Steve on Handgun Hunting

A lot of people, including one major pistol manufacturer, were upset with what I wrote yesterday about handgun hunting. I would like to clarify what I meant.

This blog is read by a lot of people. I have to be careful what I do and don’t endorse, because if I endorse something, there are going to be people who will try it.

Most, if not all, guns owners in the USA own at least one pistol. The same is not true for a bows or blackpowder muzzleloaders. Also unlike a pistol, operating a muzzleloader and bow requires special skills.

Most gun owners also own a .22 LR. I would never post a video of someone hunting deer with a .22 LR. I know people who can and do hunt deer with .22 LR. I am opposed to people who do not know what they are doing shooting deer with .22 LR (legal issues aside). I am not opposed to hunting with a .22 LR by people who do know what they are doing.

Running a blog with a significant readership can be a burden. I am not responsible for the actions readers take, but do feel I need to be responsible for what I write (and what it encourages people to do).

I have absolutely no problem with people hunting with rifles, handguns, bows, shotguns, muzzleloaders, dogs or even on horseback with spears. I am one of the most pro-hunting and least anti-gun people you will ever meet.

When I said that 99.99% of pistol owners should not go hunting with a low-powered semi-automatic pistol, what I meant to say is that 99.99% of pistol owners should not head out into the woods this weekend with their carry 9mm and expect to successfully snipe medium-sized deer without first learning how to do it responsibly.

Chuck Hawks has a good article on handgun hunting.

Ruger Redhawk chambered in .41 Magnum with a 2x Leopold handgun scope.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Komrad

    99.99% is more than a bit strong. It suggests that only 1 in 10,000 pistol owners are capable of making a clean kill, which is certainly not the case. 95%, maybe.
    Also, nobody suggested that 9mm was acceptable for deer. Instead, people asserted that 10mm is acceptable for deer at short range, which it is being up to a full 65gr heavier and as much as 300 more ft-lbs.

    • Ian

      Apparently Steve needed to recheck his scientific data when he came up with 99.99%. Maybe he should have rounded down to 99.9%. Would that have made you happier?

      Or maybe it was hyperbole.

      • Komrad

        99.9% would have made me happier. I understand that it was hyperbole, and I believe it was an unnecessary one. Obviously many pistol shooters could not make a clean kill on a deer with a 10mm and fixed iron sights, myself included, but a number like 99.99% implies that it shouldn’t be even attempted until a shooter is a national champion.

    • 276 pedersen

      I don’t think 99.99% was meant literally… just to convey “the vast majority” of handgun owners, but also to acknowledge that yes there are hunters proficient enough to use handguns, just in the minority. A little hyperbole maybe.

      • Komrad

        Exactly. It is the (in my opinion) excessive hyperbole that I take issue with.
        Maybe I should just shut up and let it slide though, judging by the down votes.
        So I will do so.

  • MegaHurts

    The people that get upset about your post are the ones that shouldn’t go hunting at all, the people that can responsibly and effectively handgun hunt will agree with you. For the rest of us, it is an interesting article and food for thought.

  • Howa

    ” Glock has recently been touting their Model 20 10mm Auto pistol for hunting. This autoloader is much lighter than the other two autos I have mentioned, at 21 ounces, and much less expensive also, at a list price of $645 with adjustable sights. Unfortunately, its barrel is only 4.6″ long, and it is a typical short recoil operated pistol. This means that the barrel and slide (where the sights are) both move, and separately, with every shot. Frankly, as much as I like Glock pistols for defense, I have never shot one that was accurate enough to meet my standards for a hunting pistol. However, I have never shot a Model 20, either. The 10mm cartridge is a good one, offering ballistic performance between that of the .357 Mag. and .41 Mag. revolver cartridges with full power hunting loads (not the “FBI Lite” self-defense loads).”

    Chuck agrees that hunting with a Glock is stupid.

  • Jason10183

    Your original post and intended meaning was abundantly clear. Any responsible hunter (or firearm owner, or manufacturer for that matter) should have also immediately understood as well. Anyone willing to go out and try to hunt with a semi auto pistol of any caliber needs to seriously re-evaluate their hunting skill set, to see if they are really able to make an ethical kill.

  • MrMitch

    You misspelled deer as dear in the last paragraph 😀

  • Jorge Da Silva

    You were right the first time. 99.9% shouldn’t hunt with a handgun. Walk by any gun range & look at the stationary targets. I actually would prefer that in order to get a hunting license that people would have to take a full day 2 part class. Half the day would deal with ethics & shot placement to prevent animal cruelty & the other half would be accuracy training. Train people how to properly sight in their weapons, how to lead the moving target. Hunting is a right but also a huge responsibility & every time some dumb ass goes around blasting tons of animals with reckless abandon it disgraces who we are. Just my opinion

  • Lance

    I always say minimum of .44 mag .454 preferred. Overall prefer a rifle to handgun anyway.

  • JMan78

    “Most gun owners also own a .22 LR. I would never post a video of someone hunting deer with a .22 LR. I know people who can and do hunt deer with .22 LR. I am opposed to people who do not know what they are doing shooting deer with .22 LR (legal issues aside). I am not opposed to hunting with a .22 LR by people who do know what they are doing.”

    1. This is really redundant.
    2. Deer with a .22 LR … ? Have you ever shot a deer before? I’ve heard alot of people say ‘well back in the day…’ I’ll believe that when I see it. Having personally blasted the insides out of MANY deer with a 12 gauge slug only to have them run 50 – 100 yards (with literally destroyed internal organs) these claims seem a bit larger than life.

