by Richard Bogath
Hunting with a handgun
I’m a handgunner.
I love me some three-hunted yard high power rifle and a pleasant afternoon of shooting clays out of the sky, but when it comes down to MY kind of shooting, pass me a handgun and watch me perforate all your targets.
So if asked what kind of hunting I might like to do on a regular basis, my answer would be… you guessed it. Handgun hunting.
Of course, I realize that my handgun hunting experience wouldn’t be a run-and-gun scenario, spraying bullets throughout a section of forest and felling multiple deer, rabbits, squirrels and a lone pepper-popper that someone left out, but to even get that one shot opportunity… yeah. That’s for me.
To handgun hunt or not to handgun hunt?
- There is nothing less cumbersome, short of bare-hand hunting (see future article…kidding), than hunting with a 2-3 pound handgun and a few rounds of ammunition.
- The handgun rounds designed for hunting sports have plenty of knockdown power for one-shot-one-kill.
- Smaller platform offers much better opportunities for sighting up and zeroing in on a target, opposed to swinging around a shotgun or a rifle.
- You have to know how to shoot a handgun.
- Larger game requires magnum rounds that have a significant learning curve when firing.
- Magnum rounds=extremely loud. X Frame magnum rounds= fillings-loosening loud.
- The short sight radius can make long distance shots extremely challenging…unless you are a bullseye shooter.
- Many many restrictions throughout most of the country for allowable handgun hunting.
- Smaller firearms lend themselves to greater opportunities for accidents.
Selecting the right handgun for hunting.
The mantra to follow is basically; the bigger the boom, the better the fall. Think large frame, think magnum. Don’t take your Glock 17 9mm pistol out hunting. Unless you’re hunting woodcocks, squirrels or chipmunks, don’t bring your .22. Deer, hog or anything larger needs firepower when it comes from a handgun. Be sure it’s something you can practice with beforehand and keep your distances realistic. Is it possible to hit your target out at 100 yards? Sure. Is it more realistic to hit a target at 25-50 yards? Absolutely. Will it cost a lot of money shooting these big loads out that far to get good enough to do so? Yes, indeed it will, so practice with lighter loads to begin with and get used to how the gun shoots.
Single Shot, Revolver or Semi-Auto?
Yes, sure, and probably not. The few and far-between options of the single shot pistols out there today limit your options but they are good choices. Especially something like a Thompson Center Encore or an SSK Industries Contender. These are also great options if you need to have some distance between yourself and the target. These types are usually mounted with a scope.
Revolvers represent the lions share of the hunting handgun market, with heavy emphasis going to the Ruger Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk (and a top contender for the best survival weapon) if you are into the old-style of cowboy type revolver actions, vs. the Redhawk and Super Redhawk for your more modern day revolver equivalents. Sprinkle in all the other types of magnums and you’ve got yourself quite a selection—each one just as good as the next, but based upon your personal shooting proclivity.
Semi-auto for hunting med to large game? Well… yeah, a Desert Eagle could get the job done but you’d better practice hard in keeping that sight picture, managing the recoil and being sure that the gun is clean and well maintained to be sure you don’t have a mechanical failure. Happens.
Obvious choices of game for handgun hunting:
For the larger calibers then clearly we are talking big game here. For the most part, any hunting with a handgun will be about talking large or very small game. A small game hunt with a .22 can be great sport if it is allowed and of course deer or larger game will fit well with any of the larger magnum calibers presented above. However, be careful about trying to hunt with a mid-range caliber normally used for self defense or common military rounds like the 9mm, .38 or .40 calibers. You just don’t have the penetration and knockdown power needed to endure a swift, human kill.
Sadly, I doubt that my current home state of New Jersey will ever allow hunting activity with a handgun so I will probably have to drag myself to a less uptight state if I ever want to get my feet wet in this opportunity. If hunting with a handgun might be your thing, or if you have no choice in the matter, remember: consider caliber, consider experience with the firearm and consider realistic accuracy expectations to achieve your goals.