Hunting Shack Munitions (HSM) Ammo Review
October 23, 2019
From training and self-defense through cowboy action and match grade to varmint and big-game hunting, HSM has your ammunition needs covered.
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Hunting Shack Munitions was founded in 1968 by Bill and Catherine Campbell. More commonly known today as HSM Ammunition, its 40,000-square-foot plant is located in Stevensville, Montana. The first orders to arrive 50 years ago were from various law enforcement agencies, and because revolvers in .38 Special were then standard issue, that cartridge was the first to be loaded. Government contracts eventually followed with thousands of rounds of sniper-grade 7.62 NATO and .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition shipped to American troops serving in various conflicts, including the Gulf War. During the late 1990s, HSM moved into the commercial market with Cowboy Action, Bear Load, and Trophy Gold the first categories of ammunition produced. Bill is still active in the company as its CEO, and his son, Travis, who grew up in the ammunition business, is now president.
HSM now offers multiple loadings of about every handgun and rifle cartridge you can think of. In addition to the more popular numbers that are also loaded by other companies, HSM loads a surprising number of forgotten cartridges that most of the others either never loaded or abandoned years ago. Over a half-million rounds of rifle and handgun ammunition are produced each day, with only the best bullets from Hornady, Swift, Berger, Sierra, and Federal (Trophy Bonded Bear Claw) used. As a way of organizing the great number of loadings offered, HSM divides them into 14 different categories. Here are brief looks at 10 of them.
Bear Load & Pro Pistol
These two mainly consist of handgun cartridges with the big difference being the types of bullets loaded—jacketed softnose and hollowpoint in Pro Pistol and hard-cast in Bear Load, the latter intended for bone-crushing penetration on big game. Both categories include the .357 Magnum, 10mm Auto, .41 Remington Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .460 S&W Magnum, and .500 S&W Magnum. There is also a Bear Load option for the .45-70 Government. I shot the .41 Magnum load in a Ruger Blackhawk and a Henry Big Boy and the .45-70 load in an SSK Industries Contender pistol and a custom Marlin New Model 1895. Performance of both loads was impressive to say the least.
This category is made up of various rifle and handgun cartridges, some as common as dirt, others not always seen on a shelf at your favorite gunshop. The latter includes the .30 Carbine, .348 Winchester, .35 Remington, .450 Marlin, .475 Linebaugh, .50 Action Express, .50 BMG, and four different loadings of the .444 Marlin. The big surprise to me was the .50 Alaskan.
Those who enjoy riding “Old Paint” hard across the prairie while plinking steel bad guys should find everything needed here to make their single-action revolvers and lever-action rifles quite happy. The roundup includes .32-20 Winchester, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .38-40 Winchester, .41 Magnum, .44 Russian, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, .30-30 Winchester, .30-40 Krag, .38-55 Winchester, .44-40, and .45-70. All are loaded with cast lead-alloy bullets at modest velocities. Donning chaps, spurs, and a 20-gallon hat is not required for shooting these loads as their economical price and mild recoil make them just the ticket for practice shooting by tinhorns and other townsfolk.
As the name indicates, the Dangerous Game series of loadings were developed for use on the big stuff. The .375 H&H Magnum loaded with 250- or 300-grain Sierra GameKing bullets would be an excellent choice for cross-canyon shots on Rocky Mountain elk, while the .416 Remington Magnum, .416 Rigby, and .458 Winchester Magnum loads with heavy Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Hornady InterLock bullets would handle anything Africa has to offer. The 500-grain Trophy Bonded is the most accurate factory load I have fired in my Model 70 Express rifle in .458 Win. Mag., and velocity is up to par.
The Game King series features Sierra’s GameKing and Pro-Hunter bullets and presently consists of 81 loadings of 49 different cartridges. Like other categories of ammunition offered by HSM, several cartridges that can be difficult to find are here. To name a few: 6mm Remington, .257 Roberts, .25 WSSM, .257 Weatherby Magnum, 6.5-284 Norma, .264 Winchester Magnum, .270 Weatherby Magnum, 7mm Remington Ultra Mag, .30 Remington, .300 Savage, .303 Savage, .30-40 Krag, .303 British, .358 Winchester, .358 Norma Magnum, and .375 Winchester. I really enjoyed putting my grand old Model 1892 Krag through its paces with the .30-40 Krag load, and shooting the .375 Winchester ammo in my Winchester Model 94 Big Bore brought back memories of one of my best hunts for black bear.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the 17 cartridges in this category are loaded with Barnes monolithic bullets. Most are boattails, but a few are flatbase. My Remington Model 700 BDL in 8mm Remington Magnum and my Remington Model 600 in .350 Remington Magnum were especially happy to see their cartridges among them. And unless my eyes deceived me, my Jarrett custom Model 700 in .338 Lapua Magnum was also smiling. Others that caught my eye but not tried are the .300 Short Action Ultra Mag, 7.62 Russian, .325 Winchester Short Magnum, and 8x57mm Mauser.
Of the 23 different cartridges included in the Match series, the .22 PPC was the only one I had an opportunity to try. The groups it carved when fired in my heavy-barrel Sako L461 Palmisano Special were not as small as my best precision handloads are capable of, but they were quite good for factory ammunition. In addition to the regulars, there are the 6.5-284 Norma, 6.8mm SPC, .300 H&H Magnum, .303 British, .338 Remington Ultra Mag, .338 Norma Magnum, .375 CheyTac, .408 CheyTac, and .50 BMG.
The Tipping Point line of rifle ammunition was introduced in 2018, and it is presently available in 6mm Creedmoor, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .30-06, and .300 Winchester Magnum. All are loaded with Sierra’s new Tipped GameKing bullet. It differs from Sierra’s original GameKing by a thicker jacket and improved ballistic coefficient due to the streamlined plastic tip.
Trophy Gold includes 36 different cartridges, all loaded with Berger bullets. In addition to the usual suspects, the lineup includes the 6mm BR Remington, 6mm Remington, .240 Weatherby Magnum, .257 Weatherby Magnum, .260 Remington, 6.5-284 Norma, 6.5 Remington Magnum, .270 WSM, .280 Remington, 7mm STW, .300 Short Action Ultra Mag, .300 H&H Magnum, .308 Norma Magnum, .338 Lapua Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum. Trophy Gold is some of the most accurate factory ammo several of my rifles have shot.
HSM offers a bunch of cartridges for varmint hunters, including the ever-popular .223 Remington. In addition, several hard-to-find chamberings like the .17 Fireball, .17 Remington, .218 Bee, .221 Fireball, .223 WSSM, 6mm PPC, 6mm BR Remington, and .240 Weatherby Magnum are available. Not long ago the .225 Winchester was among them, and my custom rifle chambered for the old cartridge and I would like to someday see it reappear on the availability list. In the meantime, I hope my meager supply of cases lasts as long as the barrel of my rifle.
The other four categories are Low Recoil, Training, Self-Defense, and Frangible, and I may try them one day. Regardless of what cartridge your rifle or handgun is chambered for, and regardless of what they are used for, HSM is likely to have you covered several times over.