Handheld from a Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards, we tested light, heavy and traditional loadings for this versatile chambering. For a hunting load the choice was Winchester Supreme 250-grain JHP, churning 1,250 feet per second velocity and 867 foot-pounds of energy. This hardest-kicking load of the test put five rounds in 1.30" measured center to center, the best three in 0.70". (I measure to the nearest 0.05".)

For a traditional .44 Mag. loading I selected the economical Federal Champion 240-grain SJHP, rated for 1,230 fps and 807 fpe. Recoil was surprisingly manageable thanks to the Anaconda’s heft. Group measurements were 1.45" for all five, with four in 1.25" and the best three in 0.70" — again.

The .44 Special has always been a favored practice load in a .44 Mag, and certainly adequate for self-defense with faster recoil recovery. PMC’s .44 Special JHP weighs 180 grains and runs at a nominal 980 fps, duplicating many proven .45 ACP defense loads. The Anaconda had a 1.10" group going with the PMC, but I unknowingly honked a shot that stretched the five-shot measurement to 3.55". This is why I always measure also for best three. Decades have taught me this factors out enough unnoticed human error by an experienced shooter to make “best three” from the bench closely comparable to “all five” from a machine rest. The machine rest is cool — I have two — but they are tedious for the tester to set up, and impossible for most readers to duplicate without significant expense and effort. The best three .44 Specials went into 0.85". By the way, it’s a cliché to say, “That .44 stuff kicked like a .22,” but in the weighty Anaconda, this was true of the .44 Special load.