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Would You Hunt with a 10mm Handgun?

by Greg Rodriguez   |  May 24th, 2012 37

The 10mm Auto is plenty powerful for handgun hunting deer-sized game without producing unmanageable recoil, and the 1911 platform is easier and more comfortable for the author to carry than a big-bore revolver. His Nighthawk Long Slide 1911 is plenty accurate, too, averaging less than 2.0 inches for five-shot groups at 25 yards.

I started wearing a handgun in the field more than a decade ago when the number of violent conflicts with illegal aliens began to rise dramatically in my neck of the woods. That 1911 gave me comfort as I walked through the South Texas brush.

That 1911 also got me into handgun hunting. Long-range plinking at targets of opportunity (rocks, rabbits, coyotes, etc.) led to stalking feeding hogs and javelinas and, eventually, to setting up on busy travel routes for whitetails. I stoked my .45 ACP pistol with Federal’s 230-grain Hydra-Shok load, and it did the job, but the round proved to be anemic on big game. Even when I shot them perfectly, it often resulted in long tracking jobs.

I could have stepped up in power by switching to a revolver, but self-defense against multiple assailants is a very real possibility on the border. I’ve trained with 1911s for more than two decades. I shoot them well and am very comfortable with them. Their trim profile also makes them a joy to carry. For me, switching to a revolver wasn’t even an option.

Trying to find a semiauto suitable for hunting that is also comfortable to carry isn’t easy. There aren’t many auto pistols chambered for magnum cartridges, and the few available offerings are too big and heavy, in my opinion, for daily carry. To be honest, the fact that it is the most powerful factory cartridge offered in a traditional 1911 made the 10mm Auto my only realistic choice, but the 10mm can stand on its own merits.

I shot a .41 Magnum a great deal in my younger days, and I really came to love the cartridge for hogs and whitetails. The .44 Magnum does it better, but an old wrist injury makes a packing-weight .44 Mag. a bit too painful for me to shoot. Because of my good experiences with the .41 Mag. in the past, I knew the 10mm Auto, which nips at its heels, would do the job.

Though most factory 10mm loads are on the sedate side, some custom manufacturers, such as Double Tap, Buffalo Bore, and CorBon, offer hotter loads that are pretty close to the .41 Mag. For example, Federal’s 180-grain Barnes Expander load for the .41 Mag. leaves the muzzle at 1,340 fps with 718 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle and 569 ft-lbs at 50 yards, which is my max range with any iron-sighted hunting handgun. Double Tap’s 180-grain Controlled Expansion JHP for the 10mm Auto leaves the muzzle at 1,305 fps and packs 681-ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle and 563 ft-lbs at 50 yards from a 4.6-inch-barreled Glock G20. That’s not quite up to .41 Mag. numbers, but it’s close enough. It’s also a substantial upgrade over my favorite .45 ACP load, which leaves the muzzle at 900 fps and has just 414 ft-lbs of muzzle energy and 382 ft-lbs of energy at 50 yards.

Nighthawk’s Long Slide 10mm
I already owned a full-house custom 10mm Colt by John Harrison, but the gun is way too beautiful to subject to brush country carry. Five-inch-barreled 10mms also come up a bit shy of the .41 Mag. in the performance department, so I decided to try a 6-inch 1911 in hopes of getting a little better ballistics. Several makers offer them now, but at the time Nighthawk was the only company to catalog a 6-inch 10mm Auto. The Nighthawk pistols I’d tested previously ran flawlessly and shot great, so I ordered the 10mm Long Slide model as my new ranch gun.

Like all Nighthawk’s pistols, my 10mm Long Slide is beautifully executed. It has an adjustable rear sight with tritium dot inserts and white outlines that make the sights work well in any light. It also has a 6-inch, match-grade barrel. The longer sight radius makes the pistol a bit easier to shoot accurately, and the extra inch of barrel gives me a bit more velocity and energy. The pistol also has an attractive, corrosion-resistant camo finish and all the custom parts you’d expect on a Nighthawk. It is solidly built and perfectly fitted, which explains why it is so darn accurate.

On the range, the Long Slide delivers sub-2-inch groups at 25 yards with several loads and averages right at 1.5 inches with Double Tap’s 180-grain Controlled Expansion JHP hunting load. And thanks to its longer barrel, it actually beats the 180-grain .41 Mag. by a bit, clocking right at 1,344 fps from the extended tube.

