Who packs a pistol?

I used to carry my .45 for the first  two days of a hunt and then would remember it's just black bears in my area and that a 1911 isnt light. I'll carry the Glock 19 9mm occasionally, more so for 2 legged protection in some areas that I shed hunt and scout but when chasing elk I don't see people. I just pack bear spray

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Here is what I have seen and learned when it comes to carrying a pistol. A 9mm is not effective on any bear. I have literally seen black bears in a tree shot with a 9mm multiple times at less then 20 yds. ending up being killed with a rifle. When we skinned the bear the bullets just fell on the floor. They never penetrated passed the hide. Bear spray is the best, but if you want to carry go no smaller then a 40 for bears. 9mm works fine on cats, wolves or people. If you are truly worried about people remember to keep your distance when talking to them. I work in Law enforcement and it has been proven that it takes the avg. person 2 seconds to cover 21 feet. So we train to keep them at least that far away when talking to them. We also train to draw our weapon and fire 2 rounds center mass in under 2 secs. Most can do it in under 1. I do not worry about black bears, most turn and run, I do not hunt in grizzly country. I have killed multiple cats that have snuck into cow calls and I have seen some wolves so I carry a 9mm. It's lighter, less recoil and is easier to stay on target after each shot. I always carry it in the woods, scouting, hunting or just backpacking with my family.       
What is everyone's thoughts on carrying during bow season in Moose country? Where I hunt Elk in CO there are a lot of moose, last year when hunting solo, I spooked a bull moose in heavy brush at about 10-15 yards and I was not carrying, this year I bought a .45 as I wasn't very comfortable starring down a bull moose with only a bow in my hand!
I have a myriad of different pistols but here's what I do. In brownbear country I carry spray 1st and a .44mag 2nd...often both.

In country where it's just black bears and cats I carry a small 9 or 40. Not for 4 legged predators though, just 2 legged. I live in bear/wolf country and have come to a certain level of "comfort" with blacks, wolves and cats. Browns are a little more hostile and unpredictable. Background is in LE (no longer an LEO but some habits are hard to break) and still carry most days. I stopped bringing my big heavy wheelguns when I'm outside of brown bear country and usually bring a lightweight polymer frame counter part... having 15 rounds in a survival situation in the backcountry is alot more appealing than 6.

Other than brown bears it's never crossed my mind to carry a gun for four legged animals.
byland said:
Just my two cents here.  I've been thinking about what sidearm makes the most sense in the backcountry and I've decided it comes down to knowing your area.  In Lang's case, hunting in grizzly/wolf country means I'd more likely want to pack something with more of a punch.  In the area I hunt, the worst I'll come across is a black bear or cougar and to date, I've yet to have an issue with either.  A few years back I purchased a .357 revolver for but realized that having only 5 shots in a gun that kicks like a mule was not the smartest choice.  For that reason, I just purchased a Sig 9mm that can hold 15 rounds and for me, that makes me feel comfortable.  I really think my biggest concern is running into the wrong person in the backcountry so for me, I feel a 9mm with 15 rounds should do the trick.  More accurate shots on target is what I've decided to go with.  It also fits my hand better, my kit, and has the right features I like.

All that said, you have to know your area.  Is it high risk or low risk?  Choose a caliber appropriate for the area. 

Lastly, I've noticed that when this question comes up in forums, there area million different opinions on which caliber to use or not use but in reality, only a few hunters/hikers have actually had to employ said caliber while in the backcountry so unless you're that guy who has first hand experience with what works and what doesn't work when it hits the fan, it's really just educated speculation.  Most of the time our sidearms serve as a security blanket or something that makes us sleep better at night.  For that reason alone, I vote that whatever caliber makes you most comfortable/confident, that's the caliber you go for. 

