Question of the Day: What Handgun for Defense Against Alligators?

Texas has its share of dangerous critters: copperheads, fire ants, burglars, etc. Alligators…not so much. Florida…a lot. And they’re not averse to attacking humans and dogs. 11-Foot Gator Eats Burglar, Fatal Florida Alligator Attack ConfirmedWoman Loses Arm in Gator AttackDog Rescued From Gator’s Jaws, for example. So here’s my question: what’s the best self-defense gun against gators? Yes, I know: Swamp People are happy enough shooting gators with rifles. But what handgun would you carry to dispatch one of our reptilian friends, should it come to that? And yes, assume you might have to swim with it. The gun that is. Swimming with alligators is a silly idea.

comments

  1. avatar Mr. AR-10 says:

    Obviously, 1911.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      The proper answer to all such questions is of course the Deagle in .50 AE.

      I don’t have one so I’d have to stick with my Glock 22.

      1. avatar EJ says:

        Smith and Wesson 460 in Stainless. Alternatively, I’d settle for an 8 shot 357 magnum.

  2. avatar CRF says:

    I suppose I would carry a revolver. I’ve got a rugernsecuritybsix .357. Probably put hardcast bullets in it to get through the gator skin. Not that I know much about gators being from KY.

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      Good choice, but still not absolute, as I mentioned in my comment below.

  3. avatar Blackspike2710 says:

    This would probably be a good case for the FN 5.7. “Armor Piercing” and whatnot.

  4. avatar GuyFromV says:

    SuperSoaker with dry acetone and muriatic acid.

  5. avatar Charlie Johnson says:

    Well, I don’t know how much of this state you’ve gotten to explore yet, but parts of Texas have gators aplenty, mostly in the East. That being said, I vote 10mm.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Absolutely. About a third of the state is acceptable gator habitat, home to several hundred thousand of the beasties. They’re plentiful enough that the state issues hunting tags for them.

      There are almost certainly more alligators than burglars in Texas…

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    Colt Python. Too easy.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I love your humor Ralph.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

  7. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    .410 revolver would be great with some buckshot. The creature is not terribly thick skilled but has a peanut sized brain and would be difficult to hit if adrenalin got the best of you. Most Gators are afraid of humans.

  8. avatar JR_in_NC says:

    My Dad once had a an alligator surface next to the boat he was in. 5 pops to the head, essentially point blank, with a .357 Mag did not stop it.

    Luckily, the sixth shot did.

    This was a VERY long time ago, so I don’t know what kind of ammo it was. But, I always took that incident to heart in terms of thinking even a fairly powerful handgun is some sort of magic wand to make bad things go away.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      A majority of an alligator head is mouth and teeth, see my most above. Having a tiny brain requires good shot placement. The Swamp People use rimfire rifles but they know the Gators anatomy, and can effectively kill them quickly with a headache shot.

      1. avatar FlaResident says:

        >>effectively kill them quickly with a headache shot

        I’m guessing that was an auto correct error but still a great way of describing a well placed shot to a gator’s noggin 🙂

      2. avatar Chris. says:

        and they’re trying not to damage the skin.

      3. avatar TX Gun Gal says:

        A couple of Texas good ole boys, join Swamp People, for a couple of episodes a year. The younger one, David, uses a revolver to dispatch the gaiters they catch. Not sure but looks like S & W 4″ SS 357/38, his gator hunting partner, step father, is not thrilled with not using a rifle, but he has taken a number big alligators with the revolver. And given the only kill zone on gator is a size of a quarter, on a thrashing monster, a pretty good shot.

    2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

      Another thing to consider is that water is just about as effective of a barrier to bullets as ballistics gel. If you’re ammo only penetrates 12″ in gel it will be stopped cold in ~12″ of water. If your dad’s bullets had to get through 6″ of water before penetrating the gator’s tough hide and skull even a direct shot to the brain might not cut it. If you’re in the water you might want to go with a 180gr hardcast.

      1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

        “If your dad’s bullets had to get through 6″ of water”

        While you make an excellent point, in this case no. Each time he fired, the gator was on the surface.

        While the first several shots did not dispatch the gator, all shots deterred its attack (temporarily). So, in that sense, I guess it was effective in some sense. The problem was, it kept coming back. (I don’t know how long was between each shot…like I said, this was a very long time ago, and he’s no longer around for me to ask him for his recollection of the event).

        The problem as I remember was more one of skull penetration, but may have also been not quite finding the brain or spine. I saw him once shoot a copperhead in the back of the head with a .22 handgun from about 15 yards, so I don’t think the lack of (initial) success with the alligator was due to a fundamental absence of proficiency (he was a firearms instructor) or understanding of the target.

