Gun Shop Story: “What barrel length?”

A good story followed by rambling thoughts:

As I have time, I make regular rounds of local gun shops as do most all firearms aficionados. It usually doesn’t take much of an excuse to head out on these rounds but most recently the reason for shopping was to pick up some ammunition in .44 Remington Magnum.

I was looking in particular for jacketed hollow points, not semi-jacketed or half-jacketed but full-jacket hollow points, preferably between 200 and 240 grains.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to explain to my salesman why I desired such particular construction due to his quick questioning in an attempt to ‘define the needs of the customer’.   By way of explanation, I offer the following recount of the conversation:

Sales: “Hi! Looking for anything today?”

Me: “Hi. Yes. I’m looking for .44 Magnum ammo…”

Sales: “What barrel length?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Sales: “What barrel length is the gun you will use it in?”

Me: “Twenty inches.”

Sales: [Momentary Vapor Lock :grin:] “Sorry?”

Me: “Twenty inches.  It’s for my lever action.”

Sales: “Oh, O.K.”

I went on to explain that I wanted full-jacketed hollow points because they wouldn’t deform as easily in the magazine tube when stacked nose-to-end.  Then, both of us being on the same page, we were able to locate some suitable ammo for me to purchase.  Fiocchi 200gr JHP’s to be exact.

When I asked why the barrel length mattered to him, he told of some new ammo from Speer they had received designed especially for short barrel lightweight revolvers.  Looking at it, the bullet profile seemed normal but the hollow point cavity was so deep that it looked like it was almost drilled through the base of the bullet.  He said this was to reduce weight and therefore recoil while also giving reliable expansion at velocities expected from short barreled revolvers.

Here’s the data from Speer:

Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection – 44 Magnum

Part Number Cartridge Bullet Wt. Bullet Type Box Count Bullet Coefficient
23971 44 Magnum 200 GDHP-SB 20 0.145
Velocity(in feet per second) Energy (in foot pounds)
Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards Muzzle 50 yards 100 yards
1075 994 933 513 439 387
Trajectory if sighted at 25 yards Test Barrel Length in inches Usage
25 yards 50 yards 75 yards 100 yards
0.0 -1.1 -4.5 -10.2 4V 1
Usage Key: 1 = Personal Protection | 2 = Training | 3 = Hunting

By comparison, and roughly equivalent to the .44 SB Gold Dot load, is Speer’s .45 ACP +P [200 gr @ 1080 ft/sec; 518 ft/lbs].

Speer also catalogs a .44 Special load (200 gr@ 875 ft/sec; 340 ft/lbs) and a .44 Magnum hunting load (210 gr @ 1450 ft/sec; 980 ft/lbs)

My thoughts, so far, on the short barrel ammo are:

  1. The Gold Dot line has a well earned reputation for performance and the Short Barrel ammunition line will assuredly continue to uphold that reputation should it be called to defend against predators.
  2. Buying a lightweight  magnum short barrel revolver involves some compromise.  Obviously, increased recoil impulse in trade for ease of carry.
  3. Buying a lightweight magnum short barrel revolver involves diminishing returns with regard of performance if you have to reduce the potency of its chambered cartridge in order to shoot it comfortably (or in this case, less painfully).  Does a hot .45 ACP really equal a .44 Magnum?  Although, I can’t fault Speer in the least.  By producing the SB line, they are facilitating actual utility for those who purchased the Ultra-Light Magnum Snubbies only to find out “Ye canna break the laws o’ physics!”
  4. My rifle weighs more than any handgun but also has ten times the barrel length of a 2″ snubbie. (But then again I don’t wear it on my belt…)
  5. Clint Smith is right when he says “Guns should be more comforting than comfortable.”
  6. On my next outing, I think I’ll have to get some  Speer Gold Dot .45 ACP +P!

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