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Old December 5, 2017, 10:16 PM   #1
Prof Young
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Think I'm done with the 44 . . .

Some years ago I bought a 44 mag (Taurus Raging Bull) so I could hunt the IL handgun only deer season. Well, of course the next year they took the handgun only season away, but it's still a legal gun for the firearms season. So four times I've shot a whitetail deer with it. Two were kills, but in both instances finding the blood trail was difficult. The other two times I search long and hard but no blood trail and no deer. All these shots were less than 40 yards. I never have these problems with my muzzle loader or slug gun. So, while I still think it's a fine caliber to hunt deer with, it's not the right gun for me.

Thoughts and comments welcome.

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Old December 5, 2017, 10:40 PM   #2
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What is your bullet selection?
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Old December 5, 2017, 11:04 PM   #3
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That's interesting.

I have killed deer, elk, antelope, bear and buffalo as well as domestic cattle and horses with 44 magnums and had excellent results Better than many rifles in fact.
So I am also interested in asking what bullet you used.
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Old December 5, 2017, 11:08 PM   #4
Steve in PA
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Killed quite a few deer with my .44 Magnum Super Redhawk. Even took a small bear last year with my .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk.

Absolutely nothing wrong with the .44 Magnum. All kills were done with handloaded 240gr Hornady XTP’s.
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Old December 6, 2017, 08:21 AM   #5
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I've been a handgun shooter for a lot longer than some folks on here have been alive probably. I know a lot of game is taken with handguns every year, and probably a lot of them were very competent kills...but I seriously wonder how many are actually lost after being shot. Folks can state how well their specific loads/bullets etc. work...but in the end you are dealing with less energy than most good hunting rifle rounds. A handgun round that can completely penetrate through a larger animal will have a better chance of a good blood trail, but I doubt that penetration is as prevalent as we would like to think.
All in all, I would bet a lot more deer sized animals are lost every year than folks fess up to.
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Old December 6, 2017, 08:40 AM   #6
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Maybe, but I have never lost even one, and I have only once fired 2 shots. (both hits) All the rest of them were one-shot kills. None went more then about 20 yards.
In the late 60s and early 70s I did use a few jacketed bullets in my 44 mag, but by about 1975 or so, I stopped using anything but cast bullets in my revolvers. I did kill one white tail with a 45 with jacketed bullet (the one I shot 2 times) about 8 years ago.
Other than that deer I can't think of one elk, deer antelope bear or my buffalo that I killed with a jacketed bullet. I use hard cast, Heavy for caliber LBT or Keith style. All cast myself from hard alloy and all lubed myself too.
I have had no problems. The elk I have killed have fallen fast enough to make my partners thing I used a rifle. By bear fell in about 8 feet from where I hit it.
and you are 100% correct about penetration. I am a fanatic about exits. Any bullet that I can't get exits with is not one I'll use again. The longest distance I ever saw any handgun killed game animal go was an antelope I killed about 10 years ago with a single shot from my 4" S&W 44 mag. Perfect hit being the shoulder in the ribs and it ran flat out for about 75 yards. But it was stone dead before I got up to it. I shot from about 60 yards so I had to walk about 135-140 yards to where it lay dead.
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Old December 6, 2017, 11:07 AM   #7
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If you’re not comfortable using the .44 mag, then by all means use something else. 2 non-recovered would be enough for me, too.
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Old December 6, 2017, 12:47 PM   #8
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Ross Seyfried wrote several articles for the gunzines about his hunting with Big Maggie handguns.

He always recommended heavy cast bullets with large meplats.

One of his kills was an Australian buffalo, a one-ton critter. IIRC, the bullet exited on a cross-body shot.
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Old December 6, 2017, 01:33 PM   #9
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Yep, heavy for caliber, LBT or Keith style in hard cast (BHN 18+) blows through them.
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Old December 6, 2017, 02:35 PM   #10
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Kaido's 240 grn version of Lee's 255 grn .45 Colt bullet meant for reproduction percussion revolvers goes nose to tail through an adult hog at standard .45 Colt velocities with a BHN of 7 or 8. Certainly adequate for medium game. Dropped it right there from what I recall (minus its momentum).
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Old December 6, 2017, 03:17 PM   #11
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I’m real curious about what bullet/ ammo you used along with shot placements.
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Old December 6, 2017, 03:18 PM   #12
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Good points all around . . .

