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Does your kit include a gun?
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Alan Seegert
(zemmo) - MLife

Locale: AK/NM
Re: Re: Re: Bear Spray on 12/19/2007 08:23:00 MST Print View

It's the cheapest of the UL .380's, the Smith and Wesson SW380. I'd have to look it up, but I think it's about 11 oz, plus whatever ammunition you put in it. You can get a smaller, lighter Seecamp, but they cost a fortune. I have not used or seen the KelTec .380, but know it's very light as well. BTW, I have not taken very good care of my .380, cleaned it once in 7 years, and it has always functioned perfectly. More than I can say for my .45 Kimber...

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Re: brain on 12/19/2007 09:35:09 MST Print View

"Scenario 3, you been hiking for two days on the edge of the
arctic ocean with a polar bear following you. The first night
you spent in a cabin. The second night you will have only a tent.

Scenario 4, dropped off by plane on the tundra in Alaska, day 3 a brown bear spots you from 2 miles away and starts running toward you to see what you are."


-up north it's a different game. You are the prey and when you are seen, you are often hunted. My old man was a prospector in the NWT and has two great stories about shooting bears in camp -- one through the wall of the shthouse he was hiding in because the bear was trying to take the door off.

But I think this thread is about carrying a small-bore handgun while backpacking in the Continental US.

By the way, has anyone mentioned that shooting an angry bear with almost any handgun will probably a) enrage it, and b) sentence it to a lingering death several hours after it has finished with your carcass? No one has stated that they carry a long-barrel .44 magnum or one of those big "hunting" handguns. Everyone seems to carry liquor store-robbery pistols with the intention of penetrating many inches of fat and heavy bone with them and still delivering enough energy or tissue damage to somehow stop a charging bear.

Shooting a large animal with a small-calibre arm is cruel, inhumane, and ineffective. Up here there are minimum muzzle energy minimums for hunting various game. If a ranger caught you unloading your .45 ACP or 9mm into a poor bear, I wonder if the ranger might euthanize you after he euthanized your bear for you.


PS Dave, I received my royal blue 10x10 silnylon pyramid last night -- it's a work of art.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Gun theory on 12/19/2007 09:40:29 MST Print View

I dont own any guns myself, but I dont get the argument that if you carry a gun it will make you overconfident. This is like the old argument that driving with a seatbelt makes you drive more recklessly. Its not an either or, you can be careful and carry a gun at the same time Im sure.
It facinates me how Hollywood has made guns such a magical fetish object: it can make the good violent, the carefull reckless, ect.
I dont belive for a second that anyone in a defensive situation would preffer to be unarmed at the time.

Alan Seegert
(zemmo) - MLife

Locale: AK/NM
Re: Re: Re: brain on 12/19/2007 10:06:53 MST Print View

I shot a problem bear with a pistol, (cast bullet in the brain) and afterwards got all sorts of beanbags, rubber and plastic slugs, cracker rounds, everything I could find for a shotgun that would work as aversive conditioning, so I wouldn't have to shoot any more bears. I really like bears. With only a few exceptions, I don't think it's worth carrying a gun for bears, unless one is guiding. Or hunting, and I have absolutely no interest in hunting bear.BTW, there are no records of bears attacking large groups of people (can't remember the threshold number, sorry).

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
National Park Advise Pepper Spray and Gun on 12/19/2007 11:11:30 MST Print View

Here is advise on dealing with bears in one park in Alaska.

It includes a PDF file about which land and parks allow firearms. Part of Denali does for example.

Kevin Shuster
(drshuster) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona Alpine
"Gun" in your Kit on 12/19/2007 12:34:46 MST Print View

My Back country freind and I met at a long range rifle competition 17 years ago. He is a hopeless redneck (Arizona duh). He won't go out in the wilderness unless he is carrying. Right now he is the best backpacking friend I can afford, so it's his rules on this. Arizona is a polite society partly because many people are carrying weapons, and have training to employ them; and niether are visible to an uneducated eye. The gentleman who posted about the habit, and practice associated with firearms use is IMO correct in thinking. A weapon is only a very dangerous (it's purpose) gadget and without training, and profecient skill it is not a solution to anything.
That being said, many little boys and little girls here, think of firearms or archery as the source code for dietary protein. Many schools here close on the opening day of deer season. I suppose if that were the purpose of the trip a guy would carry.
A part time resident of N. Arizona who'd have reason to know, once said to me in old age..... beware a man with only one gun, they're familiar with each other. If you do carry, of course overlearn how to use your weapon. And then tell me how you can cope with reduce or justify the weight of it..... I can't yet.

