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I have had a lifetime of attraction to lever action guns (mainly the Winchester 94) but hunted most of my life with a bolt. Walking the woods doing a little deer hunting often seems like one of the best reason for living.

Power, range and accuracy had me carrying a 270 and 7mm Rem Mag.

After reading all the advertising and reviews of the 450, I bought a Winchester 94 in .444 and will likely never set it down. Short, Quick, Powerful and a pleasure to hold in your hands.

I liked the sleek look and feel of the Winchester; I saw the Marlin as being too heavy in feel and appearance for my taste.

Now that I am resigned to shoot the 444, 450 or 45/70 I have been reading comments in this forum and have some questions and comments.

I may want to trade my gun for the perfect gun for me in this class. Help me understand what that might be.

I am throwing the 450 out of consideration because I do not believe it will ever be as popular as the 444 and 45/70 and expect ammunition to be accordingly limited.

Now here is where I need help.

I have read in this forum that the Winchester frame cannot stand up to these powerful cartridges. Is this true? And to what extent is it true?

I have been partial to the 444 because I am partial to the Winchester
Winchester is not making a modern gun in 45/70.

I do not and likely will not reload. Shooting 100 yards with the accuracy afforded by these guns (to my mind) does not necessitate it.

The 444 factory load (Remington or Winchester) has unmistakable advantages to the 45-70.

There are numerous specialty ammunition retailers. These retailers can supply a wide range of bullet types and weights shooting at 1800-2000+ fps.

The big advantage to these large bore guns is shooting a 300 gr. Bullet.
At this size bullet I like the 444, it drops about 6 inches at 200 yards compared to 14 inches in the 45-70 when both are sighted at 100 yards.

Now we get to rifling. What is the best barrel for the 300gr. Bullet?

I read that the microgroove marlin is inferior; the marlin 38 twist is inferior. It is said that it is too slow to stabilize these bullets causing them to key hole.

I am now rapidly meeting the limits of my understanding of these guns and their ability to group a 300 gr. Bullet. I am partial to the feel of the Winchester and the ballistics of the .444 but have an open mind.

Educate me please.
 

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I have a 45/70 Guide Gun. I simply love it. It is accurate and powerful. I reload and can get anything from light target to heavy artillery loads. If you don't now or don't intend to reload then you have the right gun already. Most factory 45/70 loads are "anemic" and reloading brings drastic gains in performance to the 45/70 over factory loads.
 

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I also have the 45/70 in a guide gun. Winchester makes a 300gr flat point partition gold load that i like, my gun shoots a 1" group a 100 yds with that load. If you reload you can get the same performance out of the 45/70 as the 450 mag. personaly ive chosen the 45/70 guide gun because is short and powerful and 90% of my shots are under 100 yds. oh yeah, and even if you dont handload and want something for a brown bear hunt garrett makes a 540gr hardcast hammerhead thats pretty potent. About $50 a box though.
 

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Winchester (or more correctly Miroku) is making the 1886 in 45/70. They aren't quite as sleek, short and light as the 94, but are very strong and, in my opinion, the choice for the hot loaded 45/70.

Given that, though, if you really like your 444, stick with it. No deer or black bear is ever going to know the difference. Especially if you handload and use the heavier slugs in the 444. If you go after supersized critters, companies like Garrett and Buffalo Bore do hotrod the 45/70 into something quite near the 458 Win.

Marshall Stanton over at Beartooth Bullets did a series of internet articles on the 444, he absolutely loves his. Here's a link to those.

http://www.beartoothbullets.com/tech_notes/archive_tech_notes.htm/17
http://www.beartoothbullets.com/tech_notes/archive_tech_notes.htm/19
http://www.beartoothbullets.com/tech_notes/archive_tech_notes.htm/28
 

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ive got a .444 outfitter and a 4570 guide gun and love both of them but if I was just going to shoot 300 grain bullets Id take the .444 less recoil and better sectional density with the .44 300s Like was said earlier either will take care of anything in north america.
 

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Make it a 444

charlessala: You went out and bought my favorite rifle. I absolutely prefer the Winchester 94 over the Marlin. I just prefer the styling, looks and feel of the Winnie. I've had a marlin in 444 and although it was a fine rifle, my preference is for the Winchester. I am still looking for another one with the 20 inch barrel.

To answer your questions. The Winchester will stand up to any commercially produced ammunition in the 444 caliber. The Winchester Big Bores in 444 are/were re-designed with a slightly heavier frame for just that purpose. Winchester would never market and sell a rifle that would not handle the pressures of the cartridges it was designed for. Period. Do not worry about your 444, it will eat anything made for it and ask for more. Nobody out there who makes commercial ammo for the 444 'overpressures' the loads. They are all within SAAMI limits, no matter how hard they wallop.

