For the .44 spl uses, you might look at the taurus 445 series. Five-shot snubnose, more stoutly built than the charter arms guns. I recently picked up a used 450, which is the .45 colt version of that series and am very impressed with it.
They also make (or made) a model called the 44C, which is much like the 445 but in .44 mag rather than special.
I'm looking at S&W model 29 with 6 1/2". It's for when I'm out in the woods if I have the misfortune to walk up on an aggressive bear or feral pig or if I went hunting for squirl and up in front of me is the perfect deer or similar. I don't intend to go pistol hunting or for it to be my primary defense if I suspect dangerous game is in the vicinity. It is what it is, in my opinion a side arm, the final defense firearm when there is nothing else avalible.
It's also intended to do double duty for full size handgun self defense for me or my family when my 45ACP is not avalible (such as the 44's at home while I'm out with the 45)
So I'm looking for the best of the best ammo to stop big dangerous game in 44 mag and something to practice with, perhaps reload in 44 mag. Also I've heard in 44SPC Winchester Silver tips are the best for self defense. Naturally I'm looking for a good 44SPC to practice and perhaps reload too.
It was me not being specific enough. 45LC and 454Casull I haven't gotten into yet but I'd like to try. OK if it goes bang I'd like to try it, but anyway. Mainly I haven't gotten into those rounds because they aren't as easy to pick up at Wal-mart nationwide. Of course 45ACP is that way now so go figure.
I'm finding: Federal 300 grain CastCore (VitaShok) load in 44MAG are good for back woods defense and almost everywhere I read most 44SPC is expensive the only way around is reloading. Does anyone have an inexpensive 44mag round they'd like to recommend? Or is it pretty much the same expense-wise as 44SPC (better to reload)?
I also discovered the 44 S&W Russian works too! Maybe everyone else already knew that but it's new to me. I see that it's rarer and more expensive still than 44SPC & 44MAG but my curiosity up so I'll probably order a box. In that fuzzy time known as "the future", when I start reloading, when the cases start to split in the mouth on MAGs I can shorten them to SPCs and the SPCs to RUSs!
My .44 Magnum Cowboy action load is 5.3 grains of W231 pushing a 240 grain RNFP bullet. While it won't stop a rhino at 3 yards, it will knock over a steel "pepper popper". It doesn't cause wear on the pistol either. One of my old style Ruger Vaqueros has in excess of 20,000 rds through it with this load.
I've loaded .44 special with 4.8 grains of W231 for roughly the same muzzle velocity, but since brass is more difficult to find on a regular basis, I've stuck with the magnum cartridge case.
The thing I've found with lead handloads is that over @1000fps they melt lead like crazy... I have used gas checks on some loads and that helped quite a bit...
How about giving Elmer Keiths loads a try?
Using a handgun with magna-porting will put a lot of lead out those holes as well.