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Old October 30, 2018, 03:55 PM   #1
the possum
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Skeeter Skelton: Best trail gun?

I've been enjoying reading through some of Skeeter's writings lately, and this one got me thinking:
"What's the best 'trail gun' for you?"

In in this article he says,
Quote:
a trail gun is one that, with 50 rounds of ammo, will make a package small and light enough that you are unaware of its presence until you need it. Included are a host of .22s, the .32-20, .32 Long and probably best of the lot—the .38 Special.
He also concedes the 9mm could be included for those who prefer autos, and he further elaborates that it's the gun you bring out and about, when you don't really plan on shooting anything. 

This article was written back in 1977, which explains the emphasis on revolvers. And I note that many of the revolvers he's talking about weigh over 30 ounces. Some he mentions are lighter, in the mid to lower 20 ounce range, but there's also some that could run upwards of 34 oz.

This leads me to some questions for the group. Do you consider this weight range to be as featherweight at Skeeter seemed to? How have polymer or lightweight alloys changed the equation? What sorts of modern automatics would fit in with Skeeter's personal definition of a "trail gun"? How do you define a "trail gun", and does it jive with Skeeter's definition?

And a big one:
If you're carrying a gun outdoors without expecting to actually shoot it, then what kinds of situations could make you change your mind and pull it out?
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Old October 30, 2018, 04:41 PM   #2
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Any danger that causes me to fear for my well being and/or life.

I don't have what I would classify as trails, but I do walk in the woods, ride in the boat on the lake, and drive my car on both country and city roads. No, not exactly my definition of a carry firearm of defensive purpose gun.
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Old October 30, 2018, 07:07 PM   #3
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Ruger Mark III is my go to woods gun. If I lived in a different part of the country this could change.

Quote:
And a big one:
If you're carrying a gun outdoors without expecting to actually shoot it, then what kinds of situations could make you change your mind and pull it out?
The time or two that I've had to dispatch a raccoon wandering through the woods in daylight, probably with distemper or rabies.
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Old October 30, 2018, 07:11 PM   #4
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In the early 80's, reading that article, I chose a Rossi 88 SS 3" .38 as my perfect Trail gun. Now, dozens and dozens of "Trail guns" later, I'm confused. I like .44's and 45's, 9mm's, .38's and .357's, even .380's and the underrated. 22 LR. I just grab whatever I'm in the mood for and put it on. FAR Too many good ones to only pick one. I like variety. And, truth be told, I have spent 2X as much time researching, contemplating and shopping for the perfect trail gun, as I ever actually spent on the trail!

Last edited by shurshot; October 30, 2018 at 08:04 PM.
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Old October 31, 2018, 10:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
And, truth be told, I have spent 2X as much time researching, contemplating and shopping for the perfect trail gun, as I ever actually spent on the trail!
shurshot, you have struck the nail upon the flat part!

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Old October 31, 2018, 11:22 AM   #6
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Anytime I was camping and such, I usually had my 5.5" Ruger Vaquero in .45 Colt... nowhere near Skeeter's idea of a woods gun, but it's what I had. These days, it's hard to find me without my Kahr 9mm... it certainly packs better and more out of the way than the Ruger, and I can carry those 50 extry rounds already loaded up in magazines, if necessary. I guess it depends on what you think you might have to use it on if you should need to use it.
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Old October 31, 2018, 05:51 PM   #7
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My question is how many pounds is worth your life? My EDC is a 1911a1 on the farm, in the small town near me even in the city when I have to go there. So when I go to the woods I still carry the same gun.
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Old November 1, 2018, 05:04 AM   #8
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I've been running my dog for almost 16 years (more like a stroll now ...I carry different handguns from 1911s to a .45 Colt revolver, .22s both auto and wheel guns, SA and DA, in both hip and shoulder rigs.

