View Full Version : Which sidearm would you bring?

July 21, 2009, 02:28 PM
My dad and I are going on our 2nd elk hunt the first week of November in southwest Co. Last year I carried a Ruger semi-auto .45 and my sidearm. This year my choices are between a SA-XD .45c that can hold either 10 or 13 rounds, a SA-XD .40sc that can hold either 9 or 12 rounds, or a .357 revolver 5 rounder. I am ruling out the .40 because I don't think it has enough power. So my question is which of the other 2 would you carry as a defensive sidearm?

As a side note the XD is the black finish and while it is a tool, it is a pretty tool (imho) and I would like to keep it in pretty good condition. If I do go with it I obviously am going to do my best to keep it clean and dry but when hiking up a mountain in snow, things happen. Any ideas how it would affect the gun? The revolver is a stainless finish and revolvers are inherently less prone to weather type issues. But obviously I am going to take the best tool for the job.

And on another side note my dad and I are also beginner reloaders so we are capable of loading specific loads for both guns if that makes any difference. And my dad will be packing the .44 mag also.

July 21, 2009, 02:57 PM
If it's small vermin or human vermin, the 45, else stick with your Dad's 44.

July 21, 2009, 03:15 PM
I guess any of them will be OK since they probably won't ever get used anyway on an elk hunt. All things considered though if it was me, I'd take the 357. Revolvers just seem more at home when you're hunting big game for some reason.

July 21, 2009, 03:35 PM
What we are preparing to defend ourselves against is bear. Obviously using rifles for the elk. But we know there are bears in the area. It sounds like I will be going with the .357 and he obviously bring the big'un

July 21, 2009, 04:58 PM
If you are carrying a 5 shot .357 it seems it would be a J frame snub nose and not have the effect of a 4 or 6 inch barrel and not be suitable for your use due to lost velocity. Out of a snub nose your .357 is equal to a warm 38spl. JMO

July 21, 2009, 07:08 PM
10mm :D jk

If it is full size, the 357 with +P or +P+

July 21, 2009, 07:13 PM
When I go camping/4-wheeling up in the mountains of Colorado I take my GP100 loaded with Double Tap's 180gr Hardcast. I'm sure it'd take care of anything I'd run into.

July 21, 2009, 07:46 PM
I am pretty sure the .357 is a 3". It is my dads so Im not positive. So with that in mind is it still better than the .45.

Also, telling me what you use doesn't really help me choose between the 2 options I have.

Not trying to be a jerk but I just get tired of 'answers' that are little more than a person telling their particular preference regardless of what the actual original question stated.

July 21, 2009, 08:15 PM
When I last hunted Colorado, I took a bear tag. We were never concerned with defending against bear; we were looking for the opportunity to shoot one. Most rifles suitable for elk do well on black bear. If you want to take a handgun, take whatever suits you. We did shoot the alarm clock about the fourth day. A .22 proved inadequate, but a .357 did the job.

July 21, 2009, 09:16 PM
I wouldn't bother carrying a sidearm on an elk hunt. It's just extra weight to carry and something else to clean when you get back.

July 21, 2009, 09:20 PM
... sometimes the answers given as options aren't good answers.

For small black bear, your .45 might work, and so might a 3" .357 or the .40. You'd want heavy bullets in any of those, as bears can be hard to penetrate, so you want high sectional density.

For a 400lb black bear, I'd be pretty unhappy with either.

For a brown bear, I'd be afraid it would just make him mad.

Since you're carrying a rifle, it's probably not a big deal what handgun you carry. Most folks recommend .44mag as minimum for larger bears, though.

Not sure how a 180gr hardcast would perform out of a 3" .357, but that would probably be the load and the gun I'd use out of the options you have listed.

July 21, 2009, 09:35 PM
If you are going to be actively hunting, use your rifle for bear defense. It's not like you are going to drop it and go to a handgun in the event of a bear encounter.

Now if you are asking about a tent/sleeping bag gun when you are tucked in all snug where you can't manuever a long gun quickly, I would suggest the revolver hands down. I would also suggest keeping it in the sleeping bag with you.