    Just Sayin’

    • alannon

      If you shoot a deer in the guts, of course it will run off. That’s probably the kind of poor shot placement Steve’s talking about.

      I used to hunt with a .22-250, until I sold it to a friend for his daughter, and the longest runner I had was about 20 feet That was also the first deer I ever shot. The secret? Not much of one: I shoot ’em in the neck or head, or I don’t take the shot.

      I have no objection to hunting (I do love wild venison), but there’s absolutely no reason not to do our best to ensure the animal’s last time alive is as painless as is possible.

      As for hunting with a .22lr, yes, its possible. I’ve seen it done; I don’t think it’s a good idea in normal circumstances, but it’s doable. It has many of the same problems in most pistol calibers as .22: You have to be close, and you have much smaller kill zones than with a rifle (larger by far than a .22, granted, but still smaller than even a .223).

      I’ve been tempted a couple of times to do it when I was walking around with a pistol for snakes or skunks, but I didn’t take the shots because I wasn’t fully confident in my ability to ensure a clean kill.

  • Esh325

    I don’t hunt, but I agree with you. I don’t think you deserved all that flack.

  • In rereading your original post, I can not find where you referenced the .22 LR or even the 9mm handgun chamberings with regard to your ‘non-support’ of handgun hunting. To do so in subsequent posts ‘clarifying’ your statement or positon only illustrates to me your lack of thought or low level of knowledge about the subject.

    My criticism of your original remarks still stands. You simply don’t know the subject in question and like most of those who don’t understand firearms ownership or the sport of shooting and handgun shooting in particular you form your personal opinions based on insufficient facts and then publish them because you think they are important…

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

    • Jacob

      I think you missed his point, at least for this posting. Actually the last part of your post seems to make his point, which seemed to be that handgun hunting is a specialized skill and probably not something that should be advocated to the general population due to both a lack of knowledge and a lack of ability. Also for the ethical reasons associated with responsibly use of firearms, you don’t encourage people to test out a new skill by shooting something alive.

    • B

      I find it amusing that because of his lack of support for handgun hunting you automatically assume he knows nothing of the subject.
      In reality, what you are doing is the same thing you are accusing him of – you’re ignorant of his personal experience with pistol hunting and making your personal opinion of him based on those insufficient facts published.
      Furthermore, your original argument makes it seem like that since you hunt with handguns, that all pistol owners have the same amount of skill that you possess, and can hunt with pistols as well as you can.
      Do you really believe that is the case?
      Now, with that in mind, do you really think that his lack of support for pistol hunting is that bad of an idea?
      I don’t simply for the sake of the animals. It is the potential suffering from a poorly placed shot from an inexperienced and/or poor pistol hunter that makes me support Steve, until the hunter in question takes the time and dedicates himself to having the same skill and knowledge to harvest an animal humanely, as you do.
      I think we can both agree that this would be the best for the sake of the animals, and for the reputation of pistol hunters everywhere.

    • B: For decades I made my living as a farmer and I view many animals as simply another pest that has to be dealt with and by that I mean “KILLED”.

      What I find amazing is this atitude that ‘animal suffering’ is paramount to common sense. IF you made your living off the land I think you would understand, but I am assuming you don’t live off the land. I would guess by your comments that you are an urban dweller of some degree and as such you have this idlealized concept of animal life and their affect on food production.

      I am not a Hindu and therefore I don’t subscribe to the belief that all animal life is paramount. I don’t intend to induce suffering but you can damn well believe if some critter is ‘affecting’ my crops or livestock I did my level best to put a hole in it….somewhere…..and I didn’t give a damn whether I did it accurately or poorly.

      I simply wanted it off my land and out of my life. But you go ahead and live your suburban existance, subscribe into the generalized Disney fantasy about animals having ‘worth’ as well as buy your food at the “Whole Foods Organic” grocery store with a clear conscious for your beliefs…

      All The Best,
      Frank W. James

      • boskone

        Well, Frank, I grew up on a ranch and find your attitude atrocious, both towards other commentors as well as shooting in general.

        You try and take a superior position based on…what, sloppy trigger work? If you can’t adequately select a target and you don’t give a shit, that’s not pragmaticism, that’s just being a bad shot.

        It doesn’t matter if you can shoot the left testicle off of a flea at ranges that would make Craig Harrison sit up and take note; if you can’t decide _when_ to shoot, you’re still a sloppy shot.

        So, please, take your holier-than-though, self-excusing attitude and check it at the frontpage.

  • zack991

    I am not a huge hunter myself, but I do understand the Pros and Cons to hunting with a pistol. It takes some extremely good skills to be proficient at it so the animal does not suffer. Does a person need to be a pistol champion to be able to hunt with a pistol, no. Yet the people I have seen at various gun ranges and other events shorts are rarely impressive that I would consider the majority of gun owners could make the necessary shot. I know I am a good shooter, but I do not think I would attempt to hunt with a pistol nor should average joe.

  • Zermoid

    I always carry a handgun when hunting, but my main weapon is a scoped rifle.
    The handgun is great when used in thick brush or thick stand of re-growth sapling where you are unlikely to be able to see more than 50 yds let alone have a shot at game!

    At those distances I could see using a 10mm auto, I carry a 44mag myself though. I want something that can hit a few small branches and still drive thru a deer!