Since I'm old and can remember a time when the 240gr bullet was top of the line for the 44 I can tell you that for nearly any hunting application the hard cast 240 gr bullet out of a 44 mag will penetrate any of my North American game animals. (I'm not sure what animals you may encounter or be able to hunt). That does include elk and brown bear. I have taken elk in a hunt and killed a black bear that was tearing up a calving shed using my model 29 and some very stout hand loads. Bullet performance was everything you could have asked.
Deer size game and below do not even slow the 240 gr down. Most shots went straight through destroying everything in between.
Grizzly, Alaskan brown and polar bears are a 300 gr proposition and I only used a rifle when I tried to hunt them. If I was doing a pistol hunt for one of these big guys I'd use a bigger pistol. 454, 460, 500 - you get the idea.
What started the 300gr bullets (If I remember correctly) was the handgun silhouette competition of the 1980s. People were using them to knock down the 200m steel rams. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd5G9mHXpqM
) This competition, by the way, was what gave the S&W Model 29 a bad reputation of being a weak or breakable design. If you shot the number of 300 gr loads we did in a weekend of competition your teeth would work loose as well, let alone your gun. (But that is another thread). In a hunting setting the 300gr gives more penetration and bone breaking power than the lighter bullet. But, how much do you need?? LOL!
These 300 gr loads are real but kickers. They are miserable to use and even be around when set off. IMHO - YMMV.
So, a couple of questions..
- Which load was giving you such a hard time when you first started shooting your 44?
- Did you think then (or do you think now) that you really need more power since then?
The full power and super heavy bullet loads are very fun to shoot - for awhile - but like I said, I'm old now and I can't take the pounding like I used to.
Even the 180 gr load for the 44 mag is way more gun than anyone would reasonably want for self defense against humans or most small game hunting. For target shooting light mag loads or heavy 44 special level loads are easier to shoot and usually more accurate.
Unless you have a specific application in mind the more powerful ammo isn't necessary or very useful. The problem I have with it is after four or five rounds my accuracy starts to drop off. It sill comes down to bullet placement and if I can't hit the vitals it ceases to be a hunt and becomes a chase. My ethics keep me from taking shots that will only wound or cripple an animal.
(P.S. - Given your Ruger you will be able to shoot as many of any load you may want to endure)