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>> .444 Marlin- America's Most Versatile Big-Bore Part III :: By Marshall Stanton on 2001-08-05
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Part III

Heavy Bullets & Loads In The Triple-Four

 

Previously in this series: The .444 Marlin- America's Most Versatile Big-Bore, we have examined the historical background of the cartridge and it's rifles, and explored the dimensional characteristics of those firearms, and the unique requirements necessary to extract top performance from these guns.

In this segment, our focus shifts specifically to development of heavy bullet loads for the .444 Marlin.  The emphasis here is on bullets over 300 grains in weight, and their application in this most interesting and versatile big-bore cartridge.  In previous years, prestigious publications have explained the absolute uselessness of bullets over about 290 grains in the .444 Marlin, and have gone so far as proclaim that the 1:38" twist of the Micro-Groove barrels positively won't stabilize bullets over 310 grains in weight.  The data presented here speaks for itself, and necessitates no defense, the resultant tests revealed some startling surprises and insightful observations.

As described in Part II, both test rifles are equipped with scopes for the purposes of load testing, barrels have been fire-lapped and polished and the triggers on both tuned to break crisply at near three pounds pressure.  All test groups were fired on the Beartooth Bullets Shop Range off of a covered bench rest and sandbags at 100 measured yards.  All shooting temperatures were recorded at the time of testing and are noted in the data.  Too, all shooting was accomplished over a period of several day's range sessions, waiting for zero wind conditions.  Loads were chronographed utilizing a Chrony, Alpha model chronograph set up fifteen measured feet from the forward edge of the shooting bench, and listed velocities are a composite of two separate and distinct series of shots using the same load, then the averages of the two series reported.  Those group sizes reported are measured center to center using a stainless steel dial caliper, and in those cases where there was an obvious flyer, the reported group is a measurement of the remaining clustered shots, but in no case was more than one shot factored out for any reason.

A quick note about the group sizes and accuracy of these big-bore lever action rifles.  The .444 Marlin is a heavy hitter in all respects, and develops some severe recoil with these heavy loads.  In light of the extreme number of test rounds fired through these guns for this article, we employed the use of a twenty-five pound bag of lead shot positioned between the but of the rifle and the shooter's shoulder.  This, in an effort to report the true accuracy potential of a given load rather than try to quantify the flinch coefficient of the shooter!  

It is interesting the potential accuracy of these .444 Marlin rifles.  No, they aren't benchrest guns, nor are they anything that has been accurized through glass bedding, or other bench rest shooting accurizing  techniques.  In examining the group sizes reported through these tests, please bear in mind the intended purpose for these guns and their loads in regard to accuracy, and the suitability of a given bullet and load combination in actual field hunting scenarios.  It's interesting in looking back over the writings of some of our more seasoned and respected shooting sages, that I find this quote by Ken Waters in his January 1979 "Pet Loads" write-up of the .375 Winchester model 94 Big-Bore concerning hunting accuracy and reasonable expectations from these types of firearms:

"What sort of accuracy am I talking about here?  Well, with a light hunting rifle such as this with its short sight radius, I look for loads that will put five successive shots in four inches at one hundred yards using the issue open sights, or three and a half inches with a receiver-mounted peep sight."

Once the barrels are lapped and conditioned, and fed the right combination of bullets and powder, these .444's far exceed such mediocre expectations from a hunting carbine!  In fact, these Marlin lever actions with the proper load combinations behave much like a well tuned target rifle!  It is rather like engineering pinpoint accuracy when directing a locomotive's impact.  

Now, for the bullets.  As we explored in Part II these .444 Marlins thrive on .432" diameter bullets, delivering their tightest accuracy and best ballistic uniformity with bullets of this dimension.  For the purposes of this segment, all bullets tested are BHN 21, as all we are interested in at this point is high-velocity and heavy weight projectiles.  All bullets employed in these tests were used with our newly developed blue lube, and are of gas-checked design.  The photograph below illustrates all of the gas-checked bullets available from Beartooth Bullets employed in tests for this series of articles on the .444 Marlin.

