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Lots of good answers have already been provided, so I'd like to suggest to the OP to follow your desire to learn to hunt. I hope you have a buddy who can mentor you or find one at a local hunt club. You sound as though you have the curiosity and desire to learn.

The answer to your question will be clear when you learn what deer hunting entails.

If you would like to hunt deer with a handgun, you'll start off with more knowledge of the gear and an ethical approach.

I hunt deer with a .44 mag 7.5" barrel with hunting loads and have shot deer and seen how they can run like hell even after a well placed heart/lung shot. I don't try for head shots with a handgun. A slight miss there and you have caused a lot of suffering for the animal. Heart shot deer are very recoverable if you have a bit of experience tracking a blood trail.

Good luck and hope you join us handgun hunters.
 

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Hey Ruger family, I'm wondering if out of a 4.5" - 5", with proper shot placement, and projectile selection, can you ethically bring down a deer within 25 yds with a .45 Auto loader?
In Indiana, legal handgun cartridges are magnums. They put a measurement on the case length minimum for the round that is the magnum length. However, a 45 acp will do the trick at archery ranges. I had a friend that back in the the day would drop whitetail in their tracks with a 22 long rifle. Of course he was using a rifle and placing the shot in the head. Like stated, a well place shot is important.
 

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44 Magnum is a pistol caliber and there are a whole lot lot of Ruger 44 Carbines killing deer with the 44 MAG ......so I would say a 45 acp could do it better in a carbine, say the Marlin Camp Carbine 45 would be better than a pistol. my .02 cents
I would agree with what you are saying, BUT if you are buying a firearm for a specific purpose, I say buy the one with the best chance of success. I would suggest a 12 GA with a rifles slug barrel would be a better choice than a .45ACP carbine.
 

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I have to agree that while the 45 will take a deer at 25 yards it is a very big handicap, if cost is an issue then there are plenty of very cheap shotguns that will do a much much better job.
I'd go a 20ga for less recoil or a carbine rifle in 44mag or similar that's legal in your state.
 

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There are some expectation you may have to get around with a 45 ACP for deer hunting. I've killed most of my deer with a 45 ACP, while not hunting in most cases, fixing fences and so on. I have found fast expanding 185 grain +P ammo penetrates least, usually leaving little or no visible pieces and two pulped lungs. A sturdy 200 grain or above JHP will put a second dime sized hole on the way out. Modern ammunition that passes the FBI expansion and penetration requirement, through several layers of cloth, 12 to 18 inches of penetration, are just fine. The best results are from a bow hunter mentality, undisturbed broad-side shot behind the shoulder. Avoid ball ammunition, plenty of penetration, little shock. I liked the old school Speer 200 grain JHP "flying ashtray". Today the Hornady 220 grain flex-tip Critical Defense and the Hornady XTP +p in 200 grain or 230 grain are top performers. Use a 5 inch or longer barrel to get all the velocity you can muster. Practice in field positions and limit your range to minute of paper plate accuracy, say all rounds in 8 inches. Take a pile of paper plates in the woods, tack them to stumps and back off 25 to 50 yards and evaluate your first shot performance. Most deer go 50 yards or less if hit well.
 

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I reside in Oregon where most anything is legal to hunt with .22 or larger; handgun, rifle, doesn't make a difference. And I just arbitrarily went with 25 yards because there's some thick Cascade brush out here, and most shots are close.
I grew up hunting whitetails in Oklahoma and Texas. I’ve lived in western Washington and hunted blacktails in the Cascade brush that you describe for over 30 years. I promise you that there’s far more to the question than which cartridge to use.

The biggest issue is that it nearly always rains here during deer season and blood trails can wash away in minutes. You want that deer down RIGHT NOW.

So how do you make that happen?

Conventional wisdom says that the 45 ACP is adequate for broadside shots on small deer at short range. Cascade blacktails run small but broadside shots are rare. You need more penetration on those raking shots and the 45 ACP may not provide that. To do that with a factory 45 ACP load, I‘d want a premium 230-grain +P JHP or Buffalo Bore’s +P WFN load. In a handload, I’d push a 230-grain cast flatpoint as fast as I could make it go, probably about 950 fps. You can reach 45 Super levels in some autos and in most revolvers. That’s not a bad idea, but it’s also not a 45 ACP.

