When one thinks of guns chambered for the iconic .44 Magnum cartridge, one typically thinks of revolvers such as the Smith & Wesson Model 29 – thanks to Dirty Harry – and the Ruger Redhawk, as well as semiautomatic pistols such as the Desert Eagle and the now-defunct .44 AutoMag (another one made famous by the Dirty Harry character, as well as Mack Bolan from The Executioner action-adventure novel series).
However, all of these guns can be a tad on the pricey side. Fortunately for those budget-conscious shooters, there’s a less expensive alternative (for revolver aficionados, anyway): the Taurus M44.
Origins and Specifications
The Taurus M44 is manufactured by Taurus Armas S.A. (previously known as Forjas Taurus S.A.), headquartered in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, with its U.S. plant located in Bainbridge, Georgia.
One thing you’ll notice upon looking at an M44 – or any other Taurus double-action wheelgun for that matter – is the cosmetic resemblance to Smith & Wesson double-action revolvers; for example, Taurus wheelies use the S&W push-forward style of cylinder release latch as opposed to the Colt-style pullback cylinder release or the Ruger pushbutton release. That’s no accident, nor is it outright plagiarism. “Mike” (just plain Mike; no surname listed on his author page) of Sniper Country explains:
“(W)hy do they look like Smith and Wessons? Can’t S&W sue them? The answer to those questions concerns parent company ownership. In 1970, Smith and Wesson™s parent company, Bangor Punta, purchased 54% of Forjas (Forge) Taurus. This allowed the sharing of designs, machines, ideas and other aspects of firearms manufacture. This arrangement continued until 1977, when the current owners bought Taurus and severed the S&W relationship. That is why Taurus revolvers tend to look like Smith and Wessons. It is important to point out that the flow of ideas was not only one-way. Taurus helped Smith and Wesson, with their engineering practices and designs as well as the other way around.”
The gun debuted way back circa 1997. The manufacturer currently offers the weapon in barrel lengths of 4, 6.5, and 8 3/8 inches; empty weights are 45, 52, and 5 ounces respectively. According to “Mike,” the average weight of the trigger pull is 7 pounds, 10 ounces in double-action mode, and 3 pounds, 11 ounces in single-action.
My Personal Shooting Impressions of the Taurus M44
I bought a used Taurus M44—the 8 3/8” bbl. option – at a gun shop in Bismarck, North Dakota back when I was a mere lowly humble E-3/Airman 1st Class stationed at Minot AFB. (That’s right, I wore an enlisted man’s stripes before selling my soul to The Dark Side of The Force). I don’t know how many rounds had been fired through it by the previous owner, and I lost track of the number of Magnum and .44 Special rounds I fired through the piece over the next eight years. But boy, she sure was sooooo much fun to shoot.
While the trigger pull wasn’t as smooth as that of a genuine Smith, or a Colt or Ruger wheelgun for that matter, it was more than sufficient to enable easy head shot accuracy at 7 yards and center-torso shots at 15 and 25 yards. And even though the recoil was substantive, it was also offset by a combination of the heavy weight, the barrel length, the rubber grips, and the factory barrel porting. The recoil was tamped down enough that multiple small-statured female shooting buddies of mine could fire it comfortably.
Just for the fun of it, I even used the gun in a few IDPA-style (though not officially IDPA-sanctioned) competitive handgun matches at Belleville Shooting Range in Belleville, Illinois, even though the extra recoil would most assuredly slow my completion times vis-à-vis my fellow shooters. The MagTech 180-grain jacketed softpoint loads produced an especially impressive muzzle flash and report.
There was just one downside to the M44 when I first bought her: light firing strikes on the cartridge primers in double-action mode, which led to a failure to fire roughly 25 to 33 percent of the time, thus requiring a second primer strike to initiate cartridge ignition. Mind you, no such misfires occurred in single-action mode; as my then-CCW instructor explains to me, that’s because the hammer fall traveled farther in single-action and thus generated more momentum.
Luckily, even though I’d bought the gun secondhand and therefore Taurus didn’t make a profit off of it, the manufacturer still had me covered under the Lifetime Repair Warranty; when Taurus says “Lifetime Warranty,” they do indeed mean the lifetime of the gun and not the owner. Within a few short weeks, they had the revolver back to me and working good as new. Fast forward to 2009, and the gun suffered from a failed hammer spring. This time Taurus honored the warranty by sending me an entirely new gun!! The only downside was that the new specimen was a mere 6.5-incher. It was still fun, but not quite the same as the bigger behemoth, so I sold that one just before my first Iraq deployment back in 2011.
Bottom Line: Pros and Cons
On the one hand, the fact that I had the send in the gun for repair twice in 10 years makes me a tad hesitant to recommend the Taurus M44. But on the other hand, I have to remind myself that this wasn’t a Timex-like Ruger, any gun will show signs of wear and tear if you put it through enough use and abuse. The fact that on both occasions the manufacturer honored the warranty without any ifs, ands, or buts is a true testament to their commitment to customer service.
What’s more, I’ve read encouraging reports that Taurus has also improved its quality control in recent years. Therefore, I still recommend the gun, although admittedly with a tad bit of reservation.
Bonus Photo Essay: Meet Taurus
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.