No real simple solution for all-purpose outdoors handgun No simple solution for outdoors handgun

Many people think they have the perfect idea of an outdoors handgun. I can tell you right now that those people are WRONG!
There is no perfect handgun for all outdoor uses.
The activity you are engaged in makes all of the difference in the world when you choose a sidearm. If you are hunting with a rifle or shotgun for big game you might either want a handgun capable of taking the place of your long gun or simply as a self-defense arm, or maybe just for quietly taking small game.
If you want true hunting capabilities you will be forced into using a larger, heavier revolver or single-shot pistol chambered for a heavy caliber to even come close to having the effectiveness of a long arm. Packing these pistols will be a major inconvenience and I don’t know of anyone personally who carries a hunting long gun and a hunting handgun.
Most people think of a 4-inch revolver in .357, .41 or .44 Magnum when they think of an outdoors hog leg. These are definitely sound choices as you can down big game with these calibers if you can get close enough and are proficient in their use.
However, most likely these arms are just carried because they are convenient to have around all of the time, even when a long arm is out of reach.
If you are in a wilderness camp, that short gun strapped to your side could come in mighty handy. Even in the average hunting camp, you never know who is going to come-a-callin’ while you are out of reach of the long arm of the law (pun intended).
I’ve heard quite a few stories of undesirables being on the prowl in camping areas. This bunch is also the most popular with archery hunters now that the idiotic regulation against carrying a firearm while bow hunting has been rescinded in Oregon.
It’s impossible to get .44 Magnum levels of power in a semi-automatic pistol package of reasonable size. The 10 mm auto is as good as it gets, as it beats the .357 handily with full-power loads and approaches .41 Magnum without quite getting there.
The top .44 Magnums in a 4-inch revolver barrel are going to put out around 1,000 to 1,100 foot pounds of muzzle energy. The .41 gets you down to about 700 to 800 while the 10 mm can do 650 to 750 – not bad at all, considering the best you can do in a .357 is less than 600. The 10 mm also kicks less than even the weaker .357 and substantially less than the .41 and .44.
These conveniently sized handguns are mostly going to be carried for defensive purposes.
Against a two-legged predator I would feel comfortable with any of them and even throw in the 9 mm and 40 S&W.
I would feel confident with any of them against a cougar as well, but would feel a little less so with the 9mm. Cougars don’t seem to want to put up a fight the vast majority of the time if they are shot, or shot at, with a firearm.
The same can kind of be said about a black bear but if they decide they are going to attack, they don’t want to stop until they are sure the job has been done. I’ve always seen and heard bear experts say not to play dead with a black bear; they are more likely to run away than a brown, but if they decide to attack you, fighting with everything you have is the only hope of survival.
Personally I’d take a .44 Magnum if I had to use a portable belt gun against a black bear.
I guess it’s a good thing that we don’t have to worry about brown bears and grizzlies in our area but I wouldn’t mind if there were a few around in the wilderness.
If I ever do have to get into a fight with one I hope to have a reliable 12 gauge with Hevi-Shot (made in Sweet Home!) buckshot on board.
As far as handguns go,: the big boomer .454, .460 and .500s get the nod but I’d rather carry a light shotgun and a reasonable belt gun or .22 handgun than only a heavy handgun.
The muzzle-loading hunter has a specific dilemma in Oregon, since the regulations say that you can not posses any “other” firearm while black powder hunting. This is odd to me, since the muzzle loader is not legally a firearm.
It seems that the “gray” area would allow for carrying a black powder handgun. The obvious choice would be a .44 caliber revolver. The problem is that the power of these six guns is rather anemic by modern standards, only around 120-170 foot pounds.
There are, however, two exceptions. One is the old Colt Walker, which puts out 400-500 foot pounds of muzzle energy but it is extremely large and heavy. Ruger offered the best solution but sadly hasn’t for years; the Old Army. It had the power of the Walker but in a much more “packable” size, thanks to its modern engineering and metallurgy.
One combination I have always thought wise, but have never seen another advocate of, was for a handgun hunter to carry his large hunting handgun with scope etc. and a back-up pistol in the size range we have discussed above.
This would offer versatility and the single shot user quick followup shots in thick brush or when going after wounded game, especially dangerous wounded game.
There is one advantage to the revolver that the auto has a hard time with – no, not reliability, as modern autos are every bit as reliable as revolvers are, but versatility. The revolver can be carried with a shot shell as the first round “up” for snakes or even small game harvesting. If you come upon a situation where you actually need a bullet you can either cock and decock the revolver to skip the shot shell or just shoot right “through” it in an emergency.
A revolver will also function just fine with the heaviest magnum it was designed for to the wimpiest load, which just barely pushes the bullet out of the barrel. Being able to go from a light target load for small game and noise reduction, or the previously mentioned shot shells, and then up to the super boomers is a nice feature to have.
