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Old December 30, 2005, 11:23 PM   #1
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Which caliber handgun for deer?

I am giving myself the new challenge of hunting whitetails with a handgun. I already have a Colt Trooper Mark III .357 with a 6" bbl and an Ultra dot sight, but I am worried because many people tell me it is underpowered. I have loaded Hornady XTP 158gr and know this is a good bullet with a lot of power for this caliber. I know that a lot of people think you need a .300 weatherby mag to kill deer at 50 yards, but I am wondering what is a realistic distance for this gun, and does anyone have any recommendations for better calibers? .41 mag, 45 colt, 44 mag, 454 casull, 480 Ruger? I think I want a Ruger so a .500 and .460 are out of the question. I do not expect to shoot 150 yds either and I am leaning more toward a revolver for now...
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Old December 30, 2005, 11:24 PM   #2
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i forgot

also the deer in my area are usually quite a bit under 200 lbs, but it is not uncommon for them to be 215 lbs dressed either. And their are black bears
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Old December 31, 2005, 12:44 AM   #3
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i've never done it but i'm thinkin if you put your shot carefully into the kill zone that round should take out a deer........ all i own is a .357 mag and i've never felt undergunned...................
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Old December 31, 2005, 12:55 AM   #4
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The 158 grain XTP is a great bullet. Go for it.
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Old December 31, 2005, 04:32 AM   #5
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If I was going to hunt with a side arm in bear and perhaps mountain lion country, it wouldn't be with anything less than a 44 magnum in a revolver. Sure, in ideal conditions the 357 will do the job but how many times have we fired a shot at game in ideal conditions? I wouldn't want to track a wounded animal either in bear and cougar country with nothing more than a 357 magnum. The northern tier states are becoming more populated with dangerous game and there's nothing worse than being under-gunned at meal time. Just my .02!
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Old December 31, 2005, 10:12 AM   #6
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.44mag or .45Colt
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Old December 31, 2005, 09:10 PM   #7
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I have used a .357 successfully in a 10" Contender but only because I didn't have time to get a bbl in a larger caliber. It was a 158 JHP behind max load of 296. Did not exit deer with a chest shot at about 25 yards. I consider the .41 mag the minimum I would prefer to use. I think larger is better as long as you can place your shots with the larger calibers. My current choice would be a S&W .44 mag with the 8+ bbl, because I can place my shots with it. I have a Trooper as well and I would not consider using it. YMMV.
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Old December 31, 2005, 09:25 PM   #8
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my dad killed a doe mule deer 4 years ago with a ruger security six 4" barrel 357 with 158 jhp (he wanted a challange just like your self but he did have his rifle with him) 25 yards out killed it with one shot but the deer did run a 75 yards or so no big deal seen them run that far before when shot with rifles as always it shot placement shot placement shot placement
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Old December 31, 2005, 10:01 PM   #9
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I used a 4 inch gp with a 158 gr sp with good effect this year. Bullet was a pass through but the range was 25 yards. I personally like the 357 because I am accurate with it so I can place the shot well. I ,however,do like the 44 for larger deer.
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Old December 31, 2005, 10:03 PM   #10
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Been handgun hunting deer for a shade over 30 years now, and have used almost everything mentioned thus far, sans the .41 magnum. I have a trusted friend who uses the .41 though, and he has killed more deer than I have with the others. He says it is as good as the .44, and I believe him.

The .357 did not impress me. It will kill them allright, if you place it with surgical precision- which is much of handgun hunting anyway. What it does not do is leave copious blood trails that Stevie Wonder could follow.The .44 mag and hot-loaded ,45 Colt (read RUGER) will do this, especially with expanding bullets which are heavy enough for full penetration. Big-meplat cast bullets are almost as good in this regard, and they will usually shoot through a deer from any angle. You absolutely want the bullet to knock TWO big holes in the animal, coming and going, and you want the blood trail that you get from such a wound. No conventional handgun is a guaranteed, drop-em-in-their-hoofprints hunting tool. How can I say this, if I haven't used the .460, 500, etc?

