HammerDown Optimizing Lever Action Hunting

Oct 14, 2020

In today’s news section you’ll see the announcement of Federal Premium ammunition’s new HammerDown Ammunition. But the general announcement that the ammo’s now available doesn’t really do it justice. This is ammo designed to make your lever gun run more efficiently.

No, it’s not a weak car-like analogy, it’s recognition of the fact this ammunition has been designed to get the best performance possible out of one of the most-established rifle platforms around.

The stuff’s tuned for lever guns. That’s the long and short of it. The velocities are designed to give the best performance possible through the lever action barrel lengths.

To get a better handle on the “how” of this stuff, I talked with Federal and found out what they say makes HammerDown different from other ammunition- including those specifically aimed at lever guns.

First, it was designed in collaboration with Henry Repeating Arms. Henry’s the category leader in lever actions today. Their Big Boy All-Weather and Big Boy Steel guns are very popular with hunters. And, as I was reminded, Henrys, like HammerDown, are made in America.

HammerDown’s cases feature a different geometry on the front face of the case rims to help with cycling. The molecularly bonded bullets are especially good at retaining weight with increased velocity and penetration abilities.

The initial calibers cover the most popular lever cabers: 327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, 44 Rem. Magnum, 30-30 Winchester and 45-70 Government. The initial launch announcement promised .45 Long Colt, but I’ve been told it won’t be available before 2021. You can also expect to see .35 Remington and .444 Marlin next year as well.

But I’ve also been reminded that HammerDown is engineered for all lever guns. They’ve chamfered the cases of all the calibers and applied a specialized geometry to the front face of the case rims to improve cycling in all lever actions.

There’s also some metallurgical magic at play as all the calibers feature molecularly bonded bullets. I won’t pretend to know what that means, other than it’s supposed to add (significantly) to retained weight and expansion -big deals in hunting bullets. And since many of those calibers are traditionally handgun calibers, they’ve beefed up the bullets and stepped up velocities to get better performance (penetration) out of longer barrels. The 357 magnum, for instance, was up-weighted from 158 to 170 grains.

And while we’re talking bullets, the entire range is either Bonded Soft Point (.357 Magnum, .44 Rem Magnum, 30-30 Win and 45-70 Government) or Bonded Hollow Points (327 Federal Magnum and .45 Long Colt when available). As far as performance, the 30-30 load had 100-percent retained weight after being shot through 10-percent ballistic ordinance gel at 100 yards.

The weight accompanies some pretty hefty velocity increases-while staying inside industry standard velocity and pressure specs from SAAMI. Still, stepping up .357 Magnum from 1,180 fps to 1,610 fps or amping up .44 Magnum up to 1710 fps from 1,250 fps is a big jump.

If you’re in a straight-wall hunting state, this will give you yet another acceptable option.

HammerDown is a rifle cartridge, despite many of the calibers being considered handgun loads. That’s one reason the HammerDown is in the familiar “long, flat” rifle caliber packaging.

In keeping with the “rifle ammunition” tradition, the HammerDown won’t be packaged in the traditional pistol-caliber boxes. It will be in traditional long, flat rifle ammo boxes. MSRPs on all calibers is $19.99 except 45-70 Government. That retails at $38.99.

I’m all for the development of specialized ammunition for lever guns, especially when it increases performance. I got back into shooting sports through cowboy action shooting nearly two decades ago, but cleaned and stored my lever guns when I moved into more modern competitions. As a member of the generation that revered cowboys as folk heroes, it gives me a reason to pull those lever guns out of the back of my safe and get them back where they belong: on the range and into the brush.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd