Heavy Defensive Loads

By John Taffin

Buffalo Bore has long been known for producing heavy hunting rounds for leverguns and big bore sixguns. Over the past few years, the line has been expanded significantly to include varmint loads and self-defense ammo known as Anti-Personal ammo. The latter is a good move as the hunting market pie is only so large, but nearly everyone with a handgun needs self-defense loads. Nearly every ammo company offers some sort of magic-bulleted load for self-defense guns. Buffalo Bore has reached back a ways to come up with factory loads many of us learned about 50 or more years ago — and it’s still effective.

At mid-century Bullseye was king, with many sixgunners using S&W K-38’s and Colt Officer’s Model Match .38 Specials. Someone discovered they could turn their target sixguns into effective self-defense and varmint revolvers by using the same wadcutter target loads. When that full flat-faced relatively slow moving bullet hit a rabbit, badger, or rockchuck, the resounding “thwack” sounded like a wet towel slapped against the side of the bathtub.

Then someone came up with the idea of loading hollow base wadcutters backwards in .38 Specials a half-century or so ago. These bullets were very soft lead and the hollow base was designed to expand giving a custom fit to a target revolver. Loading them backwards gave us a large hollow point in the front. The only problem was the soft lead would often come apart instead of expanding.

Buffalo Bore is taking a slightly different path here with hard-cast full wadcutters. They are built for penetration more than expansion and as this is written they are offered in .38 Special, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and the newest offering .45 Auto Rim. All of which are loaded with special “Low Flash” powders for more effective use indoors.


Buffalo Bore’s .44 Special full wadcutter loads in a Smith & Wesson 1950
Target and 329PD delivered factory-promised velocity and good accuracy.

.38 Special

The .38 Special wadcutter weighs 150 grains and is hard cast and lubed, negating the leading problem often found with the soft lead wadcutters. I shot these through what we used to call “Belly Guns” or 2″ .38 Specials. They clocked out right at 900 fps in both a Colt Cobra and a Smith & Wesson M&P placing all the shots within 2″ at seven yards. Buffalo Bore advertises muzzle velocities from real sixguns not test barrels and I’ve never known them to fudge. They advertise this load at 868 fps from a 2″ barrel and 960 from a 3″ barrel. Right on the money.

Buffalo Bore has offered a .38 Special 158-grain SWC cast hollowpoint which clocks out right at 850 fps from the same snubbies, and they have now reached way back in history and have added a new load which they are calling the “Outdoorsman.” Buffalo Bore’s .38 Special +P Outdoorsman load harkens back to the great S&W revolver of the same name and consists of a 158-grain hard cast SWC clocking out at 1,200 fps from a 6″ barrel. Works fine in either .38 Special or .357 Magnum sixguns.


Heavy .327 130 Keith and 100 JHP loads, and Heavy .357 Magnum loads with 180 GC, 170
Sierra JHC and 158 and 125 JHP are all top performers in their categories.

Big Bore

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen factory wadcutter loads for big-bore sixguns until now. Buffalo Bore’s Anti-Personnel .44 Special Wadcutter weighs in at 200 grains and I quote from Buffalo Bore: “This load is designed to permanently and quickly disable human threats. The big flat wadcutter crushes living tissue as it passes through, unlike mushroom bullets that are slightly rounded on the nose and tend to slip and slide through living tissue. The crushing action of the flat nose keeps penetration straight and when penetration remains straight, it is generally very deep — deep enough to obtain full penetration on the largest human from any angle. The hard cast construction will not deform on flesh and bone at these velocities so the nose profile remains constant along with bullet path and terminal damage.”

They also say one can expect 24″ of the straight-line penetration in living mammals with this load. Shot through three of my 4″ sixguns muzzle velocity was right at 950–990 fps, with 20-yard groups in my old 4″ 1950 Target S&W just over 1″.

It has never been easy to find .44 Special loads above the original loading of a 250-grain round-nosed bullet at 750 fps, which is why so many of us reload our own ammunition. However, this has now changed, and in addition to the full wadcutter .44 Special Buffalo Bore is also offering is a 255 Keith bullet load and 180-grain JHP loading. These clock out at 1,100 fps and 1,265 fps respectively from my 51/2″ sixgun.

Everything positive about the .44 Special increases with the heavier loads and the .44 Magnum 200-grain hard cast wadcutter clocks out at 1,250 fps in a 4″ Mountain Gun, grouping in less than 2″ at 20 yards. For the .44 Magnum Buffalo Bore is also offering what they are calling a Deer Grenade. This is a +P loading using a 240-grain massive hollowpoint 12 BHN cast gas check bullet clocking out at more than 1,450 fps from a Smith & Wesson 4″ Mountain gun and over 1,900 fps from a companion Marlin levergun. The 12 BHN aids expansion while the gas check prevents leading. This load is not for use in the lightweight alloy framed guns offered by S&W and Taurus as the bullets may jump the crimp and tie up the cylinder.


Anti-Personnel full WC loads in .44 Special, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt, along with 225 Barnes
and 200 Speer JHP loads for the .45 Colt. The WC loads offer remarkable penetration.

.45 Colt

The .45 Colt has always been regarded as a man stopper even with its original comical bullet, and now it’s even better. The .45 Colt Anti-Personnel WC load uses a 225-grain bullet delivering just over 1,000 fps from my 4″ Model 625, grouping just over 11/2″ at 20 yards. Buffalo Bore also offers several other .45 Colt loads including a 200-grain Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point and a 225-grain Barnes XPB. These clock out at 1,035 and 990 fps respectively from the same 4″ .45 Colt sixgun.

