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 hardscrabble days of the late 1800s American frontier, large .44 and .45 caliber cartridges were considered the epitomes of handgun ammunition for self protection and hunting. Blackpowder-based 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.
With the dawn of the 20th century, Smith & Wesson decided to celebrate the new epoch by introducing a brand new revolver design which they appropriately called the New Century model, also known as the .44 Hand Ejector, or 1st Model of 1908. in common parlance of the time it also become known as the Triple Lock.
Smith & Wesson wished to pair their ground-breaking revolver design with a worthy new ammunition chambering. In the early 1900s the state-of-the-art in ammunition technology was defined by the advent of smokeless powder; older blackpowder ammunition was in the process of being converted to smokeless. Smith and Wesson's popular .44 Russian cartridge had established a reputation for superb accuracy and was a renowned target loading, 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 0.200-inch (5.1 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)
Unfortunately the ballistics of the new cartridge merely duplicated the 246-grain (15.9 g) bullet @ 755 ft/s statistics of the .44 Russian, when the powder capacity of its case would have supported performance rivaling that of the .45 Colt and close to the .44-40. Nevertheless, the .44 Special retained its progenitor's reputation for accuracy.