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I'm looking for feedback on which pistol cartridges are ideal for dispatching black bear and deer.

I need a good sidearm to carry along for tracking and dispatching wounded game.  I will always rely on a rifle or shotgun if I believe the animal's wounds are marginal.  But for those situations where the animal's wounds are fatal but it life still lingers, I would like a reliable, widely available and effective pistol cartridge for dispatching it.

 

The cartridges I am considering for this application:

  • .357 magnum
  • 10mm auto
  • .44 magnum
  • .41 magnum
  • .454 casull

I would prefer a revolver for its simplicity and reliability for shooting big cartridges.  As well, I really don't see the need for anything more than 6-8 shot capacity for this use.  That said, I would consider a semi-auto if the case for 10mm's usefulness can be made.  

With regards to the magnum cartridges and bears: I've seen a lot of people preach that "bigger is better."  And while I acknowledge that something like a .44 magnum or .454 casull are well-regarded for killing big game, I would prefer a cartridge that is adequate for handling black bear rather than one that is overkill, if that makes sense.  I have given .357 magnum much consideration for this reason.

I would like to hear feedback from those that have experience with these cartridges, or perhaps others that I haven't considered.  

Edited by Padre86

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I would vote for 180 grain hardcast in 357  or a 44 mag .. 

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.45 LC (Nosler 250 gr. JHP) in a Judge would do the job just fine... IMHO


Bad day of hunting beats a good day at the office

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would say most calipers would work for this at a close range to dispatch.  except like a 22 .   .357 or .44 is def an all around cartridge for something like that.  Like bkln above i also carry a judge and have taken it during gun season loaded with .45 or .410 slugs. 

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44 and 357 mag, are a popular choices, that Deer Search members use to dispatch wounded deer and bear.

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Buddy of mine swears by his G20 (10mm) and he's got some really fat ninja bears on his hunting land.

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1 hour ago, Robhuntandfish said:

would say most calipers would work for this at a close range to dispatch.  except like a 22 .   .357 or .44 is def an all around cartridge for something like that.  Like bkln above i also carry a judge and have taken it during gun season loaded with .45 or .410 slugs. 

Watch the .410 slugs and dec.  

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True.  Good point.  I only took pistol twice and I loaded .45 in it.  I took it another time and never thought of that.  As all I had in pack was the  410s. Good catch and thanks.  

Never use it to hunt just had it as a finish if needed, and luckily didn't have to use it.  But am sure Dec still wouldn't like that.  .45it is. 

Edited by Robhuntandfish

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I have a 10mm Glock 29 and consider it to be just about the perfect solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. I carried it for years with other handguns but really if I needed to put down a deer I’m using my rifle not the pistol. The sidearm I carry the most is an sr22 Ruger. Weighs nothing accurate as hell and would do a perfect job dispatching a downed buck that I don’t want to try and slit its throat.

I bought a scandium framed 329 S&W and it was great to carry but not fun to shoot.

In my opinion carrying a sidearm for the purpose of dispatching wounded game isn’t worth it. If you want it for protection Incase you get separated from your rifle I would suggest a small 9mm semi.


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I'd look at a 45 long colt, 454. And 45-70 gov.  The 44.mag is possible with proper bullet but other calibers are buy and shoot. No extra homemade reload needed.


I've hunted almost everyday of my life.. the rest have been wasted!

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In my opinion carrying a sidearm for the purpose of dispatching wounded game isn’t worth it. If you want it for protection Incase you get separated from your rifle I would suggest a small 9mm semi.


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In my experience and the experiences of other trackers, it is worth having a pistol, or at least the option of one. I’ve trudged through some pretty atrocious terrain where a long gun is quite a burden to carry around.

This isn’t a protection pistol but rather for dispatching wounded game; that’s why I’m looking heavily at the magnum pistol cartridges. 9mm isn’t even a consideration for my purposes.


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I own both 357mag and 44mag i feel either well do the job of an easy and quick kill of a wounded animal.Also well fend off any attack of animal in these NY woods......I also like revolvers more then semi auto's again I own both....Good luck....Let us know which you decide on...

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53 minutes ago, Padre86 said:

 


In my experience and the experiences of other trackers, it is worth having a pistol, or at least the option of one. I’ve trudged through some pretty atrocious terrain where a long gun is quite a burden to carry around.

This isn’t a protection pistol but rather for dispatching wounded game; that’s why I’m looking heavily at the magnum pistol cartridges. 9mm isn’t even a consideration for my purposes.


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Just curios, have you shot any of the bigger calibers ? 

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I'd get a 357 mag and 6" barrel and a nice chest rig and go have fun. Can shoot 38 special to plink as a bonus for fun.

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Give it a name, apply human sentiment, and its no longer a wild animal its a Disney character.

 

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Just curios, have you shot any of the bigger calibers ? 


I have not. That’s why I’m seeking feedback. I’d prefer to go with a cartridge that is suitable rather than one that is overkill.

If I can get the job done without having to deal with a .44 magnum recoil, that would suit me just fine.


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14 minutes ago, Padre86 said:

 


I have not. That’s why I’m seeking feedback. I’d prefer to go with a cartridge that is suitable rather than one that is overkill.

If I can get the job done without having to deal with a .44 magnum recoil, that would suit me just fine.


