For most big game hunters, rifles are the ideal weapon. However, some hunters prefer handguns for big games because of their convenience. Carrying a heavy rifle on your back in the wild is not something hunters enjoy. Unless you’re hunting from a stationary spot, a handgun makes a great alternative.
The big question most hunters ask is whether a handgun can kill a big game like a deer. Well, this is where handgun calibers come into play. You need to choose the right handgun caliber for big game hunting. Most handgun calibers generate slow muzzle velocities. This calls for proper selection of the caliber
According to ShootTheRock, when choosing a handgun caliber, penetration is crucial. You need to match the cartridge to the intended game. While any handgun caliber can kill a critter, you need a much more powerful handgun caliber to kill a mature buck.
Best handguns calibers for big game hunting
The .357 Magnum: Best for hunting bears weighing up to 400 pounds
The .357 Magnum is America’s first magnum and one of the best handgun calibers for hunting bears weighing up to 400 pounds. It is an entry-level cartridge and one that is widely available. The caliber is pretty easy to master by any serious shooter. The caliber features lightweight jacketed hollow points. It was a mainstay for defense and the police for a while.
The bullet expands wide and drives deep into the big game leading to massive tissue destruction. It can deliver up to 500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy making it a suitable selection. The bullet jacket comes fused to the bullet core making it expand wide as it penetrates the target. This is a great choice caliber with skull-crushing and bone-breaking performance.
While there are several loads to consider, the .357 Magnum makes a great choice for big game hunting.
10mm: Best for hunting deer over 500 pounds feral hogs and wild boar
This is our second choice handgun caliber and a great choice when hunting wild boar, feral hogs, and deer. While you can use other caliber cartridges like the .357 Magnum and Federal Magnum for such a game, the 10mm ammo stands out as the best choice. When hunting big game, things can get out of handy pretty fast when you take the first shot. You need a caliber cartridge with a higher capacity and semi-automatic capability. This is where the 10mm wins over other cartridges giving shooters an edge.
The 10mm is a top-choice handgun caliber and once a favorite for the FBI. Its popularity in the FBI started to wane with the introduction of the .40 S&W. However, the caliber gained a lot of interest in the hunting industry. It is a popular choice for semi-automatic handguns. Overall, the 10mm is a versatile handgun caliber with a muzzle velocity of 1500fps.
The .44 Remington Magnum: Best for hunting up to 750 pounds of elk
This is a widely recognized handgun caliber and with a lot of evidence to support big game hunting. It is a more powerful option capable of delivering up to 30% more energy than the .357 Magnum. There are also wide ranges of loads available. The .44 Magnum hits hard and launches big heavy bullets. You can be sure of leaving voluminous wound cavities in animals. However, be prepared for a heavy recoil on small handguns.
Overall, this is another exciting choice handgun caliber with muzzle velocities of 1300fps. The caliber is a great choice when you need to take down big elks.
The .45 Colt: Best for hunting moose up to 1300 pounds
This is one of the oldest caliber cartridges and has been around since the late 1800s. It had an initial muzzle velocity of 750fps capable of pushing 250-grain bullets. This led to a maximum of 300 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. While this appears weak, it can still kill deer and bucks. However, there are new upgrades in the new modern .45 Colt. The modern 200-grain .45 Colt generates about 450 foot-pounds of energy. It is relatively anemic and deadly on more powerful handguns.
The .45 Colt is evenly deadlier than the .44 Remington when used on strong handguns like the Ruger Blackhawk.
The .32 H&R Magnum: Best for hunting small deer and javelin
This is our final choice handgun hunting caliber for the big game. It is an often overlooked hunting cartridge but one you seriously need to consider. The .32 H&R Magnum is a pretty versatile caliber capable of working with most handguns. It operates as a powerband between the .357 Magnum and the .22 Long Rifle. This caliber can easily take on deer and feral hogs. However, it works best for game weighing less than 100 pounds like the javelin.
Handgun hunting can be quite enjoyable when you have the right cartridge caliber. Hunters can derive greater satisfaction without carrying heavy and long rifles. Make sure you know the type of game to hunt and choose a matching caliber.