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.44 Mag vs. .357 for Hunting + other fun!

This is a discussion on .44 Mag vs. .357 for Hunting + other fun! within the Wheelguns forums, part of the Other Handgun Talk category; Originally Posted by 57K The late Stephen A. Camp, who some of you may be familiar with in his advocation of the Hi-Power in 9mm, ...

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Old 03-10-2014, 04:18 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by 57K View Post
The late Stephen A. Camp, who some of you may be familiar with in his advocation of the Hi-Power in 9mm, took a good many Texas whitetail with that very pistol. At reasonable distances of course but that's one extreme of the spectrum in contrast to using something like the .500 S&W on whitetail.

Good handloads in .41 or .44 Magnum have little problem achieving 1000 Ft/lbs of KE, nor dropping whitetails in their tracks with good bullet selection.

The main reason so many recommend limiting .357 Magnum to 50 yard shots on whitetail is because typical factory loads don't generate much more than 500 Ft/Lbs which has been the minimum energy level once required by a number of states as far as handguns.

With today's factory ammo, most 158 gr. jacketed loads in .357 Magnum are rated at around 1250 FPS. That equates to 548 Ft/Lbs of KE, or just over half of what the .41 or .44 Magnum will achieve with handloads and most .357 Magnum load data doesn't go much higher because of SAAMI's 35,000 PSI limitation.

But here's the thing. A number of data providers do NOT hold .357 Magnum data to 35,000 PSI like the AA#9 load I mentioned previously from the Accurate 2001 load guide where a 158 gr. XTP was chrono'd at 1633 FPS from a 6" S&W M686. At 936 Ft/Lbs of KE, that's definitely a game changer in the practical range one can use for whitetail. The bigger question becomes the hunter's ability to place his shots.

Massive amounts of momentum just aren't necessary to take whitetail. Sure, a good level II .45-70 handload will drop a deer in its tracks. As an example, I'm looking at a 400 gr. load that chrono'd 1886 FPS from a 22" Marlin M95. KE is 3160 Ft/Lbs with a massive momentum level of 3.35 Lb-seconds. You might also want to consider the amount of meat that will be destroyed. In contrast we'll look at another caliber that's earned a solid reputation as a deer stopper, specifically a 130 gr. .270 Winchester where energy and momentum are a good bit lower. With a decently safe handload, a 130 fired from a 22" barrel is capable of around 3050 FPS. KE is 2686 Ft/Lbs with momentum at 1.76 Lb-seconds. Just a bit more than half of what the 400 gr. .45-70 load produces, yet few loads have the reputation for dropping whitetails that the .270 has had for decades going back to the writings of Jack O'Connor. Since either bullet is going to completely penetrate the animal, the question of how far the animal will get pushed is kind of ridiculous from the standpoint of physics.

Human beings are a different matter. It's why some ammo-makers test their defense loads on whitetail whenever possible because of the physiological similarities to average size male humans. IMO, that's really what Stephen A. Camp was attemting to conclude when shooting whitetail with a 9mm. For JHP handgun loads, exceeding 600 Ft/Lbs of KE may be too much performance for many self defense loads where 500 Ft/Lbs falls into a better performance window with cartridges like the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP, and in very limited cases, the 9 x 19mm +P loads as made by Underwood and Double-Tap etc. The standard was set long ago by the .357 Magnum 125 gr. JHP at around 1450 FPS from a 4" service revolver. 584 Ft/lbs of KE with momentum at .805 Lb-seconds of momentum. No load in LE history has surpassed it, and won't until there's at least half the number of shootings in a comparable database. It's also why the Texas DPS and the Secret Service, along with other LE agencies selected the .357 SIG with a 125 gr load like the Gold Dot achieving 1400 FPS, 544 Ft/Lbs with a momentum of .777 Lb-seconds. Compare loads like that to those who try to sell the merits of something like a subsonic 147 gr. JHP load in 9mm based solely on gel penetration. Typical velocity is around 975 FPS with a paltry energy of 310 Ft/Lbs with momentum at .636 Lb-seconds. What gets overlooked is the very high for caliber sectional density that makes something like a 147 gr. JHP in 9mm a very good penetrator. Getting back on topic, try shooting a whitetail with a 9mm 147 gr. subsonic, or a .40 180 gr. JHP subsonic, then a 3rd with the 125 gr. JHP in .357 Magnum. That's where you'll prove the reality of physics.

But as I said, a .357 Magnum load at the mid 500 Ft/Lb level should be restricted in range and even 50 yards might be a stretch. But a 158 leaving the muzzle at 1633 FPS is a totally different ball game at 936 Ft/Lbs with 1.146 Lb-seconds of momentum with the bullets sectional density very comparable to a 210 gr. .410" or a 240 gr. .429" (.44 Magnum).
Love reading your posts. So much info!
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Old 03-11-2014, 12:51 PM   #22
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I feel I need to sit in a wingback chair with a tumbler of bourbon to sip so I can truly soak them in though. Maybe a crackling fire beside me.
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Old 03-11-2014, 01:20 PM   #23
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I feel I need to sit in a wingback chair with a tumbler of bourbon to sip so I can truly soak them in though. Maybe a crackling fire beside me.
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Old 03-11-2014, 02:10 PM   #24
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Go find you a nice lightly used Ruger Super Blackhawk, Ruger Redhawk or a Smith 629 and shoot happy.

