Gun Digest

Semi-Auto Calibers for Handgun Hunting

Handgun Hunting with the 10mm

The Semi-Auto Solution

In my opinion, the most viable, off-the shelf calibers today for hunting are the very popular .45 ACP, and the 10mm, and to a lesser extent (despite popularity), the .40 Smith & Wesson.

Bullet diameter is important when discussing handgun hunting. Handguns don’t have the luxury of high velocities and the subsequent hydraulic pressure this creates (not saying it doesn’t exist, only that it is minimal compared to various high-powered rifle cartridges).

There are two things that the handgun hunter can fall back on and that is diameter and bullet weight. I like the 10mm as a diameter minimum for use on big game. Smaller will work, but smaller leaves little margin for error.

Another of my favorite auto-pistol rounds is the old warhorse .45 ACP. Synonymous with the 1911 pistol, the .45 ACP is more than 100 years old and still going strong and is available in more striker-fired models such as the new Glock 41.

Due to the velocity limitations of the round, I prefer stepping up in bullet weight with an eye toward penetration than going with a lighter and subsequently faster expanding bullet, particularly for large game. The heavier load, with a large meplat (flat nose of the bullet) should prove more reliable from a terminal standpoint, which in my mind cannot be over emphasized.

Handgun Hunting with the 10mm

The 10mm offers a wide selection of rather serious hunting loads like those offered by Federal, Double Tap and Buffalo Bore Ammunition. Author Photo

The 10mm met with huge popularity when initially introduced with the FBI going so far as adopting this cartridge as their official caliber. It was loaded hot at its inception, as hot as it was intended to be loaded.

Soon enough it was discovered that some FBI agents were incapable of handling the 10mm’s recoil and before you knew it, the potent 10mm was being downloaded to the point of emasculation where it hardly resembled its original self. Eventually the .40 Smith & Wesson was introduced as the 10mm’s successor.

The actions of the FBI so inspired Mike McNett, owner and proprietor of Double Tap Ammunition (, that he went into business producing 10mm ammunition that restored the honor of this fine round. Double Tap still offers those four original loads and a slew of others for every and any occasion the 10mm owner may encounter, from lightweight fast-moving expanding bullets, all the way up to 230-grain WFN hardcast loads for big-game.

Double Tap supplies four of Alaska’s state parks with ammunition for their rangers to carry in their 10mm and .40 Smith & Wesson pistols. The park services specify the use of heavy, minimally expanding, flat-nosed 200-grain bullets for dispatching bear, moose and other large animals they may encounter. These rounds will easily handle game such as white-tailed deer.

Another development worth noting is the line of .450 SMC (Short Magnum Cartridge) ammo offered by Double Tap. The .450 SMC is in essence a higher pressure .45 ACP (much like the .45 Super), featuring a number of loads to include a 255-grain semi-wadcutter hardcast bullet that runs over 1,000 fps. There are other semi-auto offerings in the Double Tap lineup that should prove more than effective for the semi-auto handgun hunter.

Federal ( also introduced a new Vital-Shok Trophy Bonded 10mm Auto this year that is a full-power 10mm load, allowing hunters to once again reclaim full advantage of the caliber’s capabilities on large game. The jacketed soft point bullet is launched at 1,275 fps and boasts a heavy jacket with a formed inner profile that controls expansion as it penetrates deeper into tissue and vitals.


So if you regularly carry something like a Glock in your day-to-day life, loading it a bit differently can make it a capable piece to carry in the field as well. Like any firearm you choose to arm yourself with you must practice. You owe it to yourself and the animals you hunt to be able to accurately place your shots. So get out there and up the challenge, and your hunting satisfaction, by pursuing game with a semi-auto.

This article is an excerpt from the Summer 2014 issue of Modern Shooter magazine, presented by Gun Digest.

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