HUNTING WITH A SEMI-AUTO HANDGUN?

While viewing the Wilson Combat website and salivating over the gorgeous 1911’s, I clicked on the tab for their “Hunter” model. This beautiful piece comes chambered for either 10mm or .460 Rowland. Supposedly the 10mm can be loaded to approximate .41 magnum performance, and the .460 Rowland – according to whom you listen to – either comes close or exceeds .44 magnum performance. Either round would be a big step up from the standard 1911 round of .45ACP.

OR WOULD THEY? (Short answer – yes!)

A 1911 Model .45ACP is similar in size and weight to the Ruger Super Blackhawk single action revolver chambered for .44 magnum, but not even close in power.

A 1911 Model .45ACP is similar in size and weight to the Ruger Super Blackhawk single action revolver chambered for .44 magnum, but not even close in power.

The 300gr .44 jacketed soft nose bullet (left) is as large as the >45 ACP case! A 300 gr .44 hollow point completely inside of a .45 ACP case fills it, giving the appearance of a loaded .45 cartridge - with no room for powder!

The 300gr .44 jacketed soft nose bullet (left) is as large as the >45 ACP case! A 300 gr .44 hollow point completely inside of a .45 ACP case fills it, giving the appearance of a loaded .45 cartridge – with no room for powder!

First, the .45 ACP, firing a 230gr FMJ bullet, will produce a muzzle velocity out of a standard 5″ barrel of 835 – 879 fps, with a muzzle energy of 356 lb ft. It is possible to exceed these numbers by hand loading or using +P factory loads (think 230gr Hornady XTP at 933 fps), but accuracy and pistol life may suffer. +P loads from Wilson Combat, with the 200 Hornady XTP, are listed at 1050 fps MV, 490 lb/ft ME. That’s not bad. Their “lighter” load shows 955 fps MV, 401 lb/ft ME. With the 230gr XTP, they show a +P load at 925 fps MV, 437 lb/ft ME, against a lighter load of 815 fps MV, 360 lb/ft ME. Accuracy should be better with the lighter loads, killing power more with the +P, of course.

On the left are a .45ACP loaded with a 230gr Full Metal Jacket bullet (top), and the same caliber with a 200gr Hornady XTP jacketed hollow point. On the right is a .44 magnum 300gr Barnes "Buster" bullet (top), and a 335gr Hard Cast lead bullet.

Stepping up to the .460 Rowland, we see a listing from one source of a muzzle velocity of 1340 with a 230gr JHP, and 917 lb ft muzzle energy. From another web site – Ballistics by inches – the MV velocity was listed at 1208 fps from a 5″ barrel, 1261 from a 6″ barrel, 1214 out of a 5.5″ barrel. HMMM?

[caption id="attachment_921" align="alignleft" width="3872"]>45 ACP with (from left) 200gr hard cast lead bullet, 200gr Hornady XTP jacketed hollow point, and the common 230gr full metal jacket round. >45 ACP with (from left) 200gr hard cast lead bullet, 200gr Hornady XTP jacketed hollow point, and the common 230gr full metal jacket round.

The .44 magnum, from a 5″ revolver barrel, pushes a 240gr JHP from 1400 – 1500 fps with many popular hand loads, yielding 848 – 971 lb ft of muzzle energy. A full-house 300gr bullet from a .44 mag can easily run 1200 – 1400 fps. I shoot 335 gr Hard Cast Lead bullets sub sonic in my suppressed .44 magnum at just under 1100 fps – and that is a “light” load! A 325gr Hard Cast Lead bullet out of the .460 was listed with a muzzle velocity of 795 – 836 fps at full power. Some of the variation with .460 ballistics are due to the fact that it MUST use a compensator (muzzle break), not just for recoil as felt by the shooter, but to keep it from jarring the pistol to pieces.

Top row: .44 magnum bullets - 325gr Hard Cast Lead, 300gr Barnes all copper "Buster", and 300 gr Speer jacketed soft point. Bottom row: .45 bullets - 200 gr Hard Cast lead, 200 gr Hornady XTP, 300 gr Speer jacketed soft point (meant for .45LC. Note length difference between .44 and .45 cases.

Top row: .44 magnum bullets – 325gr Hard Cast Lead, 300gr Barnes all copper “Buster”, and 300 gr Speer jacketed soft point. Bottom row: .45 bullets – 200 gr Hard Cast lead, 200 gr Hornady XTP, 300 gr Speer jacketed soft point (meant for .45LC. Note length difference between .44 and .45 cases.

Because the .44 magnum bullet actually has a little edge ballistically, and is a much longer bullet, I would consider it more “powerful” than the .460, which uses a case only 1/16″ longer than a .45ACP. I should add, though, that I have not fired a .460 Rowland myself. The .460 can be reloaded using standard .45ACP dies, and the cartridges will fit in standard .45ACP magazines.

