The .444 Marlin continues in an awkward existence, with its primary raison d’etre having long since disappeared. The .444 Marlin was first introduced in 1964 after Remington and Marlin partnered to create what was at the time the largest lever-action rifle cartridge available.
The .444 was intended to fill the gap that had been left by the disappearance of the venerable .45-70 cartridge, which by the 1960s was not only long since obsolete but also nearly unattainable on the market. Enter the .444 Marlin, which provided greater power than the old .45-70 loads in modern lever-action rifles.
Of course, as we all know today, the .45-70 has since experienced a resurgence. Numerous companies produce rifles chambered in .45-70 today, and with modern developments in cartridge case metallurgy, the .45-70 is capable of phenomenal performance exceeding that of the .444 Marlin. So where does that leave the .444?
The .444 Marlin shares the same rim diameter as the .44 Magnum revolver cartridge and uses .429”-diameter bullets, although the base of its case is slightly wider than the .44. The .444’s case is also nearly an inch longer, giving it its original performance advantage.
The .444 Marlin can push a 240-grain bullet to nearly 2,500 feet per second, or a 300-grain bullet to 2,100 feet per second, for 3,000 to 3,300 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s more than enough energy to take just about any game animal in North America. And handloaders can load even heavier bullets in the .444, with heavy hardcast bullets capable of punching through dangerous game. But is the .444 Marlin a good choice for you?
If you already load for the .44 Magnum, being able to use the same diameter bullets in your handgun (or smaller rifle) and your .444 Marlin rifle can be beneficial. And if you already have a .444 Marlin rifle, it’s certainly capable of taking game or defending yourself in the wild in a survival situation.
But with the resurgence of .45-70 and its rising popularity, it likely will be found in more places than the .444. The two cartridges will likely cost around the same amount per round, but the .45-70 can be found in a wider range of power levels, from soft-shooting Cowboy Action loads to hard-hitting heavy cast bullet loads. So if you’re looking for your first big-bore lever action rifle, there are probably better choices out there than the .444 Marlin.