July 21, 2009, 10:35 PM
why not both?:D

July 21, 2009, 11:25 PM
I carry a Ruger Mk. II when I hunt. Well mostly I leave it at camp in the car.

July 22, 2009, 01:30 AM
hmm so several suggestions of not bothering with it at all...interesting

usually when we are hiking up the mountain to our designated spots, our rifles are on our backs in a pack so it wouldn't be a matter of dropping the rifle for the handgun but having the handgun ready while hiking, and easier to get to.

and yes sometimes the options aren't the BEST options, but when they are the only options offering something outside of it is pointless

July 22, 2009, 01:40 AM
I would say none of the above. It's just going to be extra weight. You have your rifle. I would stick with that. It would be better defense than any pistol your going to take. Especially if your dad is going to carry a pistol. I really wouldn't consider taking another pistol if that's the case. After a few days of hiking in Colorado, you will be glad you have less weight to lug around.

July 22, 2009, 03:19 AM
i agree with trooper. stick with the rifle.......

July 22, 2009, 07:41 AM
... of buying or borrowing something more tailored to the task at hand.

It's the age of thinking outside the box, remember?

July 22, 2009, 09:04 AM
Out of the options listed the 357 is the Best choice...By all means bring the pistol. You can have the pistol on you at all times......

Never know when a shot opportunitee may present itself. I can't tell you how many times a hunter has leaned his rifle agaisnt a tree, walked a few yards and pulled his pant down...elk, and even ducks, just seem to be called by this one simple act, cause they always seem to run right up on top of you when you have your pants around your ankles.

357mag to the ribs at close range will easily kill elk....even with you pants around your ankles:D

The bears you speak of have learned that gunfire means food during hunting season. So the pistol is very comforting when you lean your rifle against a tree to gut an animal you just havested.

And besides you can never have too much amorment

July 22, 2009, 09:05 AM
Another vote for your rifle being your best friend. :-)

But I would take the .357 along too. If your rifle is too difficult to get to quickly then that .357 will give you some peace of mind.

Art Eatman
July 22, 2009, 09:41 AM
If a handgun is needed for some sort of self-defense in the boonies--whether bear or bad guy--I figure that speed and accuracy in use are the most important. I'd therefore go with whatever I knew I could best hit with and do it fast.

If for a bear, offhand I figure I'd rather use hardball that would penetrate than hollow-points that might not. Hardcast lead in a revolver.

Aren't bears tending to den up by elk season? (I dunno.) Maybe the odds are lower about actually seeing one.

July 22, 2009, 10:19 AM
Bears are usually out and active during most of the Elk season. But...

If you are going to be actively hunting, use your rifle for bear defense. It's not like you are going to drop it and go to a handgun in the event of a bear encounter.

Now if you are asking about a tent/sleeping bag gun when you are tucked in all snug where you can't manuever a long gun quickly, I would suggest the revolver hands down. I would also suggest keeping it in the sleeping bag with you.

I agree with all of this. And, I think it's not a bad Idea to have the pistola handy around camp and when backpacking with th rifle slung. Leave said 45 or .357 mag in camp because the rifle will be handy while you are out pokin' around for Elk. At this time the handgun would just be extra weight to lug around.

To the original question, Colorado only has black bears, .357 mag is plenty. But if Dad is already bringing a .44 mag, why not just let him bring the handgun? One camp gun should be plenty for two people.

July 22, 2009, 10:20 AM
Take the .357 loaded with some heavy rounds. If you have to use it, you might as well have the magnum.

July 22, 2009, 10:47 AM
... National Park rangers actually recommend bear spray and a big stick over any handgun for dealing with black bears. They swear by a whack on the nose with a hiking stick.

Not sure I'd want to let a bear get that close, personally.

July 22, 2009, 02:07 PM
I wanna watch the guy hit that bear on the nose!!

July 22, 2009, 02:14 PM
Our hunting situation is actually quite nice...we stay in a person double-wide on his personal land then make a 5 minute drive to another persons personal land and use it to access the public hunting ground a good 5 miles in from the nearest public entrance. So as far as a 'camp gun' goes, unless there isn't enough dinner for the 3 of us I doubt there will be much need for self defense. The sidearms are purely for the hike in and hike out, while our rifles are strapped to our backs. Last year we had success hiking to a certain spot and waiting and I think that is our plan for this year as well.