As I noted above I think the 44 mag is a fine caliber for deer hunting . . . just not for me.

And it could well be the bullets. I was shooting a 180 gn XTP on top of hogsdon 110 but I'm not sure how much. What I'm reading above about hard cast heavier bullets makes me thing I may have been too light.

Whatever the case it has been fun to have and shoot a 44 mag. I think I'll shoot up my remaining ammo, sale the gun, and use the $$$ for a youth shotgun which I'll have need for fairly soon.

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Old December 6, 2017, 03:38 PM   #13
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I used a .357 Mag lever gun one year to shoot a 6 pointer. It was a hot 164 gr hunting load with a hollow point. Shot and it fell right over. I celebrated for 1 second then it got up and ran like hell. Swore a little under my breath, got down and looked for blood. Not one drop at all but fortunately it didn't go far and did a half circle behind some thick little white pine trees in the marsh. Gutting it showed the lungs were jello and dumped all it's energy in the deer without being a pass through. I put the gun away as I like a complete pass through and the 20" barrel should have given max velocity/energy. Not a big fan of hollow points on larger game also.
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Old December 6, 2017, 04:21 PM   #14
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I'm old, and I've been hunting deer with a handgun for a LOT of years. To date I've killed over fifty with the 357mag and a good number with other assorted cartridges including the 44mag. The ONLY deer I ever lost with the handgun was lost with a 44mag and it wasn't the guns fault, it was mine. I simply made a bad hit with the gun. Shooting a handgun at a deer requires hitting the deer in the vitals....heart/lung area every time. Simply hitting the deer won't get it done. Most of the deer shot with the .357mag were shot with Hornady XTP 158g or 180g JHP bullets. With the 44mag they were shot with 240g bullets. FWIW, I've never gotten the accuracy with the 180g bullets as I have with the heavier bullets. In my opinion, too many people are using a handgun and can't reliably place the bullet on target when necessary. There's the adrenalin factor, the deer is moving, and lack of a LOT of practice doesn't allow reliable shot placement. If you want to hunt deer with a handgun it's very doable, but you need to put the time in at the range to do it right. Just like bowhunting.
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Old December 6, 2017, 10:01 PM   #15
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I think the hardcast bullets are a good idea when shooting really large game or for protection from large animals with a borderline weapon. But for deer, or even black bear or elk an expanding bullet from a 44 mag will still penetrate more than enough. I think the round is more than capable, it is the shooter and his accuracy and range limitations that make the difference.

I'm thinking a 180 gr 44 caliber bullet is not the best option for hunting. It would be a good option for self defense where you are trying to prevent over penetration. A HP in a heavier 200-240 gr bullet would be a better option. You want penetration and expansion if possible. But if I have to pick one or the other I'd rather have penetration.

I've taken most of my deer and bear with a 30-06. Sometimes even with a good hit I've had 100 lb deer run over 100 yards showing no sign of a hit until they fell over dead. Other times they drop in their tracks from the same shot placement. Having an animal run a long distance after being hit with anything from a 223 to a 44 magnum isn't necessarily a condemnation of the cartridge. But a testament to the will of some animals to live.
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Old December 8, 2017, 09:23 AM   #16
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I went on a hog hunt with some guys a couple years ago. One man hunted with a 4 inch barreled 44 MAG shooting American Eagle hollow tip ammo. It took 5 shots to down the pig; his bullets penetrated poorly at 50 yards. Clearly, his ammo was at fault since I had no trouble at all with my ammo featuring the 270 grain Speer soft tip bullet. But majority of 44 MAG hunters tend to favor 240 grain bullets. For pigs and deer I suggest avoid hollow tip ammo.

