Hunting With Handguns

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by James F. Swidryk a.k.a. jamesfromjersey     Last updated: 2011-02-17 12:05:44

Gary, our editor, recently touched on the subject of the early use of handguns for hunting with documentation going back as far as the 19th century.Member Ken O`Neil added how Elgin Gates used his .357 to take out a Cape buffalo, with a head shot,after said buffalo sent him up a tree for safety.Gates adventure took place during the second half of the last century. With this in mind I began looking through my collection of hunting books and came up with a few titles that some of you may not be familiar with.I know the members have read or heard of these recently published books on handgun hunting such as:

Successful Handgun Hunting by Phil Johnston

Hunting for Handgunners by Larry Kelly and J.D.Jones

Handgun Hunting by Mark Hampton

Ultimate Guide to Handgun Hunting by Clair Rees

Handgun Hunting by George Nonte and Lee Jurras

And I will include the great "Sixguns by Keith" because so many of you have read this groundbreaking book.My intention is not to reinvent these great books on handgun hunting but to show what else was available to handgunners in the early days of our sport.Many of these books were not complete works on handgun hunting but had one or maybe two chapters on the subject....

Handgunner`s Guide by Chic Gaylord- 1960: This classic was recently reprinted because of its timeless information on handgunning.Chapter 7 entitled "Centerfire Hunting Weapons" is just seven pages which shows just how much interest there was in 1960 on handgun hunting.Let me quote some of Gaylords words from paragraph 3 to give you some insight into his thinking at the time."Rugers king size knuckle-duster, the .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, can be counted on to kill any game in the Western Hemisphere.With the exception of elephants,rhinos,and the large African buffalo,the Ruger Blackhawk.44Magnum

with the new ten-inch barrel can handle any animal in the world"......

The Sporting Use of the Handgun by Mason Williams- 1979: Mason Williams was a firearms writer and consultant in his day and though his book may not have been well known it completly covered all aspects of handgunning in the 1970`s.Chapter 5:The Sport of Handgun Hunting is 60 pages that say it all with sub-topics on varmints,small game,big game,handgunning the Exotics,handgun hunting laws,and the now defunct American Gig Game Handgunner`s Association.In the section on varmints,Williams praises Remington`s XP-100 saying how strong the action is and how it has been chambered for such calibers as .223,.243, and .257Roberts and where he highly recommends this pistol for coyote,woodchuck,javelina,and similar game where a flat shooting,high velocity cartridge is preferred.His two favorite boar and javelina handguns are the Colt Government Model.45ACP loaded with full power,FMJ factory ammo and the S&W model 27 with a 6" barrel.The handgunning for exotics section was written by Hal Swiggett and shows that the game ranch concept was around for quite some time with Hal giving a good account of how and where to hunt exotics.His list of Texas ranches include the YO, Indian Creek and those owned by Louis Stumberg and Thompson Temple who are two greats associated with the hunting of exotics.Let me finish by saying that Williams must have been a big fan of the Auto Mag because chapter 9 is seven pages that covers this famous large bore semi-auto and includes a price list of custom guns and gunsmithing by Lee Jurras.The following is one of the custom Auto Mags listed for sale: .30AMP "Cougar"

A 12 1/2" barrel in.30AMP.No iron sights,equipped with AM Maxi-Mount and Leupold M8-2X scope.Custom tuned,"bone" micarta stocks,presentation grade polished barrel and extension,custom cased,and set of RCBS .30AMP dies. $1,350.00

The Complete Book of Shooting by Jack O`Connor-1965

This book was put together by Jack O`Connor with Jeff Copper writing the section on handguns. In it Mr. Copper covers all the basic topics including types of handguns,ammunition,shooting the handgun,but what was most interesting for me was what he wrote for chapter 33 entitled "Hunting with the Handgun".You can see his expertise on the subject when he states under "Medium Size Game" the following:"One of the really fine deer parks for the pistolero is the Kaibab plateau of Arizona,a state that specifies

the .357,.41,and .44 as legal deer cartridges".What really caught my attention is what he said on the game animals that he felt were his top pistol trophies.Quote "The following,then,

is my choice of the royal five for the pistolero,listed by continents".Copper readily admits that his list will pose serious legal problems concerning the hunting of them with a handgun but goes on to say you will not be able to collect the grand prizes of the pistol unless you find ways to legally overcome them...

