The Best Handguns for Deer Hunting

The author takes a shot with the Nosler Model 48 Custom Handgun. Richard Mann

Deer hunting with handguns is challenging because it typically requires you to get within almost bow range to make a good shot. But there are some handguns that—if you can shoot—will allow you take a deer at what many would consider rifle ranges. Deer-hunting handguns include revolvers, semi-automatics, and single shots. Some are small and light enough that you can shoot them without support. Others—some of which are chambered for rifle cartridges—are so big and heavy you’re going to need shooting sticks, a bipod, or some other sort of rest to steady them. Here’s a look at nine of the best options with a few hand cannons thrown in for good measure or silliness, whichever you prefer.

The Best Deer Hunting Handguns

Deer-Hunting Revolvers

Colt PythonSmith & Wesson 586 Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter Korth NRX Hunter 

Deer-Hunting Pistols

TC Arms G2 Contender Tisas 1911D10 PistolGlock G40 Gen 4 MOS Nosler Model 48 Custom Handgun Wilson Combat Hunter

The Best Revolvers For Hunting Deer 

The revolver was the original American handgun. They became prominent in the 1850s with Sam Colt’s revolutionary designs. Revolvers have an advantage over semi-automatic pistols in that they can fire much more powerful cartridges, and their single-action trigger pull is generally very good. Of course, you don’t need a lot of power to kill a deer; I’ve taken quite a few with my .327 Federal Magnum. However, with the extra power revolvers can provide, you can extend your range.

Colt Python

PRODUCT CARD 

Why it made the cut

The Colt Python is an American classic and is considered to be one of the nicest modern revolvers out there.

Pros

Excellent Fit and FinishLong sight radius in 6-inch gun

Cons

Only offered in .357 Magnum

Considered by many to be the Cadillac of American-made revolvers, the Colt Python is now back in production and is available with either a 3-, 4.25- or 6-inch barrel. All three are chambered for the .357 Mangum. The three-inch barreled version is a little short for hunting and the 4.25-inch barreled Python will carry much easier than the 6-inch option. But the 6-inch gun gives you the longest sight radius which will allow you to reach out to nearly the maximum range at which a 357 Magnum handgun is suitable for deer. All three are fitted with adjustable sights and are light enough that you can shoot them off-hand without support.

Smith & Wesson 586 

Why it Made the Cut

Once a popular duty gun for police, The S&W 586 is an extremely reliable revolver.

Pros

Rugged Accurate

Cons

There isn’t a lot wrong with the 586 or 686

If the Python is the Cadillac of American revolvers, the S&W 586 & 686 revolvers are the Jeeps. For many years both were the most popular duty guns found in the holsters of American cops. In fact, a 686 was my first duty handgun. They’re rugged, accurate, and can still be had for less than a grand. Like the Python, both can be had with a 4- or 6-inch barrel and size and weight are comparable. These revolvers come with adjustable sights, but you can also find mounts that will allow you to attach a handgun scope or a reflex sight, and both will help you shoot a bit better, especially at distance. The 586 is the blued version and comes with wood grips, the 686 is stainless steel and has a rubber grip. A red-ramped front sight is standard with both models.

Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter

Why it made the cut

Single-action revolvers are still extremely relevant for deer hunting and the Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter is a great example of this kind of firearm. 

Pros 

Specifically designed for hunting Can be shot offhand

Cons

Single-action only

Unlike the Colt and the Smith, this Ruger is a single-action revolver, which means you’ll have to cock the hammer before each shot. That’s not really a detractor, for the best accuracy with any revolver you’ll want to shoot it in the single-action mode. While the Python and the 686 are more tailored to defensive or recreational shooting, this Blackhawk was made for hunting. It’s chambered for the .44 Magnum, comes with adjustable sights, and has Ruger-scope-base cuts milled into the full-length rib on the barrel. This revolver weighs a bit more than the Colt or Smith but it’s still light enough you can shoot it off-hand without support.

Korth NRX Hunter

The Korth NRX Hunter Korth

Why it made the cut

The Korth NRX could be considered one of the best hunting revolvers made today, but it will cost you. 

Pros

Smooth actionExceptional fit and finish

Cons 

Expensive

The best of anything is generally very expensive. The Korth NRX Hunter will not kill your deer any deader than these other revolvers, but you can bet your firstborn it will shoot smoother and be just as accurate. You can also rest assured you’ll be the envy of everyone in deer camp. The NRX is chambered for the .44 Mangum and has a 7.5-inch barrel, rail space for optics, lights, or lasers, adjustable sights, a new style cylinder release, finger-grooved laminated grips, and the slickest trigger action you’ve ever felt on any revolver. And at six grand, it also has the ability to cause a divorce.

The Best Hunting Pistols for Deer 

The term pistol is generally used to denote a semi-automatic handgun. However, the technical definition for a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral to the barrel. This would include bolt action and single-shot handguns. There are a lot to choose from in this category, especially if you consider the now-discontinued but excellent bolt-action Remington XP 100. However, when it comes to new pistols, here are five of the best currently available.

TC Arms G2 Contender

Why it made the cut

It’s one of the most popular hunting handguns ever made. The TC Arms contender has proven itself for years as an easy-to-use, extremely reliable pistol. 

