the 45 Colt. According to Foundry Outdoors, the average muzzle velocity of a .44 Magnum round is about 1320 feet per second (fps), while the average muzzle velocity of a .45 Colt round is about 1050 fps. This difference in velocity can affect accuracy and stopping power.
2. Muzzle Energy
Muzzle energy is the amount of kinetic energy that a bullet carries when it leaves the barrel. The 44 Magnum has a higher muzzle energy than the 45 Colt due to its larger bullet size and higher velocity. According to Ammunition To Go, the average muzzle energy of a .44 Magnum round is about 971 foot-pounds (ft-lbs), while the average muzzle energy of a .45 Colt round is about 485 ft-lbs. This difference in energy can affect the bullet’s ability to penetrate and stop a target.
Accuracy is an important factor to consider when choosing between the 45 Colt and the 44 Magnum. Both cartridges can be accurate in the hands of a skilled shooter, but the 44 Magnum may have an advantage due to its higher velocity and flatter trajectory. However, the 45 Colt can still be accurate at shorter ranges and may be preferred by some shooters due to its lower recoil.
4. Stopping Power
Stopping power is the ability of a bullet to stop a target. Both the 45 Colt and the 44 Magnum are capable of stopping an attacker, but the 44 Magnum may have an advantage due to its larger bullet size and higher velocity. However, the 45 Colt can still be effective at stopping a target, especially when using a heavier bullet or a hotter load.
45 Colt vs 44 Magnum – Recoil and Handling
When it comes to recoil and handling, both the .45 Colt and .44 Magnum have their pros and cons. The .44 Magnum has a reputation for having a significant recoil, which can be challenging for some shooters to manage. On the other hand, the .45 Colt is known for having a more manageable recoil, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a more comfortable shooting experience.
However, the recoil of both rounds can vary depending on the specific gun and ammunition used. For example, a lightweight revolver chambered in .44 Magnum will have more felt recoil than a heavier gun chambered in the same caliber. Similarly, the type of ammunition used can also affect recoil. A lighter bullet will generally have less recoil than a heavier one.
When it comes to handling, the .45 Colt has a slightly larger diameter than the .44 Magnum, which can make it easier to grip and control. Additionally, the .45 Colt has a lower chamber pressure than the .44 Magnum, which can make it easier to shoot accurately. However, the .44 Magnum has a flatter trajectory and higher velocity, which can make it easier to hit targets at longer distances.
Ultimately, the recoil and handling of both rounds will depend on the specific gun and ammunition used, as well as the shooter’s individual preferences and experience. It is important to test different guns and ammunition to determine which combination works best for each individual shooter.
45 Colt vs 44 Magnum – Ammo Availability and Cost
When it comes to ammo availability and cost, both the .45 Colt and .44 Magnum rounds are widely available and can be found at a relatively affordable price, depending on where and how you purchase. However, the .44 Magnum is generally more expensive than the .45 Colt.
According to Foundry Outdoors, the average cost of a .44 Magnum round is around $1.10 for practice ammo and can run up to $2 or more for hunting and self-defense ammo. On the other hand, the average cost of a .45 Colt round is around $0.75 for practice ammo and can run up to $1.50 or more for hunting and self-defense ammo.
It’s important to note that the availability and cost of both rounds can vary depending on factors such as location, demand, and brand. It’s always a good idea to shop around and compare prices before making a purchase.
45 Colt vs 44 Magnum – Applications and Best Uses
The .45 Colt and .44 Magnum cartridges have a variety of applications and best uses.
The .45 Colt is a classic cartridge that has been used for over a century. It is a versatile round that can be used for hunting, self-defense, and target shooting. The .45 Colt is a great choice for those who prefer a classic revolver cartridge with a lot of history behind it. It is a reliable cartridge that has stood the test of time.
