Top 9 Best Handguns for Hunting

Guest Post by Brandon Cox

Handgun hunting is on the rise. People are buying handguns specifically for chasing game and you can bet your boots manufacturers are going to respond with purpose made pistols and revolvers carrying more powerful rounds, with more accurate sights, and features that make them easier to shoot.

Handgun hunting is downright irresponsible with the incorrect equipment. Here’s a list of the best handguns and why you should be carrying one in your holster in the coming seasons.

1. Ruger Mark IV

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If there was a best .22lr pistol, this would be a very strong candidate. It’s excellent in every sense of the word. A 1911 inspired pistol that operates on a blowback action with a heavy, fixed bull barrel. This is a very easy pistol to shoot and is a pleasure to hunt small game with.

Designed as a target and plinking pistol, this is an incredibly famous design and for good reason. Most notably how the blow back action pairs with the long sight radius to make an incredibly accurate gun. This is the latest iteration of this pistol and fixed the worst thing about this gun, the field strip.

It was very hard to strip this pistol down in the past, the addition of a large button and well thought out design allows you to clean and lube this pistol easily and quickly. No tools or finesse needed. A huge upgrade for a gun that shoots dirty rimfire ammunition.

This gun is similar to weight and feel to a 1911, with a much longer barrel. You can count on this as a small game killer, a great pistol for a trap line, or for training youngsters and new shooters before stepping them up to a larger gun. Any way you plan on using it, this is an excellent firearm.

2. Kimber Super Jargane

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Few things feel at home in the hand quite like a fine 1911. Something about the right combination of steel, wood, and firepower make the 1911 a pistol one of the perfect handguns, and now Kimber the largest manufacturer of 1911’s on the planet, has a model dedicated to nothing but killing game.

There’s hasn’t been to many technological innovations to the hunting pistol, many are still open sighted revolvers, but this model embraces everything the handgun has become in the last few years. For starters, an excellent cartridge paired with space age technology.

The magazine holds 8 rounds of 10mm, a potent combination of capacity and firepower that makes this gun good for small elk, and bear sized game. There’s not a lot of animals a 200gr bullet at 1000fps won’t kill. You can shoot hotter loads with the porting on the gun but you’ll find you’ll rarely need to.

The gun also ships with a Leupold Deltapoint Pro mounted to the slide. The mini red dot sight has come into its own in the last few years and many manufacturers are offering them as standard. This is the first hunting specific model to do so, with excellent success so far and high hopes for in field use.

This is a deer or hog’s worst nightmare and can be used on elk and bear with great care, as long as the barrel length is legal in your state. It’s going to be interesting to see how this pistol performs with the hefty price tag and load out of features in the seasons to come.

3. S&W model 60

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Yes, it is in fact sometimes appropriate to carry a J-frame in the woods. There’s certainly a time and place for everything and, speaking from experience, this is about the ideal handgun for raccoon hunting at night or hunting large jack rabbits and similar sized game.

It’s a 5 shot .357 magnum with a 3” barrel and comes in not much larger than the palm of your hand. Simple an excellent firearm, in its own right, S&W decided to release this with their pro series designation as an extra inch of the barrel compared to the other J-frames.

You could, in theory, hunt a larger game with this pistol. In a survival situation, a 158gr .357 out of a 3-inch barrel is nothing to scoff at. As a designated hunting gun for deer sized game, this isn’t a good idea. You’re much better off plugging in .38 special rounds for small game.

As a last resort, you could do more, but remember the extra inch of barrel you’re getting does more to make the J-frame shootable by adding to the sight radius, not giving it a ballistic boost great enough to hunt medium game with.

Falling just in between the production line guns and the performance center line, this is an excellent choice for hunters who want a quality firearm that’ll last but isn’t prepared to pay an arm and a leg for a gun that’ll be drug through every swamp and thicket in the county.

4. Glock 40

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Few guns can compete with the ubiquitous Glock. For better or worse, Glock has become the public face of guns. Many non-gunners and anti-gunners refer to any black colored pistol a Glock, chances are it’s one of the only guns they’ve ever seen.

Well if it’s good for just about everyone else, Glock must have a gun with enough horsepower for hunting right? Right!

The Glock 40 is a very good entry level hunting pistol. It’s chambered in 10mm, a caliber still relevant thanks to Glock, and features everything you love about Glock pistols. Plus the addition of a longer barrel and sight radius. The longer sight radius is excellent for hunting because it’s easier to hit at slightly longer ranges, and with the longer barrel you get a marginal ballistic upgrade.

The slide comes from the factory milled for a red dot. There’s not much else to say about this gun, you’ll want some other sight than the factory when you hunt so factor that into your purchase but if all you want is easy to use gun that goes bang when you need it too, this is it.

The unique combination of power and capacity means you can put self-defense grade ammunition in this pistol and have an excellent home defense gun as well if you’re so inclined.

5. S&W Model 69

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S&W has long made the best revolvers in the world. Barring a few of the custom houses that make guns costing several thousand dollars each, you can’t go wrong with a ‘Smith. This is one of their best new models to come out in a long time. They eliminated a round and shrunk the .44magnum into an L-frame. You get a .44 magnum pistol that is the same size as the 686+ revolver, a favorite concealed carry and outdoors revolver.

