Trail Gun


December 1, 2010, 07:42 PM
Im looking for a handgun that can be easily concealed in my backpack or on my person. Im looking to use this as a trail gun for hiking, a utility gun, and maybe even for dispatching animals. I will also hunt some small game and Grouse with it ( hunting grouse with a handgun is legal in my state)

What do you think about a .22lr or .17hmr handgun vs a .38/357 handgun? Also barrel lengths, revolver vs auto, any opinions are greatly appreciated!!

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December 1, 2010, 07:48 PM
.357 w/ 4" barrel. You'll need to be able to hit at distance.

December 1, 2010, 07:50 PM
Well, for what it's worth I think you should get a .357 magnum. That way you can use some of those CCI shotshells for snakes or perhaps grouse ... at a fairly close range.
Barrel length should be 4" me thinks! :D

I've always considered .357 snubbies to be more flamethrower than pistol. ;)

December 1, 2010, 07:50 PM
Problem is that you've got two wildly different uses for this gun. The caliber/ammo to use for small game is in no way what I'd consider an adequate self defense caliber/ammo.

A .22 or .17 for self defense is well, well lets just say I'd rather have that than a stick but that's as far as I'd go with it.

A good self defense round for your other applications is .357. It'll handle any 2 or 4 legged enemies you may run into just fine. Shooting small game with a 357 won't get you anything but pink mist and no meat. Even using weak .38 specials out of that 357 would still destroy most small animals.

For a self defense kit gun I'd go with a S&W Model 65 (.357) with a 3 or 4 inch barrel.
For a small game hunting gun I'd go with a S&W K22 (.22) with a 6 in barrel.

December 1, 2010, 07:57 PM
I really like the idea of a .357 because of the versatility. Imon, I was wondering what the effective range you'd think the cci shotshells could be used at. I can usually get anywhere from 15 to 8 yards from gouse

December 1, 2010, 08:30 PM
I don't have any personal experience with CCI shotshells but you may get a clue from this video. I know it's not .38 spl but it doesn't seem promising for your 8-15 yard range.

December 1, 2010, 08:59 PM
I've shot plenty of .38 shotshells. I find they are just about worthless beyond 10 feet. Even the .44 magnum shotshells aren't much better.

Justin Holder
December 1, 2010, 09:13 PM
I think a 22lr/22 magnum convertible Ruger revolver would serve the purpose you described.

A 22 magnum offers plenty close range punch for small critters as well as larger varmints. It will also be much cheaper than 357 to shoot and will allow you to carry more rounds without weighing you down.

December 1, 2010, 09:24 PM
My choice,Browning Buckmark 22lr. Real handy, very good shooter. Head shoot them grouse!

December 1, 2010, 09:57 PM
I have taken bunny, squirrel, partridge,..and such other edible's,... with .22LR and/or .22magnum revolvers,...32 S&W Long and/or .32 H&R magnum,..and with a .357's using .38 Special, 148 gr Wadcutters. Never messed up all that much meat with those .38's.....

When I carry one gun to "do it all" out on the trail, ....I want it to "do it ALL",.....and it's usually been either a 3 inch, 5 shot J frame .38, or a 4 inch K frame sized .357,...though I would consider a Ruger Blackhawk in .357 quite capable of filling that bill as well, ..with the appropriate ammunition for the purpose at hand.

Having said that, I often carry a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum,.... it all depends on the likelihood of sharing the trail or a campsite with critters that have the ability to chew on me,...or otherwise do me harm,....but I don't generally hunt small game with that one.

Personally,...If I am in back country with anything smaller that a .357 in the holster,'s usually because I have a shotgun or rifle with me as well. I would NOT generally rely on a .22 or .17 caliber anything for SD,.... if I had a choice of anything bigger.

I have done a pretty fair amount of back packing by the way. I do not carry it IN the pack if I can avoid doing so. I generally open carry,... crossdraw when wearing the pack,...and when the pack comes off,..the revolver goes on me.

