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Tndeerhunter's picture
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What's wrong with the .444 Marlin?
Some new info added at the end now
I seems to me that whenever anyone speaks about a moderate big bore rifle, the one that seems to not be mentioned, or perhaps is mentioned as an afterthought, is the .444 Marlin. Why this seems to happen is something of a mystery to me. I've looked at a lot of information and read a good bit more on the .444 from those who have used it a great deal and pretty much all that I've read from those actually "in the know" say it's a very fine and capable round.
 
Nope, it's not a long range cartridge that can easily knock off elk to 400 yds, but if you're a practiced shooter familiar with it's ballistics and trajectory, I'd call it a great 250 yd elk rifle. Using a load such as Hornady's LeverEvolution 265gr or Hornady's 265gr LM loads (or good handloads) it will deliver significant punch to 250yds and those familiar with it's trajectory can cleanly kill deer-sized game to 300 yds (still toting 1100+ FPE there).
 
Now as far as anything smaller and/or closer, if you like big bores or big bullets maybe it's something you might like for those jobs too. Let's take a little look at the history of the .444. Invented as a joint venture between Remington and Marlin (ammo & rifle, respectively) the .444 debuted in the mid 60s as a longer, much more powerful .44 mag type round. Perhaps the initial mistake was only loading a 240gr bullet, similar (the same?) to the one used in the .44 mag at a much higher velocity. We're talking about 600 FPS faster here, folks (in rifle platform).
 
That's a lot to ask out of any bullet. Although known to be deadly on deer and even black bear with this singular load, when hunters tried it on elk or moose sized animals the results, apparently, were not always pretty. Now remember this was before Marlin had re-introduced it's classic M1895 (45-70) again too. There were no new 45-70s to be found as yet, so a .444 was the big bore lever rifle. The new M1895 did not appear again until 1972.
 
The new M1895 became, for Marlin, a resounding success story, so much so that after-market loaders and even Hornady became involved with upping the old War Horse's power in Marlin's newer platform. Not a good day for .444 fans, I suppose.
 
The owners of .444s were now looking for more powerful loads that could compete with the now reborn 45-70 and many turned to cast bullets finding them, in weights from about 280 to 320gr to work very well and kill big animals with great authority.
 
Today our bullet selections for the .444 are pretty good from the original 240gr loads, still quick death to any CXP2 game to 265gr loads in two forms from Hornady and more jacketed bullets ranging in weight from 270, 280, and 300gr. These bigger bullets bring big horsepower to the table and are meant to cleanly take big animals (or small) with a minimum of fuss.
 
Accuracy with some of these loads can be surprisingly good. My early '80s gun shoots the 265gr LeverEvolution loads into under 1/2" at 50 yards, with a peep sight! Yes, I am impressed with that type performance and would not hesitate to take a shot to 100-125 yds with this set-up.
 
As far as new rifles are concerned, Marlin still catalogues two models of the .444. The standard Model .444 has blue and walnut with a 22" barrel. My older .444S is a very similar rifle to this one. Marlin also makes an XLR version which has a SS finish and laminate stock with a slightly longer 24" barrel to get all the velocity possible out of the newer LeverEvolution loads made for the .444.
 
My point in saying all this? Well, if you're wanting a powerful medium or big bore without the recoil of a magnum and especially if you like the idea of a powerful lever action platform, be sure to consider the .444!  It is still a very viable cartridge and a very handy rifle for today's hunter. And when scoped, it will easily give 250+ yard performance as well, with the right loads. Yes
For those fans of the .444 (as I am) I have recently read a very in-depth bullet test that might be of some interest to some of you. If you'd like the link to this great test, simply message me and I'll provide it to you.
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jaybe's picture
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Nice Gun - Great Caliber

Tndeerhunter - That is a really nice gun in a great caliber.

I know there are others on here that really like some of the "thumpers" as you call them, and they are a wonderful choice for many hunting applications.

This is a silly observation, I know, but I used to bowhunt with a bow that had the serial number written on the back side of the lower limb right where I could see it while waiting in the stand. The number was 375444.

I used to sit there thinking about those two calibers as being good for the woods where I usually hunted.

The shorter length of most of the rifles chambered for them would work perfectly in the tree stand that I was sitting in, and the ranges that I could see from my elevated perch would be well within the maximum effective range of either of them.

I never owned one, but who knows? Someday I just might decide to get a thumper.

Thanks for your report.

 

Tndeerhunter's picture
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some number!

Now, that's some number there! I also happen to have a .375 and find it perhaps just a tad handier than the .444, due to it's shorter 20" barrel. I was lucky enough to harvest my first deer ever with it this season too. If that number had been: 3754444570, I'd be making an offer on that bow right now.....  lol

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nothing except its not 45-70

There is nothing wrong with the 444 except its not 45-70.  I'm a fan of traditional cartridges.  For history's sake alone I'd choose the 45-70 over the 444.  But besides nostalgia for the 1873 Sharps carbine and the firearms of the ninteenth century in general, I'd pick the 45-70 because at least today - it is ubiquitous.  You can find 45-70 ammunition and reloading componants just about everywhere in North America.  I don't think that is true of 444 Marlin. 

So the 45-70 would be my pick over the 444 between the two every time. 

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The 444 is a fine cartridge. 

The 444 is a fine cartridge.  My experience is in a Contender Super 14 shooting pistol silhouettes.  Sighted in for 100 yds , all the 200m rams required was to lay the cross hair across the back line and it would lay them down with so much authority it made the .308 shooters drool.  Reloading components are readily available and I would have to say on the range it outshines my 45-70 high-wall.  When my boy is old enough for a pig hunt the Contender is what I will carry.

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Killed

My first two bucks with my Dads 444 Marlin, a two pointer and then a nice four pointer. Rifle got stolen years back. If I got another lever action it would probably the new Marlin 308 though.

Tndeerhunter's picture
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Marlin .308

I got a great deal on a like new, unfired Marlin .308MX a while back. I put a Weaver compact 4X scope on it and took it to the range to get it dialed in. Nice rifle! I kept looking down at it after shooting wondering where the recoil was????  I guess I'm just too used to shooting my .356, .375, .444 and 45-70 Marlin levers  lol

I highly recommend the .308ME if you think you might like it. I've got mine sighted in so it's good from muzzle to 250 yds and as you already know, simply mirrors a .308 Win in that respect. I hope you can get you one, some time soon.

The .444 will travel with me to Georgia soon on our hog hunt and be my bad weather and still hunting choice with it's peep sight.

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I'll tell you what's wrong

I'll tell you what's wrong with a 444. It kicks like a government mule. I got my brother's 444 this morning because I wanted to see what all the talk was about. (I'm kinda curious about stuff) I took 9 shots with 240 grain soft points and 2 shots with 265 grain leverlutions. Good God!! I'm thinking about calling tomorrow to see about therepy for my shoulder (my head can't be fixed). I just went down from my 270 to a 7mm-08, so you can imagine my surprise going from the 08 to the 444. My girlfriend asked what was I gonna kill with that gun, and I said pretty much anything in front of it. I had fun with it after the initial shock of the 1st shot recoil. When my shoulder quits hurting I'm gonna go shoot some more.

Tndeerhunter's picture
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big ole bullets

Yup, I reckon those big ole bullets do recoil a tad :yes:    The 265gr LeverEvolutions are exiting the muzzle at 2325 FPS and that ain't no lightweight. But then again if yer after bigger critters the 3150+ FPE it's packing might come in handy too. My particular .444 loves those LE loads.

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