The latest .45 from Buffalo Bore is the .45 Auto Rim load. For many years, reaching back to even before I started shooting, the only .45 AR available, if you could even find it, was loaded with a 230 cast round-nosed bullet. With the resurgence in popularity of the .45 ACP sixgun better loads appeared and now Buffalo Bore has added the .45 Auto Rim to their Anti-Personnel list with the same 225-grain Hard Cast WC used in their .45 Colt loads. These are loaded to .45 ACP +P levels, clock out at over 1,100 fps from a 4″ Mountain Gun and will penetrate 30″ of flesh and bone.

Other Caliber Surprises

There’s no doubt the .45 ACP is a great choice for self-defense use in a semi-automatic; however, it’s not the only choice and the 9mm and .38 Super with proper loadings are also more than adequate for the task at hand. Buffalo Bore offers +P loadings of both of these cartridges with 115-, 124- and 147-grain bullets. From my Springfield Armory 1911 9mm, Buffalo Bore’s loads give the following results: 115 JHP, 1,349 fps; 124 JHP, 1,392 fps and 147 JHP, 1,218 fps.
Switching to the .38 Super, results from a Springfield Armory 1911 Mil-Spec are 1,349 fps, 1,382 fps and 1,202 fps respectively. The original .38 Super was a 130 FMJ at 1,300 fps so these loads are right on the money.

When the .32 H&R Magnum arrived factory loads were pretty anemic as it was originally designed to be used in the H&R revolver. It did not take us long to discover we could load much heavier for use in the Ruger Single-Six. Buffalo Bore now has a Heavy .32 H&R Magnum +P using a 100-grain JHP. This load is not for use in the original H&R revolvers.

From my Freedom Arms 10″ Model 97 this load clocks out at over 1,400 fps and puts five shots in 3/4″ at 25 yards making it an excellent varmint load. If you choose to use this same load for self-defense it will clock out of a SP101 at nearly 1,200 fps.

Our latest Varmint Cartridge is the grown-up .32 Magnum, the .327 Federal Magnum. Buffalo Bore offers a Heavy .327 with the choice of a 130-grain Keith bullet or a 100-grain JHP. From my Freedom Arms 10″ Model 97 both of these group in 1″ for five shots at 25 yards and clock out at 1,487 fps and 1,552 fps respectively.


John found the Buffalo Bore heavy .357 loads to be accurate in his Freedom Arms Model 83.

.357 Magnum

After more than 75 years the .357 Magnum still remains one of our most versatile cartridges. Whether used for self-defense, varmints, or hunting of deer-sized game at reasonable ranges, it can do it all. In fact, with properly placed bullets of the right construction it can even handle larger game if you’re very careful where the shots are placed.

Buffalo Bore’s Heavy .357 Magnum loads were tested in a Freedom Arms Model 83 71/2″. Results for four shots at 25 yards are: 125-grain JHP at 1,843 fps and groups in 1/2″; the 158 JHP puts its four shots into 5/8″ with a muzzle velocity of 1,559 fps and the 170 Sierra JHC and 180 LFN-GC hard cast do 1,494 fps and 1,529 fps respectively with both achieving groups of about 1/2″.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index

Web Blast Extra

Test Results For Buffalo Bore Ammunition

Heavy .32 H&R Magnum

Sixgun Load MV 5 Shots/25 Yds
Freedom Arms 10″ Model 97 100 JHP 1,411 fps 3/4″
Ruger Single-Six 9-1/2″ 100 JHP 1,284 fps 7/8″
Dan Wesson 8″ HB 100 JHP 1,321 fps 7/8″

Heavy .327 Federal Magnum

Sixgun Load MV 5 Shots/25 Yards
Freedom Arms 10″ Model 97 130 Keith 1,487 fps 1″
100 JHP ,552 fps 1″

Heavy .357 Magnum

Sixgun Load MV 4 Shots/25 Yards
Freedom Arms Model 83 7-1/2″ 125 JHP ,843 fps 1/2″
158 JHP 1,559 fps 5/8″
170 JHC 1,494 fps 1/2″
180 LFGC 1,529 fps /2″

9mm +P Springfield Armory 1911 5″

Load MV 5 Shots/20 Yards
115 Gold Dot HP 1,329 fps 2-1/8″
115 JHP 1,349 fps 1-1/2″
124 JHP 1,392 fps 1-1/2″
147 JHP 1,214 fps 1-3/8″
147 Gold Dot HP 1,218 fps 1-1/2″

.38 Super +P Springfield Armory Mil-Spec 5”

Load MV 5 Shots/20 Yards
115 JHP 1,349 fps 1-1/2″
124 JHP 1,382 fps 2-3/8″
124 FMJ 1,319 fps 2-3/4″
147 JHP 1,202 fps 1-3/4″

Anti-Personnel Ammo

Sixgun Load MV 5 Shots/20 Yards
S&W 1950 Target 4″ .44 Special 200 WC 985 fps 1-1/4″
S&W 329 PD 4″ .44 Special 200 WC 955 fps 1-3/4″
S&W Mtn Gun 4″ .44 Special 200 WC 994 fps 2″
S&W Mtn Gun 4″ .44 Magnum 200 WC 1,245 fps 1-7/8″
S&W M625-6 4″ 5 Colt 225 WC 1,003 fps 1-5/8″
S&W M625-6 4″ Colt 200 Speer GD HP 1,033 fps 2-3/8″
S&W M625-6 4″ .45 Colt Barnes 225 XPB 987 fps 2-1/2″

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