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Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

October 2004 Feature Article:

Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting

Please use this area to post comments or questions about this feature article.

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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

While I find several faults with this article, it does present some useful information that beginners should have before deciding on whether to hunt with a handgun or not.

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Location: Colorado
Joined: 02/27/2003
Posts: 394
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

Well, I thought the article was well-written, in a journalistic sense. I don't know much about handgun hunting, though, so what are the faults that you find?

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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

Well, I wouldn't normally do this, but since you asked:

The author, throughout his writing, did not clearly delineate when he was switching from one type of handgun to another. When he states that smaller bore handguns are not suitable for big game hunting, an experienced reader might rightly assume he is talking about handguns designed for handgun loads, such as 9mm , 38 special, 25 acp etc. However, a less familiar beginner might wrongly assume that the author has disqualified such rounds as the 7mm-08 or 30 Herrett or 35 remington in such firearms as Thompson Contenders. This can be confusing for someone new to handgunning.

When introducing the variables of big bore revolvers, it should be noted that all but the absolute largest revolver loadings are significantly less powerful than even a lever action 30-30. I would put the 500 S&W magnum on about equal ground with the model 94 at 50 to 100 yards, and even the 45-70 revolver is not nearly as capable as a marlin big bore lever gun, and cannot withstand full power loading that the rifle is capable of. This is what I would consider a crucial comparison to make for any hunter transitioning from rifle to handgun hunting.

The one picture showing a shooter with a revolver preparing for an off-hand shot demonstrates an ineffective shooting posture for someone using a big bore revolver. The shooter is leaning his torso back behind his hips and has his head cocked awkwardly. We see this a lot at the range with the younger shooters, and we point out the disadvantages of learning to shoot this way.

Nowhere in the article does the author discuss or recommend using some sort of shooting rest, not even a field expedient rest. Whenever possible, a handgun shooter should try to use a rest to shoot from, especially in hunting situations, given the sighting and stability limitations inherent in pistol shooting. While the author's recommendations about practicing from different positions is advisable, from a hunting perspective, an offhand shot from a revolver on big game should be a last resort effort.

The author's statement that a 357 magnum is adequate for hunting Alaskan Brown Bears ("A 357 producing 500 ft/lbs of energy... is enough to knock down the largest of them") is bad advice. Anyone choosing to hunt those bears with a 357 I would consider just about as insane as using a 22 caliber pistol. A normal person would be quite anxious using any pistol to hunt big northern bruins with. Maybe as a back up gun in big bear territory, but I would not want that to be my primary firearm!!!

The author refers to the use of scopes as not being as effective at close ranges. Given the prevalence of LED dot sights these days and there effectiveness at close and long range, I think the author should have included this alternative when discussing sights. I have a Red Dot on my Ruger Super Redhawk and everyone that has shot that firearm has commented on just how much better it is than iron sights at any range. It is not all that encumbering when being shot, although it does require some accomodation when holstered.

I can't think of any big bore revolvers that use a manual safety, which the author didn't delineate when discussing safe handling of handguns when unholstering them.

At the end of the article, the author points out the mandatory background check required for purchasing a handgun, which isn't any different for any other legal modern firearm, so nothing new there. It feels like the author just added that line for effect. Also the warnings about youngsters in the house and having loaded firearms. Both these statements go to firearms ownership in general, and shouldn't be so emphasized just for handguns. Good points, but we shouldn't single out handguns as if they are to be treated differently.

Please note that I offer this only as constructive criticism, and not to attack the author's expertise. Lord knows I've made plenty of mistakes trying to teach others. I am just trying to offer some clarification on an issue I have a little experience with.

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Location: Alaska
Joined: 10/19/2004
Posts: 1
From the Author

I'd like to thank you for your comments and suggestions, it is appreciated.

The intention of the story was to provide basic information to the readership concerning hunting with handguns and any specific information was intentially omitted. For the sake of simplicity, when mentioning shooting a bear with a .357 or larger caliber, the explaination was in a self-defense mode. Anyone who tries to shoot a bear with a handgun (no matter if it is a .500 S&W) at 100 yards is foolish and it was not implied that one should attempt this.

I live in the wilds of Alaska and true to form, I have shot two Alaskan brown bears with the Smith & Wesson .500. Each time the bears were within 30 yards and I had ample back-up in the event something went wrong. I apologize that I gave the impression for a beginner to go out and hunt dangerous game without specific training, back-up and suitable caliber.

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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

No worries, just trying to help out.

I am duly impressed with your success hunting brown bear with a handgun. I would not be able to do such a thing, as the 500 is too much gun for me, and I'd feel reckless using anything less.

I understand how tough it is to try and write an article within the limits that space and time allow. I only write now on stuff I can go over in a classroom so as to provide further explanation and tailor the information to interested individuals, except for forums such as this that allow some dialogue, feedback, and elaboration after the fact.

Like I said earlier, normally I don't try and pick apart someone else's work too much, but since I was asked, I offered my opinions. Hopefully I do not offend, and my contribution adds to the overall idea. Please feel free to criticize anything I post any time. The more knowledge is shared, the better off we all are.

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Location: Sunny San Diego
Joined: 09/02/2003
Posts: 165
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

Good post.

The author did not discuss safety's on revolvers, in that paragraph he used the term "Gun" and "HandGun" I am called to mind a Desert Eagle .44 or .50 - Which does have a safety, and as we all know, could also still have a round chambered when the mag is removed.

Also, I second the Red Dot sight... I've got one on my .22 and it allows quick enough reaction time to pop a hopping rabbit. I only wish I had one for my .44!!!

Jesse

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Location: VA
Joined: 11/23/2004
Posts: 1
Beginner's Guide to Big Game Handgun Hunting (Feature)

Others have covered the inconsistencies pretty well except for what seems like a reference to Freedom Arms guns as "dual-action" revolver. What ever that is, it isn't a common term when refering to double action revolvers. It also does not describe a Freedom Arms - they are single action revolvers.

Quote:
This Freedom, Wyoming manufacturer makes a top-notch weapon and is widely known for it's fine craftsmanship. This dual-action revolver spews it's deadly force with a staggering 1900 ft/lb. out of it's muzzle.

In general, I also think there are too many references to "weapons". The term gun or firearm is much more appropriate for a hunting article, IMHO.

Granted the article is about big game hunting, and I accept the author's explanation about the 357 Mag statement & bears. If that's so, then leave out the part about handguns for self defense against bears especially since it's under the heading of, "Hunting for the big boys".

Lastly, Beginners to handgun hunting shouldn't start by hunting big game. They should start by hunting small game or varmints with an accurate and light recoiling firearm until they master the techniques of field shooting with a handgun.

Congratulations on your bears too. Nicely done.

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