Handgun hunting

Handgun hunting is challenging but a useful skill.

Hunting with a handgun is a purely American sport at its roots. Largely this is because handgun ownership is not permitted in most other places in the world. While it may seem daunting to limit oneself to such close distances, stalking within handgun range of your game can be a very rewarding exercise.

Mastering the art of marksmanship with a hand cannon is no small feat. The late Jack O’Connor, although arguably one of the most skilled of riflemen, was a self-admittedly poor pistol shot. Inversely, most good pistoleros are also excellent riflemen. So what’s the deal?

In short, it’s been my experience that a pistol betrays the mistakes you make as a rifle shooter — in many cases, it even magnifies them. Things you can get away with on a long gun are huge no-no’s with a handgun. Consistent grip, sight picture and trigger squeeze are even more important if you wish to hit your targets. One should start out at close range with a .22 handgun to practice fundamentals and develop their skills. As you practice, your groups will shrink, and your effective range will increase. Once you’ve mastered a .22, you may desire more power. Although some prefer a .41 or .44, a great next step is the .357 Magnum.

Now before you choose a rail with which to run me out of town upon, allow me to make a case. The .357 is a classic, powerful, versatile load useful for both hunting and self-defense. Handguns thusly chambered can also use the more even tempered .38 Special cartridge for practice and plinking. The available factory bullet weights range from 110 to 180 grains. And for use against those pesky buzzing reptiles CCI manufactures a lethal shotshell load, turning your .357 into a close range, small-bore shotgun.

I’m sure all of my readers are wise enough to wear proper hearing protection whenever they shoot, but it is even more prudent to do so with a .357. If there is one fly in the ointment concerning a .357, it is that exceedingly concussive muzzle blast. Tinnitus is no joke, I can truly tell you.

Over the years I’ve taken small game like squirrels and rabbits, raccoons and skunks and a handful of badgers with various handguns. Just recently I took my first coyote with a 25-yard offhand shot with my Ruger .357 as you can see in the accompanying graphic. These experiences have my wheels turning about possibly trying for bigger game with a pistol.

If you’re up for a challenge or wishing to hone your skills as a pistolero, give handgun hunting a try. It’s a useful skill in any case, and it may just help you fill the freezer someday!

Have you ever hunted with a handgun? Any tips to share? Write us at shootingthebreezebme@gmail.com!

Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.

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