View Full Version : Colorado foot-pound requirements for handguns

July 27, 2006, 09:23 PM
Well, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I did it but I recently purchased a 4 inch .357 revolver for carrying while in the Colorado woods hiking and hunting. I figured it would be enough for a large cat, and *barely* enough for a small blackbear.

(I also wanted to be able to put a lot of rounds through it at the range, so I could be confident I could hit a spot if need be. Better to be comfortable and confident with a .357 than afraid and unsure with a .454!) All arguments about .357 as woods protection aside, it's what I wanted.


Come to find out in the Colorado hunting regulations, under legal hunting methods it states that a handgun load must produce a minimum energy of 550 ft-lbs at 50 yards to be legal for hunting.

Short of some stout reloads, the average over-the-counter .357 does not meet this requirement.

Does this mean I can't even have it on me at all? Or, is it legal to carry for 2-legged and 4-legged problems as long as I'm not actually actively hunting game with it?

Open carry is legal in Colorado so couldn't I say it wasn't for shooting an animal but for self-defense?

Seems like a slippery slope. Any ideas? I will be contacting the DOW for some answers, as well...

JD 500
August 7, 2006, 07:37 PM
Can't be concealed. (Unless you have a Co. CCW permit.)
.41 Magnum is the minimum (Common) cartridge that meets the 550 ft-lb requirement to HUNT big game.

August 7, 2006, 08:08 PM
Thanks for the reply...

After more reading, I know now that the law was designed so that folks would be forced to use at least a .41 Magnum (versus folks who in other states with CALIBER restrictions who then use .38 spl in their .357's and end up very undergunned).

So I'm really looking for the answer to this question: if I am open carrying on my belt or have a holster strapped to my backpack while rifle or muzzleloader hunting for example, am I legal provided I don't intend to HUNT with the firearm? (read: it is carried for *self-defense* of 2 and 4 legged predators).

Still waiting to hear back from the DOW!!!

August 7, 2006, 11:02 PM
Find yourself a good .41 Magnum -- a Model 57 or 657 from S&W, a Taurus Tracker or a Ruger. The Speer 210 grain Gold Dot with a muzzle velocity of 1280 fps provides 629 pounds of gee-whiz at 50 yards. The Remington 210gr JSP load is about the same. A 6" barrel will improve these numbers slightly.

Wild Bill Bucks
August 8, 2006, 09:19 AM

Don't know about Colorado, but here in Oklahoma, your INTENTIONS, don't have much to do with it. If you are caught carrying a weapon that is not legal, you WILL BE fined. It is not the idea that you don't INTEND to hunt with it, it is the idea that you are ABLE to hunt with it.

Best all around solution, is to trade your .357 off for a .41 Magnum or .44 Magnum. I agree with 6"barrel for either.

Just my .02;)

August 8, 2006, 11:00 AM
Does this mean I can't even have it on me at all? Or, is it legal to carry for 2-legged and 4-legged problems as long as I'm not actually actively hunting game with it?

You can have it on you. Hunting regs and SD regs are not the same. Just because you're in the woods with a gun doesn't mean you're hunting.

I've been checked out while carrying my 45ACP in the mtns. The issue never came up about the energy of the gun. They did ask if I was hunting. Of course I said no because I was not. The only time it may become an issue would be during big game season and if you look like a hunter.

August 8, 2006, 10:06 PM
I wouldn't carry the pistol at all, I'd save the weight for something more useful like water. When chasing game at 7000+ feet you can get pretty winded and extra water to help keep you hydrated is more useful than a pistol. You could also use the weight you would save to carry emergency supplies if you get stranded by a nightfall or a sudden storm. A space blanket, waterproof matches, 550 cord, and a garbage bag would be more useful than a pistol if you got stranded overnight.

I've hunted CO for over 15 years now and have never had a problem of the 2 legged kind that would require the use of a pistol. Most people who are shot during hunting seasons are a result of a hunter who has "Buck Fever". I know that people get pretty upset sometimes if you accidentally trespass onto private property during hunting seasons, so know the boundaries of your hunting area if you are near private property.

