Peter Jones tries out some handguns and considers their ballistic capabilities and the firearms legislation effecting their use in the UK

Handguns? OK so this hasn't got a whole load to do with Deer Stalking in the UK, however I suspect that along with most people who share with me an interest in hunting, many will also have a interest in firearms and ballistics.


(Above: You have to venture outside the UK to experience Handgun shooting) 

After the Dunblane Massacre in 1996 and subsequent to the Hungerford killings in 1987, the 1997 Firearm Amendment acts No 1 & 2 created a ban on privately owned hand guns in the UK, save for black powder revolvers and some antiques. Since this time the only way for UK residents to experience the use of a handgun is via service in the armed forces and police or else by traveling abroad. Arguably as a result perhaps the UK enjoys one of the lowest rates of homicides from handguns anywhere in the world, with the US suffering from a rate of killings from handguns alone some forty times higher than our own.

During my own service as a Detective on various Crime Squads in the Metropolitan Police I came into contact with firearms on a reasonably frequent basis. At one stage this included an alarming number of drilled out and adapted replicas, who's use was just as likely to be fatal to the user as the intended recipient! Other incidents included another rather reckless incident when as a probationer I detained a local 'prominent nominal' who had decided to hold up his local newsagents. Thankfully for my sake with no more than a fearsome looking BB gun! A 'nick' which earned me not the warm back slapping that I had expected but instead a sound b*ll*cking from the team governor for not waiting for the Trojan unit!

handg250So what is it that has me writing about handguns? Well it has to do with a recent trip I made to Vancouver and some serious fun, oh yes some serious, serious fun. I have to acknowledge that this part of my trip was to be somewhat of a bussmans holiday, however I couldn't resist a visit to the local gun range to try out some otherwise forbidden fruit.

(Left: On trial, three handguns at a gun range in Vancouver, Glok 9mm, 1911 .45 Auto and the .50 Dessert the Zombie target!)

First a Glok 9mm, secondly the world famous and much loved 1911 .45 Auto and oh yes to top it off the 'daddy' of handguns the .50 Dessert Eagle. Admittedly not too many shots with this, as at eight bucks a pop it wasn't just the recoil that had me wincing with discomfort!

The whole thing got me inquisitive about the ballistics of such weapons. To be frank handguns although clearly highly deadly at close range have less energy than the movies might have us believe. Knocking people off their feet as we all know, is something confined to films and not reality as handguns have considerably less energy than their full bore rifle counterparts.

The Glok as favoured by my former colleagues in the Met', has the least energy with a 115 grain bullet being propelled at around 1200 fps producing 383 ft lbs at the muzzle. The .45 depending on the ammunition, has a touch more firing a heavier 185 grain bullet at 1000 fps and producing around 411 ft lbs of energy. These rounds are clearly very different to the deer calibre rifles that we shoot, and designed for a whole different purpose, ie close quarters use, however both, despite their lethal ability at close range, have energy that is only comparible with our humble .17 HMR! Not to mention a truly banana shaped trajectory, and poor down range ability to deliver energy. When compared to the 2700 ft lbs produced from a typical .308 round, we can see the limitations of handgun ballistics. 

(Below: The mighty IMI Dessert Eagle in .50 Calibre)

DesertEagle250So what of the mighty IMI Dessert Eagle? Well it may not be that impressive compared to a deer rifle, but needless to say it is by far and away the 'daddy' of handguns, producing a whopping 1415 ftlbs from a massive 325 grain bullet, propelled at 1400 fps. To be frank I wasn't too surprised by this, the .50 Calibre was I can only describe more like a cannon than a handgun, with a boom of a report like that of a shotgun rather than the snappy report of a 9mm. The type of report that demanded attention from my fellow range users and prompted everyone to turn and look at the childish 'Limey' exhibiting a huge grin on his face!

Perhaps forgivably, as much as I enjoyed the cannon, the first few shots did rather spoil my otherwise tidy group and this is clearly the downside of such weaponry, which has even the most experienced shots flinching in anticipation of the kick....shame on me and my pride because getting to shoot straight with this beast was one that was somewhat bruising on both the wallet and the wrist!

So there you are. As I say, not too much to do with deer stalking this one, but if ever you fancy a change from the long arms we are used to and you find yourself in one of those countries that allow it, then I would strongly recommend that you give it a go. One thing is for sure the experience is sure to have you grinning ear to ear like a village simpleton!

For information about Rifle Calibres follow this link:  rifle-calibres


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