.44 Magnum For Deer Hunting: How Good is it?

If you own or are thinking of getting a .44 Magnum sooner or later, you will ask yourself, “Can I use it for hunting deer?”.

For many handgun cartridges, the answer will be “Yes, but…” or “If you…”. This is not the case with the .44 Magnum.

The .44 Magnum has two purposes – self-defense and hunting. It has excelled at both and has only gotten better with time.

So, what makes the .44 Magnum a viable deer hunting cartridge? 

.44 Magnum Performance and Suitability for Deer

As stated earlier, the .44 Magnum’s purpose is self-defense and hunting. With most handgun cartridges, you need near perfect conditions, a perfect kill shot, or hot loads to take down a deer successfully. Not with this round.

Other than being within a range that allows you to hit your target, the .44 Magnum has very few conditions that need to meet.

But will it kill a deer? Almost any round will kill a deer under the right circumstances. A head shot with a .22LR will stop a trophy buck in its tracks.

But a .44 Magnum will do it under real-world conditions, at realistic distances, and without the need for a sharpshooter on the trigger.

CaliberMuzzle Energy (ft-lbs)
.44 Magnum 240 grains800 to 110
.45 ACP 230 grains335
.40 S&W 165 grains525
9mm 115 grains500

Although the .44 Magnum offers a little less than half the punch of most popular deer rifles, it still provides enough energy to produce a clean kill on big game.

When it comes to handgun rounds, it exceeds the muzzle energy supplied by others.

It can also maintain over 500-foot pounds out to approximately 100 yards. I doubt many handgun hunters would even attempt to take a deer at more than 100 yards.                           

A Wide Range of Viable Platforms For Deer Hunting

Most people associate the .44 Magnum with the giant hand cannon revolver made famous by Hollywood.

Although the cartridge was initially for handguns, which is also the most popular platform for the cartridge, it is not the only option.

There is also a wide range of rifles chambered in .44 Magnum. Lever action hunting rifles are pretty standard, but you can also find several single shot breach loaders and traditional bolt-action rifles chambered in .44 Magnum.

You can also find a smaller number of semiautomatic pistols chambered in .44 Magnum. Suppose you hunt in a state where semiautomatic handguns are legal for deer hunting.

In that case, this is another option to consider.

Why is the ability to use the same cartridge in multiple platforms important as a hunter? One, because it allows you to use the same round in numerous situations.

Whether hunting from a stand, thick cover, or a wide-open field, you can select the platform that best suits the problem and still only use one type of ammunition.

Two, it provides a genuine dual-purpose firearm.

A firearm chambered in .44 Magnum can be used to hunt and self-defense without worrying whether it will get either job done effectively.

If you plan to hunt with a .44 Magnum, it will more than likely be a revolver. While it is available on other platforms, the revolver remains the most popular.

Therefore, much of our discussion will focus on that platform.

A Round For Almost Anywhere

If you hunt in a state that does not allow necked rounds, the .44 Magnum’s straight-walled design is a perfect solution.

It will enable you to use various platforms when others use shotguns, muzzleloaders, or smaller cartridges.

Accessories

Unlike the .44 Magnum Dirty Harry made famous, today’s hunter is not limited to a stock blued barrel and walnut grip.

Many accessories are available for your handgun, including scopes, custom grips, and weighted barrels. You to make or buy a firearm that will fit you and perform better.

Limitations

Every firearm has its limitations, and the .44 Magnum is no different. You need to know its limits before you rush out and buy one for your next deer hunt.

Size – the .44 Magnum is a big handgun. The average hunting revolver will have a 6.5″ to 7.5″ barrel and weight between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds.

Most popular deer rifles only weigh between 8 lbs. and 10 lbs. and are carried with two hands or over your shoulder. 

Recoil – Many shooters are intimidated by the .44 Magnum’s recoil, and with good reason. It is a powerful handgun with muzzle energy of 800–1100-foot pounds; you will feel it. 

Range – when it comes to range, it is not a question of having enough energy to take down a deer but more about hitting your target.

The trajectory of a .44 Magnum has been compared to that of a mortar- lob it and see what happens. Although capable of killing a deer out and even past 100 yards, this is outside the ability of most hunters.

Capacity – a revolver is going to limit you to 6 shoots. Reloads will not be as quick or easy and will take practice to be efficient.

Although some lever-action rifles have a capacity of up to 10 rounds, many rifles chambered in .44 Magnum still offer only a 6 to 8 round capacity.

Tips for a successful hunt

As stated in the beginning, the .44 Magnum is more than capable of taking down a deer. It was designed as a hunting and self-defense round.

Thanks to modern technology and ballistics, it has only improved over time. 

Like any cartridge, it has positives and negatives. Although the positives outweigh the negatives, it is time to provide some tips to help make your chance of success even better. 

Selecting a firearm

Several quality manufacturers offer .44 Magnums well suited for hunting. When selecting your firearm, you will want one that fits your hand to allow better control.

A full lug barrel will provide extra stability, and a length between 6.5″ and 7.5″ will increase accuracy. Everything else comes down to personal choice.

Ammunition

The most popular round for hunting is 240 grains. It allows a good balance between accuracy, bullet weight, and energy retention.

The bullet itself should be a hollow or jacketed hollow point as these options provide maximum expansion.

If hunting in an area that does not allow hollow point or jacketed hollow point ammunition, a solid lead round is better than a fully jacketed round for the same reason.

Holster

As you can imagine, the size and weight of a .44 Magnum require a quality holster. Being able to hunt with that holster further limits your options.

Thigh or hip holsters can be cumbersome in the field, and shoulder holsters can be challenging to access.

Before giving up on finding the perfect holster, consider a chest mount. This design allows easy access to the firearm, makes carrying even a large frame handgun less cumbersome, and safely secures the gun from accidental loss.

Optics

Adding optics to your hunting revolver can be a game-changer. Whether it is a true scope or red dot, you will gain accuracy and range.

Be sure to select a model that is specifically designed for heavy caliber revolvers so it can withstand the recoil.

If you prefer magnification, look for something in the 2×7 or 3×8 range. This magnification range will allow ease of use throughout the pistol’s effective range.

Conclusion

Now that you know your .44 Magnum is more than suitable for hunting deer and have a few tips to help you along the way, it is time to get ready for next season.

Taking your next deer will feel like taking your first all over again.

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