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444 MARLIN&WIN

THE OTHER GREAT BONE CRUSHER

It was getting dark, actually it was a darkening dusk...I willed it too slow down, with all I had. Because from my perch in the hillside looking down on a small lake, I could see the left side of a dark elk shape, under a tree...I could see one of his horns...it had five points, mayhaps more ring points but the 4 power scope wasnít doing that well with small characteristics especially in the failing dusk. I was sitting and really hunkered down, pulling the big Marlin leveraction 444 SS into my shoulder. It was obvious he wasnít going to water till it was dark. It was now or never. I figured where his shoulder lung area in the almost black silhouette should be and squeezed the shot off. The 250 grain Keith cast bullet/heat treated 1 in 20 and nose detempered, at 2485 fps muzzle velocity and over 3400 ft.lbs of energy was probably still doing 2000 plus fps at the 150 yards he was standing. It struck within 3 inches of where I wanted it to. Approximately 2200 pounds of striking energy....

He bolted blindly, since he was facing the water, thatís where he went down. I was happy at the fast and clean harvesting of this fine animal...but dangit! Not in WATER! But that was to be only my first disappointment. When my partner and I got down to him with the 4 wheel lights shining on only his rump sticking up out of the water, we lifted his head from under the water...One Horn! It had six points....

We made camp in the dark, and took lots of time cutting him up in the lights of the Ford 4X P/U. The next morning we made the trip out of the area to the logging roads, with difficulty because of all the extra weight. The good part was...he was the best tasting bull elk I have had up to that point. But the point of the story is the 444 and itís performance. The 250 grain Keith broke the leg where it is right below the shoulder, tore thru all kinds of arteries and main veins, thru the low lungs and out the low rib cage on the other side...a fifty cent size wound channel to start half way and tapering down to a quarter size and two inch exit. He was most likely about 550 lbs live weight. If the light had been good and he had been further from the gun would I have taken him? You bet all the way out to 250 plus yards.

The 444 is that kind of round. That was in 1979, my opinion in twenty plus years the 444 hasnít changed. I have owned 444s since Marlin came out with them in the late 1960s. And now have Winchesterís Big Bore, Black Shadow in the same chambering. Marlin actually brought out the 444, before they reissued the 45-70. Yes the rifling pitch was slow in the older guns....no it never bothered me. The killer jacketed bullet for this bore back then was the 265 grain flat soft nose. At 2400 fps, my old notes tell me it shot into 1.5 inches at 100 yards. That was with 61/H335...the 250 grain Keith over 63.5 grains of the same powder is the 2485 fps load. That old Marlin had a 22 inch barrel.

When I thought I had the 444 all figured out, and tested, and game proved...Winchester tosses us a curve. Winchester brought out two versions of the 444 on the fatside Ď94 Big Bore. One is the Black Shadow with a synthetic stocks...and the other with wood. My synthetic stock B/Shadow has a 1 In 12 twist...wow does it like long heavy bullets, now the others have a 1 in 20 twist. The first several hundred Black Shadow 444s were fitted with 1 in 12 rifling... Iím not sure why Winchester then went to 1 in 20. Also the Big Bore 94 Winchester action is a lot stronger then the Marlin SS. Marlin has to have pressure around 40,000 to 45,000+lbs where the Winchester BB can go substantially higher 50,000 to 55,000 lbs. Might be a curve thrown by Winchester but it is a nice curve...

In my Winchester 444, I can load the Keith 250 grainer to almost 2600 fps and almost 4000 lbs of muzzle energy. For very large game I load the 300 grain JSP to 2426 fps and over 3900 lbs of muzzle energy. I use Freedom Arms 300 grain jacket bullets, they are performers to the Níth degree. I have two precious boxes of them left. These are the Winchester loads now not Marlin...they will lock up a Marlin, and you will have to drop the lever out of the action and tap the bolt out with a rod. When you use the load chart be sure you watch which loads go with which gun...and remember what I always preach...these are my guns...they are top loads. If you want to duplicate them..start well below and work up...every gun is different. Guns are expensive, and hands are irreplaceable, please donít damage either.

One of 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....

RIFLE

LOAD DATA

BULLET WT.& MAKE

VELOCITY & M. E.

comments

Win/mod.94

52gr/ReL#7

250 Keith/HC

2349v/3063p

medium load

" " "

54gr/ReL#7

250 Keith/HC

2470v/3388p

good load

WIN.ONLY

52gr/4198

250 Keith/HC

2660v/3928p

excell/load**

" " "

Marlin Ď95

warmM/medW

63.5gr/335 43gr/2400

250 Keith/HC 250 Keith/HC

2 v/3430 lb 2407v/3216p

medium load

in BB

50gr/ReL#7

300 JSP/FA

2235v/3328 lb

medium load

" " "

50gr/ReL#7

300 XTP/Horn

2188v/3190 lb

good load

" " "

57gr/335

300 JSP/FA

2220/3300lb

medium load

" " "

57gr/335

300XTP/Horn

2195/3210 lb

medium load

" " "

 

WW/44-40

912v/370p

light load

" " "

 

RP/44-40

895v/356p

light load

Marlin Ď95

47gr/Rel#7

310grKeithHC

2226v/3411p

medium load

" "

34.5gr/2400

" "

2000v/2754p

v/med load

Win.í94

55gr/335

" "

2162v/3218p

medium load

" "

55gr/335

300 JSP/FA

2212v/3260p

fair load

" "

63.5/335

300 JSP/FA

2426v/3921

Excell/load

 

 

 

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