        Stress may also have played a role. Small boat, big gator, lots of animosity among the participants of the contest. Enough control to hit the head, but miss the light switch? Could well have been.

        Still, I always thought it was something I did not particularly want to repeat myself.

        1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          The story also makes for a good argument against 5 shot revolvers.

      2. avatar B says:

        I’m sure if you waited a few more seconds the bullet would have no problem penetrating several feet of water.

  9. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    I used to see very large crocodiles in the marina at Nuevo Vallarta frequently. It was Mexico so I only had a hatchet. I don’t imagine that it would have been adequate, but an acquaintance jumped in the water to go after one with his bare hands after it ate his dog. I guess it was already satisfied because it just swam away. So that fellow at least though bare hand were enough.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      If Paul Hogan can do it with a knife…

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        That’s not a knife . . . .

      2. avatar jwm says:

        Crocdile Dundee was dealing with salt water crocs. Pussies in comparison to the American alligater. Said in my best Cliff Claven voice.

  10. avatar JD says:

    Well, take it from a native Floridian: .45 all the way. .44 mag would be good too, though bulky. Always aim just behind the back of the head where their armor plate stops (basically the back of it’s neck).

  11. avatar Theo Braunohler says:

    An AR-15 pistol in .458 SOCOM with a 12″ barrel, Sig brace, Bowers .458 silencer and a 40-rd PMAG (holds 15 rds of .458).

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I’d probably use my 38 special. With 158 grain hornady Xtp’s. Because that’s what I have on me pretty much always.

      Theo’s .458 SOCOM wouldn’t fit in my pocket very well.

  12. avatar TravisP says:

    In Florida we hunt them with .22s, and a Ruger works pretty well

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Hmmm. .22’s? That would imply that shot placement matters more than caliber. Strange….

      1. avatar TravisP says:

        Yep, not even a magnum, just a 22 LR, and pop em in the head.

    2. avatar defensor fortismo says:

      Plus, worst case scenario, you can just shoot your buddy in the knee and run.

  13. avatar Gatorgrabber says:

    As someone who works with these guys daily…you brain is the best weapon! Nothing else comes close.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Brain matter is awfully soft and spongy. Doesn’t seem like it would do much damage to an alligator’s hide. I’ll still carry my brain with me, but probably keep a .357 as backup.

  14. avatar Jeff says:

    My son-in-law received two gator tags last year and landed a 6 and a 10 footer. When they hunt them, they lure them in and noose/hook them. Once they pull them in, they take a bang stick with a .357 cartridge to the back of the head. I wouldn’t want anything less than a .45 or .357. Shot placement is critical as gators are pretty resilient. They’re also pretty fast for short distances on land. My preference would be a 12 gauge with 00 buck and as much distance as possible.

  15. avatar Frank says:

    Just make sure your buddy is carrying a Jennings .380.

  16. avatar Tom in Georgia says:

    Swimming with gator jokes aside, it is good that we have a bit of perverse humor than the haters will just never understand. They’re just NO FUN at all, and they know it, and they know that we know it, which makes them hate even more.

    Sooooo…..

    Ralph, I see you your Python and raise you an Anaconda 🙂

    Tom

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      Which brings up the only flaw in the otherwise “Perfect Handgun” – the Smith & Wesson 686: S&W didn’t give it a sexy nickname like Python or Anaconda. I call mine “Mr. 686”, but it just doesn’t have the same panache.

      1. avatar Hooda Thunkett says:

        686+ 4″, Buffalo Bore 180 gr hardcast gascheck…

        https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=100

        Good for bear, too…

  17. avatar Steve says:

    I’ve seen them killed with a .380, but my 9mm works just fine.

  18. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    ’88 magnum. Shoots through “schools”‘
    (Is a group of gators a school?)

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Yes. It’s called the University of Florida.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        Their stadium is known as ‘The Swamp”…

    2. avatar Ladd Boid says:

      I think a group of gators is called a congregation. I never stick around long enough to ask them to be sure! (current resident of FL and former resident of LA). We have one in the ‘hood that travels/lives in the storm drain.

  19. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I have to believe that any common handgun/caliber is just fine with proper shot placement to the alligator’s BRAIN.

