You’re walking down a dark trail, your short day hike has turned into a scramble to get to the car before complete darkness settles in. You hear a twig snap to the right of the trail, and then another to the left. You swing the beam of your headlamp around and come face to face with an ill-tempered gang of wild boar wearing matching leather jackets. One, his face covered in tattoos, points a knife at you and then at the ground, motioning for you to give up your backpack. But from the drug crazed look in his eye, you don’t think the pack will be enough to satisfy their appetites and begin to draw your own weapon….
Most carry scenarios take place in urban environments where humans are the #1 danger. For the city, you’re wanting a small, easily concealed pistol for day to day carry, but when you’re hiking in the woods and you hear the menacing growl of a disturbed bear or the guttural bellow of a wild hog you’re going to want something more than that .22lr derringer that fits in your pocket so nicely. Here’s my top 5 picks for what I would carry into the wild for animal self defense.
5. Maverick 88 Security Model (18.5″ barrel, 6rd capacity)
Popular with fly fishing guides in Alaska, where bear encounters happen more frequently than anywhere in the lower 48, a pump shotgun loaded with slugs will do more to protect you than any other gun on this list. Just sling it across your back for easy access in case that grizzly wants that trout even more than you do. Some load a round of bird shot to be fired first to try and scare off the bear, but I’m of the opinion that in a life or death situation that bird shot would only annoy the bear further.
Pros: Powerful. Easily handled by almost anyone. Inexpensive
Cons: Heavy and cumbersome for long trips. Not concealable
4. American Derringer M-4 Alaskan Survival
While American Derringer is now out of business, you can occasionally pick up one of their Alaskan Survival models on the 2nd hand market. The most common configuration is the .410/.45LC combo, but you can also find early models with a 45-70 Govt. on top and a .410/.45LC barrel below. Definitely one of the hardest hitting pocket pistols you’ll ever find, this is a backup gun you’ll be more afraid of shooting, than being eaten.
Pros: Wicked strong firepower.
Cons: You worry you’ll lose a hand with every trigger pull. Low capacity: better have good aim with only 2 shots
3. Smith and Wesson 329 PD
Through magical metallurgy, S&W has crafted a 4″ revolver in .44mag that only weighs 25oz. Titanium and scandium make this piece weigh the same as most subcompact pistols, but with the powerful .44 magnum cartridge and it’s proven ability to take down large toothy critters. The biggest drawback is that you can’t really unlock the full potential of the .44 magnum cartridge with ammo from companies like Buffalo Bore because the price for that light space age frame is it can’t handle the increased pressure from heavy loads.
Pros: Powerful .44 magnum cartridge. Revolver reliability. Lightest option.
Cons: Can’t use most powerful .44 magnum loads. Not easy to conceal. Expensive.
2. Glock 29
If you’re looking for consistency in your daily carry as well as the days you hit the trail, the Glock 29 is going to be the best do-it-all option. Chambered in the intimidating 10mm cartridge, the standard double-stack mag holds 10rds and you can use an optional 15rd mag from a Glock 20 giving you twice the rounds of anything else on this list. And since it’s a Glock, the aftermarket is filled with options from trigger kits to tacky slide plates. While I have the Glock as my #2 pick, it’s really down to personal preference because there’s not a fault with it unless you just don’t like Glocks.
Pros: It’s a Glock (in 10mm!).
Cons: It’s a Glock.
1. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan
My top choice comes down to a very simple factor, and that’s firepower: if I am pulling the trigger it’s because I’m convinced I’m going to die if I don’t. As I pull that trigger, I want the death of the monster attacking me to be swift and as near instantaneous as possible. Ruger’s Super Redhawk Alaskan is capable of handling everything from +P+ .44 magnum to the venerable .454 Casull depending on the configuration. It comes in a compact, if heavy, 2.5″ snub nose which can easily slip into a jacket pocket or IWB holster for concealment; at 44oz, it’s weight is going to be noticeable no matter where you place it. But then again, the hole it leaves behind will be noticeable too.
Pros: High power to size ratio. Can handle the most powerful commercial ammo options available.
Cons: Very heavy.
Don’t agree with my choices? Sound off in the comments with your top picks.