Pistol carry for dangerous 4 legged animals

What pistol would you want to carry when hunting/hiking/backpacking in areas where dangerous animals roam?

My experience hunting/hiking in areas where big, dangerous animals prowled has been limited to the State of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has a few animals which could be considered dangerous including bear, moose, coyote and rumoured wolves. Of course wild dogs exist and other animals such a fisher cats could be dangerous however these are not common.

When hunting I had my rifle which was generally a .30-30 Winchester. I commonly carried a .357 Magnum revolver on my side while hunting as well as hiking during colder months(able to conceal it).

Many of you may live in places where the threat from dangerous animals is more present – and more dangerous than what I have experienced. What do you carry? What would you carry if traveling to areas where an unscheduled introduction to “Mr. Threatening Animal” may occur?

I am not planning an African Safari anytime soon however I have always dreamed of going to Alaska. I had an uncle that lived there for many years and I asked him once about firearms and protection. “.44 Magnum”…..was his response. He said that revolvers chambered in .44 Magnum were commonly carried due to the threats from bear.

“..but being as this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun ever made, and could blow your head clean off….”

I think if I ever get the chance to go to Alaska – or anywhere else that large brown bear/grizzly’s hunt – I would seriously consider a .44 Magnum revolver.

Another pistol I would consider would be a Glock 20 10mm. Certainly not as powerful as the .44 Magnum as ballistics are more inline with the .357 Magnum. The advantage of the Glock 20 is its capacity of 15 rounds and light weight of under 40 ounces. The unloaded Taurus Model 44 pictured above weighs in at 52 ounces.

Glock 20 10mm semi-auto pistol

I would talk to some people with more experience than I(Panhandle Rancher) prior to making a decision. I suspect he would choose the .44 Magnum revolver.


Any thoughts what pistol you would want when coming face to face with that dangerous four-legged animal?


PS – On a side note when I lived in New Hampshire I called Fish & Game and asked them if there were wolves in out state. I was told that there were wolf sightings but they believed there were no domestic wolves in New Hampshire. They suggested that some probably cross over from Canada now and then.

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14 thoughts on “Pistol carry for dangerous 4 legged animals”

  1. The only dangerous animal in that group is the bear.
    The others will avoid people ( indeed so will most bears, unless they have been fed by humans or are sick/old ).
    Bear is an apex predator, they think they can eat people.

    Pepper spray is the most effective thing.
    A hand gun will not stop a charging bear( and its just comic to sugest it will do much to a moose ).
    You would need to be very fast to hit one on the run too.
    You might get off one shot….

    I prefer the SKS for black bear, deer and anything smaller.
    High power for anything larger.

    Best bears are shot in the spring less fat on them.

    • Jerry – I do not think it is comical to believe that a handgun would be effective against a moose. There are tons of video’s out there of people who are being charged by bears and other animals and the mere sound of the gun shot stops them in their tracks and turn to another direction. Most handguns would not be the ideal thing to use for hunting and I never suggested that. We are talking about someone hiking or backpacking where carrying an SKS would not be realistic. Most likely nothing will happen the handgun is there “just in case”.

  2. I spent some time in Wyoming just northwest of Cody. In my daily travels, besides the .270 I carried my side arm was a SS .41 mag with a 4 inch barrel by Smith & Wesson. Not as powerful or as much kick as a .44 BUT I shoot it well & felt comfortable that it would do what ever it was called for to do.

  3. No disrespect Rourke but big game has a lot of thick muscle and bone.

    They are much tougher to penetrate than a man.
    I would want to look at something that is designed to penetrate with some velocity behind it.
    I am not a hand gun guy.
    I have heard of situation where 9mm has not made it threw the muscle on a big dog like a Rottweiler ( hear say I have not seen this ).

    Bears as I said are the only thing I really fear in the bush.
    I have chase and eaten them, some have chased and tried to eat me.
    Bears do not like paintball guns…
    So a real one will likely put the run to them based on shock value alone.
    The quiet bear is the one to fear.
    He is stalking you and you are in trouble if you miss the signs.
    A noisy bear that charges you is likely trying to protect a cub a scare you off.
    I have run after bears scared them off.
    I had one turn the tables and chase me back down the hill because he thought I might be bluffing and an easy meal.

    A big old can of bear spray will make a cloud and you do not need to be accurate ( just be sure you are up wind, and I consider it pre-seasoning if it’s a nusance bear that has a apointment with the sausage grinder ).
    Any other kind of thing like a bear banger will also tend to shake off a predator.

    Big cats, never seen one but I have seen the tracks.
    Odds are they will not bother just like a wolf.
    Those predators size you up and will not attack unless they are sure.
    Eating man is a risk and they are not stupid.
    If you are clearly small and in distress they may take a chance and that is about it.