Powders best suited to the heavier weight bullets in the Triple-Four are those in the Medium to Medium-Fast burning rates.  For the heavy bullet testing for Part III of these articles, we used the following commercial canister powders:  Hodgdon Varget, Hodgdon H332, Hodgdon H335, Alliant RL-7, Accurate AA 2015 and IMR 3031.  Although there are a number of other powders that fit within this burning rate range, the powders listed were selected by merit of their performance specifically with heavy bullets in the .444 Marlin.  Performance criteria included ballistic uniformity, accuracy, pressure vs. velocity, muzzle flash and uniformity of performance over temperature extremes.

Reloading equipment for these tests were basics:  RCBS Rockchucker press, Lee Auto-Prime priming tool, Pact Digital powder/bullet scale, Forster case trimmer, MTM case loading blocks, Midway case deburring  tool, RCBS primer pocket uniformer, RCBS flash-hole deburring tool, reloading dies from Redding, RCBS, Lee and Hornady, micrometer from Central Tools and a Sterret dial caliper.

As a side interest during this test, we ran accuracy tests employing three brands of reloading dies, and one time-proven accuracy load, with the intention of beginning another Tech Note, detailing the accuracy differences incurred simply by employing different reloading dies.  The surprising, and great news is this:  there was absolutely zero measurable difference in the accuracy, either at the range, or in measured run-out of loaded ammo, between the ammunition loaded with the various manufacturer's dies!  This is a real testimony to the exceptionally high quality standards of manufacturing our shooting and handloading equipment manufacturers adhere to in all phases of production.

In handloading for the .444 Marlin, a firm, well placed crimp is essential for this high-energy, stout recoiling cartridge!  Interestingly, there are very few bullets that have crimping grooves or cannelures properly placed for crimping when loading for the Triple-Four.  In Beartooth's line-up, there is only one bullet with an appropriate crimp groove for the .444 Marlin, and that is the 44-405g WLNGC bullet.  However, there is a simple, expedient and highly efficient cure to what might be viewed as a stumbling block to the handloader of the .444 Marlin.  That answer lies in the Lee Factory Crimp Die!  It is a truly excellent tool for this purpose.  The Lee die allows positive crimping where there is no crimp groove present, both on cast and jacketed bullets.  For the .444 handloader, this die is an absolute MUST have item to open the doors of load diversity and bullet selection.  

It operates on a compressed-collet type system in which four fingers of a collet are firmly, and positively pressed against the case mouth, against the bullet, thus either making a very positive crimp in an existing crimping groove, or literally creating its own crimp groove by the ingenious design of the die's fingers being compressed, as seen in the photo below.  These bullets are both .432"-290g LFNGC's, the one on the left is as manufactured by Beartooth Bullets.  The bullet on the right is the same bullet, after having been crimped into a .444 Marlin case using the Lee Factory Crimp Die, and then pulled with an inertia-type bullet puller to illustrate the "crimp groove" created by the factory crimp die.  

Throughout the range of testing done for this series, scores of loads have been tested both with a simple roll crimp tucked over the front of the ogive of the bullet, and the exact same load utilizing the Lee Factory Crimp, and in each and every instance, those loads employing the factory crimp have grouped significantly smaller on paper, and recorded notably smaller extreme spreads and standard deviation results over the chronograph.  Presumably due to the more uniform start pressure of the factory crimped loads.  In any case, the .444 Marlin necessitates a firm crimp both to prevent bullets from moving in the tubular magazine during intense recoil, and for uniform start pressures to enhance ballistic performance.

