By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
I was involved in a discussion recently regarding the best handgun for the camper and backpacker. As you might imagine, the .22 LR cartridge, in revolver or auto, got quite a few votes. That has always been a popular choice for those folks who have a day off and intend to spend it in the woods, just bumming around and maybe taking some small game for the cook pot. However, here are some things to think about that might indicate that this great old rimfire cartridge just might not be the best choice.
Personal defense training teaches us that we don’t select our armament for when everything goes right. We should, in fact, plan for dealing with events when everything goes wrong. That’s why African professional hunters are generally armed with something like a .470 Nitro when their clients are after cape buffalo, even though we know that a cape buffalo can be killed with a good shot from a .308 Win.
Your pleasant day in the woods can quickly be spoiled when you have to deal with predatory animals, packs of feral dogs, or feral people. When you stumble across someone jealously guarding their clandestine weed patch, that .22 might turn out to be a poor choice. And that mama black bear, who thinks you are a threat to her cubs, is probably not going to be too impressed with your choice of handguns, either. Still, we want a handgun that we can use for plinking or collecting small game.
Before selecting the gun that I am going to carry into the field, I try to give some thought to what the worst thing is that I might have to deal with. In my home territory, that generally means that I will have to consider encounters with people, mountain lions, and feral hogs. For me, that means a .357 Mag. revolver.
I can load the .357 Mag. with .38 Spl. cast bullet loads and take small game without tearing up very much meat at all. On the off chance that I will have to shoot to save my life, I’ve got a ready supply of heavy .357 Mag. ammo on my belt, too.
When I’m wandering around in country where black bear or grizzly are known to roam, I want my .44 Mag. revolver, although a .41 Mag. would do, too. Again, I can load it with .44 Spl. cast bullet loads and still have a stash of heavy magnum ammo close at hand. And, when dealing with bears, I want a heavy cast bullet load, something on the order of the .44 loads produced by Garrett Cartridges for the extra penetration that they deliver.
I have noticed that people who spend a lot of time out-of-doors are rarely seen packing a .22. Instead, they have got some sort of big-bore handgun on their hip. It is clear that they have given some thought to the worst thing, or situation, that they might have to encounter, and are prepared to deal with it. You might want to give that some thought, the next time you plan to spend your day off at the old fishing hole, or just bumming around in the woods.