    If you are going to shoot an alligator in the body to stop it, the bigger the handgun, the better. I have to imagine that a .44 Magnum with a 6 inch barrel shooting 180 grain hollowpoint bullets (muzzle velocity around 1600 fps) to an alligator’s torso would be pretty spectacular. And .45 ACP shooting any hollowpoint bullets would have to be a close second. (Queue 9mm fanboys in 3 … 2 … 1 …)

    1. avatar John says:

      Not a “fanboy” but I do prefer 9mm.
      I also live in NJ for the time being so I can’t carry.
      For defense against just about anything it would be a compact 1911 in 9mm with Liberty Civil Defense ammo.
      The Civil Defense in 9mm is a 50gr bullet traveling at 2000 fps and will penetrate level 3 soft body armor.

  20. avatar SuperBoom says:

    While I’ve seen plenty of swamp people episodes and I’m cajun, that doesn’t make me an expert. That said, big, fast brick beats small fast pebble=my non-glock 10mm double stack all day. You never know; in the heat of the moment, one might just unload the whole pallet of bricks while Crazy Gator is chasing your tasty ass up the bank!

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      On the other hand I recall a YouTube of a large alligator doing an about-face and crash dive after taking a swat on the nose from a pissed off house cat.

  21. avatar Another Robert says:

    One of the “swamp people” carried a .22 mini-revolver in the bib pocket of his overalls, and dispatched a gator with it when he fell out of his boat, so I would think any good centerfire would do. (Oh great the intermittent keyboard has returned).

  22. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Having taken gators in Texas, I assure you they are quite plentiful. It is illegal to shoot any alligator with a gun in, on, or across public water, unless it has already been snared on a line.
    Lots of rules about gator hunting in Texas. Find them here:http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/planning/alligator/
    For defense against gators, the 12 gauge is your friend, and if it has to be a pistol I would recommend the Bond Arms Derringer in 3″ .410 or the Taurus Judge in the same caliber. As stated above, teeny tiny brain that is easy to miss.

  23. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Everything I know abut shooting gators I learned reading this thread. My conclusion is that for a handgun I don’t so much care about caliber, 9mm, .40 S&W, .44, .45, .38, hell, a .22. What I would want to have is a lot of pills in the pipe. Which probably would lead to a 9mm with around 17 round mag.

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      ” My conclusion is that for a handgun I don’t so much care about caliber, 9mm, .40 S&W, .44, .45, .38, hell, a .22. What I would want to have is a lot of pills in the pipe.”

      Excellent point and not just about gators.

      Yet more evidence that caliber wars are a waste of brain-energy.

      All calibers/cartridges and handgun makes and models have pros and cons. At the end of the day in the real world tests (self defense, whether from man or beast), what matters is what the shooter does with the weapon, and how many chances he has to do it.

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        .40 or go home, FTW!!! Just kidding, but seriously. 40 🙂

  24. avatar Sian says:

    Solely gators as a concern?

    .38 +P revolver with FMJ-FP. the flat nose is less likely to glance than a roundnose.

  25. avatar jwm says:

    It is my expert opinion( x being the unknown factor and spurt being a drip under pressure) that if I’m going to be in country with animals that can eat me I want a 12 bore or substantial rifle backed by a handgun.

    Said handgun having a caliber starting with 4 and hard cast semi wadcutter bullets.

    My advice is free. If you want to pay me for it, however…….

  26. avatar old air force says:

    In 1980 I had the misfortune of crossing paths with a 9 ft. 7 inch gator here in Central Texas. The only weapon “allowed” on the property was a shotgun with #4 shot. The first 7 face/head shots from an 870 w/30 full barrel at 15 to 20 yards only blinded the critter. The last 5 shots were point blank and finished him. Today I want my .41 with 265 gr. hardcast gaschecked rounds loaded hot. I will guess no more than 2 shots, although I am not in a hurry to test this theory.

  27. avatar Stephen M says:

    Every gator SWIM ever got was with a deep sea fishing pole and something sharp. Hunting knife suffices for the small ones, but when you get a big thrashy one ashore I hear an axe is nice. Ammo is expensive and gunshots mean game wardens. Or so I’m told.

    1. avatar Larry says:

      Faster than free dozen of donuts, the law will come.

  28. avatar Paul says:

    .45 w a mix of FMJ and Hardcast

  29. avatar Libertarian says:

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2013/06/25/monolith-arms-p-12-p-90-like-shotgun/

    This would cool in 458 socom/50 beowulf ore 510 whisper chambert to store 30 rounds in an 2 stage mag.
    10 Inch Short Barrel (closed white suppressor to 26/16 (18 4shotgun) travel length).

    What a defense dream in semi that can travel in most states on map

    http://www.bilderload.com/bild/377776/gainvon2012bisjuni2015S7AYY.jpg

    Why nobody make this ??

  30. avatar Larry says:

    I think we should all move to Sparta, ms, where no gators can get us.

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