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Marlin 1894: .44 RIPSAW Wildcat Cartridge (aka .44 Monster Mag)

Marlin 1895 .44 RIPSAW Wildcat Cartridge

RPP’s first wildcat cartridge, the .44 RIPSAW, made its explosive debut at our test facility this weekend, and staff all returned with RIPSAW lust in their hearts. It’s one thing to look at a gun on paper and speak in the abstract about its performance potential. It’s quite another thing to hold that gun, ignore the impressive numbers being generated by the chronograph, and simply fire it at reactive targets. Most common reaction, by a wide margin, was “Holy s**t!” It’s a knee-jerk expletive when one sees a 12 pound melon completely vaporized with one shot. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Those of you who have followed the genesis of this new cartridge have read about our .44 Monster Mag experiments, in which we stretched the Marlin 1894 action to accept .44 mag loads of 1.73” overall length. We achieved some pretty impressive velocities with those rounds. From our 16.5” test rifle, the Monster Mag pushed 300gr bullets upwards of 1700fps. But we did so at a dangerous cost. Careful measurements confirmed that the pressures (upwards of 43,000psi) generated to reach those speeds are not safely sustainable in the Marlin 1894. So please, don’t do it.

On the subject of safety, let there be no doubt that the Marlin 1894 platform has bolt thrust limitations well below the threshold of its larger round-bolt siblings in the 336/444/1895 series. The reason for this is simple: the open sided receiver of the 1894 does not support the bolt locking lug to full height on the right side, which significantly limits the amount of pressure (more specifically bolt thrust) the rifle can withstand. In practical terms, anyone who regularly pushes a .44 mag to pressures beyond 40,000psi is asking for trouble. Trust us. We risked our rifles so you wouldn’t have to.

With the limitations of the 1894 pretty well mapped out, we decided that the .44 RIPSAW, with it’s big .475 Linebaugh case body, would need to operate at pressures of 33,000psi or less. Despite this modest pressure limit—or in one instance because of it—the RIPSAW offered some pleasant surprises. Thanks to a large increase in powder capacity and a bottleneck design, the new wildcat easily bests the performance of any factory chambering in the 1894. But, as predicted early on in development, the mild pressure of this round results in surprisingly manageable recoil, even in our ridiculously light 5 lb. test rifle.

While load development is far from complete, we did begin collecting some interesting data for the cartridge. We designed the RIPSAW with heavy bullets in mind, and it looks like performance with 300gr jacketed bullets will be in the 1700fps range—not quite as much as we’d hoped, but still impressive in a short barreled pistol caliber carbine. Traditional magnum pistol powders like H110 and 296 are a bit on the fast side for this voluminous case, so we’re still searching for the optimum propellant for heavy bullets. Speaking of which, it appears that at RIPSAW velocities, the factory 1894 barrel is capable of stabilizing 330gr cast lead, which should be lethal on big tough game. Near the opposite end of the spectrum we got a stunning 2000fps with 240 XTPs pushed by heavy doses of Alliant’s new 300 MP powder.

It was the latter 240gr bullets that we used with such devastating effect on melons. When the first cantaloupe got vaporized, we all stood in slack jawed amazement as bits of pulp rained down for 30 feet in all directions. Still, we thought, surely a large watermelon would sustain a large exit wound at worst. Bad news for melons: the RIPSAW is not a good fruit salad maker. It’s more of a juicer. Even when shooting through fence boards or two melons at a time, the explosive 240gr hollow points left little more than traumatized pulp in a grenade-like swath of destruction. The slow motion parts of the video are particularly fun to watch.

Best of all, I think, is that the RIPSAW offers not just impressive power for the Marlin 1894, but unprecedented flexibility for the platform. Lighter bullets propelled at “tame” .44 mag velocities generate delightfully mild recoil that even a novice shooter can comfortably manage, while heavy Beartooth loads are still more manageable than a 12ga shotgun. While there will no doubt be debate over whether the RIPSAW is the “ideal guide gun”, I for one would confidently and happily carry the 5 lb. wonder into any wilderness on this continent. To that end, it is everything that we’d hoped for.

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