Hunting With Handguns

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by a.k.a. Gary     Last updated: 2017-01-23 16:35:28


The first hunt with Tommy Ryno was only my son and I for blackbuck antelope. I had wanted a nice blackbuck for some time but taking one never seemed to work out so this hunt was specifically for the diminutive fellow from India. The ranch we were hunting on has a lot of open areas and some are hundreds of yards across. The blackbuck in those areas are clever enough to never quite get within range for a revolver and the high grass adds and additional challenge in placing an accurate shot.

Perched on a high hill overlooking the lower flat, my son and I used a big oak tree as cover to close the distance to just under 200 yards which is a fairly easy shot with a good rifle. He got the high shoulder and the 20" buck went down in dramatic fashion. Getting within range for my 454 was a little more difficult but getting positioned in a smaller area helped and hunkering down amid some cactus and cedar bushes helped conceal us enough that he came within range just after daylight. Don't kid yourself though, even if they are not very large blackbuck are tough little guys so shot placement is very important on this small target. The corner created by the white belly hair and the black hair on the shoulder and ribs is a perfect aiming point, especially for inexperienced hunters.

Stag With the .44 Magnum

Like many hunters and gun enthusiasts, I suffer from a bit of ďmagnumitisĒ at times, often seeking out something larger and more powerful than that which I already possess. The term magnum actually originates from the Latin neuter of magnus meaning large, and in the firearms world, Smith & Wesson owns the trademark. In practical terms, Dirty Harry Callahan made it famous as the most powerful handgun in the world and itís the basic starting point for hunting revolvers. It is the .44 Magnum.

The first handgun I owned and used was a .44 Magnum and one I hunted with quite a lot. I own not less than five different revolvers chambered for the .44 and I enjoy each and every one of them. Over the years I have owned and shot single and double action revolvers from Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Dan Wesson, Magnum Research and Freedom Arms in a variety of configurations. It seems I have settled on single-actions from Ruger and Freedom Arms for now.

By todayís standards of powerful cartridges, it may seem somewhat anemic if youíve fired the likes of those by Linebaugh and Casull but is it really? I have used numerous cartridges over the past 35 plus years as a handgun hunter and Iím thankful for the choices we enjoy but fairly often I come back to the .44 Magnum and it never fails to impress. I have used the cartridge to take numerous whitetails, several species of plains game in Africa, wild hogs, elk, a truckload of groundhogs and most recently a red stag to ring in 2016 on the 60th Anniversary of the .44 Magnum cartridge.

The hunt for red stag really didnít start out as such but when you live in Texas sometimes opportunities present themselves. Myself and a few close friends arrange a couple of hunts each year with Tommy Ryno and seem to have established a tradition of starting the year off right with a hunt beginning on New Years Day which basically coincides with the end of the regular deer season. The hunt started off focused on a whitetail but that was short-lived when I found out about a particular red stag on the ranch priced the same as a whitetail. The thought of a traditional European stag mount on my wall was very appealing. In reality the animal I was after was a rather large-bodied bull but one which never crowned out. Alas, he was just a 4x4 with three-foot tall antlers and a body half the size of a Rocky Mountain elk Ė it took me all of about two seconds to switch gears and go after the stag.

Our weather seems to be consistent for the January hunts, cold and raining Ö this year was no exception except for heavy rain. After a brief and unsuccessful sit in the morning for a broken-horn blackbuck Tommy put on the hit list, we relocated a popup blind to be more well situated for the red deer stag. By 9:30 we had the blind set at the edge of a cedar break with a commanding view of my field of fire. In two directions I could see out to about 500 yards of scattered trees and grasses. To my right at 100 yards was another cedar break and at 85 yards directly in front was a cattle-station with some green alfalfa hay. Shortly before 10:00 I spotted the bull at 400 yards. He was with five hinds and a satellite bull which was a spike. For the next six and a half hours he taunted me. Never coming closer than 380 yards they fed, bedded down, milled around, bedded some more and moved in and out of view. Several times a strongly considered making a stalk but I also knew the cover I would have to use was loaded with whitetail deer because of the weather. I even considered trying a Wile E. Coyote move with that popup blind but I knew no one would believe me if I did manage to pull it off and I really didnít want to fall off a cliff or have a big rock land on my head so I decided to be patient.

Sufficiently irritated, the herd bull ran the spike off for the last time about 2:30 and ultimately the youngster was the first to the alfalfa, which was encouraging. From 300 yards the big bull stood motionless and watched the spike feeding for twenty minutes. He appeared noticeably irritated but it wasnít enough to pull him up the hill. The small bull moved off into the thicket and the big bull and hinds disappeared off to the West. I was really second guessing my earlier decision to stay put but now I was pinned down by whitetails visible in nearly every direction. For the next hour it rained even harder and eventually the hinds rounded the corner made the long walk but the bull didnít show. Finally, at 4:30 the bull walked out looking for his harem and when he saw his ladies feeding on the alfalfa that did the trick. He sauntered in to range and when he stopped quartering to I touched the trigger on my Freedom Arms .44 Magnum and planted a Speer 270 grain soft point into his shoulder. If Iíve learned one thing over the years, it is to admire your shooting when the animal is down and not before. At about 120 yards he stopped at a decent angle and I put another one into his ribs. He went another 30 yard and crashed in spectacular fashion.

Once again the .44 Magnum performed on a large animal with excellent results. I was unable to recover either bullet though not for lack of trying. The first shot lodged somewhere in his stomach but we couldnít find it even though three of us looked for several minutes. The second shot was a complete pass-through in the ribs. Sixty years since it was first introduced and itís even more capable now than it was then. We have better bullets and better guns and even if you hunt the world, there are few animals for which you would be under-gunned with a good .44 Magnum.

Bullets are available from 180 grains to over 300 in varying designs and performance levels and with the right setup they are capable of outstanding accuracy. Out to 100 yards or a little farther there isnít anything I would hesitate to shoot with the 44 except for the dangerous game species.

My setup for the red stag was a Freedom Arms with a 10-inch barrel and a Leupold 2.5 x 8 scope in TSOB bases and rings. The gun shoots those Speer bullets like a dart and their bonded technology allows them to hold together on larger animals like stag or bear. My load is a full-charge of Winchester 296 powder with a muzzle velocity of 1377 fps.

2017 did not smile on me coming in as I was unable to connect on the aoudad I wanted but it was still a very memorable trip spent with great friends and family sharing the experiences of their hunts. We are all looking forward to 2018 and maybe another hunt or two in 2017. If you are interested in a handgun hunt in the hill-country of Texas I highly recommend Tommy Ryno. You can reach him at 830-739-3465.

Speer Deep Curl Loads

Favorite Guns and Loads for the .44 Magnum

Always follow established reloading safety practices before using these loads in your gun!

Gun / CaliberBulletPowder / LoadAverage VelocityGroup Size

FA 44 Mag 4-3/4 in. bbl.Speer 270 gr. Deep Curl WW296 / 20.5 gr. 1254 fps 2.25 inches at 50 yards

FA 44 Mag 10 in. barrel 2.5x8 Leupold Speer 270 gr. Deep Curl WW296 / 20.5 gr. 1377 fps1.75 inches at 100 yards

Ruger 44 Mag 4-5/8 in. bbl. Speer 270 gr. Deep Curl WW296 / 20.5 gr. 1199 fps 2.8 inches at 50 yards

Ruger 44 Mag 8-3/8 in. bbl. 4x Leupold Speer 270 gr. Deep Curl WW296 / 20.5 gr. 1285 fps 3 inches at 100 yards


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Recent Comments:

Poster: Western Revolver    Date: 2019-01-13    Top

Good shooting Gary and well done on the article!! It?s good to see the 44 mag getting its well deserved praise.
Poster: jamesfromjersey    Date: 2017-05-22   Top

Gary, Those 100 yard groups are outstanding.....
Poster: billa    Date: 2017-02-15    Top

Gary, Great looking animals. Congratulations on a super hunt.
Poster: jamesfromjersey    Date: 2017-01-25   Top

Poster: KRal    Date: 2017-01-23    Top

Good article! Congrats on a nice stag, Gary.

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