Handgun hunters vary from traditionalists using revolvers and autoloaders with mostly straight-walled cases to specialty pistol users and their bolt action or break open action single shots and repeaters using what most consider rifle rounds. The rifle-caliber crowd has a vast range of suitable bullets and ammunition to choose from due to rifles being eminently popular. The Traditionalists do not have this great selection of choices. There are a few premium handgun ammunition makers and the major manufacturers have tried to provide good suitable ammunition but the market is small, so these products seem to come and go based on sales.
Most handgun ammunition is geared towards self-defense and personal protection. This type of ammunition does fairly well on small and medium game, provided you choose your shots carefully and your quarry is not solidly built and tough. Lately, some states have implemented laws that require projectiles used for hunting to be “green”, meaning no harmful lead that can cause health issues. Some of the major manufacturers have joined forces with nonlead projectile companies and now produce “green” ammo.
Enter Hornady,…..they have been making some very nice monometal bullets for some time, in their GMX and Monoflex line of rifle bullets. They have now added a “green” bullet to the handgun side, and are producing a line of handgun ammunition strictly designed for handgun hunting and aimed at the Traditionalists. The line is called Handgun Hunter, and will be available in 9mm, 357magnum, 40s&w, 10mm, 44magnum, 454 Casull, and 460s&w. The 9mm, 40s&w, and 10mm are rated for small game use, the rest are rated for medium game and larger. The bullet looks like a traditional hollow point bullet however the hollow is filled with a polymer or synthetic type material, which is supposed to aid in initiating expansion.
I was lucky enough to receive some of the 44mag. ammunition and promptly headed for the range with a couple of my 44mag. hunting rigs to see how the load would perform. The guns used are a Ruger Super Blackhawk with 4 5/8” barrel and a Burris FastFire red dot sight, as well as my Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter with 7.5” barrel and 4x optic. Shooting took place at 50 yds, with a couple of shots tossed at 100 to verify impact. The listed velocity for the 200gr. Monoflex bullet is 1475fps, with nothing given as to what gun or barrel it was shot through.
My 7.5” Ruger provided 1435fps as an average of five shots, the shortie Ruger produced 1315fps average for five shots. Accuracy at 50 yards with the shortie Ruger and its red dot produced a group measuring 3”x2.5”. Recoil and muzzle blast are about what you would expect for a 200gr. bullet going approximately 1400fps. There is little lift from the 7.5” gun, and the short gun is easily handled by anyone accustomed to shooting a magnum handgun.
Since I was short on ammo I only fired two rounds at 100 yards with the 7.5” gun to verify impact just in case a shot at that distance was needed and produced a 1.6” coupling. I did not fire any further rounds as I wanted to save the few remaining I had for what the load was intended for……hunting.
It was now time to deal with terminal ballistics, I intended to use the remaining rounds I had on a mule deer and antelope hunt. A slight misstep caused me to break my ankle and postpone using a traditional handgun for that hunt. I was disappointed in needing to delay my write-up, so as soon as I could I was down in South Texas trying to close the deal on a feral hog with the load. This time it would be the shortie Ruger that was used for the hunt. I was able to spot a small herd of 12-15 pigs of various sizes rooting up a pasture, from about 500 yards away. Using the wind and terrain features I was able to close the distance to about 50 yards. I needed to wait for some cattle in the pasture to clear away from behind the pigs and by then the distance increased to about 80 yards.
I put the red dot on the front leg and just above the centerline for height and broke the shot. The sow took off running, but I’d heard the bullet land and the sights were true when the gun went off, so I knew the shot was good. She had been quartering toward me at the shot and the bullet landed on the shoulder and exited the offside breaking ribs as it went. She ran about 50-75 yards and piled up, following a blood trail was unnecessary given the short grass. She would end up weighing 179 pounds on my scale, a good-sized pig, and in my opinion a fair test for the bullet.
All I had left was four rounds and thought finding four more pigs would allow me to draw a decent opinion on how the ammunition would perform in the field. However, my luck would continue to improve as I received a couple more boxes before the article was done. Given the extra rounds, I decided I wanted to see if the load would shoot as well as it appeared to from the 7.5” Ruger. So I fired a 3 shot group at 100 yards with the Super Blackhawk Hunter. I was hoping the 1.6”, 2 shot coupling I’d fired earlier wasn’t a fluke,…..I was not disappointed, 3 shots landed in 2.35” at 100 yards, for a completely stock gun that is not a bad group.
I have a friend that owns a ranch with a good population of free-range Aoudad. Occasionally he gets some big rams, that frequent the place. On my last morning to hunt, a ram of large proportions steps out. I quickly ranged him and grabbed my Super Blackhawk Hunter, he ranged at 71 yards and quartering away from me at a greater than 45-degree angle. I placed the crosshairs behind his last rib and a touch low, to compensate for the 2-inch high impact I was expecting. The blood trail was almost immediate, no more than 8 feet from where he was standing.
Performance was everything I’d hoped for…while I’d like to post a picture of a nicely mushroomed Monoflex bullet. I’m much happier knowing penetration was complete, the damage was textbook, and the animal died quickly and was found easily. The shot landed behind the last rib, just below the midline body, traversed both lungs, just missed the heart, and exited in his offside armpit.
Aoudad are known for their tenacity and are built much sturdier than deer. The fact that he only went 60-75 yards after being hit is a testament to the effectiveness of the bullet. Having used the bullet on game that is built significantly tougher than most normal medium game, I’m happy to recommend the Hornady Handgun Hunter line for anyone looking for an effective factory load for handgun hunting. If I find myself needing some factory ammo to hunt with I’ll be looking for Accurate, Deadly, and Dependable, Hornady Handgun Hunter.
As normal, here are my gripes and likes….
My biggest surprise was just how close the published velocities were when used in actual guns. This is a change from what I’ve seen in the past where relatively optimistic velocities were used.
The least liked feature is the packaging. Given only twenty rounds it’s tough to use one box and get a solid zero and verify impact at multiple distances and still have ammunition left to hunt with. Even a box of 25 would be more useful in my opinion.
My most liked feature is the fact that more options are coming out for Traditional handgun hunters, and they are being offered in “eco-friendly” options for the states that require that.
The biggest disappointment is that with our current situation finding the ammunition can be very difficult. This is sad because Hornady has hit a home run with this ammunition for those hunters that do not reload.