The 10mm is also a flat-shooting cartridge. With a 25-yard zero, it drops an imperceptible 0.2 inch at 50 yards and just 4.2 inches at 100 yards, where it still hits with 478 ft-lbs of energy. That’s more power than my favorite .45 ACP load has at the muzzle. Despite all that power, the 10mm Long Slide’s recoil is quite manageable. One friend likened its recoil to that of a standard .40 S&W load out of a polymer-framed, 4-inch-barreled gun.

I’ve carried my Nighthawk 10mm Long Slide a great deal over the last few years. The extended slide does cause the grip to push up into my side a bit when I’m seated in a vehicle, but I don’t even notice it when I’m walking. The longer sight radius, however, is most welcome on the range, where I can shoot with greater precision from 7 yards all the way out to 100. I wouldn’t shoot an animal much past 50 yards with it, but that level of precision gives me loads of confidence.

The first animal to fall to my Nighthawk 10mm was a nice eatin’-sized feral hog. The young boar had foolishly chosen to fall asleep right in the middle of the ranch road. I thought it was a log or carcass when I first saw it in the distance, but a long look with my binocular revealed that it was a dozing hog, so I slipped out of the truck and worked my way into the wind for a closer look. At 20 yards I could actually hear it snoring, so I snicked off the safety, plastered the front sight on its chest, and made the porker’s rest an eternal one. The bullet exited after passing through both shoulders, leaving an ugly wound channel in its wake.

10mm-Auto_002A few days later, I used my 10mm to take a big-bodied South Texas whitetail at 41 yards. The double-beamed buck stepped out in pistol range, so I stuck the front sight in the sweet spot and shot. It bucked hard and raced for cover, but the buck dropped as soon as it hit the brush, just 25 yards from where it stood at the shot. The double-lung shot missed the near shoulder but still managed to bust through the offside. There was significantly more internal damage than I’ve seen on game shot with my .45 ACP pistol.

In total, I’ve taken a dozen big-game animals and a truckload of varmints with my 10mm. It can’t match the big-bores for power, but it is far more decisive on deer-sized game than my .45 1911. It’s also much more comfortable to wear on my hip than any of those big-bore sixguns. Big-bores may pack more punch, but they require a bigger package that weighs more and kicks more. Pack a big-bore revolver if you must, but you can make my hunting handgun a 10mm.

  • Patrick LeRoy

    That's a very intriguing article. Are there any similar models that don't cost three large?

    • James

      There is also the colt delta elites (which may or may not have been re-released…I don't remember). These are 1911 style 10mm's with 5 inch barrels and I think are cheaper than the nighthawks.

    • Ken A

      The EAA Witness Limited also comes in 10 mm and is tapped on the sides of the slide to accept their custom optics mount which would work better for those of us with older eyes. Also around $1050 plus the scope mount being extra. Very high quality guns, I have one in .45 ACP.

  • Scott – Texas

    might want to check out a witness hunter. They are licensed clones of the CZ 75 are made in Italy and are about $1000. Hard to find, but worth the trouble. Mike McNett (owner of DoubleTap ammo) has one and was very fond of it a few years ago when I talked with him. I remembered that conversation and just bought one myself. I have shot it and it is sweet, but haven't hunted with it yet. I have no doubt it will do the job just fine.

  • Wookie

    I built a high-cap long slide 10mm using an STI frame, Storm Lake barrel, and Fusion Firearms parts. Less expensive than the Nighthawk, and very accurate.

  • John

    I've got an AMT Javelina in 10mm hunting model with a 7" barrel that does a great job hunting.

  • herbdoc

    what's the matter with a glock 20? I have one and it is a hell of a gun. I also have a 1911 and many others. the 10mm is a hell of a cartrige.

  • Jeepers Creepers

    A 10MM is the only production "ACP" that you can hunt big game in Colorado with (ELK or Mule Deer). I hunt with single shot's or revolvers. (500 S&W mag Or .375 SSK JDJ T/C). But I have been looking into a slide handgun. I was looking at the regular EEA 10mm ($650). But one thing to remember, when hunting only 5 rounds in the mag and one in the chamber.

  • Combet Shooter

    I have a Glock 20 10mm with comp bbl and Kimber 5inch 10mm….great cartridge and guns

  • wesp22

    That is one beautiful piece! Love the camo job, is that a hydro dip?

  • Alan_T

    It must be nice to be able to afford a stable full of Nighthawks Like Mr . Rodriguez . While it's more money than I'd want to spend , I wouldn't hesatate to use one , if he wanted to front me one .

