Garrett’s heavy .44 Magnum load proved exceptionally effective, going
through-and-through breaking both shoulders of the pronghorn.
Sometimes what we hunt with is almost as important (and often more interesting) than what we hunt. “You won’t see a trophy buck antelope in the unit, Sam.” That’s what Tracy told me. As a full-time professional government hunter he should know. After all, he lives day by day in the region. But undying optimism had me looking for that “big boy” anyway. I won’t say how many bucks I ended up studying under 12X magnification. Might sound a bit unbelievable. But of course Tracy was right. I saw not one “special” buck. No rain. No new food. No horns. Since I live where a short walk from my front door puts me in antelope country, I’ve taken the prince of the plains with bow & arrow, muzzleloader, the iron-sighted .30-30 clan, right up to my custom McGowen (Montana) sizzling .240 Gibbs with an 80-gr. bullet pushing four grand. But never a handgun.
It was time to change that.
Know thyself has always been good advice, whether from Shakespeare or a pundit preaching around the back-room gun store cracker barrel. And I know me. I have some fine six-guns and semi-autos. But I end up packing only the least weighty when on foot in the game field. For pronghorns, I would employ a handful of potency in a light package. The Smith &Wesson Model 329 PD .44 Magnum Scandium. Easy on the hip at 25.5 ounces unloaded, the Scandium is heavy on smack-down.
I knew that the 310-grain SuperHardCast bullet (as loaded by Garrett) would penetrate like a hot needle through onion skin paper, so when my chance came, I aimed a bit forward of the usual “boiler room” delivery. The bullet made essentially a .44-caliber hole in and out through both scapulas, which, by the way, were not bloodshot and ended up just fine in the roasting pan. Upon impact at 25 yards the buck’s hooves lifted from the earth in a dramatic display of delivered force, regardless of the low KE of the bullet. Meplat, from the French word meaning “flat surface,” and for us technically the nose of the bullet, is flatter than a tortilla stomped on by an elephant on the Defender’s 310 grain bullet. I credit part of the performance of the Garrett load to that aspect. An absolutely flat nose.
Sam felt the adventure of hunting with his S&W .44 made the taking of this
antelope more enjoyable than if it’d been a bigger one, but taken with a rifle.
Smith & Wesson’s Model 329 Scandium .44 Magnum is light but still speaks with authority.
Where They’re Hit
I also credit, as always, bullet placement. The shoulder region of all manner of fauna is a highly vulnerable area, not only for tissue, but of course bone. Thanks to a retired SWAT commander, I was able to put the bullet spot-on. When I met Ron I couldn’t reliably bust a watermelon at 25 yards. After his instruction, I went from dead poor to fairly good with a handgun. Front sight/target. Front sight/target. Of course the front sight has to be properly optically located in the rear sight notch, but then vision moves to — front sight/target. I said to myself, “front sight/target,” took aim, and….
The buck was nothing to praise in story and song. Horns went exactly 13″ long with fair weight and mediocre prongs. But I had seen only one more interesting pronghorn — and only because its horns jutted out from its head like wings, not because it was a trophy. I tried but never could close in on that one. While my handgun harvest was nothing special in the trophy arena, putting the buck down swiftly and cleanly with the .44 handgun proved much more interesting than taking perhaps a little bigger-horned animal with a long-range rifle, or for that matter, one of my trusty .30-30 rifles, such as my favorite antelope-taking Marlin 336A completely refurbished to better than brand new by Tucson custom gun maker Patrick Holehan.
I found the S&W Scandium enjoyable to carry, and had all confidence in the .44 Magnum Garrett load. And that confidence in both handgun and ammo paid off.
Sam carried the .44 in this field flap holster from Haugen Handgunleather.
By Sam Fadala
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