Does anyone agree or disagree?  I have a feeling I'll be searching for that perfect gun my entire life!  haha


9mm is a fine choice, if you were going into thinking you might have to use it on a black bear I would buy the +P rounds from Buff Bore and not worry about needing something bigger. The most you can hope for with any handgun in a bear situation is to deter them, odds of killing them dead right now isn't good. You're not likely going to stop a charging bear, even a black one, dead in it's tracks with a .44 much less a 9mm unless you hit the goodies between and above the eyes. Hopefully you can inflict enough trauma and make enough noise to make them realize what they're doing is a bad decision. If you shoot it well with some stout ammo, then you've mastered 3/4's of the equation
I do, small S&W .380 (feel a little safer). Mainly to warn off animals. I bivy camp. My hunting partner was bitten by a bear 2 years ago in his sleep. Test bite from a black bear. It now hangs on his wall with the help of his Colt .45. Idaho backcountry. I also hunt in mountain lion territory. I have seen 3 in the last 2 years and always seem to find their tracks overlapping ours, just feel a little safer at night with a pistol. 

This will be my first year carrying a pistol. I'll be carrying a Ruger 45 as I'm in some areas with a pretty high moose population and just makes me a little more comfortable!
Elk network just put out another study done that brings up another great point if you think you are going to stop a bear you have to hit the brain or spine-nothing else will stop a charging bear.  Again they stated that 98% of spray encounters ended without injury, but 1 in 4 of encounters with a firearm discharged ended in the human being injured or killed.  1 in 4!
I carry bear spray and a S&W 44mag airlite
That sidearm is a game changer. A revolver that weighs in at 24 oz is awesome. And not trying to be all "tough guy" but honestly most would think it would kick like a mule but even running 310 grain bear loads didn't seem to be bad at all.
carry a 10mm with 200 grains of stop right there and I have a 13 year old son as a bowhunting buddy carrying bear spray.
My buddy lives in Alaska.  He shot  a moose near a river with a friend.  They were within a couple hundred yards of the river and their boat so they got the animal quartered and ready to pack out.  They walked back to the boat to get their frame packs.  When they got back to the moose, a griz was on it and immediately charged. After knocking down his friend, my buddy pulled his 44 mag and yelled.  The bear came at him and he pulled the trigger once.  Dead bear at his feet.  250 grainers. Smaller grizzly but a 44 can do the job. Chest shot.  My buddy says his biggest mistake was not getting the meat away from the carcass bc they thought they'd be quick enough with the pack frames.  I agree.
Personally I carry both spray and a 44. I will go for the spray first. I think hunting with a friend is the safest thing we can do in the mountains.  Just my .02
I live in western Montana, where grizzly and black bear are very common.  Anymore in certain regions it's not uncommon during rifle season to hear of someone killing an elk and having someone stand "guard" with a rifle while the partner guts it out.

During archery I carry a 10mm Glock 20 with Buffalo Bore hard cast loads.  I feel confident in dropping a grid if need be. Granted something that big and pissed will still be moving even if you got a couple rounds off.  A grizzly is my main concern as a predator or concern to humans where I hunt.  Then followed by cats and then wolves. I've done a few loops in snow in November only to find big wolf tracks next to or in my own. Creepy.  I also know a few dudes that carry a .454 Casull. Here in Griz country we can't afford to mess around. Too many guys gets charged, mauled and eaten to consider anything that wouldn't cause the most damage possible to the biggest predator. I don't feel safe without my spray and my 10mm.
I carry a .40 caliber handgun with me. I don't hunt in grizzly country, but there are plenty of black bears and cats around. I shouldn't ever have an encounter but I'd rather be safe than sorry.
I pack a S&W .44 mag. It's heavy as hell but worth it to me as I typically backpack hunt, solo. Had a couple of close encounters with black bear and moose, but haven't had to use it yet.

I sleep with it in my hammock with me. I've had coyotes surrounding me as I slept and also had moose within a couple feet of me but I'm always half-asleep and just yell at them in some mumbling half-assed manner and fall right back asleep. I think it would take something actually attacking me in order to feel the need to use the gun, but I feel safer having it there either way.
Always carry. in my mind it is an essential piece of gear. as far as caliber..... anything is better than nothing. so take what you are comfortable with. don't need a dang hand cannon.
I carry a colt .45 in hopes that a bear isn't what I have to use it for. However, when I'm bowhunting I do carry a bear tag just in case!

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