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I am new to this message board, but I have a question. I have been shooting handguns for several years, mostly small caliber and automatics. The 45 auto being the largest. I do deer hunt with a 12 gauge, but just purchased a S&W Model 629PP, 44 Magnum. My question is: what grain factory load cartridge is best to use on whitetail deer?
 

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Man! Have you asked at the right place.

I won't give you second hand info here, but hang in there. There are lots of folks here that have that info. You may want to search HandgunHunt.com also. Lots of experience there also. Welcome to a great sight. Check LoadSwap for loads and comments. The other Tech notes and all have valuable info.:)
 

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Beartooth Regular
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A.J.,

You can't go wrong with the standard 240-grain JHP if you have a 6" or greater barrel. Just about all will give excellent results. I prefer the Hornady line, but only because it has shot well in my particular guns. Your Smith & Wesson may prefer Winchester, Remington, etc. Whatever brands you try, stay away from jacketed softpoint (JSP) loads. They rarely expand in .44 Magnum handguns. If you're using a 4" .44 then you may want to consider the Hornady 200-grain XTP load. The lighter bullet will help compensate for velocity lost in the short(er) barrel.

THE most important thing isn't ammo selection, within reason, but rather to practice enough to give your deer a quick, humane end when hunting season starts. Practice close at first, never from a bench after you set the sights, and work your way farther and farther with each box of ammo. I believe that the farthest distance you can put six shots into a six inch circle is the maximum range for your skill level. Don't be discouraged if that range is closer than you expected it to be. My own limit with iron sights is about 60-65 yards while standing and I've been shooting Magnum revolvers for almost 20 years. Handgun hunting takes a lot of field practice and for most people it is a relatively close-range game. The Elmer Keiths of the world are few and far between.So practice, practice, practice, and the best of luck to you this Fall. Keep us posted!
 

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A few years back I shot a Whitetail doe at about 45 yards with a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 5-1/2".
I was loaded with Winchester USA brand 240 grain JSP's. It hit her right behind her right front leg and angled up and shattered her spine, then angled down and exited her left side leaving a 3" exit wound.
She never took a step!!
 

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Beartooth Regular
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I'll just talk from past experience and say that the Plain Jane Remington SJHP 240 gr factory ammo and the Hornady 240 gr factory XTP bullet loads will do the job on your standard sized whitetails within reason.

As was stated above, get yourself fully confident within the range limitations and ability you have and practice regularly before the season.


Regards
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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A.J.,

I like to shoot hard cast bullets (resembling those of the Federal CastCore ammo) but that's because we have a lot of pigs in Texas and big pigs can be a lot tougher than a deer. And if I see a pig while deer hunting, it's about to have some serious health problems.

Sometimes shooting pigs with jacketed hollow points just really annoys them! Of course you may not have have to deal with pigs (hopefully not).

I have no experience using JHP's on deer but would probably the try the Winchester Partition ammo, should I be inclined to use jacketed bullets.

Shot a small doe last Jan at a little less than 50 yards, bullet was one of Marshall's .44 280gr. WFN's at about 1350fps out of a Ruger Super Blackhawk. Went through the shoulder, one lung, the liver, then exited. Deer ran about 35 yards and keeled over. Couldn't complain one bit.

I'll enthusiastically agree that the #1 priority has to be shot placement. Practice a lot and be aware of your limitations. 50 yards is definitely the top end for me, with a rest. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
 

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I like the 240 gr jhp of sort, Hornady's 240gr XTP work well and the Speer Golddot also, they both provide good expandtion and penatration on deer under most conditions and also shoot very accurate. I use to to use these factory loads but now I am reloading my 44 mag SuperRedHawk 7 1/2, but still emulate these well proven rounds, I use 240 XTP/Golddot using WW296 at 24 gr max load using CCI mag primers 1420 fps, Factory loads chronoed a little less, around 1380 fps, close enough for government work;) Aim small hit small. RAMbo.
 

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I would stick with the 240gr and heavier bullets in factory, or handloaded, rounds. The reasoning behind the heavier bullets would be to proved full penetration in the event that the bullet does not expand, which can happen. Stay away from any and all factory loads that may have swaged lead bullets as they will cause you grief that is hundredfold the cost savings they provide. I'm not sure if there are any mfgs still loading these for this very reason. Additionally, they don't provide 44mag level ballistics. Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you master the firearm before hunting with it, as the recoil is quite a bit more than a 45 Auto and you certainly don't want to be anticipating the recoil.

The common practice of hunting at a range that is no farther than that at which you can keep ALL of your rounds on a regular sized cheap paper plate is very good advice and a very good practice. I advise practicing some of your shooting at longer ranges as the closer in stuff becomes very "easy" and you might even find that with a lot of practice you may be able to keep all of your shots on the above mentioned paper plates at 100yds with a good field rest. I personally limit myself to 50-70 yds in the field with a open sight handgun, the 70 yd shot would be off an exceptionally good rest with exeptional lighting for a good sight picture. I would stay away from the bench rest after you get the sights where they need to be. The bench rest, complete with sandbags, is rarely encountered in the wild.
 
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