Now out of production for going on thirty years, the Model 44 carbine, named easily enough because of its chambering in the beastly .44-magnum caliber, was a vintage rifle from another time that we wish Ruger would revisit.
(Photo by AR15.com)
In 1964, Bill Ruger came out with his instant classic 10/22 rifle. Now in its 50th year of solid and continuous production, that innovative .22LR rimfire carbine actually was a rehash of a gun that had come out three years before, the .44-mag Model 44. That gun, marketed as the 'Deerstalker" when first introduced sprang from Bill's personal drawing board as a compact 36.75-inch rifle with a 18.5-inch barrel that held 4+1 rounds in a tubular magazine that was contained entirely inside the wooden stock of the gun.
(The tubular magazine works much like that of a pump action shotgun, only its on a semi-auto rifle in this case)
With an ivory bead front sight and folding rear, the gun also came standard with its receiver drilled and tapped for a scope (which, while standard today, was pretty far thinking for 1961). Semi-automatic, the rifle could pop off its five shots as fast as you could pull the trigger while the barrel allowed far better accuracy as a handgun in the same caliber due to longer sight radius and increased ballistics performance.
Sold for a MSRP of $108 (which is $850 adjusted for today's dollars) this handy little go-getter was advertised as, "The perfect brush-country deer rifle" and that it's .44 Magnum round was capable of driving "its heavy bullet through a six inch pine tree."
Ad from 1964 when the Ruger 10/22 was introduced comparing the two guns. Its unmistakable to see the similarities. Also note that the caliber and the price was exactly half of the Model 44 with the larger carbine being $108 and the smaller .22 running $54. Now that's advertising.
In 1962, Ruger dropped the "Deerstalker" moniker from the gun due to threat of a lawsuit from New York-based Ithaca, who used that name on premium versions of their Model 37 pump action shotgun. Established in the 1880s, Ithaca at the time was a well-respected player in the gun industry who was much more of a household name than Ruger, which then was less than 15 years old and only had a few guns on the market. Continuing as the Model 44 it remained in production until 1985.
These guns proved very popular although some have experienced feed issues that are typically ammunition-based.
Chaos311Clarity firing and loading a Model 44 (note the one failure to feed)
A very nicely equipped 44RS model, which had a Lyman-type built-in rear receiver sight (but no sling swivels) retailed for about $10 more.
A full-length International series, which had a Mannlicher -style stock was produced until the early 1970s, as was a flat-buttplated Sporter model.
They went out in style in 1985 with a 25th Anniversary gun that was inlayed with a special stock medallion and receiver markings.
For a few years Ruger rebooted the design (from 2000-2004) with a different action as the Deerfield 44 Carbine, that was similar but an altogether different gun (and a different article!)
Getting your own
Sadly, these guns are three decades out of production. While .44 Magnum aficionados are not as common in the firearms community due to the price of factory loaded brass making the breed almost by default reloaders as well (from which I speak from experience), those who have a Model 44 seem reluctant to turn them loose.
The most collectable of the breed are the early "Deerstalker" marked guns, which often reach the $800-$900 mark if in good condition (especially with the now 50+ year old box and manual).
A Ruger Model 44 with a Bushnell Sportview scope (top) and a Ruger 10/22 with a Weaver K4 scope (bottom). Note the overall similarity and the Model 44's much beefier barrel. Photo by Rock Island Arsenal
The Internationals, which were mainly marketed overseas and as such are a little rare in the states, also run a little on the higher end of the spectrum.
Shooter quality Model 44s, often mistakenly called 10/44s, can be had for as little as $400 in good condition. Of course, if you have one, as these are getting longer in the tooth, its a good idea to pick up some spare internal parts (springs, pins, etc.) should you intend to keep the gun shooting into the future or hand it down as an heirloom.
Moreover, be sure to send Ruger an email to bring these bad boys back.