Hiking Handgun - What Should I Try?
I don't own a gun. I've shot handguns at the range a couple times but at still pretty much a beginner. Recently completed a vacation home in Central Washington. We've seen Bears and supposedly there can be Cougars in the area. I have two kids 9 and 10-yo that we like to go walking pretty deep into the woods and frankly the last few times we've done it we've found some animal carcasses (Elk I think) that were probably only a month or two old. This has been making me nervous.
I realize a Cougar can surprise and usually doesn't mess with a group of people, especially if they are loud, but I'd rather have a gun on me than none at all in case it attacks someone in my party. Bears I would imagine will run at the gun being fired in the air and if they are pissed I'm not sure a gun will save your life depending on how close you are and how pissed off the bear is at you.
I'm a big research fanatic and have been reading reviews. But I realize the final deciding factor should be to try some guns at the range. I was wondering if people could recommend some models I should try. I would say my needs are in order:
1) Comfortable taking on a day hike where I may be wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.
2) Good track record as being easy to shoot and reliable.
3) Something that would be most effective if I had to kill a cougar that was on the back of someone in my party. (Most likely situation would be someone hiking a bit in front of the group that encounters the Cougar first which might think they are alone.)
4) Something that would also work well as a concealed personal safety gun should I have to use it for that once in a blue moon (going to be in a shady area of town or maybe walking around with a lot of money on me.) This would be very very rarely though.
5) Relatively low maintenance. I won't use it that much except maybe take a trip once every couple of months to the shooting range so this may not be that important.
My initial perusal of articles has led me to the Springfield XD handguns. They seem to get consistently good reviews and seemed to be a good value for what you get. I realize the gun question is highly personalized and everyone has there biases but since I'm new to guns, I have no bias at this point for any particular brand or caliber size.
I suppose I would also need some suggestions on types of ammo to try. I think I discussed this once before last time I was considering getting a gun and the eventual consensus was that loading the cartridge with some JHPs and some FMJs was a good combination so there would be both penetration and expansion properties. Of course this would only work well if I had time to get at least 2 rounds off (if I alternated types of ammo)
I'm totally green. Some recommendations so I have about 3 or 4 guns and 3 or 4 types of ammo to try would be good.
Thanks much in advance.
Big bore Ruger or Smith Revolver, .44 mag. minimum caliber.
Kel-Tec .22 mag? Ok, lots and lots of .22 mags real fast. Like the man says, "Bears I would imagine will run at the gun being fired in the air." Might work really well!!!
Originally Posted by TheReaper
If your set on Semi-autos, I would look at a .45, or perhaps a 10mm, 1911. If you go with .45, there are a huge number of choices. The XD series is very good. 10mm narrows the field a lot, but it is a very potent cartridge, & it is expensive to feed.
If you're open to revolvers, I would look at a 4" or 6" .357. Or an even bigger caliber, if you can get comfortable with it. If you are only going have one gun, a .357 is a very good choice.
Check Buffalo Bore for appropriate ammo options for starters. Ammo choices tend to be personal, and I'm no expert on bullets for dangerous game, so I will leave it at that. Anti personnel ammo is much more common, but no less controversial.
I am really looking into the Springfield XD and the Beretta Px4 line of guns. I think a sub-compact version of these guns would do just fine. I realize that they are not going to kill the bear or cougar (unless perfect shot placement, but then they probably won't drop on sight), but fire enough down range at them and they will get the hint that you are not something to mess with. I would always carry extra mags just in case they don't get the hint the first time
These ideas suggest to me that you should be taking a firearms safety course before you consider buying a weapon.
Originally Posted by consultant
As far as the first goes, you don't fire guns in the air to scare things off, and people have been known hunt bears with handguns. As pointed out by Eli above, though, you'll want a large-caliber magnum revolver for that purpose.
As far as the second, taking a "rescue shot" of the type you're describing would need a bit more practice than going to the range every couple months. Missing the cougar and shooting your child would be far worse than the cougar deciding to chomp on you.
Those things said, the Springfield XD line is well recommended. Considering you're a beginner, you really should not be going to a larger caliber than 9mm, but you shouldn't be carrying anything smaller than .45 for large animals, and as noted before, a larger caliber magnum revolver would be better yet.
You are correct in "being nervous". Having children ups the ante. Way, WAY UP.
Originally Posted by consultant
And, your Item 3 indicates you have a pretty decent handle on "cougar behavior".
You have triggered my most favorite "outdoor interest". Large wild animals.
As always, when interested in something, I can type a small novel.
I live in Black bear/lion territory. Our most likely scenerio is being attack by a rabid animal, most
likely a fox or raccoon. Lion attacks are more rare. Last year we had a rabid lion try to break into a
man's house through his front screen door. He had his shotgun handy. And a young male lion attack
an unarmed man walking from his house to his pickup. Both survived. Both were very, VERY lucky.
