View Full Version : handgun for whitetail deer

January 23, 2001, 07:19 AM
I'm looking into doing some handgun whitetail deer hunting next season. What is the best caliber / handgun for this purpose? What have been your experiences with what works best and what isn't so good? Do you use open sights or a scope?


January 23, 2001, 07:53 AM
Not being a professional deer slayer I'll stick my neck out like this:
A 357 is the minimum I would use and I would pick my shots very carefully. I wouldnt scope a 357 to prevent getting tempted to take too long of a shot. I might scope a 44 though. Still, shot selection and placement are the keys. Ya need a good bullet and all too. I wouldnt be ashamed to use just about any defensive type bullet on a deer. Placement and selsection will do the rest. Thast my story and I'm stickin to it.

January 23, 2001, 01:27 PM
Is there anybody out there with real experience in this area? I have done a lot of rifle and bow deer hunting so don't need too many tips there. I have carried my Ruger Blackhawk .357 afield while deer hunting but have never used it as the only weapon or have actually really hunted deer with it.

Have any of you used a 9mm, .45, .357, or .44 handgun to hunt deer?


January 23, 2001, 01:39 PM
The 357 is the minimum caliber for deer a 41mag, 44 mag 45 long colt or 454 in a revolver would be better. Use heavy bullets In a single shot you get a lot more caliber choices you can use any of the above mentioned caliber or use bottle necks from the 7-30 on up to something like the 375jdj or 45-70. IMHO you should scope all hunting handguns because you can place the shot more precise 1 last point always use a rest of some kind. I just got a viper xl extreme with a gun rest it should work well with my handguns.

Robert the41MagFan
January 23, 2001, 03:31 PM
The most successful handgun hunters hunt just like they do bow hunting. It is very close range, usually inside 50 yards, lots of pre season preparation and the deployment of the tree stand (and don't argue with me about the stand! According to every survey I have seen over the years, almost 90% of all white tail deer harvests are from a tree stand. So, if you don't use one, you are missing out!). Practice, practice and more practice is the next step to a successful hunt. Whether you use open sights or a scope. If you cannot hit a six inch pie pan, consistently, at your maximum shooting distance, don't shoot at the animals at that distance. Have to agree with the other posters, .357 Magnum is minimum for the average joe hunter. The margin of error is highly increased due to the bullets size and expansion, so if you can't hit a four inch pie plate at your maximum shooting distance, don't shoot at the critters.

To qualify, here is my resume! This bad boy weighs over 250lbs and was shot with a .357 Magnum.

Not polite to ask for "real experience" after a poster has responded with sound advice. There is more experience in this forum than what you think.



January 23, 2001, 03:43 PM
how did you get a picture on t.f.l.?

I hold my self to a little higher i have to beable to hit a 4x4 inch pice of steel even wiht my big boomers i keep my shots inside 100y. and most of my shots are less then 25
as for practice you should be doing that with any weapon you are going to hunt with!

January 23, 2001, 04:41 PM
No wonder he was able to sneak up on it, that deer only has 3 legs:D:D:D

handgun: to post an image on the actual messgae area, you need to have the pic uploaded on the net somewhere. I use the file manager of my geocities web page. The you simple put: [img]picture address here.[img] (on the second [img] you put a forwardslash (/) inside of the bracket infront of the "img". If I actually put it there, it'll think It's an error, and it won't show the code.

January 23, 2001, 06:57 PM
I appreciate both the sound advice and the real life experience from TFL. It's great. Sorry if I misspoke.

What kind of scope is that on your 357?


Opening day in Michigan this year!


[Edited by tlt on 02-23-2001 at 07:39 AM]

Robert the41MagFan
January 24, 2001, 01:20 AM

You need a file at a server that you can load pictures to and then link them using the instructions on the FAQ's link on the TFL's front page.

Also hold myself to the higher standard that you mentioned for just about everything. And if I can't get a clean shot, I simply will not shoot. Instead wait for another day. Can't stand tracking animals.

BadMedicine, that is what happen to this poor guy. He lost a leg! There is a slope behind this picture that is about 40 degrees. The day before this deer was weaving in and out of the woods down below and could not get a clean shot. Let him go and the next morning I setup shop again. This time, he came straight down the slope and I shot him at about 50 yards out (up actually). His leg fell off, but he still tried running. The deer was cart wheeling down this slope and stopped.

