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Handgun Hunting: A New Way to Chase Whitetails

I can think of several reasons why deer hunting with a handgun is enjoyable. For starters, it's something different. If your hunting regimen seems monotonous and you're thinking of trying something new, little else will wake you up in the morning quite like the roar of a hand cannon. It's hard to emphasize roar enough here.


Plus, as we see more wildlife agencies allowing the use of straight-walled cartridges during firearms seasons that were previously shotgun and/or muzzleloader only, handguns have emerged as viable tools for long-range deer hunting. I can't tell you how many big bucks I've heard of being harvested this year with straight-walled cartridges, but it's enough to get me excited. Plus, several of the hunters who've shared their stories with me are novices to handgunning. That offers hope for a strong upturn in participation throughout this special interest niche.

In large part, handgun hunting for whitetails is worthwhile simply because it's different. Aside from feeling a bit like "Dirty Harry" Callahan as you make your way to the stand with a serious handgun in tow, you'll also feel excited to hunt with a weapon you're not all that experienced with. As with other types of hunting, traveling the learning curve to proficiency is incredibly rewarding. It's all part of the fun.

Without a doubt, you'll be challenged — especially if you've never tried handgunning. It isn't easy. Even when using a high-performance model, you need to be able to hold it steady to make a good shot. So serious practice is key. But once you're dialed in, you'll have a notch on your belt you otherwise might not have thought possible. And any type of hunting that promotes better woodsmanship is a positive. Becoming skillful with a new tool is one of the best ways to better yourself as an outdoorsman.

If you're looking for a large-frame handgun capable of impressive accuracy and ballistic performance on deer at distances out to 200 yards, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460XVR is just what the doctor ordered. In .460 S&W Magnum, this is an alpha predator with impressive effective range and knockdown power in the deer woods.

Designed in partnership with Hornady Ammunition and Cor-Bon in 2005, the .460 S&W Magnum is essentially a lengthened, more powerful .454 Casull. Logistically, the .460 S&W Magnum is actually a .452 caliber chambering, which means the S&W Performance Center X-Frame revolver can safely cylinder and fire .460 S&W Magnum, .454 Casull and .45 Colt. This adaptability allows shooters to practice and hunt with a wide range of options. And there's no shortage of great factory ammunition available for this gun.

Shown here are Federal Vital-Shok 300-grain Swift A-Frame rounds, which offer more than enough punch for any whitetail you might encounter. These jacketed hollow-point bullets boast an average muzzle velocity of 1750 feet per second, as well as over 2040 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The A-Frame design promotes controlled expansion at high velocity while ensuring solid bullet retention for maximum penetration.

So if you're looking to add some extra intrigue to your hunt without sacrificing firepower, the right handgun is one way to do just that. And there's no better time to get started. Take full advantage of the off-season to develop and practice good shooting skills. Besides, breaking in a new gun is always a great excuse to head to the range. Just don't forget your hearing protection!

The S&W X-Frame revolver is a shining example of a capable long-range handgun for whitetails. This precision-built model flaunts a 10.5-inch stainless steel barrel with an enhanced muzzle brake and a satin stainless-finished frame.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460XVR


Scope: Nikon Force XR 2.5-8x28 with BDC Reticle

Ammunition: Federal Premium Swift A-Frame 300-grain

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