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44 Mag. Whitetail Bullet Chioces

Bowhunter57

Senior Member
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Allen County
#1
Everyone that I've talked with that has a 44 Mag. uses a 240gr. bullet of various configurations, for whitetails.

I have yet to shoot a large game animal with a handgun, but have a great deal of varmint kill experience. My bullet choices have always been light weight jacketed hollow points and the kills have been impressive.

My thinking is... A 180gr. JHP bullet traveling much faster than a 240gr. bullet would do as much or more damage, for a good kill. There should be more than enough kinetic energy with the 180gr. bullet weight for good penetration. I'm using a Ruger Super Redhawk with a 9 1/2" barrel.

Why doesn't anyone use a 180gr. JHP bullet for whitetails?

Thank you, Bowhunter57
 

Beentown

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15,683
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Sunbury, OH
#2
Everyone that I've talked with that has a 44 Mag. uses a 240gr. bullet of various configurations, for whitetails.

I have yet to shoot a large game animal with a handgun, but have a great deal of varmint kill experience. My bullet choices have always been light weight jacketed hollow points and the kills have been impressive.

My thinking is... A 180gr. JHP bullet traveling much faster than a 240gr. bullet would do as much or more damage, for a good kill. There should be more than enough kinetic energy with the 180gr. bullet weight for good penetration. I'm using a Ruger Super Redhawk with a 9 1/2" barrel.

Why doesn't anyone use a 180gr. JHP bullet for whitetails?

Thank you, Bowhunter57
They use the heavier bullet for more KE, especially the amount extra it carries downrange. Any should work just fine though.
 

Ohiosam

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Mahoning Co.
#3
I have exactly 1 handgun kill. .44 mag Contender with a .240 grain xtp. However I've probably killed 20 deer with that same bullet out of muzzleloaders. I can't imagine a better bullet out of a .44 mag.
 
#4
OK
I will disagree with the light bullet
IMO THE 180'S go fast at first
But loose velosity , FPE and killing power all to quick
Also a shoulder hit my not give the wanted penatration at 50+ yds

240 gr Hornady XTP's work great in my Redhawlk
But the Hornady 300 gr XTP's are more accurate , so I have stuck with them for several years

Another great deer bullet is a 240-320gr cast bullet
That has a large meplate
I used the Lee 310 gr gaschecked cast bullet in the 44 mag TC Contender barrel and in a sabot for the muzzel loader
If cast from a moderate alloy ( 1 part Clip on Wheel Weights and 2 parts either stick on Wheel weights or pure lead )
Also the cast bullet needs to be as large as posible and still chamber
I use a .431 cast bullet

The cast bullet will expand at moderate velosity
But still exit the deer lengthways


Lots of good choices
Shoot a few and hunt with what is accurate in your pistol

John
 

MK111

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#5
I've taken 21 deer with the 44 mag pistol. 19 of those deer was taken with a 240 gr. hard cast bullet. The other 2 was taken with the Lee 310 gr. hard cast bullet.
I started handgunning deer the 1st yr. Ohio had handgun deer hunting. At that time hollowpoint jacketed bullets were no reliable and either blew up on hitting a shoulder blade or didn't. So I started hunting with the hard cast bullet and never looked back on the decision.
I've always wanted 2 holes in a deer for a better bled. I never bought the idea about the bullet stopping inside a deer and releasing all it's energy. Just think about a bullet stopping. There is no energy if the bullet stopped.
To test a killing shot I tried a "Texas heart shot" on a big doe. The bullet entered about one inch to the right of the butt hole and existed through the left side of the neck just below the head.

Johnch- I'm glad you liked the Lee 310 gr. bullet. I'm proud to say a Dale friend of mine and myself designed that 310 gr. bullet for Lee. I was going to Alaska about 20 yrs. ago and wanted a heavy 44 caliber bullet for a carry gun as I was hunting and camping in brown bear country. We got the design right the 1st time. We took all the best features of bullet designs and put them into one design. It's been a good seller for Lee.
A funny side to this bullet design was when I got back from 3 weeks in Alaska I had a message from John Lee of Lee Co. to call him. I called him and he requested to change the bullet design to a more normal design. I told him not to change the design on the molds I bought to sell and he could change his molds he wanted to offer. He didn't change his design. I designed a 45 caliber exactly like the 44 caliber but got sick and never went through with the deal. Lee brought the 45 caliber out later. I also designed a 35 caliber for the 357 mag. in 180 gr. I had one mold made up which I still have but never released it for sale. Lee never offered the 357 Mag 180 gr. mold.
Lead bullets all the way. I want the bullet in and out both sides. The only 240 gr. lead bullet I ever recovered was from a 1500 lb. bull my son had to shot to butcher. It went through both front shoulders and was under the skin on the off side. I really hated finding that bullet not going all the way through but I'm positive the 310 gr. would have went in and out.

Have I ever mentioned I recommend lead bullets for deer hunting?

P.S. I use a alloy of 5 parts wheel weights and one part linotype. Sized .431. This gives a hardness of about 17. I shoot over 5,000 of these bullets through my Ruger Redhawk and never once cleaned the barrel of lead.
 
