.44 Mag Hunting Load Advice.


September 13, 2004, 10:04 PM
Hi folks.

Let me preface this by saying I DO plan on recruiting my brother-in-law and his chronograph in the future, but would like some opinions in the meantime.

A couple of questions for you experts:

A couple of months ago, I began handloading for .44 mag. I've met several loads that were pleasant to shoot -- most of them, in fact -- and worked my way up through a couple of manuals to the following load.

Bullet: Speer JSP 240 (with Lee Factory Crimp Die)
Primer: Federal 150
Powder 10.8 gr of Unique

Revolver: Taurus M-44, 6 inch, ported. (also shot this load in my 4" S&W 629 with same results, but I don't plan on hunting with it)

The recoil is moderate, notably less violent than WWB 240's, and the accuracy is superb. According to the cross-referencing I've done, this load should be running around 1200 fps.

Being fairly new to the re-loading scene, however, I am suspicious that this load -- since it's so much easier on the hand than the Winchester White Box stuff -- is not quite that fast. Could the variation in felt recoil be just because of the difference in powder burn-rates? Makes me wonder.

The bottom line is that I'd like to hunt deer with this load, but since it's not beating my shooting hand up, do you think it's powerful enough?

I bowhunt for deer, and know it doesn't take much to kill one as long as the shot is properly placed in the boiler room. However, I am wondering about neck shots (which I prefer when head-on) and shoulder shots. Would this load be up to the task of some serious bone-crunching?

I know, I know, get the chronograph, but I'd just like to hear some opinions in the meantime.

Thanks for bearing with the lengthy question and for any input you have.


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September 14, 2004, 06:28 AM
Your reloads probably are running 1200 fps, or very close to it. Most factory 240 grain ammo will run 1300 to 1400 fps. Powder selection can make a difference. You are using a medium rate powder, so just about all of it is combusted within the barrel before the bullet exits. Full power 44 magnum ammo uses slow burining rate powder and frequently it is still buring when the bullet leaves the muzzle. This is what gives you the nice fireball. I think a 240 grain softpoint at 1200 feet per second should take down the average whitetail if you put the shot where it counts.

September 14, 2004, 07:09 AM
Thanks, Stans, that's what I thought too.

According to Winchester's website, the factory ammo I am comparing to runs about 1180 fps, and I think these loads are comparable, despite the lessened recoil.

September 19, 2004, 06:48 AM
Hey Birddog if its an accurate load stick with it!!!! Practice with it and know your limits and if possible stay within bow hunting range and it'll put meat on the table. I shoot a speer 240gr jsp over a mag primer and 23.8 gr H110 with a heavy crimp. Its a real accurate load and I've killed lots of deer with it. If you decide to try this load back off at least 10% and work up to it, it doesn't show any pressure signs in my Ruger SBH but you can never be too safe. rugerman

September 19, 2004, 07:44 AM
I mean, since we're guessing and all...........:neener:

Suggest your load is going around 1,000fpsish, because that's what the recoil 'sounds' like from here; 240's going 1200 have a more definitive 'snap'.

Perhaps a different (W296/H110/2400/N110/LilGun/etc) powder would be (much) more suitable for your hunting need.

Your bullet selection is okay. I personally prefer heavier bullets for long bone-breaking holes, but the 240g JSP's have good actual-experience results on deer.

Let us know when you chrono the Unique load; I gotta bet........(:cuss: )

September 19, 2004, 08:58 AM
A slower burning powder might work better, I always used Blue Dot. The 240s are all you need for deer ,don't use 300s .An accurate load is what you should look for 1 1/2" or better at 25 yds from the bench. Then practice,practice, practice. The 44 will do the job well if you hit where you are supposed to. Reasonable distance for iron sights is 75 yds.

September 20, 2004, 08:37 PM
one of my friends killed a record book deer a few years ago with a Cowboy action load out of a .45 LC. Maybe 800 fps on a good day.

I suspect your load will leave 2 holes in the deer, one in and one out...

how fast does the bullet have to be going when it exits???

Unless you're going for 75-100 yard shots, I'd keep what I know I could hit with


September 20, 2004, 10:39 PM
You should use the load you like to shoot.
I like 24 gr H110, 240 gr JHP in my S&W 29.
I have been shooting it for years, no reason to change.

September 21, 2004, 02:01 PM
As a bow hunter, handgun hunter, and reloader myself, it is my opinion that if you use this combination of load and handgun, and take shots that you would take as a responsible bowhunter, you should have no problems killing any deer you shoot. Remember, with handguns, just as with archery, practice, practice, practice. Good luck!

I would also be interested in the chrono velocities of your load, when you get around to it. As a reloader, the chronograph is a must for me.

September 21, 2004, 03:34 PM

Yeah, I'm sure no matter the velocity that the round would work within bowhunting range and with a shot into the vitals. I've been killing deer for years with archery equipment, and I'm sure a 240 grain bullet at almost any speed would do comparable damage to an arrow if directed into the heart / lungs. (I know, I know, bullets and arrows kill differently) But what I'm really interested in is if this round will have enough energy out at 50 or 60 yards (where I am comfortable hitting a vital-sized area right now, with my red-dot scope) to break a shoulder, or -- as I prefer -- to break the neck of an average to large sized whitetail.

Thanks for the input.

When I get those chrono numbers, I'll let you know.