    Coyote is small and he will not bother you.
    Wild card is some run in packs and have a little dog or wolf DNA in them.
    They are more tollerant of people and might see you as a food. source if they think they can steal food from you.

  4. Lots of things to consider. I live in the mountains with black bear and mountain lions, and the occasion wild hog. No grizzly bear in my region. I carry various guns, depending on what I am up to. If I happen to have my UTV with me, I keep a rifle in the rack, either a .44 Rem Mag Ruger carbine, or a .308 Saiga. At times I will have a 12 ga shotgun, instead. If I on foot, the gun depends on the distance I plan on walking and what I am carrying. The Ruger .44 carbine is nice and short, not too heavy. But I sometimes just carry a 1911 in .45ACP, a Hi-power in .40S&W, or when I feel macho, my .44 Rem Mag Super Blackhawk. When I need to go small, I pack a Glock 36 with 1+mag that gives 7+1 rounds.

    I lived in Alaska at one time and the only handgun that anyone carried was a .44 revolver. Brown bear are nasty. Not sure I’d even feel good about the .44 handgun. Rifles are so much more comforting, not to the bear, but to me.

    I’m not sure what handgun would be great for an angry black bear in full charge. I would hope that a .357 or any caliber that starts with 4 or 5 would be enough. Believe it or not, the greatest danger in my area are marijuana growers and their ilk. That’s why a rifle or shotgun is always better than a handgun, if I don’t mind packing it. I really like the Ruger .44 rem mag but it’s limited to 4+1 rounds, semi-auto. The short barrel and reasonable weight are a nice trade-off, however.

    The real issue is packing something that gives you confidence. A rifle beats a handgun, any day and any time. But when the marijuana growers are off-season and out of the area, I feel OK with even my Glock 36, with a spare magazine. I use max-load ammo in my handguns for the wilderness, just for good measure. As many grains of lead and powder as possible, and hollow points. Thankfully, I’ve never needed to use them in defense.

    An option that would be really nice is a .30-30 lever action gun. Not horribly heavy. A neighbor of mine only carries a pocket-gun, a Ruger SP-101 with a snubby barrel in .357. I suppose it would be enough, also. An awful pistol to fire, though.

    My final thoughts are that defense against an attacking animal require far quicker responses than an unarmed human. Lions, if they are sick enough to go for a human, are probably not going to be seen until they have your skull in their jaws. My experience with bears is that they just don’t like being surprised, or bothered if they have cubs.

  5. Excellent Q.
    For me depends a)threat assessment in my AO, b)Mission, c) duration and d)environment.

    I have carried P-35/9mm or 1911/.45ACP in most cases.

    In areas where I have had a high bear density potential I have carried a Ruger convertible SA/.357 and a Redhawk DA.44Mag

    Roll my own loads on the hot side with SuperVel HP’s.
    Can’t seem to find them anymore.

    If i were in Alaska I’d pack my 12ga along as well with folding stock.

    I also carry a 26mm flaregun with inserts (45LC/.410ga)

    My brother carried his SP101/.357 with 4″bbl. Shot great, but his sights sucked.

    My 2 cents

  6. Rourke, I lived in Milton and Strafford NH in the 80’s and 90’s and bear can be aggressive and moose can get that way. I also hunted wild boar in VT in the 70’s and they are harder to take down than a bear, the guide used a 44 mag Ruger with a handload of 2400 powder and a cast bullet from a Lyman mold, #429303. This bullet had no expansion but deep penetration. Lyman no longer has the mold in their catalog but a search on the web may locate one. I buy the 357 version of this bullet from Western Bullet Co. in Missoula, Mt., he mat also carry the 44 version. If all else fails and you decide to use this bullet, I can be coerced into loaning you the mold to cast up some. And no the boar was not a cage but had 1400 acres to roam in.

  7. I forgot to mention, when your on the menu, keep your head on a swivel.

    #1 when I was seven, grandpa and I were fishing in Dallas/Ore. He told go up stream a bit so we can spread out. I came around the bend on the bank and came face to face with a bear, eyeball to eyeball. I dropped my gear and did a 180 back to grandpa who caught me and spun me around in my state of scared funnel vision and said to me, “look up river”. I saw the bears ass end bookin for the next zip code. Gramps said he thought I scared the bear more then he scared me. I am 53 now and remember that clear as day, even the stench of that bear comes back in memory.