This is truly an excellent firearm. You get all the power and lethality of a .44magnum out of a decent sized barrel, with a gun small enough to CCW if you were inclined. There’s not a lot little this gun can’t do. With proper loads, this gun is suitable for anything that isn’t trying to hunt you back and is lighter and smaller to carry than anything else on the market.

There are a few scandium, and snub-nosed .44 magnum revolvers on the market but they just aren’t worth it. Their light weight makes them very difficult to shoot, and prone to crimp jump. This pistol, the model 69, is what the .44 magnum was designed to be.

It’s not to light, very balanced in the hand, and shoot exceptionally well out of the box. The 5-round capacity is a non-issue for hunters and outdoorsmen. Especially when you shrink the gun small enough to have it on you all the time, but keep enough weight on it to still make shooting it practical.

6. Ruger Alaskan .41mag

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A new take on their successful pistol design this is the venerable Ruger Alaskan in the awesome .41 magnum caliber. The .40 caliber bore is perfect for hunting, for all but the largest game a 200gr bullet at 1000fps is going to be plenty of medicine. Barring huge bears or African game with claws and teeth!

Ruger firearms are made from investment cast receivers and parts making this a big and heavy gun, almost clunky, but it absorbs the recoil of the .41 magnum and makes it feel like a full sized .45acp. A gentle push, not a sharp snap.

Shooting this gun is easy, but getting accurate hits on target is a bit of a chore being that the shorter barrel and gunner style sights can be tricky to hold steady. Make sure you put in your due diligence at the range before attempting to take game with this pistol.

This gun is already a favorite, a venerable field proven design made in a caliber that can really be described as a cult following. A very nice addition to someone who enjoys a different firearm and will be hunting medium sized game at close distances.

7. Thomspon Contender

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There are few reasons you’ll need a pistol in anything bigger than .357 magnum or worse, .44 magnum. You’ll need a potent dose of fire power for large animals, or hunting from a distance. Thompson Center has you covered. They make a tip up, break action single shot pistol based on their others rifles that have become a cult favorite among handgun hunters. Called the contender this is an excellent solution for one of the ultimate challenges in handgun hunting, getting enough range to hunt in open areas.

If you have the urge to hunt at distance or limit yourself to new ell placed rounds, this is your pistol. Imagine a single shot rifle, with the stock cutoff at the grip and you can understand this firearm. The greatest benefit by though it the fact this rifle is chambered in rifle rounds.

Making the hunting or large game easier, you get roughly double the range out of this gun as compared to traditional handgun rounds but it’s no rifle. The short barrel doesn’t net you the full benefit of a rifle cartridge but it does allow you to reach out further than strictly pistol rounds. Paired with a good rest, this is an excellent pistol that can be had in dozens of calibers.

8. Magnum Research .30-30

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Magnum research makes interesting guns. This one of their best for hunters. You get the ability to shoot rifle cartridges, in a revolver with multiple rounds. You can have this capability in several different cartridges but by far the best is the .30-30 for most hunters anyway. You can have them other cartridges like .45-70, .444 marlin, and the S&W magnums but those are largely overkill for the majority of hunters out there. The .30-30 is a good bet for most.

Not only is the cheapest round to shoot, it’s sold just about anywhere that carries ammunition. The barrel of the gun is 10” long making it difficult to carry in a holster, you’re better off with a sling! At the very least one of the best hunting packs that includes a holster or strap to carry this thing. The recoil is manageable with practice if you’re accustomed to shooting single action revolvers with this type of grip.

Buy the right caliber, with a good scope and you can kill anything that walks with this revolver. The quality of this gun is good enough to last many years, and the stainless steel is appropriate for what this gun will go through. The crisp single action is optimal for hunting and you can count on the firepower of this revolver to get the job done on just about anything.

9. S&W 460XVR

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The X-frame revolver is the largest in the world. When the engineers wanted to create a revolver and cartridge combination that’d be enough for hunting deer out to 250 yards in the right hands, they came up with the extremely high velocity .45 caliber handgun cartridge they named the .460S&W and put it in the frame the made for the behemoth .500S&W.

They’ve had over a half dozen revolvers chambered in the big .460S&W but their new 460XVR for 2017. A longer barrel, a newly designed, highly effective, muzzle break and squared off barrel shroud that includes an integrated scope base milled directly into the top strap are the features that set this revolver apart.
Being a performance center option the action, fit and finish this weapon is as good as it gets. The small differences between this and the older models are just ideal upgrades, they make an excellent cartridge much easier to use with a rest, a scope, and wrings out every ounce of velocity that can be had by this cartridge.

You can hunt anything short of a train with this weapon and the correct load. From deer with mild .45LC to black bear with .454casull, and elk, brown bear or African dangerous game with the full house .460S&W magnum.

The Verdict

If you plan on hunting with a handgun, you’re in for a tough but enjoyable endeavor. The reason it’s gaining popularity recently is the current crop of handguns are excellent, the opportunities for handgun hunters is growing, and technology has made smaller calibers and cartridges game stomping machines.

The best thing you can do for your hunt if get your hands wrapped around the handle of the best quality pistol you can afford, hit the range until you’re ready, and get into the woods!

 

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