Hunting with a handgun can be quite challenging, so choosing the right one is very 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 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'll be hunting under. A hunting handgun that's ideal for making a shot at a few yards (or feet) on a bayed-up hog, bear or cougar might not work nearly as well when you need to make a 100-yard shot on a deer.
For that reason, it's important to choose the correct tool for the job. Here are my picks for the seven best handguns for hunting.
When it was first introduced in 1979, the Ruger Redhawk took the market by storm. The double-action/single-action revolver 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, combined with reliability and accuracy displayed in these handguns, made the Redhawk extremely popular among hunters and those looking for a good bear-defense gun.
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 came along in 1987, and was even stronger in order to handle the more powerful .454 Casull and .480 Ruger cartridges. 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 virtually taken every species of big game in the world, from deer to elephants.
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" came out in 1971.
The Model 29 is a good choice for just about any handgun hunter. It's available in barrel lengths ranging from 3 inches to 10.7 inches long, and in a stainless-steel version known as the Model 629.
The pistol can fire .44 Magnum and the slightly less powerful .44 Special cartridges. Both are more than enough to ethically take a variety of game such as deer, feral hogs and black bear from 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. It's currently available in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull, sporting a 5-inch, 6.5-inch or an 8.4-inch barrel. It also offers the ability to mount a scope, and 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's 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 the disadvantages of the Raging Bull, it's quite a choice for hunting.
If you're a fan of cowboy-style revolvers for hunting, the Ruger Blackhawk single-action revolver may be just what the doctor ordered. The original Ruger Blackhawk, chambered in .44 Magnum, and was introduced in the 1950s shortly after the Smith & Wesson Model 29.
Ruger expanded the number of cartridges available in the revolver after it took off in popularity. Over the years, Ruger has offered the revolver in 9x19mm Luger, .327 Federal Magnum, .30 Carbine, .357 Magnum, 10mm Auto, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .454 Casull and .480 Ruger (among other cartridges). It's currently available with 4.6-inch, 6.5-inch and 7.5-inch barrels.
Chambered in the potent 10mm Auto cartridge, the semi-automatic 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 semi-auto handgun offers a balance between power, large magazine capacity, the ability to take a rapid follow-up 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's not to say the Glock 20 is limited strictly to hunters who use hounds, though. Plenty of deer hunters successfully use the Glock 20 year after year.
The Glock 40 is Glock's newest semi-automatic 10mm Auto handgun. It's similar to the Glock 20 in many ways except for two key differences: the Glock 40 has a longer, 6-inch barrel and can accommodate a red dot sight. Though the longer barrel makes the handgun slightly larger and heavier, it also means the handgun has a longer sight radius that makes it easier to aim more precisely at targets farther away.
Especially since they're both great handguns chambered in the excellent 10mm Auto cartridge, choosing between the Glock 20 and the Glock 40 is really a matter of personal preference. If you prioritize having a lightweight handgun that's easier to carry, go with the Glock 20. However, if you want a handgun that's better suited for taking longer range shots, go with the Glock 40.
Speaking of taking longer-range shots, 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's only a single-shot pistol, the Thompson-Center Contender is incredibly accurate and is also completely customizable.
With just a few minutes of work, you can swap for a new barrel of a different length or even a different caliber. Barrel lengths range from 6-21 inches. The Thompson-Center Contender may chambered to shoot a wide variety of cartridges, like the .17 HMR, .22 LR, .22 Hornet, .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, 6.8 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, 7-30 Waters, .38 Special, .357 Remington Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and the .45-70 Government.
Since it can accommodate a longer-than-normal barrel, it's available in a number of high-powered rifle cartridges. It can also accommodate a scope, so it's effective for shooting out past 100 yards.