This past week I read with great interest one of the proposals being considered by the Ohio Wildlife Council that would allow the use of pistol cartridge rifles for deer hunting, but before I explain exactly why I think this is such a great idea, let me enlighten you on what it means.
Commonly called Pistol Caliber Rifles or PCRs, these are rifles that are the same caliber and use the same straight-walled cartridges that are currently legal for deer hunting with handguns in Ohio.
Generally these PCRs have less recoil than shotguns, making them ideal for younger or smaller hunters or for any hunter who wishes to carry less weight, but because they have shoulder stocks they are easier to shoot more accurately than handguns firing the same cartridge. Ironically, in a handgun the .44 Remington Magnum was once considered “the most powerful handgun in the world,” but in a rifle it becomes a mild-mannered pussycat.
The list of calibers is rather lengthy and reads like a who’s who of American handgun and straight-wall cartridges from the .38 Special/.357 Magnum to the .50-110.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife, “The proposal is designed to allow additional gun-hunting opportunities for hunters that own these guns or want to hunt with these guns. These rifles have reduced recoil compared to larger shotguns, and the proposed rifles are more accurate than the same caliber handgun.”
With any change there are going to be people who ask “Why?”
A more suitable question could be “Why not?”
A number of Ohio hunters have asked to be allowed to hunt with these types of rifles, and all of our neighboring states currently allow them for hunting deer. Indiana moved to allow PCRs for deer hunting several years ago with no reported problems. Furthermore, these cartridges are already legal in Ohio for deer hunting, but currently only in handguns.
Consider that under current law, during deer gun season a hunter in Ohio can use a handgun with a 15” barrel chambered in .45-70, but if you add one more inch to the barrel and a shoulder stock, this same setup is now illegal for hunting because it suddenly becomes a rifle. That makes no sense.
Straight-walled cartridges are essentially cartridges that have a straight wall, lacking the characteristic bottle neck of more “modern” cartridges. Examples would be the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45-70 Gov., .38-55 Winchester or .444 Marlin. These cartridges are actually less powerful than rifled shotguns and inline-muzzleloaders using saboted bullets.
The typical firearm of this sort would be a Marlin 1894 chambered in .44 Magnum. These guns are also getting more and more popular with the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting, and some of those people may want to use their target guns for hunting.
While nobody is making you trade in your shotgun or muzzleloader, this does provide you an excuse to buy another gun. Simply explain to your spouse the practicality in having your handgun and rifle chambered in the same cartridge.
More options and ways to hunt may attract new hunters or retain existing ones. Unfortunately, there are actually hunters out there are who are opposed to having more sportsmen in the woods, but the future of our sport and modern wildlife management (not to mention state wildlife coffers) depend on recruitment and retention. To those people who don’t want to share the woods and fields, I say shame on you – the more people we get on our team, the better.
Then we come around to safety.
We Buckeyes have had it drilled into our heads for as long as we can remember that we can’t use rifles because of the terrain, but it is important to note these guns don’t “carry” any farther than modern shotguns or muzzleloaders. In fact, I cannot recall even one instance where a hunting-related shooting incident resulted from anything other than a violation of basic safety rules, regardless of the type of hunting equipment used.
This proposal and others are available for viewing online at wildohio.com.
Ohio deer hunters and others are invited to share their comments regarding the proposed 2014-2015 deer hunting seasons and regulations at open houses on Saturday, March 1 from 12-3 p.m. and online at wildohio.com through March. 2
Jim Freeman is wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District and a long-time contributor to the Sunday Times-Sentinel. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org