State hunting authorities have listened to enthusiastic hunters and have been adjusting regulations to expand legal ammunition calibers to allow more choices. Popular deer hunting states such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and others have revised their laws to allow more choices for deer hunting and other game animals, including rifles chambered in .444 Marlin and .357 Max.
The changes in laws in these states are allowing specific rifle and pistol calibers to be used in addition to the traditional slug guns and muzzleloaders. The new laws allow rifles that are the same caliber and use the same straight-walled cartridges that are currently legal for use in handguns, to be used in rifles for deer hunting. The new regulations are designed to allow additional opportunities for hunters that own these guns or want to hunt with these guns. Rifles in these calibers offer reduced recoil compared to larger shotguns, and the rifles are more accurate than handguns in the same caliber.
States have said that these calibers are safer hunting around larger populations because projectiles from these calibers of rifles don’t fly as far as conventional rifle rounds like the 30-06. For example, a 30-06 bullet could go up to 1,000 yards effectively, while a .357 will only go a couple hundred. In addition, accuracy is better with rifles (over a shotgun) so hunters are less likely to wound or injure game, so they have a more effective, cleaner kill.
The law change in Indiana is getting the most attention due to some confusion by Hoosier state hunters. According to spokesman Phil Bloom, Indiana received several letters requesting that more calibers be allowed, so in 2014 they passed regulations that allowed rifles that use handgun calibers above the .357 caliber to be used on public or private land. Things have now changed, however. Originally, these changes allowed cartridges designed for pistols to be fired from rifles legally on private and public lands, while a new law only allows their use on private land.
Indiana’s House Enrolled Act 1231, which was passed earlier this year by the Indiana General Assembly, allows some additional rifle cartridges to be used only on private land during the firearms season. The new legal cartridges include, but are not limited to, the .243 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester, .300 AAC Blackout, and .30-06 Springfield.
Additional requirements are:
Michigan also is ahead of the growing trend to expand calibers for deer hunting. Southern Michigan is known as the “shotgun zone”, but a change in Michigan hunting laws allows more hunters to use rifles. Calibers that used to be prohibited are now legal. Michigan expanded their calibers in 2014 to allow the use of a .35 caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-walled cartridges with a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches. What that basically means is you can use your .357, .41 Specials and Magnums, .44 Specials and Magnums, .454 Casull, 460 XVR and the .500 Smith and Wesson. The .500 is the biggest, but finding a long gun chambered in that is not a common thing.
Back in 2014, Ohio approved straight-walled cartridge rifles for deer hunting. Legal deer hunting rifles are chambered for the following calibers: .357 Magnum, .357 Maximum, .38 Special, .375 Super Magnum, .375 Winchester, .38-55, .41 Long Colt, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .444 Marlin, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .45 Winchester Magnum, .45 Smith & Wesson, .454 Casull, .460 Smith & Wesson, .45-70, .45-90, .45-110, .475 Linebaugh, .50-70, .50-90, .50-100, .50-110 and .500 Smith & Wesson.
Additionally, the regulation states that shotguns and straight-walled cartridge rifles used for deer hunting be loaded with no more than three shells in the magazine and chamber combined. The previous hunting regulation state that a shotgun must be plugged if it is capable of holding more than three shells. If hunting with a handgun, hunters are required to use a 5-inch minimum length barrel, using straight-walled cartridges, such as the .357 caliber or larger. Similar laws have been passed over the past couple years in big deer hunting states, like Pennsylvania.
If hunters truly want freedom in hunting with whatever they want, they should consider North Carolina. Two years ago, a change in the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s regulations allows hunters to carry a wider variety of handguns into the deer woods. The state commission has removed the caliber requirement from handguns used when hunting deer or bear. Hunters can now use a pistol or revolver with any barrel length and in any chambering during the established gun season. State officials say there was some interest from hunters to take game with different calibers and shorter length barrels. After some discussion, they decided that there was no more likelihood of an animal being wounded and unable to be retrieved than with calibers that were previously allowed.
Some states have additional restrictions on muzzle energy, which keep .38 Specials and 9mm pistols from being used. Some states do not even allow pistols in .45 ACP to be used because of similar case length and power restrictions, even though the caliber was designed by John M. Browning to stop men and horses in mounted cavalry divisions.
Every hunter should know and fully understand the laws of their state. Starline Brass produces a full line of straight walled handgun cartridges that are now allowed for deer hunting in many states. Some popular new choices are Starline’s .444 Marlin and .357 Max brass. Get the scoop on all Starline’s products at www.starlinebrass.com.