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re: Does your kit include a gun on 12/19/2007 12:56:09 MST Print View

Interesting thread

Are there any figures on how many backpackers get killed by bears each year in the US


Alan Seegert
(zemmo) - MLife

Locale: AK/NM
Killed by bears in AK on 12/19/2007 12:59:41 MST Print View

Zero, most years. In Alaska, since 1900, I believe 1 by Polar, less than 10 by black, and less than 50 by Brown.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Re: Does your kit include a gun on 12/19/2007 13:07:24 MST Print View

Either BPL print magazine or Backpacker magazine said nobody (or no backpacker) has been killed by a bear in California (of course a mauling could still be horribly bad). I read this in the last year.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Does your kit include a gun? on 12/19/2007 13:34:48 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/24/2015 00:28:55 MDT.

Jane McMichen
(jmcmichen) - F

Locale: Maine, DownEast Coast
perspective and training on 12/19/2007 13:43:37 MST Print View

Hi everyone,

Very interesting posts and thread! After reading through, I've noticed that there does seem to be a gender gap in the perception of threat. I had wondered about it, but now I believe it to be true (not implying error on either side, just pointing out something). Women, especially of smaller stature who hike solo including me, may feel the need to arm themselves more than men - even men of the same stature. The perceived threat is from humans, not so much from bears.

Is this a good thing? It depends on the woman (or yes, the man) who carries. A firearm is a tool just like any other piece of equipment that goes in your pack. If you don't know how to use it properly, don't know the pros and cons of using it, and don't feel comfortable with the complicated decision tree associated with using it while under stress, LEAVE it at HOME!!!

I appreciate your posts, Sarah, and understand your decisions. I agree with you fellows that a gun isn't likely to make a difference that other noises or that pepper spray wouldn't make in most instances. And I agree that most people I've met on the trail were some of the best people I've ever met anywhere. And I agree that a gun is in no way a substitute for awareness, prudence, or good-sense and stealth hiking practices. But I am also aware that as a female of smaller stature, hiking solo I APPEAR to be more of a target for anyone who IS out there looking for a victim. A gun is ALWAYS my last resort for protection, but I am also ALWAYS armed. My gun will be concealed, so I don't provoke unnecessary trouble, I won't be waving it around in the hopes that the sight of it will scare others off, and I won't be looking for trouble, but it will be in easy reach at all times.

I am very capable of avoiding and/or difusing situations, and so far I have never had to use my firearm even in everyday situations in the "civilized" world. If, however, an aggressor (human) gives me no other option but to choose between them or me, I will choose my survival over theirs every time. That is the ONLY situation for which I carry a firearm. (So don't worry Mike, it doesn't sound like you'll be in my line of fire :) Want to steal my pack? Fine, take it. Think it's funny to intimidate the woman alone in the wilderness? Ha, ha, you win, now go away.

I may never be hurt and need a locator beacon either, but if I'm travelling alone in an unfrequented area it might not be a silly precaution, right? To me, carrying a firearm is a similar precaution. I must reiterate, though, ONLY because I have taken the time to gain experience with and temperance regarding the use of my firearm long before I decided to add it to my kit.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
who or what are you shooting at? on 12/19/2007 14:39:38 MST Print View

"Arizona is a polite society partly because many people are carrying weapons, and have training to employ them"

Canada is a polite society for the opposite reason! Very few people aside from the mentally ill and immigrant gangs tend to shoot one another. And we still find it in our hearts to be nice to one another.

I think we are getting to the root of what the thread is about. It hadn't occurred to me that the main motivation for "packing" in the bush is to shoot other people. But I suspect it is. Excuse my ignorance.

For most Canadians, even the police, the idea of having to pull out a gun to get safely from point A to B is reserved for Afghanistan. For us, the idea that we might have to engage in gunplay to get from the grocery store to the video store or from the trailhead to the viewpoint is surreal. But we're spoiled that way.

With respect: When gun+hiking proponents here imagine having a gun battle in the forest, is it with an animal or with a person? Or are you just so used to depending on your gun for feelings of security in town that you feel naked without it? This is a very interesting subject.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: perspective and training on 12/19/2007 15:38:58 MST Print View

Thanks, Jane, for bringing perspective to this discussion.

