We have observed, with concern, the introduction of super lightweight and/or super short-barreled 44 Magnum revolvers.  This parallels the ammunition industry’s continual movement towards more power and heavier bullets, especially in 44 Magnum, and is creating performance limitations that need to be understood by 44 Magnum handgunners. 

Of greatest concern to us are the new lightweight guns with exceptionally short barrels, such as the S&W 44 Magnum Night Guard.  The Night Guard is very lightweight and, as a consequence, offers greatly increased recoil.  This extra recoil presents a considerable obstacle for the handgunner to overcome in order to be proficient with this firearm, if it is to be reasonably carried for defensive use in grizzly country.  Also, the extremely short barrel of the Night Guard significantly reduces the velocity produced by high performance ammo, when compared to guns of conventional barrel lengths, and this reduces the impact performance of the ammo.  When one combines greatly increased recoil, which always slows recovery time if follow-up shots are required, with reduced velocity, one has taken a definite step down in overall revolver performance which could, under critical circumstances, lead to a failure to perform with adequate lethality. 

Also of concern to us is the Ruger Alaskan 44 Magnum revolver.  Although very strong, this revolver has an extremely short barrel, which produces greatly reduced velocity with high performance ammo, and also produces tremendous muzzle flash and recoil.  Given the Alaskan’s considerable strength, possessing the same frame and cylinder as its longer-barreled brethren, it is clearly “strong enough” to easily handle our most potent 44 Magnum Ammo and other 44 Magnum cartridges loaded to similar power levels, but to do so is to subject oneself to a level of recoil the majority of shooters will find impossible to control.   

The only answer to the problems presented by super lightweight revolvers and/or super short-barreled revolvers seems to be firing reduced-power loads, which may not, when fired from extremely short barrels (less than 4-inches), provide the performance one expects, or requires, from the 44 Magnum revolver when used as a defensive weapon in the deep woods.

- Randy Garrett