Can You Hit?

Lots of poachers kill deer with a .22, but would it really be your first choice? They have the advantage of setting up their shot. You don’t. While it is possible to gain a momentary advantage once someone has the drop on you, remember self-defense is a response to a fight someone else started — and you can’t avoid. Your attacker picks when and where and how many people they’ll bring with them. Their actions generally determine what kind of shot you get, or if you get one at all.

There are exceptional people who can make those precise shots, but that’s not most of us. Since we’re talking about hunting, W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell, an early ivory hunter of African lore, was famous for killing elephants with a rear brain shot using rifles as small as .256 caliber, which some of us consider a little light even for whitetail. He could also shoot birds on the wing with a rifle, hitting 60–80 percent. Bell’s biographers say up to a hundred hunters have gotten themselves stomped to death trying to copy his small-caliber shots on dangerous game, because they couldn’t make the shots he could. He was the exception — the dead hunters are the rule.