Because none of them are a .30-06. I shot a 160 pound doe a few years ago with a real destructive 150 grain '06 load. I hit her unawares at 125 yards, blew the heart to shreds and made an exit hole in the hide the size of a silver dollar. Reaction? She sorta humped up, them walked off and jumped flat-footed over a 5-foot hogwire fence. She piled up dead on the other side, but she show no immediate reaction to having her heart and three ribs scattered across the landscape.

She was dead on her feet, but having never read a ballistics chart or internet discussion forum, she just didn't know it. Sometimes they just need convincing, and the .40+ guns simply accomplish this with greater authority and reliability.

Get as close as you can- placement really is critical. So is repeating the application until the desired results are obtained.
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Last edited by Sarge; January 1, 2006 at 01:54 AM.
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Old January 1, 2006, 08:50 AM   #11
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what I do in the (early) morning

I was studying this exact subject this morn; is the 357 acceptable for deer hunting?

The overall general consensus (I've been studying this exact subject since 1978) is no.
While the 357 Magnum cartridge accounts for many deer each year it comes from the hands of very experienced hunter/shooters.
Power, while minimal, can be sufficient (I'm certain my 180g R-P JHP @ 1400fps from my 7.5" Redhawk will work, slower from my 5.5" version).
But only just so, and distance destroys this cartridges' already-minimal efficiency.

NO! for black bear; again, 'sufficient', but NOT a good choice.

Simple answer: 44 Magnum Redhawk (mine's the 5.5").
Complex answer: 45 Colt only if you handload, or can afford the right gun n ammo (I have the 5.5" Redhawk); also in this predicament is the 41 Magnum (mine's in another 5.5" Redhawk).

So, if you really wanna, go get a Redhawk and good ammo........

See, I studied and studied and I ended up with five Redhawks...I got two 4" GP's, too, but them Redhawks, bear and deer run through my yard regularly.....
"all my ammo is mostly retired factory ammo"
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Old January 2, 2006, 12:11 AM   #12
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I used a Dan Wesson 8" barrel .357 Mag with hot 158 gr. Hornady's handloads and a 2.5x pistol scope. Worked great on Missouri whitetails with clean kills out to 40 yards. Now using a Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Mag with 2.5x scope and warm 180gr. Hornady handloads. Worked well this year at 45 yards. Key is bullet placement. The .357 tore up a lot less meat.
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Old January 2, 2006, 12:15 AM   #13
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I've read and heard that 10MM works well with full loads. Anyone here use it?
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Old January 2, 2006, 11:40 AM   #14
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I've had good success with the 10mm with proper full power loadings.....mainly the 200 gr XTP at speeds around 1200 fps. I've also shoot a few with 44 mags and it is of course more effective and offers greater range. I have skinned a few shoot with 357 mags, and generally not been impressed. If I were to hunt with a 357, I would look at the various 180 gr bullets, and keep my distances short.
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Old January 3, 2006, 12:57 AM   #15
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I may have missed it but incase I didnt I'll mention it. How about a .454 Casull? I took mine deer hunting this year and I didnt even have a chance to shoot at a deer but I know it has plenty of power to do the job. My two main loads are a 300gr Hornady XTP at about 1700 or so fps and a 360gr Cast Performance lead bullet at 1340fps. These both hit hard. You could also look into a Magnum Reasearch BFR in 45-70, .444 Marlin or even 500 S&W
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Old January 3, 2006, 09:34 AM   #16
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I have been thinking about the 454 cassull, but it just seems like a lot more gun than I need (mostly because of price and finding a used one). I can't afford to buy a BFR now, so I am thinking Ruger. I have never heard anything bad about one besides that they are "overbuilt." I can find a 44 mag, 41 mag or 45 colt at any local shop and trade an old shotgun for it and maybe $100. Just seems too hard to pass up. I also really like the 480 Ruger on paper, but I have never seen a used one. I have no intentions of using this gun on anything bigger than deer and maybe black bear.

