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Thread: .44 Magnum: Dirty Harry Style

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    .44 Magnum: Dirty Harry Style

    Happy New Year!

    "This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. It can take your head clean off. You've got to ask yourself one question, Do I feel lucky?"
    Dirty Harry Callahan clearly knows how to intimidate. But was he lying or telling the truth?

    Of course, we know that there are more powerful handguns: that is not the issue. The "perp" didn't care about that.

    In "Magnum Force" Harry claims to be loading his .44 with "light Special" ammo. He says "This size gun it gives you better control and less recoil than a .357 Magnum with wadcutters." Fair enough.

    Can you take a "perps" head "clean off" with a .44 magnum loaded with "light Special" ammo, or just make a big hole in it?




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    Campaign Veteran Cavalryman's Avatar
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    His comment about the ammo he loaded with was in the context of a police handgun competition. I don't know if we were supposed to assume that he used the same ammo on the street. Regardless, at the range of a few feet, a .44 special would badly mangle a human head -- not as badly as a magnum load, but still impressively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavalryman View Post
    His comment about the ammo he loaded with was in the context of a police handgun competition. I don't know if we were supposed to assume that he used the same ammo on the street. Regardless, at the range of a few feet, a .44 special would badly mangle a human head -- not as badly as a magnum load, but still impressively.
    "Badly mangle" is not the same as "clean off."

    I say that is one vote for Harry lies.
    Last edited by The Donkey; 01-01-2011 at 11:55 PM.

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    Regular Member oak1971's Avatar
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    I like it so much I have 3 Smith 629's

    In God I trust. Everyone else needs to keep your hands where I can see them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Donkey View Post
    SNIP .44 with "light Special" ammo.
    As with most professionals, Harry used a lot of jargon. The full term for the cartridge is: .44 Rem. Mag. Liberal Light Special.

    Developed in the late 1960's as a wildcat cartridge, the Rem Mag designation was kept only as an acknowledgement to the originators of the .44 Rem Mag. Remington played no part in the wildcat development.

    The short story is that a few serious big caliber handgunners recognized that liberals were rather light on brains. They also recognized the similarity between criminals and liberals who both used threats of force to coerce people into giving up their earnings for the robbers' prefered spending habits.

    So, they set out to make a new cartridge, knowing that if it worked on liberals, it would also work on criminals. The desired characteristics were lower recoil but with decapitation still a near certainty for the intended class of target.

    Although the original reloaders and buyers have all passed on now, there may still be a few boxes floating around. It is widely believed that the possibility of a few boxes remaining is the real reason for Kalifornia's hysterical desire to fingerprint for all ammo purchases today, and previous attempts to microprint.

    (The above commentary is intended as biting humor. Shooting liberals is to be condemned, illegal, and a waste of perfectly good ammunition. None of the above commentary is true, except the part about the similarity between liberals and criminals.)
    Last edited by Citizen; 01-02-2011 at 01:21 AM.

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    Regular Member Freedom First's Avatar
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    Cool A bit compulsive are we?

    Quote Originally Posted by oak1971 View Post
    I like it so much I have 3 Smith 629's

    Woof. Have you OCed them all at the same time? Serious pucker factor for the bad guys!
    Freedom can never be lost, only given away by ignorance, by choice, or at the point of a gun. Here in America we can still choose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen View Post
    As with most professionals, Harry used a lot of jargon. The full term for the cartridge is: .44 Rem. Mag. Liberal Light Special.

    Developed in the late 1960's as a wildcat cartridge, the Rem Mag designation was kept only as an acknowledgement to the originators of the .44 Rem Mag. Remington played no part in the wildcat development.

    The short story is that a few serious big caliber handgunners recognized that liberals were rather light on brains. They also recognized the similarity between criminals and liberals who both used threats of force to coerce people into giving up their earnings for the robbers' prefered spending habits.

    So, they set out to make a new cartridge, knowing that if it worked on liberals, it would also work on criminals. The desired characteristics were lower recoil but with decapitation still a near certainty for the intended class of target.

    Although the original reloaders and buyers have all passed on now, there may still be a few boxes floating around. It is widely believed that the possibility of a few boxes remaining is the real reason for Kalifornia's hysterical desire to fingerprint for all ammo purchases today, and previous attempts to microprint.

    (The above commentary is intended as biting humor. Shooting liberals is to be condemned, illegal, and a waste of perfectly good ammunition. None of the above commentary is true, except the part about the similarity between liberals and criminals.)

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    Regular Member rotorhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Donkey View Post
    Happy New Year!



    Dirty Harry Callahan clearly knows how to intimidate. But was he lying or telling the truth?

    Of course, we know that there are more powerful handguns: that is not the issue. The "perp" didn't care about that.

    In "Magnum Force" Harry claims to be loading his .44 with "light Special" ammo. He says "This size gun it gives you better control and less recoil than a .357 Magnum with wadcutters." Fair enough.

    Can you take a "perps" head "clean off" with a .44 magnum loaded with "light Special" ammo, or just make a big hole in it?




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    Sounds like a context issue where you are possibly mixing up the time line here, creating a false ground in which to base your questions.

    The famous comment was made in the original "Dirty Harry" movie released when...somewhere around 1971-72? I'm winging it here, so allow for my missing a year or two without looking up the release date...

    Was the S&W .44 Mag the most powerful handgun in the world at the time of the release of that movie? This I believe is the true question. Again, I haven't looked it up yet, but I'm pretty sure it's fairly accurate because I don't think the .50 cal was released yet, or at least not on a wide scale basis to consumers or even available to be issued to the SF Police Department's Homicide Division Inspectors as a service revolver.

    The second question was blended into your first, and doesn't fit the context of the original question. You reference a subsequent movie in the series, "Magnum Force" where Harry states basically that he is toning down his ammo for the range competition. This would be enough to reasonably assume that when he made the original statement in the first movie, he was not using the "light special" ammo when he famously declared that it would "blow your head clean off".

    Therefore, your question of could one blow someones head clean off with "light special" ammo is moot, as one can reasonably assume that Harry's gun in the opening scenes of the original "Dirty Harry" was not loaded with "light special" ammo.

    The real questions here are:

    1. Was the S&W .44 Mag the most powerful handgun in the world as claimed, at the time of the statement?

    2. Could a regular, full .44 Magnum round "blow your head clean off" as claimed?

    My answers would be:

    1. Not sure.

    2. I'm not going to volunteer my coconut to find out.

    ***Disclaimer***

    The above commentary is a result of me being extremely bored due to my position of being on the third day of a three day holiday weekend and should be construed as being complete and total BS, and is to be used as entertainment purposes only. I deny all responsibility if this thread turns out to be filled with little Johnny Forensic Scientists offering their opinions as to the validity of my mostly fictional claims. I am not a ballistics expert, nor do I clam any higher knowledge about the subject above and beyond what I've learned from watching cool shows like CSI and Cops.

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    Thumbs up

    My buddy has a Colt Python 357 also one of Callahan's fav's. It's a really sweet shooter and is also a really beautiful gun. Also note a great Eastwood quote..."Gun control? Yeah, if there's a gun around I want to be in control of it". Quote is from a Q&E, not a movie script.
    Last edited by ZO6Vettever; 01-02-2011 at 01:43 PM.

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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    The .44 Magnum was not the most powerful handgun in 1971 since there were wildcat guns and loads being made at the time as well as a few specialty single shot guns for specific use. However for general purpose use, which means primarily hunting, the .44 Magnum was pretty much the supreme cartridge at the time. And very good at this task.

    Will it "blow your head clean off".... I hardly think so. It is going to produce a fairly massive wound and certainly mess up someone's day. but head decapitation? I don't think so.

    As for the Colt Python, Dirty Harry only used this gun one time as memory recalls ("Magnum Force"), and he borrowed it from David Soul's character. It was not one of his favorites. Too bad, it's a fine piece.