Fire up the grill! Deer hunting IS NOT catch and release.
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Old December 8, 2017, 10:50 AM   #17
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I have killed a fair number of deer and pronghorn antelope with a 357 mag 6" barreled M27 S&W and all my bullet have exited. No animal has taken a 2nd shot. No animal was lost. No animal has run more than about 15 yards and most fell within about 3 yards.
I have killed a larger number of deer and antelope and a few elk with 44 magnums and one antelope ran a distance of 65 or 70 yards (aprox) and ALL the other game fell within a short distance of the shot with about 1/3 of them falling instantly. ALL of them were through and through wounds except for a few I killed when I was a teenager and for those deer I was using Speer 225 grain HPs and Sierra 240 Grain H. Cavities. No game animal I have shot in my life with a 44 mag with a cast bullet, starting when I was 16 didn't have an exit.
I have killed a one buffalo with a 44 mag and that bullet didn't exit, but it was a brain shot as the animal faced me, and yet the bullet was in it's neck about 3 feet down.
I have killed 3 large mule deer with a 45 colt and all had exits. I also killed a horse with that gun and the bullet exited too.
I have killed a smaller number of game animals, deer and elk, and also some horses and cattle with a 454 Casull. 100% of them required only one shot each and every one had an exit including one bull I shot going away, and that bullet exited from it's neck on the off side after going clear through a 2100 pound bull.
In addition to these animals I have killed more varmints then I can count using the same guns and ammo over a span of time of about 47 years now.
Nearly all of these were killed with hard cast bullets, and all the cast bullets were either LBT style or Keith SWCs and all were heavy for caliber. 357s are 180 and 187 grain, 44s were 265 grain, 300 grain and 320 grain. 45 Colt bullets are 265 grain SWCs and 454 Casulls were 370 grain. The 45 colt was used with "only" 9.5 grains of Unique and still the bullet went clear through the chest of a 1000 pound horse.

Men, I am of the opinion that a hard, heavy cast bullet is the best bullet to use for EVERYTHING for the outdoorsman and the only time I recommend a jacketed bullet in any handgun is for defensive use to cut back on penetration in urban areas, and in some autos that don't feed well with cast bullets.
But in the game fields I have seen NO example of killing ANY game from a rabbit to Buffalo in which any jacketed bullet of any kind was as good, let alone batter than a good hard cast (often gas-checked) bullet of LBT or Keith style. Ask yourself if there is any time you would not want to break bone and have an exit? Archers know that if you get a broad-head out the other side of an animal you will have an excellent chance of recovering that animal. Why would a hand gun bullet be different? Having seen the damage I have done with good broad heads and also the damage I see from a well designed cast bullet on game, I can swear to you all faithfully that the bullet is better than the arrow, and the arrow is still pretty good. But a bullet that comes apart or turns off course in the animal, or one that doesn't go clear through can and sometime does cause problems. I am pretty sure the lost game I hear about all died. but not in a place that the hunter recovered them. it's a bit tragic to kill them and let them go to waist.
Handgun are far more effective then most men think, if the bullets is correct for the task. The mathematical theory of "foot pounds" = killing power is false.
We SHOULD all know this, but yet I still read "experts" quoting the lack of "foot-pounds" from handguns and stating that it proves they handgun is a poor killer.
I point out that a 22-250 and a 45-70 both have about the same number of "foot-pounds" at 100 yards.

But which is better for killing buffalo?
Should be a no-brainer.

Sure --- a 22-250 in the chest of a buffalo will kill it but you would not depend on it to break both shoulders. A 45-70 will and it will also exit after it does. The formula of "foot-pounds" is faulty as it's often used in the field of ballistics. It's very incomplete.

Se the right bullet in your handgun and if you run it through the heart and lung area you'll recover your game, and in most cases, you won't have to track them very far.
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Old December 8, 2017, 10:58 AM   #18
Sure Shot Mc Gee
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215-225 gr. is as low as I went in bullet using in my Red Hawk.. Never got any accuracy from 180s. There are only two powders for the 44 I like. Pre purchase 296 & IMR 4227. The rest are better suited for gardening purposes.
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Old December 8, 2017, 12:54 PM   #19
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It may be the firearm is not suited to you. I have killed a mule deer with a 357 magnum Jframe (Shot from my hot-tube... its a long yet funny story). If the 357 magnum will do it the 44 will certainly do it.

On the deer you got where the hits good? Did you hit where you are aiming? I have found that I would not hunt with my brothers 454 Casual... not because of lack of power but because its too much gun for me. If they put it in a vary large revolver like a BFR im sure id be just fun.
Shot placement is everything! I would rather take a round of 50BMG to the foot than a 22short to the base of the skull.

all 26 of my guns are 45/70 govt, 357 mag, 22 or 12 ga... I believe in keeping it simple. Wish my wife did as well...
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Old December 8, 2017, 07:21 PM   #20
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I rememberRoss Seyfried's articles, I was a big fan, bought more than one gun 'cause Ross had high praise for them.

