Review: Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman Loads

buffalo bore - old school

Buffalo Bore Ammunition uses the motto “Strictly Big Bore – Strictly Business.” Just the same, Buffalo Bore offers loadings in many handgun calibers. In some cases, these loads get the tired old calibers off their knees.

In other cases, Buffalo Bore offers medium power or reduced recoil loads to make the handgun more controllable—especially since there are many lightweight handguns chambered for powerful calibers.

While the small bores are not the best choice for personal defense, the medium bores (such as the .38 Special and 9mm) are considered a baseline and about all the occasional shooters will be able to handle well.

Tim Sundles, the owner of Buffalo Bore, has tremendous experience in the outdoors. He has taken the largest North American game and knows what it takes to create a handgun load useful for defense against animals.

Buffalo Bore offers a wide range of hunting and defense loads using jacketed hollow point bullets. Some are loaded at hot as possible, others are listed as tactical loads and are sensibly reduced in order to provide a more controllable load.

Buffalo Bore hollow point
Buffalo Bore’s lead hollow points are ideal for personal defense.

The Outdoorsman loads are intended to offer more options to the shooter whose handgun does double duty. The shooter taking his 9mm or .38 into the wild may need a bullet with greater penetration in order to be useful against the big cats, feral dogs and even bears.

They may not be designed to penetrate a bear’s body, but they will penetrate the skull. Some of the loads have been used for the intended purpose and proven effective. When a small-bore proves surprisingly effective, it is most often because of penetration.

When a big bore fails, it is because it has failed to penetrate adequately.

Let’s look at the Outdoorsman loads that maximize the caliber. Some are not necessarily part of the Outdoorsman lineup, but loads I have placed in the same general category.

.32 Smith and Wesson Long

Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman
This is a dinky little game getter and a complete joy to fire!

This is one of the neatest low-recoil game-getters I have used. I began hunting squirrel and rabbit as a young teen with my grandfather’s Colt New Police revolver. The problem is that factory ammunition typically throws a 98-grain bullet at 650 fps.

That is a terrible choice for personal defense. While I don’t recommend a .32 for personal, defense the Buffalo Bore loads make sense if someone is pressing Grandpa’s revolver into use. The 100-grain wadcutter breaks 900 fps.

My favorite load uses the unusually heavy 115-grain bullet at 850 fps. Penetration is adequate and accuracy in my old Colt .32 excellent. This is a crackerjack small-game load.

.32 ACP

I have a Colt 1903 .32 that I enjoy firing. The piece is reliable, fast handling, and very accurate. The Buffalo Bore hard cast 75-grain bullet breaks 1,060 fps. Feed reliability is good. This is the top-rated .32 ACP load for personal defense.

.32 H and R Magnum

While Buffalo Bore offers a strong JHP loading in this caliber, the 130-grain hard cast bullet is designed to penetrate a bear’s skull. Fired in the Ruger Single Six with 4¾-inch barrel, velocity is 1150 fps.

This is a great small-game load and certainly has enough penetration for use against the big cats and feral dogs. Shot placement means everything. This is a respectable loading in a typically underloaded cartridge.

Buffalo Bore outdoorsman
Buffalo Bore gets minor calibers into a different category.

.38 Smith and Wesson

I was particularly interested in this load. There are plenty of Victory Model revolvers chambered for this cartridge. Never fire the Buffalo Bore load in a vintage break top revolver—many of these are not safe to fire at all.

I fired a good quantity in my strong Enfield revolver, an exception to the hinged break warning. With a five-inch revolver, the 125-grain bullet breaks 1050 fps.

This load will get the older double-action revolvers in this caliber back into service as personal defense handguns.

.380 ACP

This load uses a 100-grain bullet at 1,070 fps in the Beretta 84. Penetration in water is 34 inches. This is an outstanding loading. Since Buffalo Bore uses lead bullets that create less friction and pressure, they are able to create greater velocity with a heavier bullet.

This is a hard-hitting bullet that gets the .380 ACP into a different category of penetration. Accuracy is superb in the right handgun.

9mm Luger

9mm buffalo bore outdoorsman
The 9mm Outdoorsman is an outstanding load.

I don’t consider the 9mm an outdoors gun, but then I have more than one handgun, and carry a heavier caliber in the wild. Shooters who own a 9mm for personal defense need a deeper-penetrating loading for animal defense in the wild.

A full-metal jacketed bullet may offer good penetration, but these bullets famously create very little tissue damage, slipping through with little effect. I fired the hard-cast 147-grain flat point in a SIG P229RX and realized 1059 fps.