    • Lopaka Kanaka

      Hello Alan:
      You can purchase a MechTech System CCU in a 10MM and use your 1911 frame for $350 plus UPS shipment to your door. Gun Test rate it as a ( A ) gun in there test.

      • Alan_T

        Thanks for the information Lopaka Kanaka , if they have a website , I'll check them out !

  • mike sathre

    That is an exqusite long slide mdl.
    But like Scott said from TX, the EEA Witness Gold and Silver editions are pretty sweet models too.
    They are equipped with the frame drilled and tapped for scope mt. for us older shooters w/ailing old eyes.
    I also like the weight as opposed to the Glock. "Too each his own" as they say.

    Mike in Boise OUT

  • Rick Bunn

    I have a Kimber in 10mm and would love to find a long slide top end for it . I sent Fussion an e-mail and was told they did not have top end conversions. Too bad. Maybe Brownells can set me up.
    Rick Bunn
    Alexandria, VA.

  • BN2345

    I had thought of using my standard 1911 with hot loads such as those from DoubleTap. Since I had "a few" Glocks, I bought a 6" conversion bbl for my G-21 45ACP to shoot 40 Super instead. While I've been a loyal customer of theirs, I'm not purposely promoting them other than the fact that I'm now shooting either a 200g solid lead flat nose at 1350 fps (810 ft-lbs) or a 180g hollow point at 1450 fps (841 ft-lbs)! The "conversion" only requires a slightly heavier recoil spring assembly – minimal cost altogether.

    Hogs and deer better watch out for my Glock rig! I'll confidently shoot game out to 40 yards; 50 yards is stretching it for me with the factory sights.

    Nothing against 10 mm, because I also bought a 6" bbl for my G-20. Very impressive ballistics, although still not up to the 40 Super level. If I were to hunt with this rig, I'd go with slightly lighter loads: 180g controlled expansion HP at 1305 fps (681 ft-lbs) or a 150g hollow point at 1475 fps (725 ft-lbs).

    Since I use other Glocks (9mm and 40SW) for tactical/competition, transition, grip angle, sight picture is consistent across the range of Glock frames. I have no problem transitioning to my "hunting Glocks", other than to be aware of the differences of the calibers' ballistics at longer ranges.

    Good hunting!

  • joe

    i have a colt delta elite and a glock 29 both in 10mm love them. also have a desert eagle in .50ae love it too. can't hunt in PA with any of them because PA sux! no semi's for hunting.

  • Cliff Russe

    Q: Would You Hunt with a 10 mm?

    My A: What I TRULY WISH I had was a S&W Model 610 revolver in 10 mm. With a six-and-a-half inch barrel, and hotloads in moon clips, then **** YEAH!!!

  • Steve

    I have a S&W 1076 that I've had for several years. I don't shoot it much anymore. You should see what this thing does shooting into a clay brick with black talons. Devistating! It is a little large to be CCW, but I have done so. The 10mm along with the 41 mag (had one of these also) are two of the most underestimated and unappreciated rounds made. I have most of the other calibers in handguns, but in my opinion, you can sell everything else and stay with these two, and handle just about anything.

  • mike

    Has Greg's son, the one that wanted to hunt deer at age 5, shot anyone yet ?

    • Alan_T

      Shot anyone yet ? ? ? ? ? ?
      Let's hope not !

  • mike

    the 10mm is for me and if you can only have one pistol then the glock 20 bears a second look, that is if the grip isn't too big for you. 15 rounds of 10mm? sweet huh? but check this out, with the g-20 you can buy a drop-in 6"bbl from lone wolf, in .357 sig, .40s&w, 9×25 dillon and 10mm. already having the g-20 also allows you to buy the conversion slide/bbl/mag from Guncrafter Industries for the .50GI (think 9+1rounds of 300gr. fmj). also you can buy a ,45 slide/bbl/ mag conversion, since the g-20 and g-21 are the same frame(i think). and once you have the .45 conversion you can now get the conversion kit for the .460 rowland. i guess you could do all this to a g-21 also. all i have left to get is the .45 and .460 for mine. i wonder if i change out the extractor i could convert it to 9mm too? hmmmm

  • mike

    i failed to mention the added benefit of having the .357 sig,.40s&w, 9×25 dillon and the 10mm in the glock 20 is.. they all use the same magazine.