Bullet seating depth is another issue of great and far reaching concern in this particular cartridge.  Not only is the maximum cartridge overall length (C.O.L.) limited by the action of the Marlin and Winchester actions, and what will feed through cycling the lever actions, the throat length in the chamber also plays a vital role in limiting the maximum C.O.L., as these guns have relatively short throats, and those bullets with strong front driving bands may require deeper seating than simply making the C.O.L. determination by the actions cyclic abilities.  Two such bullets are the LFN and WFN profiles that Beartooth markets.  Ideally you want to seat the bullets such that when chambered, there is slight felt resistance as the lever is closed the last eighth of an inch or so, and that the rifling in the throat actually engraves the bullet to a slight degree.  By no means should the bullet be seated out such that it is difficult to extract a loaded round due to the rifling being so heavily engraved on the bullet upon chambering.  There is a fine balance here, but the ideal seating depth for both these profiles is a point where noticeable rifling engagement may be viewed on the bullet when an unfired loaded round is extracted from the chamber as seen below.

,

Notice the factory crimp applied to both these loaded cartridges.  It is firm and positive, while insuring against bullet setback in the case during recoil in the tubular magazine, it also provides excellent uniformity of start pressure.  When using the factory crimp die, there is no chance of a bulged or collapsed case in the crimping operation, as opposed to using the standard roll-type crimp feature built into all other .444 Marlin seating dies.

Now, having explained the criteria for determining optimum seating depth for the LFN and WFN profile bullets in the .444 Marlin, we'll look at specifics lengths employed by the two test rifles for development of the data presented.  Although the .444S (22" Micro-Groove) barrel has a throat that is 0.100" longer than that of the 444P "Outfitter" (18.5" Ballard Cut-Rifled) barrel, all bullets for this series of tests were seated to the same depth for each firearm and those dimensions are listed below.

.444 Marlin Load Development Tests
Cartridge Overall Length (C.O.L.) For Test Bullets (All .432" Dia.) In .444 Brass
Bullet Wt. & Nose Profile C.O.L.
250g LFNGC 2.582"
265g WFNGC 2.494"
280g WFNGC 2.494"
290g LFNGC 2.582"
300g LMNGCDCG 2.570"
325g WLNGC 2.570"
325g LCMNGC 2.570"
330g LFNGCDCG 2.582"
355g WLNGCDCG 2.570"
405g WLNGCGDCG 2.520"

Keep in mind that the C.O.L.'s listed above were appropriate for the two test rifles, the only way to insure that your individual rifle will feed, function and perform properly is to adjust the C.O.L. accordingly to your specific rifle.  While these dimensions listed represent loading lengths which function, feed and eject well from several .444 Marlin firearms, specific tuning and tailoring may be necessary for individual rifles.

The reloading data presented in the accompanying table was safe in the firearms in which it was developed.  This data is presented for information only and because individual loading practices and conditions are beyond the control of Beartooth Bullets,. we take no responsibility for its use, misuse, application or abuse.  Nor is Beartooth Bullets, its agents, owners, management or affiliates responsible for, or to, any direct, indirect, consequential or incidental injury or death resulting from the use of this data.

The following data was developed using Winchester Large Rifle Primers and Remington Brass Cases in all loads tested and resultant data listed.