I agree with your observations, which I do not see as in anyway urging folks to shoot other folks.

To preach a bit, freedom & survival do appear to require, inter alia, personal responsibility & common sense.

Those who lack the above qualities would best stay away from the wilderness altogether -- with or without a gun.

Surely there's a study somewhere disclosing that stupidity & irresponsibility kill more folks than anything else.


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: perspective and training on 12/19/2007 16:03:02 MST Print View

I must say just that there is this conversation going on is scary in itself. If there is this much controversy about whether to use a gun or not, just imagine the amount of hysteria out there. To think that I might be walking on a trail and there is someone there who is carrying a gun who already is frightened enough about men or whatever, and perhaps doesn't know what to do in a certain situation and so she or he shoot before asking... I'm certainly not willing to put my life on the line for such people.

So far the discussion seems to only be from the point of view of those people who are carrying a gun, about their responsibility, skill, and training. That's all very fine, but there is always the other side of the barrel, too. The one who is being shot at. Their lives, most especially if they have done nothing wrong but the gun carrier misinterprets the situation, are just as precious as those of the gun carrier.

The thing is you can go on forever with a discussion like this and never come to a conclusion. There are just too many variables and too big a chance for something to go terribly wrong. You can have all the training in the world and still make a mistake. That is why guns are outlawed in most countries, not because guns in themselves are dangerous, but because people are.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Forget Bears & Guns . . . Beware of Horses . . . And Ban Motor Vehicles on 12/19/2007 16:21:02 MST Print View

Per government survey of animal-caused deaths for BC, Canada, from 1969 to 1997:

"The most dangerous animal, in terms of fatalities, was the horse, accounting for slightly over 35% of animal caused deaths."

And furthermore:

"If all species, both wild and domesticated, are taken into account, the number of animal caused MVAs [motor vehicle accidents] is more than twice as great as non-vehicle deaths caused by any single species."

Source: Vital Statistics Agency of B.C. Ministry of Health at


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: brain on 12/19/2007 16:26:02 MST Print View

Right on, Brian!! Oh so freakin' right on. I'm getting to like you Canadians better and better all the time. I went through a decision making process a few years ago when unpleasant bear activity was inching uncomfortably close to my main route into the southern Sierra. There had been several injuries, one area was closed to camping, etc. In true American fashion, my first reaction was "I gotta get me a gun!!". Upon further reflection, conversations with a law enforcement friend, a bit of reading, and some soul searching which revealed that I just didn't have the "Dirty Harry gene", I reached the same conclusions for the same reasons you posted above. What I did do was up my fitness level to the point where I could burn right on through the bear activity belt the first day out and went cold food for the first several days. No problems, no carrying something which was contrary to my very nature, and a deep satisfaction in knowing that I have not chosen a path that requires me to constantly be prepared to kill to survive. I think it would have radically altered my whole way of being in an area that is, literally, sacred to me. From a purely human point of view, it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Jane McMichen
(jmcmichen) - F

Locale: Maine, DownEast Coast
Re: perspective and training on 12/19/2007 16:42:31 MST Print View

Miguel, I couldn't agree with you more.

I sincerely wish I felt secure enough with the judgement of all other people to not feel the need to be armed. From what I'm reading, perhaps this is mostly an American insanity??? We seem to have inherited a gun-toting mentality from the Wild West and we've gone off into a sort of neverland from there. I wholeheartedly agree that it's not a good idea. But I also am pragmatic enough to realize that the ratio of idiots/trouble-seekers to nice people in my society is not the best. I've run into enough of them personally to know. And my dad has been a cop all my life, so I've grown up hearing true stories about the person who was in the wrong place when someone else decided to cause trouble. Purdence is highly valued in my book.

But the unfortunate truth is also that this argument can be waged for every implement from a firearm to a rock to a sharp stick. In the hands of the wrong person it's a real problem. Yes, a firearm is lightyears ahead of the rock and stick to cause damage, but you get my point. I'm wondering: Miguel and those of you from Canada, does no one truly run into serious problems with other humans in the wilderness? Are there no rapes or murders? Do physically larger people, or do people with weapons other-than-guns not play predator on those perceived as weaker? Is this truly an American agressiveness/sickness? Does being in a gunless society change everyone's perceptions of carrying them? Does it make anyone who would carry a gun seem extreme? Yes, guns take everything to the next level, but do you not have violent crime? If so, how is it different enough that the thought of being armed bothers you?

