The step up is the 44. Reverse rotation is superior to the other 44s. Better yet if you can get one with thick tubes(1/2") and HD knuckles.
Now for your bad gear setup. If you plan to keep the axle more than a year or so you really ought to rework it before you really mess things up. That little of miles should yield NO metal at all. If you've done it once you can do it again. My guess is that all you need to do is re shim things. Sounds like you not meshing properly.
Maybe get some veteran help this time around. IMO. Doing it by yourself for the first time AND being rushed is a disaster waiting to happen.
89 YJ.. My first jeep and I won't let it go. ▀||||▀
Current Project: None... I disgust myself.
<a href="http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f22/my-yj-build-adventures-thread-1356941">BUILDING THE YJ MY WAY</a>