Our Black bears aren't really a problem. Although we did have one "taken care of" last year. It was
removed twice to a wilderness area 50 miles away. Then it was seen again. "Observing" young children
at their schoolbus stop. That "broke a state Fish & Wildlife rule". End of story for the bear.
You are on the right track, ESPECIALLY when you have children. Every family should have a
"outside policy" that helps mininize the chances of a very rare, but totally disasterous event. You
can do it without scaring the children.
I recommend you get this paperback book. It will reinforce your outlook, and your "family outdoor policy".
"STALKED by a MOUNTAIN LION", Fear, Fact, and the Uncertain Future of the Cougar in America"
By Jo Deurbrouchk $14.95 Falcon Press, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0-7627-4315-5
Every person hiking or biking in areas ANYWHERE NEAR cougar habitat should read this book.
Especially Chapter Two. "A Crash Course in Cougars". Pages 8-21. While she is very straight-
forward with "just the facts", and not sensational, I would NOT let your children see or read this book.
Although not too common, I've had lions trailing me that I never saw. And, my dog did not alert.
I only knew it because I doubled back and saw their tracks in wet dirt or snow. THEN my dog alerted.
Our professional "bear/lion problem" trackers say you will never see a lion unless it wants you to see it.
Lions are "hard-wired" to attack their food (deer) by ambushing them and leaping from behind
to grab and bite deer on their long necks and kill by breaking the deer's neck. For humans, this is
modified to "hit" us by clamping down on the back of our skulls. They get confused when "we" don't
die immediately, and tend to bite and tear on the victim's head and face while clawing the rest of
the body. Some people have not survived such attacks. Some have. But, their extensive injuries
changed their lives and looks forever.
How to approach this is left for everyone to choose. Including totally ignoring the threat possiblity.
Often through ignorance of what can really happen. That is 98% of the hiking people in my area.
And, they are almost always correct. Almost always.
The choice of "what gun" is really secondary to "being aware".
In my case, 13 years ago I started with just taking my Beretta FS92 9mm and an extra mag.
After seeing what "was happening", I now carry a Ruger SuperRedhawk Alaskan snubby in .454 Casull
with Winchester Premium with Nosler Partition Gold bullet hunting ammo.
(It can also shoot the way, WAY milder .45 Long Colt ammo).
I don't think there a "viable" forest gun that is "easy to shoot" and "able to use it for concealed carry".
Like was suggested, I think .357 Mag or .44 Mag double-action revolver is the minimum.
In a total panic situation, you do not want a safety. Or, interferance with slide cycling.
Sounds really, really melodramatic. The book shows it has happened. Just my opinion, your mileage may vary.
Many people would consider that "way too much gun". Read the book, and you may not think that.
In an attack, most likely you will be on your back, fighting for your life with NO warning. Hard to get
any gun out of its holster. Yes, I know. Sounds unlikely. Which it is.
As the saying goes, "You're not paranoid if you think they are out to get you. And, they are".
Wild carnivores can go into "Predator Drive". Wild ones get food and survive this way.
Originally Posted by Steven/PA
Even dogs can do it, although that is fairly rare in "domesticated" animals.
When this adrenalin rush is "active", no sound, gun or otherwise, is going to stop it.
You either physically get away, or you beat it unconcious, or you kill it if you want to survive.
Same with rabid animals of any size.
Gunshots "may" scare off bears. Maybe lions too.
If they are just out wandering around taking a stroll and enjoying the scenery with full bellies.
Predators "In Drive" don't recognize a metal object in their prey's hand may be a threat.
Even if it makes a funny noise.
On the other hand, a decent-sized metal object in your hand may work just fine for scaring off "Urban Predators".
Last edited by DanP_from_AZ; 01-08-2011 at 06:40 PM.
Reason: The P.S.
There is NO single "good for everything" handgun. Let alone a "good for everything" gun, period.
Above: "I don't think there a "viable" forest gun that is "easy to shoot" and "able to use it for concealed carry". Like was suggested, I think .357 Mag or .44 Mag double-action revolver is the minimum."
I agree entirely.
If you are getting a concealed carry handgun for "human defense", then any of the XD line (or many other brands) will do fine. But large animals are another story. I was fishing on the Kenai Peninsula, in Alaska, and there was a sign, installed by Alaska Fish and Wildlife and it read (roughly): "It is suggested when hiking in this area that you carry a .308 (or larger) rifle for bear defense, as the bears may contest your right to THEIR fish." Granted, these are Kodiak Brown Bears (Grizzly), but even smaller black bears can get really nasty if you get between them and their cubs (even by accident). A small black bear can peel back the window frame on a car to get to a snickers bar inside.