The .44 Magnum is a more powerful cartridge than the .45 Colt. It was originally designed for hunting, but it has become a popular choice for self-defense as well. The .44 Magnum is a great choice for those who want a powerful cartridge that can take down big game or stop an attacker in their tracks.
When it comes to hunting, both the .45 Colt and .44 Magnum are capable cartridges. The .45 Colt is a great choice for hunting smaller game like deer or wild boar. The .44 Magnum is a more powerful cartridge that can take down larger game like elk or bear.
For self-defense, both cartridges are viable options. The .45 Colt has been used for self-defense for over a century and is still a reliable choice today. The .44 Magnum is a more powerful cartridge that can stop an attacker in their tracks. However, the .44 Magnum can be more difficult to control and may not be the best choice for those who are not experienced with firearms.
When it comes to target shooting, both cartridges are popular choices. The .45 Colt is a great choice for those who want a classic revolver cartridge with a lot of history behind it. The .44 Magnum is a more powerful cartridge that can be a lot of fun to shoot, but it can also be more expensive due to the cost of ammunition.
Popular firearms chambered for the .44 Magnum and .45 Colt
Firearms chambered for .44 Magnum
Smith & Wesson Model 29: This iconic revolver gained fame as the “Dirty Harry” gun due to its appearance in the Clint Eastwood movie series. It’s a double-action revolver known for its power and accuracy.
Ruger Redhawk: Ruger’s Redhawk series includes several revolvers chambered in .44 Magnum. They are known for their ruggedness and durability.
Taurus Raging Bull: Taurus offers the Raging Bull series in .44 Magnum. These revolvers are known for their relatively affordable price and solid performance.
Colt Anaconda: The Colt Anaconda is a premium revolver chambered in .44 Magnum. It is highly regarded for its quality and accuracy.
Dan Wesson Model 44: Dan Wesson offers a line of revolvers chambered in .44 Magnum, known for their interchangeable barrels and high accuracy.
Firearms chambered for .45 Colt
Colt Single Action Army (SAA): Also known as the Colt Peacemaker, the Single Action Army is a classic single-action revolver that was originally chambered in .45 Colt. It’s a historically significant firearm and remains popular among enthusiasts.
Ruger Blackhawk: Ruger offers the Blackhawk series in .45 Colt. These single-action revolvers are known for their robust construction and accuracy.
Uberti Cattleman: Uberti produces replicas of the Colt Single Action Army chambered in .45 Colt. These revolvers are known for their attention to detail and historical accuracy.
Taylor’s & Company 1873 Cattleman: Taylor’s & Company offers various versions of the 1873 Cattleman, a replica of the Colt SAA, in .45 Colt.
Taurus Judge: While the Taurus Judge is primarily known for its .410 shotgun chamber, some versions can also fire .45 Colt ammunition, making it a versatile handgun.
Freedom Arms Model 83: Freedom Arms produces high-quality single-action revolvers, including the Model 83, chambered in .45 Colt. These are considered some of the finest production single-action revolvers available.
.44 Magnum and .45 Colt Historical Significance
- Development: The .44 Magnum, also known as the .44 Remington Magnum, was developed in the mid-20th century, specifically in 1955, by Elmer Keith, a firearms enthusiast and writer. It was initially a joint effort between Keith, Bill Jordan, and Smith & Wesson.
- Power and Versatility: The .44 Magnum was a groundbreaking cartridge, known for its exceptional power. It was the most powerful handgun cartridge when it was introduced. This power made it popular for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense.
- Dirty Harry: The .44 Magnum gained iconic status through popular culture, thanks in part to its association with the “Dirty Harry” film series starring Clint Eastwood. In “Dirty Harry” (1971), Eastwood’s character famously wielded a Smith & Wesson Model 29 chambered in .44 Magnum.
- Firearms Development: The development of the .44 Magnum cartridge led to the production of numerous firearms chambered for it. Smith & Wesson’s Model 29 became one of the most well-known revolvers chambered for this cartridge.