September 22, 2004, 02:41 AM
I am currently using 10.5 grains of Unique with a Hornady 240 gr. XTP. I don't know how fast it is going but it is my most accurate round out of my S&W 629-3 6" with the Winchester Supreme PTHP 250 gr. running a close second (and not nearly as punishing as the Winchester either). I can easily keep the Hornady in an 8" target at 100 yds. with a Leupold 2x scope out of a Ruger SRH. I have not shot a deer with it yet but my brother in law has been using this load for years and has never recovered a bullet on whitetail. It expands nicely but not too much which possibly accounts for its excellent penetration characteristics. On the other hand, the Winchester exhibits some WICKED expansion. Its got to tear up the innards of whatever it hits. It pushes a 250 gr. bullet at 1250 FPS. That's close to what Elmer Keith intended the .44 mag to be at (250 gr. at 1200 FPS).

Anyway, just my thoughts.


September 22, 2004, 12:53 PM
I guess I should have read your post again (neck and shoulder shots, 50-60 yds.), or a little closer, birddog. Now that I have a better understanding of what you would like to do, my recommendation would be to try some H110. Work up loads with a manual, but, around 24 grains with a 240 gr. jacketed bullet, like the Hornady XTP. Magnum primer, or WLP which is what I use. Then you don't have to worry that your load isn't powerful enough.

September 22, 2004, 02:42 PM

For what its worth, I just looked in the Hornady manual and it says that the 240 gr. XTP on 10.7 gr. Unique is hitting 1200 FPS out of a 7.5" Ruger Blackhawk. I'd say you are in the ballpark with 10.8 gr. I'd say the lessened recoil we've both experienced is possibly due to the burning rate of Unique compared to the WWB 240's. Also, as far as accuracy is concerned I've found that the WWBs are terribly eratic in my Smith. I'm lucky to stay within a pie plate at 25 yds. with my Smith. I'm gonna stick with MagTech for store bought ammo, I think? Its ballistics are comparable to the WWB 240's but much more accurate in my gun (1.25" @ 25 yds.).


September 22, 2004, 02:48 PM
Thanks for the info. And for what it's worth, my accuracy with the WWB ammo is ok, but the few boxes of Magtech I've shot are every bit as accurate (at least as far as my shooting abilities allow them to be.)

Another bit of info from my experience with my own handloads: I started out with 240 Speer JSP's with my 10.8 grains of Unique. Accuracy has been very good. However, lately I picked up some Magtech JSP 240's (strictly because the Speers are so expensive) and put them in front of the same 10.8 grains of Unique. The accuracy isn't bad, but it's not "quite" as good as it is with Speer bullets. I think the QC from Speer is probably a little better, and it is reflected in the accuracy. If I do hunt with the .44 this year, I'll use Speers. Otherwise, I'll keep plinking and target shooting with the Magtech JSP's.

September 23, 2004, 03:59 PM
Birddog, just my opinion, FWIW.
If your looking for a good "bone crunching" load, consider the 300 grain Speer soft point. This is the most accurate bullet I have shot out of my Super Blackhawk, and has been very accurate in any gun I have shot it out of (I put six into one big hole with my brothers scoped Super Redhawk). I load this over 22 grains of H110, using a CCI 350 primer. I also crimp with the Lee die. This load is very close to max, going by the Speer maunal. It is my "go to" load for most of my .44 Mags (I back down a little for my S&W).
I have run the White Box loads over a chrono, getting an average of 1303 fps out of my Super Black, 7 1/2" barrel, with very little deviation (I was kind of surprised).

Ben Shepherd
September 23, 2004, 11:30 PM
Out of WESHOOT2's list, I would recomend VV N110.


1. Velocity wise it will do 90-95% of what h110/296 will.
2. Much less flash/blast than most powders suitible for the caliber.

I like to use a heavy(but not insane) crimp and magnum primers with this powder/caliber combo.

And accuuracy has always been good withis this powder as well.

October 2, 2004, 05:28 PM
I do most of my whitetail hunting with a Marlin 1894S in .44 Mag. For years, I used the Speer factory 270 grain GDSP round. When I ran out of those, I started loading them myself. I use the same 270 grain GDSP, over a fair bit of H110. I have chronographed this load at over 1600 fps. It is deadly on Whitetails, and on feral hogs.

October 12, 2004, 06:20 PM

Just to put in my 2 cents. The Speer manual # 13 gives 10.3 gr. of Unique for their 240 gr soft point as the MAXIMUM load at 1175 fps out of a Ruger Redhawk with a 7 1/2 in. barrel. I would go to a slower powder. It's hard to tell how fast your load is going but with 1 1/2 in. less barrel and ports in theory it should be somewhat slower.

December 3, 2004, 12:28 PM
I got to put those loads to work. See the story and photo here.

(If anyone's interested in the technical details ((bullet performance, etc)) not covered in the post below, let me know and I have a few pics I can also post. To make a long story short, I blew through both shoulders and out the other side of a nice buck, dropping him where he stood at 50 yards. I also put one in his neck as he thrashed around on the ground, which wasn't necessary, just a judgement call. I recovered that bullet and have a couple of photos as well as photos of the shot-shoulder bones.)


December 3, 2004, 06:05 PM
Sounds like your load was perfect.

December 4, 2004, 11:39 AM
Birddog--If you want to chronograph your .44 mag load I'd be happy to do it for you when the weather warms up. ( Nick-the guy at Cabin Range who got 4 deer in 11 years with his Corolla!)

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