1)Eurasia: European wild boar-"Taken with a pistol as you come up on the dogs,his 300 pounds must be stopped by the most careful use of the heavy handgun".

2)Africa: (my favorite JFS) gorilla-"Skipping the giants and the traditional,I`ll chose the gorilla.You`ll need a museum permit to take him,but such can be had.If you threaten his group he will charge,and a charging gorilla is a fearful spectacle.To stand your ground with a handgun and flatten him at 15 feet is mans work".......

3)North America:Roosevelt elk-"He must be hunted with great skill,for you have to move in on him like a ghost to escape detection by his marvelously sensitive ears.And if you succeed in this,his massive body calls for precise use of your .44 if you are to secure a clean kill"....

4)South America:jaguar-"There is no argument here,as the jaguar takes the prize.Not just any jaguar,but a really prime cat of 250 pounds or more.I feel the chances for a really massive "tigre" are best in the Mato Grosso and southward"....

5)Australia:salt water crocodile-"They are scorned by the rifleman as they lie in Mesozoic sloth on the sandbar,but how about tackling a 15-footer with your .44? Then,if you can hit a half dollar at whatever distance you can close to,a 240 grain steel jacketed

soft-point (Norma) should net you enough leather to fill a shoe store"....

Pacific and Northwest Hunting by Al Goerg- 1952:

Al Goerg is best known for his extremely rare book entitled "Pioneering Handgun Hunting" but few people know of his 1952 published book called "Pacific and Northwest Hunting".This book deals with hunting in that part of the US and the weapons covered are mainly rifles,however,even in the early fifties Mr.Goreg included a chapter on hunting with a handgun.Here he mentions a handgun he carried,while hunting big game with a rifle,to be used for taking grouse.This turned out to be a small imported .25 caliber semi-auto which has to be the worst possible handgun for taking these birds.However,Al Goerg being the great handgunner he was had some improvements made to the small .25 auto.The front and rear sights were nothing but a groove cut into the top of the slide so he had half of a copper penny soldered in place for the front sight and the rear sight was a folding leaf "V" shaped rifle sight fastened and tightened in with a screw.When the screw was loosened it could be moved for windage adjustment.After many shots and many misses was he able to maintain a steady sight picture, and by only shooting at stationary birds he took every grouse he set those sights on....

Handguns Afield by Jeff Copper- 1961:

This is not a book in the strictest sense but a 64 page soft cover booklet that is an absolute joy to read.When first published in 1961 the cover price was $.25 and it covered all the basics with chapters on the Sidearm as a Sporting Weapon,Small Game,Large Game,The Auxiliary Pistol,and Hunting Ammunition.Naturally all the information is dated but it is still fasinating to read what Mr.Copper had to say about handgun hunting 50 years ago.For example,in the Catalog of Cartridges chapter under .45 Auto he says:"It can be safely loaded up to nearly 1000FPS with a 220 grain,base jacketed,Keith bullet,and if this is done it becomes a first rate killer on medium game,

slightly inferior to a maximum .45Colt but quite a bit better then a .357.For a trapper,or a man running cougars or black bear with dogs,or one who wants to hunt javelina in caves,it is a fine load,especially since it can be used in the auto pistol with its compact design and high rate of sustained fire"....

Burning Powder by Doug Wesson-1938:

This is a soft cover booklet put out by Smith & Wesson with the first edition being printed in January 1921. It covers the basics of handgun shooting but was not until 1938,three years after the introduction of the S&W .357 Magnum,that Col.Wesson included a section on their famous handgun with stories from men who used the .357 while in the field.A most interesting article is about a hunter and guide by the name of Sasha A. Siemel whose specialty was hunting jaguar in the jungles of South America.I`ll quote Mr.Siemel as he can tell better then I of his experiences with the S&W.357 Magnum:"with

clever running tigres my guests are not fast enough to keep up through heavy brush,and I need a light,powerful firearm that does not hinder me in following the hounds,as archery

tackle or a rifle would when in one hand I`am carrying a long heavy spear.....So far I have killed six tigres with my Magnum,as well as wild pig,our big marsh deer and tapir.This game we need for food or museum pieces...In my opinion the S&W.357 Magnum is the best revolver ever made,and the ideal weapon for me to use in combination with the spear when I have guests for whose success and safety I`am responsible.It does all the work of a rifle and is light and easy to carry".....