Accuracy is excellent and there are no excess pressure signs. This is a great outdoors load for the 9mm.

.38 Special

.38 buffalo bore
Of all the outdoorsman loads, the .38 Special is the author’s favorite.

I own several nice .38 revolvers, not to mention the .357, which accepts all .38 Special loads. But the Smith and Wesson Military and Police and the Colt Official Police are fast handling, light and make excellent packing revolvers.

I think few modern shooters realize how powerful and useful the .38 Special really is. In a heavy revolver, the .38 Special may be more useful than the .357 Magnum.

Buffalo Bore makes a fast-opening 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoint that breaks 1125 fps in my four-inch barrel revolvers. There is no better choice for .38 Special defense. For defense against animals and breaking heavy skulls, a hard-cast SWC is needed.

The .38 Special Outdoorsman breaks over 1100 fps and is among the most accurate .38 Special loads I have tested. These are reasonable choices for those that find .357 Magnum recoil objectionable.

.357 Magnum

.357 Magnum Buffalo Bore
The .357 Magnum and Buffalo Bore ammunition make for ideal outdoors protection.

Buffalo Bore offers too many Magnum loads to cover. There are tactical loads and hollow-point defense loads. My favorite Buffalo Bore Magnum is the 180-grain flat point. This is an outstanding loading that exhibits all the performance that the Magnum is capable of.

At 1380 fps from the four-inch barrel Python, this hardy load is superbly accurate. I have fired the Buffalo Bore loading at a long 100 yards in the 8 3/8 inch S&W M27 revolver with excellent results.

This is my first choice for defense against the largest animals. The other loads are good choices for personal defense handguns pressed into outdoors use. If you are choosing a handgun for specific outdoors use, the .357 Magnum is perhaps the best choice.

It is truly a rifle on the hip at a moderate range.

.40 Smith and Wesson

.40 buffalo bore
The author is a big fan of the .40. Buffalo Bore makes the most of it.

I have the greatest respect for the .40 S&W. Despite questionable logic and sketchy reasoning in the popular press, the .40 is a much more effective cartridge than the 9mm. When officers have had to address animal threats, the 9mm has not been a good performer.

The .40, on the other hand, has given good results. The .40 Outdoorsman mimics a heavy-loaded .38-40 revolver. (The .40 180-grain JHP Buffalo Bore load breaks 1080 fps in the test gun—making for a superior home defender.)

The 200-grain hard-cast bullet is jolted to 1039 fps in the Beretta Storm test gun. The rotating barrel makes for low recoil and accuracy is excellent.

I could not help but conclude that a load with the potential to penetrate 40 inches and offering 14 shots is a pretty decent handgun for outdoors use! Frankly, I would think hard before adopting the harder-kicking 10mm.

With police trade-in .40s and Buffalo Bore ammunition, you are well-armed in the wild.


This is the ultimate outdoors load for those that prefer the semi-automatic pistol. The 9mm, .38 Super and .45 may be fine for personal defense, but for penetration and outdoors use, the 200-grain 10mm is the hoss!

A 200-grain FP at 1207 fps from the Ruger SR1911 10mm and 1167 fps from the Fusion 10mm Commander is a strong and accurate loading.

.44 Special

I am certain Buffalo Bore appreciates the work that went into developing the .44 Magnum from the .44 Special. However, the .44 Special is a great cartridge that offers all of the power most are willing to handle.

The 255-grain SWC in this loading breaks 1090 fps in my 2.75-inch barrel Smith and Wesson Model 69. The recoil in this five shooter is stout, but not wrist-cracking, and certainly less so than the .44 Magnum. Accuracy is excellent.

The .357 Magnum offers greater penetration, but the .44 caliber SWC will break heavy bones and create a large wound.

buffalo bore in action
Buffalo Bore loads are stout, but controllable.

.44 Magnum

This load breaks 1160 fps in the 2.75-inch barrel Model 69 .44 Magnum. Recoil is wrist cracking. But, this is a reduced power loading compared to full power hunting loads.

This is a good choice for outdoor use and defense against larger animals, but it may be at its best in a larger revolver than the Model 69. Cartridge extraction was normal and the load is accurate.

.45 ACP

Previously, the hottest .45 ACP load I have tested have been various 230-grain JHP +P loads at 920 to 950 fps. The .45 ACP 255-grain SWC load breaks 964 fps in the Nighthawk Falcon.

