Often overlooked, handguns have just as much a place in a hunter’s gear as any other lead thrower out there.
Whether used for varmint control, taking large game or as a sidearm in bear country, pistols are certainly capable of packing some serious firepower in a small package. Though the options are more varied than most long guns, there are plenty of handguns available to take down just about any kind of game you might encounter. To make your shopping experience a breeze, we rounded up the best hunting handguns so you can be ready when its time to get out in the field.
Smith & Wesson 629 PC
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center spits out highly tuned pieces of hunting-tool art, and this new take on the legendary Model 629 is no exception. Dirty Harry would be green with envy. The 7.5-inch barrel sports a muzzlebrake that takes the bite out of the .44 Magnum, making it pleasant to shoot as well as great to look at. The barrel has an integral Picatinny rail, making mounting a scope both easy and extremely secure.
Uberti Cattleman 12-Shot .22 LR
If I had to pick one rimfire for pure panache, the Uberti Cattleman 12-Shot .22 LR would be it. There’s not a red-blooded kid or grandpa across America that wouldn’t get a gleam in his eye at the sight of this 12-shot .22 rimfire single action. Yep, that’s right: It has a 12-shot cylinder. It’s available with your choice of 4.75-, 5.5-, or 7.5-inch blued barrel mounted on a color-case-hardened frame, and, doggone it, I want one for picking Peter Rabbit out of my cabbage patch.
Ruger Super Redhawk .480 Ruger
Ruger revolvers are known for toughness, and this Super Redhawk in the powerful .480 Ruger is as tough as they come. You can feed it a diet of Rocky Mountain pack trails, icy river crossings, bear encounters, and hot handloads—heck, pound your tent pegs with it—and it will never quit on you. With a 7.5-inch barrel and scope bases machined into the frame, you can also mount an optic and milk 100-plus-yard hunting accuracy out of it.
SIG Sauer 1911-22 C1
For the stealthy-minded hunters among us, the SIG Sauer 1911-22 C1 combines 1911 feel and operation with knock-your-socks-off good looks. The camo finish is reminiscent of classic war movies but will blend in with any small-game habitat. Weighing in at 2 pounds, 2 ounces, the 1911-22 C1 offers low-profile combat-style sights, a 10-round single-stack magazine, and a reasonably good trigger pull.
Magnum Research Desert Eagle 10-in. .50 AE
Ever since the days of the professional buffalo hunter and their single-shot blackpowder rifles, Americans have loved a “Big .50.” This 10-inch .50 AE Desert Eagle is the “Big .50” of the semiauto pistol world. Why own one? Because you can. It’s the biggest, baddest semiauto handgun in existence, powerful enough to take on grizzly bear. The 10-inch-barreled version pictured gives added velocity, accuracy, and sight radius.
Traditions Vortek Muzzleloader Pistol
Modern as a blackpowder hunting handgun can get, this Traditions Muzzleloader pistol is the antithesis of the howdah. It may not be as charming, but it’s a lot more accurate. Featuring Cerakote ceramic finish, a 13-inch barrel with 1:28-twist rifling for sabot projectiles, 209 primer ignition, fold-down iron sights, and a scope rail, it is a practical companion to your inline muzzleloader —or even a stand-alone hunting tool. It’s available with Realtree AP synthetic or walnut stocks.
Browning Buckmark Camper UFX
If you want the best combination of classic semiauto pistol ergonomics and .22 rimfire accuracy, the Buckmark is your cottontail killin’ poison. The new UFX version sports a tapered 5.5-inch bull barrel, matte blued finish, and non-slip, overmolded Ultragrips. The blowback action is famously reliable, and the fire controls are very 1911-esque. Pro-Target adjustable sights allow you to fine-tune your point of impact with your favorite load.
Smith & Wesson Model 41 PC
For over half a century, the S&W Model 41 has been at the top of the rimfire pistol realm. Originally designed for competitive shooting—and, indeed, it holds many competitive records—it has taken its share of small game along the way. This new variation from the Performance Center has an integral Picatinny-style rail on top of the slide, making mounting your favorite optic easy. The action is Performance Center tuned, and the trigger breaks like frozen butter. No, that’s not quite it…. At any rate, this is perhaps the finest rimfire pistol available new on today’s market.
Taurus Raging Bull .454 Casull
For cult followers of the .454 Casull, the Raging Bull is the best bang for your buck when getting into the handgun sledgehammer game. Dual cylinder latches provide a very solid, consistent lockup, and the Raging Bull guns I’ve tested have been shockingly accurate. A special cushion insert grip and muzzle porting tame the savage recoil of the Casull cartridge. As a nice side benefit, every new Taurus firearm comes with a free 1-year NRA membership.