I know what some of you might be thinking, ’44 magnum rifles?’ Yep, you’ve read that correctly. It may surprise some, but the use of pistol calibers in rifles has a long history going back to the 19th Century.
Rifles chambered in 44 mag can be found today manufactured by Winchester, Henry, Ruger, CVA, Rossi, and Chiappa in bolt, single shot, and lever actions.
Invented by Elmer Keith in 1955, the 44 is a popular choice today and has a solid reputation that goes well beyond Eastwood’s movie. Hunting with it has some challenges though. A typical 44 round out of a pistol is about 1050 ft-lbs of energy out the muzzle, give or take. Meanwhile, the 308, considered ‘small’ by many hunters, has around 2800 ft-lbs of energy.
On top of that, the 44’s flat-nosed bullets are less aerodynamic and quickly run out of steam after leaving the barrel. This limits the effective range of the 44 mag to around 50 yards when shot out of a pistol, though admittedly that has as much to do with accuracy as it does energy. Meanwhile, the 308 can engage large game out to 500 yards.
It’s for this reason that the rifle chambered in a pistol caliber is a popular choice with modern hunters. The longer barrel and the rifle platform itself not only make the 44-mag far more accurate than a pistol, but it can extend its effective range. A 100 yard ethical shot on a deer is possible, and in many places, most shots will be well under that range.
Additionally, ten US states prohibit the use of centerfire rifles for their general hunting season. There are other options out there including muzzleloaders and slug guns, but straight-wall pistol cartridges have been a popular choice too. Whether you hunt in one of these states or just want a unique gun to add to your collection, here are seven 44 magnum rifles currently in production:
1. Winchester Model 1892 $1130
While obviously not originally chambered in the 44 magnum since it didn’t exist back then, the 1892 has proven the test of time as a popular choice for those looking to have a rifle that compliments their pistol. Several varieties of the 1892 are chambered in the 44 giving buyers plenty of choices. Short barrels, long barrels, big loops, small loops, and even a take-down option.
Expect to pay about $1,500 for one of these. True, a Winchester isn’t cheap, but it’s also a Winchester repeating rifle. Hard to argue with that history!
2. Henry Big Boy $950
Does the phrase ‘repeating rifle’ appeal to you but ‘Winchester’ gives you too much sticker shock? Then one of the best alternatives out there is the Henry USA. Specifically, their ‘Big Boy’ line of rifles have many options chambered in 44 magnum. Truth be told there are so many options out there that I’ve opted to just put in a link to the basic version.
The fact is, Henry has a lot of options out there for the 44 magnum shooter and unlike modern Winchester, Henry is an independent American company. The good news doesn’t stop there, because Henry also makes one of my favorites:
3. Henry Single Shot $525
Okay, I’ll admit that the 44 isn’t my first choice when presented with actual rifle cartridges like the 243 and the 308, but the Henry Single Shot also comes in 44 magnum and for someone looking for a really simple, good looking gun, this is the ticket. You’ll have to make that shot count, but it’s hard to argue with the advantages of a short, lightweight rifle when stalking the woods.
This is a perfect option for kids too, especially those just moving up beyond the BB guns and 22’s. Not only is the break-open design simple and safe, but the 44 magnum has very low recoil for the mass of the bullet with about 10-11 ft-lbs being about average. A 45-70 has comparable bullet mass, but doubling the speed makes the recoil 35-38 ft-lbs!
4. CVA Scout $394
CVA is a sister company to Bergara, both being owned by BPI Outdoors. This is a great thing because CVA’s barrels are made in Bergara, Spain in the same factory as the mid-range hunting rifles many people seem to love. This little single shot is cheap, accurate, and disassembles easily, making it a perfect backpacking or survival rifle. The only downside is that a scope is necessary, there are no open sights.
However, CVA does offer this rifle in both stainless and blued options and the long, flat-profile barrel would make mounting iron sights a simple task. Even if it isn’t as handsome as the Henry, this single shot is a hard value to beat.
Most hunters these days are far more comfortable with a bolt-action rifle. Luckily, Ruger makes just the gun for those looking to have a more standard hunting rifle chambered in 44 mag. These short rifles only hold 4 rounds in the magazine, and the composite stock version weighs just over 5 lbs, light as a feather!
It’s good to see Ruger making a solid, high-quality option for hunters that want a bigger capacity than a single shot but don’t want a lever gun for their hunting situation.
Chiappa is a ‘copycat’ rifle company making alternatives to Winchester’s offerings. In this case, we have another 1892 pattern rifle but with a twist. While Winchester is all about the fine-grained wood stocks and the limited edition runs of their classic rifles, Chiappa’s wildland’s 1892 is more in the spirit of what a lever action is used in, rough and tumble environments that are sure to leave a mark over time.
With a Cerakote finish and laminate wood stock, the Wildlands models have a distinct advantage over their more handsome competition and are a fair-bit sturdier than the CVA scout. About the only rifle on this list that is built for similar environments is Ruger’s stainless 77/44 which might be cheaper but lacks that lever-action look.
Another copycat of the popular 1892 pattern, the Rossi R92 has a more traditionalist look compared to the Chiappa Wildlands. There isn’t too much to say about this rifle other than if you wanted something that looks and feels like a Winchester but doesn’t carry the brand name then this would be the rifle for you.
That being said, this isn’t just some cheap knock-off. The Rossi is known to have a smooth action, fantastic fit and finish, and is plenty accurate. The Rossi exists because Winchester could make a cheap rifle but they choose not to. The name still means something in the 21st Century, though names like Rossi are gaining a reputation of their own.
Folks, there you have it. Two single shots, a bolt action, and four lever guns are sure to satisfy whatever requirements you have for a 44 magnum rifle. A couple of others I wanted to mention that are no longer in production are the Ruger 44 semi-automatic carbine and the Rossi ‘Circuit Judge’ 44 mag. Both are unique firearms that may be worth a look if none of these new options appeal to you.