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Protection While Bowhunting

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Bobson, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. Bobson

    Bobson Active Member

    I need a handgun to keep with me while bowhunting. Mostly have 4-legged predators in mind, but I figure if I plan it for them, it should be plenty effective on 2-legged predators, too.

    I thought maybe an autoloader in .45 ACP? I'm not going to be running into anything bigger than black bears and/or cougars (but I'd like to account for everything up to brown bears so I don't need a new sidearm when hunting out of state). Is .45 ACP even necessary? Or would 9mm be big enough? I'm not a fan of .40 S&W, so don't really want to consider it.

    Also, I'm not opposed to revolvers, just never owned or fired one, and don't know what to look for. Thanks for the help.
  2. dmazur

    dmazur New Member

    Do a search for "bear gun" for hours of reading...here are a couple -



    I'm familiar with a 1911, so I carry a 1911 in .45ACP. 4-legged, 2-legged, they all get the same thing.

    Except in eastern Washington, where I recognize that I might need the biggest handgun I can accurately fire. Grizzly bears just aren't black bears.

    For eastern Washington, I have a Ruger SBH in .44Magnum. I know it isn't as good as a shotgun, but it's what I will have with me as it is compact enough to carry, including river float trips. Yes, it's a single action, and I've been practicing. I'm comfortable with cocking and firing it one-handed (but I'd still prefer two.)

    I've worked up some rather slow (1000fps) 310gr WNFP's for bear. I understand the very last thing you want is a JHP or JSP bullet if you're trying for penetration.

    Judging from the number of threads on this topic, there is no answer to the question. However, there are lots and lots of opinions... :)
  3. WTBguns10kOK

    WTBguns10kOK New Member

    It doesn't really matter what you choose, but reliability is the most important part of your woods carry gun. Revolvers are often chosen since it is easy to continue pulling the trigger if a round does not fire, whereas semi-autos can become more problematic with jams.
  4. Jeff F

    Jeff F New Member

    We can not carry any firearm during the bow only season.
  5. Sgt_R

    Sgt_R New Member

    Jeff - your comment seems to be at odds with the contents of your sig block. ;)

  6. Bobson

    Bobson Active Member

    Weird... seems counter-intuitive, Jeff. Watch your back and carry anti-bear spray, I guess. I don't think I'd bowhunt at all if I couldn't bring a handgun with me. Also thanks for the suggestions. I'll spend some time reading those "bear gun" threads.

    I grew up in western Washington, dmazur, and went camping in EW every summer. :D I miss living up there, no other place I've ever been compares to it; and I've been all over the world.
  7. Maple_City_Woodsman

    Maple_City_Woodsman New Member

    Many states allow it.

    OP - I don't know what you have against 40S&W, but if you won't even consider that round, then I don't know why 9mm is even in the picture. 9mm will certainly scare away a frisky or curious black bear, but the way I see it actually relying on a 9mm for defense from them is like using a .22LR or 32acp for defense against people - it is only excusable in certain situations where you shouldn't or cant wisely carry something bigger.

    A solid 45acp load would be fine for black bears and cougars, especially with a hard cast bullet... but a 10mm would be better than that, and a mild 44mag load would be at least as good as that.

    For bow hunting though, You want something that:
    A) Doesn't slow you down too much, since your not hunting with it.
    B) Can easily be explained away as a DEFENSIVE gun to any curious DNR officials.
    C) You can shoot quickly and accurately, more than once.

    Those things make the large hunting revolver impractical for your purpose, so beefy 45LC, 44mag, and such revolvers that weighs 3+ pounds are less than idea. A standard service automatic, or a snub type revolver are more fitting of the role.

    Even a hulking 45 automatic like the S&W 4506 weighs slightly less loaded than a 4" S&W 629 weights empty... but a gun like the S&W 325 Night Guard weighs under 2 pounds loaded with 6 of your favorite 45acp rounds, and the Glock 36 weighs less yet, at only 1.7 pounds loaded.

    There are of course other options as well, but that is definitely the route I would be looking for a defensive side arm for bow hunting.
  8. Bobson

    Bobson Active Member

    I wasn't considering a 9mm, per se. I just figured I'd see what opinions I could gather on it.

    I mainly had 9mm, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP, and .44 Magnum in mind. Obviously a huge difference in energy between the four, but I also didn't want to carry a cannon if it'd just be overkill anyway. As far as weight that might slow me down, I could carry an extra couple of rifles slung across my back, and the extra weight wouldn't bother me at all. I made a habit of jogging several miles in full combat gear (rifle, ammo, combat boots, and kevlar helmet/vest) in the military, and I've maintained my fitness level since separating.

    Thanks a lot for all the input.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  9. Maple_City_Woodsman

    Maple_City_Woodsman New Member

    Then yes, a cannon is overkill. Cary your 45.
  10. dmazur

    dmazur New Member

    It was only a couple of years ago that Washington State "saw reason" and removed the restriction on carrying a pistol for self-defense while archery hunting or muzzleloader hunting. Up until that time, possession of a pistol while not hunting during modern firearm season was assumed to be a game violation.

    Right up until that point I was going to suggest a .45ACP. Without getting into "caliber wars", I think it makes a fine defensive round. Provided the critter isn't charging you and the size of a horse...

    However, if you really want something versatile enough to work with big bears, you're probably looking for something like a Ruger Alaskan in .44Mag or larger. Possibly .454 Casull.

    Something you might consider, if you don't mind a little tinkering, is a .460 Rowland conversion for a 1911. This round is roughly equal to a low-end .44Magnum. The conversion is only available for 5" barrel models. See


    The 1911 can be easily converted back if you only venture into large animal country infrequently. And, if you reload, the .460 Rowland uses the same dies as the .45ACP (just different, stronger cases.)