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Well then a 357 with a heavy for caliber bullet (170 grains on up ) will do you just fine.a  gp- 100  will handle any hot load you can throw at it, plus it’s heavy enough to soke up  some recoil. And I second what dinsdal said about a chest rig.. 

Edited by rob-c
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In my experience and the experiences of other trackers, it is worth having a pistol, or at least the option of one. I’ve trudged through some pretty atrocious terrain where a long gun is quite a burden to carry around.

This isn’t a protection pistol but rather for dispatching wounded game; that’s why I’m looking heavily at the magnum pistol cartridges. 9mm isn’t even a consideration for my purposes.


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If you’re not carrying a long gun the sidearm becomes the main gun and that changes my answer, kinda. A light short carbine chambered for a real cartridge still has my vote. Every tracker that tracks with dogs that I know carry’s a 22lr or 22mag revolver. My wife would got to a single action revolver in 22mag for dispatching wounded critters.




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Well then a 357 with a heavy for caliber bullet (170 grains on up ) will do you just fine.a  gp- 100  will handle any hot load you can throw at it, plus it’s heavy enough to soke up  some recoil. And I second what dinsdal said about a chest rig.. 


Thanks. And yeah, I agree with you and dinsdal that a good chest rig will be in order as well. I’ve been looking at diamond custom’s guide chest rig....it’s pricey but I like how it can be customized and arranged to a specific user’s needs. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews too.


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I have hunted with both 357 and 44 mag handguns and I like both calibers a lot but with the criteria you have come up with I would strongly lean to a 44 mag. From what I have experienced the 44 mag has a pretty big edge over the 357 when it comes to killing power. Have killed Deer and Hogs with assorted handguns, never personally taken a Bear myself but if I were in a situation where it comes to putting the finisher on a wounded one with a handgun there would be no messing around, I would want that big edge the 44 has to be on the safe side.

Al

 


Serious Dogs For Serious Work

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I have hunted with both 357 and 44 mag handguns and I like both calibers a lot but with the criteria you have come up with I would strongly lean to a 44 mag.
Al
 



Al, I’ve seen similar advice on other websites. I do understand that .44
Mag offers much better energy delivery. And I’ve seen a lot of people recommend it for bear (brown) defense and handgun hunting for that reason.

But I’ve heard it also kicks quite hard. I’m sure I could learn to deal with the greater recoil, but all other things being equal, I will likely shoot better and faster with a lower recoil cartridge.

The .44 mag platforms also seem heavier, especially those in 4”-6” barrels. I know the added heft will help tame the recoil, but a pistol of lower weight would be my preference, especially for long foot movements.

So I realize there are other cartridges that are more capable for such uses. I’m trying to find one that is good enough, while also giving me lighter recoil and better portability. I’ve seen several Chuckhawks articles describe .357 as a minimum, but acceptable, brown bear defensive cartridge. If it’s good enough for handling a brown bear, albeit in a defensive manner, should it not be more than adequate for a wounded black bear?

If i think the animal I’m after is only marginally wounded, I’m not going to bother with a pistol at all.


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12 minutes ago, Padre86 said:

 

 


Al, I’ve seen similar advice on other websites. I do understand that .44
Mag offers much better energy delivery. And I’ve seen a lot of people recommend it for bear (brown) defense and handgun hunting for that reason.

But I’ve heard it also kicks quite hard. I’m sure I could learn to deal with the greater recoil, but all other things being equal, I will likely shoot better and faster with a lower recoil cartridge.




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Maybe you have watched too many "dirty Harry" movies.   I too was a little scared of the .44 magnum prior to firing one.   That caused me to anticipate the recoil, flinch and cleanly miss the target paper at 50 yards with my first shot.   Had that shot been at a wounded bear, I may have been eaten.  The recoil turned out to be very tame, compared to some other weapons I have fired with a pistol grip, including a short barreled 12 gauge slug gun.    Lots of folks are scared of the recoil of a .44 magnum, just because the name sounds tough.    Unless you are a small girl, I would recommend giving one a try.   You can always visit a range where someone will let you try one before making the purchase.  After I felt that "wimpy" recoil on my first shot, the next one struck right on target.           

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My choice that will surely cause some controversy but I have shot deer with it with good results. It is also a fun caliber to shoot and more than enough for self defense. I went to this from a .357 magnum because the ballistics  were comparable,  the recoil/noise are substantially less and I didn't want to go to a 10mm. Would I shoot a bear with it?....probably not but up close it should be effective: the .40 s&w.

 

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Wolc123, I probably will test fire a .44 magnum just to get a feel for it. That said, the recoil on it (especially for hunting loads) seems significant based on the reviews and videos I’ve seen.

Like I said earlier, I know i could deal with the recoil, but if I could accomplish the same goal without that recoil that would be my preference.

It doesn’t seem that this cartridge is one that I’d want to practice extensively with. I’ve heard a lot of comments about how shooting more than a few rounds can be uncomfortable. I place a high priority on shoot-ability for target practice.

Moreover the greater the recoil, the longer it takes for me to re-acquire a sight picture for follow up shots.

I’m certainly not afraid to handle something like a .44 magnum. I’ve dealt with big recoil before. But I do question if it will be as practical for what I’m trying to do.


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