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Handgun Hunting: Can You Hunt With a Pistol?

Dakota Potts | Updated February 22, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Handgun Hunting cover photo with a revolver and a scope and a box of ammo

Are you wanting to bag your bull, buck, or boar with a handgun instead of a long rifle that you must lug back and forth? It can be done!

There are some things you need to consider when choosing a handgun for hunting, such as the caliber and type of revolver people most typically choose.

Let us investigate the options you have so you can make an informed decision.

What Handgun Should You Choose?

multiple handguns on a fur rug

There are many different types of handguns to choose from. The most popular types for hunting are revolvers, semi-automatics, single shots, and bolt actions. They each have unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to hunting, so you will want to do your research and find which works best for you.

The Advantages of a Big Bore Revolver

When it comes to revolvers, you can choose either a single or double action revolver. Double actions tend to reset faster, making them better for the hunter. Revolvers tend to be light and easy to travel with.

If you plan to add a sight or other accessory, you will want to ensure up front that the revolver you get will accept add-ons.

One of the best revolvers you can choose is the BFR .500 JRH. This weapon delivers accuracy and a hard-hitting bullet with little energy on your part. It utilizes the same type of ammo as a .500 S&W, but it has a shorter barrel, making it easier to travel with and handle.

BFR .500 JRH with bullets on a white cloth

A Semi-Automatic Might Be a Good Choice

A semi-auto pistol is great if you think you will be hunting a moving target. They offer immediate action when necessary. The issue is that they do not hold as many rounds as a revolver can, and do not offer as much power.

Depending on what you are hunting, this will not be an issue. Semi-automatics are limited in a good caliber for bigger game, so you would want to use them more for hunting medium to small-sized game such as deer or wild hogs.

The downside of semi-automatics is that they are not well suited for optics. This is just because of the way they are made. If you are wanting to add optics to your pistol, a semi-automatic may not be the right choice for you.

The Glock 20, in 10mm auto, uses magazines that have an upwards count of 15 or so rounds. This makes it nice when hunting so you do not have to stop and reload or reset your weapon after every shot. This is especially helpful if you are hunting large game that may take more shots to take down or if you are hunting a pack of prey.

Single Shot Pistols Can Pack a Punch

Single-shot pistols are true to their name. You have one shot to get the job done and if you botch it, you will not be able to load another round before your target gets away. If you are looking for versatility, however, this may be the option for you.

You can use different cartridges, some of which are more often used in long-range rifles. This gives you a boost in velocity, giving you a flatter shooting, harder-hitting bullet. This gives you the potential to hunt larger prey or makes it more likely that you will bag your target on the first shot instead of having to use multiple rounds.

You can also easily add a scope to a single-shot pistol, but the weight of the scope could throw off the overall balance since single shots are typically more lightweight.

When comparing the single-shot power to other weapons, you can see an increase in velocity and power. The Hornady 140-gr. XTP .357 Mag. load in a 4-inch revolver compared side by side with the 14 ¾-inch T/C Encore single-shot showed that the T/C Encore single shot had an increased velocity of over 500 feet per second. What an increase of power!

If you are looking for pure power to help, take down your target, the Encore single-shot is something you want to investigate.

Bolt Action Pistols

Bolt-action pistols have the same pros and cons as a single-shot pistol. There are fewer options of caliber to choose from, and there are fewer handguns in general to find. You will be searching for a bolt-action pistol in used gun stores or from private sellers.

There are a few good options to seek on this market, including the Savage Striker, Weatherby CFP, and Remington XP-100. These are powerful weapons and will take down some decently sized game, but you have fewer options of calibers and you will not likely be able to find a newer version of the weapon like you can when looking at other types of pistols.

As far as caliber size, you will first want to consult the regulations required in your state for handgun hunting. Outside of that, the level of caliber you choose will depend on what you are wanting to hunt. For hunting deer, antelope, wild hogs, and the like with a revolver, you will at least want a .357 magnum.

Your options when using a single-shot handgun are wide open, with many different types available. Bolt-action handguns offer fewer choices in cartridges, but you can switch out the barrel size to whatever you are wanting to use.

In addition, with the single-shots and the bolt-actions, you can use loads that are marketed towards rifles. You will want to keep in mind that the velocity may differ between weapons, though, since the barrel length will not be the same. This can affect both the strength with which the bullet moves forward and your accuracy.


nighthawk custom pistol close up

Hunting with handguns can seem weird at first if you are not used to it, but it will require the same passion and commitment as when hunting with a rifle. Preparation and practice make perfect, so you will want to get used to your handgun and the caliber you choose to hunt with.

If you switch between, be sure you target practice some to ensure you hit your prey the first time, especially with a single-shot! Now, get out there and hunt!

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