Accurate AND Cheap? 44 Magnum Budget Loads! Tests & Considerations for Berry’s 240gr Target HP – Ultimate Reloader

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My .44 Magnum revolver shooting needs work, but ammunition is expensive! I loaded up some 240 grain Berry’s plated bullets for some more practice! 

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History of the .44 Magnum 

Elmer Keith and others finally got Smith and Wesson and Remington to team up and create the .44 Magnum cartridge in 1955. It was the most powerful commercial handgun cartridge at that time and Ruger quickly introduced a single action .44 magnum revolver in response. The cartridge and Smith and Wesson’s revolver became extremely popular, partially due to the “Dirty Harry” movie series starring Clint Eastwood. 

I got my first .44 Magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk in the 1980s and immediately started handloading for the 7 ½”-barreled blued steel revolver. My intent was to become a skilled handgun hunter.  I had taken some small game with .22, .38 and ,357 revolvers before that time, but I largely hunted with rifles. To date, I have only shot one mule deer doe with the .44 Magnum revolver. The factory Federal 240 grain JHP ammo worked great,  but I’m getting more interested in handgun hunting and need a lot of practice. I currently have my .44 Magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter equipped with an Ultradot red-dot sight. 

About Berry’s .44 Caliber 240 Grain Target Hollow Point

Factory ammunition for the .44 Magnum can be quite expensive, and even handloading for it with jacketed bullets can be uncomfortably costly. The expense of ammunition can limit our handgun training. 

For less expensive practice ammunition, I turned to the Berry’s 240 grain Target Hollow Point bullet. Berry’s affordable plated bullets have proven themselves to me as a good alternative to either lead or jacketed handgun bullets. This budget-friendly bullet ($0.21 vs. $0.40 per bullet) is the same weight as my chosen hunting revolver bullet and has worked well in both my S&W and Ruger .44’s. Berry offers it in packages of either 200 or 500 bullets. 

From Berry’s

Berry’s Superior Plated Bullets® are the finest bonded copper-jacketed bullets available today. Starting with a swaged lead core, they are electroplated with copper to their final weight, leaving no lead exposure. They are then re-struck to precise specifications, ensuring a solid bond and providing consistency with every round. Indoor range safe and unbelievably accurate, Berry’s Superior Plated Bullets® are the choice of shooters everywhere.

Bullet O.A.L.: .692″

Cartridge Name: 44 Special 

Cartridge O.A.L.: 1.460″

Max Velocity: 1850 fps

Cartridge Name: 44 Magnum 

Cartridge O.A.L.: 1.610″

Max Velocity: 1850 fps

    • Load data for our Superior Plated Bullets® can be found in any manual or on any powder manufacturer’s website.
    • Cast or jacketed data with the same grain weight and profile will work with our bullets.
    • You can use a taper or a roll crimp. 
    • Don’t over crimp the brass after seating. This causes bullet core separation, leading to increased copper fouling and accuracy issues. 
    • Don’t exceed the recommended maximum velocities listed. This creates bullet core separation and accuracy issues.

Though I’m practicing with my .44 revolver with the end goal of hunting, this bullet is only intended for target practice. Berry’s thoughtfully makes them with their “thick plate” process, so that this bullet can tolerate muzzle velocities up to 1850 fps. This makes it safe for use in lever action rifles as well. 

The Loads and Tests

I loaded two different types of ammunition, 23.5 grains of H110 and 9.0 grains of Titegroup.

Hodgdon’s H110 is a classic powder for maximum loads in straight-wall magnum handgun cartridges. Interestingly enough,  it has a very narrow operating window. Hodgdon’s Reloading Data Center lists a minimum of 23.0 grains of H110 (25,200 CUP) for a jacketed 240 grain bullet and 24.0 grains as maximum (36,200 CUP). Perhaps even more intriguing is that a mere one grain increase in powder charge raises the pressure more than 10,000 CUP! Long ago I settled on 23.5 grains of H110 for my 240 grain .44 Magnum loads, and I’ve stuck with it. It’s not recommended to drop the powder charge below the recommended minimum with H110. Some powders just aren’t made for low pressure and low velocity but they’re top shelf for maximum performance from magnum revolver cartridges. Recently we observed excellent results with H110 in the .357 Magnum

Hodgdon’s Titegroup powder has produced some remarkably tight extreme spread and standard deviation figures for us in the .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt. It had done well for us in the past and I decided to use it again for a milder load.

I loaded all the rounds for this story on a Lyman All-American turret press with Hornady dies, Hornady brass, and CCI #350 large pistol primers. I added a Lee factory crimp die to the fourth station in order to seat the bullet and crimp the bullet in two separate steps. It’s important to note that these loads could be assembled using a progressive press to produce larger quantities of ammunition in a shorter time frame. I was able to get into a good rhythm with the Lyman turret press and the loading process was straightforward. I primed all cases with the Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat hand primer and threw all powder charges from a Lyman brass smith powder measure. Berry’s states that either a roll crimp or a taper crimp can be used on their plated bullets, but cautions that the crimp should be carefully applied so as to not damage the copper plating. The Lee factory crimp die worked well for me. 

