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Firearms For Protection While Camping?

Updated: Feb 21

*Disclaimer: This article is written with the intent to introduce concepts involving firearms, self defense, and protection for you to consider. As with all things involving risk, do your own research and make informed decisions. Consult professionals in your area if you are unsure.

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When you're out camping or hiking, it is wise to be prepared for a variety of potential threats. These threats can come in the form of both two-legged (people with criminal intent) and four-legged predators (wild animals). To protect yourself, you may choose a firearm that is suitable for dealing with both types of threats.

Two Legged Threats

First, let's talk about two-legged threats. Sadly, there is always the possibility that you may encounter people with criminal intent when out in the wilderness. When it comes to dealing with human threats, you'll want a firearm that you can always have on you (note: threats don’t make appointments), is reliable, easy to use, and has good stopping power. A revolver or semi-automatic pistol is a good choice for this purpose, as they are lightweight and easy to carry. A handgun chambered in 40 S&W, 10mm, .45 ACP, 357 magnum or 44 Magnum calibers are ideal for self-defense situations as these calibers are powerful and deliver enough force to get noticed by a threat. When selecting a firearm chambered in these calibers, it is advised to spend a little more and buy quality. Companies like Smith & Wesson, Glock, Sig etc have a reputation for well built firearms. Do your research. Buy once, cry once.

Four Legged Threats

Now let's discuss four-legged threats. In the wild, you may encounter a variety of dangerous animals, such as bears, mountain lions, moose, etc. These animals can be dangerous and may have to be stopped with a firearm that is suitable for the task. When it comes to dealing with animal threats, a shotgun or a rifle is a good choice. Shotguns are particularly effective against close-range animal attacks, while rifles are better suited for long-range encounters. A 12-gauge shotgun has enough power to take down larger game, especially with the correct ammunition. 12-guage slugs or 00 Buck (said “double ought buck”) are ideal for stopping power. 12-guage bird shot shells, while more common, lack the capability of delivering enough force at further distances since the smaller pellets will spread and dissipate too fast. A rifle is also a good option, as most rifles have good stopping power and can be carried easily with a sling. Generally speaking, the larger rifle calibers are preferred. These may be the .308 Winchester, 30-06, 270, 30-30 Winchester, 300 win mag etc. There are also different types of rifles to consider in these larger calibers (i.e. bolt action, lever action, semi-automatic etc). Whatever you choose, be sure to get some training from a group like Fieldcraft Survival and practice often so you are ready if an emergency finds you.


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In addition to selecting the right firearm, it's essential to choose the right ammunition. With handguns, hollow point (HP) ammunition is ideal for self-defense situations. In animals, full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition may offer an advantage because of it’s increased penetration. Some people load every other round alternately (i.e. HP/FMJ/HP/FMJ) to gain the advantage of both types of handgun ammunition. This can be done in a revolver or semi automatic handgun. Rifle ammunition designed for hunting will generally be HP and is plenty effective in most any configuration.

Get Training

It's important to remember that carrying a firearm comes with great responsibility. As mentioned, you need to know how to use your firearm safely and follow all safety procedures. It's also important to be aware of your surroundings and know what to do in case of an encounter with a predator. Bullets to go through targets sometimes…be aware of what’s behind or near what you are shooting at.

Note these 4 rules of firearm safety from the NSSF.

1. Always Keep Firearm Pointed in a Safe direction

2. Treat All Guns as Though They are Loaded

3. Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger until You are Ready to Shoot

4. Always Be Sure of Your Target and What’s Beyond It

In summary, when it comes to choosing a firearm for camping and hiking, it's important to consider both two-legged and four-legged threats. A revolver or semi-automatic pistol is ideal because you can have it with you at all times. For increased power, consider a shotgun or rifle. With the right firearm, ammunition, and safety training, you can be confident and prepared for any situation that may arise during your outdoor adventures.

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