Will a 9mm Kill a Deer, is it enough?

I’ve been liking the 9mm more and more as a woods gun and survival gun. It’s interesting to see what it can do in both a pistol and a carbine.

The 9mm pistol is enough to kill a deer. A good 9mm load can reach 1,300 fps and 464 ft/lbs. of energy, which is more than some old deer hunting cartridges. Although the 9mm pistol is not recommended, many hunters have taken deer with less powerful guns.

It may not be a 30-06, but the 9mm is more powerful than some old deer hunting rifle cartridges. It’s nothing like modern hunting rifles, but it can actually do pretty well. Let me show you.

Can I Hunt Deer With a 9mm Pistol?

In most states, it is perfectly legal to hunt deer with a 9mm pistol. Some states restrict it due to being underpowered. As long as you make a lung shot, a 9mm pistol will kill a dear out to a standard handgun hunting distance

The 9mm is on the lower end of the mid-power pistol rounds. The hottest loads only have about 450 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle. Generally, the minimum bullet energy needed to make a clean kill on a deer is said to be about 750 ft/lbs. I do agree that 750 ft/lbs. should do just fine. But sometimes less works too.

Case in point, the .357 Magnum is a classic pistol hunting cartridge. Most .357 hunting loads only have 750 ft/lbs at the muzzle. Certainly, we wouldn’t say that a .357 can only kill a deer from a few feet away. It’s hailed as a 100-yard deer slayer. There has to be something else to understand here.

*note if the .357 is good to 100 yards, the 9mm is good to 50.

What’s the Best 9mm Ammo for Deer?

The best 9mm ammo for deer is a true +P load using either the Extreme Penetrator or Extreme Defender bullet. The Best are made by Underwood and Buffalo Bore. They will both penetrate a deer at 50 yards, and make a sizeable wound channel. The Extreme Defender bullets make the largest wound channel.

Buffalo and Doubletap are competitors in the max power ammo world. Both make excellent ammo and have good reputations. It’s good stuff.

These bullets are not hollow points or expanding. They are solid copper and have a fluted nose that makes them look like a screwdriver. The whole point of this type of ammo is that it combines deep penetration with a large wound channel. The deep-cut flutes on the bullet cause massive tissue disruption and destruction.

The Extreme Defender bullet is by far the best of the two. It penetrates very well and causes shockingly aggressive damage to soft tissue. It has more aggressive flutes cut into the bullet, which both lessens the penetration and increases the damage compared to the Extreme Penetrators.

The Extreme Penetrators usually penetrate 36 inches of ballistics gel, whereas the Extreme Defender penetrates 18 inches. But, the Defender creates over twice as wide of internal damage. In 9mm, it’s actually a functional round for deer.

This ammo being copper is very lightweight. That makes it go fast. Faster means flatter shooting. It’s a very fast round that also penetrates deeply. I love the modern advancements in bullet design.

Hollow Points Can Work.

Hollow-point bullets were a huge advancement in bullet design. They’ve only gotten better as manufacturing and metallurgy knowledge grows. Now, you may think that hollow point pistol ammo is only for defensive use, but that’s not entirely so.

A good 9mm hollow point will penetrate between 12 and 15 inches while expanding to twice its size in a soft fleshed target. That’s pretty impressive. Most mature Whitetail deer are between 10 and 16 inches thick. So, there’s definitely enough penetration to destroy both lungs at close range with a full-power load.

Don’t worry about the bullets falling apart when hitting ribs or nicking the shoulder blade. That’s not a very realistic concern. Some cheaper ammo manufacturers may make shoddy bullets, but any US name brand does pretty well making 9mm hollow point bullets that hold together.

Even in the +p configuration and fired in a 16-inch barrel carbine, these bullets seem to both expand and hold together remarkably well. Good quality hollow points work wonderfully out of a 9mm carbine.

Don’t Use Hardcast Ammo!

Hardcast 9mm ammo is made for deep, straight-line penetration, but will not make a large wound in a deer. Hardcast ammo will not expand, and will only create about half the damage of a good hollow point. Hardcast bullets are not designed for hunting.

Hardcast bullets are simply lead alloys with tin and antimony to greatly increase hardness. The point of them is to avoid all marring and deformation to the bullet during penetration. They generally show little to no damage even after going through the tough bone on large animals.

The purpose is to maximize penetration. These are mainly intended to allow a smaller caliber to take out a large animal by punching a hole through an otherwise impenetrable skull. 9mm hard cast bullets are generally intended for bear defense so you can punch into the brain bucket of a big bruin with a little gun.

Fmj bullets are also a bad choice. They do cause more damage than the hardest because they lose stability and tumble inside a soft target. Honestly, a regular fmj is better for deer than a hard cast, and neither should actually be used.

Some copper bullets, other than those discussed above, are pretty functional too. Norma makes a 108-grain copper 9mm controlled expansion Hollow Point bullet that penetrates very well. It’s a nice example of a copper monolithic hollowpoint. I just wish it was a true +P load.

By the way,

Here is a link to the ammo I’d use to shoot a deer with a 9mm pistol or carbine. (no, I’m not paid for this.) Underwood Ammo

How Far Will a 9mm Pistol Kill a Deer?

With proper ammo, a 9mm pistol can kill a deer at 50 yards and a 9mm carbine can work out to 100 yards. You need a good penetrating, fast-moving bullet to create a large wound and ensure a good blood trail.

With good +P ammo, the 9mm has enough energy to completely penetrate and create a large wound in a deer. If you try to stretch things too far, it’s not gonna work. But, within its appropriate range, it can actually work quite well.

An old favorite hunting pistol is the .357 Mag. It’s good out to 100 yards for deer. I’m going to show you a chart comparing the 9mm and 357. I want you to see something.

YardsBlack hills 125-grain .357 Mag Buffalo Bore 124-grain 9mm +p
0624 ft/lbs.465 ft/lbs.
25554 ft/lbs.405 ft/lbs.
50478 ft/lbs.358 ft/lbs.
75421 ft/lbs.
100375 ft/lbs.

Here’s what to notice. At 50 yards, the .357 mag has 478 ft/lbs. of bullet energy. That’s about where the 9mm starts out. In fact, the first 50 yards of 9mm ballistics is pretty much the same as the .357 is from 50 to 100 yards. Now, if the 357 has enough energy to kill a deer between 50 and 100 yards, the 9mm has enough energy to take a deer up to 50.

We’re playing a game of semantics here, but I think you see my point. Personally, I wouldn’t shoot a deer past 50 yards with a .357 or past 25 with a 9mm pistol. But, taking deer at 100 yards with the .357 is a common practice. I suppose the 9mm could be as effective within its appropriate range.

As I said, I recommend the Extreme Defender bullet, not a 124-grain hollow point. It just works better. And, unlike a hollow point, it can’t plug up and fail. I’ve had handgun hollow points do that on hogs.

A 9mm Carbine is Good for Deer Hunting

The extra barrel length of a 9mm carbine adds between 100 and 200 fps more velocity to a 9mm load. That makes it about 25 percent more powerful. The Extreme Defender ammo which usually leaves a pistol at around 1,400 fps can go up to 1,600 fps in a carbine. That’s pretty impressive for a 9mm.

The Carbine makes aiming much easier. Handling and shooting a 9mm carbine is a pleasant and easy task. It’s actually a great gun for kids. With the 9mm Extreme Defender ammo, I wouldn’t hesitate to give a small youth a 9mm carbine to shoot a deer over a bait pile 50 yards away.

A 9mm carbine with +P ammo comes out about equal to the .357 Magnum revolver. Both are good for deer up to 100 yards as long as you make a good shot.

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Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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