Berry’s really shines by offering useful bullets at great prices. If you’ve used factory .44 Magnum ammunition, or have handloaded it with jacketed bullets, you know that the .44 and other big revolvers can be expensive to feed. With the Berry’s bullet, practice sessions are far more affordable. I priced it out my Titegroup load and each cartridge cost $0.63 to load, $0.35 not counting the brass! 

About the Gun

This fine Ruger Bisley Hunter came to me via Tyler Gun Works in Texas. It’s from the estate of Bob Baer, a noted gunsmith who made his mark with his work on single action revolvers. Apparently Bob did some mild custom work on this revolver, the most obvious is the lanyard ring attachment and grip modification. 

Thanks to a handgun hunter friend, Ernie Bishop, I was able to try an Ultradot Gen2 red dot on this optics-ready gun. I’m still getting used to it, but I like it and it’s staying right where it is atop the Ruger. I grinned when I saw that it sat perfectly between the 30mm rings on my Ruger. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Ultradot is sized specifically for that application. 

The single action Ruger is a big handgun with a 7.5” barrel and weight of 52 ounces. The Bisley-style hammer, grip shape, and weight make it easy to shoot with full power magnum loads. Ruger put an adjustable rear sight and an easily-changed red ramp front sight on the big gun. The revolver and ammo combination showed promise of great accuracy. The whole setup is very new to me and I know that I’ve contributed to the “fliers” in the groups shot but it’s showing excellent accuracy potential and I’m looking forward to time afield with it. 

Berry’s 240 Grain .44 Caliber Results

Forty years ago, I learned the wisdom of loading the .44 Magnum to two levels: maximum or near maximum and something more docile for practice and more casual shooting. 

The 9.0 grains of Titegroup is the milder load, though it’s still a powerful one. It sent the 240 grain Berry’s bullet flying at  just over 1,100 fps from my 7.5” revolver. It’s easy to shoot and satisfyingly accurate. 

23.5 grains of Hodgdon’s H110 is a different animal! It’s 200+ fps faster with a commensurate increase in recoil and muzzle blast. It too is quite accurate, but more difficult for the shooter to handle well. This is the same powder charge I normally use with 240 grain jacketed bullets and hard cast lead bullets. It is only ½ grain off from Hodgdon’s listed maximum for 240 grain jacketed bullets. 

Both loads had identical SD’s of 11 fps with an extreme spread within two fps of one another.

As far as accuracy goes, I have to first confess that I have not yet reached a high level of competence with my new revolver. I had quite a few shots clustered closely together at 15 and 25 yards,  often with just one flier. As the range stretched to 50 yards, I shot groups that I could cover with the palm of my hand, but I’m certain this revolver is capable of far better.

I considered 100 yards, but  chuckled at myself and conceded that I’m not ready to hunt game at 100 yards with a revolver. It will happen, but it will take considerable practice. I intend on sending a number of these Berry’s 240 grain bullets downrange this summer.

As this is a target bullet, I engaged steel targets instead of ballistics gel for practical application.  I walked through our array of rock chuck steel targets, engaging each as I passed it. Now and again I’d miss, but by and large I was ringing steel with most of my shots. The wallop of the 240 grain bullet at over 1,000 fps was considerably different than hitting the same targets with a 124 grain 9mm bullet at similar speeds. Our Titegroup load was particularly satisfying and fun to work with. It was easy to shoot and accurate. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Berry’s 240 grain Target Hollow Point is a great practice bullet for the .44 Magnum revolver at an unbeatable price. It handled both the near max H110 charge and the mild Titegroup load just fine. I highly recommend considering this bullet for target shooting and practice with the .44’s. Is it accurate enough for serious practice? I believe so. As my skill level increases I’ll have a more definite answer. 

Get the Gear

Berry’s .44 Magnum 240 Grain Hollow Point Bullets

Hornady .44 Magnum Unprimed Pistol Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply

CCI #300 Large Pistol Primers at Midsouth Shooters Supply

CCI #350 Magnum Large Pistol Primers at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hodgdon H110 Smokeless Pistol Powder at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hodgdon Titegroup at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hornady .44 Special/.44 Mag Series II Handgun 3 Die Set With Zip Spindle at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Lee Factory Crimp Die at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Lyman All-American 8-Turret Press at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Lyman Brass Smith Powder Measure at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Perfect Seat Hand Primer at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Clear Ballistics Gel

Garmin Xero C1 Pro at Creedmoor Sports and Midsouth Shooters Supply

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Thanks,
Guy Miner

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