Thursday, April 2, 2009

Black powder handgun hunting.

Many years ago I was bitten by the handgun hunting bug. I became infatuated with hunting with this type of specialized equipment and hunted as much as I could with it, where legal. When I heard that Thompson Center was coming out with a special single shot muzzle loading handgun designed for hunting I was ecstatic. TC came out with their Scout carbine and handgun in the late 1980's with the intent to satisfy a niche market. These firearms were traditionally styled exposed hammer muzzle loaders but utilized an inline ignition. I bought a 54 caliber Scout and mounted a 2x Burris scope on the gun. I liked the feel of the gun and envisioned going on some special hunts with it but never got around to it. For one thing, the gun was not all that accurate for me. I tried all kinds of loads and to make it short, the gun did not shoot well. In addition the gun was a pain to disassemble and clean properly. At that time the only alternative powder was Pyrodex and you needed to clean it almost as soon as regular black powder. After a lot of frustration at the range and the pain cleaning the gun I sold it.

After a number of years I became aware of another specialty muzzleloading handgun being made. Gordon Kahnke of Redwood Falls Minnesota makes a unique muzzleloading rifle and pistol. The Model 82 handgun is similar to the Contender handgun in that you can change barrels to different calibers and lengths. Although their website will state a limited number of barrels, in reality Gordon will make a barrel of any length you want. I bought the muzzleloading handgun , a stainless 50 caliber with a 14" barrel, with the intention of hunting whitetailed deer and other game in northern New England.

The Kahnke M82 is one of the most accurate handguns I have ever owned and shot. It rivals the TC Contender in many ways regarding accuracy. The first time I hunted with the M82 was at a hunting preserve in Maine. I wanted to do some hunting at the end of the deer season but I really didn't want to drive down to Florida for wild boar. I did some net searches and discovered a preserve in northern Maine. Scott Beede is the owner and operator of Hillside Guide Service. In addition to being a guide for native Maine game he also owns a fenced in hunting preserve with several exotics residing in it. I know some people have mixed views on hunting in a preserve. My intention was to try out this handgun and to take home some meat. I knew it would not be as challenging as say stalking feral hogs in a Florida pasture but it wasn't like shooting fish in a barrel. I discovered that the wild boar at Scott's place hide in the hemlock swamps. As a rule they don't like to come out unless pressured by his dog.
I arrived late in the day and met Scott, his daughters and another young man who assisted him. I retired for the evening and slept soundly. The next day I arose to a rather chilly December morning. The temperature was in the single digits and I was glad I had prepared for the weather. I donned my Polar fleece outfit , boots and got my Kahnke M82 loaded and ready. I loaded up a 250 grain TC sabot with a 90 grain charge of H777. Later I chronographed this load at 1350 fps. So in effect I was shooting a 44 magnum.
We crossed the road to the enclosure. The area is a hemlock swamp interspersed with hardwoods and thickets for the game to live in. I was escorted to a box blind overlooking a feed station. I sat there for a couple of hours when I spotted Scott motioning me to come forth. His dog had pushed a wild boar through the area but it was in the hemlocks. He wanted me to have a crack at it.
I followed him through the snow and black growth . We stopped and soon I saw the familiar shape of the boar trotting through the woods. I took careful aim and followed as best as I could. The shot went off and the boar was hit but a bit far back. We had to chase the animal and then finish it off with my Ruger SRH in 454 Casull. My boar was down. The hunt lasted the morning but it was a fun hunt and I had some meat for the freezer. At that time Scott had a special price for the holidays. He had a discount for red deer hinds( those are the females) and I decided to add one to my freezer. I will not lie to you. That portion of the hunt wasn't a challenge at all. I spotted the hind in a pasture and she stood broadside at thirty yards. One shot to the heart and she ambled off for twenty yards and dropped dead. I can't add to that description because it was pretty much matter of fact. I look at it as a pure meat shot. Nothing more. Would I hunt red deer again? Most likely not. Wild boar. Well yes. The was some "hunt" to that hunt.
All in all I had a fun trip and may go again , but for wild boar alone. The other game, to me at least, didn't do much. It sort of sat there.
One of the neat things about the Kahnke is that Gordon can make a smoothbore 20 guage barrel so you can use bird shot. About a century ago Harrington and Richardson made a smoothbored single shot handgun in 410 bore and 28 gauge. It was called the Handi Gun and a number of people hunted small game with them. I know someone who legally owns this type of short barreled shotgun and has hunted with it. I like the concept but the fact remains that it is a class 2 weapon and needs the proper documentation and tax paid to the Treasury. There is a way around the concept, so to speak. Muzzleloaders are exempt, barring state laws, from the federal regulations on barrel length. So in effect you can own a legal handi gun. I called Gordon and asked him if he could make up a 16 " barrel with open sights. He agreed and after relatively short time, I received a package in the mail.
I did some patterning with the gun and centered the 1 ounce load of lead shot with a sixty grain charge of H777. I was ready for the Club's Annual Pheasant Hunt. Each October our sporting club hosts a pheasant hunt on the grounds. Birds are purchased and released on various portions of the property for members to hunt. I was walking with two other members down the old rifle range when we flushed a bird. It flew straight up. At that moment I was able to align the fiber optic sights and pull the trigger. A cloud of white smoke obscured the image of the bird but it was hit and fell in the thick brush. We did some searching and found the bird.
This unique handgun offers the handgun hunter a new opportunity to take on a greater challenge or to hunt the special muzzleloader seasons where allowed. Hopefully I will be able to experience more memories with this special gun.

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