Firearms | Hunting
The Complete Guide to Pistol Hunting

The Complete Guide to Pistol Hunting

The Complete Guide to Pistol Hunting

Some hunters prefer rifles because they are accurate, powerful, and have impressive range. However, rifle hunting is not for everyone. If you prefer the comfort and mobility of handguns, good news – hunting with a pistol is possible.

To help you become a proficient handgun hunter, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to pistol hunting. Read on to discover the best hunting pistols and tips for improving accuracy, but before that, let’s look at the benefits of handgun deer hunting.

Why Use a Pistol for Hunting?

Hunting rifles are long weapons that typically weigh about eight pounds. Carrying such a weapon during a long hunting expedition can be tedious. Also, since many states restrict rifle hunting to specific seasons, many rifle hunters have a short window to hunt game each year.

Other shortcomings of hunting with a rifle include:

  • Rifle ammunition can be expensive
  • Certain rifles can damage a prey’s meat

Depending on your state, you can avoid many of the above issues by switching to handgun deer hunting. Other upsides of hunting with a pistol are:

Easy to Carry

Handguns are smaller and lighter than rifles, weighing two to three pounds when loaded. The size and weight of handguns make them easier to carry around during a hunting expedition.

The portability of pistols also enables hunters to shoot from various positions accurately. Even better, if you have a preferred shooting position (prone or kneeling), you can get into the position faster and easier when hunting with a pistol.

Note that higher caliber pistols are usually heavier. A higher caliber also means more stopping power and recoil.

More Stalking Opportunities

The portability of a pistol grants you more maneuverability while stalking prey. Unlike rifle hunters, you don’t have to worry about the stock or barrel of your pistol getting in the way of climbing boulders or trees or crawling through dense bushes.

Since you can move more freely, you can approach your prey from the best angle and get close enough to get a clear and guaranteed shot. You can also move with less noise and reduce the risk of spooking your prey before you can aim and shoot.

Add Variety to Your Hunting Skills

If rifle hunting isn’t as thrilling as it once was, consider spicing things up by switching to handgun deer hunting. Switching to a pistol will enable you to learn new skills and improve your stalking abilities. Plus, you will get to experience the satisfaction of shooting prey from closer distances. Even better, with a handgun, you can explore terrains that you formally could not access with a rifle.

Best Pistols for Hunting

Not every handgun is ideal for pistol hunting. For example, a Smith & Wesson Model 351C cannot fire shots with enough velocity to take down deer that are more than a few yards away.

During handgun deer hunting, you need a firearm that takes down desired prey with minimal damage to the meat. The gun should also take down prey quickly for an ethical kill. Just as important, your handgun should be accurate, easy to aim, weatherproof, and able to hit targets at your desired distance.

Below are some handgun types that fit the bill:


Single and double-action revolvers are both suitable for hunting. A double-action revolver’s trigger cocks the weapon and fires the gun with one trigger pull. In single-action revolvers, you must cock the firearm manually before each shot.

Single-action revolvers offer better accuracy because they have a shorter and lighter trigger pull. On the other hand, double-action revolvers are faster to load and shoot. Some of the most highly rated hunting revolvers include the:

  • Magnum Research BFR .44 Magnum
  • Smith & Wesson Model S&W 500
  • Freedom Arms Model 83 .454 Casull
  • Ruger GP100 .357 Magnum
  • Magnum Research BFR .500 S&W Magnum
  • Ruger Super Redhawk .480

The best revolver for your next hunting expedition will be powerful enough to kill your desired prey with a single shot. The gun’s ergonomics and recoil will also be comfortable in your hands.

Semi-Automatic Pistols

In the hands of a skilled hunter, a semi-automatic pistol can be an accurate and deadly weapon. Like double-action revolvers, semi-automatics fire one shot every time you pull the trigger. However, semi-automatic pistols can hold more bullets than revolvers – 8 to 30+ rounds depending on the gun and magazine type.