    #2 Big cats?
    We were briefed about leopards during my tour in Central America. After JOTC, I was more concerned about the smaller critters (Bullet Ants, Scorpions. Tarantulas, Killer Bees, Snakes and trees with 2-3 needle like thorns in all directions)

    Onetime my youngest sister and I went for a hike, going into Alum Rock Park through the back. When my vision picked up something twitching just off my left in a tree. Turned to be a sleep mountain lion. We both did a quiet retreat. She got mad at me because she notice my hand in my rucks compartment on my sidearm. She freaked, You cant bring guns into the park!. My response was and still is (Better tried by 12 then carried by 6).

  8. I’ve hunted the big brown bear in Alaska way south of King Salmon. My recommendation for a hand weapon is that you carry the largest that you can shoot well. Bears are heavily skinned and muscled and the effective rounds will have a lot of penetration. The .357 and .44 magnums certainly fill that bill, especially when loaded with solids.

    I flew my personal airplane from Texas to Canada, clearing customs in Winnipeg and then NW to Northway, Alaska where I cleared US customs and from thence to King Salmon and SW. As I landed in Canada, bringing a pistol would have not been wise. This doubly applies if you drive from the lower 48 to Alaska. You can fly commercial or charter as long as there are no landings in Canada (direct flight to Alaska) and with your checked pistol in baggage, or you can have it shipped to a FFL in Alaska.

    Interestingly, the only problem I had with customs was when clearing customs in Cut Bank. US Customs wanted me to completely unload my airplane. Now I had been in Alaska for more than three months and the airplane was loaded down with hunting and survival equipment. As I traveled with an active duty federal colleague, he managed to get them to stand down. It would have taken all day to unload, inspect, and reload the aircraft and I have yet to find a lot to do in downtown Cut Bank.

    I do think it is high time we have a national dialog with the Canadians about incorporating Canada into the US. Who knows what is in the Laurentian Shield but I will bet it is valuable, at least if it can be extracted and the US has the technology to do so. Many remark that were it not for the US/Canada border there would be no Canadians as the bulk of their population live within 30 miles of the border.

    I have worked with the then fledgling Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP. I have a lot of respect for the Canadians and the hard working people of their national police and intelligence service. The two countries need to be one. It should have happened just after our Revolution and it is high time we get together as one nation.

    My thoughts with no apology,

  9. Rourke,

    Should you begin planning that safari, the wife and I have hunted dangerous game in Tanzania multiple times and would be happy to offer suggestions. Pistols there, like Canada, are alas prohibited. Anyone thinking about that African hunt should join Safari Club International or one of the huge state organizations such as the Dallas Safari Club. Both SCI and DSC host wonderful conventions that draw multiple thousands from around the world. Where else than the DSC could one rub elbows with the likes of President Bush or Chuck Yeager? These organizations promote conservation and enlightened game management. The DSC also offers high quality hunter education to our youth. Please have a look at both organizations web pages.

    Happy hunting,

  10. Rourke, when I’m on my northwest Montana property I carry bear mace and my beloved super Redhawk Alaskan in 454 cassull.I have moose, brownies,cats,and wolves running about.I’ve recently picked up a block 29,w/ the intent of dropping a stormy lake 10 mm barrel and a 10 Mm extractor.Effectively turning it into a model 29, but w/ the ability to throw hard caste. W/ buffalo boar ammo I’m solidly into 41 mag ballistics.This is to be my Montana mtn biking carry.

  11. I have a kind of different wildlife situation – just West of the Blue Ridge in VA.

    When I go hiking in the National Park/Forests, I do carry bear-mace and make noise.

    The rest of the time outdoors, “my” dangerous critters are feral dog packs and copperheads. Making noise USUALLY makes the snakes a non-issue. Haven’t spooked one into a striking stance in a couple years. (and I like it that way)

    The dogs are more of a problem around here, especially fishing at night, when you have a stringer in your hand and smell like a midnight snack. They’ll USUALLY follow a thrown stringer, but not always. Had to whack a dog with a kayak paddle a few years ago 🙁

    My ‘localized’ solution (fortunately, have not had to use it in a dangerous situation yet) is a Taurus Judge, loaded so there is a .410 bird/target load ‘up next’ (snake) and alternating with 00 buckshot loads.

    When (not if) feral hogs make serious inroads over th Blue Ridge to my area, I’ll probably swap out the buckshot for .45LC with a solid bullet.


  12. I’ve hunted elk and grizzly, run into moose and black bear in the wild, presently hunt where the grey wolf is expanding its range.
    I was glad some have already mentioned feral dogs. Some domestic boar hogs are plain nasty. and. please, don’t sell unbred heifers short after they’ve been on summer pasture without human contact. A close range discharge from a ,357 only caused a couple of seconds delay when they decided to chase a young shorthair who took refuge behind my legs. A much much closer discharge, I think the lead heifer may have gotten a little powder burn on her nose, finally dissuaded the bunch. Not all animals think the same.


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