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Oneof the neat things I found out about the 444 rifles and carbines...is if you have 44-40 ammo, and the bullets are sized 428 or more, they will shoot with good accuracy out of the 444s. At the Shootist Holiday 1999...with Winchester 44-40 ammo my Win 444 Bí Shadow would put them into three inches at 100 yards. And they may sound like a wimp loads when you fire them...but the iron silhouettes told a different story...the pigs went down with authority at 100 yards and the full sized deer silhouette rang and shook accordingly at 150 yards. If your 44-40 ammo is sized .426 for the older 44-40s then the accuracy is pretty bad. But we found .428 shot really well.
Ashley Emerson formally of Ashley Outdoors, Inc...was at the shoot and he installed a set of his ĎGhost Ringí back and front sights on this Winchester. We were hitting targets out to over 500 yards with them. If you have ever had second thoughts about peep sights, these will change your mind. And for folks like me that can no longer use barrel mounted iron sights, these Ghost Sights (the company has been sold since then and the sights are called something else now) are giving me back my ability to use open sights instead of scopes on lever guns.
You will find that 444 R-P brass...is very durable. It was designed to be sturdy, and it is. The only little problem I have with it is keeping it trimmed square...I think that may be my resizing die...itís old an it may be sizing unevenly, someday I will get around to checking it...if it is, a few minutes on my lathe will fix it. Todayís new nickel plated dies...or what ever they coat them with, are better then the old tungsten dies. Because tapered cases like the 444 and 45-70 can now be done in hard nickel or chrome or what ever...and lube is not an issue. Bottle necked and tapered case dies couldnít be tungstenized.
Even case mouths actually have a small but noticeable effect on accuracy. The bullets in square mouths seat in alignment more precisely with the bore. My nickeled R-P 444 brass holds 67 grains of water in a fired case...compared to 75 grains in a fired 45-70 case. The 444 case...my measurements average of 10...is 2.23 inches long...the 45-70, again 10 average, are 2.1" long...the 444 is longer by more than a tenth of an inch. The 45-70 rim diameter is .608 and just in front of it .505....the 444's rim is .514 and .471 in front of it. Being a slimmer cartridge gives more steel in the chamber, but unlike handguns the real problem is the leveraction strength of design.
The Marlin is a fine leveraction so Iím not comparing good verses not good. Iím rating strength to withstand pressure over a sustained life time of active shooting with each design. The Marlin is rated at tops 45,000+psi and the Winchester 94 Big Bore (thatís the fatside action, not the common action 94) is rated at 55,000+psi. And thatís a big difference. In animal harvesting that means the Marlin is one of the finest 150-200 yard deer slayers of the leverguns available and an easy taker of elk. A good cool shot can stretch the range over 200 plus yards....and with the right bullet, you could even take moose. It is an excellent backup leveraction at close quarters for big bear country...itís hard to ask for more. And 95% of American shooters donít need more......
BUT there is that 5%. Those are the long range elk/moose/big bear hunters that hunt these beasts like the rest of us hunt deer...all the time. It is also the fella that is planning an African hunting trip with the right loads and bullets will take out dangerous game...and still be useable on plains game. Because most African countries wonít allow more than three guns in. These folks need the added power potential of the Winchester 444 leveraction. Short, powerful, accurate.....it will deliver even 400 grain bullets with power and accuracy beyond 200 yards. And I can make 400 grain plus solids on my lathes... when I go to Africa again next year the 444 Winchester and a variety of loads go with me.
Twenty-five....3 shot groups...with a 325 grain Keith Lyman bullet averaged 1.32 inches at 100 yards using a 6 power scope for testing accuracy. Using ReL #7, 52 grains under this cast bullet at 2250 fps, this is a powerful and accurate load. With a ton and three quarter pounds of muzzle punch...nothing walks that this bullet wonít take and cleanly.. The fast twist of this rifle gave the best accuracy with the jacketed 265 grain softnose...Hornadyís bullet. I got several groups at an inch+ at 100 yards. With 51.5 grains of 4198 (IMR) this bullet breaks the magic 2500 fps and over 3/4 ths of a ton of energy. With a 3 inch high at 100 yards, this Hornady 265 grainer at 2500+ fps is 3 inches high at 150 yards and down only 2.5 inches at 200 and 11 inches down at 250 yards...and that is excellent for a levergun with such power. A good jacketed 300 grainer like the Sierra Sportsmaster JSP (#8630) at 2350 fps using 63.5 grains of H335 has just a bit more drop stats but has just under 3700 lbs of punch at the muzzle. Nest time you have a commercial loading manual open, check the muzzle energy of a heavy loaded 30-06 compared to these 444 loads..... you might be surprised.
Even though there are a number of very good ball powders on the market that will give velocities to this cartridge that just a few years ago were unheard of...the old IMR series like 3031 and 4895 and 4198 are still excellent, especially for the accuracy they give.
The 444 is different then the 45-70, not better than, or less than the 45-70. Different, it has a different character....it can handle up to 350 grain bullets with power. The 45-70 can go above 400 grains but the powder space in the case begins to be a problem. Where the 444 excels in better long range drop figures, the 45-70 has more power...itís a trade off. You the shooter must decide. Personally if I found a levergun that was sweet, fit me well, pointed and carried to suit me...either caliber 444 or 45-70 would make little difference in my buying it. Either one with the right load, will cleanly take any living creature on earth. They would also stop in their tracts Buicks, Landrovers, and Hardpans...what more could we ask for?
444 marlin cartridge.......loads....