Colt on the Trail by Colt Firearm`s Company-1936:

In 1934 Colt held a contest for the most interesting story about bringing down game animals using a Colt revolver or auto pistol and "Colt on the Trail" contains the winning articles.This had to have been very popular because the booklet I have is the third edition published in February,1936 with the first printing being made in 1934.The preface was written by Townsend Whelen and the booklet contains a total of nine short stories submitted by the winners."Hunger in the Amazon" by J.T.Howard of Fergus Fall,

Minnesota has a New Service revolver in .45Colt as the hero of this expedition.It seems that the good Mr. Howard and five Indian porters were on a ten day journey through the Tumuc Humac Moutains in extreme northern Brazil and were very light on food and still many miles from the nearest village.As they paddled down the Paru River a jacare or crocodile was spotted on the mud bank about 20 yards from the dugout and here is where I`ll let Mr. Howard finish the story:"We were a little past the reptile by the time I had dropped the shotgun and drawn my Colt .45 New Service Revolver.The first shot missed.Sand spurted two feet short of the ugly head.He was crawling now..Once more.

Steady! Don`t jerk! The six-foot saurian`s short legs wilted under him as the heavy slug smashed into his brain,and twenty minutes later we sat around a fire on the mud bar toasting bits of crocodile"...Add eight more similar stories of Colt handguns saving the day and you will have an idea of what the early days of hunting with handguns was like in "Colt on the Trail".....

Pioneering Handgun Hunting by Alfred J. Goerg- 1965:

On the first page under the title it states that this is "The first reference book on hunting with a handgun" and I cannot think of better words to describe this book....

I feel that Al Goerg brought handgun hunting into the mainstream with the publication of his book.He shows and describes the hunting of big game with scoped handguns which was almost unknown among the sporting population of the time.Goerg describes in detail,with words and pictures,the taking of a Moutain Goat with an iron sight Colt .357 Python at 200 yards which as we all know is a feat that is capable by only a select few of today`s handgunners.In his first experiment with scoping a revolver Goerg mounted two Weaver bases on the ribbed 6 1/2"barrel of his S&W .44 Magnum in which he secured a Weaver K-1

scope that he liked because of its long eye relief.He had Weaver change the adjustments so that one click equaled one inch at 100 yards.He went on to use this combination to take a Dall sheep in the Brooks Range of Alaska....An interesting concept devised by the author was his "penetrator bullet" in which he sank a brass screw into a hole drilled into the head of his lead .44 ammo.He used this at a place called Murder Cove on the southern end of Admiralty Island to take the first brown bear ever shot with a scoped handgun.Another first for the handgun hunter was the invention and marketing of the Goerg Hollow Pointer that was a tool that allowed the precise drilling of a hollow point in the soft lead ammunition of the time which increased the lethality of the solid bullet ammo....Goerg went on to handmake a single shot pistol,from an old Remington Rolling Block rifle,in

.257 Roberts that sported a 9 inch barrel.Unknown to Mr.Goerg was the fact that as soon as he converted the old rifle to a handgun he was breaking Federal law.However,once the

gun was completed and sent to Washington for inspection by the ATF he was cleared to

legally own it with the stipulation that he may never sell or give the handgun away.After scoping the gun with another Weaver K-1 he went on to fire a three shot 2 1/4"

group at 100 yards.He then went back to 200 yards and fired another three shot group that

measured 4 1/2" which was seven inches from the same point of aim of 100 yards.After shooting these groups with the single shot .257 he went on to say "Here,indeed was a long range and flat shooting pistol.I now felt that I had something in a handgun never before attained"....In 1992 I paid $75 for my copy of Pioneering Handgun Hunting.I have

no idea what the price may be in today`s market but I can say that if you have a chance to buy it!

