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Does your kit include a gun?
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Margaret Snyder
(jetcash) - F

Locale: Southern Arizona
Does your kit include a gun? on 12/13/2007 11:39:09 MST Print View

I recently saw a VERY heated thread on another site about carrying firearms while backpacking. Has anyone here ever had to use a gun for defense in the backcountry? The gun carrying argument was for safety from wildlife. I've read accounts where charging grizzlies haven't been fazed by a blast from a 12-gauge, though. Grizzlies, cougars, and wild boars are the only American wildlife I can think of that would warrant defense by firearm. The anti-gun argument was that when you enter the backcountry you are invading the home of these animals and have no right to harass them, you are now part of the food chain, blah, blah.
Just so you know, I am impartial and not trying to start a fight here.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Does your kit include a gun? on 12/13/2007 11:40:51 MST Print View

The gun posts have a way of starting heated controversy no matter what intention the original poster has ; )

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 12/13/2007 13:39:41 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 21:48:06 MST.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
farewell to arms on 12/13/2007 14:34:18 MST Print View

Find out what the local folks do. They could tell you if you'd be better served by a warm hat or an avalanche beacon and shovel, or a shotgun.

Neil Bender
(nebender) - F
Guns in the wild on 12/13/2007 15:46:29 MST Print View

I notice the Rangers in US National Parks carry guns, but not for non-human wildlife. I have even seen backcountry rangers with heavy duty belts and service sidearms and cheerleader batons and government bug zapperz. Poor over-burdened functionaries. (Don't taze me bro!) (Editorial Comment: But us submitizens have nothing to worry about when our delegated servants take on the role of masters. The US Constitution, void where prohibited by law).

Risk assessment involves both probability and consequence. Whereas even most police officers in the US never draw their weapon in the line of duty, I think the probability of needing a gun is low unless you are a Stop-N-Rob store clerk or wear bacon scented cologne.

As other posters have noted, the utility of a firearm on a trekking trip is fairly low, and the weight opportunity cost is high. There are instances and places where it might be indicated for self-sufficiency and peace of mind, but it is low on the a-priori-ity list. On the other hand, when one needs a gun, one usually needs one very badly and very quickly.

Along the southern border for instance where drug smugglers have been known to attack those who come across their path, for fear of having their load ripped off. Organ Pipe National Monument is festooned with warning signs about wandering off into roadless areas that smugglers frequent.

In national parks and monuments it isn't legal to have an operational and accessable firearm. Consequently when this question is asked the informal 'don't ask, don't tell' mentality is likely to be invoked.

One reason people carry guns on hikes is because they live, work and drive in areas where being armed is a daily prudent habit, and like any piece of safety equipment a sidearm should be dealt with consistently and always under the control of the operator. Leaving one in a car creates a theft opportunity. When a gun isn't slung or holstered it should be in secure storage, which most vehicles aren't.

Having a gun no more makes one armed than owning a piano makes one a musician. Too many people approach guns as a magical talisman. Mindset, situational awareness, and disciplined practical training are the software that is more important than the hardware. A sane operator generally won't choose to go anywhere armed that he wouldn't go disarmed. That may not apply to US Marines.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Guns in the backcountry on 12/13/2007 16:47:59 MST Print View

Nope - never carried one; probably never will. Every thing I learned about guns I learned playing cowboys and indians with pop-guns. This was before this activity became unacceptable in the eyes of the PC (including my own). That provides all the information about my age that I'm likely to provide :~)

That said, there are places that I'd seriously consider learning how to use and carry one. To Dave's point, it makes sense to take your cues from the locals. The thing that springs to mind is actually bear predation. British Columbia?

I know and know of several canoists who had some fairly significant scares from polar bears in the watersheds feeding western Hudson Bay... many parties there carry at least one shotgun.

Generally I don't think that it's worth getting your knickers in too much of a twist about these kind of questions - the ones who protest too vehemently have let their dogma run over their brain function. More kindly - in my vast experience of being wrong, it's usually because I've said "never" or "absolutely."

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Does your kit include a gun on 12/13/2007 18:37:23 MST Print View

When hiking or backpacking? No. There are many lifetimes worth of great spots for such activities where the need for defensive firearms are non-existent. I deliberately and selectively avoid all the other areas. While the mossies, assorted camp robbers, and chippies may be infuriatingly numerous at times, they just don't rise to the threat level required for firearms.

When building fence or checking on livestock all alone on my ranch in the backcountry near Yellowstone? Yes. In three years, I met only one bear - a cub - only to be met with the sudden realization that having taken my gunbelt off during the drive in, I had inexplicably neglected to put it on again before leaving my truck - a clear case of rectal-cranial-inversion.

Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 12/13/2007 18:40:02 MST.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Does your kit include a gun on 12/13/2007 19:45:11 MST Print View

Regarding encounters with smugglers:
I have met smugglers in the backcountry several times - not planned meetings, by the way! - and have talked with them more than once. My experience is that contrabandistas just want to go on about their business. A backpacker or paddler is not a threat to them. The last thing a moonspinner needs is to call attention to himself. Also, they tend to use familiar routes and don't want a bunch of folks out there searching for your cadaver.

