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Follow up to my post last month. Due to California lead free requirement I've shelved my favorite 444 Marlin loads and bullets (240gr & 280gr Swift A-Frame Heavy Revolver bullets--the Swift A-frame 240gr in particular does exactly what the 444 Marlin was designed for: big bore, reasonable recoil, flat shooting, good distance, hard hitting). I researched three (3) lead free bullets for deer season: the 225gr Barnes XPB, 210gr Cutting Edge Maximus, and Lehigh Defense 160gr and 220gr bullets. I ended up settling on the 210gr Cutting Edge Maximus.
-- 225gr Barnes XPB. Actually, this bullet is the most straightforward of the three options for lead free hunting. Lots of XPB load data and hunting experience is available from reliable sources. The 225gr weight matches well with the 444 Marlin for deer and is flat shooting and less recoil. Also, bullets are reasonably priced and lever gun tube magazine friendly. But, I'd decided to break new ground (and may regret not using XPB).
-- 210gr Cutting Edge Maximus. I selected the 210gr Maximus primarily for the "new" and "wow" factor. Cutting Edge tech support provided load data with muzzle velocities up to 2600fps. I stayed below max and loaded 35gr of 5744 (~2000fps). The 210gr Maximus terminal performance is advertised as 1300fps to above 2400fps. The maximus is a hollow point with a narrow opening and I will not stack in mag tube (so, 1 in chamber, 1 in mag tube). COL is fine. Of note, best way to experiment with the bullet is buy the muzzle loading 12 pack vice buying the 50 pack (same bullet).
-- Lehigh Defense 160gr Extreme Defense (ED) and 220gr and 250gr Extreme Penetration (EP) bullets. I ended up not buying or experimenting with the Lehigh bullets since there is very limited hunting data available on these Extreme series bullets. My sense is they have long narrow wound channels and over penetrate for deer hunting--but I could not find definitive information. Lehigh sells 444 Marlin loaded ammo with 160gr ED (2600fps) and Underwood sells 444 Marlin loaded ammo with the 220gr EP. Nicely, Lehigh provides 444 Marlin load data on their website for 160gr ED and 250gr EP.
-- I'm sorry to have to top-shelf the Swift A-frame here in CA. I'll post my hunting results.
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