- Civil War Era: The .45 Colt, also known as the .45 Long Colt, dates back to the 1870s. It was originally developed for the Colt Single Action Army revolver, which was adopted by the U.S. military in 1873, earning it the nickname “The Peacemaker.”
- Old West: The .45 Colt became synonymous with the American Old West and was widely used by cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws during that era. It played a significant role in the history of the western frontier.
- Military Service: The .45 Colt cartridge was used by the U.S. Army and Cavalry during the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. It was eventually replaced by the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) in military service handguns.
- Modern Revivals: While the .45 Colt saw a decline in military use, it continued to be popular among civilian shooters and hunters. It has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with modern firearms chambered for it, including single-action and double-action revolvers.
45 Colt vs 44 Magnum FAQs
Q: Which is more powerful, 45 Colt or 44 Magnum?
The 44 Magnum is generally considered to be more powerful than the 45 Colt, but the 45 Colt can be loaded quite hot and can push the same weight projectile at the same or higher velocities than the 44 Magnum while operating at a lower pressure.
Q: Can you shoot 45 Colt in a 44 Magnum?
No, you cannot shoot 45 Colt in a 44 Magnum revolver. The two cartridges have different dimensions and are not interchangeable.
Q: What are the pros and cons of 45 Colt vs 44 Magnum?
The 45 Colt is an older cartridge with a lower pressure, making it more suitable for single-action revolvers and lighter loads. The 44 Magnum is a more powerful cartridge that is better suited for larger revolvers and heavier loads.
Q: Which is better for hunting, 45 Colt or 44 Magnum?
The 44 Magnum is generally considered to be better for hunting due to its higher power and heavier loads, but the 45 Colt can also be effective with heavy loads.
Q: What is the effective range of 45 Colt vs 44 Magnum?
The effective range of both cartridges depends on the specific load and firearm, but the 44 Magnum generally has a longer effective range due to its higher velocity and flatter trajectory. The 45 Colt can still be effective at medium ranges, but it may require more skill and practice to shoot accurately at longer distances.
Q: Which is more expensive, 45 Colt or 44 Magnum?
The cost of ammunition for both cartridges can vary depending on the brand and type of ammunition, but in general, the 44 Magnum is more expensive than the 45 Colt due to its higher power and greater demand.
Q: Which has more recoil, 45 Colt or 44 Magnum?
The 44 Magnum has more recoil than the 45 Colt due to its higher power and larger powder charge. The recoil of both cartridges can be managed with proper technique and practice, but the 44 Magnum may require more effort to shoot accurately and comfortably.
Q: Which is more popular, 45 Colt or 44 Magnum?
The 44 Magnum is generally more popular than the 45 Colt due to its higher power and greater versatility. However, the 45 Colt still has a dedicated following among enthusiasts and is often used in Cowboy Action Shooting competitions.
Q: Can you use 44 Magnum brass for 45 Colt?
No, you cannot use 44 Magnum brass for 45 Colt. The two cartridges have different dimensions and are not interchangeable.
After reviewing the various factors and information presented, it is clear that both the 45 Colt and the 44 Magnum have their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the choice between these two cartridges will depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user.
For those who prioritize carry capacity and versatility, the 44 Magnum may be the better choice. It has a higher total load capacity and can be used for a wide range of purposes, from self-defense to hunting.
On the other hand, the 45 Colt may be a more suitable option for those who prioritize accuracy and control. It has a lower recoil and can be easier to handle, making it a good choice for target shooting or for those who may be more sensitive to recoil.
It is important to note that the performance of both cartridges can vary depending on the specific brand and type of ammunition used. It is recommended that users conduct their own testing and research to determine which cartridge is best suited for their needs.
Shelly Jark Drakny is a retired SF weapons sergeant (E-5 or above) with a military occupational specialty (MOS) code 18B. He served 24 years in the military, including assignments in SF, Infantry, and Special Forces.