On the other hand, the ubiquity of cell phones might change the nature of these encounters if smugglers start to worry that wilderlings will use their phones to fink them out. I suspect the extent of this may be having to surrender the phone or maybe just the battery.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
Does your kit include a gun on 12/13/2007 19:51:11 MST Print View

In my humble opinion being what it is. I don't bring a firearm. I practice stealth camping where it is less likely I will run into the predatory hiker hunting bear in the woods. I have on occasion run into the predatory, horseback riding group of drunks with guns on the trails. Where there is at least one mule for the kegs and wisky. I have been threatened, pushed, and otherwise bothered.

My solution is to take my old (feeling ancient) escape and evasion infantry training into use. Run, hide, use cover, direction change, and head for a place where the horses might not want to go. Guess what. I only did that once. And it was because I had a big mouth. I don't even think they chased me. But I would tell you they did back then.

I have had bears in yosemite walk right behind my head while sleeping outside. Guess what they didn't bug me. I have no experience in Yosemite or Alaska. I would choose to carry a firearm there. Maybe.

On a good note, to those who like to pack them. There are carbon fiber framed .357s now. They are expensive, and still not too light. Plus they didn't waranty the frames for very long when I looked a few years back.

All I know is humans are the most dangerous animal on this planet and the bears. They are just hungry.

Have fun!!!

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Guns in whilst Backpacking on 12/13/2007 20:02:43 MST Print View

Its interesting hearing this debate from a different coutry, like Australia.

Here, its illegal to carry a gun unless you have a license to do so and reason to. You never see anyone armed-only policemen. The only time you ever see civilians armed is if you are out bush and they are actually in the process of hunting or controlling vermin-like farmers or proffesional hunters.

We dont have grizzlies or polar bears though. To be honest, I would consider carrying a pistol in serious grizzly country in Nth America if it was recommended to me by experienced locals. But that would be the only reason, and I would avoid it if prudent bear-safe baehaviour allowed it. I guess I will find out what decision I make when I get there.

But if the guns are being carried by people who dont even think about the basic essentials for a day-hike, it sounds like they are gun-totin' yokels who dont really understand the wilderness, and shouldnt be in there anyway.

(I think to most aussies, the "Pro-gun Lobby" (etc) in the US is almost comical.)

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Does your kit include a gun on 12/13/2007 20:05:52 MST Print View

I have lead backpacking groups every summer since 1987 and most always get the "gun" question. Never have had to deal with anything bigger than the occasional, curious Black Bear. There have been many times I wished I'd had a shotgun to keep the squirrels at bay.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Does your kit include a gun? Always. on 12/13/2007 21:38:49 MST Print View

Always, when legal. Not because of the chance of needing it is high; but instead because the consequence of not having it when needed are high. It's one extreme corner of the risk-assesment matrix.
The typical scenario I plan to avert is the one you occasionally read about in the news; you know, 'two campers found murdered in their tent on the beach', etc..
I have years of training in its use and hope I will never need to use it. My choice is a Beretta Vertec.

Where I currently live there is no such thing as the 2nd Amendment. This leads to a safer society, certainly, but only because 99.99% of bad guys dont ALREADY have guns here.

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Guns in backcountry? I dunno. ---- Ridiculous musings? Yes. on 12/13/2007 22:26:30 MST Print View

Bear: "Don't taze me bro!"

A previous poster joked about tazers, but I wonder if they would be useful for bear protection? I guess you had better have a very high power model and a real good aim b/c there is only one shot. More than one bear could be bad.

For human protection, they are proven to work (unless you catch one of those invincible pcp/meth users, uhoh!). Again, you better have a good aim.

Of course, tazers have many of the legal problems that guns do, but they are light (18oz for a lazer scope tazer) and could save your life (and the bear's).

On second thought, maybe the Beretta 92 IS the way to go.

Edited by HechoEnDetroit on 12/13/2007 22:27:02 MST.

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Really? on 12/14/2007 00:22:15 MST Print View

First, I have to agree with the poster above that criticized guns for their weight. For the vast majority of situations, I'd be hard pressed to think of a worse way to spend a few pounds in my pack.

Exceptions? Sure.

Protection from Wildlife - polar (not grizzly) bear country. People are roughly seal sized and with the disappearing sea ice, a polar bear could surely chose to make a meal out of me and I'd quickly chose my endangered rear end over his.

Protection from People - Darien Gap... no, not even then. A lone hiker with a pea shooter would only assure their own arrest by the authorities, or remove any doubt that their more heavily armed muggers/kidnappers would just write them off (kill them) and then take whatever they darn well pleased.

I'll grant them (guns) to those so inclined for certain large predator mammals, but not bandits, and certainly not psychopaths. If joe-shmoe thugs are really a concern, go somewhere else. If you're worried about a psychopath, you're a looney-toon. I defy anyone to give anything more than a handful of scary anecdotes to substantiate this risk - and here's the real challenge - even one example of such an encounter where having a gun solved the whole thing. Irrational fear, ineffective solution.

