Skip to main content

Deer Hunting with a Self Defense Handgun

Photo by Ricky Krodle

Use your current concealed carry handgun to hunt deer.

Over the past 25 years I have been forced to carry certain handguns loaded with specific ammunition based on agency regulations.

Once upon a time it was NYPD's wisdom that forced upon me a 6 shooter with lead semi wadcutter ammo. Not even plus P, the loads gave us the impression the bureaucrats didn't want us to hurt anybody too badly. I never would have contemplated trying to hunt even small game with those handguns and that ammunition.

Thankfully, the handguns have evolved over time along with the ammunition selection. There are finally choices among concealed carry handguns and appropriate self-defense ammunition that can be used for deer hunting. Current premium handgun ammunition in popular calibers such as 9mm, .40 S&W, 357 Sig, 357 Magnum and 45 ACP can get the job done.

Modern premium self-defense ammo is often rated based on the "FBI Protocol" or the IWBA (International Wound Ballistics Assoc.) Protocol. The bullets are tested by being fired into a calibrated ballistic media. Several obstacles are often placed in front of the media including layers of denim cloth, wallboard, sheet-metal and glass.  Bullets are said to perform well if they penetrate between 12 and 18-inches, expand 1.5 times their original diameter and retain most of the original weight.

Considering the test media is intended to loosely mimic and encounter with a clothed human being represented by an "average male of approximately 180 pounds," why wouldn't the same ammo work on a whitetail deer? A deer can be of similar weight, the hide and hair can create similar resistance to the layered denim and deer are approximately 20-inches across the chest just like an "average" person. This ammo should definitely be effective on deer and deer sized game.

Also check out

5 Cartridges You Should Try on Deer

How to Gut a Rabbit in 5 Seconds with Your Bare Hands

The 360 Dan Wesson Cartridge in Rifles

Why the S&W 629 .44 is the Best Hunting Handgun

It's in the ammo

Tens of thousands of rounds of premium ammo such as CCI Gold Dot, Federal HST, Hornady Critical Duty, Winchester PDX1 and Remington Golden Sabre are fired through law enforcement and civilian handguns with absolute satisfaction. Very few malfunctions are due to ammunition problems. Accuracy is outstanding and tactical characteristics like muzzle flash and penetration are among the best they've ever been.

CCI-Gold-Dot-40 and 9
Joe Riekers

I once stumbled upon an axis deer on our Texas concession that I had never seen before. I guessed him to sport nearly 30 inch antlers and he was only 21 yards facing away from me. I leveled the handgun's sights behind his leg and took up all the slack from the trigger.

Toni Riekers

When he stepped to his left a bit more I sent the 165 grain bullet through both of his lungs and into the front of his opposite shoulder. After a short sprint of a few yards into the brush he fell dead. The buck weighed 210 pounds live weight.

I found the bullet just under the hide in a textbook mushroom configuration. The penetration was approximately 17 inches. That is a pretty close representation of a full sized human wearing a lightweight jacket, so the performance should be no surprise.

On another hunt I sat in a treestand waiting for whitetail deer. When a 170 pound whitetail buck walked within 20 yards of my stand, I shot it in the center of the shoulder and the deer took three steps backwards and fell over dead.

The bullet weighed 180 grains and was fired from a 4-inch barrel semi-automatic. The bullet passed though the deer leaving a very noticeable exit hole between the neck and shoulder.

Glock-Deer edit
Brandon Riekers

Take the guessing out

If you are going to try deer hunting with a self-defense handgun there are a few parameters you should stay within to be successful. First, and obviously, check local laws to make sure your handgun and ammunition are legally acceptable for deer hunting.

Next, use only premium self defense ammunition that is bonded or has other features that are designed to keep the bullet together.  Standard hollow-point ammo, target type ammunition or ammo sold at inexpensive prices are not manufactured to be up to the task of killing game, or a person for that matter.

You have to get within very close range of your game for the ammo to remain effective and make an accurate shot. With most compact handguns, a maximum range of 25 yards is reasonable.

If you and your pistol can consistently shoot tight groups a bit further out you might consider stretching it a few more yards. Most of the time this will mean hunting from a treestand or ground blind.

Lastly, you will want to aim for the heart/lung area and avoid the hard shoulder bones if possible in order to ensure good bullet penetration.

4HORNEDRAM glock edit
Richard Muennink

Take it seriously

Please respect the game you are hunting. If you are going to try this special kind of handgun hunting do not carry it out as some kind of stunt but rather as a serious, responsible way to cleanly kill your deer. Deer hunting with a self defense handgun can be a rewarding experience.

What handgun and ammo would you like to hunt deer with? Let us know in the comments below.

you might also like

Deer Hunting with a Self Defense Handgun