Still, the .460 should be a very capable hunting round, and definitely has the edge in the number of cartridges it carries over a 6 shot revolver – plus faster reloading. If the hunter does not want to use a scope, there shouldn’t really be much noticeable difference between it and the .44mag. My 1911 – a .45ACP – weighs 2 3/4 lbs on my sausage scale, loaded. My Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 mag with 6″ barrel weighs 3 lbs. Don’t know what a .460 1911 weighs, but probably somewhere in between.

Of course, in hunting, as with other uses of handguns, we have to remember that semi-autos CAN jam. A revolver can be jammed, but it is much less likely, making it usually the more dependable firearm. For hand loaders, or those who just want to collect their used brass for ecological reasons (or for a friend who reloads), it is much easier to remove empty brass from a revolver cylinder than to hunt for it in weeds and grass.

Besides Wilson Combat, Kimber also chambers a 1911 for the .460. For those who want to convert a 1911 they already have, Clark’s Custom Guns – www.clarkscustomguns.com, or (318) 949-9884 – sells the conversion kits, which mainly consists of a new barrel and a stronger recoil spring. In the close-knit world of the 1911 pistol, it seems that both Bill Wilson and John Clark were top competitive pistol shots before deciding to make and sell improved parts for these pistols. Brownells also sells the barrel kits, or one might contact Mr. Rowland himself – outdoor TV personality Johnny Rowland (The Shooting Show) – at (318) 377-5189.

Wilson Combat “Custom” Ammo Loads for 1911 Semi-Auto Pistols offered in their semi-auto, “Hunter” series

.45 ACP – Muzzle Velocity(fps) Muzzle Energy(lb/ft)
200 gr Hornady XTP 1050 490
230 gr Hornady XTP 925 437

10mm
140 gr Barnes 1350 556
155 gr Hornady XTP 1320 600
180 gr Hornady XTP 1280 655

.460 Rowland
200 gr Hornady XTP 1340 795
230 gr Hornady XTP 1200 735

I would consider the .45ACP marginal as a big game handgun, although I intend to give mine a try on hogs. For serious big critter shooting, something like the 230gr XTP at over 900 fps comes close “ballistically” to my sub sonic .44 magnum loads, and I DO believe in the killing power of a big, relatively slow-moving bullet. I doubt, however, that the 300gr .45 bullet pictured, meant for the .45LC, would work in the much shorter .45ACP case without pressure problems.Keep in mind that some manufacturers of semi-auto pistols will not even honor their warranty if the pistol is used with hand loads, much less hand loads that, while probably safe, considerably exceed the strength of “normal” loads for the cartridge.The .460 is more than adequate for normal open sight handgun hunting ranges, and perhaps slightly longer case is more the equal of the .44? I would expect, though, that case length might limit the size of bullets used, and velocity, unfortunately, is not always the defining factor in two projectiles of different size and weight – one reason we need to try them all to make up our minds!

I WANT ONE!

In the meantime, I will be hunting hogs with the .45ACP and Glock 10mm. To help me make more effective shots, I am going to scope both pistols. For the Taurus 1911, with it’s forged steel frame, a mount that secures to the front accessory rail and sits high enough for the slide to work beneath it and allow use of the open sights seems to do a good job. I chose to mount a 2X Silver Weaver pistol scope, which actually looks very good on the stainless pistol. It seems to be secure and stable, and with it’s wide filed of view it is easy to acquire a target. Sort of takes it out of the concealed carry category, but the mount is easy to remove, and when replaced, the scope should not need to be re-zeroed!

Rail mount optics mount and 2x Weaver scope on Taurus 1911.

Rail mount optics mount and 2x Weaver scope on Taurus 1911.

Editors Note: As mentioned in another post, I have gotten my hands on a .460 Rowland – on a Springfield Mil Spec frame – and I have to revise my opinion of it upwards considerably. If converting an existing .45ACP 1911, the cost is very attractive, and the Clark barrel kit is very well done. Firing the .460, it is obviously a more powerful cartridge than a .45ACP – or a 10mm – yet recoil is less than a .44 mag. I have not yet tested it on game, but using the Buffalo Bore Hard Cast Lead Flat Nosed bullet at 1300 fps and 967 ft lbs muzzle energy, it should be VERY effective – and lighter bullets can give even more velocity. I am very anxious to get it “dialed” in and shoot a hog with it! Should be about as good as it gets for this use!

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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3 Responses to HUNTING WITH A SEMI-AUTO HANDGUN?

  1. MikeH says:

    Thanks for the kind comments. Stay tuned, as I am having my Springfield Armory 1911 Mil Spec re-barreled to the powerful .460 Rowland caliber, which is virtually equal in power to a .44 magnum – and in a semi-auto! Hoping it will be a real hog hammer!

  2. CPB says:

    Who manufactures that mount?

  3. MikeH says:

    Combat Optical. Go to my product evaluation titled “Scoping a Semi-auto Handgun”, and there is an Amazon Product link that will take you to the mount on Amazon, with pricing, maker, and a link for manufacturer’s details. You can also order the mount from that link. The Glock Store also sells a similar mount for use with – what else?- Glocks, but I don’t have a link to that one.

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