.444 Marlin Heavy Cast Bullet Load Development

All Loads Listed Below Developed Utilizing Bullets Of .432" Diameter
Beartooth Bullet Powder  Charge Test Gun Ave Vel E.S. S.D. TEMP Group
325g WLNGC H322 49.0 444 S 2153 24.76 11.35 78 F 1.479"
325g WLNGC H322 49.0 444 P 2067 45.04 20.61 78 F 2.832"
325g WLNGC H322 51.0 444 S 2251 39.71 15.81 78 F 1.094"
325g WNGC H322 51.0 444 P 2122 39.81 16.73 78 F 1.189"
325g WLNGC H335 54.0 444 S 2191 62.92 28.87 78 F 1.043"
325g WLNGC H335 54.0 444 P 2057 36.48 13.85 78 F 0.997"
325g WLNGC H335 56.0 444 S 2249 64.15 32.00 78 F 1.343"
325g WLNGC H335 56.0 444 P 2170 38.86 19.51 78 F 1.844"
325g WLNGC AA2015 49.0 444 S 2085 26.87 11.48 72 F 1.646"
325g WLNGC AA2015 49.0 444 P 2060 29.63 15.68 72 F 0.939"
325g LCMNGC H322 49.0 444 S 2201 50.52 24.94 72 F 0.514"
325g LCMNGC H322 49.0 444 P 2072 36.82 18.76 72 F 1.494"
325g LCMNGC H322 51.0 444 S 2284 11.74 8.48 72 F 1.194
325g LCMNGC H322 51.0 444 P 2143 11.41 6.40 72 F .0.868"
325g LCMNGC VARGET 51.0 444S 1976 N/A N/A 84 F 1.254"
325g LCMNGC VARGET 51.0 444P 1829 31.00 15.26 84 F 0.441"
325g LCMNGC VARGET 53.0 444S 2016 9.93 2.44 84 F 1.472"
325g LCMNGC VARGET 53.0 444P 1896 13.18 8.89 84 F 0.541"
325g LCMNGC AA 2015 50.0 444S 2238 72.97 37.72 84 F 0.149"
325g LCMNGC AA 2015 50.0 444P 2130 32.54 16.52 84 F 0.736"
325g LCMNGC AA 2015 52.0 444S 2285 24.79 12.56 84 F 1.108"
325g LCMNGC AA 2015 52.0 444P 2163 56.51 38.28 84 F 2.352"
325g LCMNGC IMR 3031 46.0 444S 2015 64.68 35.00 82 F 1.805"
325g LCMNGC IMR 3031 46.0 444P 1929 71.41 40.70 82 F 1.285"
330g LFNGCDCG H335 54.0 444 S 2176 11.04 6.40 72 F 0.784"
330g LFNGCDCG H335 54.0 444 P 2080 15.91 8.06 72 F 1.886"
330g LFNGCDCG H335 56.0 444 S 2244 3.16 2.29 67 F 0.344"
330g LFNGCDCG H335 56.0 444 P 2080 32.50 16.79 67 F 1.566"
330g LFNGCDCG H322 48.0 444 S 2171 11.63 9.76 67 F 0.339"
330g LFNGCDCG H322 48.0 444 P 2024 31.46 15.22 67 F 1.448"
330g LFNGCDCG H322 50.0 444 S 2204 50.74 25.96 67 F 1.111"
330g LFNGCDCG H322 50.0 444 P 2113 9.67 6.40 67 F 1.969"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 50.0 444 S 1952 57.86 32.04 64 F 3.472"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 50.0 444 P 1806 21.67 11.91 64 F 0.318"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 52.0 444S 2027 7.98 7.64 79 F 1.039"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 52.0 444P 1919 17.84 8.71 79 F 0.924"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 54.0 444S 2100 11.75 8.90 79 F 0.863"
330g LFNGCDCG VARGET 54.0 444P 1977 8.28 9.89 79 F 1.209"
330g LFNGCDCG RL-7 45.0 444 S 2157 42.15 21.00 68 F 1.832"
330g LFNGCDCG RL-7 45.0 444 P 2050 31.52 15.55 68 F 0.555"
330g LFNGCDCG RL-7 47.0 444 S 2190 N/A N/A 68 F 1.786"
330g LFNGCDCG RL-7 47.0 444 P 2007 28.86 14.37 68 F 1.630"
355gWLNGC H322 43.0 444S 1974 10.07 5.29 81 F 0.978"
355gWLNGC H322 43.0 444P 1914 83.17 43.00 81 F 0.914"
355gWLNGC H322 45.0 444S 2034 25.94 13.60 81 F 1.588"
355gWLNGC H322 45.0 444P 1927 33.69 16.79 81 F 1.020"
355gWLNGC RL-7 43.0 444S 2063 39.83 20.09 81 F 0.752"
335gWLNGC RL-7 43.0 444P 1986 16.76 8.60 81 F 1.363"
355gWLNGC RL-7 45.0 444S 2154 61.45 30.99 81 F 0.762"
355gWLNGC RL-7 45.0 444P 2059 19.12 9.89 81 F 1.228"
355gWLNGC VARGET 49.0 444S 1887 50.99 26.34 80 F 0.802"
355gWLNGC VARGET 49.0 444P 1761 16.27 8.18 80 F 0.671"
355gWLNGC VARGET 51.0 444S 1964 73.29 39.35 80 F 1.813"
355gWLNGC VARGET 51.0 444P 1836 17.96 8.30 80 F 0.671"
405gWLNGC RL-7 37.0 444S 1837 N/A N/A 79 F 7.025"
405gWLNGC RL-7 37.0 444P 1794 16.34 8.48 79 F 2.284"
405gWLNGC VARGET 43.0 444S 1771 N/A N/A 79 F 5.942"
405gWLNGC VARGET 43.0 444P 1635 51.42 26.09 79 F 2.604"

