Will a 40 Caliber Pistol Kill a Deer?

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40 caliber pistols are often used for personal protection, but those interested in hunting often wonder, “will a 40 caliber pistol kill a deer?”

The answer to that is a bit more nuanced than you’d expect.

Will a 40 Caliber Pistol Kill a Deer?

Yes, a 40 caliber pistol has enough knock-down power to kill a deer. However, it is important to take the shot from nearby and get a clear hit on the head or spine.

Ideally, you want to be 20-30 yards away from the deer when you take the shot. Going for a hit from 50 yards away will likely result in missing the mark, and you always want to hunt deer ethically.

Deer in the wild

It’s important to remember that:

  • If you’re in a shotgun zone, you will need to plug the mag, so it only holds 9 rounds to meet the regulations.
  • Doing your due diligence and reading the area’s regulations is of utmost importance before heading out hunting.

Is It Better to Pick a Rifle Over a 40 Caliber Pistol to Hunt Deer?

Many hunters believe that using a pistol to hunt a deer is not the right way to do it. It’s not a matter of the weapon’s power to them; rather, hunters think killing a deer with a 40 caliber pistol might not be the most ethical way to do it.

It is a fact that a service-caliber handgun is not the best choice for hunting, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Using a rifle to make a clear shot to the head is the best way to go.

That said, as long as you’re able to make a clear shot from close by with a 40 caliber pistol, you should be able to pull it off.

40 caliber pistol with bullets beside it

What Is the Smallest Caliber to Kill a Deer?

Any experienced hunter will tell you using a rifle is the best way to kill a deer. But they will also tell you that you could hunt with smaller caliber pistols if you know what you’re doing.

At minimum, you want to use at least a .223 caliber weapon to hunt deer at moderate ranges. Many believe that this .223 caliber is not powerful enough to kill a deer, but given that you’re at close range and the deer is perfectly broadside, it can be done.

There’s always a difference between minimum and ideal, so using a 25 caliber weapon is a better way to go if you have the choice. But ideally, you want to use a .40 caliber or a 6.5 caliber firearm for hunting deer.


You may not be able to kill a bear but you can kill a deer with a 40 caliber pistol, given that it is well within range, and you shoot the head or spine to finish the job in one hit. 40 caliber firearms are not very accurate at larger ranges; think 50 yards and above. Therefore, it’s very important for you to know if you can make the shot beforehand.

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created KeepGunsSafe.com with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.