Federal Premium and Henry Repeating Arms join forces to develop HammerDown – a specialty lever-action ammo. Both are American made and ready to run—and hunt — in your lever long gun. Here are 10 things you should know before ponying up the bucks for HammerDown.
The initial launch of HammerDown covers some of the most popular lever-action calibers built by Henry Repeating Arms and other western-gun manufacturers to include .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, .44 Rem Mag, .45 Colt, .30-30 Win, and .45-70 Govt. Both the .30-30 and .45-70 are shipping now, with the others slated to hit store shelves later in 2020.
2. How Does it Work?
HammerDown is engineered to work in lever guns, but how? It is intended to function flawlessly when filled via either tubular magazines or side-loading gates. Federal chamfered the cases and used “specialized geometry on the front face of the case’s rim. This difference improves cycling in all lever-action feeding systems,” according to Federal Premium Centerfire Rifle Product Line Manager Eric Miller.
3. The Business End
It should come as no surprise that Federal opts to use their own proven bullets in the HammerDown line, with molecularly bonded projectiles most like the company’s existing Fusion line. Bonding copper plating to a lead core provides both expansion and weight retention, two keys hunters desire. The .357 Mag, .44 Rem Mag, .30-30 Win, and .45-70 Govt use bonded soft points while the .327 Fed Mag and .45 Colt use bonded hollow points.
4. Handgun vs Long Gun
The problem many hunters have found with using what are traditionally handgun calibers—like the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .327 Fed Mag, and others, is that those rounds are not loaded to the higher pressures and velocities that carbine and rifle length lever-actions can handle. HammerDown changes that, loading not only hotter but also heavier. Federal tops HammerDown with heavier than normal bullets for the caliber. That equates to greater velocities and more knockdown power on game.
5. Hot Loads
Federal says the though the loads feature a “dramatic increase in velocity and pressure” they still meet industry standards as outlined by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute. HammerDown’s .357 Magnum offers a velocity of 1,610 FPS while the .22 Rem Magnum is going 1,715 FPS and the .45 Colt brings a velocity of 1,400 FPS.
6. The Make-Up
What makes up a physical HammerDown round? There’s a nickel-plated brass casing for both corrosion resistance and easy extraction. Clean burning powder should go without saying and, of course, Federal’s own in-house production Gold Medal primers — some of the best in the business for reliable ignition. Federal realizes that hunters get out in rough conditions and HammerDown is built to be in the field.
7. Rifle Packaging
Notice anything different about buying HammerDown boxes? Federal makes HammerDown to be used in rifles and the ammunition, regardless of casing length, is packed in 20-round rifle boxes. Pricing is not so bad on those boxes either. MSRP is $19.99 for all calibers, save .45-70, which is set at $38.99.
8. Why .327 Fed Mag?
The .327 Federal Magnum makes the biggest gains of all calibers in HammerDown. Long thought an unsung defense round in short-barreled revolvers, few ever considered it a hunting round with Henry being the first to chamber a rifle for it.
“Introduced by Federal in 1984, the .327 Federal Magnum gained popularity because it reached the velocity and performance levels of the .357 Magnum in a smaller cartridge,” says Miller. HammerDown is advertised to launch a 127-grain bonded hollow point at 1,650 FPS with a ballistic coefficient of 0.195. For reference, a vast majority of factory-produced .327 Federal Mag loads opt for bullet weights around 80- to 100-grains and velocity between 1,200 to 1,500 FPS. These often use bullets intended for self-defense rather than hunting.
9. Feed Your Lever Action, Any Lever Action
Just because Federal’s HammerDown was designed in conjunction with Henry Repeating Arms doesn’t mean the ammo will not work equally well in other lever guns. Have a Marlin? Give it a try and you will likely be pleased — same with Winchester, Uberti, and the like. The only warning here will be against using HammerDown—or any zippy modern rifle ammunition—in vintage firearms that may not have as strong an action as modern production guns.
10. We Want More
What other calibers do we expect in HammerDown? Word of .35 Remington has already been leaked. Another that makes sense is the .38-55 Win, as Henry chambers one of its new H024 Side Gate rifles in that vintage round. Of course, the lever-action round that defined lever guns for decades, the .44-40 Win, would be a nice addition and would equally find a home on Henry’s Original rifles and carbines.