It is amazing how you turn a critters vitals into ground jello, blow a leg off and they still insist on running. Try to make me go play hide and go seek. That pisses me off, so I shot him a few more times. :D

tlt, the Pringles can on this 627PC is a Tasco 65mm dot sight scope. It is big and give a excellent sight picture in low light conditions. I'm a big fan of the dot scope. It allow a extra half hour of hunting in the mornings and evenings.



January 24, 2001, 10:24 AM
tlt, all I use is 357 magnum for handgun hunting deer!!
It is my favorite. I use pre-sellout S&W 19, Taurus 689, Taurus 608, and a Ruger Blackhawk. My friend has a Python 357 w/scope and he has taken 6 deer withit.
Although some say that it is the minimum they would use, or not use at all, it is an excellent way to harvest deer. I would'nt use anything else. I shoot Remmington 180 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints.
The long shots people are talking about are for rifles, shotguns, and bp rifles. When handgun hunting, follow your bow hunting skills and you'll do fine. I also like shooting 38 specials for practice that I reload for cheap.
Happy Hunting!!!!!

[Edited by handgun357 on 02-10-2001 at 12:00 AM]

Hard Ball
January 24, 2001, 11:15 AM
The .357 Magnum will certainly do the job with perfect shot placement, but I would recommend a .44 or .41 Magnum for best results. Good luck and good hunting!

January 24, 2001, 11:45 AM
His leg is really gone???:D I thought it was either bent funny behind the other one, or pinned under him. He looks kinda funny like that:D

January 24, 2001, 12:07 PM
Followup question on mounting a scope on a Ruger Blackhawk.

The Tasco 65mm red dot sounds like a good set up.

Does a scope mount exist for the Ruger Blackhawk?


Robert the41MagFan
January 24, 2001, 01:35 PM

Jack Weigand makes a Weaver style base for the Blackhawk. It's new and does require the drilling and tapping of the top strap, but will allow no movement of the weaver base.



Johnny Guest
January 24, 2001, 09:26 PM

Some very good advice here--worth attending. I may not agree with ALL of it, but it is all worthwhile input.

I think .357 with long barrel and HEAVY loads is truly the minimum, and that only for the fairly experienced handgun hunter. I killed one deer with a 4" .357, but am now convinced it is not enough. I, too, counsel the use of the bigger-bore handgun cartridges. One should NOT take longer shots with the .357, as energy falls off quite rapidly. But the 'scope allows for much more precise placement than do iron sights.

One must practice intensely, set one's personal limits and stick to 'em. My limit: the distance at which I can keep five out of five shots on a ten-inch paper plate, with THAT arm, and THAT load, from a PARTICULAR position.

Sorry--I just re-read and see where Robert the41MagFan has already said much the same thing.

Sporting hunters owe the game animal the respect of not taking the shot unless we are pretty positive of making a clean kill. We should be honest enough to realize that tight groups from a bench with target loads do NOT equate with heavy loads from a kneeling position.

I know guys who have successfully used .38 Spl, .380 ACP, and 9 x 19mm on deer. These were experts, and admit it was a stunt, and have resolved not to do it again. Yes, one can kill a deer with a .22 LR handgun--but most places, this is illegal, and is certainly not a sporting proposition. Survival or subsistence hunting, feeding a hungry family, is a different matter.

Terry, back to your original question - - -
What is the best caliber / handgun for this purpose? What have been your experiences with what works best and what isn't so good? Do you use open sights or a scope?

I like .44 mag and .45 Colt. I don't use a scope. There is good advice above about scopes and different cartridges. But any time you extend a topic like this, you get personal opinions, and these vary widely. My experience is limited to about ten deer with handgun: .357, .44 mag, .45 ACP and .45 Colt. I've been fortunate: Never a lost deer with a handgun; all have been one-shot kills, but I HAVE done a little tracking.

Best regards,

January 24, 2001, 09:49 PM
I use a Ruger Super Redhawk .44 mag with a Leupold 2x scope. The two deer I bagged were all under 50 yards. I might buy the Ruger .480 when it comes out. I always wanted a .454 but the recoil is too harsh for me. Hence, the interest in the .480

January 25, 2001, 08:16 AM
The same set up as Son but have only taken 1 deer. Hopefully that will increase over time.

