In the mind of the average gun owner, bigger is usually better. For example, a .22LR is considered appropriate for culling gophers and raccoons but is normally shunned when hunting larger game such as foxes, coyotes, hogs, or deer.
While there are some superb shots in the world who have downed large beasts with nothing but a .22LR and good shot placement, others feel they need to literally “bring out the big guns” to deal with game animals like deer and feral pigs.
Others, however, find that bigger is not always better. A .460 S&W Magnum from the 5-round Taurus Raging Hunter packs a bigger punch than a .55gr .223 from an AR-15. While not immediately obvious to some, considering that the AR-15 is a modern sporting rifle and the Taurus Raging Hunter is a “mere” revolver, the power of the .460 S&W Magnum becomes more obvious when the two cartridges are put together.
The 275gr .460 S&W Magnum has over 2,200 ft/lbs of muzzle energy, compared to the 1,200 ft/lbs of a 55gr .223. However, the .460 S&W Magnum is still fired from a relatively small revolver, significantly reducing its range.
While a rifle hunter might consider a 50-yard shot to be child’s play, someone with a handgun, no matter how powerful his scope, will be stretching the limits of his weapon’s effective range. Ideal ranges for handgun hunters are from about 10 to 15 yards to a comfortable maximum of 25 to 30. The Taurus Raging Hunter may be a monster, but it’s one with short claws.
Considering the fact handgun hunters typically require something with a lot of “oomph” for the engagement ranges they’re shooting at, the Taurus Raging Hunter is par for the course. The late Hal Swiggett, outdoor writer and pistol hunter extraordinaire, said a hand gunner should think twice before considering anything less than a 158gr round for bringing down deer. The man himself was most confident shooting with ammo 180gr and higher. If one believes that he’ll be shooting at distances of 50 yards or greater, the bare minimum should be a 240gr .44 Remington Magnum, according to Swiggett. However, the round reaches its effective range at around 60 yards, and anything beyond that range with that round might as well be considered “unethical musketry.” While hitting a target is possible – but highly unlikely – at that range, the bullet’s lethality will be questionable at best.
Besides bullet mass, one must also realize not all bullets are created equal. It would not be implausible to think a self-defense round would be capable of taking down a deer if it’s meant to take down a bad guy. However, the exact opposite is true. A good self-defense round is designed for minimum penetration, since no one wants their round to go through the bad guy only to hit the family dog. Self-defense rounds typically have less muzzle energy than hunting rounds and weigh much less as well. Even though a shooter can have two rounds in the same caliber both labeled JHP, it would be good to do research before accidentally loading one’s weapon with the wrong round.
One should also consider the type of gun one brings to a handgun hunt. Most handgun hunters choose to use revolvers. Although there may be an outlier here or there who brings a bolt-action handgun or modern precision pistol for whatever reason, the revolver has been king of the handgun hunting scene for decades. When selecting a revolver, one should note the difference between the two handgun types: double action and single action.
To keep it short and simple, a single-action firearm requires one to pull back the hammer of the weapon before pulling the trigger. A double action revolver fires without the need to pull the hammer back. When purchasing a revolver for hunting, many find a DA/SA revolver – one capable of shooting in both modes – is the best choice. Shooting in single action gives the shooter smoother trigger control, and a double action pistol is great for follow up shots, just in case the first round misses or if there are multiple targets.
Of course, the most important thing in hunting with any type of weapon is accuracy. A rifle hunter may be comfortable firing his weapon free-handed, and a hunter with a large caliber handgun can attempt to do the same. However, unsupported firing with a hunting revolver is highly discouraged, and not just because of the recoil.
A Taurus raging hunter is about 3.5lbs unloaded. This weight, concentrated on the end of a shooter’s hand combined with the jitters hunters get from “buck fever” is almost guaranteed to throw a shooter’s aim off. To mitigate this, it’s recommended to put one’s weapon on some sort of rest for stability.
A Kopfjäger tripod with a reaper grip and some sandbags is perfect for holding one’s pistol steady and helps keep groupings nice and tight. Outdoor writer Kevin Reese, who has been handgun hunting on and off for 20 years, made this impressive grouping from a distance of 15 yards.
Reese's excellent 5-round grouping from 15 yards.
Fired from a Taurus Raging Hunter chambered in .460 S&W Magnum, no mere mortal would have been able to fire this weapon free-handed and be expected to hit the target with the same consistency. Instead, Reese relied on a Kopfjäger tripod and a shooting bag for this excellent grouping.
In what would have otherwise been a “minute of pig” grouping, the Taurus Raging Hunter made precise shots like this thanks to the stability provided by a Kopfjäger tripod, which effectively turned this hand cannon into a short-range precision pistol.
If you don’t already hunt with a handgun and are up to the challenge of a new form of short range hunting, you should seriously give it some consideration. The art of handgun hunting is easier to master than a bow, but is significantly more challenging than rifle hunting. Also, it’s fun to feel like you’re firing a handheld miniature cannon.