  • Jeff

    I'm willing to bet the 10mm is probably a very capable hunting round and runs paralell to the .357 or .41 magnum ballistically. Only problem is in Nevada you can't use it because the state law for harvesting a big game mammal is a centerfire handgun with a barrel length of at least 4 inches or longer in either .22 caliber or larger with a loaded length of 2 inches or longer, or .24 caliber or larger with a case length equal to or longer than a .44 magnum.

  • 277Volt

    A .460 Rowland conversion from Clark is another option for fans of the 1911. $295 for the conversion and Buffalo Bore lists a 255gr hardcast load rated for 1,300 fps.

  • Stan

    There is actually more difference between the 10 and the 41 mag than this article leads you to believe. He compares a high performance double tap 10mm load to a standard 41 mag load. If you compare his 10mm double tap load to a 41 mag double tap load with equivalent bullet weights the 41 mag is really quite a lot faster.

    • Joseph Kool

      10mm people love comparing watered down 41 magnum ammo to their favorite 10mm boutique garbage ammo using self defense bullets being driven way faster than what they were designed for.

  • Reno

    None of you mention the S&W 1006. I have had one since about 1990 and used it to qualify for my first CCW. Very accurate and shoots any time of ammo well. I also own a Glock 20 and love it also. I am fond of using both while deer hunting in Idaho!

  • Matt

    Well there is a better supplier at a better cost and proven performance and that is UNDERWOODAMMO.They are the go to for heavy 10mm.Double Tap has not been living up to it's claims.Ck em out,

    • Joseph Kool

      Or just load your own and save a ton of money instead of buying boutique garbage.

  • david

    I have a S&W 1006. I have killed 5 deer with it. It is a double action, but in SA mode it has an acceptable trigger. I would love a 6" 1911 in 10 mm and would really like a double stack magazine with 15 rounds. I wish they didn't cost so much. They are a great round.

  • bigdude59

    I will never own a 45 acp.I use a 10mm all the time.I love the 10mm for the power and the way it handles.I have a couple of eaa 10mm with a wonder finish.That finish is really nice as far as lub goes.Eaa is really great with any problems you have with your gun.I had one I bought used and it had a problem with feeding.I called them and they had me send it to them when it came back they had gone through the gun plus they put a really nice polish on the feed ramp.I have not had any trouble with it since that was 7 or 8 yrs ago.I asked how much I would have to pay and they just told me they happy I was happy with my new gun even though it was used when I bought it.I will stay with eaa for life.One gun you should try if ever a chance to is a 10mm on full auto.

  • Thomas

    Wilson combat makes a very nice 1911 hunter in 10mm or .460 Rowland

  • Gunfan

    I own five handguns chambered for the 10mm Auto cartridge. It is, by far, the best auto pistol cartridge for "belt carry" in the field. If you want to change power levels in the pistol, just change magazines. Make certain you know where the bullets are hitting, and you're in business.

  • oneofeachplease

    I own a G29sf and a STI Perfect 10. If you ever thought the idea of carrying 17+1 rounds of .357 magnum sounds good, get one of these. 155 gr. Hornady 10mm vs. 158 gr. Hornady .357 magnum have very similar ballistics. You will smile much more when shooting 10mm vs. a 9,40, or 45 until you have to buy more ammo. Watch out for some guns including EAA and some Colts. Their chambers only support the 1,100ish fps loads. May as well get a .40 S&W. 155 gr. Hornady goes 1,450 fps through the 6" Perfect 10 on a hot day. Did I mention it and the Glock G29sf hold 17+1. Big smiles…

    • Joseph Kool

      Tanfoglio Witness’s have well supported chambers and are strong guns. Swap the recoil spring and your good to go for full power 10mm loads. It’s the Glocks that need aftermarket barrels and recoil spring upgrades for true 10mm loads.

  • wapitihunter

    I have hunted with a Super Blackhalk for years and a Blackhalk .41. To tell the truth I can’t tell much difference in performance on game with my handloads but the .41 recoils a bit less. I have long been a fan of the Been 10 and wanted one bad. Never could find one that I could afford. I live about two miles from STI and I am going to try to get one. In the mean time I got a Glock 20. I am a little disappointed in it’s accuracy but I have taken a whitetail buck and a couple of coyotes all around 50 yards. The Glock is much easier to pack and it hits hard. Like I said I want an STI or maybe a Colt Delta Elete. I skill love my Ruger wheel guns but the selfloader is so easy to pack.

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