I have read the pepper spray tactic but like you I am not real comfortable with letting a bear get close enough for that, and i also dont feel like carrying around the small fire extinguisher that would it would require to affect a bear at a range I would feel at least some sort of comfort.

I totally agree with the whichever you can shoot better argument, which is why last year I went with my .45. My dad didn't have any guns yet so my .45 was all I had shot. This year I am much more experienced and still have plenty of time to practice with the .357 so its not as much of an issue.

gun nut
July 22, 2009, 02:14 PM
I'd take the 357.

July 22, 2009, 03:08 PM
I personally want to have popcorn and soda ready and a chair to watch whoever is going to whack a bear on the nose with anything. Truly invisions "Darwin Awards," material. :D

If and when I hunt and it is allowed in the state I am in, I carry a Para Ord Wart Hog .45 with +P Hardball. It is small, not that heavy and a very good comfort when you set the rifle down to take a crap, eat lunch, dress out the game, sleep etc.:cool:

My friend in Montana, who owns a horse pack-in camp has a sign at the lodge that says "You are FOOD, be prepared to defend yourself." and recomends levels of that defense or survival. Rifle, Pistol, ammo, Bear Blast Spray, Sheath knife, folding knife, local map & compass, survival kit w/first aid kit.....and the ability to climb and swim. :eek:


July 22, 2009, 03:23 PM
that they have used the stick to the nose technique successfully.

I wouldn't try it, but they didn't suggest it might work, they flat out said it HAS worked.

I still wouldn't try it.

July 22, 2009, 03:54 PM
the only time I would even enterain whackin a bear in the nose is if it was AFTER I had put all my lead into him and it was a test to make sure the beast was dead...and even then it would have to be a really big stick.

July 22, 2009, 05:01 PM
+1 on the .357 mag for another reason -- the noise. That sharp concussion of the .357 magnum from the business end is considerable. And unpleasant inside of 20 yards. Even if you miss, that blast may change a bruin's mind about seein' what you taste like.

If I was stuck deciding between .45 and .40 for black bear, I'd look for the hottest 180gr FMJ .40 load I could find. I want something that will penetrate and break bones vs. expansion. Browns and Grizzlies are much tougher critters and I'd opt for any Elk-suitable rifle over a handgun.

the only time I would even enterain whackin a bear in the nose is if it was AFTER I had put all my lead into him and it was a test to make sure the beast was dead...and even then it would have to be a really big stick.
We have some crazy folks here in California (is that a surprise?) who use pointy sticks to hunt bear. It's amazing to watch a pair stalk within range like a Marine sniper to get their shot at 40 yards or so. Even with a compound bow, bears seldom fall right away.

July 22, 2009, 05:14 PM
Since you're carrying a rifle, it's probably not a big deal what handgun you carry.

I agree with this in regards to the three you offered. I would go with the XD .45 iffin I had to make a choice, but that's my preference.

July 22, 2009, 10:11 PM
id sell both and get a .44 lol :D

July 23, 2009, 06:08 AM
I would carry the most powerful, fullsize gun you've got.

July 23, 2009, 07:24 AM
Time for a new handgun! Come on...you know you want a new 44 mag.:D

You wont use it but you'll have it just in case.

Medium weight hardcast is ok for Colorado critters (245gr)

July 23, 2009, 08:50 AM
I honestly can't believe I am saying this, but I actually DON'T want a .44mag. I have shot my dads a couple of times and its just downright uncomfortable. Maybe if the grips were different I might like it, but spending several hundred dollars on a gun I know I wont want to use is a bad idea.

Someone suggested I go with the .40 as it will penetrate more than the .45 which makes sense. Any other comments??

And by colorado critters, do you include black bears?

