Whenever I am at a custom show or maybe just browsing the isles at the Safari Club Convention, I always have a couple of people come up to me and want to talk handgun hunting and invariably they want to talk about hunting dangerous game with a handgun. They always ask me about hunting dangerous game. Was I scared, did I ruin my pants, did I run, was I too scared to run? The answer to each of these questions would have to be, yes.
Every instance is different. I have had 3 bear charge me. In 2 cases I shot them at point blank range. One of them was sitting on my chest when I shot him the last 3 times. I have been within 20 yards of a pissed off African buffalo before pulling the trigger. I have had elephant walk up to within 10 yards of me, trying to decide if I was going to be a problem or worth the hassle.
Normally when someone asks I give them this scenario.
You are hunting bull elephant with your handgun. In this case it is an Encore in suitable large caliber. First we find a shootable bull. One with at least 60 pounds of ivory per side. If he is a good bull we do a sneak on him, coming up on his ass, as a bull elephant will feed into the wind so can smell trouble. His eyesight is not the greatest but his nose is very good. So to keep downwind of him you sneak up on his ass. Thatís the big round gray thing without the trunk.
You do your sneak very slowly and quietly as quite often that big bull elephant will have several smaller young bulls around him. They are called askari bulls and are like his fan club. They are there to watch out for bad guys. Thatís us.
As you get up on him you try to get within 15 yards of his ass (the big round gray things, remember?). You can hear his stomach rumbling. It just barely is louder than your heart beating. You are wondering what in hell you are doing this close to a bull elephant. He is one big bastard. You are close enough now to smell him. That stink. Wait a minute, is that him or you? Your PH asks you if you are ready. What a really stupid question. I could be in camp swilling down a beer, instead here I am stand 12 yards from this monster and I may have just soiled my pants.
You nod your head to the PH. No use trying to talk and sound brave. Thereís not a chance of that. You raise your pistol. Yeah, pistol. We are hunting with handguns here, remember?
You raise your pistol until it is about level with his back. You nod your head at the PH, wishing you had stayed home and shot the neighbors cat instead. The PH checks his double rifle again quietly and then holding the double in the crook of his arm, he breaks a large stick with a loud crack.
That 10 ton elephants twirls around like Tinkerbell with his ears wide, his trunk tucked below his chin, and head up searching for any movement. Remember, he has bad eyesight but you are so close to him that any movement he will spot.
You put the crosshairs on his trunk about 8 inches down from the level with his eyes. You are shooting up at him and from a fairly steep angle. That bullet has to travel through 4 feet of bone to reach the brain. You squeeze the trigger sending that 400 to 500 gr. solid into the upper part of his trunk and hopefully back far enough to reach the brain.
At the hit the elephant rears up on his hind legs and topples over on his side. The PH grabs you by the arm and moves you 5 feet to the side so you can put a second shot into the back of his head for a sure shot into the brain in case the first one didnít make it. Oh yeah, you donít remember reloading do you? That comes automatically when you are familiar with your handgun. It hits you then that you actually only moved 5 feet to reach the back of his head. He landed that close to you. Sometimes if you hit the brain, they crumple right where they stand. Sometimes they rear up and topple over. Usually this is when you were close enough to the brain to stun but a second shot will be necessary. But whether a second shot is necessary or not, it is always good insurance. If your cartridge of choice is large and powerful enough to impart that 60 TKO or so that John Taylor says you need to put an elephant on his knees or down for the count then you are OK.
Everything is still and quiet. The elephantís front leg is quivering back and forth but all else is still. Your PH reaches around and shakes your hand telling you what a good shot you are, while under his breath he is mumbling thanks that you didnít screw up. You have your elephant and have taken him with a handgun, something which very few people in this world can say the same.
Now the other scenario Ö..
The elephant twirls at the cracking of the stick. You are frozen like a deer in the headlights. You canít pull the trigger. The PH throws the broken stick down and raises the rifle to shoot but the elephant is too close. Both of you are hit by the elephant. He impales you on his tusk and slams the PH to ground with his trunk. Both of you are mortally wounded but the elephant doesnít stop there. This was your idea, remember?
The elephant drives the tusk completely through you and then pushes the tusk into the ground crushing you into a bloody little pulp with his immense head. He swings his head to get the mess off his tusk and then turns to find the PH where he is lying in a brush pile. He grabs the PH by his feet with his trunk and swings him time and time again into a nearby tree until the only things recognizable is his boots. Then he walks off, the victor this time.
Eventually the vultures attract enough attention and someone finds what is left of the two of you and they scrap up what is left into a sandwich bag and send it home. After a short time your wife collects a nice insurance check and moves in with your best friend who she has been fooling around with on the side. And they live happily every after while you and the PH are worm food because you had this insane idea about hunting elephants with a handgun.
Usually after I tell this story, at least half of the people that have come up to me will walk off shaking their head. About a third are green in the face and stagger off. The other small percentage grin real big and say ďthatís cool, Iíd like to try thatĒ. You know right there that those are the true handgun hunters.
Used with permission of the Author