Last edited:

Bowhunter57

Senior Member
3,038
44
76
Allen County
#6
I agree with what everyone has said, about the heavier cast bullets. It seems to be the way to go, but I was curious as to the use of the lighter weights and apparently that is NOT the way to go. Instead, I might look into trying some 300gr. cast bullets. I'm currently using a hard cast 240gr. SWC.

I've posted this question on other forums and they've stated the same thing.
The Firing Line:
http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=530392

The High Road:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=725052

Thank you, for your replies. :smiley_bril:
Bowhunter57
 

MK111

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#7
The 240 gr. hard cast will kill just as good as a 310 gr. hard cast bullet. As you notice I use the 240 gr almost all the time. I just had to try it couple times since I was a co-designer.
The only reason we designed the 310 gr. bullet was because I was going into brown bear country for 3 weeks.
We designed the 310 gr. with a wide meplate nose and 2 crimping grooves. The Ruger pistols have longer cylinders than S&W and other makes by about .090 so the 2 meplate can be used for 2 different length bullets.
I got a new 44 caliber 285 gr. mold in that has changeable nose punches.
Can use a round tapered punch for a standard hollowpoint.
Or use a 5 sided punch for a nasty performing hollowpoint.
Or use a flat punch for no hollowpoint and just have a solid bullet design.

I used the 5 sided hollowpoint bullet in a 45 Long Colt and it was awesome. It was cast 20-1 lead to tin and designed to expand. This was my only iron sighted deer kill.

So I'm just saying go with the 240 gr. and just play with the 310 gr. if you have a mind to.
 

Hedgelj

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#8
What are the advantages of hard cast lead for deer vs the xtp?
I used to use lead bullets when I first started muzzleloading but have since switched to xtps with sabots. They both put deer down quickly and well with good shot placement but the xtps seem to make as larger wound channel which can ruin more meat with questionable to bad shot placement.
 

Ohiosam

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#9
Hard cast bullets tend to give more penetration. Never had and issue with penetration with 240 xtps but I never tried a Texas heart shot.

If I was to use a .357 mag or max I'd probably use a hard cast 180 grain
 

MK111

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#10
What are the advantages of hard cast lead for deer vs the xtp?
I used to use lead bullets when I first started muzzleloading but have since switched to xtps with sabots. They both put deer down quickly and well with good shot placement but the xtps seem to make as larger wound channel which can ruin more meat with questionable to bad shot placement.
20 yrs. ago the XTP's and other hollowpoint bullets weren't reliable. Some expanded and some blewup on impact.
I have only lost one deer using cast bullets out of 22 taken. And that lost deer was eaten by the neighbor because he wouldn't let me track it on his property.
Lead bullets just plain work.
I will say there are good lead bullets and bad lead bullets. I cast my own so I control quality. Some commercial cast bullets will lead so bad they don't work past couple shots. My good lead cast bullets I shot over 5,000 in my Ruger Redhawk and never had to clean the barrel. Now that's a good accurate lead bullet. 5 shot groups off sandbags at 50 yds. with a 2 power Burris scope will print 1.5 inch all day.
 

Hedgelj

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#11
I am not sure if my reloading set up will be up and running prior to deer season. How tame are factory 44 mag hollowpoint loads in comparison to your preferred hunting loads in 44 mag? Just wondering how much of a hurry I need to be in to start working up some handloads or if the factory loads will be adequate if my reloading doesn't get started quickly enough.
 

Beentown

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#12
I am not sure if my reloading set up will be up and running prior to deer season. How tame are factory 44 mag hollowpoint loads in comparison to your preferred hunting loads in 44 mag? Just wondering how much of a hurry I need to be in to start working up some handloads or if the factory loads will be adequate if my reloading doesn't get started quickly enough.
There are some great choices out there that will work just fine (Buffalo Bore, Hornady XTP, Corbon, etc). If you have you dies already just bring them over, I have an extra turret and we can play with some loads.
 

MK111

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#13
Just about 1-2 grs. below max and you are good to go. However don't go below max with H110 or W296 as both need max loads. Use a good roll crimp.
I load full loads of H110 for my hunting cast bullet loads. Shots 1.5" at 50 yds. 5 shot groups off sand bags with 2 power scope.
There really isn't much load development with pistol rounds.
 

CJD3

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#14
Not sure about powder but I have a couple of good clean kills w/ my Redhawk using the 300gr. Hornady JHP.
Mine has never grouped the 180's well at all.
 