IMO, it depends on how much other gear you are carrying...if its just a dog lead and pair of binoculars, etc. then any handgun will do. If carrying a load then I would want something lighter. When I am bowhunting and lugging a climber I sometimes carry a Ruger SP101 ,22LR in a flap holster originally designed for the 1895 Nagant. I think about 24oz, no problems.

When fishing usually it's a Makarov (27oz.) in a surplus military flap holster but sometimes a, stainless Ruger Speed Six .357, 2 3/4"(33oz.) in a Simply Rugged Sourdough pancake. No weight problems.

I have a Ruger MKII 22/45 but I don't really trust any .22 auto in the long run for reliability,
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Old November 1, 2018, 07:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Do you consider this weight range to be as featherweight at Skeeter seemed to?
No. Starting at around the time Skelton wrote this article, I was doing multi-day backpacking trips, mostly in desert country. For tooling around in the truck or day hikes or horsebacking, just about any gun can be a trail gun. But none of the guns he describes would "add nothing" to a backpack loaded for a seriously long walk. I did carry a gun. At first I carried a Beretta .380 because it was what I had. Later I switched to a 3" Ruger SP101 with 20 rounds of ammo. That package is about the equivalent in weight of a quart of water. I didn't trade water for the gun - just carried the extra weight. But I always brought back the gun and all the ammo, and very rarely had any water left over at the end of a walk.

If I were making those trips today I would certainly choose one of the lighter guns available now. I might carry the Glock .380 I already have. I estimate the Glock and 22 rounds would shave about 8 ounces off the weight of my pack, compared to the SP101.

But I do like Skelton's definition of the trail gun and I think a revolver fits the definition better. Also a longer barrel would make a better hunting tool. So I might pick up a 3" Ruger LCRX, probably in .22 Mag. Or maybe in .38 Spl. Gotta think about that for a while longer.
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Old November 1, 2018, 08:47 AM   #10
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My trail gun for 10 years was a Charter Arms .357 Target Bulldog. 4" 5 shot, adjustable
sights. Alloy frame--not sure what it weighed but it was well under 20 oz. Today for
a walk in the woods it's usually a polymer frame mid sized auto in 9mm or 40 S&W.
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Old November 1, 2018, 12:19 PM   #11
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A trail gun is one that is carried a lot but fired little. Just like a cop's issue piece. Skelton was a copper before anything else.
Never been so afraid of being in the bush that I felt I needed any firearm. Handguns aren't allowed to be carried here, either.
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Old November 1, 2018, 03:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. O'Heir View Post
A trail gun is one that is carried a lot but fired little. Just like a cop's issue piece. Skelton was a copper before anything else.
Never been so afraid of being in the bush that I felt I needed any firearm. Handguns aren't allowed to be carried here, either.
Skeeter was a Marine and Texas Ranger and maybe some other LEO affiliate.

Keep in mind that Skeeter was writing for a living and those guys either wrote what the editor wanted them to write or had to dig up something new every month.

Some writers seemed to be more objective than others but after a period of naivety I learned to take most of those writings with a large dose of salt, since so much conflicted with my own experience.
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Old November 1, 2018, 05:54 PM   #13
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I agree with Skeeter. I've read just about everything he's written... one of my favorite gun writers....

If you are out knocking around in the bushes, not planning to "hunt" anything specifically, then the .22's and .32's and the .38 Special would be just about perfect.

I think that a Ruger Blackhawk or Vaquero convertible 9mm/357 in stainless steel might be perfect. If I was backpacking, I would really love to have one of the Ruger MK II, III, IV, whatever, in the "Light" version. Those things weigh just over nothing, so you could carry 100rds of good ammo with you and not be hindered at all.
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Old November 1, 2018, 10:23 PM   #14
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I've carried a variety of handguns while woods bumming and fishing over the decades. J, K, & N frame S&W's, Ruger Blackhawks, and some 22's. Where I roam I'm unlikely to encounter a large predator (I've seen one bear in 61 years). For the past few years I've settled on a S&W PRO series 60-15. Light, compact, accurate and adequately powerful for snakes, a rabid animal or evil person. I figure Skeeter would approve.
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Old November 2, 2018, 07:49 AM   #15
jar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the possum View Post
I've been enjoying reading through some of Skeeter's writings lately, and this one got me thinking:
"What's the best 'trail gun' for you?"

