.44 Mag Ammunition Evaluation From the Trenches

Widener’s Reloading and Shooting Supply provided us with some ammunition to evaluate. We took my .44 magnum Super Red Hawk, the Winchester Dual Bond Jacketed Hollow Point Elite .44 REM Mag, 240 grain, and Winchester .44 REM Mag, 240 grain, Jacketed Soft Point out to evaluate their performance.  

We started early as the first evaluation was in the efficiency of the load.  The first round fired was the Dual Bond Jacketed, 240 grain, Hollow Point, which has a velocity at the barrel of 1300 ft/sec with 900 pounds of energy.  We shot just before daylight to take a look at the barrel flash, which is the indicator for proficiency of the powder burn.  Here is the shot.

As you can see, the muzzle flash was minimal considering the report and the sheer power of the load.

Next we fired the .44 REM Mag, 240 grain, Jacketed Soft Point, which leaves the muzzle at 1180 ft/sec with 740 pounds of energy.

Again, the report was strong with minimal muzzle flash, indicating a clean efficient burn.

When the sun rose we tested the raw power of the rounds.  First the Dual Bond Jacketed Hollow Point Elite .44 REM Mag, 240 grain, shooting at ten feet at three one gallon jugs filled with gelatin.

The first two gallons were penetrated with the exit from the second being the whole back corner of the jug and the remnants slightly penetrating the third jug.  A devastating bullet to say the least.

The second shot was with the .44 REM Mag, 240 grain, Jacketed Soft Point.

The bullet went through all three jugs with an exit hole slightly larger than the entry.

We went on to some casual plinking to evaluate the consistency of the rounds and found them to be very consistent in the report and accuracy.

I’ve shot .44 magnum pistols of the Ruger variety since I was fourteen years old and have no problem recommending both cartridges as top of the line, high quality ammunition.

I had heard phone books were a good test for penetration and power, and as both rounds are labeled as deer and bear rounds, I wanted to see what they would do to the phone book.  I found two and taped them together.  First I fired the 240 grain jacketed soft point, which blew through both books with a rather neat hole and kept on a going.

I then tried the 240 grain hollow point, which also went through both books and left a rain of confetti.

This was our first evaluation and it was a lot of fun.  We still have a box of Winchester Platinum Tipped Hollow Point, 250 grain, to evaluate and will be doing so next weekend, at which time we will add to the evaluation a sixty gallon barrel of water, which we hope will allow us to retrieve the bullets for further evaluation, and at that time we will fire the rounds previously evaluated and show all three.

Again, this is high quality ammunition provided to us by Widener’s Reloading and Shooting Supply and we’d like to thank those folks for the courteous communications and the prompt secure delivery of the ammunition.

We would appreciate it if when you Trenchers place your orders, you would thank the good people at Wideners for their sponsorship of our site.  I know Misty and Doc have already made a purchase and done so and it is just a good idea to do business with those who support us.

God bless the Republic, death to the international corporate mafia, we the free nationals of the united States of the Americas will prevail.

12 thoughts on “.44 Mag Ammunition Evaluation From the Trenches

  1. If you ever test rifle rounds I would be interested to see how well different types of ammunition can penetrate rims and rotors considering how abundant vehicles are for cover.
    One needs to be careful shooting at hard targets, bullet and secondary fragmentation can be dangerous.

    1. I can make some recommendations right off the bat.

      For penetrating cover as you describe: the Barnes TSX all-copper bullets are the way to go. Just be sure your barrel twist rate is fast enough, as copper bullets are longer than lead bullets of equal weight. I like the 62-grain TSX in my 5.56 ARs, which have 1-in-7″ twist barrels.

      For penetrating hard body armor, you either want real AP rounds (like WWII surplus .30 cal M2 black tip) or 5.56 NATO green tip. Some rifle plates can stop these, too; however, these rounds are as good as it gets for body armor penetration unless you move up to .50 BMG AP, or load those .30 cal AP bullets into magnum rifle rounds.

    2. .223 & 5.56 will both penetrate most body armor using a 20” barrel with a 1:8 twist. It’s all about velocity.

      Check out the videos on it at The Wound Channel.

      1. #1, I’m going to be emphatic here not because I’m trying to be a d!ck or a know-it-all, but because this is critical information that EVERYONE needs to know:

        !!! High-velocity varmint rounds DO NOT penetrate most kinds of hard rifle plates. !!!

        Those high-velocity varmint rounds are ONLY great at penetrating STEEL armor, like those videos on the Wound Channel demonstrate. And that’s only at fairly close range. (If a round out of a 16″ barrel is fast enough to penetrate, a 20″ barrel will allow you to penetrate about 50 yards further out.)

        Most other kinds of hard armor can stop those fast .223 rounds cold. For example, Level IV plates (typically made of ceramic) are rated to withstand at least one round of .30-06 AP at muzzle velocity. Some can take multiple .30-06 AP rounds without penetration, and some can even stop a .300 Win Mag AP round. NO varmint round, regardless of velocity, will penetrate a Level IV ceramic plate with one shot. The SAPI and E-SAPI plates used by the military are comparable.

        This doesn’t apply only to torso plates, either. Newer polyethylene helmets and ballistic shields are out there that will stop ANY non-AP rifle round up to .30-06 (at least). These have been shown to stop .223 rounds going as fast as 3700 fps. They also stop mild steel core 7.62×39 and 7.62x54r. Guess what they won’t stop? 5.56 NATO green tip, i.e., M855 with the hardened steel penetrator. The armor manufacturers even admit this in their literature.

        M855 (and XM855) is ridiculously common and available. It was specifically designed to penetrate armor, and it does this very well. It’s also relatively inexpensive. I highly recommend you stock up on it while you can! Federal, Lake City, whatever — just stock up on it.