On those occasions I really don't want to alarm folks,....I carry crossdraw INSIDE an external cargo pouch worn on the waist belt of the pack. Line it with foam rubber to break up the print,..and you are good to go. I have modified the pouch I use to have a velcro tear open instead of using a zipper. Do make sure you are legal to carry concealed if you do this. That goes for carrying inside the pack as well. Check the laws in the areas you intend to travel,...some places even inside the pack and unloaded would still be considered concealed. If No CCW/CPL/CHL....I'd carry it for the world to see if it were legal. And last,..if I couldn't do that,..I probably wouldn't travel there.

Find what works for you,..and enjoy the trail!

The preceeding is just my 2 cents worth.....and your thinkin' may be different,..but hey,...each to them's own,....

December 1, 2010, 11:04 PM
Look at the Taurus Judge with the shorter barrels. You've got the option of shooting .45 Colt or 410

December 1, 2010, 11:17 PM
When you're out hiking, weight does make a difference. I love my .357 Mag., but a .22 is sure a lot easier to carry around. My usual camping/hiking gun is a 9-shot High Standard
.22 revolver, with a 6-inch barrel. Even with 100 rounds of ammo, it weighs less than my S&W 686, empty. My day pack has an externally accessible pocket with a quick release zipper that holds the holster and spare ammo, a little bottle of CLP, and a cleaning pullthrough.

Baba Louie
December 1, 2010, 11:17 PM
I've wondered about KelTecs new 30 shot .22mag PMR-30. Real lightweight. A whole lot of ammo on hand. Ought to be good for trails, small game, SD if need be.

December 1, 2010, 11:41 PM
Trail Gun:

December 2, 2010, 08:34 AM
Make the above gun an Airweight (Model 37) and you've got a winner!

December 2, 2010, 12:47 PM
If it's a desert trail and nothing there is bigger than perhaps a feral dog, a lightweight .22LR or .22 revolver will work great.

If it's in woods or mountains where bears might be a problem, you'll want a .357 Mag minimum. Me, for those situations I have a 4" Redhawk in .44 Mag.

If two-legged varmints might also be a problem, the .44 Mag will still work. Me, for such areas I have a Kimber 10mm with Buffalo Bore or Cor-Bon big-game loads. But that's not really necessary; I just happen to have the Kimber already.

Perhaps ideal: Taurus makes a .357 4" Titanium trail gun that only weighs 22 oz, works well, and because it's ported the recoil is manageable. (Speaking from experience.) S&W makes a Scandium-alloy (mostly aluminum, really) .44 Mag that is also very light, but sounds like a very unpleasant gun to shoot with full-power loads. (No experience with it.)

Bottom line: A gun is a tool. A tool is designed for a purpose, and depending on the trail you may have different purposes. Pick a tool for the purposes the given trail may entail.

December 2, 2010, 12:54 PM
One thought about snakes and snake-shot:

I've been running around and/or living in the desert for more than 30 years, including a stint in desert Search & Rescue. In all that time I've come across many, many rattlesnakes, but I haven't yet had to shoot one. They're shy, they make themselves known, and they're quite beneficial; best just to go around them and let them be.

Most people who shoot snakes do it out of either panic or predation, not any real need for defense against them.

December 2, 2010, 01:22 PM
+1 what he said ^

Using a hiking stick? Just move them,...or step around them, real need to kill them,....except maybe for lunch if you are really really hungry....

December 2, 2010, 02:01 PM
I've shot plenty of .38 shotshells. I find they are just about worthless beyond 10 feet.

+1. Those shotshells can't even kill paper at 30 feet.

December 2, 2010, 02:35 PM
I've wondered about KelTecs new 30 shot .22mag PMR-30. Real lightweight. A whole lot of ammo on hand. Ought to be good for trails, small game, SD if need be.

30 rounds of .22mag is better then a pointy stick for reaching out a bit....Might be good to have a pointy stick though as well.

I haven't heard much about the kaltecs but if they are reliable they look like a nice lite trail gun with a bit more punch then .22lr and good capacity.

December 2, 2010, 02:57 PM
Do you reload at all? How about starting even if it's only in a minor way? Here's why...