In in this article he says,

He also concedes the 9mm could be included for those who prefer autos, and he further elaborates that it's the gun you bring out and about, when you don't really plan on shooting anything. 

This article was written back in 1977, which explains the emphasis on revolvers. And I note that many of the revolvers he's talking about weigh over 30 ounces. Some he mentions are lighter, in the mid to lower 20 ounce range, but there's also some that could run upwards of 34 oz.

This leads me to some questions for the group. Do you consider this weight range to be as featherweight at Skeeter seemed to? How have polymer or lightweight alloys changed the equation? What sorts of modern automatics would fit in with Skeeter's personal definition of a "trail gun"? How do you define a "trail gun", and does it jive with Skeeter's definition?

And a big one:
If you're carrying a gun outdoors without expecting to actually shoot it, then what kinds of situations could make you change your mind and pull it out?
I hope to never use the gun I'm carrying when not hunting. I plan on doing all I can to avoid ever having to draw any handgun I'm carrying when not hunting.

So back to kit/carry guns. My first choice is almost always a revolver over a semi-automatic. Since the revolvers I owned have mostly been about the weight of those Skeeter mentions I've never really considered them as "heavy"; more as "normal". I do also have some of the newer lighter allow revolvers and I admit they really do make a difference in the carry aspect but also acknowledge they all are slightly less fun to shoot than my older heavier revolvers.

I have semi-automatics and practice with them, even carry them sometimes but have never felt as comfortable with any semi as with any revolver.

I'd add 38S&W to the list of viable kit/woods/carry calibers as well.
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Old November 2, 2018, 08:01 AM   #16
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I used to bum around in the woods a bit when I was younger. A Ruger Bearcat with a pouch of LR's was my companion.

Why? Well, I never knew when I might be attacked by a wild pine cone, or a knot on the side of a tree. Those things can be vicious.
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Old November 2, 2018, 10:35 AM   #17
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Thanks for chiming in, guys. Lots to mull over.

As some have mentioned, I also have multiple guns that I bought just because I thought, "Ya know, I could see myself bringing this along for a walk in the woods." At least a couple of 'em have never been on my belt. Because when it comes down to it, I also asked myself the question I posed in the O.P. If I actually had a reason to pull this out, is it really the gun I'd want in my hands?

The vast majority of my "trail time" is spent on our own family land, here in southern Illinois. Defense against humans and big predators is pretty far down on the list of things I'd expect. If it came up, of course I'd use whatever gun I had. But for me, it's far more likely I'd pop a skunk, sick raccoon, feral cat that's hunting our small game, etc. Also coyotes, but they're usually seen well outside of pistol range. Or sometimes just because I see something that stands out as a perfect target, and I wanna test myself.
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Old November 2, 2018, 10:48 AM   #18
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Interesting thread. Like others here, I have spent some time and money on the subject. Is a Ruger Single Six the way to go or the S&W 31? I usually end up carrying neither and just carry my EDC.

When I might use a trail gun is a good question that might depend on the trail. If I am on a WMA or private land with an open small game season, I might use it to take legal game. On the private land, I might have an opportunity to harvest a feral hog or eliminate a pest. If I am at some sort of park, the only circumstances would be to protect myself or others from attack.

