A change in the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s 2014-2015 regulations is allowing allows hunters to carry a wider variety of handguns into the deer woods.

The Commission has removed the caliber requirement from handguns used when hunting deer or bear. Hunters can use a pistol or revolver with any barrel length and in any chambering during the established gun season.

“There used to be a restriction on the caliber of the gun, but they have done away with that to allow hunters the opportunity to harvest (deer) with different calibers,” said Sgt. Sam Craft, a wildlife-enforcement officer from Wilson County.

“There was some interest from hunters to take game with different calibers and shorter length barrels,” Craft said. “After some discussion, they decided that there really was no more likelihood of an animal being wounded and then the failure to be able retrieve that animal.”

Some states require a minimum caliber of .38. Under those stricter laws, a Thompson/Center Encore pistol chambered in .223  or .257 Roberts would not make the cut. Some states have additional restrictions on muzzle energy, which keep .38 Specials and 9mm pistols — both .38 caliber — 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.

Hunters in North Carolina don’t have to worry about grey areas like that now.

Letting hunters shoot at deer and bears with 9mm pistols isn’t the rationale for the law changes.

“The reason most people want to carry handguns with them is to dispatch the animal,” Craft said. “To be honest with you … before the law changed … rarely did we ever come across someone specifically hunting with a pistol, and if they were it was usually a large-caliber pistol with a scope of some sort on it.”

Legal doesn’t make all handguns lethal. Ethical shots at close distances should always be the goal, regardless of the caliber used.

The changes are shown in red on page 41 in the current copy of the regulations book.