44 S&W Russian

Fire Arm






: Marlin 1894s

: 20 inches

: 1:38 inches

: 24 X

: 50 yards

: 10

Click for detailed 44 S&W Russian Tech drawing
Click on figure to access ANSI
technical cartridge drawing
The 44 Smith & Wesson Rusian, a member of the second and last generation of center-fire blackpowder revolver cartridges, designed for use in the S&W Russian-model single action breakdown revolver, initially built for use by the Russian Imperial Army, 1870. Commercialized in 1878, offered in the S&W Colt Bisley single action target revolvers, plus others. Over the ensuing three plus decades, the cartridge earned/developed a reputation for accuracy, setting records in the process. Until being superseded by the 44 Special with its introduction in 1907, besides just being very popular, the Russian was this country's "standard" big-bore revolver target cartridge of choice.

Unlike members of the first generation of center-fire blackpowder revolver cartridges, which were loaded only to 6-8,000 CUP [for use in iron frame pistols], the 44 Russian, a member of the 2nd generation, is loaded to higher pressures (12,000 CUP) for use in steel revolvers. To keep the 44 Russian rounds from being (very destructively) fired in 44 American revolvers, the 44 Russian case is 0.060" longer (0.91" vs 0.97"). The Russian can be fired in 44 Special and 44 Magnum firearms (though long bullet jumps tend to preclude reasonable accuracy).

With the industry's embracing of smokless powders at the turn of the century (1900-1905), the 44 Russian ran into problems. Part of the Russian's popularity stemmed from the extra 100fp of muzzle energy it provided over the 44 American (310fp vs 210fp); but when the Russian was loaded with smokeless powder (less dense by definition) its performance was only on par with the American. The 44 S&W Special was introduced, with a 0.200" longer case, 6gr+ greater capacity, in order to provide 44 Russian performance, with smokeless powder.

If not for the Cowboy Action Shooters of today, and the "rediscovery" of the Russian, the 44 Smith & Wesson Russian would be an obsolete and probably forgotten cartridge. Nominal bullet diameter is .429" (like 44 Special and 44 Magnum). Brass can be purchased commercially, or formed from 44 Special brass. RCBS offers both case forming and reloading dies.

© Copyright Gregory J Mushial 1997-2000