    I almost got a .460 Rowland for my Commander-length 1911, but Clark Custom discontinued the shorter version. I believe they abandoned compact 1911's rather than risk reliability and short frame life.
  11. snooperman

    snooperman New Member

    I have hunted much the past 60 years and for bear territory...

    I would want at least a 44 magnum in a well made revolver. A single or double action will do fine.
  12. Super Sneaky Steve

    Super Sneaky Steve New Member

    An SP101 with a 3" barrel would take care of any black bear and wouldn't be too burdensom.

    I saw a hog get shot 8 times with a .45 ACP point blank before it died. The first round was right in the skull and it just flattened out and didn't penetrate.

    Moral of the story is .357 or better in the woods.
  13. OregonJohnny

    OregonJohnny New Member

    Here are a few calibers that, when using heavy, hardcast lead or FMJ flat nose bullets at the absolute peak of their power range, in smaller firearms, are a decent compromise between being packable, and offering protection from 2-legged predators, and possible protection from 4-legged threats up to and including small to medium sized black bears (not brown):

    • .357 Magnum
    • 10mm
    • .45 ACP

    These 3 calibers can be found in many different guns weighing less than 40 oz., (which includes an all-steel full-size 1911). The heavier, more effective wildlife defense calibers such as .41 Magnum, .45 Colt, .44 Magnum, .454 Casull, etc. usually come in much larger and heavier firearms, and are usually considered "overkill" for self defense against human targets.

    I have a 2.25" Ruger SP101, and the hottest ammo I can find for it is the Buffalo Bore 180-grain hardcast flat nose .357 that I have chrono'd from the 2.25" barrel at around 1,250 fps. I have no doubt in this round's lethality, but trying to quickly and accurately get 2 or 3 shots off from a snubby .357 with a very long and heavy double-action trigger pull is not very confidence-inspiring.

    I also have an all-steel full-size S&W 1911 that I shoot very well, and the nastiest round I can find for it is the Buffalo Bore 255-grain hardcast flat nose that I've chrono'd at about 960 fps. from my 5" barrel. However, for some reason, Buffalo Bore seats this bullet very deeply in the case, and it causes it to nose dive and give feeding problems in my gun. I do want to try Buffalo Bore's 230-grain 45 ACP+P FMJ flat nose that they advertise at 981 fps. It looks like it would feed much better in a 1911.

    The options in a 10mm are much more limited these days. If Glocks fit your hand well, then the 20 or 29 are excellent choices, with the 29 being much more packable, but losing a lot of the 10mm's potential due to a shorter barrel. Properly loaded to it's maximum potential, the 10mm can even top the .357, in a semi-auto with much higher capacity and faster follow up shots.

    A concealed carry woods gun idea I've been considering lately is the Ruger SP101 loaded with 2 rounds of Buffalo Bore 180-grain hardcast flat nose .357, followed by 3 rounds of Speer 135-grain short-barrel .38 Special+P hollow points. This way, you have 2 potent rounds up first in case you meet a black bear that poses a definite threat, followed by 3 easily-controllable rounds for 2-legged threats.

    If you want a handgun that would also be effective against brown bears, I wouldn't consider any of the above. If it were me, I'd want at least a heavy, all-steel .44 Magnum revolver with at least a 4" barrel. But now we're talking about guns that when loaded, weigh 3 pounds or more.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2011
  14. Hunt480

    Hunt480 New Member

    The Glock 20 is my bow hunting companion. Its powerful enough and has high capacity in a light wieght package. Its a fine woods gun.
  15. grubbylabs

    grubbylabs New Member

    I carry a Smith and Wesson 329PD it is an air weight 44 mag. I started out hand loading a 270 grain JSP for it with the minimum charge of 296 and now I am loading a 270 grain bullet that I cast my self and it is straight wheel weights, again over 296 but just over minimum. While factory 240 grainers are pretty stiff in the gun I find that my load is quite manageable and it scoots along at about 1,100 FPS.

    The best part is that it is so light I hardly know it is there.
  16. Scipio Africanus

    Scipio Africanus New Member

    I had a run in with a curious bruin once while bow hunting for dear. I had a bear tag but no shot with a bow (bushes and branches in the way). He exhibited no signs of fear and sniffed me--loudly! He was not particularly aggressive, but he was CLOSE and very big. Eventually, he ambled off. In the few minutes that he was checking me out, my perspective changed on my position in the food chain and I swore I would never be bow hunting without a healthy handgun again.
    Now I carry a Ruger SRA in .454 Casull while pursuing game with a bow. It is comforting.
  17. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Active Member

    When I'm in the woods for any reason I carry a .357 Magnum. It will work quite well on 2 and 4 legged varmints... :D
  18. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    Can't you carry anything you want in AZ open carry?

    4 inch 357 revolver will do anything you need a handgun to do. Check local wildlife office about the legality of carrying a firearm while bow hunting, but I am pretty certain in AZ you're good to go.

    Just don't point your handgun at a deer, ever.
  19. Bobson

    Bobson Active Member

    An acquaintance of mine told me today that during archery-only hunting seasons, bowhunters can't carry sidearms with barrels longer than 6". I hadn't read that in the AZ hunting regulations for 2011 (and I thought I had studied it thoroughly), but I'm going to double-check it and see for myself.

    Either way, I think I've made my decision: The Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum with a 5.5" barrel. Spent some time with it today, and that gun is amazing.
  20. wgp

    wgp Member

    Kansas recently changed the rules to allow a concealed-carry permit holder to have a handgun in possesion while bowhunting and hunting other big game. Previously bowhunters could have no firearm in possession and big-game hunters could not have in possession any firearm that was not legal for taking the game they were hunting (that prohibited 9mm, .45 ACP and others).

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