There are many books that were published and contain sections on handgun hunting that are available for your enjoyment and these are just a few.......


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Recent Comments:

Poster: ASE90    Date: 2016-01-18    Top

Al Georg used to sell a small hand tool that had a cavity for a loaded 44 Mag cartridge inserted bullet first. A hand turned drill fit through the top of the device and was set to drill a hole in the front of the bullet the proper depth to hold an unfired 22 rimfire case from which the bullet had been pulled. The .22 rim rested on the front of the 44 bullet when inserted and was a perfect fit. My memory is that it used a .22 short and I inserted them in Keith 429421 bullets that I cast. The 22 bullet was pulled and I used to fill the 22 case with bullseye. I bought the device from him when I lived in Idaho, where I also spent a little time in Salmon talking to Elmer Keith, who was wonderfully kind to star struck young me. Unfortunately I gave the Georg device to my brother-in-law many years ago, or I'd post a photo. Probably just as well. I'm sure the explosive bullet it made is no longer legal, if it ever was.
Poster: S.B.    Date: 2015-05-31   Top

Al Georg's son was frequenting another site(GBO) for a while, can't remember if it was the one who accompanied him on his brown bear hunt or not? I still have the original hollow pointer tool some where in my dresser. I was so impressed with him, I purchased on of his shoulder holsters for my S&W 29 with a 8&3/8" barrel, with the ammo carrier on off side. His book is one of my treasures. Steve
Poster: billa    Date: 2015-03-17    Top

James, Fantastic article. Sorry I did not read it earlier. I have read many of the books you mention. I have a copy of Handgun Hunting by George Nonte / Lee Jurras that really got me started back in the 70s. Then I moved to Elmer Keith, then J D Jones, Larry Kelly and Mark Hampton. Great stuff.
Poster: RobR    Date: 2011-04-22   Top

Oh, since youposted his photo, I should also mention to anyone who does not know who Sasha Siemel is, they should read his book Tigero if they can find a copy. If you think handgun hunting for jaguar would be an ultimate challenge, you are mistaken. Siemel killed a LOT of jaguars (several hundred I believe) and many of them with nothing more than a spear. I believe he did so on film on more than one occasion, so it was no BS.
Poster: RobR    Date: 2011-04-22    Top

As I own almost all of the books you reference (including two copies of each of Georg's books), I can say you have done a pretty exhaustive job. Goerg was the real deal, and a great advocate of handgun hunting until his death in an airplance crash in Alaska. Still have the magazine somewhere with the story in it - they recovered his film which showed some of the trophies that he had taken on that trip and which were not recovered. Many of the photos in Pioneering Handgun Hunting were of mountain goats, the hunting of which drove me to purchase by first Contender and started me on the path of handgun hunting, so I have always felt I had somewhat of an understanding of why he pursued the single shot in a rifle caliber for hunting. One of the earliest references advocating handgun hunting I have come across was Trailing and Camping in Alaska by Addison Powell (although it is not really about hunting). In it he talked about the usefulness of handguns for hunting, and indicated that he thought a single shot in a rifle chambering (a .44-40 was the cartidge he referenced IIRC) would be very useful. Always thought of him as the first advocate for the Contender.
Poster: glynn41    Date: 2011-03-08   Top

good stuff some of which brought back good memories for me
Poster: WheelchairBandit    Date: 2011-03-05    Top

Great stuff, thanks for writing this.
Poster: KRal    Date: 2011-03-05   Top

James, this is an A1 article! Very well assembled piece of work! Your reading collection is comparable to your handgun collection!
Poster: wheelguns    Date: 2011-02-21    Top

Thanks James that was way cool. I always enjoy reading about the men that got handgun hunting started.
Poster: Mikewin    Date: 2011-02-19   Top

Excellent piece James! You're a true aficionado...
Poster: pab1    Date: 2011-02-19    Top

Great article James! Thanks for sharing!

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