January 25, 2001, 09:39 AM
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between personal opinion and sound advice if there is no real experience to back it up. That's why I asked for real experience. I really do appreciate every and all of the responses to this inquiry.

I checked Tasco's website for handgun scopes and didn't see a 65mm model. The largest they seemed to list was 45mm PDP5CMP.
Which model do you have?


Robert the41MagFan
January 25, 2001, 11:53 AM

You'll have to find either a close out or look at someone's table at a gun show to find these scopes. You are correct, Tasco does not make the 65mm can anymore.

Try Indy Optics and see if they have a close out.


I'm sure that others know of places to find close outs too.

I put one of those 45mm cans on my 10mm and they work quite well and maybe the next best thing. All these Tasco scope cost about $100 to $180 each. Next large can is from Gilmore/Leopold and they cost twice as much and there is not twice the scope there.



January 25, 2001, 09:17 PM
I used a GP 100 to take my first handgun deer. The 158 grain Gold Dot did a great job. I use a 454 Redhawk now with hot 45 LC reloads. Here are pics of deer my friends and I have taken with handguns.

January 25, 2001, 09:43 PM
Your pictures on your website are putting me into handgun deer hunting overload mode. Looks like your crew did very well.

Thanks for the info. I'll check the website and at the next gun show.


January 25, 2001, 10:17 PM
Thanks TLT, we are having a terrific time hunting them with handguns. It is far more rewarding taking a deer with a pistol. You have to get in his livingroom with him. Mine was 30' away and I was on ground. I cocked the Redhawk and his eyes almost popped out. He had the funniest oh -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED- look on his face.
All of the deer were taken with our own handloads.

January 28, 2001, 11:59 AM
I've hunted close to 30 years here in Ohio for deer. The first 20 or so with a shotgun and the last 6 or 7 years with a pistol. I enjoy using both but I have to say that my pistols have been my favorite.

My first deer with a pistol was taken less than 15 yards away. I was using a .357 colt python with open sights. I then moved on to a .44 mag. S&W 629 with open sights. I currently use a T/C contender with a .44 mag barrel or a .357 maximum barrel, both scoped barrels. My favorite is still the .44 mag. just because of the pure power that can be achieved from the T/C. My longest shot was with the T/C and was stepped off at 95 yards. He stopped broadside to me and I had a good rest. I placed the shot just behind the shoulder. He ran about 20 yards to the top of the hill and collapsed.

Well, that was my experiences for what it was worth. Now for your questions. The caliber depends greatly on what you're capable of handling and what type of gun you plan on shooting. Probably the most popular calibers here in Ohio are .44 mag, .41 mag. and the .357 mag. and a few still shoot the .357 maximum. Although to shoot the last one you pretty much have to reload your own. I'm not even sure they still sell that round commercially anymore. If recoil is an issue with you then stay with the less powerful rounds. You can take a deer just as easily with a .357 as you can with a .44 mag. The only difference would be shot placement and bullet deflection. A lighter bullet can be deflected easier than a heavier one in heavy cover.

As for scoped or open sights. I have hunted with both and prefer the scoped gun. The pro's to a scope are. Easier to place the shot where you want it. Easier to see what you are shooting at. The last reason is that it also forces you to slow down and take your time when you are aiming at your target. You will not be able to aquire the target if it is running with a scoped pistol and place an accurate shot at the same time.

The con's to a scope are. As I stated above aquiring a moving target is one. If you are a stalker or like to walk when you hunt a scope could be a problem. Being out of breath or trying to take a quick shot can and will cause accuracy problems. I prefer to still hunt and wait for them to come to me. Then I have the advantage of taking my time and placing the shot. This type of hunting fits well with a a scoped pistol.

Well the only other thing you will need to decide on is if you want a revolver or a single shot pistol like a T/C. That will be more of a personal preference than anything. The single shots normally give you greater distance but the revolver will give you the capability of a second shot if needed.

Hope this helps and sorry for the long winded post.