Range is not always close, and even then it comes in a couple of different flavors. I've come to expect three types of shots.
1. The deer is above you looking down from a rocky outcropping. The distance and geometry are about the same as standing on a suburban sidewalk looking up at a streetlight across the street. These deer are nearly always lying down, so you have to hit the neck or throat and break the spine because you can't see anything else. A high-velocity rifle bullet will nearly sever a blacktail’s head at this range. That’s a decisive hit, but handgun bullet must hit bone to stop the animal, and that’s maybe 2” wide. Your other choice is the brisket. A center hit here is essentially the same as a neck shot since the animal is lying down and you’re looking up at it, but the spine is wider farther back and a low hit will take out the heart before it ranges up into the spine. Hitting a bit to one side can wreck a shoulder, which damages more meat but will anchor the deer instantly. If the deer is standing because it’s about to run or is sneaking away, then shoot for the shoulder. Almost anything will work for these shots since precision is more important than raw power. In an accurized gun the 45 ACP has enough of both, but you have to be an excellent shot to make it work.
2. The deer is 75 or 80 yards through the trees at a target on about the same level as you, usually across a heavily-wooded ravine or streambed. Shoot for the shoulder. The 45 ACP is powerful enough (barely) for this kind of shot, but trajectory makes it hard to get hits at that distance.
3. You step out of the brush and see a deer across a clearcut hundreds of yards away. For this you need a bolt action rifle chambered for a high-velocity cartridge. A 4x scope will easily reach that far and will handle the closer shots easily if you practice with it like you would for an IDPA match. The geometry of a Remington factory stock or a Rimrock custom stock is perfect for speed up close.

Speaking of speed, it's also a factor with blacktails. They’re far easier to spook than whitetails. They decide whether you're a threat very quickly and they do NOT stick around afterwards, so you need a handgun that you can shoot well in a hurry. To break it down for a non-hunter, you must be able to:
1. Spot a blacktail in the brush, which is no small feat.
2. Decide whether to shoot that particular animal.
3. Decide whether your weapon can penetrate to the vitals from the angle that the animal presents BEFORE it moves. You can skip this if you already know the answer, which is why the 41 Magnum, 44 Magnum, and hot-loaded 45 Colt are so popular. Same goes for most long guns. With a 45 ACP, you have to decide on a case-by-case basis, which takes time, experience, and no small amount of luck.
4. Present the gun, align the sights, and press the trigger.

For the first or second type of shot described above, expect 3-5 seconds max. 1-3 seconds is usually more like it. I usually have to do this from an awkward position on rough ground, so I keep the gun in my hand when I'm doing anything but eating or going to the bathroom.

You have to be a good hunter and a good shot to kill blacktails in the brush with a handgun. Lots of things will work but I prefer a 240-grain cast SWC at about 1,000 fps from a tuned 44 Magnum or 45 Colt revolver with adjustable sights and a good trigger. The 45 ACP just isn't quite enough of the things I need for the way that I hunt.

Let me know if you have questions.


Okie John
 

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Ya know what kills the most deer every year in Texas?

F-150's.

Only because there are more F-150's than Silverados in Texas.
Your mileage may vary where you are.

The 1911 is an effective firearm that needs no qualification or validation here.
Now that is funny! What does the grill of the truck look like, after it tangles with Bambi, or her husband Biff? You ought to see an F-150 after it smacks into a moose; it pretty well takes out the grill.

And God forbid if the deer comes through the windshield. That can be fatal.
 

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I'm really surprised by all of the hollow point comments. All of the the expert pistol hunters I've heard speak on the topic say, never use hollow point ammunition for this type of hunting.
Expansion requires velocity, something the 45 Auto does not have in spades. And if the 45 ACP does expand well, it will deliver limited penetration. Does that mean the 45 Auto would be ineffective in this application? Absolutely not. It might even be ethical. Just be thoughtful, practiced and disciplined... and consider the following:

Hunt with a rifle until you get enough experience to move to the more challenging pistol. Embrace the fact that you might never get good enough to us a 45 Auto for hunting. That's ok, few people are.

No shots over 25 yards is an excellent limitation. At least until you have a lot of experience under your belt.

Rely 100% on shot placement, and the proper bullet to do the killing. Energy, velocity and caliber will do little to ensure success.

Choose a bullet that won't fail and will give you the best chance of a complete pass through. Penetration is king for this application. Pistol caliber hollow points will be unpredictable at best.

This would be the cartridge I'd use:
45 ACP+P 255gr SWC Hardcast Solids 20rds
 
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