Gun shops have an arsenal of calibers available for hunting with a sidearm. But which is the best caliber for hunting with a sidearm? Not all calibers are created equal for a reason.
This guide discloses everything from legal requirements and significant considerations when choosing a caliber for the best shotgun load on your next successful hunting expedition.
Stick with us—we’ll explain what expanding on the calibers for hunting is all about!
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Hunting with a sidearm falls under legal requirements by the state that must be followed. Using expanding bullets and adhering to caliber restrictions and barrel length requirements are key legalities that you must obey.
Expanding bullets are hollow points or softnose projectiles used when hunting with a sidearm. These bullets increase in size upon striking the target. On impact, they create a larger wound channel and ensure a quick and humane kill.
This feature makes them suitable over other bullet types for hunting. Expanding bullets minimize the potential suffering of the target animal and ensure a successful outcome for the hunter.
Ethical considerations should always mandate bullet use. However, many state regulations mandate their usage for deer or large game hunting while hunting with legal handguns. The impact helps limit over-penetration and significantly reduces suffering. Non-expanding ammunition is a known proponent for animal suffering.
Federal and state laws set caliber restrictions for hunting with a sidearm. These laws dictate the minimum size or type of ammunition allowed to ensure an ethical kill.
Most states require hunters to use centerfire cartridges in their handguns during deer season. They don’t accept rimfire calibers as they lack strength and stopping power.
Ammunition like .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and 10mm Auto are popular among hunters because they align with U.S. rules for handgun hunting. However, always check local regulations before hunting. Knowing what the legal ammunition is in the region becomes the hunter’s responsibility and can lead to fines.
Barrel length has a significant role in hunting with sidearms and affects the best shotgun load. Each state creates a standard and regulates minimum barrel lengths for hunting with handguns.
Some states make allowances for a minimum of 4 inches, while others demand up to 5.75 inches or greater.
The right barrel length aids with accuracy and stability, which in turn ensures a better hunting experience for the hunter and the target. Know the local laws regarding caliber-size sidearm ammunition and barrel length.
Hunting with a sidearm offers increased maneuverability and to hunt at close range. It also provides protection in emergencies.
Maneuverability is the greatest advantage of hunting with a sidearm. Larger firearms, like rifles or shotguns, are not as easy to carry in rough terrain and handle.
Hunting with a sidearm in dense brush or tight spaces is advantageous as they are lighter to carry and offer the freedom to move.
Close-range hunting is a key benefit of using a sidearm for hunting. A sidearm with the best shotgun load makes moving soundlessly in rough terrain easier and allows a hunter to get closer to the intended target without attracting attention.
Hunting in dense vegetation and tight spaces makes long-range shots with a rifle challenging. Sidearms are ideal for hunting small game, like rabbits or squirrels, at close range without risking damage to the meat.
Additionally, close-range hunting with a sidearm adds an exciting and challenging element for hunters keen to test and improve their sharpshooting skills in any condition.
Hunting is dangerous, and hunters may find themselves in precarious situations where self-defense matters. Having a sidearm is a quick way to protect yourself against dangerous encounters with wildlife.
Sidearms are easier to draw and aim, unlike rifles or shotguns, which require precision balancing and aim. Although hunting with rifles and long guns is a traditional method, sidearms can protect you on outdoor adventures.
Hunting can be dangerous. Most hunters enjoy the thrill of using the traditionalist long gun method to hunt big game. A sidearm offers security and backup protection in those events when you encounter unforeseen or unexpected wildlife.
Having a powerful caliber you can draw on quickly makes sense to keep you safe. Seasoned hunters have the skill to protect themselves, but everyone has had close calls or heard of unfortunate incidents that ended badly.
Always use local legal caliber recommendations when hunting with a sidearm. The .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and 10mm Auto are popular hunting calibers for sidearms.
The .357 Magnum is a popular caliber for hunting with a sidearm. A good balance of power and control makes it effective for hunting large game like deer. A .357 Magnum is versatile and fires revolvers and semi-automatic pistols with a smokeless powder cartridge.
This caliber delivers sufficient energy to ensure an ethical kill. It has a manageable recoil and accuracy, making it a favorite among hunters. Aside from power, this compact sidearm outperforms shotguns and rifles.
The .44 Magnum is another common caliber for hunting. It has the power and effectiveness to take down medium-sized game such as deer.
The .44 Magnum bullet expands on impact, delivering maximum energy transfer and creating a devastating wound channel. The stopping power and penetration capability of a .44 Magnum make it a preferred choice for hunters making ethical kills at close ranges.
Its versatility is ideal for revolvers and semi-automatic pistols and provides flexibility when hunting with your preferred sidearm.
The .45 ACP doesn’t have the brand power, but experienced hunters know it delivers excellent stopping power. This caliber is effective against medium-sized wildlife like deer. The .45 ACP also has manageable recoil and comes in several bullet types, including expanding hollow points for hunting legally.
Depending on your hunting style, a compact pocket pistol, or a larger carbine-style handgun, the .45 ACP is a versatile and reliable option for sidearm hunting.
The 10mm Auto is a good choice for hunting bears or deer with a sidearm. It offers a good balance of power and recoil control, which makes it an effective weapon. Unlike the 9mm, which is better for hunting upland birds at close range, the 10 mm Auto has greater velocity.
Since the 10mm Auto has the energy and velocity, it causes deeper penetration and expansion, which a hunter needs when tracking and hunting dangerous wildlife like bears. It’s an excellent choice to use with semi-automatic pistols.
Hunting with the 10mm Auto is a good option for rough terrain and where Apex predators become a potentially life-threatening opponent.
When you choose a caliber for hunting with a sidearm, factors like the size and distance of your game, the recoil and control, ammunition type, and personal preference influence the outcome.
Experienced hunters know what caliber it takes to hunt any particular game. They also know how to judge distance correctly to ensure a good experience without harming the animals they hunt.
Smaller game hunters use .22LR or .17 HMR calibers to shoot rabbits or squirrels without damaging the fur or meat.
Larger game hunting for deer or hogs requires more substantial calibers like a .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. Distance between you and your target also influences choice.
Hunting in dense woods usually closes the distance between you and your target. For close-range hunting, a smaller caliber might be better. In open terrain, you’ll need a powerful caliber that compensates for the distance between you and your target.
Recoil and control are essential factors when choosing a caliber for sidearm hunting. Recoil is the backward force after firing and can impact the outcome. Depending on the force the caliber emits, it can affect your aim and follow-up shots.
Power is a significant consideration when you choose a caliber. However, the force of the recoil can impact accuracy. Control is vital to hunting and staying on the target. Selecting the right caliber allows you to maintain control and shoot with accuracy and efficiency without harming the animal needlessly.
Every state issues specific ammunition limits and gun laws. Hunting with a sidearm means knowing which caliber is legal and available and works for specific hunting criteria.
Check with your preferred ammunition supplier before heading away to ensure they can meet your requirements. Buying in bulk to meet your hunting and practice quota ensures you’re stocked for impromptu hunting trips.
Popular calibers like .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and 10mm Auto are usually available, but don’t get caught off-guard, and you won’t have to make do without your favorite.
Experience typically dictates preference.
Hunting and target shooting are enjoyable sports that are even better when you use the right caliber for your sidearm. It’s prudent to know the legalities of the Firearms Act.
Seasoned sidearm hunters rely on .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and 10mm Auto because they’re readily available at local gunshops or online. They are versatile and powerful and cover great distances to take down any game.