Handgun bullet choice for whitetail


November 6, 2011, 12:49 AM
I'm going to hunt whitetail deer with my .41 mag and a .44 mag this year. I'm looking for input on bullet choice...JHP? Or cast lead? I'll be loading my own.

I've read some reports that JHP's might not reliably expand at hunting ranges and there for cast bullets are better (specifically hard cast).

What are your thoughts and experiences. Both guns will be scoped and shot from solid rest and I have a tremendous amount of experience killing southern whitetails.

The .41 mag is a Ruger Blackhawk with a 6.5 inch barrel and the .44 is a S&W 629 with a 10.5 inch barrel. Whitetail in my area range average 100-110 lbs for a doe and 150 lbs for a buck. We will occasionally kill a buck over 200 lbs but it's not common.

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November 6, 2011, 05:11 AM
well I had the same thoughts this year, and I decided to try the barnes xpbs in my 7.5" blackhawk 45lc. they are supposed to perform at the velocity of the cartridge they are specific to. I have not yet shot anything with them, but if they work as well as all the other barnes I've used I'll be happy..

November 6, 2011, 09:06 AM
I don't have experience with the .41 mag, but in .44 mag. my experience is, on deer, most any quality JHP/JSP will do the job if you do. Same goes for hard cast. I have used Hornady 240gr XTPs, 240 gr Noslers JHPs/JSPs, 240 gr Remington JSPs and Speer 240gr JSPs. All have performed well on deer and all are accurate in my firearms.

November 6, 2011, 11:57 AM
You can't go wrong with Hornady XTP's or Speer Gold-Dots for both guns.

Hard cast SWC are great for really big or dangerous game, as they penetrate like all get out.

But that is not what you need or want for a deer, unless you like trailing meager blood trails.


November 6, 2011, 12:09 PM
I took up hand gun hunting last year and used Hornady 240 XTP's over 23.5 grns of IMR4227. Of the three I shot only one left it's tracks. It took about three steps before it fell. Shots were 42, 47, and 53 yards. This was shot from a Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter 44 with 7.5 inch pipe. If I recall correctly that load chrono'ed at 1435 fps. I purchased a 41 mag over the summer and plan on using it some this year. I have 210 XTP's and 21.5 grns of the same powder loaded for it.

November 6, 2011, 12:21 PM
Another vote for Hornady XTPs in both calibers.

Just my .02,

Friendly, Don't Fire!
November 6, 2011, 12:25 PM
Barnes Triple Shock XPB (X-Pistol Bullet).

November 6, 2011, 01:00 PM
I have had good success with my .44 mag Ruger Hunter Bisley using 240 Rem JHP's over a good dose of H110. If the distance is not really close, the bullet MAY not exit but will be found WELL blossomed under the off side skin. Great internal damage and a dead deer if placed correctly.

I've taken several deer as well as hogs with that load. It WORKS.

Last year, I changed. I used a S&W model 25 in .45 Colt. Loaded to much lower power levels, I went to a hard cast SWC. That type of bullet tends to make a good through & through and also takes deer quite cleanly if properly placed. That WORKS too!

You might consider what tracking conditions you may face. If the tracking is in tough places, you may want a two-holer (in & out) to make SURE you get good tracking blood IF NEEDED.

I also use a TC Contender in 30-30 Win loaded with 125 gr Nosler BT's over IMR 4198. Now they will work near and far, gives good internal damage and good penetration.

Understand however that I am not hunting BEASTS but southern whitetail that run to the smallish side in thick places.

Good luck and enjoy. Handgun hunting is a real blast! (pun intended!)

November 6, 2011, 01:33 PM
Been using a .44 Super Redhawk for deer and Hogs for a good number of years. Any quality Jacketed Soft point will do the job you state. I have found over the years that the Jacketed Hollow Points can be hit or miss. The JSP's, to me anyway, just perform the best as far as terminal ballistics as I have never had one fail me on hog or deer. I have had a few JHP's fail to penetrate well which ended up in a long trailing job. Hard casts, as RC pointed out, will zip through a deer without opening up so you will have 2 little holes for trailing if it wasn't a dead right there with a CNS hit. I prefer the hard casts for the big hogs. Hogs are denser and generally will make a good hard cast open up a little whereas a deer just doesn't have that density.

When deer hunting with the .44mag I use a 240gr JSP over 23gr of h110 with a MV of right at 1450fps. It will fold a deer up pretty well.

Steve in PA
November 6, 2011, 02:16 PM
I've taken several deer with a 240gr XTP in .44mag. My SRH loves them!

November 6, 2011, 09:12 PM
this will be my first year going after whitetails with a handgun. i decided on the .44 mag with a 240 grain XTP loaded with aliant 2400 to a velocity of 1467 fps. very accurate and i cant imagine any deer that it wont take down!