The series of tests resulting in the above data are the compilation of enormous  numbers of man-hours in both bullet production and load development and assembly, culminating in this information after firing under very controlled conditions and tabulation, then recalculation of data.  All results listed above may be readily reproduced by the individual user of this data.  All hard-copy targets and load data sheets are on hand for verification of results and confirmation of validity.

Keep in mind, that the data supplied here in this table was entirely safe for the guns in which it was developed, and in no case were the loads listed here absolutely maximum in our test firearms.  Too, none of these loads were specifically "fine tuned" for either test rifle.  These test loads are representations of normal working pressure ranges for the bullet and powder combinations listed, and as such are intended only as an informational platform from which to develop loads for your individual rifle.  We were totally shocked by the accuracy delivered by many of the loads in the accompanying table.

Unlike some previous data released by Beartooth Bullets, all these tests were conducted primarily between 65 degrees and 80 degrees fahrenheit.  By performing load development at this temperature range, results reflect more closely the average temperatures the majority of handloaders will experience when performing load work-ups.  Be advised that the data developed in this temperature range greatly differs from some of that data developed and reported in below freezing temperatures.

When loading the ammunition resulting in the above data, all bullets used were of current production Beartooth Bullets products, as run, from normal off-the-shelf stock.  In no instance were bullets hand picked, sorted, weight segregated or otherwise culled prior to testing.  The results presented represent actual shooting performance of the listed loads, using bullets of normal production runs as they are customarily shipped to our clients

Brass for these loads was from a single lot of bulk brass, purchased specifically for developing the loads listed.  Primer pockets were uniformed, flash-holes deburred and cases trimmed to 2.215" then lightly deburred inside and out.  All brass was trimmed after every loading (although not really necessary as it stretched little or any) just to assure uniformity.  Brass was not weight segregated however, but used at random as it came from the distributor in bulk form.

Powder charges for all loads used in testing and development of the accompanying data were each hand weighed on a Pact digital powder scale.  In no case were charges thrown by a powder measure, without being weighed on the digital scale, and the last few tenths of a grain trickled in by hand to "top off" each load.  All powders loaded in these tests were from single production lots within each brand and type of powder used.

Primers were all Winchester Large Rifle Primers, for standard or magnum rifle loads.  All test charges were loaded with primers from lot # CHL168G943.  There was no variance of  primer manufacturer or type throughout the range of tests, although it is entirely possible that by altering primers in some loads, results may have changed dramatically.  This set of tests did not encompass the variables introduced by changing primer types and manufacturers.  Past experience and reams of previous loading data concurred that ballistic uniformity tended to be at its best when the .444 is loaded with these Winchester primers, so rather than introduce yet another variable, we concentrated on bullets and powder selection.

As this data was developed, many unexpected results emerged.  The first surprise being that the short ported barrel of the .444P model rifle seemed to deliver more uniform extreme spreads and standard deviation results, across a broad spectrum of bullet and powder combinations when compared to the longer barreled 444S with it's 22" tube.  Another pleasant surprise was the small loss of velocity in the 18.5" ported barrel when compared to the 22" barreled version, all other factors being equal.

