* In Nebraska a handgun cartridge must be capable of producing 400 ft-lbs energy at 50 yards to be legal for deer.
357 Magnum – this little number is what I would consider the absolute min for deer. The 180 grain bullet at 1200 fps can be pretty effective but bullet energy and trauma is not the best for an animal that does not respond to shock very well. Limit your shots to 50 yards, place them in the heart/lung and you’ll have your deer.
41 Magnum – Now we are really getting into handgun cartridges. This true .41 is really closer to the 44 mag than the 357. Hollow point bullets in the 200 grain category at 1,400 fps are perfect for deer. This cartridge is making a comeback although ammo is still hard to find. The 41 Remington magnum offers most of the power of the 44 remington magnum with blast and recoil closer to the 357 magnum. Not sure why it is not more popular as it is an excellent deer cartridge.
44 Remington Magnum – Still the king of deer pistols. This is actually a .429 diameter bullet (Remington marketers didn’t feel a “430 magnum had as much selling potential) made famous by Dirty Harry and the late-great Elmer Keith. This round is easily capable of handling any deer in Nebraska provided shot placement is good. Easy to reload for, shoot, find ammo, etc. making this a great cartridge for the hunter with one pistol. Hollow point bullets in 240 grain at around 1,400 fps just beg for a deer hunt!
45 Colt – This is my all time favorite big bore pistol cartridge. This round has been with us for over 100 years and has seen a renaissance by reloaders. In the same category as the 44 mag, this round hits hard. Again, a good hollow point bullet in the 250 grain range at 1,200 – 1,400 fps (in Ruger revolvers only) is perfect for deer. I have found nothing more perfect than the Hornady 250 XTP bullet at 1,350 fps.
454 Casull - This cartridge is really an outstanding deer getter. It is simply the 45 Colt lengthened 1/10 in and loaded to much higher pressures (~60k). I have had excellent results with the Hornady 250 grain XTP and accuracy is excellent. Some ma y say it is overkill but I do not think so. With velocities in the 1,600 – 1,700 fps region, it really allows hollow point bullets to mushroom well on deer size game while giving excellent penetration.
Deer Bullets – as you may have figured…I like stout hollow point bullets such as that perfect XTP made in Grand Island, NE for deer. They transfer large amounts of energy to the animal, make big holes and anchor deer quickly. I have used solid cast bullets too and while they will out penetrate anything else, they do not tend to do as much damage to the vitals as hollow points. Remember…for deer size game, penetration is not as important as energy transfer. Most revolver cartridges legal for deer will penetrate adequately but their working with a much smaller amount of energy than a rifle bullet so any energy they can transfer to the target is vital.
These cartridges just seem to work and all but the 357 magnum are about perfect for deer. I am a huge fan of big pistol bullets because they get the job done. In the words of retired Conservation Officer Murray Johnson…”I subscribe to the light bullet theory…the bullet that lets the most light in the hole is the one I want…” I agree Murray!
Get Em’ Out There