Pros 

Simple designIncredibly versatile

Cons 

Single shot 

Possibly the premier hunting handgun of all time, the TC Arms G2 Contender is a single shot, but with its barrel interchangeability feature, it’s can shoot just about any cartridge—including rifle cartridges. G2 Contender grips and forends are available in either walnut or black composite and TC Arms offers 18 different barrels, in 11 different chamberings, and in two different lengths and finishes. (Lots of aftermarket Contender barrels are available too.) TC barrels come with adjustable sights, but optics mounts are available. With the 12- or 14-inch TC barrel, the G2 is just slightly heavier than a Python or a 686. However, it’s much longer and for the best shooting, sticks or some other support will be needed.

Tisas 1911D10 Pistol

The Tisas 1911D10 Pistol Tisas

Why it made the cut

This affordable 1911 clone is a great way to get into hunting with a 10mm. 

Pros 

Lightweight when compared to revolver Affordable

Cons

Less power than a .357 Magnum, but still sufficient for deer

Over the last decade there seems to have been a renewed interest in handgun hunting, particularly with 10mm pistols. Though not quite at the power level of a .357 Revolver, the 10mm is more than sufficient for deer, and 10mm pistols weigh about a pound less than six-inch revolvers. This makes them much easier to wield for fast action shooting without being tethered to shooting sticks or a rest. 1911-style 10mms are probably the most popular choice for the 10mm, and the D10 from Tisas is a very affordable and good shooting option. It’s a combination of stainless and blued steel, and comes with a hammer forged 5-inch barrel, an ambidextrous safety, a checkered front strap, and G-10 grips.

Glock G40 Gen 4 MOS

Why it made the cut

If you’re used to shooting a Glock and would like to hunt deer with one, the G40 is probably your best option. 

Pros 

Long sight radiuslightweight and durable

Cons 

Only comes with fixed sights

If you prefer plastic pistols, this gun is the way to go, and it comes with a six-inch barrel and long slide to match. This not only increases your sight radius, but it will also give a bit of velocity boost to the 10mm cartridge. On the downside, the G40 only comes with fixed sights, but on the upside, the slide has an optics cut for the attachment of a reflex sight of your choice. I think this pistol is uglier than Cyrano de Bergerac, but it may be the best buy out there when it comes to a semi-automatic pistol for deer hunting. It also has a standard magazine capacity of 15, so if you suck at shooting you won’t run out of ammunition before that big buck gets out of sight.

Nosler Model 48 Custom Handgun

Why it made the cut

This premium bolt-action pistol from Nolser will probably outshoot your deer rifle. It’s the perfect choice for a serious handgun hunter. 

Pros 

Exceptional accuracyHigh-quality craftsmanship

Cons 

Heavy Expensive

If I were to get serious about deer hunting with a handgun, this is the pistol I would buy. It’s available in six chamberings from .22 Nosler to .308 Winchester, and with a 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-, or 18-inch barrel. This is a single-shot, bolt-action pistol that will drive tacks and probably outshoot your favorite deer rifle. The Shilen 416R stainless barrel is free-floated in a one-piece billet aluminum stock, and the barrel and action are Cerakoted. Of course, the downside to this sniper-like handgun is weight; I own big game rifles that weigh less, and you won’t be off-hand shooting whitetails with this gun. The Nosler Model 48 Custom handgun is a bit pricy, but like I said—“If I were to get serious about deer hunting with a handgun…”

Wilson Combat Hunter

Why it made the cut

The Wilson Combat Hunter is probably one of the, if not the, best 1911 pistol for hunting ever made. 

Pros

Available in 10mm or 460 RowlandCustom-level build quality

Cons

Price

Just as you can pony up a lot of cash for a premier hunting revolver, you can do the same for a premier hunting pistol. Wilson Combat 1911s are generally regarded as the best 1911s made by anyone, anywhere, and the Hunter pistol is Wilson Combat’s interpretation of what a hunting handgun should be. It is available in 10mm or 460 Rowland—a modified .45 Auto cartridge—and comes with low profile adjustable sights, and a 5.5-inch single-port compensated barrel. The Hunter also comes out of the box with a set of Crimson Trace laser grips and an accuracy guarantee of one inch at 25 yards. Fit and finish are beyond exceptional, and its price, unless you married well, is out of reach for most deer hunters.

Would You Take a Hand Cannon Deer Hunting? 

For deer hunting, hand cannons firing thumb-size cartridges live on the edge of ridiculousness. They put me in the mind of killing flies with a sledgehammer. However, some folks like to kill the hell out of the deer they hunt, and these handguns will let them do that with a wrist-twisting roar.

One of the best options that’s a bit shy of absurdity is the Ruger Super Redhawk 454 Casull. With it you have the option of also shooting the lesser recoiling, but still deer capable, .45 Colt ammunition. 

Smith & Wesson’s Model 350 revolver is chambered for the 350 Legend. It would make a good companion to a 350 Legend rifle, allowing you to cowboy up and have a rifle and revolver that would share ammunition. You know, just in case you get in a running gun battle with a herd of deer.

And then there is the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 460. Yeah, it’s a bit much for deer but you never know when that mega-buck wearing body armor might wander by. Saying you need anything bigger than these handguns for deer—something like the 500 Smith & Wesson—is like saying you need a 416 Rigby rifle for the same. If you buy a 500 Smith & Wesson for deer hunting, the price will not matter, because you don’t have enough sense to make good decisions anyway.

Field & Stream is dedicated to covering safe and responsible gun ownership for hunting, recreation, and personal protection. We participate in affiliate advertising programs only with trusted online retailers in the firearms space. If you purchase a firearm using the links in this story, we may earn commission.

The post The Best Handguns for Deer Hunting appeared first on Field & Stream.

Articles may contain affiliate links which enable us to share in the revenue of any purchases made.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.