Most bears (and cougars, mountain lions, etc) are MUCH more afraid of you than you are of them, and will avoid you. You're NOT an easy meal. But if they change their mind, an XD 45 will not slow them down. Kids do a wonderful job of making a BUNCH of noise in the woods. Theonly reason I'd see for an attack would be a sick (rabid) cat, or a mother bear around cubs.
If I were hiking regularly in bear country, I'd prefer a 12 gauge pump with 00 buck shot, and a comfortable sling. If I were restricted to a handgun, then a 454 Casull, or a 460 (or 500) S&W Magnum, with one of the shorter barrels. If you're going to carry a large frame 44 Magnum (the minimum), you may as well take a Casull or a X-Frame Smith.
Carry pistols in 9mm, 40, and 45, make for VERY POOR man-stoppers, let alone stopping a 300-400lb bear, intent on stopping you.
Hi Jeff, I agree with all you said. Except this part about big animals is OFTEN or usually true.
Originally Posted by JeffWard
But not always. God help you if you are caught in a "not always" scenerio.
Here's my usual "long take" on a short subject. I have an endless supply of war stories.
Depending on the location or the animal, they may "want to" or be "forced to" see humans as food.
And, I'm sorry, but even an armed human can be "an easy meal". Just sorta lacking in good "steak cuts".
The "want to" occurs in places like California. Where lion hunting is banned, normal food (deer) may become
scarce, and people are out hiking and jogging on the "animal side" of the urban/wildlife interface.
This especially applies to large areas bounded "mostly" by urban "stuff", and where travel corridors
for the lions (and their normal deer prey) are pinched or almost non-existant. Here, people can look
"pretty interesting" to an animal that needs a kill at least every 3-4 days to survive.
There has not been enough time to genetically engineer human avoidance. The substitute was "we"
used to kill lions. Ranchers. Hunters. Especially hunters with dogs. So many lions escaped a nasty
human contact at a young age. Or, they didn't survive. But, it only takes a generation or two before
lions have no actual "growing up" experience to make them scared of people. Many of the recorded
lion attacks have occurred right near populated anti-hunting areas. CA has more attacks than "anywhere".
This phenomenon also applies to bears, but they have MUCH less need for meat.
I will "merely comment" on the quaint CA idea that "we are invading lion territory, and if they kill some
of us, we need to accept it as part of nature".
The "forced to" part mostly concerns young male lions. They have to get out of their dad's "range" or
be killed. The normal "dad range" is huge. So, they can be forced to move many miles, often before
they have polished (or even gained) sufficient hunting skills for survival. Anything that moves can look
like food to a starving lion.
This was one of our attacks last year. In an area of private houses/cabins, at the bottom of a mountain
ridge. On the other side of the ridge were more "urban cabins" in the forest. Which is covered with
hiking trails that receive a lot of use from local folks that live "in town" about five miles away.
The man was walking from his house to his pickup truck. Several feet from the back of his truck, he
was hit from behind by the lion. The impact knocked him nearly to the back of his truck. And it caused
the lion to lose his bite on his head. He was able to crawl under the Class III receiver hitch while kicking
the lion. Which eventually gave up. And the guy had a memorable quote.
"Damn I'm glad I have a two-wheel drive pickup that's low to the ground".
"If I'd had a four-wheeler with a lift kit, I'd probably be dead."
Too bad there was nothing to monitor his blood pressure and heartbeat rate.
Per "standard lion practice", the pros found the lion two days later. Less than a 1/4 mile from the attack.
After lions have been located, hounds can pin them "stationary" for dispatch. This lion is history.
The ground was soft from rain. The lion had been observing "the man's place" after the first attack.
As in "if you first don't succeed, try, try . . ."
That too is normal lion practice. Gotta eat somehow, you know.
Last edited by DanP_from_AZ; 01-08-2011 at 09:39 PM.
Reason: @#$%^&* typos
Carry pistols in 9mm, 40, and 45, make for VERY POOR man-stoppers, let alone stopping a 300-400lb bear, intent on stopping you. Jeff[/QUOTE]
An unfortunate but well documented truth. Puny humans have repeatedly been known to suck up handgun rounds in astonishing number, with 6-9 hits not even stopping them. What is needed is one accurate round to the deep brain to shut down the system immediately. Otherwise, it may require quite some time for blood loss to stop them. Methinks a Bear/Cougar on top of a child a tougher job. A long gun is preferred, but in response to your original post, I think the Redhawk Alaskan snubby .454 Casull for beasts and loaded down with some potent .45 Colt for your occasional need to carry is about the best handgun solution. However, please don't be "going to be in a shady area of town" packing unless you have no other choice. That is a recipe for tragedy. In the mean time, you need to do a little homework on anatomy and find out where that bullet needs to go. Many folks think a head shot, right between the eyes, etc. will kill instanly. Not always so. It is that smaller portion of the brain that controls the central nervous system that must be reached. Gruesome to talk about, but essential knowledge if you ever find yourself needing to stop an enemy immediately. While these what if scenarios are interesting, in reality there are so many variables that I would suggest avoiding dangerous environments and a good solid faith in the man upstairs. Or, do you feel lucky? Well, do you?
