Field Report: Browning Mk III w/Winchester 127-gr. +P+

Whitetail Deer


On Dec. 27th, 2003 @ approximately 4:46PM (CST) I shot a deer using a 9mm Browning Mk III pistol.  This Mk III was very lightly altered from factory configuration.  Changes included:


         Wolff 18.5-lb. conventional recoil spring and Buffertech shock buff


         Uncle Mike rubber grips w/skateboard tape on the grip strap


         Bobbed spur hammer as has been described elsewhere on this site


         Removed right-side ambidextrous thumb safety lever


         Removed magazine disconnect


The barrel remained a standard factory barrel and there had been no accuracy work done on this pistol.


This is the most nearly stock Mk III I own.  It was chosen for use as I get quite a few messages and questions concerning what changes are "necessary" to have a "good" Hi Power.  While we all have our own ideas, it's my belief that there are changes we can make based on need as well as changes made simply because we want them.  (This is pretty heavily discussed in my first book, The Shooter's Guide to the Browning Hi Power.)  This pistol has very little extra money invested in it and being nearly stock, it probably represents what a majority of Hi Power owners actually have. It seems to me that information might be more interesting if it's relevant to the reader's own equipment.  I also wanted to again suggest that while custom Hi Powers are truly beautiful and superb firearms, much can be done with one that's about stock.


This is the pistol that was used. Essentially, it is a stock Mk III in 9mm. The minor changes are not all that readily apparent. I have other more heavily customized Hi Powers, but I continue to find myself well served by those like this.


The ammunition chosen was also because it is one of the best loads in this caliber and one that generates quite a bit of interest.  I've covered it elsewhere on this site as well.  I had not shot anything with this load and wanted to see how it actually performs against animate targets, as there's more to the mechanism of collapses and "stopping power" than might be found in gelatin or on paper.  At least, this is my opinion.


Fired from this pistol and based on 10-shot averages this load has an average velocity of 1269 ft/sec. The standard deviation is extremely small and the load has proven reliable in a number of Hi Powers and other 9mm pistols.  It has also proven very accurate. The Winchester's strongest point in my opinion is not necessarily the little "hooks" so much as its consistency of performance when impacting "soft targets," regardless of intermediate barriers.


These are all expanded Winchester 127-gr. +P+ JHP's. Each was fired into separate "soft targets."

From left to right: fired into wet pack, fired into living deer, and fired into water. Notice the similar performance in all three cases.  The bullet fired into wet pack measured 0.67 x 0.66 x 0.44" tall and had a recovered weight of 119.1 grains.  The center bullet fired into the deer had a recovered weight of 115.7 grains and measured 0.66 x 0.65 x 0.38" tall.


The deer was approximately 21 yards away and was shot at a downward angle from the ladder blind in which I was seated about 12' off the ground. I was taking part in a management program to eliminate quite a few doe on a particular ranch where the herds were being bettered. Normally, I would not have shot this size deer, which weighted approximately 75-lbs. when field dressed.  (It will also be eaten.)


When shot, the animal was neither excited nor did it have any idea it was being hunted.  When it lowered its head to eat corn, it was facing me. Using a rail on the blind as a rest I fired one shot from the Hi Power and was aiming squarely between the shoulder blades.  The reason was two-fold: JHP's hitting bone can represent a tough challenge for such bullets and even if the bullet's performance was hampered, the placement would insure a quick kill. I fired and the shot "felt" good. The deer's reaction was to simply collapse. It did not try to get up nor did it ever raise its head again.  As soon as it fell, I began a mental count of "one-thousand-and-one, one-thousand-and-two" and continued through "one-thousand-and-sixteen." This was how long the hind legs kicked, but not full kicks, just movement.


You can see the entry wound at the base of the deer's neck and just above the shoulders.


Checking the deer, I found that the bullet had not exited.  When dressing the animal, I found the expanded bullet on the bottom of the torso just in front of the stomach area. It was just under the skin and was stuck in the muscles of the body cavity at that location. Removing the skin, it was clearly visible.  The entry wound was not photographed from inside the body cavity due to lighting conditions and heavy rain. It can best be described as being approximately 1/2" in diameter with the edges beveling outward to approximately 7/10".  It was an impressive entry wound when viewed from the inside. The exit wound in which the recovered bullet was found was the diameter of the bullet, which had to be pulled out.