To boost the accuracy of a semi-automatic pistol, you can attach a scope or laser sights. Some highly recommended semi-automatic pistols for hunting include the:

  • Magnum Research Desert Eagle
  • Dan Wesson Kodiak
  • Glock G40 MOS

Single-Shot Pistols

Single-shot or short pistols are handguns that you can load with a single round. These guns are more powerful and accurate than the typical handgun. They also have longer ranges, and you can add optics to boost the accuracy of a single-shot pistol. Popular single-shot pistols for hunters include the:

  • SSK Industries Contender
  • Freedom Arms Model 2008
  • MOA Maximum

Best Tips for Hunting with a Pistol

Melissa at Range

When next you go hunting with a pistol, improve your accuracy and efficiency by applying these proven handgun hunting tips:

Have a Calm Grip

When aiming with a hunting pistol, you can’t hold the grip too tightly or lightly. An overly tight grip will cause the muzzle to shake and spoil your accuracy. If you grip the gun too lightly and fire, the recoil could throw off your aim, hurt your wrist, or even send the gun flying from your hand.

A calm and steady grip on your hunting pistol won’t strain the muscles in your arm and hand. It will also evenly distribute the weight of the gun, manage recoil, and give you steady aim. Follow these tips to hold your handgun correctly when aiming at prey:

  • Use Your Dominant Hand: Wrap your dominant hand around the handgun handle. The web between your thumb and index finger should be high up on the pistol grip but a safe distance from the hammer. If your hand is high on the grip, it will help manage the recoil when you fire.
  • Support Your Dominant Hand: Wrap the fingers of your other hand around your dominant hand to stabilize your hunting pistol. Ensure that your supporting hand is as high on the grip as it can go. Doing this will prevent a tea-cup grip, which can be dangerous.
  • Relax Your Arm: Relax the muscles in your dominant arm and shoulder but keep the bones in your arm steady. Hardening the muscles will put unnecessary strain on your dominant arm and may disturb your aim. Also, keep your elbows straight and raise your arms until you can aim with your dominant eye.

Practice Trigger Pressure

How you squeeze the trigger is just as important as how you hold your hunting pistol. Applying uneven pressure on the trigger can shift your aim and cause your shot to go wide. Abruptly clenching or jerking the trigger can have the same effect on your aim.

To squeeze the trigger without spoiling your aim, follow these steps:

  • Place the pad of your index finger at the center of the trigger.
  • Apply slow and steady pressure until the gun fires.

Practice squeezing the trigger correctly by dry-firing your weapon. After mastering the motion, practice with a loaded firearm until you become accustomed to the sensation of firing a live round.

Stay Planted

Your firing stance is crucial to shooting accurately. If standing, keep your feet apart and firmly planted on the ground. The stance will create a firm posture that minimizes jerking from the weapon’s recoil.

Alternatively, you could rest your handgun on a bipod or tripod or use a natural rest (boulder or log) to steady your weapon before firing. Using such items to steady your gun will ensure a more accurate aim.

However, when pursuing prey, you may not always have a chance to use a bipod or tripod. Stay prepared by practicing and mastering shooting your hunting pistol from different positions.

Avoid the Flinch

When you shoot and flinch, you take your eyes off the target. Flinching also causes you to shift and skews your aim. While flinching is a natural response to the flash and bang of firing a weapon, you must learn to control the reflex action if you want to be a successful pistol hunter.

An effective way to overcome flinching is to practice frequently with your hunting pistol. Over time, you will grow accustomed to the sight and sound of firing your weapon. Alternatively, you could wear hearing and eye protection to minimize the noise and flash of gunfire.

Practice Shooting on the Move

Like we mentioned earlier, you may not always have a chance to shoot with a tripod or from your favorite shooting position. Practicing shooting on the move will increase your versatility and ensure that you can aim and take down prey from any position you find yourself. Aiming with an attached scope will also increase your chances of hitting your target.

Try Adding a Silencer

Attaching a silencer to your hunting pistol can reduce the weapon’s recoil and noise when you squeeze the trigger. If your gun has reduced sound levels, muzzle blast, and recoil, you are less likely to flinch and miss your shot.

Also, firing an un-silenced handgun can scare away close by potential prey. Hunting with a silenced pistol can hide your presence during a hunt, enabling you to catch more prey by surprise.

Give Pistol Hunting a Try – the Right Way!

After completing our guide to pistol hunting, you are probably considering experimenting with handgun deer hunting. If so, ensure that you get the right handgun for the job. Semi-automatic pistols are more convenient, but revolvers and single-shot pistols provide superior accuracy and power. You can find the perfect hunting handgun for your needs by trying various types at a gun range.

After picking a handgun, improve your accuracy by applying our handgun hunting tips, especially adding a silencer and scope to your weapon. Check out the best pistol silencers here.

Find the Right Pistol Suppressor for you!