Considering his experience with guns and the circumstances of being in the wilderness with children, would anybody recommend a long gun over a handgun? Why or why not?
Bears, dogs and cats are particularly susceptible to pepper spray. In fact the pepper spray they recommend for bears is much weaker than the ones we use on humans. Ditto the pepper spray used on dogs.
The pepper spray for bears comes in a large container that shoots a mist about 25 feet. Most pepper sprays that are for human adversaries shoot about 12 feet. The bear spray containers seem too big to carry.
I would issue everyone in your party a good pepper spray canister of 2 - 3 ounces. One member can carry a gun. A .357 or .44 magnum is a good choice. Wheel guns (used) seem to be selling at a low price.
A 9mm would be a joke against a bear or cougar; I think you would need to carry a 10mm in auto to protect yourself in the wild. The Glock is probably a good choice.
Yes, for me a long gun (a home defense 12 gauge pump with slugs) is definitely in order in bear/cougar country, but I would also carry a big bore revolver. Long guns can be a challenge to wield in close combat, and if a child is involved a poor shot might hit the kid and that would be real bad. A revolver can be placed in direct contact with the beast, whereas a semi-auto may jam if you try this. I think avoiding dangerous areas, especially with children in tow, is the best bet.
Originally Posted by SMann
Absolutely. A long gun, particularly a pump or bolt action, is simpler to operate and shoot effectively with little practice. However, I didn't initially mention it since he described his purpose as a "day hike"; a long gun is more cumbersome than a holstered pistol, and might result in leaving the gun at home when it counts.
Originally Posted by SMann
I'd likely get either a Glock 10mm or a Ruger Alaskan revolver, if it were me. Too bad the commercial Super 45 ammo has gone away (it is my understand that it is mostly reloaders shooting it now - the company behind the surge is bankrupt now)... Otherwise, it once was easy to get a few parts and turn a 45 ACP 1911 into a 45 Super.
i love all these anti 9mm guys
first of all, bro....don't let any of these dudes sway you away from 9mm....has anyone here ever put a couple well placed 9mm rounds into the throat of a cougar (or bear) and had that sucker keep coming at you? look at the carnage 9mm's caused in AZ this week. make no mistake. 9mm is a cost effective, and lethaly effective round.
go glock....kills em every time
You've been scolded enough for your ignorance of guns and have received some very good advice, and a little bit of bad advice, too. I'll leave it to you to do the research to be able to make that distinction. I'll just offer a personal opinion, based on my own choice of 'trail guns,' and pretend that you have already become knowledgeable and proficient in the use of handguns.
Originally Posted by consultant
I carry a 10mm Glock G-20, a 15+1 shot semi-auto, when squirrel hunting, because the nature of squirrel hunting lends itself to surprising other animals, too, and usually in semi-remote areas. In my case, the most likely 'dangerous' animal would be a large boar (or sow with piggies) feral hog. It is highly likely that I will accidentally sneak up on one, while slipping quietly around in the river bottoms, with the wind in my face. Normally, they will run away, but sometimes they panic and run the wrong way, and if you are in their escape path they may try to hook you with their long tusks. If one were to actually get you down, it could be bad.
The 10mm is between the .357 Magnum and the .41 Magnum, power-wise, depending of course on cartridge selection, so it would be entirely adequate for cougar, but on the weak side for a large bear. Personally, if I were afraid of aggressive bears being in the area, I would not go, and if I did, I would carry a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs, preferably a semi-auto with at least 5 loaded in the magazine.
[QUOTE=look at the carnage 9mm's caused in AZ this week. make no mistake. 9mm is a cost effective, and lethally effective round.
go glock....kills em every time[/QUOTE]
IMHO I don't think the tragedy in AZ proved anything about the effectiveness of the 9mm on a bear! 30 plus rounds fired, 20 humans hit, 6 dead, and 14 wounded last I heard. I reckon 20 PO'ed black bears might have faired much better. Ok, let's be fair, let's make it 10 PO'ed black bears, 8 PO'ed Cougars, and two rabid raccoons nibbling at yer toes. Great video that would make! Hey, I like the 9mm as much as the next guy. Would I use it for bear protection and be confident? Nope,
Search tags for this page
best gun for hikers
best gun for hiking
best handgun for hikers
best handguns for hiking
best hiking firearm
best hiking handgun
best hiking pistol
handgun for hiking
hiking with a handgun
Click on a term to search for related topics.
» Springfield Armory
» HGF Sponsors