The individuality of these two rifles is quite evident in examining the resultant data from our tests.  There are several instances where one rifle or the other will shoot sub MOA groups with a load, and its counterpart developed a severe dislike for the same load.  Another interesting note, is that most of the loads tested indicated tighter accuracy overall as loading pressures neared the upper end of the pressure envelope, although there were exceptions to that observation, still the prevailing trend indicated tighter groups at the higher end of the pressure spectrum.

Interesting too, is the difference in performance between the two test guns with different weight bullets and changes in powders and charges.  The .444P "Outfitter" model with its 18.5" ported, Ballard-Style cut rifled barrel, digested just about every load with acceptable hunting accuracy.  Sure, some loads I certainly would work upon in the accuracy department, but nearly every load tested would bring home venison if shots were kept under 150 yards.  However, its real shining attribute is this:  its point of impact never changed more than three and a half inches at 100 yards throughout the range of bullets, powders and velocities tested throughout this investigation!  Too, those changes were solely in elevation!  Never, with all the different powders, charges, bullets and velocity ranges encountered, did the point of impact shift to the left or right more than three-quarter's of an inch!  A complete comparison of this phenomenon including sub-three-hundred grain bullets will appear in Part IV of this series.

Conversely, the .444S with its 22" Micro-Groove barrel was extremely load sensitive.  Not only did loads shift as much as eight inches vertically with changes in velocity and bullet weights, but shifts of up to seven inches in horizontal dispersion in point of impact was experienced with changes in powder and bullet weights as well.  The 444S is VERY picky about the loads that it will shoot to the same point of impact with one point of aim!  Although the point of impact changed dramatically with several loads, many of those loads still shot sub MOA groups, just not anywhere near point of aim!  The reasons for such a difference between the performance of the two rifles we don't pretend to understand, instead we just report what we've found.

Recoil from these heavy loads when fired through the 444S 22" barreled version can be described as nothing short of fearful and extreme!  These high intensity loads put new meaning to recoil.  The fore-end of the rifle typically rose between three and five inches off of the front sandbags when firing the 325 grain plus loads.  Without added shoulder protection when shooting from a bench-rest a shoulder is sure to receive a colorful albeit painful change in coloration.  The integral Marlin Porting on the 444P "Outfitter" model with its 18.5" ported barrel is a whole different critter.  This gun, even with the stoutest of loads only rises less than an inch off of the front sandbags upon recoil.  The sensation of recoil is different as well, being more a concentrated push, rather than an excruciating jab.  

Both guns stabilized all bullet weights equally at the velocities represented in the accompanying data table.  In no case was there ever a bullet that failed to deliver acceptable to superb accuracy in both guns except for the 44-405g WLNGC.  Most times this accuracy level was achieved with differing powder charges and or powder selections, but none the less, no bullet performed to a less than acceptable level... for the exception of the .44-405g WLNGC bullet.  This particular bullet stabilized just fine at all tested velocities in the 444P "Outfitter" model with its 1:20" rifling twist; however, in the 444S model with it's 22" Micro-Groove 1:38" twist barrel failed to stabilize the 405g WLNGC bullet at all velocities that were developed within uniform safe operating pressures.  At velocities under 1950 fps. this long bullet tumbled and keyholed in the .444S's 1:38" twist barrel in every instance.  However, once velocities exceeded the 1950 fps. threshold, the bullet remained stabile out past 100 yards, in order to generate these velocities pressures exceeded the limits of safe and sane operation for the .444 Marlin in these guns, and that data will not under any circumstances be made available.  The 444P "Outfitter" model with 1:20" twist in its 18.5" ported barrel stabilized the bullet very well, and it remained so out to a distance of over 200 yards! 