Concealed carry wasn't as widespread when Skelton wrote his article and I think a more modern version would concentrate on EDC guns that crossover to woods use.
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Old November 2, 2018, 12:19 PM   #19
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On the trail.... yeah, I do that whenever I can, but never seem to get enough of it. Here in the Northwest, its usually a National Forest wilderness or semi-wilderness situation for me. I use a Ruger Vaquero in 45 Colt in a cross-draw holster using my regular leather belt. I carry extra ammo in a small leather pouch on my belt with usually only 12 extra rounds because 45 Colt ammo is heavy. I've thought about getting a 357 as the ammo weighs about half as much. I do not shoot targets at all inside a designated wilderness area. So the gun and ammo are just along for the ride, just in case.... We actually had a genuine Cougar-homicide on our Zig-zag Ranger District, Mt Hood National Forest, just this year. The Cat killed a woman hiking alone. I expect most of you heard about it. I hike alone more often than not and there is usually a small lake with Trout in it. Brought a couple of nice Brown Trout home with me the last time out. Oftentimes there is an appropriate place to shoot targets in a considerate manner, away from the more pristine locations where I wouldn't want to break the solitude by discharging a firearm.
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Old November 2, 2018, 12:39 PM   #20
the possum
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Quote:
Concealed carry wasn't as widespread when Skelton wrote his article and I think a more modern version would concentrate on EDC guns that crossover to woods use.
Ya know, that's a pretty good point. Do you (or others reading) have some suggestions for EDC concealed carry pieces that could also pull double duty as a "trail gun"?
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Old November 2, 2018, 02:17 PM   #21
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For me as a civilian, EDC is carried concealed whether in town or out on the trails and for the same reasons. But then I'm a paranoid/damaged goods kind of person.
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Old November 2, 2018, 02:46 PM   #22
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Times were different back then , most guns had steel frames . Few had alloy.
The term trail gun to me means you are carrying it in a holster , on a belt , around your waist. You can carry a K-Frame S&W in 38/357 with a 3 inch barrel easily in a belt holster .
Concealment isn't an issue .

My trail guns now are a S&W model 317 , 8 shot , 22 LR Airlite with 3 inch barrel and adjustable sights or a Taurus 455, 5 shot , 45 acp with a 2 inch barrel .

My old Ruger Blackhawk 357 magnum got retired from everyday use in favor of the more compact S&W 317 and Taurus 455 .
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Old November 2, 2018, 03:37 PM   #23
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Sig P239 in .40 with an extra mag gives you 14 rounds with enough punch to dissuade a hog, coyote, cougar or bad camper.
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Old November 2, 2018, 04:00 PM   #24
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Most of the time I spend out in the woods I'm hunting so I've got some type of centerfire rifle on me - ranging from a 30-30 on the low end up to a 300 Weatherby with a couple of others in between depending on the situation. More than enough to handle anything I'd ever encounter in Idaho, on two legs or four.

If I'm just out with the family camping and hiking I generally keep my midsize 9mm on me with an extra mag in my pocket. Not necessary but I feel better having it, and it's lightweight and easy to carry. Pretty cheap to shoot too.
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Old November 2, 2018, 05:30 PM   #25
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Some nostalgia, Frank Buck (for those of you old enough to remember the "Bring em' back alive" sagas) carried a S&W HD revolver .38-44, 5 inch in Heiser leather, at least some of the time.

The elephant hunter John "Pondoro" Taylor had a.38 revolver (make unknown, but probably a Smith) and advocated an open top holster saying a flap holster could get you killed. He was very wary of the two legged "dangerous game" in some of the wild territory he ventured to.

Sasha Seimel, the spear hunting Jaguar killer, carried a .38 revolver as a back up but had, in addition, a 30-30 carbine.

The author and hunter Peter Hathaway Capstick brought to the African bush a Ruger Blackhawk which he referred to as a .38 so I guess it was probably a .357 stoked with the smaller cartridge.

Of course, most of these guys were also armed with some heavy duty long gun ordnance but especially in the case of Taylor, had to draw their pistols to defend themselves or stop a threat.

Elmer Keith always referred to the handgun as a weapon of opportunity. Never know when you might need it but it's there just in case.
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