I would not fire this load in a Commander-type handgun or any aluminum-frame handgun. The load exhibits heavy recoil. That is the name of the game; it isn’t putting a small group in the targets. Groups never saved a life, but accurate shot placement will.

The load is controllable and offers excellent accuracy. This is a load that gets the .45 ACP squarely into .45 Colt territory.

.45 Auto Rim

The .45 Auto Rim is a cartridge designed to properly headspace in revolvers chambered in . 45 ACP. The .45 AR is a normal revolver cartridge and the user may chamber the .45 AR rather than moon-clipped .45 ACP loads.

This 255-grain load breaks 923 fps in the five-inch barrel 1917 revolver. This is among my favorite outdoor loads. I have read several accounts of similar loads’ usefulness against medium-sized attacking bears and it is among the finest of revolver defense loads.

.45 Colt

Buffalo Bore manufactures heavy .45 Colt hunting loads I have no experience with.  My choices are the standard pressure—but heavy-loaded—255-grain SWC loads.

My Colt SAA kicks a bit with this load, but it breaks 980 fps in the 4¾-inch Colt and 1011 fps in a 5½-inch barrel Ruger. I prefer these loads to the .44 Magnum for all-around use. These are excellent all-around loads that hit hard.

Similar, actually a bit lighter, loads have proven effective against large animals.

Are you a fan of the Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman Load series? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. I’m a big fan of Buffalo Bore ammo and, although it’s quite expensive, when lives are on the line, who cares. I carry a p64 Radom semi-auto 9×18 pistol whose performance was so so until I loaded it with Buffalo Bore’s ammo. Wow what a difference. I carry this pistol everyday and have 100% confidence in it. It will punch through just about anything like a hot knife through butter. There are times when the cost is worth the performance increase and this is one of those times.

  2. I have had a good deal of experience with many kinds of ammo, from standard issue loaded, armor piercing, most close protection type and hunting ammo . Mostly from military service, but also in the wilderness in the NW and Alaska. As well as throughout the world in 24 years of Army Service. Most all at the tactical level with many deployments into harms way. I’ve worked as a hunting guide as well.
    Also have spent much of my life enjoying the great outdoors, now own a farm on the edge of the wilderness daily carting Self defense tools, with likely Daily opportunities to meet dangerous-game. This while working in remote forests or Hunting and Fishing etc.
    Buffalo bore Is the best! They have been doing, by most any measure, the most effective, “all business“ cartridges. Their Outdoor line, in the 357mag, in 3” bbl, or larger caliber is fully capable of cleanly taking most any game in North America if ranges are kept inside 50 meters. Some of the lager calibers, as well the heavy loaded, or their+P can reach out much further. In saying this, the purpose of a handgun should be to end a close quarters threat quickly. Thus being, a bit of an old school shooter, fully believe serious deep woods carried handguns must be able to stop a fierce beast quicBoth Human and large carnivores. Buffalo Bore Outdoor loads are what you need. You can trust if you do your part these bullets will do their’s. Their Construction is the best on the market.

  3. Thank you. This review is extremely helpful to me. I recently bought a Ruger GP100 MC in 10mm, so 10mm and .40 aren’t just semi-auto calibers anymore. My current needs are a good home defense loads and inexpensive ammo for the range, in .40 S&W for both. But over time I’m planning to explore the various options and I’ll be getting various Buffalo Bore loads.

    P.S. If you want me to be your revolver Test Master, I do accept free ammo. 😉

  4. I’ve had really good luck with a Sierra 210gr HC over 26gr of H110 in my Ruger 77/44 that I use for deer. In a 44mag handgun I would back that 26gr charge down to 24.5gr or 25gr.

    It’s a very accurate load and in the Ruger 77/44… well mannered.

  5. What about the .454 Casull? I bought my son a Taurus Raging Judge, and I’m sure one of the load I procured with the (massive) revolver was from Buffalo Bore…specifically the .454-casull-250-grain-xpb-jhp from…wait for it…CheaperThanDirt!

  6. It nice to see someone providing loads for some of the older calibers. It’s great to have a good factory load for the .45 Auto Rim and a truly powerful lead load for the .38 Special. Since they are doing .38 S&W. maybe they’ll see fit to offer a 200 grain load to match the ballistics of the British 38/200 round to match the sights on the WWII Webley, Enfield, Colt and S&W revolvers. I realize that a 200 grain bullet at 620 fps seems almost therapeutic by today’s standards, but it would shoot to the point of aim in the fine old revolvers.

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