    And finally, Clint Eastwood apparently does not know much about handguns or shooting them based upon numerous scenes of same. Notice how he uses his support hand.... WHEN HE USES IT AT ALL. Not exactly correct. If he knew more, or was of a mind to present himself better, he would have assumed the proper hold of his revolver. And he could easily have done this since he owned the production company.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

    America First!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernBoy View Post
    The .44 Magnum was not the most powerful handgun in 1971 since there were wildcat guns and loads being made at the time as well as a few specialty single shot guns for specific use. However for general purpose use, which means primarily hunting, the .44 Magnum was pretty much the supreme cartridge at the time. And very good at this task.

    Will it "blow your head clean off".... I hardly think so. It is going to produce a fairly massive wound and certainly mess up someone's day. but head decapitation? I don't think so.

    As for the Colt Python, Dirty Harry only used this gun one time as memory recalls ("Magnum Force"), and he borrowed it from David Soul's character. It was not one of his favorites. Too bad, it's a fine piece.

    And finally, Clint Eastwood apparently does not know much about handguns or shooting them based upon numerous scenes of same. Notice how he uses his support hand.... WHEN HE USES IT AT ALL. Not exactly correct. If he knew more, or was of a mind to present himself better, he would have assumed the proper hold of his revolver. And he could easily have done this since he owned the production company.
    If you go a bit older, ladies and gentlemen, the Webley .455:

    http://www.buymilsurp.com/british-we...er-p-4931.html

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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Donkey View Post
    If you go a bit older, ladies and gentlemen, the Webley .455:

    http://www.buymilsurp.com/british-we...er-p-4931.html
    I seriously doubt the Webley was in the same league as the .357 Magnum, let alone the .44 Magnum. Hard to imagine Keith would have allowed that to happen.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

    America First!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernBoy View Post
    I seriously doubt the Webley was in the same league as the .357 Magnum, let alone the .44 Magnum. Hard to imagine Keith would have allowed that to happen.
    OK, OK. Top this then:

    http://www.wildeyguns.com/about.html

    The .475 Wildey Magnum: Charles Bronson style.

    And I am pretty sure even THAT would not blow a man's head "clean off."
    Last edited by The Donkey; 01-03-2011 at 01:23 AM.

  14. #14
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    to carry a gun of that size i would expect you would carefully review all the dirty harry movies first, and know all the sayings and mannerisms by heart (heh-heh).

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    Quote Originally Posted by McX View Post
    to carry a gun of that size i would expect you would carefully review all the dirty harry movies first, and know all the sayings and mannerisms by heart (heh-heh).
    How about these quotes by Paul Kersey in Death Wish III:

    "A .475 Wildey magnum is a shorter version of the African big game cartridge, it makes a real mess."
    Understated, accurate . . .

    "I'm going out for some ice cream... this is America, isn't it?"
    Yes it is!

    "It's like killing roaches - you have to kill 'em all, otherwise what's the use?"
    Ah, and therein lies the problem: Paul unquestionably has the better gun, but lacks adequate respect for the human race.

    Harry Callahan and Paul Kersey: both big disappointments.

    Now Rooster Cogburn, on the other hand . . . .

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065126/quotes?qt0440787

    Last edited by The Donkey; 01-03-2011 at 08:51 AM.

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    The 454 casull, developed in 1957, was more powerful than the 44 Mag. This cartridge was not a wildcat, factory ammo was available before 1972, the release of the first dirty harry movie.

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    I don't think any of them will blow your head clean off, certainly not the 44's. I do load my Taurus Titanium frame 44 Mag with light Magnum loads because it's hard to make followup shots with full house loads.

    This is what it looks like with the same loads I carry in everything else. BTW that Kennys shooting it while I film He didn't want to do it twice.

    Last edited by peter nap; 01-12-2011 at 09:43 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    I don't think any of them will blow your head clean off, certainly not the 44's. I do load my Taurus Titanium frame 44 Mag with light Magnum loads because it's hard to make followup shots with full house loads.

    This is what it looks like with the same loads I carry in everything else. BTW that Kennys shooting it while I film He didn't want to do it twice.

    Gee, Peter. How did you catch the bullet in mid-air like that?


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    Quote Originally Posted by The Donkey View Post
    Gee, Peter. How did you catch the bullet in mid-air like that?

    The magic of After Effects.
    I actually put that together for a video I was working on, but was too cheesy to use. You didn't notice the big mistake.