I also agree that the thought of gun-waving, wide-eyed and jumpy hikers makes me shudder too. I feel that life IS precious. But, for me at least, unless you're physically threatening me to the point I fear for my life AND advancing on me to almost within arms reach, I probably won't feel the need to defend myself with my sharp stick or my firearm :) I'm interested to hear your stories of how threatening people are handled one-to-one in your societies.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: perspective and training on 12/19/2007 17:12:58 MST Print View

"not because guns in themselves are dangerous, but because people are." Funny thing, Miguel, that's exactly what the NRA claims, but look at the situation here in the USA: ~30,000 firearm deaths/year. My own feeling is that this goes way beyond firearms. One can find a karate or tae kwon do dojo in almost any neighborhood; flipping someone off for a bonehead driving move can get your head kicked in, literally; in a depressingly large number of schools, teachers work in fear of being attacked by students; look at the advertisements for movies and you will find a significant number portraying a lithe young women in a tight skirt with low neckline waving a Dirty Harry type pistol menacingly, or an Arnold Schwarzenegger type troglodyte cradling a seriously ominous automatic rifle.
In short, this is a society besotted with violence. Firearms are just the most efficient way to go about committing mayhem. Until we, as a society, get a handle on the root causes of this situation, I fear us forum members, AND the poor bears, are in for an uncomfortable ride.

Andrew :-)
(terra) - F

Locale: Sydney, Australia.
Interesting, thread to read. on 12/19/2007 19:09:58 MST Print View

Here (in Australia) you can't take guns, fixed blades or dogs into our national parks.
Police and certain security guards carry guns.
it sounds like we are similar to Canada in our 'gun-ness' or lack thereof.
Speaking tot the question pose above to non-gun societies.

Our local population spends a lot of the summer swimming at the beach... Sharks don't respond to banging a spoon and pan. We just accept that we are entering their turf.
Though not predatory (except rare reports of tiger snakes and the more rare but famous dingo episode) our outdoors are host to all number of deadly things.
Around town people try to kill me every other day with 'bigbore weapons'. Usually accidently but sometimes with intent. I ride a motorcycle through peak hour traffic most days during semesters. All that keeps me safe is alertness and acuity - pre empting the situation lets me avoid the killers and their heavy weaponry.
I have never had to resort to physical violence on the rare occassions when threatened by others.

It looks like the relience on guns for peace of mind is societal. From the outside, carrying a gun for personal protection appears to require a lot of energy for that one-off, maybe, one-time possibility. Banishing oneself from areas because one can't 'carry' whilst there is like not enjoying a swim at beach for fear of sharks and not using the roads for fear of an MVA although the latter is much more likely.
Looking at from the outside one has to ask do 'gun societies' own guns or do their guns own them?

Oh I forgot, we have some reports of yowies (bigfoot) in the areas where I hike. From the sketches they look big and threatening, but carrying a working camera seems to make them avoid you - possibly a case where point and shoot actually does remove the danger. In this case the real threat is more likely in the head of the believer.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Guns on 12/19/2007 22:02:04 MST Print View

Sarah, I might need to a retraction on part of my post and possibly a small apology. Your situation is quite different than mine. Knowing how this world is and how male dominated it is, women are in a much different position in the wilderness. Even more so when you have your children with you. All bets are off.

But most of us, or at least me, hiking in the Sierra's the only need for protection is a tarp and sunblock to avoid getting sunburnt. Kidding. There are many interesting people out there and you know, whatever it takes to make us feel comfortable out there then good. I just don't see the need for myself to carry a firearm in the wilderness. I do own a .38 calliber for protection at home. I just don't see the need to carry one in the wilderness. Maybe if I was solo in the Ventana Wilderness I would MAYBE consider it and that would be about it. I really on my "street smarts" to get me through life and I have made it through 43 years with some interesting happenings around me.

Folks if you need to carry a gun in the mountains... go ahead. I won't

BUT let me post this question folks. How many people on trails in remote places are looking for someone to prey on. Second, Black Bears are not dangerous if you leave them alone. Sure a death happens every now and then. But that is soooo far and few between that it is almost non existant. I would be more afraid of a montain lion, but there located more in the lower eleveations. Just a thought.

Edited by kennyhel77 on 12/19/2007 22:08:56 MST.