.44 Magnum Ammo

44 Magnum Overview

.44 Magnum: In Depth

If you’ve ever read about handgun hunting, the name Elmer Keith probably popped up a few times in the process. Besides his involvement with the development of .357 Magnum in the early 1930s, and his near-constant tinkering with new bullet designs, this guy was just always thinking about hunting – with handguns! He famously blew up a Colt SAA revolver early on in his career during an attempt to shoot rifle-length bullets through it, and, remarkably, this didn’t slow him down at all. He simply fixated on developing more and more power for his favorite revolver rounds.

One of Keith’s preferred cartridges to supercharge was the .44 Special, introduced in 1907. Despite the blistering velocities and superb results on target that were possible with .357 Magnum, Keith continued to favor hot .44 Special loads throughout the 30s and 40s. In the early 1950s, he sought out the help of Remington and Smith and Wesson to offer his .44 caliber loads to the public in a factory-loaded round, and importantly, alongside a factory revolver capable of withstanding the massive pressures of the ammunition. In 1955, the .44 Remington Magnum was introduced, and with it, a revolver – later to be known as the Model 29. The new cartridge would use projectiles designed for .44 Special, but with a substantially larger powder charge. Velocities were originally marketed as being in excess of 1,400/fps with a 240-gr bullet, but in reality were likely a few hundred fps lower. However, a common modern load is somewhere around 1,180/fps out of a 4” revolver, which is pretty amazing for a 240-gr. bullet fired from a handgun!

The cartridge quickly found success in the hunting world, proving to be more effective on large game than .357 Magnum. However, things really got going in the early 70s after the release of Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood. The movie featured the S&W Model 29 prominently, along with Eastwood’s now infamous line: “Do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”. To say that Model 29 sales received a huge boost from this film would be an understatement. By all accounts, you’d have to be a particularly lucky punk to actually find one for sale after 1971 – for a few years, at least. Once folks discovered how much the guns kicked with full-house loads, they were more likely to sell them back to the dealer or stick them in a safe after firing just a cylinder or two at the range.

However, if you’re a handgun hunter, you already know how much this cartridge recoils (and probably don’t care, either). .44 Magnum is stout enough to get the job done on some of the biggest critters out there, and ammunition isn’t hard to find. You can take or leave the “cool factor”, since odds are you’re not toting a 6 ½” barreled Model 29 revolver through the streets of San Francisco – you’re probably stalking an elk through the woods with a scoped Super Blackhawk. To be sure, no creature is going to test their luck against this round and live to tell the tale.

.44 Magnum: Guns

The .44 Magnum market is dominated by large framed revolvers that are built beefy to handle the power and recoil force generated by this cartridge. This means guns are also quite bulky and heavy, which more-or-less rules out concealed carry for most people. Lever action rifles do a good job of taming .44 Magnum’s considerable recoil, and are equally at home in a hunting or plinking scenario. Smith and Wesson’s Model 29 is still in production, though it’s now a part of the company’s “Classic” titled series of revolvers. Also, if you must have a semi-automatic pistol, an honorable mention goes to Magnum Research’s Desert Eagle Mark XIX, which is also chambered in .44 Magnum in addition to the notorious .50 AE. For the best reliability, however, it’s best to stick with a revolver. And, unless you want your hands to sting every time you take a shot, stick with a heavy one.   


  • Ruger Redhawk
  • Smith and Wesson Model 629
  • Ruger Super Blackhawk
  • Smith and Wesson Model 29
  • Colt Anaconda
  • Taurus Raging Hunter
  • Taurus Tracker

Lever-Action Rifles

  • Winchester 1892
  • Rossi R92
  • Marlin 1894
  • Henry Big Boy

Why Choose .44 Magnum?

This handgun round is powerful enough to hunt large game safely and humanely. Nowadays, there’s more competition in this class of cartridge, with the likes of .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .460 S&W and a few others that are also used for this purpose. However, when it first arrived on the scene, this one was the most powerful and impressive of them all. In addition to the work you can do with a revolver, .44 Magnum rifles supercharge the velocity of this round even further – Buffalo Bore’s 305-gr. hard-cast load gets cookin’ at over 1,750/fps out of an 18.5” barrel – this is one heck of a handgun round!


  • Originally developed for big-game handgun hunting, this cartridge is effective on larger deer, elk, and even moose and smaller bears.
  • Use of a long-eye-relief scope or a red-dot sight will help reach out to this round’s full effective range. 


  • Lighter loads with less flash and recoil are available for target shooting. Additionally, most guns chambered for .44 Magnum can also shoot .44 Special ammo, which all but eliminates the recoil in revolvers made of heavy steel (which most of them are).
  • Pick up a Smith and Wesson Model 29 for Dirty Harry larping at the range. You’ll feel extra lucky if you’re able to group 8” at five yards.
  • Cowboy action loads are typically softer-shooting for target practice.

.44 Magnum: Ammo Brands and Loadings

Most loads for this cartridge are either for hunting or critter defense. Match or target loads aren’t as common, but they’re out there. Besides the normal hunting selection of jacketed soft point, hollow point, semi-wadcutter, and lead free bullets, hard cast loads are also pretty popular. These come in many weights between 200-gr. and 340-gr., with the latter being a special +P+ Buffalo Bore load that comes with a disclaimer to use one of the guns it won’t blow up! However, some folks really prefer these loads when hiking or hunting in bear country. If your Grandpa’s Model 29 makes your hands hurt when you shoot it with full-house loads, go for cowboy action loads instead, or consider grabbing a few boxes of .44 Special, since those work fine in a .44 Magnum chambered gun and won’t kick your butt as hard. Also, specialty lever-action loads get all the velocity in rifle barrels.


Standard Loading

  • 240-gr. JHP @ 1,200/fps to 1,400/fps

Bullet Types

  • JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) - Hunting, self defense
  • JSP (Jacketed Soft Point) - Hunting, target
  • FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) - Target
  • Hard Cast Lead - Hunting, self defense
  • SMC (Semi-Wadcutter) - Target, self defense

Bullet Weights

  • 160-gr. to 225-gr. - Hunting, self defense
  • 240-gr. to 265-gr. - Hunting, target, self defense
  • 300-gr to 340-gr. - Hunting, self defense


  • 160-gr. to 225-gr. - 1,200/fps to 1,800/fps
  • 240-gr. to 265-gr. - 1,150/fps to 1,400/fps
  • 300-gr to 340-gr. - 1,150/fps to 1,400/fps

.44 Magnum: Frequently Asked Questions

This is not the ideal use case for this cartridge, since the flash, volume, and recoil when firing are huge. It will certainly work, though! You can also load a .44 Magnum with .44 Specials, which are more along the lines of .45 ACP, ballistically. These will recoil and flash less and will also be quieter, especially if fired indoors.

Any hog, deer, elk, moose, and most bears within 100 yards. Keep the range close enough so you can make a hit! Recoil force is also an issue for some folks if you need to take follow-up shots. Scopes and red dot sights will make longer shots possible for average shooters, provided you zero them correctly.

The answer depends on both the firearm used and the shooter, but it’s safe to say: a lot! More than .357 Magnum, less than .454 Casull. Heavy, all-steel guns are the best choice for minimizing recoil. Consider Ruger’s Super Blackhawk Hunter, which weighs 55-oz unloaded, features a 7 ½” barrel, and comes with scope mounting detents machined into the barrel rib. You can also pick up a .44 Magnum lever-action rifle, which will make this cartridge feel mild compared to shooting a revolver.