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Here’s a video of something you’ve likely always wondered about: handgun hunting for deer.

Our video contributor TexasNative00 took his .38 Special and hopped into a treestand, priming himself for jus the right the opportunity at this deer.

Would you ever try handgun hunting?

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    • D.R.T. (dead right there) seems to be a common result with .44 Magnum especially at relatively close ranges. And that should not be a surprise since those bullets are HUGE.

      As I heard someone once say, “There is no replacement for displacement!”

  1. Yes, I have tried hunting for deer with a handgun and will continue to try hunting deer with a handgun.

    My first hunt was with a Ruger GP-100 revolver with a four inch barrel chambered in .357 Magnum. I took a shot and apparently missed. On my subsequent hunts I carried a Taurus revolver with an 8-inch barrel chambered in .44 Magnum. I have yet to get a shot on a deer. I am still hopeful though!

  2. If you are hunting BIG game (not dangerous game) with a handgun: go big or stay home in terms of caliber. And choose the right cartridges.

    — .357 Magnum revolver with 6-inch barrel shooting 180 grain bullets.
    — 10 mm Auto with 5-inch barrel shooting 180 grain bullets.

    — .41 Magnum revolver with 6-inch barrel shooting 220 grain bullets.

    — .44 Magnum revolver with 6-inch barrel shooting 240 grain bullets.

    — .454 Casul revolver with 6-inch barrel shooting 325 grain bullets.

    — Anything larger than the above.

    Important note: all bullets should be jacketed softpoint or hardcast lead (semi-wadcutters or with large flat meplates).

    Have people killed big game with smaller calibers or hollowpoint bullets? Sure. Are smaller calibers or hollowpoint bullets anywhere near as reliable for dropping your game in short order? NO!

    • Which brings us back to the snafu at the beginning of these comments: for the love of Cooper, don’t shoot at a deer with a .38 special (unless you’re dispatching it at point blank distance straight to the noggin). Have more respect for that creature than to try to take it with something better suited for a high school dropout who needs to pull his pants up. 🤠

    • I use 225grain .44 pure all copper bullets made by Hornady. They are hollow point and very similar to copper sabot rounds used in 12 ga. No problems.

      • GS650G,

        I have not researched copper hollowpoints. The problem with lead hollowpoints is that they tend to fragment and fail to deliver a promptly mortal wound when those hollowpoints hit tough bones.

        Copper has much higher tensile strength than lead which means copper hollowpoints should be much more likely to remain in one piece after hitting even tough bone. If that is the case, copper hollowpoints might be another reliable choice of bullet construction for handgun hunting of medium game and possibly even large game.

        • I decided to go with all copper bullets to prevent lead contamination. Even small amounts are bad, especially for children. I get 1525 fps out of these rounds and recoil is manageable enough for follow up shots.

          Commercially they are Barnes VTX .44Mag

    • hey uncommon sense, what do you mean by “big game?” And I disagree with your minimal bullet weight of 180 grains for the 357 mag. Deer, black bear and pig can be taken with lighter bullets, such as hornady’s 158 grain full jacketed hollow point, you just have to watch your distance.

  3. White tail deer are medium game animals. With a medium game animal, ammo selection matters more than caliber selection. And shot placement matters more than ammo selection. (No matter what the topic. DGU or hunting.)

    38 special would work fine on a deer. They are thin skinned. (Like people). 158 grain jacketed hollow points out of a 4” or longer barrel would sail right through both lungs and keep going. I would hesitate to shoot a hog with one unless I was in a stand. They are a little tougher. To answer the opening question, I have not yet handgun hunted but I will the first chance I get.

    The limiting factor is how far can you reliably hit the kill zone with the tool used. Compound bows and pistols are 20-40 yard weapons depending on shooter skill. Rifles can take deer at 1000 yards in the right hands. (Not mine).

  4. Interrogatory:
    10mm Auto (Glock 40). What is the best distance (assuming correct ammo, a conscientious hunter with some skill) for the best chance of a humane 1 shot kill?

    Rifles I know, but 6″ barrels and hard cast bullets with no shoulder stock contact is a puzzle for me as I am as conscientious of my downed prey as:

    Chingachgook: [speaking to animal they have just killed] “We’re sorry to kill you, brother. We do honor to your courage and speed, your strength.” “Last of the Mohicans” 1992.

    • Uncas,

      Handguns do not have the massive velocities and energies of rifle rounds. Therefore, the key to successful and “ethical” handgun hunting is making large, deep holes in game animals. And the key to that:
      (1) large, heavy bullets constructed of wide flat nose hardcast lead or jacketed soft points.
      (2) Minimum impact velocities of roughly 1,250 fps for 10 mm Auto and .357 Magnum
      (when shooting 180 grain bullets)
      (3) Minimum impact velocities of roughly 1,100 fps for .44 and .45 calibers (when shooting 240 grain or heavier bullets).

      Those minimum impact velocities ultimately determine your maximum distance. As a rule of thumb, I would limit myself to about 25 yards with .357 Magnum and 10 mm Auto (assuming the heavy bullets weights that I specified above and long barrels). If you step up to .44 Magnum (and stout loads out of long barrels), you can increase your range to 50 yards and possibly even to 75 yards.

  5. Ruger super redhawk in .44mag. We even have a special season for handgun only. .38 special is kind of low powered for deer at a distance. You need a round with high terminal velocity at 50 plus yards to make ethical kills.

    • GS650G,

      “You need a round with high terminal velocity at 50 plus yards to make ethical kills.”

      I agree completely.

  6. I would and have. With a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in 44Mag. I now regret that I sold that pistol years ago. I don’t remember the exact load, but something in the 240 grain range. I’m sure it was either a JHP or JSP. Anyway, dispatched white tails nicely.

    • Shawn,

      My favorite .44 Magnum hunting load is a 240 grain jacketed softpoint bullet. Those hit deer REALLY HARD.

      I shot a 100 pound antlerless deer with one of those at 50 yards in the shoulder. It hit the deer so hard that it spun the deer about a quarter turn and created so much whiplash that it broke the deer’s neck, I kid you not!

  7. I’ve killed deer out to 200 yards with a 10″ 7mmTCU on a TC& Contender. I’m shooting something like a 7-30 improved now in a 12″ contender. I don’t do it like this guy, but I would. 38 super is HAWT! 10mm is better.

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