I have paired a 44 mag Super Blackhawk with my Marlin 1894 in 44 mag and love it.

-brickboy240
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Old 03-11-2014, 03:43 PM   #25
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Love reading your posts. So much info!

Thanks, guys! Having over 35 years of handgunning experience doesn't hurt. I fell in love with the S&W M57 early on and really got started with revolvers. So, 28 years ago when I started handloading, naturally, the first cartridge I started with was the .41 Magnum. It's still my favorite while the .44 is probably more practical because of greater bullet availabilty. Performance wise, unless you're shooting some very stiff/heavy bullet loads, the .44 Magnum won't do anything better than the .41 Magnum and with higher recoil.

As far as .357 Magnum, even with some of the warmest loads in the manuals, it's not loaded to its Max. potential/pressure. Johan Loubser who was with Accurate when Western bought them out, developed some of the warmest .357 Magnum loads I've seen in a long time. In the Accurate 2001 load guide he used a S&W M686 with a 6" barrel for chronographing and with the Max. charge of AA#9, 1633 FPS was achieved. In 2002, they say an 8" barrel was used but show all the same data from the 2001 guide except that they added AA 4100 which is the same exact powder as Enforcer which I use. Velocity was rated 1660 FPS. That's 967 Ft/Lbs of energy which a lot of factory .44 Magnum loads won't match. Considering that a 158 gr. .357 bullet has an almost identical sectional density as a 210 gr. .410 or a 240 gr. .429" . . . well, let's just say that I'd like to see the whitetail that walks away from a well placed hit! Personally, I'd recommend a Blackhawk for such loads and I've seen equivalent data or higher for the Freedom Arms 353. Let's not forget that when the .357 Magnum was introduced with a 158 gr. lead bullet at 1600 FPS, Dan Wesson took every game animal on the continent with it including the big bears. Obviously, he had a professional hunter backing him up, but that's still impressive history!
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Old 03-13-2014, 02:58 PM   #26
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I have killed deer with both and will tell you that a 44mag is more forgiving then a 357. What I mean is punching paper at the range and hitting a moving animal with a pistol while it's cold out are two entirely different things. It seems as though most of the time when someone shoots a deer with a 357 (and not a mercy kill shot mind you) you wind up tracking the poor thing for quite some yards. On the flip side everytime one is shot with a 44mag tracking is substantially less. Get a 44mag if you are seriously considering hunting with a revolver. Forget the whole 41 mag thing unless you are a reloader, the availability of the round is just not out there as much as a 44. If it's hard to find you'll shoot it less, If you shoot it less you will not be capable of judging or making a ethical shot.


I'm a purest at heart and feel if you are going to put a scope on a pistol just use a rifle. Open sight revolver hunting is where you earn your bragging rights. Just be sure you know your yardage and how comfortable you are at taking the shot. Too many wounded deer out their from people thinking they can kill it with a pistol rather then using their head and making a ethical shot. I'm proud to say I have taken 4 deer with my Ruger Redhawk and 1 with my colt trooper and have never had a deer run off injured.
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:08 PM   #27
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I have killed deer with both and will tell you that a 44mag is more forgiving then a 357. What I mean is punching paper at the range and hitting a moving animal with a pistol while it's cold out are two entirely different things. It seems as though most of the time when someone shoots a deer with a 357 (and not a mercy kill shot mind you) you wind up tracking the poor thing for quite some yards. On the flip side everytime one is shot with a 44mag tracking is substantially less. Get a 44mag if you are seriously considering hunting with a revolver. Forget the whole 41 mag thing unless you are a reloader, the availability of the round is just not out there as much as a 44. If it's hard to find you'll shoot it less, If you shoot it less you will not be capable of judging or making a ethical shot.


I'm a purest at heart and feel if you are going to put a scope on a pistol just use a rifle. Open sight revolver hunting is where you earn your bragging rights. Just be sure you know your yardage and how comfortable you are at taking the shot. Too many wounded deer out their from people thinking they can kill it with a pistol rather then using their head and making a ethical shot. I'm proud to say I have taken 4 deer with my Ruger Redhawk and 1 with my colt trooper and have never had a deer run off injured.
Good post.
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:14 PM   #28
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.44 Mag without a doubt. Get lots of .44 special cases for practice and save the boomers for load development and hunting. Especially in a S&W it will last much longer that way. If you want to subject it to gorilla loads get a RedHawk or Super Redhawk. Hodgedons H110 is your friend. PS dont let anyone tell you a 629 is as strong as a ruger. My 629-1 ended up with a bent cylinder crane using loads that my Redhawk and TC Contender shrugged off with impunity.
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Old 03-14-2014, 06:30 AM   #29
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You could make the claim that a 357 out of a lever gun is almost as good as a 44 out of a lever gun for hunting, but from a revolver; I don't see how it could be even close. If you want to bring KE into it, the .223 that people have given me crap about for hunting has about the same energy as both of these combined.
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Old 03-14-2014, 07:39 AM   #30
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If you want to see the difference between the 357 & 44 mags look at the loads the guys in Alaska use for bear protection. 300+ gr hard cast bullets with all the powder you can cram into it. I am taking my Redhawk to AK in Sept and am looking at working up some of those loads. Yeah, I know that the 44 mag is not adequete for big bear protection, but its better than nothing.
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