Hunting with a handgun can be quite challenging, and choosing the right one is important.
There are lots of great handguns on the market today. However, most of these handguns are designed for self defense and target shooting, not for hunting. Fortunately, there are several manufacturers that specifically produce some high quality handguns for hunting.
When choosing the right handgun to take hunting, you need to carefully consider the conditions it will need to operate under on a hunt. A hunting handgun that is ideal for making a shot at a few yards (or feet) on a bayed-up hog or cougar might not work nearly as well when you need to make a 100-yard shot on a deer.
Regardless of which handgun you choose, make sure you spend lots of time at the range. Handgun hunting can be very challenging and even the best handguns for hunting are only as good as the hunters using them.
Here are my picks for the six best handguns for hunting:
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When it was first introduced in 1979, the Double Action/Single Action Ruger Redhawk took the market by storm. It featured a reinforced cylinder that was slightly longer than normal, which allowed shooters to safely use higher pressure loads than most other revolvers could handle. This reason, combined with reliability and accuracy displayed in these handguns, made the Redhawk extremely popular among hunters.
Current production Ruger Redhawk revolvers are chambered in .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, and .45 ACP with 2.75-inch, 4.2-inch, 5.5-inch, and 7.2-inch barrels. The Super Redhawk was introduced in 1987 and is even stronger in order to handle the more powerful .454 Casull and .480 Ruger cartridges that it is chambered in. The Super Redhawk is available with 2.5-inch, 5-inch, 7.5-inch, and 9.5-inch barrels.
The Redhawk and Super Redhawk come standard with adjustable iron sights, but a scope may be mounted if desired, giving the user a great deal of flexibility. All in all, the Redhawk and Super Redhawk are great choices for handgun hunters and have been used to cleanly take virtually every species of big game in the world, from deer to elephant.
The Smith & Wesson Model 29 was the first commercially available handgun specifically designed to shoot the .44 Magnum cartridge. Clint Eastwood’s character Harry Callahan made the Model 29 and the .44 Magnum incredibly famous after the movie “Dirty Harry” was released in 1971.
Available with barrel lengths ranging from 3 inches to 10.7 inches long, and in a stainless steel version known as the Model 629, the Smith & Wesson Model 29 is a good choice for handgun hunters under a variety of situations. The pistol can fire .44 Magnum and the slightly less powerful .44 Special cartridges, both of which are more than enough to ethically take a wide variety of game such as deer, feral hogs, and black bear at short to moderate range.
Experienced hunters have also used the Model 29 or the Model 629 chambered in .44 Magnum to safely take larger species of big game like elk, moose, and brown bear.
Sometimes bigger really is better. When this is the case, the Taurus Raging Bull is about as big as they come. Currently available in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull, sporting a 5-inch, 6.5-inch, or an 8.4-inch barrel, and offering the ability to mount a scope, there are few big game animals that can’t be ethically hunted with the Taurus Raging Bull.
However, shooting a Taurus Raging Bull is not for the weak or the faint of heart: even when using the longest barrel available it is loud and has a tremendous recoil. A ported barrel cuts down on the recoil slightly, but increases an already bright muzzle flash and makes it louder to shoot. However, if you can handle all of the disadvantages of the Raging Bull, it is quite a choice for hunting with a handgun.
If you’re a fan of cowboy-style revolvers for hunting, then the Ruger Blackhawk may be just what the doctor ordered. The original Ruger Blackhawk was chambered in .44 Magnum and was introduced in the 1950s shortly after the Smith & Wesson Model 29.
Currently available in .30 Carbine, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .45 Colt, with 4.6-inch, 6.5-inch, and 7.5-inch barrels, and with the ability to use either iron sights or mount a scope, the Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk offer something for nearly every type of hunter.
Chambered in the potent 10mm Auto cartridge, the Glock 20 is very popular among hunters who use hounds. Though it is most commonly used on hogs, more than a few bayed-up cougars and black bears have fallen to the Glock 20.
This handgun offers a balance between power, large magazine capacity, the ability to take a rapid followup shot, and being easy to handle and carry. All of these characteristics are important to hound hunters, who may need to follow their prey on foot for several miles before taking a (usually) relatively close range shot on a dangerous animal.
That is not to say that the Glock 20 is limited strictly to hunters who use hounds: plenty of deer hunters successfully use the Glock 20 year after year.
Since its introduction in the 1960s, the Thompson-Center Contender has been one of the most popular handguns for hunting in the United States. Even though it is only a single-shot pistol, the Thompson-Center Contender is incredibly accurate and is also completely customizable.
With just a few minutes of work, the barrel may be swapped for a new barrel of a different length or even a different caliber. Barrel lengths ranging from 6 inches to 21 inches are currently produced. The Thompson-Center Contender may also be chambered to shoot a wide variety of cartridges including the .17 HMR, .22 LR, .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and .45-70 Government (just to name a few).
The ability to mount a scope, have a longer-than-normal barrel length, and shoot high-powered rifle cartridges makes the Thompson-Center Contender a great choice for a hunter who needs to take shots out past 100 yards when hunting with a handgun.