About five years ago, Winchester and Nosler announced a new partnership at the SHOT Show and handgunning hasn’t been the same since. Soon after the partnership formed, Winchester announced a new line of Supreme Partition Gold handgun ammunition that has few peers, if any.
We used some of the earliest Winchester Partition Gold .454 Casull ammunition to bust a bull elk on the Thoroughfare river in western Wyoming a few years back. We were the only handgun hunter in Gary Fale’s camp on that hunt and the rifle guys were all done before we could snap a cap–and they made sure we were aware of this, to be sure. We’d been close to several representative bulls, but had passed them up, hoping for a better bull. We’d also managed to unknowingly sneak up on a large grizzly, but that’s another story in itself. On the last day of the scheduled five-day hunt, things quickly changed.
I thought we’d had it when a cow elk materialized over the crest of the rise at 20 yards instantly barking an alarm to everyone in hearing range, including the as yet unseen but vocal bull. We decided that the only thing we could do was run toward the bugling bull and hope to get a look at him. Seconds later we limbered up the big Freedom Arms single action to end the hunt. The first shot took place at roughly 40 yards with the third and last one going down range at somewhere around 150 yards. The bull went down for the count after the third shot. How much better could it get–taking a nice bull on the morning of the last day?
The chosen load for this hunt was Winchester’s brand new 260-grain Partition Gold JHP and the performance of this load must be graded stellar to be sure. We managed to recover two of the three bullets from that bull. The other completely penetrated the rib cage and lies somewhere in western Wyoming. The two recovered bullets define perfection where bullet performance is concerned. Displaying classic expansion to .734 and .819 inches, they also managed deep penetration, to boot. The recovered bullets weighed 225.6 and 251.6 grains.
Later on that fall our son-in-law, Jason Gelling, used a borrowed Freedom Arms .44 Magnum (guess where he got it?) to bust his first whitetail buck from a stand on our farm. The chosen load was again a new 250-grain Winchester Partition Gold JHP. At the suggestion of his father-in-law, Jason kept shooting until the buck was down. And again we managed to recover two expended slugs–they had nearly exited after quartering the buck from front to back, ending up under the skin on the off side. Jason’s marksmanship was spot on and again the Winchester Partition Golds displayed perfect, controlled expansion and great penetration, while retaining over 97 percent of their starting weight. The two slugs measure .759 and .763 inches and weigh 244.1 and 241.9 grains. It doesn’t get better than this.
Not long ago, we took a look at the three current 180-grain .357 Magnum loads in these pages, including the Partition Gold JHP from Winchester. Both the Remington JHP and Winchester JHP performed admirably in ballistic gelatin. Winchester made it perfectly clear that handloaders can hope to do no better. That load penetrated 17 inches of calibrated gelatin, expanding to .692 inches while retaining 96 percent of it’s starting weight, weighing 173.1 grains.
We’ve run a good amount of Partition Gold ammo over the Oehler 35P in the past few years as well, while also managing to catalog performance out to 100 yards. We’ll work our way up the ladder so to speak, beginning with the smallest magnum, the .357. Out of a 7-1/2 inch Freedom Arms Model 83, the Gold leaves doing 1,213 fps, 15 feet from the muzzle. This accounts for 588 ft/lbs of instrumental energy, as well. The FA single action accounted for five 5-shot groups at 25 yards that went from a tenth of an inch over half an inch on the bottom end to one and a half inches on the top. The average 5-shot group at 25 yards ran just under an inch. This works out to roughly two inches at 50 yards and somewhere around four inches at 100. Excellent performance from any revolver. We’ve long felt that any wheelgun that would stay under six inches at 100 yards is a viable hunting rig.
The 250-grain Winchester .44 Magnum Partition Gold JHP leaves a 7 1/2-inch Smith & Wesson Stealth Model 29 doing 1,265 fps, generating 888.1 ft/lbs of instrumental energy, 15 feet from the muzzle. This load accounted for five 5-shot groups at 25 yards running from .8 to 1.76 inches. The average group ran just over an inch and a quarter. Running this out to 50 and 100 yards, this load should stay around 2.5 inches at 50 yards and five or so at 100. Again, the S&W and WW combination makes for one great hunting combination.
The Partition Gold .454 Casull load is definitely a barnburner out of Ruger’s new 7 1/2-inch Super Redhawk. This load leaves at 1,787 fps, generating 1,843 ft/lbs of energy, 15 feet from the muzzle. We managed to hold and squeeze the big, new Ruger to account for five 5-shot groups that averaged 2.62 inches at 50 yards. Again this should work out close to five inches at 100, and–typical of the .454 Casull. This baby will put as much punch on a target at 100 yards as the .44 Magnum will at the muzzle. This is one reason we’ve never felt out-gunned while handgun hunting.
Winchester also catalogs a .45 Win Mag Partition Gold load, but we’ve not worked with it. Winchester says that this load launches a 260-grain bullet at 1,200 fps from a five-inch test barrel, generating 832 ft/lbs of energy. According to Winchester, the load is neck and neck with the .44 Magnum out to 100 yards.
There have been reams written about the way this or that cartridge works on live game. While nothing is static or predictable in the field, famed African white hunter John Taylor probably understood what happens as well as anyone. During a lifetime of hunting, Taylor developed a formula that predicts the knock down power of a round. The formula tends to favor caliber size to a large degree and is calculated by multiplying caliber times bullet weight times velocity, divided by 7,000. A 180-grain .30 caliber bullet at 2,700 fps generates a Taylor KO factor of 21.38. A 260-grain, .45 caliber handgun bullet leaving at 1,787 fps generates a Taylor KO factor of 30.00. When we open our foggy mental file on the critters we’ve knocked down with our big bore revolvers (.44s and .45s), we tend to agree with Mr. Taylor. We’ve also taken
note of many comments made by experienced outfitters and guides who have witnessed the results generated with the .454. Putting these things together, it suffices to say that a good handgun stuffed with modern ammunition like the Partition Gold may indeed be as good a hunting round as there is. Granted, a hunter so-equipped can’t shoot much beyond 100 yards, but this defines hunting in our book. We’d rather work hard to get close than snipe at a critter at long range. If you’re a handgun hunter, you obviously agree. We do breathe slightly different air.
Today’s handgun hunter now has access to some of the best ammunition that’s ever been loaded. Regardless of the caliber, a well-placed Winchester Partition Gold JHP will put meat on the table. The bullet can be counted on to get in deep, even when heavy bone is hit, exhibiting classic expansion and great weight retention. We again put our name in the hat for another Wyoming general elk tag. If we’re lucky enough to draw a license, you can bet your boots that we’ll be carrying our old Freedom Arms .454 and it’ll again be stuffed with five 260-grain Winchester Partition Gold JHPs. We’ll be well equipped.
|LOAD/FIREARM||VELOCITY/ES/ED@15 Feet||ENERGY @ 15 Feet||5-SHOT GROUPS|
|.357 Magnum/Freedom Arms 7 1/2 inch Model 83||1,213/48/12 fps||588.00 ft/lbs||.51 inches||1.50 inches||.96 inches *|
|.44 Magnum/S&W Stealth 7 1/2-inch M29||1,265/69/17 fps||888.1 ft/lbs||.80 inches||1.76 inches||1.27 inches*|
|.454 Casull/Ruger Super Redhawk 7 1/2 inch||1,787/51/21 fps||1,843 ft/lbs||2.00 inches||3.10 inches||2.62 inches **|
|NOTE:* = @ 25 yards ** = @ 50 yards.|