Handguns for Every Hiking Trip and Region.

I grew up backpacking the Colorado Rockies, in other words—bear country. Having accidentally stumbled on a bear who was busy eating grubs I can tell you, that the only thing keeping us at the top of the food chain is our brain and our tools. Fortunately for me, he was quite content with his feast and disinterested in me. However, encounters like this illustrate the importance of carrying handguns for safety while hiking the woods.

Handguns for Every Hiking Trip and Region

When picking a good hiking gun, it is important to consider the region you live in. In states where grizzly bears are a real concern, a .44 Mag is a good choice.

However, I live in Michigan and all we have are the less aggressive and smaller black bear. Although a .44 Mag would obviously do the job, it is much heavier to carry and would be overkill. In this case, a smaller round is sufficient. Of course, bear spray doesn’t hurt either.

Something to consider when picking a gun to take hiking or backpacking is that concealed carry is not the goal. For the most part, you will, or should, open carry your firearm for quick access. Animals move fast and you need to be able to match. If you carry a gun in the woods, you need to be able to access it quickly, with little notice.

For this list, I am including a variety of different calibers for different regions and needs. Everything from a full-sized .44 Mag to a .22 LR for small, feisty vermin and snakes. And don’t forget the possibility of running into nefarious 2-legged predators. I have had that happen. Fortunately, it all turned out ok. But that is a story for another time.

Ruger Redhawk (.44 Rem Mag)

Handguns For Hiking: Ruger Redhawk (.44 Rem Mag).

If you hike grizzly bear country, then .44 Mag is the ideal choice for personal protection. Although other rounds are capable, a .44 Mag will ensure that you stop a big ol’ brown bear in its tracks. I personally own a Ruger Redhawk and it is a very reliable pistol. With a 6-round capacity, you have plenty of follow-up shots in the event you miss, or the first shot doesn’t drop the charging mass of teeth.

MSRP: $1,399.00

For more information, please visit Ruger.com.

Smith & Wesson AirLite 340PD (.357 Mag)

Smith & Wesson AirLight 340PD (.357 Mag).

Three things that are always reliable, .357 Mag, a revolver, and Smith & Wesson. Fortunately, the S&W 340PD brings all three together in one lightweight package. The .357 Mag round is capable of taking down most large predatorial animals, including a grizzly with well-placed shots. In addition, the 340PD features the AirLite frame so it won’t weigh down your hike. Although the shrouded hammer will reduce snagging on the draw, it also prevents the ability for single action shooting.

MSRP: $1,095.00

For more information, please visit Smith-Wesson.com.

Glock 20 Gen4 (10mm)

Handguns For Hiking: Glock 20 Gen4 (10mm).

The 10mm round is capable of taking out most any large predatorial animal. If I were heading into grizzly country, I would probably opt for .44 Mag. However, 10mm Buffalo Bore is perfectly sufficient. And with the reliability of Glock combined with the 15+1 capacity, I would think that you could take down the large predator handily. Likewise, if you live in black bear country, this is plenty of gun to take care of bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolfs, and other small feisty critters.

MSRP: $695.00

For more information, please visit US.Glock.com.

Colt 1911 Classic (.45 ACP)

Colt 1911 Classic (.45 ACP).

Well, it’s a 1911, Colt, and .45 ACP. What’s not to love? While it may not be ideal for a large brown bear, enough well-placed shots will take one down. However, the accuracy of the 1911 platform makes that a lot easier. Obviously, this is a large frame firearm and will add extra weight to your hiking loadout. But it is worth it. Although it may not be ideal for Grizzly, it will be perfectly sufficient for black bears, mountain lions, and other smaller predators.

MSRP: $899.00

For more information, please visit Colt.com.

Taurus Raging Judge (.45 Colt/.454 Casull/.410 gauge)

Handguns For Hiking: Taurus Raging Judge (.45 Colt/454 Casull/.410 gauge).

I had to include the Taurus Raging Judge because it offers a couple of options that are perfect for the wilderness. First of all, from a Colorado standpoint, it provides the .454 Casull for grizzlies and the .410 for rattlesnakes. Both are very much a problem in the Rocky Mountains.

With that said, the Raging Judge is perfect for pretty much any region. If you have brown bear, load it with 454 Casull and .410. And if you have black bear, load it with .45 Long Colt and .410. You will have plenty of firepower for anything below the size of a bear. And with 6-rounds available, you should have no problems dispatching a troubling critter.

MSRP: $1,167.75

For more information, please visit TaurusUSA.com.

Springfield XD 4-Inch Service Model (.40 S&W)

Springfield XD 4-Inch Service Model (.40 SW).

Although .40 S&W seems to be on its way out, I still personally like the round. It is plenty enough for anything below a black bear. Although, in a pinch, with well-placed shots, you might be able to take one down. The same goes for a larger cat or wolf. However, if your hiking area doesn’t have anything that large, the .40 would be plenty. Smaller cats, coyotes, and smaller feisty critters would be no problem.

Although the XD ships with a 10-round magazine, an extended 12-round magazine is available. I would definitely spring for an extended magazine or two. Even with the limited capacity magazine, I included the Springfield XD because its smaller size will not weigh down your hike.

MSRP: $540.00

For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.

Springfield Hellcat Pro (9mm)

Handguns For Hiking: Springfield Hellcat Pro (9mm).

If you are hiking in an area that is not prone to larger predators (other than the two-legged kind) 9mm is plenty. 9mm will easily dispatch anything coyote size and smaller. I would argue that it can handle larger animals in a pinch, but your shots better be well placed and many. Which is not an issue for the Hellcat Pro.

With a 15+1-round capacity, there are plenty of rounds to go around. Plus, the small, thin frame of the Hellcat Pro will carry easily without weighing you down. Not to mention, the Hellcat Pro is very accurate and has a nice, crisp trigger. This is important when dealing with a charging animal.

MSRP: $634.00

For more information, please visit Springfield-Armory.com.

Ruger LCP (.380)

Ruger LCP (.380).

Like the 9mm, .380 is a good round for areas absent large predators. However, don’t sell it short when it comes to animals up to the size of a coyote. Where the Ruger LCP shines is its diminutive size, which allows you to easily carry it anywhere. It is perfect for short day hikes because it fits in a pocket or fanny pack and adds virtually no weight.

However, with only a 6+1 capacity and short sight radius, you will want to practice with it before dealing with a charging animal. But if you purchase it with the Viridian laser sight, your odds will greatly increase.

MSRP: $419.00

For more information, please visit Ruger.com.

SIG Sauer P322 (.22 LR)

Handguns For Hiking: SIG Sauer P322 (.22 LR).

The .22 LR is more of a snake or small critter gun, making it perfect for areas with no real predatorial threat. Although there are stories of a .22 taking down large animals, the theme is always the same—lucky shots. For this reason, I would not rely on it for anything larger than small vermin and snakes. Which may be all you ever deal with in your neck of the woods.

But if you do have to deal with something larger, the mantra is many well-placed shots. The SIG P322 helps with that. With a 20+1-round capacity, you have plenty of ammo to get the job done. And, with the reliability of SIG Sauer, the odds of malfunctions when you need it most are decreased. Not to mention, at 17.1 ounces, the P322 won’t weigh you down.

MSRP: $449.99

For more information, please visit SIGSauer.com.

When it comes to picking a handgun for hiking, it is important to take size and power into consideration. If you are going to be hiking all day, the smaller and more lightweight the pistol, the less of a burden. However, you also have to consider what you might run into out there. So, make sure to find a balance between power and carrying the burden.

Also, make sure that you are able to handle whatever you are carrying. If you cannot handle the power of a .44 Mag, then don’t carry one into bear country. Nothing makes a bear attack worse than knocking yourself to the ground with a firearm that is too powerful.

Happy, and safe, hiking.

Editor’s Note: Story edited for accuracy.

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