The .44 Special or .44 S&W Special is a smokeless powder center fire metallic cartridge developed by Smith & Wesson in 1907 as the standard chambering for their New Century revolver, introduced in 1908.
In the late 19th Century American frontier, large .44- and .45-caliber cartridges were considered the epitome of handgun ammunition for self-protection and hunting. Black-powder rounds such as the .44 American, .44 Russian,.44-40 Winchester, and .45 Colt enjoyed a well-earned reputation for effective terminal ballistics, accuracy, and reliability.
Smith & Wesson wished to pair their new revolver design with a worthy new ammunition chambering. At the time, state of the art in ammunition technology was smokeless powder. Older black-powder ammunition was in the process of being converted to smokeless. Smith & Wesson’s popular .44 Russian cartridge had established a reputation for superb accuracy and was a renowned target load, and they decided to use an improved smokeless powder version as the basis for the new round. Due to the lower energy density of the early semi-smokeless powders, prior efforts to convert the .44 Russian to smokeless had produced less than stellar ballistic performance. Smith & Wesson addressed this issue by lengthening the .44 Russian cartridge case design by 0.190-inch (4.8 mm), increasing the powder capacity by 6 grains (0.39 g). The resulting design, which S&W called the .44 Special, had a case length of 1.16-inch (29 mm).