I'm thinking 4inch barrel .38 or .357 chambered gun with a mixed load in the cylinder of +P and custom loaded low power wadcutters. Mark rounds by "painting" the base and primers with felt markers so you can easily identify them when you open the cylinder. Red, or just leave them natural, for full power and green for the special light wadcutters. Being coloured like this makes it super easy to snap open the cylinder and index around so the round needed for the job at hand is ready to go.

For game rich areas with little risk of predators that would take an intrest in you carry it with the two or three wadcutters up first in line. If a more risky area carry with 3 or 4 full power +P's or even Magnums lined up for first duty. If you run across game with the full power sitting ready then just open, index around so the green low power rounds are in line, close and hunt away.

Of course how you load it and which round is lined up in the ready position for duty on any given day would depend on what you feel the risk vs hunting opportunity for that day will be. But the point is that the beauty of a bigger .38 or .357 revolver over a .22 is that they can be loaded way down in power for such things as hunting small game yet still be chambered with some stout full power rounds for self defense.

If you custom load your low power wadcutter rounds you should be able to make it so that the lift from the recoil is mild enough that the barrel rises the same amount as the full power +P rounds so the sights will be regulated for both loads. That's where the reloading comes in. You won't be using massive numbers of such rounds so a really modest setup would be fine. Or make friends with someone in your area that reloads already and work with them on coming up with a round of this sort.

Carry the gun as you will but I'd guess that a side or shoulder holster for areas where you may run into dangerous game of either sort would be best with the hammer sitting so that it's ready to fire a +P. Also a proper holster would allow you to more quietly pull and open it to select the low power rounds for a hunting situation that may come up without all the ruckus of unshouldering your pack and pulling out your trail gun. Not to mention that in the unlikely event that you should suddenly NEED to have your pistol and it's inside your backpack that the access time to unshoulder it and get it out would be an eternity compared to the need of the moment.

The only fly in the ointment might be the local regs on small game hunting. If it's limited to rimfire only for a given region then you're hooped and would need to just get a .22.

December 2, 2010, 03:38 PM
For a walk in the woods I carry a 4" K-frame 357. The usual load is a 38 Spl cast DEWC but for a little more "ooomph" I'll load a plated DEWC to +P level. The latter load is very accurate, well under 2" at 25 yards BTW. And I always have the option of full-house 357 loads.

December 2, 2010, 10:06 PM
Trail Gun sweetness...........Ruger Single Six .22lr and .22 WMR.......:D

December 2, 2010, 11:56 PM
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of "trail gun" is a .357 with 4" barrel. This might not be the absolute best in all conceivable categories, but it would be hard to beat IMO.

Now that I have a holster for it, I plan on using on of my Yugo M57s loaded with Sierra 86gr JSP as a trail gun sometime soon, just to be different. For most purposes, I'm sure it would handle itself just fine.

December 3, 2010, 06:38 AM
id throw out the kel tec pmr 30, mine has been very reliable. light, and 30rds of 22mag. good luck. also like the ruger single six

December 3, 2010, 08:10 AM
I think a single-six fits the bill here:
A cylinder full of .22 shorts does well on unsuspecting grouse.
A dose of .22 mag is pretty good medicine for SD under most situations.(If you don't have first hand experience with the .22 mag....stand down...some people are WAY too over-read in that dept!!)

December 3, 2010, 09:18 AM
This may sound crazy, But I would go with a Taurus judge. A 45lc is a serious defensive round and a box of 410 for grouse doesn't way to much. For your uses I would take a serious look at the Judge.

December 3, 2010, 04:33 PM

Brian Williams
December 3, 2010, 08:18 PM
Mine is an S&W Mod 65 with a 4" pencil barrel. It carries very well and has a great bark.

Erik M
December 3, 2010, 08:25 PM
I kept a .22 magnum on my hip and a .357 in my pack when I was big into offroading. 6" GP100 & a Heratige Rough Rider. Lots of underbrush and mudholes on the trails here so snakes were a primary concern. We also have numberous coyotes and the rarely seen mountain lion and black bear. Even human predators (mostly thieves) have been known to appear occasionally on the trails.

December 4, 2010, 06:58 AM
I was given a Taurus Tracker 4" .41 magnum a few years ago. It's a stainless 5 shot. Over time, I've decided that it's my woods/fishing/trail gun. Don't really have to worry about getting it wet in the rain, it's very accurate, and I believe a .41 magnum would be sufficient for anything I'm likely to encounter on 2 or 4 legs. However, I'm not shooting grouse with it. Heck, at $1.50/round for factory ammo, I'm not shooting MUCH with it. :)

December 4, 2010, 01:15 PM
This little guy is deadly at 25 yards once you learn to shoot it with it's small grip frame, and it'll fit in the front pocket of your jeans with just the grips sticking out...
Ruger Bearcat
For more power, I agree with the .357 with a 4" barrel...
A Single Six is a good choice as well, mine's a little long for anything but hunting and target shooting but a shorter barreled model would suit you well with the dual cylinders.
Best of luck with your choice.

Vern Humphrey
December 4, 2010, 01:23 PM
I've killed plenty of squirrels and rabbits with my Colt M357 (6" barrel) using .38 Specials loaded with 148 grain wadcutters behind 2.7 grains of Bullseye. I used the same gun in Viet Nam with .357s loaded to the gills.

But hunting and backpacking are two different activities. As a hunter, you move slowly and stalk game. As a backpacker, you move fast, racking up miles and not seeing much game -- the critters hear you coming a long way off.

So for true backpacking, I think I'd carry my Colt Detective Special -- and expect to never really need it. And for small game hunting, I'd probably carry my Colt Woodsman.

December 5, 2010, 08:52 AM
IMHO only I feel that a good revolver chambered in .38 SPL fills this role very nicely. One can use powder puff loads containing WC or some nice +P 158gr SWC such as loaded by Double Tap, or a heavy loaded 148gr DEWC as sold by Buffalo Bore. Or if one reloads they could load up some 200gr bullets for up to 850fps from a 4" barrel.

Everyone likes to espouse magnum this and magnum that. However unless one lives where truely large bears (and I don't mean black bears) live then these cartridges aren't needed. For hiking a good J frame .38 SPL would be ideal, for general woods bumming or camping a good ol' K frame works quite well. The merits of the .38 SPL are many. Such as cheaper cost of ammo, less recoil/muzzle blast, and lighter guns.

I have yet to feel the need for anything larger, after 5 years of carrying my S&W M10 for back up while hunting I've not once ever needed to use it.

December 5, 2010, 09:42 AM
A K frame sized 357 Magnum, SP101 3 inch 357 Magnum or a Charter Arms Target Bulldog 4 inch 44 Special would be my choice. For a little heavier revolver, the Ruger New Vaquero in 44 Special would be ideal. If Ruger brings out a light weight version of the Flat Top 44 Special with alloy grip frame and ejector rod housing it would be really perfect for a trail gun. Just my .02.

December 5, 2010, 11:28 AM
For years I carried a Beretta Model 70S .22LR while hiking through the woods. I had it in an Uncle Mikes nylon holster and never even noticed the extra weight of having it on my belt. Later on, I went with a Rossi Model 88 .38 Special in stainless with a 3" barrel and high profile sights. I always thought this J framed sized revolver was possibly the best set-up for a trail or kit gun.

December 5, 2010, 09:50 PM
Consider a Ruger SP101 or GP100 with a 4 inch barrel in .327 (yes that's a 2) Federal Magnum. Kills two birds...well, one grouse and something potentially much bigger, with one gun. Might not easily kill a bear, though.

I've got a GP100. In addition to .327 Magnum, it will fire .32 H&R Magnum, .32 S&W Long and .32 S&W. It's a heavy frame for .327 Magnum (the GP100 is medium frame revolver designed for the .357 Magnum cartridge). As such, there's very little recoil shooting the smaller loads.

December 6, 2010, 11:50 PM
Can't go wrong with a mid-size revolver in 357/38

December 7, 2010, 05:43 AM
Just to be different. Everybody has a Ruger or a Smith & Wesson and they're a good choice, as is this one, but this one has a "cool" factor all it's own.

Harrington & Richardson 999, 22LR. Nine shots

Plus when you break it open and all those empties go flying, you'll feel like Michael Caine in "Zulu."

Pete D.
December 7, 2010, 06:40 AM
Trail gun: rides in my hunting vest. S&W 317 Airlite.

December 7, 2010, 09:42 PM
I guess I don't get the idea of a dedicated "trail gun" - unless you live in grizzly country where four legged creatures "may" be more dangerous than the 2-legged variety. (OR if you need an excuse to purchase a new firearm...:D) I train with and carry my main CCW - a Glock 27 - everywhere including on the trail or hunting. It's "relatively lightweight" which is a consideration when camping, hiking or backpacking. I'm much more concerned with 2 legged creatures in my neck of the woods...and .40 S&W is good medicine for them.

I certainly agree a .357 revolver is great - if that is your main carry, and you are trained up & profiecient on reloading. I would do wonderfully with mine for 5 shots....and then I would have to re-load a revolver in a stressful situation...yikes! I carry mine as a BUG sometimes. ANd I love & appreciate the qualities of a good revolver, I am just WAY slower reloading than with any semi-auto...I'm sure there are guys on this board who can reload them faster than I can my semi-auto I have seen the revolver guys in competitions...awesome!

If I plan on taking small game I bring a shotgun, a .22 rifle or .22 target pistol (ruger MKII or buckmark) in addition to my main defensive, CCW weapon. (However, shotgun or rifle are promoted to primary defensive arms over a pistol if I have either with me:cool:) Personally I am much more proficient in taking small game with a .22LR rifle then a center-fire handgun (at least by group size...)...but who knows. A .22 rifle is minimal in weight and high on utility, but admittedly I don't take one w/ me if I am on a local trail or bike trail out of season...but then I have my trusty, comfortable G27 always.

December 8, 2010, 05:39 AM
Pete D,
What kind of casings are those. I'll betcha they don't fit in that gun!!! Ha ha.

December 8, 2010, 01:10 PM
I guess it depends upon (1) why do you want to carry a handgun on the trail, and (2) how much weight do you want to carry.

If you intend on hunting (as you mentioned) then a long barrel revolver makes sense I suppose.

But for myself, I don't hunt when I'm hiking, and I don't like to carry unnecessary weight.
The only reason I even carry a handgun when hiking is because of the possibility of dangerous two-legged critters.

So, when I go hiking, I carry this +1 extra magazine....

The last thing I want to carry is a heavy 6-shot revolver.

Bill B.
December 8, 2010, 01:50 PM
I think a 22lr/22 magnum convertible Ruger revolver would serve the purpose you described.

I agree. The Ruger Single Six with the 4 5/8 barrel and both cylinders would be hard to top. 22 mag. is an under rated round IMO.

December 8, 2010, 09:55 PM
The new S&W 637 Airweight 2-1/2"bbl is one of my current favorites to carry when out on the trails of the NC/VA mountains on trips with the wife and kids.


Hoppes Love Potion
December 9, 2010, 07:43 AM
NAA Black Widow .22LR & .22 Mag. It's also my CCW. When I'm in the woods, I duct tape the kydex pocket holster to my outside thigh and I'm good. Just have to drop my hand and it's there if I need it. The holster also holds the extra cylinder.

My accuracy shooting LR is getting very good. I don't shoot Mags that often, but in snake country I use the Mag cylinder with 2 shot shells for starters.

Many will claim I am undergunned, and I agree. But I also think a man with a 4" .357 is undergunned vs. a .22 rifle. At 50+ yards, the rifle should win that battle easily.

December 9, 2010, 10:35 AM
Just to be different. Everybody has a Ruger or a Smith & Wesson and they're a good choice, as is this one, but this one has a "cool" factor all it's own.

Harrington & Richardson 999, 22LR. Nine shots

Plus when you break it open and all those empties go flying, you'll feel like Michael Caine in "Zulu."
I have seen that a while back at Greentop Sporting Goods. I would have bought it if rear sight blade wasn't missing.

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