By Hamilton Bowen


Garrett Cartridges of TX is one of the preeminent ammunition makers of our time, especially for revolver shooters. The company’s reputation was made with two heavy-bullet .44 Magnum cartridges that were introduced nearly thirty years ago by founder Randy Garrett. Mercifully for the ammo-buying public, the firm didn’t disappear when Randy Garrett retired some years ago. He put it into the hands Ashley Emerson, who has carried on Garrett’s great tradition of quality and innovation. Emerson also brings to the table several lifetimes of hunting experience with revolvers and has applied his accumulated knowledge and judgment to the development of everything from better sights to better ammunition.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Emerson has added several innovative cartridges to the Garrett lineup since he took over. Among his more important offerings are high-performance loads for the .45 Colt and .454 Casull. But every round fired doesn’t need to be of the thermonuclear variety. Bearing that in mind, Emerson has developed some mid-range ammo that extends both the life of a gun and a shooter’s hands. The first of these rounds introduced a couple of years ago was a .45 Colt +P+ load that pushes a 265-grain TFP bullet along at about 1,000 feet per second from a 7½-inch barrel. This month we received from Emerson three more mid-range .44-caliber cartridges, one for .44 Special and two for .44 Magnum.

The Garrett .44s left to right: .44 Mag. 310-gr. Defender, .44 Special 250-gr. Hammerhead, .44 Mag. 250-gr. Defender, .44 Mag. 250-gr. Hammerhead and the .44 Mag. 330-gr. Long Hammerhead.

.44 Special 250-grain Hammerheads:

This SAAMI-compliant cartridge shoots 250-grain Hammerhead bullets at 950-1000 fps in 4½ to to 7½-inch barrels in modern .44 Special Colt Single-Actions and their clones and in Ruger and Smith & Wesson .44 Special and .44 Magnum revolvers.

.44 Magnum 250-grain Defender:

A milder version of Garrett’s 310-grain, heavy-duty load, this cartridge propels 250-grain bullets at around 1000 fps in the 4-inch barreled guns often favored to protect home and hearth or for backup carry in the field. Even in heavy, all-steel .44 Magnums, the recoil created by 310-grain bullets can be tiresome for some shooters. The 250-grain Defender is a less painful alternative, but it’s still plenty effective, thanks to the excellent bullet design and material. These cartridges are particularly suited for smaller, lighter guns such as the S&W Model 69 or S&W’s infamously punishing Model 329 PD, which weighs just 25½ ounces. The reduced recoil of the Defender load boosts the shooter’s comfort level, allowing better shot placement and quicker followup shots.

.44 Magnum 250-grain Hammerheads:

As with the Defender load above, the 250-grain Hammerhead is an understudy to Garrett’s original 310-grain Hammerhead round, which can be formidable for less-experienced revolver shooters. Again, thanks to the excellent bullet design and material, this cartridge offers performance on par with traditional high-velocity 240-250-grain loads without their attendant recoil and muzzle blast.

All Garrett bullets are cast from a proven alloy that will not shatter. They are tough and hold their shape, which is one of the most critical aspects of cast-bullet performance. The penetration delivered by such bullets is out of all proportion to their indicated horsepower. Gas checks on the bullets minimize leading in guns with less than optimal cylinder throat diameters.

These new cartridges fill some gaps in Garrett’s growing cartridge lineup. There is much useful commentary and practical knowledge on the subjects of bullet design, penetration and performance on big game at the Garrett website. For more information on Garrett ammunition, contact them at: