The Thrill of Handgun Hunting: Revolvers
By Mark Hampton
At daylight we left camp in the Land Cruiser. Our plan called for checking out a water hole for fresh buffalo tracks and hopefully, following them from there. My wife, Karen, and Kirk Mason, our Zimbabwean PH enjoyed the comfort of the warm cab while Bobby and I along with the trackers endured the brisk morning ride in the back. It was barely light enough to see and apparently I wasnˊt paying attention much. We had only been driving for thirty minutes or so, just long enough to get a good chill when one of the trackers got excited and started pointing. I glanced over to the direction where he was pointing and saw a large black object standing at the edge of the thick jess. Holy buffalo! It was nice bull just standing there alone, not too far from the road, watching us drive by. Luckily Kirk didnˊt stop the truck and drove down the road far enough not to alarm the buffalo. As we all were getting organized I loaded the big .500 Smith and Wesson revolver with Cor-Bonˊs 440 grain hard cast bullets. We were hoping there was only one bull as this would make our stalk somewhat easier. Albert, our head tracker, led us back down the road where we planned on picking up the tracks. As we got closer to where the buffalo had been previously spotted, everyone started looking at the ground for tracks. I heard fingers snap behind us as one of the trackers was trying to gain our attention. Looking behind me I saw the wide-eyed tracker pointing ahead. We all turned to where he was pointing and there was the big buffalo looking at us. At this point, disbelief engulfed everyone. Kirk quickly placed the shooting sticks in front of me. The big .500 quickly took a rest in the cradle of the sticks. Some fifty five steps and some brush separated us. There was little light yet and lining up the black iron sights on a totally black object was challenging. Kirk whispered, ˵Take him just inside the point of the shoulder˶. This cape buffalo was now quartering slightly toward us. I had a clear alley right to the spot Kirk suggested and slowly tugged the trigger. The morning solitude was shattered when the canon roared. Immediately the big bull whirled and disappeared back in to the thick jess. We all stood there momentarily and couldnˊt really believe what had just taken place.
|The Freedom Arms .45 Colt makes a dandy packing pistol for close range encounters or serving as a backup.|
Revolvers are serious tools for handgun hunters. They have been around for a long, long time and still provide the reliability and dependability needed to successfully hunt all types of big game. Wheelguns can tackle any big game assignment given including the largest, most dangerous game to be hunted. A few days after the above mentioned story I downed an elephant with the .500 S& W during an exciting and emotional maelstrom of what could be described as ˵When All Hell Breaks Loose˶. In any event, revolvers make a great option for handgun hunters providing an effective tool for this unique alternative method we call handgun hunting.
Carrying the revolver should be comfortable and painless. With an almost endless supply of quality holsters, revolvers can be carried in a multitude of ways, both securely and safely. Depending on the type of gun, many, especially those revolvers wearing iron sights, can be worn comfortably for hours on end. The right holster can provide day-long comfort and you hardly notice any inconvenience. Both hands can be free so the hunter can use binoculars and perform a variety of other tasks without concern of carrying the gun. Depending on certain factors such as the type of hunting involved, weather, type of revolver, or personal preference, there are many options available to choose from including cross draw, many strong side versions, and shoulder holsters that come in a variety of designs. A good quality, comfortable holster is a wise investment for any handgun hunter.
I get asked quite often about the choice between single-action versus double-action revolvers. Some hunters prefer the plow handle design of a single-action revolver; others are not necessarily fond of the grip configuration. Other than differences in grip design, you also have the choice of shooting double-action or single-action. Since 99.9% of hunting involves shooting any revolver from a cocked position, (single-action mode) it really boils down to which one you like and shoot best. There are a lot of premium revolvers on the market, both single and double-action, that make outstanding hunting tools. Find the sixgun that you shoot well and the choice is yours.
Revolvers shooting flat nosed bullets can be limited somewhat to their effective range. These bullets have the aerodynamics of a concrete block. They are not designed nor intended to shoot long range. This fact does not detract their effectiveness on game. Many revolver cartridges are curbed, at least for me, to one hundred and fifty yards and less, much less with iron sights. Realistically, I donˊt shoot at game with open sights much beyond seventy five yards. My self-imposed limit with a scoped revolver is around one hundred and twenty five yards, under favorable conditions. I realize that a scoped .460 Smith and Wesson may be able to extend this distance. But most revolver cartridges like the popular .44 Mag. or .454 Casull for example, are best suited well inside one hundred and fifty yards. Obviously there will be exceptions and there are folks who have taken game with their sixgun much further. I just donˊt feel comfortable shooting big game at long range with a wheelgun. However, I would venture to guess that statistically, a large percentage of big game harvested is taken within one hundred and fifty yards or less. So, the revolver is plenty capable of doing the job even with this confined range. Heck, sneaking up closer to game is what lures many handgun hunters to this gig in the first place. Itˊs definitely a challenge. Black bear, mountain lion, elk, wild boar, deer, and similar game are frequently taken at ranges perfectly acceptable to revolvers. Not unlike archery or black powder, handgun hunters also have limiting shooting distance.
|Rugerˊs Super Redhawk (top) and Freedom Arms (bottom) are both ideal sixguns for hunting.|
Several factors may determine whether or not you prefer to scope a revolver. The type of gun and barrel length, game to be hunted and method of hunting all can play a role in your choice. My aging eyes need the assistance of quality optics. So, unless I am following a pack of hounds in hot pursuit of a big mean hog or black bear that may be treed, where close range shooting is undertaken, more than likely Iˊll have a scope mounted. We all have difficulty hitting what we canˊt see and a good scope helps distinguish the vital area more clearly. Even chasing whitetails or other game in the woods, I find myself leaning toward the scope. Obstructions in the path of your bullet that often go undetected while using iron sights are much more apparent with optics. Early morning and late evening, or any other time you encounter low light conditions, the scope helps to see your target much more distinctly.
Luckily for us there are several good choices when searching for a hunting revolver. Rugerˊs Super Redhawk is a prime example of a dependable hunting gun. This double-action sixgun comes in different barrel lengths including their stainless 7 and 9 inch .44 Magnum. The .454 Casull is also available in a 7 inch model. I like the cushioned grip and extended frame machine ready for scope mounts if preferred. Rugerˊs New Model Super Blackhawk Hunter is a reliable hunting gun with 7 inch barrel and satin stainless finish. My wife took a dandy bush pig back in 1983 in Zimbabwe with a Ruger Super Blackhawk with one well-placed shot. She reminds me of this occasionally. For those who prefer a western style grip, the Bisley Hunter is available in .44 Magnum with a 7 inch barrel and integral mounting system. Ruger has been offering quality handguns for many years and continues to provide handgun hunters with a rugged, reliable revolver.
Smith & Wesson is no stranger to the handgun hunting fraternity with several offerings available. The .44 Magnum was popular with hunters before Dirty Harry hit the screen and still is a favorite with the companyˊs Model 29. Today, the big X frame revolver in their Model 460 XVR with 14 inch barrel and bi-pod makes for a unique hunting gun. This large frame sixgun is available in different barrel lengths and calibers including .460 S&W, .454 Casull, and .45 Colt. The versatile .460 S&W launches a 200 grain bullet at approximately 2300 fps which is rather impressive. The companyˊs compensator helps reduce felt recoil. The S&W 500 also comes in different barrel lengths including a 10 inch model. The only cape buffalo I have taken with one shot fell to this cartridge from a 7 inch revolver. This is a serious hunting handgun capable of tackling any game on the planet. The Performance Center provides other permutations including their Model 629 Stealth Hunter in a 7 inch .44 Mag.Freedom Arms manufactures some of the finest single-action revolvers available today. Their Model 83 comes in some bone crunching choices such as .44 Mag., .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh, and the 500 WE. Adjustable sight models are drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The company offers premier and field grade models, both versions are made with the same tight tolerances and attention to detail with numerous options of barrel length and grips. The field grade has rubber grips and an economical matte finish. After packing a FA from Australia to Africa, one couldnˊt ask for a better single-action revolver.
The Raging Bull from Taurus is another fine revolver in .44 Mag. and .454 Casull. The cushioned grips and factory porting enhance shooting comfort. This double-action wheelgun from Taurus makes a nice hunting companion.
Speaking of porting, muzzle brakes are becoming more popular with shooters these days. It is worth mentioning that hearing protection should be worn at all times regardless whether the gun is wearing a muzzle brake or not. Magnum handguns are loud with or without porting. With serious hearing loss, today I try my best to slip on the ear muffs before shooting game in an attempt to save what little hearing I have left.
Magnum Research provides handgun hunters the BFR (big frame revolver) in some heavy calibers including 45-70, .480 Ruger, .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh, 460 S&W, 500 S&W, and even the mighty .450 Marlin. There is enough power available to handle any hunting application imaginable in a serious hunting handgun. Just keep in mind when you drop a cartridge the size of a small cigar in the chamber, stout recoil usually follows. The BFR is a five shot, stainless steel, single-action that is machined to accept Magnumˊs own scope base. The grip shape is similar to traditional single-action revolvers. These well-made hefty sixguns can withstand the punishment dished out from potent cartridges and provide handgun hunters flexibility to pursue any big game endeavor.
Well, thatˊs just a quick look at some of the more popular revolvers you will see handgun hunters carrying in the field. All of these revolvers mentioned can withstand harsh treatment encountered on the most demanding hunting environments while providing hunters an excellent option for any big game pursuit. Sixguns provide hunters with a quick follow up shot if necessary and a peace of mind for many. This can sometimes be most helpful in certain circumstances. Any way you look at it, the revolver is going strong today in handgun hunting circles, providing hunters with an effective tool to accomplish whatever big game mission is at hand.
As we stood there in the road dumbfounded, I replaced the empty cartridge with another 440 grain hard cast bullet. Kirk asked me how the shot felt. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldnˊt have changed a thing. That probably didnˊt answer his question but it was the best I could come up with. Before two minutes had passed we heard the undeniable death bellow. We were all dancing with joy. The big bull hadnˊt gone seventy five yards. Cor-Bonˊs slug had penetrated a great deal of thick hide, muscle, large bones, and lungs. One shot from the revolver was all that was required. The buffalo was a dandy and the whole experience was even more special taking this trophy with a handgun. Long live the revolver!
The Thrill of Handgun Hunting Part I
Why do you want to hunt with a handgun? Good question... More
The Thrill of Handgun Hunting Part II
For this segment, letˊs dive into the world of single-shot handguns... More