July 23, 2009, 09:45 AM
Living here in elk country of Colorado I havent been attacked by one yet but still hoping to someday. It seems like alot of extra weight you will be packing. I remember the old adage, the only reason to ever use a handgun is because you dont have a rifle. And since you will having a rifle on your hunt anyway........ Now that the logic is over, we are here to have fun and if a handgun floats your boat, take one or more.

July 23, 2009, 09:57 AM
Here is what i bring on ALL my hunting trips, even for pheasant:D. a S&W 60-15 3" bbl. stainless frame .357 and tritium nights. i load it with winchester super x 158 gr hps. it is a j frame but i like the cancealability and the decent firepower. i reason that a bear isn't just going to stroll up to me. i figure it won't make itself known untill the last second. i MAY only get 1 shot if i'm lucky , and fast. .44 would be better but this gun is pretty good. and its at least as accurate as my sig 220 at 25 yds. beyond that, i think i would use a rifle.

July 23, 2009, 12:36 PM
In the Blue Ridge... National Park rangers actually recommend bear spray and a big stick over any handgun for dealing with black bears. They swear by a whack on the nose with a hiking stick. That's probably because their job tells them they can't say shoot it with the biggest gun you can possibly have on you.

As for myself, I carry bear spray and whatever gun I can have on me dictated by rules of where I am. I'm seriously considering putting an Aimpoint on a .30-30 because the #1 consideration is speed above all else.

July 23, 2009, 12:45 PM
whacking "any bear" with a stick puts you close enough to get what you deserve.im in california and would never do something as goofy as that.

my choice of firearm for bear hunting would be .30-.06 or greater....i want to be as far away from that critter as i can but close enough to drop it with a rifle.
life is enough risk without adding stupidity into the equation....no pistols or revolvers if i go bear hunting.

July 23, 2009, 01:03 PM
He's not talking about bear hunting, he's talking about incidentally running into one. BIG difference. The first difference is that when DEFENDING against something, a scope is a hinderance as acquisition is slow--unacceptable when you're trying to keep something from eating you. Unless you're talking about a .30-06 set up with this task in mind, something with peep sights or a 1x red dot like an Aimpoint, short and light, there are much better choices.

July 23, 2009, 01:21 PM
i stand corrected....if that is the case then a 40 with bone breaking ammo would be the choice...but if all else fails and a stick is all you have go down swinging like a major league batter.

July 23, 2009, 01:31 PM
... the bear gets that close to you.

Bears run faster than people do. Bears have a better sense of smell than people do. Bear encounters often happen in areas where visibility is limited, which makes sense because if you saw it a ways off you'd probably avoid it.

The only way you get close to a bear is if it's a cub, in which case look out for Mama. Even cubs will usually try to avoid you.

If the rangers are looking for a "dangerous" bear, I'm sure they do so with big caliber rifles or shotguns. For normal, day to day work, they said they and their biologists favor spray and sticks.

Note: around Mt Mitchell, typical black bear weights would run #200-400. The record in the region is close to #800, but again that's a record. How big are the blackies in Colorado?

Fat White Boy
July 23, 2009, 11:16 PM
I read that in bear country, you should wear bells to warn the bears and carry pepper spray if they get too close. You can tell what kind of bears are around, by their droppings. Black bear droppings have berries, roots, mouse fur and small bones. Grizzly droppings have berries, roots, mouse fur, small bones, bells and shredded remnants of pepper spray cans....

July 23, 2009, 11:37 PM
I think that carrying a rifle around would be enough for the bears, I would then carry a .22 for potting dinner if legal, or for skunks or raccoons in the camp scavenging.

July 24, 2009, 01:41 AM
Normally I would say .357. When it comes to extensive outdoors use I am a revolver man hands down. But I have heard nothing bad about XDs. In a .45 vs .357 arguement I say .357 because of better penetration. But its 5 rounds vs 13 rounds. I have to say XD. If you have extra magazines thats another bonus too. Or do yourself a favor and go buy a Ruger alaskan in .454 and you'll never have to say "Is it enough" again. At least not in North America

July 24, 2009, 06:12 AM
... then it most likely wasn't SD, at first. You may only get off one or two shots, so you want the maximum chance with each of penetration to vitals.

