My Old Marlin – The 444
Marlin Firearm Company introduced the 444 Marlin to the shooting world in 1964 in their legendary 336 lever action rifle. At that time is was the largest lever action rifle cartridge available as many manufacturers had discontinued production of the 45-70 Gov’t cartridge. The 444 Marlin as it was known as was a .44 caliber cartridge. It is a large straight walled, semi-rimmed that was originally loaded with a Remington 240 grain soft point bullet leaving the barrel at 2350 feet per second. Within its effective range it was a devastating cartridge with enough stopping power to put down any of the North American game animals hunted.
In 1968, I was but 13 years old and one day, while reading one of my father’s Outdoor Life magazines, I came across an article on the 444. The author, whose name is now lost to me, wrote of traveling North America shooting every imaginable game animal with the 444. According to the author, they were all one shot kills, and many were dropped in their tracks. I was hooked, and I must have re-read the article a dozen or more times. By the time I was legally allowed to purchase my own firearms I had the entire article memorized. So it was, just after my birthday I headed to the local gun store and carried home my 444. Mine was topped with a then state-of-the-art Redfield Wideview scope which was held to the rifle by a set of Burris rings and a Burris base.
In those early years the 444 Marlin was not without its problem, mostly caused by the ammunition available. Originally Remington was the only company loading ammunition for the 444 and they were using their 240 hand bullets for the cartridge. Problem was, the hand gun bullets just couldn’t hold up to the pressure developed by the 444. Even though Remington declared the bullets they used in or provided for the 444 were not the same using in the 44 Magnum, testing provide otherwise. No of the problems was the original bullets were of a .429 diameter, which is exact what was used in the .44 magnum, which was slightly smaller than the 444 bore, which was .4295. In 1967 Hornady solved that problem when they introduced a 265 grain .430 diameter bullet explicitly designed for the 444. It was a flat point – soft point - bullet that proved to have better than average accuracy, and devastating stopping power.
My Marlin has a 24 inch mico-grove © barrel that just seem perfectly suited for the 265 grain bullet. Over the years it has been my go to rifle, and I have carried across mountains, in the rain and snow, and along the way have taken several really good animals with it. With the Hornady bullets which can be driven to just over 2200 feet per second, carries over 3000 foot pounds of energy at 100 yards, which is why one can see why the cartridge can have devastating effects on impact. The only limitation on the 444 is its range, which should be kept to less than 200 yards, as it was never designed as a long range cartridge. Recently Hornady developed a newer 265 grain bullet known as the Flex-Tip bullet. It has a soft polymer tip that is safe to use in tubular magazines. The design of the bullet along with the polymer tip actually increases the ballistic coefficiency therefore extending the effective range of the cartridge. Unfortunately the newer Flex-Tip bullets won’t stabilize in the older 444 rifles with the micro-grove barrel.
Marlin re-introduced the 444 marlin this year in their 1985 Big Bore Rifle line. It is the classic 336 action with a 22 inch barrel design to utilize the Hornady Flex-tip ammunition. For fans of big bore lever action rifles the 444 Marlin is classic that won’t let you down.