By Pete Rogers
Selecting the right handgun for big game hunting can be daunting. There are so many excellent choices. Narrowing this down to five is going to leave some out. Here is a list of some of the finest handguns available for big game hunters. The choices are often based on a variety of options. Size of the game hunted, and balance and weight of the gun. Will you be spotting and stalking or sitting in a blind? All of this plays into the choices. Thankfully, many manufacturers have a host of options to choose from. With all of this said, here are some of the best handguns for hunting big game, both in North America and across the globe.
Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum
First is a personal and longtime favorite: the Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Remington Magnum. (MSRP $829) This classic wheelgun is one that has stood the test of time. The weight balance and look of the Blackhawk make it an excellent choice. Choose the seven-inch barrel and top it with quality optics. This gun can kill deer sized game out to just over 100 yards. The .44 Remington Magnum is arguably the best choice for handgun hunters for most game sought. The single-action revolver is powerful and capable of handling the heaviest rounds. Thankfully, Hornady makes their LeveRevolution bullets in this popular caliber, and these in your handgun will increase accuracy exponentially.
Taurus Raging Bull .454 Casull
Staying in the wheelguns, the Taurus Raging Bull in .454 Casull (MSRP $1,129) has been thought to be too much gun for most game. But the .454 Casull in a 300 grain bullet carries over 1600 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle. This caliber is exceptional when hunting larger game like elk, moose and even bears. Some of the great attributes of the Taurus Raging Bull are the comfortable grips that help the felt recoil. You will not be underpowered with this comfortable shooting revolver. The built-in porting from Taurus allows for the recoil to be manageable. The one drawback to the Raging Bull series is the absence of drilled and tapped optics mounting locations. For my aging eyes, optics are always a good choice. Thankfully Taurus saw this and introduced in 2018 the Raging Hunter, (MSRP: $919) currently available in .44 Rem. Mag, the Raging hunter comes with a tactical rail to accommodate a variety of optics options.
Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum
Some hunters who target smaller whitetail and or antelope prefer a little lighter load. For this it is hard to beat the Smith and Wesson 686 Plus Double Action Revolver in .357 Magnum (MSRP: $849). The .357 magnum is thought by some to be on the light side for most game; however, the .357 magnum is plenty capable of killing whitetail deer, antelope and even pigs at reasonable ranges. The light 500 ft. lbs. of energy make this a close-range gun for deer. An advantage of the .357 magnum is its ability to shoot .38 special ammo as well. This makes getting used to your gun a lot less expensive.
Freedom Arms Model 83 Single Action
Last of the revolvers is arguably some of the finest of handguns being made today. Freedom Arms single-action model 83 (MSRP: $2,495) revolvers are a thing of beauty and functionality. These five shot revolvers are built to handle the incredible power, pressure and recoil from the biggest guns made. If you are willing to wait for your gun (and pay for it), you might as well get the biggest they make. The Freedom Arms .500 Wyoming Express shoots a thumb-sized bullet at 400 grains at a whopping 1250 ft/sec. carrying 1,387 ft/lbs. of energy. This gun will stop anything in its tracks! And I mean anything. If you want to kill the biggest animals that walk with your handgun, the Freedom Arms .500 Wyoming Express is a gun to consider. With its 7 ½” barrel this gun is accurate, deadly and it is just fun to shoot!
Thompson Center Contender G2
Moving from the revolvers to a single shot, the Thompson/Center Contender G2 Multi-Barrel Pistol is a great choice for beginners into the field of hunting with handguns. Look at the .41 Rem Magnum as an option. Carrying a muzzle velocity of 1,560 ft./sec. and 1,135 ft. lbs. of energy from a 210 grain bullet, it carries more than enough energy and power to kill whitetails out to around 100 yards.
Nosler Model 48
Beyond this we get into very special handguns, one of which is new to the market, the Nosler. The new Nosler Model 48 INCH (MSRP: $2,495) Custom handgun is a thing of beauty. Taking a page from the discontinued Remington XP100, Nosler created a match grade handgun. It is a single shot bolt action with forward grip. This gun is well balanced and made for accuracy. It is available in a wide array of calibers from 22 Nosler, 24 Nosler, 7mm-08 Rem., 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .308 Win. Weighing over 6 ½ pounds and 21 inches overall with the 15-inch barrel, this is no small handgun. It weighs as much as a rifle and with these configurations, is the size of a small carbine.
The one drawback that is obvious is the right-hand bolt. Most handgun shooters are right handed, and having to trade hands to work the action is a bit cumbersome. For a single shot bolt gun, the bolt on the left side would be more functional. I guess this is a win-win for southpaw shooters. Muzzle brakes are optional for additional fees. Either way, I can see this handgun becoming very popular with competition shooters, and hunters alike. But with a price tag reaching $3,000 I do not see this being popular with most hunters.
Final Thoughts – Best Hunting Handguns
Choosing any of these fine handguns for your next big game hunt will guarantee you a gun that is fun to shoot and capable of taking any game animal you desire. Overall winner of those mentioned – The new Raging Hunter by Taurus. The .44 Rem mag is a personal favorite, capable of taking all big game in North America. The comfort of shooting the Taurus, the tactical rail enabling me to add optics and the fit and feel of the Raging Hunter make it my number one choice. You can rest assured in the coming weeks, you will see one in my hand as the season approaches.