Hornady’s 240 grain .44 Caliber XTP for Hunting?

I’ve always wanted to consistently harvest big game with a revolver. While I need more practice, I’ve settled on an ideal hunting bullet for my .44 Magnum— the 240 grain Hornady XTP. Here’s why!


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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 the Hornady XTP

A hunting bullet in a revolver must be accurate and have adequate penetration and expansion to humanely kill the desired game. Larry Weishuhn, a professional wildlife biologist, hunter/conservationist and writer, has had tremendous experience with handgun hunting. He often uses a .44 Magnum revolver with a 240 grain Hornady XTP (eXtreme Terminal Performance) both in handloads and factory Hornady ammunition.

I relied on his reports as well as the reports of other seasoned handgun hunters before deciding to try the 240 grain Hornady XTP. 

“When it comes to ammo, handguns are like most other firearms, they can be fickle, and tend to prefer one load or bullet style over others. That said, one of the most forgiving ammos I have ever run through a great number of .44 Mag revolvers is Hornady’s 240-grain XTP Custom. Frankly I have yet to find a .44 Mag that does not love this particular bullet and load. It is as Horandy’s tagline states, “Accurate, Deadly and Dependable”! — Larry Weishuhn

From Hornady

Designed for hunting, self-defense and law enforcement applications, the XTP® bullet demonstrates the kind of accuracy that led many competitive shooters to adopt it. Reliable performance makes the XTP® the most popular handgun bullet for both target shooters and hunters. But it’s the stopping power of the XTP® bullet that has truly built its world-class reputation. From the onset, XTP® bullets were specifically designed to expand reliably at a wide range of handgun velocities to deliver deep penetration with every shot.

Product Features: 

    • Controlled Expansion – Precise serrations divide the XTP® into symmetrical sections, strategically weakening the jacket and initiating controlled expansion even at low velocities.
    • No Exposed Lead – The gilding metal jacket protects the nose of the bullet, so the hollow cavity functions properly on impact and ensures proper feeding in semi-automatics.
    • Swaged Core – Total uniformity of core density ensures balanced expansion as well as in-flight stability.
    • Drawn Gilding Metal Jacket – Expansion is controlled by varying jacket thickness down the length of the XTP®, providing a definite advantage over plated bullets which have a uniform jacket thickness over the entire bullet.
    • Cannelure – On revolver bullets, the cannelure helps achieve accurate, consistent crimping. All cannelures are applied before the final forming process to eliminate any distortion to the finished bullet.

Hornady 240 Grain .44 Caliber XTP Results

We tested the 240 grain .44 caliber Hornady XTP for velocity, accuracy, penetration and expansion. We observed a good 1389 fps muzzle velocity with an extremely tight standard deviation of only 3 fps with 23.5 grains of H110!

I loaded this ammunition on a Lyman All-American turret press with Hornady dies, Hornady brass, and CCI #350 large pistol primers. The numbers indicate that H110 remains an excellent choice for magnum handgun cartridges. We’ve also used it in the .357 magnum with great results. 

In terms of accuracy,  I must confess to being the weak link in our accuracy testing with this revolver. Using the Ultradot sight is very new to me and I’m not shooting as well as I’d like to just yet. The load did indicate very good results at 15 and 25 yards and acceptable results at 50 yards, but I’m simply not ready for hunting at 100 yards yet.

I’ll keep working on that! (That’s the only reason that this revolver isn’t going on a spring bear hunt with me this year!)

Penetration and expansion were quite good. Some people don’t believe that a hollow point bullet can do well for hunting, but they may not recognize that the XTP is built to expand gradually and penetrate well.

We use Clear Ballistics Gel to determine bullet expansion and penetration. While synthetic ballistics gelatin will not 100% reflect what a bullet will do to a human or animal, it provides us with valuable data and allows us to compare the performance of different bullets and different loads. American-made Clear Ballistics Gel is reusable. It can be melted down and utilized again for even more tests.

This bullet expanded to .628” diameter, penetrated 25” in the Clear Ballistics Gel, and retained 228 grains, or 95% of its weight.

Those are excellent figures. 

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. 

Why Might You Avoid the XTP?

Some areas require the use of lead-free bullets for hunting and other areas appear to be heading in that direction. In these cases, a mono-metal substitute is required. Fortunately Hornady is ahead of this  and already offers an “unleaded” bullet suitable for handgun hunting. 

Many handgun hunters believe strongly in a heavy, flat point cast lead bullet and they have been successful for a very long time. Even without expansion they can do significant tissue damage, and their penetration is often superb. 

Another scenario is that someone already has a favorite handgun hunting bullet that has performed so well they don’t want to change it. Personally, I have no reservations about using the XTP, it’s my current choice for general-purpose deer and black bear hunting with a revolver. 


It’s early, but I’m currently satisfied with  the 240 grain Hornady XTP as my .44 Magnum handgun hunting bullet of choice. It appears to have excellent penetration and good expansion. I know from others that this bullet can be superbly accurate, I just need more practice! 

Get the Gear

Hornady .44 Caliber .430 Diameter 240 Grain XTP Bullets With Cannelure at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hornady .44 Magnum Unprimed Pistol Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply

CCI #350 Magnum Large Pistol Primers at Midsouth Shooters Supply

Hodgdon H110 Smokeless Pistol Powder at Midsouth Shooters Supply

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

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

Clear Ballistics Gel

Garmin Xero C1 Pro at Creedmoor Sports and Midsouth Shooters Supply

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Guy Miner

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