I’ve never hunted with a handgun, but along with my recent plunge into deer hunting I’ve been thinking a little about it. Not sure if I will attempt to hunt with a handgun in the near future, but I also figure it can’t hurt to academically prepare for it.
As of writing this, I tend to carry a Sig Sauer P220 chambered for 10mm Auto as a sidearm when I hunt. All of the hunting I’ve done is in Texas and it will likely be where I will do the most hunting for the rest of my natural life. As such, there is the possibility of running into and having to defend myself from snakes, alligators (unlikely given the regions I will likely hunt), cougars, wild hogs, or coyotes as they are the most common dangerous wildlife in Texas. Out of those alligators and wild hogs are definitely medium game (CPX2 classification) at least if not dangerous game (CPX3 classification).
With that in mind my first question is, is a 10mm Auto a suitable cartridge for that game?
According Chuck Hawk’s information on matching the gun to the game, a suitable bullet for CPX2 game should have 800 ft/lbs of energy at impact and at least a sectional density of .200 for medium bore cartridges (.33-.39 caliber) or .185 for big bore cartridges (over .40 caliber). For CPX3 game, a suitable bullet should have 1,200 ft/lbs of energy at impact and at least a sectional density of .250 for medium bore cartridges or .220 for big bore cartridges. Granted this information is geared towards rifle cartridges.
Using the rifle cartridge guidelines, it looks like the typical 10mm cartridge using the common 180 grain projectile falls short as a suitable cartridge for hunting CPX2 and CPX3 class game. This is because the both the impact energy and the sectional density are too low. Most cartridges I looked at offered an advertised muzzle energy around 650-700 ft/lbs. The sectional density for the typical 180 grain projectile is 0.161.
Chuck Hawk’s also has information on handgun hunting that indicates a 10mm is suitable for medium game. As far as deer hunting goes, .357 Magnum is recommended as the smallest cartridge for deer hunting. The difference in advertised muzzle energy between the .357 Magnum and the 10mm Auto is about 50 ft/lbs, where .357 Magnum is the more powerful cartridge of the two. This is yet another indicator that 10mm may not be suitable for hunting larger CPX2 class game and definitely not suitable for CPX3 class game.
So 10mm isn’t suitable for hunting medium game or Texas hogs? According to the academic acrobatics I just did, the answer is probably not. However, there is no lack of magazine articles, blog posts, and videos providing evidence that in practice 10mm Auto is effective for hunting hogs. So maybe, in practice, it is suitable. I just don’t know enough.
So if 10mm isn’t suitable for hunting wild Texas hogs, is it suitable for defense against them? I can say it’s a better bet than the typical 9mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson, or .45 ACP options found in typical defensive firearms. I can also say there are better options available.
What am I going to do about it? For defensive purposes while hunting, I may start carrying a .357 Magnum revolver. At least until I get my hands on a reliable sidearm chambered for a more powerful cartridge and become proficient with it.
For hunting, I may look into getting my hands on a .44 Remington Magnum revolver and becoming proficient with it. Given advertised muzzle energies raging from 970-1150 ft/lbs and a sectional density of 0.187 for the typical 240 grain projectiles, I’d say the .44 is academically suitable for hunting CPX2 class game, but not quite powerful enough for CPX3 game (there is evidence to suggest it is powerful enough for CPX3 game in practice). There are larger handgun cartridges that are academically suitable for hunting CPX3 game. An example is the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum. One can find .500 factory loads with advertised muzzle energies north of 2,000 ft/lbs for a 500 grain projectile with a sectional density of 0.286. While I have access to a revolver chambered for .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum however, I doubt I will become proficient with it anytime in the near future.