        Besides, most of our potential adversaries probably won’t use steel armor. It’s thin and durable, but it’s quite heavy in comparison to ceramic, polyethylene, and hybrid plates. As mentioned, the military has been using ceramic plates for many years.

        Since your enemy will either not be using steel plates or, at best, will be using unknown plates, you’re better off not shooting at the plates at all. Aim at the face, head, neck, pelvis, etc. The center of the face or head is the best place to aim if the range is close and you need immediate stopping power. Lots of people keep fighting after being shot in the chest.

        If your enemies have the newer polyethylene helmets, I really, REALLY hope you’re using M855 green tip or a true AP round (surplus black tip .30-cal). A massive shotgun slug might also do the job; it won’t penetrate but will probably be lethal anyway.

        1. BMF, I’m not saying they’re the final answer to body armor. My point is, if you have multiple weapons, shouldn’t at least one of them be one that can penetrate at least SOME types of body armor, as opposed to none at all?
          As for the varmint round aspect, the body armor that CAN be penetrated by those rounds actually MAGNIFIES their destructive potential, making them far more lethal AFTER piercing the armor. Two or three rounds center mass will very likely be fatal… even one, if well placed.

          Bear in mind, this only applies to .55 gr. .223 & 5.56. I can carry a sh#t -ton of those, compared to most other rounds.

          It can be advantageous in the right situations.

          1. I hear ya, and the point about fast varmint rounds being able to defeat steel is definitely good for people to know (for defensive purposes as well).

            For everyone who isn’t familiar with this stuff, we can summarize a few general rules regarding which armor materials are penetrated by which rounds (depending, of course, on the armor thickness):

            SOFT ARMOR:

            — Made from Kevlar and/or other fibers
            — Will stop nearly any non-AP handgun round, though a velocity in the neighborhood of 2000 fps will probably punch through (e.g., some uncommon FN 5.7 rounds)
            — Common service rifle rounds will easily punch through, barely even slowing down
            — I’ve seen reports that a 5.56 round can defeat a Level IIIA vest (the highest level of soft armor) from as far away as 600 yards.


            — Usually used in torso plates
            — Military standard; also common among SWAT pigs
            — Will stop at least one round (often more) of .30-06 armor-piercing (AP) and all lesser threats
            — Can be defeated by .50 BMG rounds at sufficient velocity (certainly .50 BMG AP) and MAYBE some “elephant” rounds with solid bullets


            — Heavy in comparison to other armor
            — Not very common among the jackboots, but a lot of civilian gun owners prefer it for its low cost and durability
            — Can be defeated by very fast bullets, as #1 pointed out. This means an IMPACT velocity (not muzzle velocity) in the ballpark of 3000 fps or more.
            — Can stop some VERY powerful non-AP rounds, including .50 BMG ball if it’s thick enough


            — Fairly lightweight (lower density than water), though thicker than other kinds of armor
            — Increasingly used in helmets, handheld shields, and other kinds of armor as well as torso plates
            — One inch thickness will defeat almost any common service rifle round
            — 5.56 “green tip” (M855) CAN defeat this armor, at least at close range
            — True AP rounds, like surplus .308 and .30-06 “black tip,” can defeat this armor also
            — It’s POSSIBLE that heavy subsonic .30-cal rounds can defeat this armor. I’m talking about stuff like 220-grain .300 Blackout FMJ rounds. I would like to see this tested by someone.

            With that out of the way…

            I’m convinced that the best general-purpose round out there now is 5.56 “green tip” — the same one they wanted to ban recently. Please humor me as I explain why:

            As mentioned earlier, NO common semi-auto rifle rounds can penetrate ceramic torso plates in a reasonable number of shots. Those plates are in very common use, and you won’t know in advance if your enemy is wearing them. Therefore, there’s no point in shooting center mass at someone who’s armored up. In other words, it’s best at this point to simply forget about trying to shoot through torso plates at all. Don’t waste precious time: aim somewhere else right off the bat.

            That leaves the rest of the body, with the head being an especially important target. THIS is where we need to maximize our chances of penetration, since the torso plates are basically a lost cause with most civilian ammo.

            The best helmets out there now (that I know of) are made of hard polyethylene and can stop a .308 (non-AP) at some minimum velocity (at least 2100 fps). There is also discussion out there about covering other body parts with this same material, since it’s fairly lightweight (albeit bulky).

            So, since it looks like polyethylene is going to be the major threat for at least the near future, we should adapt and make sure we can defeat that threat. The easiest solution we know of right now is 5.56 green tip (again, unless you have surplus .30-cal AP rounds).

            Civilian weapons are losing ground to military/police armor, thanks to the R&D associated with the endless wars overseas (“for our freedom,” of course). But M855 is still a critical ally. It doesn’t have the greatest terminal ballistics, but if you hit the head, that shouldn’t matter too much. Just be sure you can get through that helmet in the first place — use M855!

            Meanwhile, as I’ve said elsewhere, civilians in this country REALLY need to get working on homemade AP rounds that are as good as what the military has. This needs to become a cottage industry. The 2nd Amendment might depend on it, and soon.

  2. Nice write-up and videos, Henry. Nice revolver, too — I own one myself.

    Widener’s is a solid business. They’ve been around for a while and are good to go. I was happy to see them come on as site sponsors.

    If I can add to the list of recommended .44 ammo, there have been some very good reports about the terminal ballistics of the 300-grain Hornady XTP round. I haven’t tested it in gel or other media, though. I can say that its recoil is also surprisingly mild as far as .44 Mags go. Just another load for people to check out.

    Honestly, I’ve always felt that .44 Mag was a bit “too much gun” if the goal is rapid, controllable fire. But it’s a great choice when you need just a few shots, possibly at longer range, and you also need something more portable and concealable than a rifle.


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