January 30, 2001, 04:52 AM
I am an bowhunter(Q2 love it)but I allso want to try a handgun I did a lot of researc last fall and went with
a Ruger Vaquero in 45colt just for history purposes,probley not any ones first chois but im not any one.I shoot corbon+P with this bullet I would go face to face with a grizzly bare at 20yd and know I culd get him before he got me .just make sure you do it just like you were useing a bow and as a general rule if it can knock down a man it can knock down a deer just read the recommended range your round shuld be uesed at and thats your max range happy hunting

January 31, 2001, 11:20 PM
My current whitetail pistol is a freedom arms .454 casull with a 2x leupold scope. You don't need a handgun this powerful for whitetail but I figure why not. I have killed a deer with a .32 auto before. When hunting with a handgun always go for the shoulder shot if you are using a heavy caliber.

February 9, 2001, 11:40 PM
I know this will bring some heated response. One of the largest handgun killed whitetails I've seen was killed with a 4in 22lr Ruger single six shot one handed draw aim fire. It doesn't take much to kill a whitetail.

That said IMO 41mag is the bottom end cause I cann't always get a perfect broadside shot. My personal deer handgun is a 4in 44mag with open sights. My cousin uses a 7.5in Ruger SuperRedhawk with a 2x (might be 4x) scope. He's deadly to 100yds. Has a blackbear and boar with that gun. I hunt where 50yds would be a major feat, he hunts a little more open (farm lands in Mich, me in the mts in Tn). As someone mentioned the single shots add a whole nuther dimension to handgun hunting. FWIW, we handload hard cast bullets to the hottest level with good accuracy. 310gr FPs give total penetration of a whitetail take out the shoulder and give minimal tracking distances (does anyone know why deer always run downhill away from your vehicle?).

Johnny Guest
February 10, 2001, 10:19 AM
Friends, I'm at a loss about the last three replies in this topis string.

All three discuss the killing of white tail deer with clearly inadequate and unsporting gear. CAN a deer be killed with a .22 rinfire or a .32? Sure. So what. And, if I were a native American way out in the wilds and my kids were hungry, I would use such, if that was the difference in them having meat or not.

I am heartened to note that all three strate that they, personally, advocate the use of something a LOT more sporting for the deer hunt: .45 Colt, .44 or .41 Magnum.

I must respectfully disagree with the parallel of adequate for man = adequate for deer. In rifles, this could be arguable, the .30 USCarbine and .223 aside. In handguns, define adequate and we can begin the discussion. I've been out and around with nothing but a .32 or .25 for sole armament. Make no mistake: I did NOT consider either adequate
to stop a determined attack by a motivated adversary. Butit make me feel better. I believe in the largest defense piece paractical under the circumstances. But l am convinced that the majority of crooks will give up their attack on me if hit with ANYHING. If he runs away, I have accomplished my end.

The deer is not so cooperative. he doesn't lie down and become venison simply because he is smote a mild blow.

Best regards,

February 18, 2001, 09:49 PM
Depends on the range and situation. I have had reliable success over the years with an open sighted .44 revolver (S&W M29) and a Contender, also in .44 mag. I hunt from a tree stand and keep ranges close.

February 19, 2001, 01:49 PM
from the 2000 Huntig Regs:

"Deer and bear may be hunted with handguns which are loaded with .357, .41 and .44 magnum caliber cartidges. Other caliber handguns chambered for commerically-manufactured cartridges which produce a minimum muzzle energy of 1000 foot-pounds are also legal. These handguns must have a minimum barrel length of 5.5 inches, measured from the firing pin with the action closed"

February 19, 2001, 09:47 PM
I use a comperitor pistol in 2506 and have killed deer out to 500 yards.
The average distance is around 250 yds.
I have killed 2 at 400 yds and one at a measured 512 yds all one shot kills and of the 15 whitetails that have been handgun kills not one miss.

February 20, 2001, 07:54 PM
I don't plan on actually hunting deer or hog with a handgun until I get my Taurus Tracker .41.

I have killed a deer with a .40 S&W, but he had already taken a solid shoulder to rib shot from a .35 Remington. It had just been over 25 minutes, and he didn't know he was dead yet...

The 155-grn XTP I slipped under his jaw from 15 yards (this ammo had chrono'd at avg 1170 fps) put him down instantly. This same shot would have put him down just the same way if it had been the first shot, but I had ideal circumstances: a n almost stationary deer presenting me with a perfect close-range shot in very decent light.

If I'm hungry, I'd much sooner use my .45-70, or one of my 12's, or my laid-away .35 Whelen, or my projected .250/3000, or even my .30 Carbine...