July 24, 2009, 11:11 AM
Bear Spray Substitute


July 24, 2009, 09:51 PM
Well, Having occasion to come upon a 500lb blackie which happened to be munching on the remains of my Moms' moose, I can state, without reservation that I wished to have been still carrying my rifle as opposed to the .357 at my side. I fired two warning rounds which didn't deter the bear from his dinner. It worried him but didn't scare him off.
I have to agree with whomever said that a pistol is only good to fight your way back to the rifle that you should not have dropped in the first place.

extra weight, don't bother.

July 24, 2009, 10:37 PM
I always have my 45 when i go out.. you never no what will happen, and at what point ... you could put your rifle down and then bam.. BEAR!!! right behind you .. Stuff always happens that way.. was cleaning my kill last year right by a river.. kept seeing bear tracks all around me.. i was just praying one would not come up to me when i only had my knife in my hand... I would take the 40cal with some +P rounds.. i used my XD alot in the colder wet climets of CO and WY.. never had an issue what so ever.

August 7, 2009, 06:44 PM
If you really needed it any of the 3 would be better than a pointy stick.I'd go with the .357 or trade the .40 for a 6" GP-100 since you don't want a .44.

August 8, 2009, 12:34 PM
I cary only one sidearm. Whether it is fishing, hunting, or just a walk in the woods. Ruger Superblackhawk. Simple, rugged, reliable, good stopping power, and accurate.

August 8, 2009, 06:49 PM
I'll take a different approach on the subject. My thought is if it isn't at least a .41 Mag or more powerful leave it in the camp. All the calibers you mentioned are fine for camp, however CO has rules on what you can hunt with in a Handgun. Pretty much all center fire pistols meet the minimum caliber requirement, however not very many popular pistol rounds meet the foot pound requirements of 500 ft-lbs at 50 yards. The .41 Mag is usually the minimum cartridge that will do it for you in standard pistol cartridges.

So I wouldn't carry any sidearm on a hunt that didn't meet the requirements to hunt with. So out of all the pistols mentioned only your fathers .44 Mag fits the bill. Will a game warden ticket you for carrying one of the others maybe, it all depends on what kind of day he/she is having. And don't be caught putting a finishing shot into an elk with a cartridge that doesn't meet the requirements either. After you fill your tag carry what you want because then it will not matter

August 8, 2009, 07:25 PM
How are you getting to your camp?If you will have beasts or wheels of burden,3lbs of handgun and 1 lb of ammo is no big deal.But it would pay 3 lbs toward a cot,and I'd prefer the cot.
If you are going to live out of a pack for a week and you are humping it to 9000 ft....I dunno.In one of those Oct/Nov storms,I'd rather have a 3 lb tougher tent,or some more stove fuel.A miox water purifier.A nylon backpacker bucket so you can get a couple gallons of water out of a stream without getting your boots wet.A machette in case I have to rely on firewood.

A handgun is way cool,but my rifle can multi-task (hunting and defense tool)
Lots of folks in serious conditions like ww2 carried only a rifle and more ammo instead of a sidearm.

High country hunting in Colo,it is even possible to run across a lion,wolves are in a few areas the very rare Grizzly,I suppose.I believe you are more likely to be confronted by extreme weather .

So,it all depends on your weight budget and priorities.

For me,my rifle,gps, map,compass,binoculars, water,knife ,food,walkie talkie,poncho,and one extra layer and a couple of battle dressings are quite enough to carry hunting.

But,thats me!!You have fun your way

Oh,on whacking bears in the faceI suppose you just have to be in the situation to understand.If you suddenly have a bear's face 2 feet from yours,whacking it might seem like the thing to do at the time.And,when I did it,the bear jumped back.Then I shot him

August 8, 2009, 07:40 PM
I have shot a couple of 5 Elk or so in my time and I have never seen a bear around. Nevertheless, I carry a Ruger Super Blackhawk in 45 LC loaded with my own HARD cast 275 gr bullets going as fast as possible. It actually surpasses a 44 magnum in power. Faced by a hungry or mean bear, I doubt heavy recoil will be the first thing on my mind.