    All I had in 44 were cast Keith style bullets so I used a 45 instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by c45man View Post
    The 454 casull, developed in 1957, was more powerful than the 44 Mag. This cartridge was not a wildcat, factory ammo was available before 1972, the release of the first dirty harry movie.
    I was under the impression the .454 Casull Magnum was introduced in 1972. I have an issue of Guns & Ammo which has it featured in a gun test. Quite impressive at 2000 fps and 2100 ft/lbs of energy as I recall (I'm not going to go down into my basement to did up the magazine for this). And yes, it was more powerful than the .44 Magnum by a good margin. It used a tri-plex load behind a 300gr bullet as memory serves.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

    America First!

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernBoy View Post
    I was under the impression the .454 Casull Magnum was introduced in 1972. I have an issue of Guns & Ammo which has it featured in a gun test. Quite impressive at 2000 fps and 2100 ft/lbs of energy as I recall (I'm not going to go down into my basement to did up the magazine for this). And yes, it was more powerful than the .44 Magnum by a good margin. It used a tri-plex load behind a 300gr bullet as memory serves.
    I think your right SB.
    The 44 Mag isn't the awesome powerhouse it's made out to be. It really isn't much more powerful than the 30/30 which is considered minimum for Deer in many circles.

    It is a very versatile cartridge though.

    The Casull is more powerful and you can shoot 45lc in it. I love the 45 but accuracy falls off in the Casull chamber though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    I think your right SB.
    The 44 Mag isn't the awesome powerhouse it's made out to be. It really isn't much more powerful than the 30/30 which is considered minimum for Deer in many circles.

    It is a very versatile cartridge though.

    The Casull is more powerful and you can shoot 45lc in it. I love the 45 but accuracy falls off in the Casull chamber though.
    If I was staring at some 700lb toothy critter, I would choose the .44 over the .30-30 anyday.
    I find it kind of annoying that many people (I'm not saying you're one of them, Peter) only consider energy figures when looking at how effective or powerful a cartridge is. There is way more to the picture. If energy is the only criteria then the .30-30 is a better cartridge for killing buffalo than the old 400 and 500 grain .45-70 loads that the buffalo hunters used. I think they'd laugh at the notion.
    The .30-30 has about as much muzzle energy as a .454 Casull, but I wonder how many of Africa's big 5 could be safely taken with a .30-30... The .454, .475, and even the .44 Mag have accounted for quite a few.

    Sorry, I guess that was a bit of a rant.

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stickbow95 View Post
    If I was staring at some 700lb toothy critter, I would choose the .44 over the .30-30 anyday.
    I find it kind of annoying that many people (I'm not saying you're one of them, Peter) only consider energy figures when looking at how effective or powerful a cartridge is. There is way more to the picture. If energy is the only criteria then the .30-30 is a better cartridge for killing buffalo than the old 400 and 500 grain .45-70 loads that the buffalo hunters used. I think they'd laugh at the notion.
    The .30-30 has about as much muzzle energy as a .454 Casull, but I wonder how many of Africa's big 5 could be safely taken with a .30-30... The .454, .475, and even the .44 Mag have accounted for quite a few.

    Sorry, I guess that was a bit of a rant.
    No, it's a legitimate rant and one I happen to agree with. The comparison was meant to show that the 44 isn't a doomsday cartridge. Shot placment is still key because it won't blow heads off or huge chunks of meat.

    Getting killing power in the real world, I always prefer large bores. The .730 DDR is sort of an extreme example, but I love the thing.

    I don't like to depend on controlled expansion. There are too many variables. Big bores are pre expanded and all I have to do is put in the right spot.

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    I feel the term "controlled expansion" is an oxy-moron for the exact reason you mention: Too many variables. It's almost a crap-shoot as to whether you get too much expansion, not enough, or the bullet fails to hold together.
    Better to just sling a larger hunk of lead.

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    "It's like killing roaches - you have to kill 'em all, otherwise what's the use?"
    Ah, and therein lies the problem: Paul unquestionably has the better gun, but lacks adequate respect for the human race.
    One must only look at BAJA to know a simple truth.....
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