If you were going to consider deer hunting with a handgun, what would be the smallest or preferred caliber that you would contemplate using ?
Assuming that a 9mm would pass the game law requirements, would you consider it or would something more potent be in order ?
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As for your question, I'd probably set the minimum caliber at the .357 Magnum, using heavier bullets. You don't say where you live or will be hunting, and this can affect hunting terrain as well as the size of the deer, which SHOULD affect your choices. If the deer are large and the terrain rather open, then bigger calibers might be a better choice (assuming you shoot them with the same level of skill -- a big assumption, for most folks). If the critters are smaller and hunted up-close in dense cover, a less powerful caliber might be suitable. My brother has taken deer with a .45 ACP, but he gets close and he's an excellent shot. I generally use a .44 Magnum, but I live and hunt in more open areas where a longer shot might be taken (within responsible limits, of course), and the deer are bigger in the North-Central plains than in, say, the deep South, or Texas. I would consider taking a small deer with a 9mm under highly controlled conditions -- a solid/steady shooting position, close range, un-spooked critter, and a high level of confidence in an accurate load with a deep-penetrating premium bullet. I would NOT make a habit of it.
"Placement is power" -- seen in an article by Stephen A. Camp
(RIP, Mr. Camp; you will be remembered, and missed)
The 10mm is the smallest semi-auto that I would consider for hunting deer or feral hogs. I have a Glock 20 that is a legitimate 25 yard pistol, that can be safely loaded to .41 Magnum levels. I don't hunt with it, but I carry it when squirrel or rabbit hunting, in case I encounter feral hogs. I have hit paper plates with it at 50 yards, but not on any kind of regular basis.
If I were going to 'actively' hunt with a handgun, I would use nothing smaller than a .44 magnum, mainly because they are accurate at longer distances.
Living in South Alabama with the terrain the way it is, You will rarely get a long shot (150 yds+), and usually most are around 75yds- even with a rifle. I use a Ruger Blackhawk .357mag with a 6 1/2" barrel and a 4x32 scope as my "tree stand" gun. With 158gr HP's, it works well even out to 50yds. And where I hunt, you can barely see out to 50 yds. As for an auto loader, 10mm, or 45acp would be the smallest for deer at close range, although a 9mm will do for rabbits.
BTW in Alabama, unless I read the regs wrong, any center fire pistol with a minimum of a 4" barrel is legal for "big game" and any rim fire with a minimum of a 4" barrel, is legal for "small game". You also have to take into consideration magazine capacity regulations, which for rifles is 10rds. I haven't seen anything on pistols though. And, depending on the game warden, center fire hand guns are not allowed on state management areas while small game hunting or bow hunting as they are classified as "Big game" guns.
I once took a deer with a .38spl, but I wouldn't recommend it. A .357mag would be the lightest I would use.
I shot a deer in the head with a .45 acp once,hollow point.
There are also the massive Desert Eagle pistols in .50 AE , .44 & .357 magnum that I think would be good for larger game if you wanted an autoloader.
If I were going to 'actively' hunt with a handgun, I would use nothing smaller than a .44 magnum, mainly because they are accurate at longer distances.[/QUOTE]
.44 mag., for the sake of the deer. A one shot kill is the goal and the .44 is a well proven round for the job.
it would depend on the typical size of deer in my area, the terrain and the way I was going to hunt. I do not hunt just to be hunting, I hunt to test ammo performance on flesh. So, if I wanted to test, say, CorBon's 100 gr PowrBall 9mm on deer, I would use bowhunter tactics, like a tree stand, keep the range inside 15 yds, and be very, very careful with the shot, wear electronic earmuffs, etc. If a typical shot was 40 yds or so, I'd want a 460 Rowland 1911. lw Commander. I see no point in using some abortion that is not really a sidearm. it's like not running around all 4 bases, but claiming you got a home run. Why not do it right, and use a real handgun?