300 grain bullets in the 444 (430 diameter), whether jacketed or cast, have a higher sectional density and greater penetration capabilities than the same weight bullet in a 458 diameter. For the 45-70 or 450 Marlin to match that section density and penetrative capability, they would have to go to a 400 grain bullet or something close. In this regard, for anything on this continent that you would need that kind of power for, the 444 is my choice. You can go all the way to 40 grains in the 444 - to match that in the larger 45-70, you have to be up to a 500-550 grain bullet - something you can't really shoot from a lever.

For as many problems as the micro-groove rifling has caused me when trying to reload plain based cast slugs, and for as often as I prefer not to have that style of rifling, the micro-groove rifling is not inferior to the ballard style with a faster twist (say 1:20), unless you intend to shoot plain based cast bullets. The micro-groove rifling will handle any jacketted or gas checked bullet very well. Yukon Jack gave you some good advice about visiting the BearTooth Bullets web-site for information on their testing results.

You may wish to consider reloading, even on a smaller scale for just that one cartridge, the 444. At least two of my reloading manuals, as well as the BearTooth reloading forum, provides numerous load data for the 444 to bring the 300 grain bullet to 22-2300'/sec. The same weight bullet in the 45-70 or 450, at the same velocites, seems to pound you much worse on the recoil side. And, although you can get the 45-70 in a 300 grainer that will match those velocities, or come close to them, most of the 300 grain loads for that caliber are 3-400'/sec slower. Somebody out there makes a 300 - 350 grain 45-70 they refer to as the Hammerhead. A 300 grain 444 at 22-2300'/sec should probably be called the SledgeHammer from **** by whatever the poor critter is on the receiving end.

In the early days when the 444 was limited to 240 grain 44 magnum bullet offerings from the factory, it was limited - but no longer. Heavier bullets in the 265, 270, 300, 325, 350 and 405 grain weights for the 444 cange that equation beyond all expectations. Also, with the 444, you need not drive a heavy bullet to max velocity to get it to perform. One gun writer penned that driving heavy 44 magnum and 444 Marlin (300 grains or better) to higher velocities is not necessary, as the heavy bullets in that diameter seem to peform all by themselves. Interestingly, no one has ever chronographed the heavy bullets, in any caliber, beyond the muzzle, yet extrapolate velocities and trajectory through computer algorithms. I'm just willing to bet a 12-pack that those heavies neither lose that much velocity or penetrative capability at distances out to 2-300 yds, especially as you narrow the bore a bit. I think they just carry incredibly and that momentum and weight continue to combine that capability, even much farther downrange than ever thought. A good exercise is to try and recover some of the heavier hardcast or jacketted bullets from a sandback 2 - 300 yds downrange, and see how far you have to dig to find them. That will give you a good indication of impact possibilities on game at those distances. They tried that over a hundred years ago with the 45-70s with the 500-550 grain slugs at maximum distances - 3500 yds, as I recall reading, and had to dig deep, real deep to recover them.

As to the best barrel - if your Winnie sports the short 20 inch barrel, it probably carries the micro-groove rifling with a 1:38 twist. As before, this barrel should shoot any factory 300 grain offerings, whether jacketted or gas-checked, accurately. If yours is the 20 inch barrel, you have a real sweetheart. I advocate reloading only to save yourself the money you would spend on buying enough factory fodder to really shoot that baby like she wants to be shot. Also, if when you clean your barrel after shooting, if you get a lot of copper residue or fouling, you may be able to benefit from barrel lapping, and I would check out the BearTooth website for information on that process - or, just shoot the schmidt out of yor 444 until your barrel smoothes out a bit. It's good fer ya.

If you feel you do not attain the accuracy you need from your particular rifle, look to a sight change. The Winchester bead front sight and those half-baked 'Buckhorn' rear sights they provide do little to enhance accuracy. You might have much better luck with a blade fron sight and a rear tang sight with a peep aperature. This sort of a set up gives you much better visibility and, from my perspective, accuracy.

You need little education on these issues my friend. You have demonstrated quite a bit of knowledge already - more than enough to ask the kind of questions you have posed.

In all honesty, no animal is going to know the difference between either of the 3 calibers you mentioned. I would not spend the money for a larger bore, because anything you want to do on this continent you can do with the 444, very effectively. I can readily understand your preference for the Winchester - I would use it to your heart's content and never once give a thought to being undergunned or having made the wrong caliber choice.

Hope this helps. Mikey.
 
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