Semi-automatic pistols were designed to function with a certain level of ammunition pressures/power. If you deviate out of this range you’re inviting a jam. Unfortunately, the shot shells manufactured for pistols rarely fall into this range and require hand cycling.
One reason I carry a back-up handgun to my rifle while hunting is to have the option of arming someone else. I have done this on two different occasions.
The first was when I was with a friend who had already shot his deer and wanted to take me into the area in the hopes of finding a nice buck for me to take. He didn’t bring a firearm of any kind and in fact had repeatedly teased me about always having a handgun with me even before season while scouting. Well, we came across what we were pretty sure was a cougar-killed doe and what were definitely fresh cougar tracks.
He asked if he could carry the Glock .40 I was packing for back-up use.
I let him sweat it out for a couple minutes, while reciting all of the reasons he had given me that made my carrying it such a bad idea over the years. But I knew that two people who were both armed was much better than one person with two guns, so I eventually gave in.
Actually, there was a second and a third time I armed someone else as well. Both were on a friend’s property as we were hunting deer.
On two different occasions, the resident black bear low growled at my son and I. I was carrying a 10- ounce Smith & Wesson .22 revolver both time,s with a Crimson Trace Laser Grip (also Oregon made). The bear definitely was just letting us know “he was there, this was his hill and we should not go up there.”
We didn’t, as I’ve seen the game camera photos of this guy and he is huge; but I handed my son the small, but better-than-nothing .22 both times just in case.
I also once used my Glock 9 mm after shooting a 7×7 bull elk to conjure up some desperately needed help!
After killing the bull, I’m sure everyone I was hunting with got on the “radio” to see who had fired in the area, our standard practice. The problem was, my walkie-talkie didn’t work.
I did some diagnosis and found that the removeable antenna wasn’t making contact with the base. I hunted around in my pack and found some tin foil on something, “McGuyvered” up a little folded square and found that if I wedged it in there the antenna would “kinda” make connection if I held it against my chest and fiddlesd with the antenna.
So I rigged it up. fired off seven or eight rounds as fast as I could with the Glock, stuck it away and worked with the antenna connection.
That worked. Everyone deduced that I was probably the only one in the area with a fast-firing, much quieter pistol. The radios came on, I got enough information relayed to pin-point my location and my Uncle Dan showed up, followed shortly by my dad.
There is a good argument for carrying a .22 caliber handgun as a second arm.
One that makes good sense is the diversity it offers. The long gun that is the primary weapon already has way more power than any of these handguns can produce, so why consider the pistol a defensive arm? A lot of .22 shells can be carried for little weight and they are exponentially quieter to fire if you decide to take some small game for the “pot.”
I actually carry a back-up to my back-up in eastern Oregon. It’s a teeny, tiny mini-revolver in .22 Magnum, loaded with shot shells for snake extermination. I hate snakes! This revolver is so tiny it’s a “freebie” as far as being a burden to carry.
Kind of along these lines, there are a few people who go out for weeks or months at a time and live off the land. You could say the arm they carry is a survival gun. Most will probably choose a lightweight .22 rifle, but a few choose a good handgun in .22 instead, so that both hands are free for other tasks. For this use the .22 simply can’t be beat.
Just in case you are wondering what I use/carry, I started out with a Ruger Single-Six .22 since that was all I was allowed to have in my youth.
I traded that for a nine-shot Taurus 3-inch barreled .22 revolver when I was 18 and still own this gem even after essentially being replaced by the above-mentioned S&W.
My first center fire was a Glock 9 mm and it was put into service for about a decade. The Glock is especially nice as a woods gun since it always works, won’t rust, is lightweight and has a high magazine capacity.
For a few years I also used a Glock .40 and occasionally flirted with  some .357s.
When the Titanium (Scandium) Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum came out, I bought one as soon as I could get my hands on it. This one is about perfect, as it is weather-resistant, fires a very effective cartridge, has the versatility that revolvers inherently posses and only weighs 26 ounces.
That ultra-light weight makes it the hardest kicking handgun I have ever fired, however. It makes the 500 S&W seem tame.
My latest acquisition for this purpose is one of the limited-production Glock 10 mms with the SF frame in Olive Drab Green. In the past, the Glock large-frame pistols in 10 mm  and .45 ACP were just way too big for me to get my average-size hand around comfortably, but the grip reduction in the SF (short frame) versions has almost eliminated this hindrance for me.
This combination would be hard for the average person to beat. It has the power of a .41, the weight of the titanium revolvers and carries 16 to 18 rounds on board. Add this to all of the Glock advantages listed above and it just might be the perfect outdoors handgun.
But of course, there isn’t one!
– Jeff Hutchins owns and operates Rangeamster Gunworks.