It seems as though a lot of people like the 45 colt, but my Lyman 48th edition does not any very impressive loads, so I am wondering about all the people hunting with it? What is an accepted performance from this caliber?
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Old January 3, 2006, 01:42 PM   #17
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The Big one got away from my 357 this year...

I set out opening morning this year with just my Taurus Titanium Tracker 6.5". Round about 7am a doe and a huge wall hanger buck show up at my stand. As the buck comes into 30 yards, I sighted for his near shoulder and squeezed off a shot. The shot instantly flipped the buck to his back and he thrashed around and rolled about doing what I thought was nerve kicks. All of his movement came to a halt as I sat there and admired the size of the big buck and thought where this one may fit on the wall. This was a big boy as it rivaled the size of my last year's trophy taken in the same spot at the same time of 244 lbs dressed and 151" green score. After about 5 minutes passed, I got down to take a closer look and to field dress my kill. As I hit the first step down on my ladder, I heard him thrash again. Thinking he was going to need another shot, I spun around and sat back on stand again. As I turned back around, I saw him pushing his way through the brush on his breast bone with his rear legs. I leveled off with my 357 on him again and squeezed off another shot only to hear "CLICK" with no shot. I gave it the SA 2 more times only to hear "CLICK", "CLICK" again. It seems that the cylinder wasn't advancing to a new chamber. Although this was maddening, it really isn't my point. My point would be that even though I hit the animal good and hit it hard, with a 357 more than likely it will take more than one shot on a large deer. This large buck left a good blood trail for 1/2 mile and then it dried up. I searched the area for 2 days to no avail. It was evident that it regained use of its far shoulder but was still not using the near shoulder within the 1/2 mile.

Now with that said, here is the handload that I was shooting. I had a 125 grain HP loaded hot and I chronographed it at a scorching 1700 fps. The 125 grain bullet by all of the ballistic charts would deliver the most energy in this gun. This load also gave me good killing accuracy out at 100 yards. I think the problem was that this bullet delivered an enormous amount of energy in the form of shock and not in penetration hence the animal kicking and rolling while it recovered from the shock of the first bullet.

My friend has the identical gun, and shooting the same handloads on the same morning he dropped a medium sized (150# dressed) 8 point buck in its track with a single shot at 70 yards. He hit the deer in the near shoulder as I did, and the bullet did not pass through.

I wont be loading the 125 grainers for deer anymore, even given the above success story. I am looking to work up a good load using a 158-180 grain bullet that will put the big boys down easier. My gun has been sent back to Taurus with my frustrations noted on the malfunction, and I am hoping that next year has a better outcome. The Taurus Titanium Revolvers are incredible if you havent tried one. I just think I got the problem on as my friend has has no issues with his.

So to answer the original question, Yes a 357 is enough for deer. This is true if it can be shot accurately and bullets placed well, and you have the ability to follow up with accurate shots. I bought the 357 in the Titanium Tracker because I like to shoot alot and it just plain felt good in my hand. If I were to buy a Titanium Taurus just for deer hunting I would opt for the 41 mag that they offer. To put in perspective the power of the 357, it has as much power at the muzzle as my 7mm Rem Mag has left at 1000 yards. Yep, you better make that shot good............

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Old January 3, 2006, 04:38 PM   #18
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colt loads

it because you book has loads only for the single action army and it replicas(around 15,000 cup) the blackhawk,vaquero,bisley,freedomarms,or tc contender can run at 30,000 cup at that level you can push a 300 grain xtp at 1290 fps to put it in persepective a 44 can push a 300 grain xtp at 1310 fps the colt passes the 44 once you get lead bullet weights of 330,340,360----------------- i personaly use a load of 22.0 grains of h110 and a 300 grain xtp (the max is 22.2 according to hodgodon) it was the most accurate and according to the chrono it comes out my barrel 1195 fps 5.5" barrel
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Old January 4, 2006, 05:56 PM   #19
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Handgun hunting

I carry a Ruger Redhawk .41 Rem Mag with Leupold scope. Ideal caliber in humble opinion.
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