This Is An Effective Combat Cartridge

SIG SAUER’s 200-grain .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP
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I tested SIG SAUER’s 200-grain .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP cartridge and walked away from this test thinking, “No wonder some of the giants in the defensive-handgun business carry .44 Specials. This is an effective combat cartridge.”

I am a fan of .44 Special. It has roots deep in the black powder era, and yet it is still relevant for this century. Originally, it was a big-bore bullet over an anemic load. Elmer Keith came along and added slower powders and better bullet designs. This was great for overall cartridge design, but it also led to the development of the .44 Magnum, which took the .44 Special out of the limelight altogether. Skeeter Skelton spent more time developing .44 Special loads than I have spent on all of my loads, which says volumes about the potential for this cartridge.

Charter Arms pocket-friendly .44 Bulldog “Boomer.”

Tested And Tested Some More

For most of its life, the .44 Special has been a sort of cult cartridge. Lately, gun makers have been waking up to the lure of the compact big bore. Ruger released the GP100 .44 Special a few years ago, complete with a non-fluted cylinder. Charter Arms produced a pocket-friendly version of their .44 Bulldog called the “Boomer.” The Boomer has a ported, tapered barrel and weighs 20 oz., making it a lightweight tool that produces large holes.

The SIG SAUER .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP cartridges are the most unusual revolver loads I’ve seen. First, the bullet has a longer than usual cylindrical portion before it goes into the taper of the truncated cone. Second, the brass case is shorter than the SAAMI specs. That is, it’s 0.945″, whereas SAAMI specs is 1.165″. Third, the cartridge’s overall length is also shorter than the SAAMI specs (1.340″ as opposed to 1.415″ minimum). Fourth, the precut skives — scores in the bullet which make it expand at a controlled rate — are so subtle, I wonder if all of the work is on the inside of the jacket rather than the outside.

What does this all mean? I have met some of the people at SIG SAUER, and if there is anything I can say about them, they test. After that, they test. When they are done, they test again. They didn’t just make a load and throw it on the market. This product is unique, and it looks like the engineers were on overtime.

SIG SAUER .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP.

The Right Performance

SIG SAUER uses low-flash propellant and nickel cases. For a revolver guy like me, this means I won’t be blinded by my own shots and the spent cartridges will punch out of the cylinder cleanly. I may like standard brass for reloading, but my combat carry cartridges use the advanced lubricity of nickel cases. No matter what, fired cases extract as smoothly as unfired ones.

I didn’t have a short-barreled .44 Special on my range day. Through a 7.5″ barrel, the average velocity was 808 fps. Originally, I tested the SIG SAUER .44 Special with a 2″ barrel, and it does slightly better than 700 fps — as advertised. The one thing I found right away was a relatively low standard deviation. For those familiar with standard deviation, a smaller dispersion of data will generally yield a more accurate cartridge.

I found I could easily send these bullets onto a 25-yard target, and downrange accuracy was a piece of cake for these cartridges. The cartridges shoot more accurately than I do. When I say, “your mileage will vary,” I mean your target will likely look better than mine did, because, hopefully, you are a better shooter. The cartridge was perfectly accurate, despite my poor shooting.

I ran bullets through ballistic gelatin. The .44 Special has known ballistic limitations. It is a low-pressure cartridge, which generally allows it to be low on recoil and easy on guns. In bare gelatin, it flew wonderfully. Several iterations yielded 15″ of penetration, with a full 150% expansion and 100% weight retention. Even in a snubnose, I have had this cartridge penetrate 14″ consistently. As a purely defensive round, this cartridge will give the user the right performance.

Firing barrier tests through tempered glass, there was some jacket separation.

SIG’s V-Crown bullets have a reputation for maximum expansion.

Shopping For A New .44

This is a cannelured bullet, which does help maintain structural integrity when fired into gelatin, but it is not exactly a bonded bullet. When I started firing barrier tests through tempered glass, there was some jacket separation. The penetration was adequate and there was still a measurable wound channel. However, if the target presents itself with an intermediate barrier, I would take this into consideration.

SIG’s V-Crown bullets have a reputation for maximum expansion and the wound cavity from this bullet starts early in the gelatin, delivering all of the cartridge energy within the desired ballistic sweet spot. Though it is not the performer like the .45 ACP, which delivers around 100 foot-pounds more energy given the same weight bullet, it will maximize the .44 Special’s capabilities.

For those who carry the .44 Special as a defensive handgun, the SIG SAUER is a good choice for a pocket gun. SIG SAUER has me shopping for a new .44.

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