Gunfight Friday: .44 Magnum-Carbine Edition

In the old West, your long gun and your revolver were often of the same caliber, and short, handy carbines were a favorite saddle gun. Only a few of us still need a saddle gun anymore, but many people still enjoy shooting and hunting with carbine-type rifles. We’ve got two today—both chambered for the .44 magnum. One is a semiauto Ruger, the other, a lever-action Marlin. Ruger made the 44 Carbine in a few different styles between 1959 and 1985, all of which had a four-round rotary magazine. Marlin has been making the 1894 since, well, 1894, but the .44 magnum version dates to 1969.

Forty-four-magnum ammunition runs through a carbine-length barrel that achieves velocities 400-500 fps., which is faster than you get from a typical revolver. That increase in speed doubles bullet energy and makes the .44 magnum an effective 100-yard deer cartridge in a carbine.

Tim Flannery's 1894 Marlin

My wife bought this for me for my first birthday back from an overseas tour. It hasn’t seen any sporting use, but I used it a lot as a truck rifle on my father-in-law’s ranch. We had a problem with feral dogs. It is on the top of the list to use on a mountain lion hunt I’m considering. It has a 10-round capacity, no hammer safety, and Micro-Groove rifling. I know the rifling is debatable, but I’ve never had a problem. It’s a very light, handy rifle.

Tee-Bone's Model 44

I purchased this mid-60s vintage rifle about 12 years ago while living in Louisiana, aiming to put together a lightweight, fast-handling rifle for hogs and deer. At the time, intermediate eye relief scopes were all the rage, so I found a local gunsmith to fit a pair of lightweight bases to the barrel. It works well while confined to a treestand, especially when shots are required from awkward positions. Young shooters also do well with the rifle, perhaps because of the relative ease in finding and lining up the crosshairs despite a long (for them) length of pull. The light recoil helps, too. Not much else to say, except that the .44 magnum cartridge fired from a rifle barrel is a real thumper. My chronograph shows velocities averaging 1680 fps with premium 250-grain factory loads, a significant boost over .44 revolver speeds. Accuracy at 100 yards is about what you might expect from a short carbine, hovering around 3 to 4 inches, which is certainly adequate for close-in shooting. What a shame that this rifle is no longer offered. Thankfully they aren't too hard to find—for now anyway.

Thanks to frequent contributors Tim and Tee-Bone for these two rifles. Vote, comment below, and please keep the gun pictures coming to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.

Which gun do you like better?

Tim Flannery’s 1894 Marlin

Tee-Bone’s Model 44

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