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Top 10 Handguns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

The Top 10 Handguns for Hunting is one of a three-part series of the Top 50 Guns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years.

Top 10 Handguns for Hunting in the Last 50 Years

(Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

Kimber 10mm

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Kimber 10mm

Kimber 10mm (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

A 10mm handgun should be reliable, accurate, and easy to shoot well. It’s nice if it’s affordable, too. Kimber’s $1,100 no-nonsense Custom TLE II is all that and more. A steel-framed, full-size 1911 with night sights, it eats heavy 10mm bear loads like a machine. With an 8-plus-1 capacity, it offers an edge over carry-size magnum revolvers, and is easier to shoot fast and accurately. Built by superb ’smiths to have all the features you need and none of the frills you don’t, this is arguably the best value in a 1911-type 10mm available anywhere. Mine wears elk antler grips hand made by my brother, and is my go-to gun for belt carry any time I hunt Alaska’s backcountry. –Joseph von Benedikit 

Nighthawk Custom Falcon

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Nighthawk Custom Falcon

Nighthawk Custom Falcon (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

Until I held a Nighthawk Custom 1911 Falcon in my hand, I figured that every 1911 pistol could be modified or finessed a bit, customizing it to perfection. It was like the heavens opened and deposited perfection into my palm. From the Hi-Power cuts on the front of the slide to the Straight Eight sights; from the perfect blending of the beavertail safety to the spectacular purity of the Black Nitride finish, the Falcon is my ultimate 1911. It’s a full-size, steel-frame gun, just the way that god and John Browning intended it, in .45 Auto. It’s expensive. I bought one anyway. After 10 years of working it like a borrowed tool, it’s never malfunctioned and still looks nearly new. If an equal 1911 has ever been made, I’ve yet to find it. –Joseph von Benedikit


Smith & Wesson X-Frame

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Smith & Wesson X-Frame

Smith & Wesson X-Frame (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)


My first five shots through a Smith & Wesson .500 X-Frame tore one ragged hole in the 25-yard target. Later that day, one shot poleaxed a running wild hog in Texas so hard it summersaulted. The next day I dropped that revolver from a tall treestand into mud, retrieved it, wiped it off, and shot a long-tusked wild boar. This is surely one of the most impressive hand-fired guns of the past half-century. Big, extremely powerful, and superbly accurate, it is adequate of cleanly killing any big game that walks the continent. All it lacks to be an admirable piece of artillery is wheels. Just don’t try and hide it beneath your sport coat. X-Frame wheelguns are available in .500 S&W Magnum and .460 S&W Magnum, in a variety of configurations. Both are awesome in the honest sense of the word. –Joseph von Benedikit

Glock 40 MOS 10mm

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Glock 40 MOS 10mm

Glock 40 MOS 10mm (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

Gaston Glock changed the handgun world forever when he designed his namesake pistol. When the company introduced the G40 MOS, it created a handgun that is ready to take afield for serious hunting and even bear defense. Durable and powerful, the M40’s long barrel maximizes velocity and its optic-ready slide makes mounting a red dot a simple task. I’ve used my own G40 to take deer and hogs in failing light and I’m not afraid to take it out in the rain or snow. This gun won’t win any beauty contests but it is as practical as a hunter’s handgun can be. –Keith Wood

Ruger Bisley

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Ruger Bisley

Ruger Bisley (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)




Bill Ruger loved America’s classic firearm designs and he paid clear homage to Elmer Keith’s iconic No. 5 custom single-action revolver when he introduced the Bisley model in the 1980s. Bisleys were based on the Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk models, but with a sweeping grip frame that mimicked Keith’s classic and tames recoil exceedingly well. A graceful hammer and trigger based on Colt’s Bisley add function and esthetics. I own and hunt with several Bisleys ranging from a pair of .32 H&R Magnums to a Bowen five-shot .45 Colt. These guns are almost indestructibly strong and are my first choice for a hunting handgun. –Keith Wood

Ruger New Model Single-Six

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Ruger New Model Single-Six

Ruger New Model Single-Six (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

There isn’t much more useful in the outdoors than a good revolver and, for many, that gun is the Single-Six. Introduced in 1953, the single-action rimfire is attractive, reliable and accurate. For plinking, practice, small game hunting and snake defense, this handy little Ruger is tough to beat. Available in a variety of configurations, barrel lengths and chamberings, there are too many variants to name. Around 2 million have been produced over the decades, in both the Old and New Model configurations. My favorite are the Bisley model Single-Sixes chambered in the more potent .32 H&R Magnum. –Keith Wood


Colt Anaconda

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Colt Anaconda

Colt Anaconda (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

No list of great firearms would be without a Colt revolver. In the hunting context, only one model really competes: the large-frame .44 Magnum and .45 Colt chambered Anaconda. Only available in stainless steel, the double-action Anaconda was produced from 1990-2003. Essentially a scaled-up version of the classic Python, the double and single-action triggers on these guns are excellent. Some versions, usually referred to as the Anaconda Hunter, included a factory-installed 2x scope and mount. Like all other “snake guns”, the used prices of these Colts have shot through the roof in recent years. –Keith Wood

Dan Wesson 10mm

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Dan Wesson 10mm

Dan Wesson 10mm (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

I’ve always been a fan of the 1911 but, until they became chambered in 10mm, they didn’t offer much in the way of utility for hunters. There are many brands of 1911-style pistols on the market, but few are as good as those from Dan Wesson. Instead of inexpensive and inferior MIM parts, DW components are machined from heat treated tool steel for maximum reliability and longevity. Various models are offered, including the longslide Bruin which wears a six-inch barrel, adjustable sights and a highly-durable finish. My experience with DW 1911s is that they are as well-built as any production 1911 on the market and ready for the field. –Keith Wood

Taurus Judge

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Taurus Judge

Taurus Judge (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

I didn’t think much of this oversized revolver when it was released in 2006 but the market has proven me wrong. Chambered in .45 Colt, which allows it to use .410 shotshells, the Judge is nothing if not versatile. The Judge comes in three barrel lengths and two cylinder lengths, and a Raging Judge version can chamber the mighty .454 Casull cartridge. Most users own the basic model, often fed with shotshells. The Judge has proven itself a popular self-defense arm for those concerned about the overpenetration and potential range of traditional handgun ammo. If there is a more popular snake gun, I’m not aware of it. –Keith Wood

Ruger Wrangler

Top 10 Hunting Handguns of the Last 50 Years - Ruger Wrangler

Ruger Wrangler (Photo courtesy of Petersen's Hunting)

My first gun purchase when lockdown hit was this handy little .22 revolver. I’m not so much worried about home defense (I’ve got bigger guns for that.), but the inexpensive plinker has already put more than few cottontails in the pot. Based on the classic Single Six frame, it features a single-action design, cold-hammer forged barrel, durable Cerakote finish and synthetic checkered grips. Fancy it ain’t, but it’s a workhorse rimfire snake or small-game gun that’s great for carrying on your hip during a day on the farm. And its best attribute is the price, which you can likely find for under $200 on the street. –David Draper

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