Predators such as lions and bears will pretty much stay out of your way and it is doubtful you will see any during the day. If they do decide to attack, you could probably get the drop with your rifle faster than you can drop your rifle and draw your pistol. I leave my scope set on the lowest setting until I go to make my shot and then I will adjust the power to the level needed. I also hunt the mountains with low power scopes that start out an 1.5 or 2X magnification. If you are hunting with a scope that starts out with higher than a 3X you might run into a problem trying to find a close target in your cross hairs.

Carry the pistol if you want to because it is your right to do so. Just don't let the Game Wardens see you using it to put down a wounded animal if it does not meet the minimum requirements for hunting. You might have a problem then, but they will not bother you if it stays in the holster or if you use it in SD against a wild animal or someone intent on causing you bodily harm.

You will have the burden of proving that the person you shot was trying to do you bodily harm. So I retract the my earlier statement about not being bothered by DOW officials in that SD scenario.

August 9, 2006, 12:12 PM
Oregon changed the bow hunting regs a few years ago to specifically allow carrying a firearm while bow hunting. I carry a .45, since it is legal and mountain lions scare the c**p out of me. Although, I suppose the one that actually gets me will be the one I never see coming....:rolleyes:

August 10, 2006, 08:51 PM
Any idea if I can carry a pistol while bowhunting Elk in Colorado? I was planning on bringing my 45, if only to live in the backpack.

August 15, 2006, 10:05 AM
This doesn't answer all questions in this thread, but it may be helpful. I recently searched the Colorado DOW website and couldn't find anything about carrying a handgun while hunting. For the last couple of years, I've been the only guy in elk camp not carrying a sidearm. So I submitted this question to DOW:

Question or Message: I've looked through the regulations, the brochures, and the FAQ, and haven't found an answer yet. Let's say that I am hunting deer or elk during rifle season and carry a sidearm along with my rifle. If I shoot a legal animal with the rifle, putting it down but not dead, is it legal to kill it with my pistol, if the pistol does not have 550 ft/lbs energy at 50 yds? In other words, if I walk up to the elk that I shot and it isn't dead, can I pull my 45 ACP and finish it off, or am I required to use my rifle? Thanks in advance for clarifying this.

A couple of days later, I received this reply:

You and not use your side arm to dispatch any animal, whether it is wounded or not. The side arm can only be used for self protection against an immanent attack were you are in danger of being attacked.

I assume that should read "You may not use your side arm..." I'm also assuming that the answer would be different for a handgun that meets the 550 ft-lbs at 50 yds rule.

August 23, 2006, 08:59 PM
Quick update to this post...

Still no answer back from the DOW on carrying a gun that does not meet the minimum FT-LB requirements while hunting, HOWEVER, I did find this....

I was under the assumption (and it looks like JD 500 was too) that I could not conceal carry while hunting WITHOUT a CCW.

That is incorrect...

According to the Colorado Revised Statute 18-12-204. Permit Contents - Validity - Carrying Requirements:

3) (a) a person who may lawfully possess a handgun may carry a handgun under the following circumstances without obtaining a permit and the handgun shall not be considered concealed:
(I) the handgun is in the possession of a person who is in a private automobile or in some other private means of conveyance and who carries the handgun for a legal use, including self-defense; or

(II) the handgun is in the possession of a person who is legally engaged in hunting activities within the state.

So I can carry a handgun in my backpack or under my jacket while hunting legally. I already knew I could carry concealed in my truck. Nice part is, based on 3(a) above, carrying in a vehicle or while hunting does not constitute "concealed carry" by law, so I am under no obligation to alert a law enforcement officer I am packing if stopped.

August 23, 2006, 10:56 PM
so I am under no obligation to alert a law enforcement officer I am packing if stopped.

Pretty sure that you don't have to notify in Colorado, regardless. I see no requirement for it in the regulations.

As stated above, the DOW's recent response to me indicates that a sidearm may be carried for self-defense while hunting. Last year during 2nd season, the game warden stopped by to check four of us as we were gathering to head back to camp for the evening. All except me were open carrying. He asked see licenses and reminded us to unload rifles before putting them in the truck or on the 4-wheeler. He never asked about or mentioned the 3 clearly visible handguns.