Many readers will already recognize the name Ernie Bishop, but for those who do not, you’re in for a treat. Bishop wears many hats—family man, Minister at the Gillette Church of Christ, SEB shooting rest dealer, hardcore hunter, long-range marksman, and an expert in single-shot handguns.
Bishop is a polite and educated gentleman — a man of faith, honesty, and passion. Incidentally, he’s also the man serious distance handgunners come to for advice. What are the favorite calibers of this man who’s shot them all? What are some common errors handgunners make? What are the best long-range handguns on the market today? You’d be surprised what we can all learn from Ernie Bishop.
Guns.com: How did you first get interested in handguns and handgun hunting?
Bishop: From a very young age, handguns of all kinds intrigued me. When I was in my early 20s, I rented a small apartment from a bullseye shooter, and he helped me get going with my first pistol — a Smith & Wesson Model 66 .357 Magnum. Not long after, a Colt 70’s Series Gold Cup in .45 ACP and a High Standard Trophy .22LR were added, and shooting became a weekly hobby.
During that time, I began reading “Guns and Ammo” and “Peterson’s Hunting” and fell in love with the writings of Bob Milek. He would use Thompson Center Contenders, Remington XP-100’s, Pachmayr Dominators, and some revolvers for both varmint and big game hunting. Once my wife and I moved to northeast Colorado in 1985, I began hunting big game for the first time and the rest is history.
Guns.com: That’s a humble start, but we know you’ve been on hunts and shoots around the world since then. What are your most memorable and why?
Bishop: My first handgun hunt on the eastern plains of Colorado near the town of Yoder. Used a TC Contender in 7mm TCU. The shot was under 150-yards and the buck was quite small. The short distance or size of the horns was not a negative to me in any way because it was an amazing experience.
As far as shoots go, the two years Darrell Holland and I teamed up for a three-day long-range roving tactical match. It is a physically demanding course with targets from 50 to 1,000-yards. Though we came up just short with second place twice, it was a great time with a good friend, and that is what means the most.
Guns.com: You raise a great point in that hunting and shooting brings about some great friendships and even better memories. If somebody wants to get into the world of longer-range handgun hunting, which factory production handguns would you recommend?
Bishop: Everyone’s idea of what constitutes long-range is a little different. I have hunted with Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Freedom Arms revolvers. I have never hunted with any of the BFR’s, but I hear they are well-made. If I was going to hunt at longer distances with a revolver, I could buy at a gun store. It would be a Smith & Wesson in either .357 Magnum (158-grain bullet) or .44 Magnum (240-grain bullet). A gun needn’t be custom to be useful and I’m proof that you don’t have to break the bank to get into shooting.
Guns.com: All the guns you’ve named are revolvers. If a shooter is looking for something different, let’s talk about different handgun platforms. Bolt action, single shot or semi-automatic, and why?
Bishop: I have only hunted with one semi-auto for big game and it was a customized Colt Delta Elite in 10mm. I would rather hunt with a revolver over a semi-auto any day because I find them to have a better trigger pull, more optic options, and I prefer the strength of a revolver over a semi-auto.
I have hunted more big game with single-shot handguns–bolt, falling block, and break-open– than revolvers. For hunting at distance, the single-shot specialty pistols using rifle cartridges have an incredible ballistic advantage over straight-wall cartridges. The stronger single-shot actions can handle almost any rifle cartridge safely.
Single-shot specialty pistols are not as finicky and are more forgiving when shooting from field positions compared to a semi-auto or revolver. In other words, it is easier to be competent with the single-shot specialty pistol, whether it is chambered in a straight-wall or bottle-neck cartridge, compared to a revolver or semi-auto. Which one you should choose will be dependent upon the way you want to hunt, what your states game laws allow, and your own budget.
My very favorite specialty pistol is the single-shot center-grip bolt action, as it has the strength of a bolt rifle, and it balances better for field shooting and hunting than the rear-grip design.
Guns.com: There’s no doubt you love single-shot handguns. If you could choose only one handgun for all-around hunting, what would it be?
Bishop: A customized center-grip Remington XP-100 that has a good solid-bottomed muzzle brake and is topped with a rifle scope, not a pistol scope.
Guns.com: What are your favorite handgun calibers these days?
Bishop: First, I am completely spoiled, and have about all of the calibers covered in the specialty pistols. When it comes down to a favorite specialty pistol for hunting big game, the 7mm is still at the top for me. If I had to pick one cartridge in 7mm, it would probably the .284 Winchester. I also like the Short Action Magnums and the 7mm Dakota. In revolvers, both the .357 Magnum and .44 Mag.
Guns.com: What are some common errors you see handgunners making?
Bishop: the same kinds of mistakes that I make from time to time, which is not focusing on the fundamentals when under pressure. When a shot is shorter it is easy to not focus on the basics — especially with lighter weight hunting handguns, where the consistency of both grip and trigger control are essential. With large cartridges, some folks try to manhandle the gun which is never a good thing.
Another common problem with handgun hunters when using large cartridges and heavy bullets is what I call “flinchitis.” This is why I am not a big proponent of the “bigger is better” mindset. Deer-sized game, and even the majority of big game, do not wear Kevlar and body armor. It doesn’t have to hurt on both ends to cleanly take game. That flinchitis is a problem I face from time to time, and for that reason, I often avoid large calibers in handguns.
Guns.com: Can you offer a tip for a new handgunner?
Bishop: When hunting with a revolver, one of the simplest upgrades is a good set of grips. Chris Rhodes, who is a fantastic handgun shooter, recommended Hogue’s Big Butt grips to me and it makes a huge difference in my shooting. I used a more traditional grip on a .357 Mag this year and I struggled more with the smaller grips that were on it.
Guns.com: That’s an easy fix. How about a tip for more experienced handgun hunters?
Bishop: Be mindful that whatever skill set you have, if not kept up, will diminish. When you add physical exertion or exhaustion to the equation, your ability is greatly diminished. I’m not afraid to admit that I have made some bad shots recently for the reasons I just mentioned. It is humbling, but it has bit me, and we all need that reminder from time to time.
Guns.com: What’s left on your bucket list of hunts and handgun shoots for the man who seems to have done it all already?
Bishop: Hunting in Alaska and returning to Africa. My only time hunting in South Africa was a couple of years ago at Big Water Safaris and it was amazing. I took a custom Ruger GP-100 in .357 Mag built by Bayside Custom Gunworks, affectionately called the Franken-Ruger, along with a 7mm Dakota center-grip XP-100. I took 15 animals in a week and all of it was spot and stalk, doing the sneaky sneak and walking 10-11 miles each day. There was no shooting from a vehicle, hunting out of blinds or baiting, and I absolutely loved it.
Guns.com: I agree with you there. Hunting in Africa is amazing. Before I let you go, I’d like to make our audience aware of another passion of yours, and that is your work on the yearly WY-SHOT handgun shoot. Care to share any info about WY-SHOT or your other ventures?
Bishop: WY-SHOT is a yearly all-handgun shoot that I put on in mid-June with a lot of help from others. It is a three-day event that involves both prairie dog hunting and shooting steel at extended distances from various field positions with targets over 1,000-yards. There is a great spirit of comradery and experienced shooters are consistently helping those who are new.
Guns.com: I think you’re a shining example of how we all take different paths to our passions, but it’s safe to say you’ve found yours. Plus, we appreciate your willingness to help both new and experienced shooters. Any last words of wisdom for our Guns.com audience?
Bishop: Enjoy your hobbies, whatever they may be. Make sure you consistently try to help others, regardless of age, get into the shooting sports and hunting. We can never have enough mentors and encouragers in these areas.