Handgun Hunting Basics
Ready to step up to a big game hunting handgun? Minimum caliber for deer-sized and larger game starts at .357 Magnum. To me, that round is an expert’s caliber and should be used only by someone who can very precisely place a bullet… and then only with a well-constructed bullet designed for hunting.
I have a friend who swears by his 10mm and has used it to take a wide variety of big game both here in North America and abroad. He is an excellent and proficient handgun shot and knows animal anatomy, which are two very important factors when hunting big game with a “short gun.”
My personal preference for hunting rounds used on most big game amounts to essentially two rounds: the .44 Mag and the .454 Casull (although there are definitely others). The beauty of the .454 Casull is that one can also shoot .45 Colt, which has less recoil and muzzle blast than the Casull, so it’s a great round to use when practicing with a revolver chambered for the .454 Casull.
Over the years I have shot a fair amount of game with a .44 Mag revolver, from small game to many whitetails, including those weighing upwards of 300 pounds on the hoof, to pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk. Same is true with the .454 Casull that I also used to take my first Alaskan brown bear.
My Ruger Blackhawk and Redhawk revolvers chambered in .44 Mag really like Hornady’s 240-grain XTP commercial ammo and will consistently shoot 2-inch and less groups at 100 yards from a solid rest. My .454 Casull Ruger revolvers love 300-grain Hornady XTP and will do the same.
I tend to limit my shots at big game to 100 yards or less, even though on occasion I have taken longer shots. One of those longer shots was at a huge bodied, monstrous antlered 6 x 6 bull elk. I shot him three times through the chest, in rapid single-action succession, placing my shots about 6-inches apart to create three separate wound channels. He moved six steps before going down.
But ultimately, downrange energy starts dropping off considerably on these too much past 100 yards.
Appropriate sights? For years I shot a variety of long-eye relief scopes on my revolvers and single-shot handguns, in the 1.25-5X and 2.5-7X range. I very seldom cranked the magnification beyond 5X. These days I primarily use Trijicon RMR and SRO sights, similar to red dot style sights. While they have no magnification they allow for quick target acquisition and, for me, work extremely well out to 100 yards (which is where I limit my shots at big game).
Using Trijicon’s RMR or SRO sights, from a solid rest I can keep six shots within about 4 inches at 100 yards. Using shooting sticks, which I normally carry and use while hunting, I can keep my shots easily in a 6-inch circle, within the vitals of most big game species.
I am not a good offhand shot, therefore I only take shots at big game shooting from a solid rest, which can include tripod crossed shooting sticks, as well as limbs, rocks, trees, and whatever else is handy and will work to give me a “rested” advantage!
Regardless of what is going on in the world, there are always small things, of beauty and splendor, for us to enjoy, admire and appreciate!
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