I see the big issue with handguns for deer is accuracy and shot placement. The handgun is a demanding tool, especially if shot with iron sights. Under pressure, in the field, I strongly suspect most folks effective range isn't anywhere near what they think it is, resulting in bad hits. I've seen way to many relatively experienced and good shots, miss a 9" steel plate under 25 yds in competition, to believe that hitting a deer well at 50 is any easy feat. I settled long ago that handgun range for deer for me, was my bow range, about 30 yds.

Regards the .44/180 XTP load. I've not killed a deer with a handgun with that load, but I have killed several with that load from a carbine. What I saw at CARBINE velocities, was the 180XTP is a very soft bullet that in my use from the carbine, opened way to quickly. I never got a pass through, and several just went to pieces....dead deer, but not optimal perfomance. Hornady lists the .44/180 XTP in the velocity range of the .44 SPECIAL, and I suspect even at magnum revolver velocities (as opposed to the higher carbine velocity) the 180 is not really deer medicine.
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Old December 9, 2017, 06:56 AM   #21
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I actually bought a 44 Mag to hunt deer with. Have never taken a shot with it but I think it's plenty of gun. That said, if I hit two deer with it and couldn't recover them, I'd likely hang it up as well.

That isn't a reflection on the gun or the shooter, but we all own it to our game to hunt as humanly as possible.
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Old December 9, 2017, 08:09 AM   #22
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I've shot a few deer with a 44 handgun but only one withe a 44 carbine. The bullets used in the handgun were mostly 240 grain HP and a couple of cast SWC. The ammo used in the carbine was PMC 240 TCSP and it worked perfectly. I'd say if this bullet doesn't exit a deer, your deer are huge or you shot it endwise.
I just got a call yesterday asking me for advice on a straightwall ammo carbine for Iowa's current quasi legalization of rifles for deer. My recommendation was the 44 mag with a range limit of 150 yards. Then I asked the caller if this was really an improvement over his current 20 gauge rifle bore slug gun. His answer, "No I guess not really". I suggested that a sight upgrade might do what he wanted more economically than a change of platform.
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Old December 9, 2017, 10:33 AM   #23
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I'd gladly trade my slug gun for a pistol caliber carbine even if it didn't extend my range or power. Why? Because I could afford to PRACTICE with it 20 times as much!
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Old December 9, 2017, 10:52 AM   #24
Don Fischer
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The only way I'd ever attempt to take game with a handgun would be in a survival situation. I am simply not good enough handgun shooter to make it work for sure. I think a lot of people kid themselves that they are good enough with one to hunt with it. I was stationed with a guy in Montana years ago that was using a 7mm Rem Mag to hunt elk with. He shot one he claimed to have hit. It ran off and he declared the 7mm mag no good as an elk cartridge. He sold it and got a 458 Win Mag! Every time he fired it the floor plate fell open and unloaded it for him. Point is, it's not so much the cartridge as it is the skill level of the user. Me, I'm not good enough with a handgun!
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Old December 9, 2017, 12:59 PM   #25
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IMHO, it's paramount to have confidence in whatever weapon we choose to take to the field. Just as important, be honest with ourselves and not only have confidence in our ability with that weapon, but know, and stay within our limitations with it. That's something that's often hard to do.

Used to do nothing but pistol hunt if I wasn't using a bow. Found that the two are very similar when it comes to range of game, the importance of shot placement and very importantly, taking the time to practice.

We all know soft/thin skinned deer aren't that hard to kill. In the perfect world, with a perfectly placed broadside shot, a lowly 22 will do the job. In the same perfect world scenario, the 180xtp will do the same. Problems arise with the not so perfect scenario,not having perfect broadside shot or not having perfect shot placement.
Hit the shoulder with the 180xtp will most likely results in an explosion of the bullet as soon as it hits bone with almost zero chance of much penetration or pass through and very little blood trail. The very reason most here have so wisely commented on using hard cast bullets.
Even at bow range, often times we just don't get that perfect broadside we need all the help we can get with a projectile that's gonna penetrate and hit vitals.

Guess the bottom line is if you are not confident going into the field with a handgun for whatever reason, I admire you for realizing that.
Kudos to you!
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