Bucks From the Hip: 4 Great Handguns for Deer Hunting
Photos by Adam Voorhes In the sport of hunting deer with handguns dwells the spirit of the cowboy who lived...
Photos by Adam Voorhes
In the sport of hunting deer with handguns dwells the spirit of the cowboy who lived by his six-shooter. Today’s handgun options include long-barreled quasi-rifles chambered for super-magnum rounds. We know, though, that true handgun hunting means revolvers and semiauto pistols, optical sights optional: The challenge is getting close enough (about bow range) and finding the proper rest for a solid hit. Special handgun seasons can add days afield, but hunting with a pistol is a thrill anytime—particularly with any of these four excellent models.
Chiappa Firearms Revolver Rhino 60DS
SPECS .357** magnum single/double-action, six-shot revolver • 33.1 oz. • 6″ barrel • Adjustable fiber-optic sights • 71⁄8″ sight radius
****THE LOWDOWN** With its barrel at the bottom of the cylinder, this innovative Italian gun directs recoil straight back, reducing muzzle jump. Buffalo Bore Heavy .357 Mag 180-grain lead flat-noses averaged 1436 fps and produced adequate hunting accuracy, with some groups out to 9 inches. The trigger pull ranged from 6 to 10 pounds.
****HITS**** A very tame magnum, with a slick double action.
****MISSES **Single-action cocking and trigger proved somewhat erratic, about like trying to shoot a gun in a bad dream.
****WHO SHOULD BUY**** Anyone who wants a mild-shooting .357 that looks as if it came out of Blade Runner.
****Nighthawk Custom Heinie Long Slide Auto****
SPECS 10mm single-action semiauto (eight-shot magazine) • 43.1 oz. • 6″ barrel • Adjustable Trijicon tritium rear sight and front dot • 63⁄4″ sight radius
****THE LOWDOWN The Long Slide 10mm Auto gets the most out of Jeff Cooper’s rival to the .41 mag, producing 1350-fps average velocity with 180-grain Federal Premium Trophy Bonded loads. It comes with sticker shock, but it’s a superb piece of craftsmanship, with a skeleton hammer and trigger, fine checkering, and a satin-smooth 4-pound trigger.
****HITS Most accurate pistol tested; best group was 4 inches.
****MISSES**** Very expensive. Some minor feeding problems with soft-nosed hunting ammunition.
****WHO SHOULD BUY **The deer hunter who wants custom quality on his hip—and can pay for it.
****Ruger Super Redhawk****
SPECS**** .480 Ruger single/double-action, six-shot revolver • 53.4 oz. • 71⁄2″ barrel • Adjustable white-outline Patridge rear sight with orange front ramp • 91⁄8″ sight radius
****THE LOWDOWN Discontinued in the late 2000s, the Super Redhawk in Ruger’s own .480 caliber is now back, in satin-stainless-steel style with a top strap machined to accept included Ruger rings. The .480 recoils just above the .44 mag. Shooting 370-grain Buffalo Bore Heavy bullets, it averaged 1259 fps—without mega-magnum torque. With a crisp 6-pound trigger, it produced 6- to 8-inch groups.
****HITS******** Bigger than .44s and .45s with manageable recoil.
****MISSES Actions not as finely tuned as the Smith & Wesson.
****WHO SHOULD BUY **The deer hunter wanting rugged Ruger strength, who might also have bigger game in mind.
****Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter****
SPECS .44 magnum single/double-action, six-shot revolver • 54.6 oz. • 71⁄2″ barrel • Adjustable Patridge rear sight with orange front ramp and included red/green-dot reflex sight • 101⁄4″ sight radius
****THE LOWDOWN Synonymous with deer hunting (and in time Dirty Harry), this classic continues to evolve, as seen in this stainless-steel model. Hornady Custom 240-grain XTP rounds averaged 1527 fps, and recoil with a compensator was substantial yet tolerable. Very clean 4-pound trigger pull, with accuracy on par with the Ruger.
****HITS**** Clean, tuned double action, and excellent single action.
****MISSES The black-and-chrome finish isn’t for everyone.
****WHO SHOULD BUY **A hunter who wants a handgun with a long tradition and proven reliability on deer.
Fellow shooter Leroy Van Buggenum and I shot each gun at a 33-yard target on a cool, overcast day at 5,000 feet of elevation in northern Wyoming. To test velocity, we shot five bullets from each gun through a Chrony Alpha chronograph and averaged their speeds. For accuracy, we fired five-shot groups, using iron sights and a rest (plus a bunch of other rounds just to goof about). We weighed each gun, unloaded, on an electronic scale, measured length with a steel tape, and checked trigger pulls with a Lyman digital gauge. ** **
Photographs by Adam Voorhes. Prop styling by Robin Finlay.