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Unmasking the .44 Special

September 11, 2019
T.Logan Metesh


That’s how Black Hills Ammunition describes their HoneyBadger line of ammunition. As for the name, it comes from a hilarious spoof on the Nat Geo Wild documentary on the actual honey badger.

Generally speaking, hollowpoints provide better performance than their round nose counterparts. Unlike either of those, HoneyBadger ammo is neither round nose or hollowpoint. Instead, it is a non-expanding, non-deforming solid copper projectile equipped with flutes for superior barrier penetration and terminal performance.

New for 2019 is the .44 Special HoneyBadger from Black Hills Ammunition. While this addition to the HoneyBadger lineup may be new, Smith & Wesson introduced the .44 Special in 1907 for what is now known as their “Triple Lock” revolver.

The history of the .44 Special cartridge dates back to 1870 with two other new designs from Smith & Wesson. The .44 American, which can be considered the .44 Special’s granddad, was the cartridge of choice for the new Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver.

Late in 1871, Russia’s Grand Duke Alexis was presented with a Smith & Wesson Model 3 American revolver. Beautifully cased and engraved, it sported a pair of carved ivory grips and was on the Grand Duke’s hip when “Buffalo Bill” Cody and George Armstrong Custer guided Alexis’ western buffalo hunt in 1872. Cody, too, carried a Model 3 American on the trip.

The Grand Duke was so impressed with the gun that the Russian government ended up ordering a large number of the Model 3 revolvers in a more potent cartridge that came to be known as the .44 Russian, which can be considered the .44 Special’s father. The .44 Russian remained in Russian Army service until 1895 when the 7.62mm Nagant revolver was adopted.

While the .44 Special has spent much of its life in the shadow of the contemporaneous .45 Colt and, eventually, its


brother - the .44 Magnum - it was the involvement of a group of men known as “The .44 Associates” that gave the .44 Special a new breath of life in the 1920s and 1930s. Comprised of men like Skeeter Skelton and Elmer Keith, they shared information on special hand loads that pushed the .44 Special to never-before-seen performance heights.

Black Hills Ammunition’s .44 Special HoneyBadger features a 125-grain projectile that has a muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps and 434 ft/lbs of muzzle energy. When tested in a revolver with a 4.75” barrel, the round reached a maximum penetration depth of 17.25” with a temporary cavity of 11.5” in length and 2.75” in diameter.

Without a doubt, performance like that would have made The .44 Associates very proud! ~ T. Logan

T.Logan Metesh
Logan is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry. For more information, please visit

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