For a rifle conceived as a short-range brush buster with 240-265 grain pistol bullets, this .444 Marlin cartridge certainly thrives on long, heavy bullets, and does so with target-rifle type accuracy to boot!  I think it safe to say that the notion of .444 Marlin rifles not being capable of stabilizing any bullets over 310 grains, not being able to shoot cast bullets over 1600 fps. and being capable of "gallon jug" accuracy at a hundred yards can all be definitively and finally put to rest as mythology!  For the woods wise hunter who limits himself to 200 yard shots at big game, this .444 Marlin cartridge, loaded with any of the above listed bullets is MORE than capable of harvesting anything in North America cleanly and decisively.  The first time, every time, with properly placed shots.

In examining the tabulated results of this extended investigation, I note two particular loads that gave good to exceptional performance in both rifles, and are outstanding loads for anything that walks on the North American continent (and most in Africa if put to the test).  First is my tried and true, all time most used game load:

.432"-330g LFNGCDCG/56.0g H335/WLRP/Rem Brass/2.582" C.O.L

Second place winner would have to be this load:

.432"-325g LCMNGC/50.0g AA2015/WLRP/Rem Brass/2.570" C.O.L.

In the beginning of this segment of our look at the .444 Marlin, we detailed the preparation of these guns for the tests to be run, in terms of lapping and polishing the bores.   Most gun-scribes and loading manuals decry the propensity for leading in these fine guns.  Just for the sake of argument, all these tests conducted to compile the data for Part III of this series, the heavy bullet/high velocity load development phase of shooting was done WITHOUT EVER CLEANING THE BORE ONCE TESTING BEGAN!!!  That's right, NOT ONCE did we even touch the inside of the bores of these guns with anything other than the bullets being fired!  On a couple of occasions there was a light gray wash in the bore, but never a lead build-up, and never did the accuracy potential of either of the test guns deteriorate in any way from leading or lead deposits!  This was done purposefully, not as a stunt, but to once and for all lay aside the notion that these guns won't handle high velocity cast bullets without woeful inaccuracy, or resultant leading requiring extreme measures and hours of cleaning to remove.  Yes, another misconception relegated to the mythology books!  Just for the record, yes, now that the shooting for this segment has been completed, each gun received a couple of tight fitting patches on a jag, and saturated with Ed's Red, then dry patched two passes with plain dry patches.  They are both clean as a hound's tooth!

Sure, we all know that there are tons of venison harvested annually with much less gun than the .444 Marlin.  After all, there's only so much penetration and killing necessary on a skinny little whitetail deer!  However, there's something very reassuring and special when heading afield with the confidence KNOWING that you can take ANY animal offered, in ANY situation, from ANY angle with complete and total knowledge that when you pull the trigger, the game's over!  Also a satisfaction knowing that regardless of the tough angles, that you have both the power and precision bullet placement at your disposal for a clean, one shot kill on any game you hunt in North America.  Those of us afield in places where grizzly and moose are commonplace appreciate that reassuring knowledge that our rifle has more than enough potential for any situation that may occur. Big heavy bullets with wide, flat meplats dictate consistently deep penetration, large wound channels and guaranteed exit wounds. The familiar 336 Marlin or 94 Winchester platform for these guns insures quick handling, instinctive shooting and intuitive pointability.  Couple these proven handling characteristics with outstanding knock-down power and accuracy, and you've got the recipe for years of satisfying and successful hunting success.

In summation, I would add that once loaded with bullets over 300 grains, the .444 Marlin begins to shine brightly as a superb big game rifle.  Loaded with any of these loads, it would be a most welcomed camp companion when traveling in grizzly or moose territory, and gives up little in terms of stopping power or penetration to either the .45-70 Govt. or the new Marlin .450M.  The accuracy potential of this gun over a wide variety of both bullet weights and nose designs lends it to remain America's Most Versatile Big-Bore!

Part IV will focus on loads utilizing cast, gas-checked bullets from 250-300 grains, their loads, powders, applications and performance.

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