This is how the expanded Winchester 127-gr. JHP bullet appeared when the deer's skin was removed. The bloody area around it is just that and there did not appear to be major "bloodshot" areas around it.  There were around the entrance wound and such would be expected, as the velocity was MUCH greater at that point.



This is the Winchester bullet immediately after being removed from the deer and photographed from the rear. It performed very well and I'd estimate total penetration at 13 to 15".  No bone was hit as I missed the spine; the bullet struck approximately one inch to the right (relative to the deer) and passed between ribs. No bone was ever struck.


The bullet did strike the heart as it passed through the body, but did not penetrate it.  It was a grazing wound. I am not a physician so I have no idea if this caused it to stop beating, made it irregular, or what, but am fairly certain it didn't help it!


In this picture you can see the wound to the deer's heart. It did not perforate the heart muscle and was a grazing wound.


A short time earlier, I'd seen three nice bucks pass through the area in which I was hunting. Two were young and had 4 and 6 points, respectively.  They were allowed to pass as they were not yet trophy size and this was a goal of the landowner. I estimated their ages at about 2 1/2 years. The third was not clearly visible in the thick woods I was hunting, but was an older deer having more points. I cannot accurately estimate his age. Doe were the desired animals to be taken. When this "slick top" arrived and I found a good target on the body that would insure a clean kill, I fired.


I made a mistake and one that I'm not proud up. This was the only time in several hunts there that I did not "glass" the head of the animal even at these close ranges to see if it was a "button buck."


Look closely at the animal's head and you will see that it is a "button buck" and that the beginnings of horn growth is visible. I overlooked this and killed an "antlerless deer," but it was not my original quarry and not an act that I'm proud of. It was a mistake and one that would have been avoided had I taken but a few seconds to use my binoculars. The landowner had no problems with it, but I should have been more careful.

In this case, the aftermath is merely my being mad at myself, but there' s a potential lesson to be re-enforced here: Be SURE of your target before firing, either in the hunting field or in the arena of self-protection. This is harder to do when excited or terrified.


This shot offered some food for thought and re-enforced my belief that:


         Placement remains the primary determinate in "stopping power."


         The temporary cavity is not completely "meaningless" in terminal effect.


You will recall that the shot did not strike the spine nor any part of the spinal column and no bone was hit anywhere in the animal.  Yet, it dropped like a rock from the 9mm's ballistic payload. In this instance I believe that the temporary cavity affected the animal's central nervous system and disrupted signals from the brain to run.  The impulse to flee or even stand could not be transmitted to the animal's legs and it was from something other than the spine being hit. One lung had a large defect in it and a major vessel was hit near the heart.  The deer's interior was literally full of blood.


Winchester's 127-gr. +P+ (RA9TA) is probably the ne plus ultra of speedy 9mm loads and one that is highly sought after by folks using this caliber for "serious" purposes.  Yet, I've seen almost exactly the same results from a considerably larger whitetail doe killed last year using the common Hornady 124-gr. XTP loaded to approximately the same velocity. In that instance, I shot the deer high through the shoulders via a broadside shot.  The animal collapsed and could not get back up.  I did not strike the heart and only lungs were hit.  No major vessel in the chest was struck. Though disabled, I was required to apply a finishing shot upon arrival. That deer's backbone was not hit either and no bone was struck anywhere in the bullet's travel.  Yet, it was disabled.  I believe this was due to the temporary cavity so near the spine. In other areas of the body, the temporary cavity may in fact be of little importance, but I remain convinced that it should not be disregarded simply because it may be impossible to quantify or rate.


An abbreviated version of this report has been posted at various gun boards and hopefully will not degenerate into a discussion of what's an "adequate" caliber for deer hunting.  I'm not advocating the 9mm cartridge as an ideal hunting caliber. I am saying that if legal and with placement, it's enough for at least deer in Texas.  I would be hesitant to use it on their larger northern cousins.  A .22 will do the trick, but placement has got to be precise.  This is true of any caliber.


So is Winchester's 127-gr. +P+ a good bullet for hunting?  If the quarry is the size of deer, I think I prefer a handloaded XTP. The reason is simple.  It gets a little more penetration and that's all that would have been necessary for a complete through and through wound on the deer.  Had that occurred and the deer been able to run, the blood trail could have been easily followed.  In this instance, there would have been little if any blood as the wound was on top of the deer's body.  For self-protection, I believe the Winchester 127-gr. +P+ remains one of the very best choices to be had at this time.