In a post called Why You Shouldn’t Take a Gun When Hiking on the Appalachian Trail: IMI Systems Quote of the Day, a snowflake named Margaret (not shown) offered a whole lot of reasons why she wouldn’t tool-up for her national forest adventures. TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia shot down her arguments with extreme prejudice. Which left a void: What are the best guns for hiking, especially in grizzly country? Ruger, Colt, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Taurus, even Springfield are all great options for backpacking, but here are my picks . . .
If you want a firearm that can take down a black bear, wolf, mountain lion or other small game or four-legged critters, Smith’s five-shot .38 caliber snubbie is not the gun you’re looking for. Nor would it be suitable for “where the F am I?” emergency hunting.
Bear spray or pepper spray are considered self-defense options by some, but if you’re a hiker seeking more protection from two-legged threats, the 642 is, as the Brits say, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
The 15-ounce Smith and Wesson Model 642 Airweight’s biggest, maybe even only, advantage: The handgun is easily schlepped into United States bear country in a fanny pack or comfortable IWB holster. It provides supreme portability over however many miles of Mother Nature an outdoorsman seeks to traverse. It’s also reliable AF, no matter what the conditions. Speaking of which . . .
While the GLOCK 20 is a lot bigger than the diddy little ccw five-shot Smith, it only exacts a 13-ounce weight penalty. Not to be a Buffalo Bore, that doesn’t include the weight of the cartridges. Which cost a bomb and weigh a ton. But the full-size G20’s capability is from another planet.
With the right 10mm ammo, with appropriately placed shots, Gaston’s gat is great personal defense against a bad man or a rampaging grizzly bear at a fair distance, maybe even both at in quick succession, what with its 15+1 magazine capacity.
As you’d expect, the semiautomatic GLOCK 20 is an uber-reliable semi-auto pistol that doesn’t require a lot of babying to keep running. As for concealed carry comfort, there are plenty of backpacker compatible options, from cover-it-with-your shirt outside-the-waistband holsters to not-so-covert-now-eh-Mr.-Bond chest-mounted rigs.
If you’re serious about not becoming bear scat in Colorado or hunting something brown-bear big in between communing with nature, you need some serious firepower. Any shotgun that fires slugs is a good choice. Any long gun in a suitably powerful caliber is also a suitable contender for a backwoods/desert/mountaintop companion.
[NOTE: This list does not include my weighty 5.56 caliber SCAR-16 as toted by Liberte Austin in the pic at the top of this post. That was clickbait humor.]
I’m going with the Henry .30-30 in don’t-mind-if-I-ding-it stainless steel. The lever gun offers an ideal combination of light weight (7 lbs.), maneuverability (39” long), portability (swivel studs, useful with iron sights out to 125 yards or so), large predator “stopping power,” accuracy, capacity, safety (carry it without a round in the chamber) and last but not least, cool.
Yeah, I know: the Big Boy is not a carry gun per se. But if you’re carrying it, it’s a carry gun, right? As Elvis might have said, carrying the Henry feels so good how can it be wrong? If you see Margaret, ask her. Better yet, don’t. If you don’t understand it, it’s not for you.
Note: Federal, state and local laws vary. Always contact the appropriate law-enforcement agency to confirm the rules and regulations of the area in which you plan to hike.
More about hiking and carrying:
Here’s the Best Backcountry Sidearms for Hunters, Hikers, and Campers – (Gun reviews of Smith & Wesson .44 magnum, .45 ACP Smith & Wesson 1911, Ruger LCP .380 ACP, Glock 20 10mm, .380 ACP Smith & Wesson Bodyguard)