I sincerely encourage everyone to consider hunting with a handgun– the excitement of the stalk is magnified by a factor of ten.
by Dwight Van Brunt | Aug 18, 2020 | FIREARMS, SHOOTING
A duke’s mixture of superb hunting handguns. Clockwise from upper left: Custom Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum, stainless Ruger Super Blackhawk with Bisley grip in .454 Casull, early Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Magnum with 71/2-inch barrel and stag grips, Freedom Arms Field Grade .454 Casull with express sights, stainless Ruger Super Blackhawk with Bisley grip in .44 Magnum, Mag-Na-Port custom Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in .44 Magnum, Thompson/ Center Contender with rare plain frame, SSK .223 Remington barrel and 3-9x Burris scope, and Freedom Arms Field Grade .454 Casull with a Leupold 2x scope.
I sincerely encourage everyone with even the slightest interest to consider hunting with a handgun– the excitement of the stalk is magnified by a factor of ten.
Life, or at least making a living, has a way of pushing us down sidetracks. After a time, we often find ourselves so far removed from our intended path that it takes a GPS and some serious bushwhacking to get back on the main trail. For me, hunting big game with a handgun is a case in point.
Upon reaching my majority in the early 1980s, which is a nice way to say that I was old enough to starve to death without legally implicating my parents, I somehow put enough money together to buy my first pistol. In retrospect, it wasn’t actually powerful enough for hunting, but it was as powerful as I could afford. The former owner had proudly represented it as “good and broke in,” but I soon came to understand that the accuracy of his description would have improved considerably if shortened by one word.
A combination of dedicated practice and dogged determination eventually made it possible for me to hit paper plates at 50 yards, my self-imposed requirement before packing the gun along while hunting deer and black bear that fall. Unfortunately, both tags were still in my pocket when season ended. I sold the pistol against a grand plan of replacing it with another of proper breeding and caliber, and also became determined to get a story published in a national hunting magazine at more or less the same time.
Back then magazines provided editorial guidelines by mail, and I requested the same from all and sundry. Scouring each in turn as soon as they showed up, three common themes became evident: the majority of editorial space was already reserved for the doings of staff writers. Next, the best indicator as to what might be accepted for publication was what had already been published. Finally, manuscripts with a unique hook stood a far better chance of getting in print.
Since almost none of the published stories involved hunting with a handgun, I figured that was my golden ticket. Talk about dumb luck! I met the Bakers, father Wayne and son Bob, from Freedom Arms at a sports show and ordered a .454 Casull. Just after the big pistol showed up, I drew a mountain goat permit in my home state of Montana. Surely, if I was successful with a revolver, publication was all but certain.
Things worked out better than I deserved, and a big old billy fell to the pistol early in the hunt. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his horns measured well enough to tie the handgun world record according to Safari Club International, the only organization that kept separate records for trophies taken with a handgun. I wrote three different versions of the story and sold all of them right away.
This Freedom Arms Field Grade .454 Casull with a 2x Leupold scope is the author’s primary hunting handgun
Next year came another special permit, this one for Shiras moose, and another handgun world record. Those stories sold, too, and things got even more promising when a monster black bear crossed my path.
While the record book entries were nice, what really mattered was that I was selling stories and having a ball hunting with the Casull. Of course, just as things were looking up, I found myself in a new job and living in a state where I most certainly didn’t belong.
Realizing my mistake, I spent nearly all my free time trying to figure out what to do so my family and I could return to Montana. I knew that writing wouldn’t pay the bills, so I decided to create and launch a non-profit conservation organization that served a membership of handgun hunters.
It took a full year to develop the necessary background information and business plan to introduce the American Handgun Hunting Foundation to potential corporate supporters. Once complete, I shared the draft with several mentors in the shooting and hunting industry, including the late Greg Warne. Along with his father, Jack, Greg was the cofounder of Kimber of Oregon and had just begun the resurrection of the company as Kimber of America.
About the time I had most of the startup money for the AHHF pledged, the majority of that by the old Simmons Optics Company, Greg asked me if I would be willing to work with him at Kimber. I agreed and spent nearly 20 years with the company. While there I hunted almost exclusively with their wonderful rifles and all but forgot about hunting big game with a handgun. Near the end of my service, though, I used Kimber pistols to take both cougar and bobcat. Those two hunts made me realize what I’d been missing.
Hunting with a handgun is a challenge akin to archery. Ethics demand getting close to the animal and waiting for a proper presentation to ensure the desired outcome. This extra effort is its own reward, and the excitement of the stalk is magnified by a factor of ten.
I’ll be hunting black bear this spring exclusively with a handgun. Moreover, I’ll be carrying a pistol the entirety of the fall big game season here in Montana, although there will be a rifle on my shoulder just in case things don’t work out and the buck or bull is just too big to pass up. My son, Ross, will likely be doing the same thing.
Ever the dreamer, I also have a meeting scheduled with government officials from an African country. My hope is to gain permission for an experimental handgun hunt, one they can monitor in order to determine if allowing handgun hunting is appropriate. Talk about pressure!
I sincerely encourage everyone with even the slightest interest to consider hunting with a handgun. It takes practice, to be sure, but it builds excitement to an incredible level and enhances all aspects of the hunting experience at every turn. Give it a try and let me know what you think.