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#15
Question. What is the distance you plan on taking big game with your 44 mag? Specs. Using the 44 Remington Mag with a Nosler 240JHP with muzzle velocity at 1200fps. Your zero'd at 100yds you get 1024fps and 564KE will get 924fps and 456KE at 200yds, 848fps and 384KE at 300yds. The specs if you use the 200gr JHP by Nosler you get 1360fps and 828KE at the muzzle will get 1114fps and 562KE at 100yds, 964fps and 414KE at 200yds, 869fps and 336KE at 300yds... So the difference is not substantial... These are not EXACT, but to give the OP and idea that going from 240 to a 200 is not that big of a deal. Remember if you using factory ammo, or you load your own and run them hot. there is all kinds of differences we could mix into the plot. But you wont gain 40% increases if that what your thinking.. Also most of the time you wont be shooting past 100yds here in Ohio unless your on field edge. JMTC
 

MK111

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#16
Being mainly a woods treestand hunter I've never taken a deer over 50 yds. I wouldn't even think twice about the results at 150 yds. plus with a good rest and knew where the bullet would impact.
I use solid lead bullets only and I want a complete pass through. Always felt 2 holes bleed better than one hole. Also I always felt if a bullet stopped inside a deer's body there was no real stopping power because the bullet stopped. As you see I don't buy into the thought of spending all the energy in the deer's body by the bullet stopping.
Everyone to their own thoughts.
 
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#17
well there is a little difference between a 44pistol and a 44 lever gun .. Let’s only use 1 ammo manufacturer for now.. I know there are a few others out there that sell +P 44 mag ammo and you can load it yourself too. I have run some hot stuff just to see what I can get out of the 44, but it was never overwhelming increases worth the wear your putting on your gun. So let’s go with the 44 Mag 225 gr FTX LEVERevolution factory ammo and the BC is .145. Using in a pistol you get: Muzzle 1410/993KE then at 50yds 1234/761KE then at 100yds 1104/609KE. Using a lever gun you get: 1870/1747KE and then at 50yds 1629/1325KE then at 100yds 1416/1002KE.. the difference from pistol to rifle is roughly 30% increase. Using this data and now discuss bullet expansion. Lead type foster bullets have always worked well for years before the SABOT or more BC amped bullets. Well when you’re thinking of a Whitetail I just can’t see a 180+ grain bullet not passing through even if you hit bone. I know there is a difference, but look at a slug. 1OZ Barnes expander or a Remington Copper Solid.. All they do is blow two holes in and out. It’s the energy that's pounding the inside. So that 30% is helpful of course, but i can’t see it being the deciding factor on ohhh i gotta shoot 300+ grainers to drop a whitetail..

Off topic but because Muzzleloading bullets can’t compare to rifle or pistol butters, but in the discussion of types of bullet performance I’d share this info. In my TC Omega, my go to load was always the TC's 250gr Shockwaves 110grs of Triple 7 2F (100grs=150gr BP) and getting 2000+, then I switched over Buckhorn 209 and get 2200+.. I started testing the different bullets with the Buck horn because the inside of your barrel is so damn clean and you can shoot a lot more without having to break the gun all the way down to clean it.. So I swapped bullets to the much higher BC bullet called the DeadCenter 175gr. With a BC of .342 and getting 2300fps+. It’s a flatter shooter by far and I have no problems when messing around feeling comfortable at 250yd shots. JMTC because bullet placement kills. Yes we have all seen deer shot in the ass with a slug and they dies, but we all want quick human kills..

Just do whatever makes the shooter comfortable. Im not a big fan of foster LEAD. Its dirty to your barrel and who wants it in their meat. Do your homework and read spec’s and make your own decision. It’s all a learning process. Remember most shots are all close, that’s why when I hunt PA I don’t use my 300win mag shooting 210gr Bergers and my 22X NightForce scope. I use a 243 with 107gr and a 20x Zeiss. J
 
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Licking Co.
#19
there seems to be some concern about putting two holes in deer with handgun loads? I'm a bow and arrow guy and not much of a gun guy, per se. I've been wandering off the reservation a little for the last couple of years and using my .41mag Smith to put some meat in the freezer. I'm loading 13.5 grains of Blue Dot pushing a 210 gr. XTP. 1.5" groups at 50 yards from bench is no trouble, even with my meager shooting skills. pulled trigger four times and put two holes in all four deer, none of which managed to go more than 60 yards after being shot. longest shot was less than 50 yards, all broadside more or less from a treestand and hit square in the chest just like I would want to hit them with an arrow. despite looking pretty hard, I've never even found so much as a bullet fragment in the body. am I just lucky and need to be more concerned? my experience is limited, but it doesn't seem to be an issue to get complete penetration, which, in my mind seems to be important with handgunning for big game. I'm under the impression that the middle caliber revolver(.357, .41, .44) loads just don't generate enough shocking power to matter like centerfire rifles do. what say ye guru's?
 

MK111

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#20
there seems to be some concern about putting two holes in deer with handgun loads? I'm under the impression that the middle caliber revolver(.357, .41, .44) loads just don't generate enough shocking power to matter like centerfire rifles do. what say ye guru's?
No concern here on 2 holes in a deer. Like you said with 2 holes your deer went less than 60 yds. Bow shot deer do the same thing.
I don't think shocking power is necessary on deer size animals. Just punch 2 holes through the vitals and it's a done deal.
I will set on some toes and say I don't hunt with anyone who uses a .357 Mag. Just too marginal. 41 & 44 Mag or larger are just fine. IMHO