If you really want to have a gun with you into the backcountry, get some use out of it. Go hunting.

Edited by dsmontgomery on 12/14/2007 00:32:16 MST.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Really? on 12/14/2007 08:42:12 MST Print View

I agree with the Polar bear argument. If you've ever seen pictures of a mauling you'd want the whole army with you. Certain parts of Iceland a gun is apparently recommended gear for strolls outside the house.


mark henley
(flash582) - F
Bear Spray on 12/14/2007 09:11:38 MST Print View

Here in the South West I've run into a number of people who are armed when hiking .... especially in some of the wilderness areas of New Mexico. I've never heard of anyone needing to use one unless they were hunting and either needed to put their kill out of it's misery or to fend off predators (bears and/or Mountain Lions) that were attracted to the gut pile when the hunter was cleaning his kill.

I've run into some unsavory people on the trail, especially being so close to the beginning of the underground railroad from Mexico, and it's not uncommon to see signs from where people on their way north have camped for the night out in the wilderness. In fact, I was woke up one night, where me and a buddy had camped at an established campsite on a trail near Austin, Texas, by a guy who had wandered right into our camp in the middle of the night and started a fire in the fire ring because he was freezing to death. Would things had been different if there had only been myself there instead of two of us? I know he certainly looked like a rough one.

I don't know ....

I know of a number of ladies who solo in some pretty rugged country that always carry a handgun with them for their safety ... but none of them take carrying a weapon lightly ... it's only with a lot of forethought and soul searching that they carry.

My personal opinion is that I think that Bear Spray is more effective and a much lighter weight option than a handgun against animals. OF the two legged variety a small handgun may be advantagous in some places, but then again ... stealth camping away from established campsites and well away from trailheads, combined with the bear spray may be a better option??? I've taken to stealth camping in ways that you'd never know I was there unless you were beating around in the brush after dark (not many people are inclined to do this) and tripped over my tent and you'd never know I was ever there once I've left.

If you do decide to carry I do implore you to please take the time to get some professional training and practice, practice, practice. Nothing would make me more nervous than someone hauling a gun around that didn't know what they were doing or was too quick on the trigger.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
shoot first , post later on 12/14/2007 10:14:32 MST Print View

I never carried a weapon of anykind ( no, a knife insnt a weapon) into the backcountry. But it woulndnt bother me in the least if I meet/saw someone who did. Its their right and none of my or anyone elses buisness why. There arnt many stories to point too as examples where a gun sucessfully prevented a violent assalt because no one is going to report "oh, today a woman protected her self with her gun so ... um nothing happend... on to our next story..."

bobby c
(bobbycartwright) - F

Locale: i don't need no stinkin badges!
murder in pisgah on 12/15/2007 05:52:20 MST Print View

I don't know if a gun would help or not. It would provide comfort, etc...but if someone is going to attack you and your life will be on the line you may not be able to defend yourself with a gun. Someone may disarm you, so to speak, by chatting you up around your fire and then going in for the kill when your back is turned or they may ambush you on the trail. Either option a gun wouldn't help. And, there was a time in high school when about five of us were attacked by two redneck farmers that claimed we were trespassing even though we were car camping on a public boat landing on a major river. They shot over our heads and threatened to call the cops, which we ended up leaving and doing. They went to jail, but if we had had a gun and shot back, it might have turned into a tragedy for all concerned, even though plinking a few rednecks might be kinda nice. But for solo acts and women I do think that some sort of defensive measure is called for in certain "special" circumstances. Smith and Wesson makes a few ultralight .38 caliber revolvers which are very nice as well as a line of "Lady Smith" pistols which are very light and a bit smaller for those with munchkin hands.

Well, I think alot of the hiking world hasn't heard of the tragedy in Pisgah National Forest in western NC. I've linked to the story or you can find your own source by just googling "Pisgah Murder" and clicking on the news button at the top. I started hiking less than 5 miles from the murder about 3 weeks or so after it happened. Scary to think that they still haven't found the bastards....

Edited by bobbycartwright on 12/17/2007 16:27:44 MST.

Chad Ellertson
(NorthernLights) - F

Locale: Superior Hiking Trail
No on 12/16/2007 18:05:52 MST Print View

No not when I'm hiking. I have no reason to. Useless weight. If it's my time to go by a rouge bear, then so be it. I shall bang on my pot with my spoon. The most trouble I've had with bears include me being silly enough to leave 3 really nice trout out in the Never Summer's, gone. They were breakfast too. Oh well.

Now, I have hiking the Kekekabic and carried a .410, not for protection but for hunting. Mmm grouse. A grouse a night is nice. Pleasant fall hunting is hiking for me. It never matters whether you shoot something, just that you're out.

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Ultralight Peashooter on 12/16/2007 19:09:40 MST Print View

It turns out there are some very lightweight guns like this 9.4oz Kel-Tec (loaded) available for sale.

Edited by HechoEnDetroit on 12/16/2007 19:36:23 MST.