Wheelgun Wednesday: Hornady Handgun Hunter .44 Magnum Review

    Unleaded Fuel for your wheelgun

    This year, Hornady introduced their new “Hangun Hunter” line of lead-free copper alloy ammunition for many popular handgun hunting calibers (and, for some reason, 9mm):

    Per Hornady:

    Hornady Handgun Hunter™ ammunition is built around a bullet as rough and rugged as the conditions and game demand. The MonoFlex® handgun projectile is manufactured with a tough copper alloy that achieves deep penetration and 95% weight retention. Bullet expansion across a range of velocities is aided with an elastomer material added to the bullet’s open cavity. Upon impact, the elastomer compresses, then pushes out and causes the bullet to expand faster than a standard hollow point design.

    Combined with premium cases, primers and propellants, Handgun Hunter™ ammunition benefits from years of producing hard-hitting GMX® and MonoFlex® rifle bullets to introduce a handgun version that lives up to our reputation.

    Note elastomer compound in the middle of the hollowpoint

    Note elastomer compound in the middle of the hollowpoint

    Even in the fractious, ammo-scarce year of 2020, the good folks at Hornady were generous enough to send some TFB’s way: Their 200gr load in the classic American caliber of .44 Magnum.

    Specs, per Hornady:

    • 200gr MonoFlex Bullet
    • Test Velocities out of an 8″ Barrel:
    • MV: 1475fps, ME: 966 ft/lbs
    • 50Y: 1310fps, 762 ft/lbs
    • 100y: 1176fps, 614 ft/lbs
    • G1 BC: .169
    • Item #: 9083
    • 20rnds/box

    (Price per box roughly $29.99 as of the writing of this article)

    Range report:

    This One’s for the Gunny

    Very scientific...

    Very scientific…

    Eager to try these rounds out at the range, I headed out with my 6.5″ S&W Model 29 and a 17.4″ barreled Henry Big Boy X.  (I know this is Wheelgun Wednesday, but we can share some love with the levers every once in a while, too.)  Due to an early frost, I had some watermelons that did not make it to full ripeness.  As the Gunny well knew, watermelons are a dual-purpose fruit, and I made good use of them in testing this ammunition.  Rounds fired out of the Model 29 at 25 yards (roughly 1280fps at that range, according to my LabRadar) blew the melons in half, nicely pulping the insides. Rounds fired from the Henry X (roughly 1487fps) at the same range, however, pretty much vaporized the whole melon into pink mist.

    Handgun results

    Handgun results

    Rifle remains, recovered projectile circled in red

    Rifle remains, recovered projectile circled in red

    Another benefit of my highly scientific produce based testing was that I did get a nice recovered projectile. After cleaning out all the dirt and fruit, it measured out at 200gr, for 100% weight retention!  Hornady’s elastomer compound also did a great job of ensuring uniform expansion, and the projectile expanded to a diameter of .653.

    very nice expansion

    Very nice expansion

    Uniform petals

    Uniform petals

    Accuracy, Velocity, and Reliability:

    Moving over to the bench, I fired a few cylinders for accuracy out of the Model 29 at 25 yards.  The average came out right around 1″ @ 25y.  Very nice, and it was the best accuracy I’ve had out of the Model 29.  As this is a round designed for handgun hunting, I moved on to the 100Y silhouette.  I was able to hit it 16/18 times, and this round definitely demonstrated the appropriate accuracy for handgun hunting.

    It should be noted that the Hornady Handgun Hunter loads were comparatively soft shooting in my Model 29.  Felt recoil was noticeably less than Cor-Bon’s 225gr DPX, and the Hornady loads still held a slight edge in velocity and muzzle energy.  In fact, I’d say it was one of the more comfortable to shoot .44 magnum loads thats I’ve tried.  It doesn’t come close to the 200gr Buffalo-Barnes XPB, but it’s about half the price and a hell of a lot more comfortable to shoot.

    I recorded the velocities on my LabRadar, and they were right in the ballpark of what is to be expected.  SD’s were 22.8.  Hornady tested these rounds out of an 8″ barrel, per their website.

    Model 29, 6.5″ barrel:

    MV: 1349fps, ME: 808 ft/lb; [email protected]: 1280fps, [email protected]: 728 ft/lb; [email protected]: 1217fps, [email protected]: 658 ft/lb; [email protected]: 1132fps, [email protected] 569 ft/lb.

    Model X, 17.4″ Barrel:

    MV: 1541fps, ME: 1054 ft/lb; [email protected]: 1487fps, [email protected]: 982 ft/lb; [email protected]: 1404fps, [email protected] ft/lbs; [email protected]: 1258fps, [email protected]: 703 ft/lbs.

    All 60 rounds I fired functioned perfectly.  Not a single round stuck in a cylinder of the revolver or was hard to cycle in the lever gun.  None of the rounds demonstrated any primer issues, either.

    Overall Impression:

    Hornady’s new Handgun Hunter 200gr load is a great new option for unleaded hunting.  Their box art calls out the fact that they are “CA Certified Non-lead bullets”.  For those of us who don’t need a state telling us what bullets are “bad” or “good”, they still represent a good option for putting down game and putting meat in the freezer.  Accurate, reliable, and reasonably powerful, give Hornady Handgun Hunter a look if you like to harvest your hogs with a Hogleg.

    Thanks to Hornady for the opportunity!

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    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. Editor at Outdoorhub.com