By "old", I mean cartridges which started out as blackpowder rounds. In other words, 38 Special, most of the 32 rimmed stuff (EXCEPT the H&R & the .327 Federal), ALL of the short (and weak) 38's, and most everything the Colt Single Action Army was chambered for. Gawd, I'd have to fire up the Wayback Machine to list all of those, because I believe Colt had a rule then: if they thought they could sell 2000 revolvers in a particular caliber, they would tool up for it.
As the era of black powder began to wane (although not knowing it yet), some manufacturers began to experiment with bottleneck rounds. The rounds built for the Winchester Model 1873 are a good example: 32-20 and 44-40. The whole idea of bottleneck rounds in ANY form is to put more push behind the bullet. In black powder days, that push was important, since black powder is very anemic compared to modern (or even original) smokeless powder. The SAAMI max pressures for black powder run around 12,000 CUP, where hotter large cartridges like the 44 Remington Magnum run closer to 50,000 CUP.
It all translates to energy, or that measurement of the whack the bullet imparts to what it hits. In the 44 Russian, an originally-blackpowder round, which we will look at in detail below, the max energy is just under 300 pounds/feet at max SAMMI pressure of 10,000 CUP (with smokeless powder). In the 44 Remington Magnum, the max energy is closer to 1800 pounds/feet, a sixfold increase, even though the cartridge capacity is maybe 25% more than 44 Russian.
I have been shooting .44 guns for about 8 years. I have a Marlin Model 1894 in 44 Magnum, a Colt Anaconda revolver in that caliber, and a pocket 5-shot Charter Arms Bulldog revolver in 44 Special, the blackpowder precursor to 44 Magnum. The 44 Special has a SAAMI max of 14,000 CUP, so all I get out of the snub-nose Bulldog is 1,000 feet per second at best, but that is okay for short-range defensive duty, and the Bulldog's bark is worse than it's bite. If ever called upon to be in a multi-enemy shootout, I plan to yell "forty-four" before I fire the first round. The enemy WILL believe I am shooting at least a 44 Magnum, maybe even a Cassul at them. They will hesitate, which gives me the advantage.
One of the issues which keeps me from shooting my Anaconda more is it's savage recoil. I am a lightly-built dude with my wrists being only 6 7/8" at the forearm end. I also have small hands, taking the smallest work gloves made for men, or medium women's gloves. I can just barely grip the Anaconda's Hogue-style grip with one hand, and I never shoot it that way. I can and have shot 60 rounds of full-power 44 Magnum through it in one range session (Cap'n Jim will remember that!), but I had leather gloves on which were taped to my wrists! Okay, the smarties say, why don't you just carry and practice with 44 Special? I did that until I got the Charter Bulldog. The Anaconda is a HUGE revolver, weighing 47 ounces. Add the ammo, and it's almost 4 1/2 pounds. The Bulldog weighs 20 1/2 ounces, and is almost an inch narrower. It conceals nicely. I carry the Anaconda open when I carry it. I have decided to drop back 3/4 of a century and load some 44 Russian ammo to practice with. I came up with this:
Bullet: 200-gr LFN, 5.0-gr Green Dot, LPP. Performance: 836 fps, 2" groups at 15 yards out of a Bulldog!
These will make shooting the Anaconda about equal to shooting an old S&W K-22: 22LR out of a heavy old 38 revolver. They will make shooting the Bulldog. about like shooting 38 out of a heavy old revolver.
And, of course, it is one of the missions of Straight Case to promote shooting the old firearms/loads which figured so prominently in our Nation's history...