November 6, 2011, 09:24 PM
The XTPs work really well. I prefer the 240 or 300 grainers. The 300 gr is a bit heavy but I get 1350 out of the 300 gr in my SRH when it is seated to the rear crimping groove and loaded over 25.0 IMR4227. It will shoot a cylinderful under 2" at 100 yards. The 200s kill pretty well, but penetration is a bit wanting.

With respect to the hard cast bullets, they kill very well even on lung shots if the bullet is shaped properly. The LFN or WFN bullets by LBT have wide flat points and they transfer a great deal of trauma to your target. Wound channels are deep and shaped like ones made by X bullets. 1.5" to 2" for the length of the wound which is nearly always full penetration. They leave good blood trails.


November 6, 2011, 09:36 PM
out of my .45 Blackhawk Bisley 7 1/2" barrel I use 230 JHPs for deer and 300 grain cast for hogs and always carry some CCI ratshot cause my lease and other cattle pastures are loaded with rattlers, especially when it starts warming up, they come out to sun. supposedly hogs killing them in high numbers is causing them to not rattle, (could be a BS story) but I come prepared cause I got all of the above animals in great numbers.

November 6, 2011, 10:58 PM
100 gr. JHP !!!!!!!!!!

November 6, 2011, 11:01 PM
Here in TX the deer are about the same size as yours and I've seen 2 shot with smaller calibers than your choices and they worked just fine, one was a 357 with a 158 grain JHP and the other was a 10mm with a 180 JHP. Both died within 10 yards of where they were shot. I'd say you're fine with whichever bullet you choose.

November 6, 2011, 11:51 PM
I killed a lot of Texas Whitetails in my earlier days with a Ruger Super Blackhawk (44 mag). Used a hardcast 240 grain w/gascheck exclusively...and always got good results.

November 7, 2011, 01:15 AM
Thanks to all for the replies! This is very helpful. I've got a few more weeks to scrape my game plan together. Can't wait.

Lloyd Smale
November 7, 2011, 07:06 AM
im mostly a cast bullet shooter but one bullet that has performed excellent for me in the 41s is the good old fashion speer half jacketed hp. It about allways expands and gives decent penetration. It isnt high tech by a long shot but just works.

November 19, 2011, 11:39 PM
I like XTPs.

November 20, 2011, 12:02 PM
For .41 or .44, I'd go for an XTP.

Personally, I use heavy cast bullets with my .357 as I don't know how well the hunting JHPs work out of that caliber on deer, and I like an exit wound on deer. I wouldn't worry about that with a .41 or .44.

Savage Shooter
November 20, 2011, 12:37 PM
I use hand cast 250gr hard lead bullets, and the deer i shot with one yesterday didn't fare to well.:evil:

November 20, 2011, 08:08 PM
Either a jacketed soft point of hollow point is more than adequate for thin skinned non-dangerous game such as deer from either a 41 or 44 mag at normal factory power levels.

November 20, 2011, 09:49 PM
Encore pistol in .260 Rem, 7-08 Rem, 270 Win, 444 Marlin, or 45-70 Gov't.


November 22, 2011, 09:44 PM
Geno, an Encore in .444 or 45-70 gov't? I bet they tingle your hands. I use Buffalo bore in my .44 mags and .45 colts and they will let you know. I can just imagine a 45-70..

November 22, 2011, 11:49 PM
...after 1/2 doz handgun deer, I recommend XTP's.

November 25, 2011, 10:42 PM
I've stuck with 240gr Speer soft points over 24.7 gr of 296 since about 83. ( Ruger Redhawk)

It seems the bullet design changed slightly along with the numbering code on the box. I noticed the last box of Soft point 240's have a less rounded edge to the exposed lead than the earlier bullets.
Perhaps they are 2 different types ( early # is 100 4457 and latest soft point is 100 4454). I have to research this to see what, if anything has changed.

Both are listed as soft points, same weight and general design, but shaped slightly different.

I just sized a couple hundred cases and found 2 WW super cases with longitudinal splits about 3/8" long starting about 1/4" back from the case mouth.

I've lost track on how many times these cases were sized so figure the brass has weakened. I have yet to see this with the other mfg's.
Does anyone know if there is a difference in wall thickness which might cause this?

Anyway, I rarely just take the pistol to hunt but have taken deer on my weak side out to about 40 yds and the round puts the deer down so I have no complaints.

GTS Dean
November 27, 2011, 10:27 PM
I've killed 14 Tx whitetails with my Ruger 7.5" pistols. All have been with Hornady 200 gr jhp & xtp offhand out to 50 yards. All were 1 shot kills. I took a W Tx Muley at 55 yards with the same ammo, but it took 2 shots. A 240 jsp would have been better.

November 28, 2011, 02:39 AM
I shot an 8 point buck over the weekend with a 7 1/2" Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum. Winchester 240gr Jacketed Soft Point. Dropped him like a bad habit.

That ammo is cheap too. Grain choice & all the technical stuff is important... but not more important than shot placement.

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