Best Calibers for Handgun Hunting

It is that time of year again, and as people across the country don on their hunter’s orange, spray themselves down in no scent or deer urine, they go back to the safe and pick out their “deer rifle” that their grandpappy handed down from before the war. While I may be accused of doing the same, what about trying something a bit different? Something harder than the trusty 30-06, and get in a new dimension to a handgun, and use it for hunting. Afterall, most of us have them to carry against 2 legged threats, but do we know what are true capabilities are at distance, with a live target? Will that $4 a shot ammunition really works to take down a deer sized animal? Here are some that I would recommend and at least one I am going to try this year.

  • 1..357 Magnum: This entry could easily be seen as a cop out as it is a natural go to for a woods backup gun, but there are so few people that have actually used it to shoot. While most common in revolvers, this cartridge packs a lot of punch and with a standard grain weight of between 125 and 158, these projectiles hit with a lot of force. While I would recommend no further than you train to shoot typically, I think 25 yards is a doable and ethical shot, especially out of a gun with a barrel of four inches or longer.
  • 2..44 Magnum: I know what you are thinking, another wheel gun, but this is truly the “standard” for most hunting or backup guns, especially if brown bear is a potential threat. This caliber surpasses the .357 in both weight of bullet and energy delivered and with typically longer barrels they can be reliable to a bit further distance. I am looking to take one out this year for whitetail and I figure about 40 to 50 yards is my comfort zone for it. Loaded with some good hollow points with flex tips (Hornady) they should more than do the trick. If the recoil is a bit stout, you can always tune it down to .44 special.
  • 3.10mm Auto: There has been a resurgence in the 10mm cartridge in the last decade or so, and it has been for good reason. The 10mm has a lot of potential that some are just now seeing, throwing a .40 caliber bullet at a high rate of speed, and as they are out of a semi-automatic, it allows for more ammunition capacity as well as theoretically faster follow-up shots. There have also been great handguns trying to maximize this cartridge such as the Glock 40MOS, EAA Hunter, and even Smith and Wesson with their wheel-gun. Just be mindful of some of the laws that may prevent larger ammunition capacity.

While there are a few honorable mentions, mainly 45 Long, 5.7x28mm, and some that you could probably cheat and get a pistol in it like 300BLK, the three mentioned should more than suffice, and could help put some much-needed meat in the freezer.

Author: Ian Bolser