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Guns for the Trail, for Camp, for Survival November 2021
Gerhard Schroeder  

Dan had brought up that interesting subject in our June 2021 newsletter. It instantly reminded me of a conversation years ago:

He: I'm thinking about taking my 9mm Makarov with me to Alaska.
Me: If you do, first file down its front sight.
He: Why?
Me: So it won't hurt so bad when the bear shoves that Makarov up your ass.
They borrowed my Redhawk 44 Mag for their caribou hunt.

Trail and Camp
As Dan pointed out, the primary purpose for a gun there is protection. Since I also spend time in Grizzly country, I can’t think of a more powerful potential threat. Case in point, last summer in Montana I fished the Taylor Fork to the Gallatin. The day before the Ranger had told us that that region had a higher concentration of Grizzlies than Yellowstone. I wished I had my Redhawk. Instead, and unarmed, I made much purposeful noise while working the river.

The year before that, a Grizz did wander through our camp on the shore of Lewis Lake inside Yellowstone. And several years back, before that big fire, a black bear visited our camp in the White Mountains. He came for the rabbit guts the kids had left after adventuring on their own with a single shot 22 rifle, and bagging two bunnies. Bears can be the real deal.

Steve and I tested for that a bit. We defended ourselves against cardboard bear heads placed 11, 8 and 4 steps away. We also engaged those targets as quickly as we could, since an approaching bear inside his last 10 yards tends to make a person very uncomfortable. For that we had ‘gun in hand(s)’.

As that group of Alaska hunters told me afterwards, many times my Ruger was out of the holster and in the hand of the leading guy whenever they passed through areas with thick alder patches. My two ‘in camp’ bears would have given me time to draw (and in the White Mountains to retrieve a weapon from my vehicle). Neither charged, by the way.

About the guns:
Admittedly the Ruger Redhawk is a pig. But, first off, I’ve had it for decades. Second, 44Mag has the power. Third, it’s made from stainless steel, and yes, it has taken a full bath twice on my hip while river fishing. I shot it with bear medicine, 320 grainers loaded with 17.5 grains of AA#9.

The Kimber PBP Ten II in .45 ACP used to be my camp gun on every hunt. Built on an aluminum frame with high-capacity capability (13+1), it is lighter than a standard steel 1911. I fired it with 230 grain +P loads.

The Stoeger STR-9C (3.8” barrel) I’ve had for a little over a year. It has sort of already replaced the Kimber as camp/‘sleep in the 4Runner’ companion. Ammo was also loaded with heavy-for caliber, 147grainers.

The Mossberg 500A Riot pumper was chosen for its short barrel, which makes it a lot easier to stash, or carry on your back. Its fodder was slugs, 530 grain at around 1200 fps.

For a rifle the best candidate I have is a Ruger American Ranch in 300 BLK. Again, its 16.3” barrel makes it handy. Bear(?) ammo was a 230gr lead slug at max book, about 1100 fps.

Steve brought his Glock 10mm and Mossberg Shockwave 12ga pumper. He fired factory ammo in both.

Here are our results. We shot at them in the 11, 8, 4 step order, one shot at each, and a few times more than one at the closest.

After we were done. Note the ‘dead’ bear still on the
ground, visible just above the left ear of the closest target.

Now, if there is a way to really simulate some 500+ pounds of deadly fury barreling down on you, I can’t think of it. Anyway, Steve occasionally ‘aimed’ at the targets. All my shots were for raw speed, spray ‘n pray.

When I was shooting the Mossberg pump, we wished we’d filmed that. Because my shot at the middle target went just low enough to hit the flat steel, to which a 2x2 section was attached, to which the cardboard was attached. The slug blew the wood into splinters, bent and ripped the steel out of the ground, and sent the cardboard sailing. If I EVER get attacked by a bear, I want it to go down like that target did!

Bottom Line: The bear won! Too often we missed (m) outright, or hit the cardboard where the shot would have only wounded (w), instead of stopped or killed (K).

At least for me, the testing showed that controlling a semi-auto in rapid fire is way more manageable than that 44 Mag in double action.

Of course, delivering 12ga power felt most comforting. Afterwards, Steve and I agreed that should this ever be a timed stage, any time of more than 2 seconds should score ‘zero’ (or max penalty), because within 2 seconds a bear would be on you. But no matter what gun, practice, practice, practice.

That all said and done, in 40 years of hunting, fishing and camping in Arizona, I have never been threatened by a wild animal. Or made nervous by some two-legged creature. Fire POWER seems to be a secondary issue. Protection clearly has an overlap with ….

Here the 22LR rules. Or does it? Scenario #1: I’m out hunting by myself, driven way off the beaten path, where the cell phone is useless, as it often is, too far away from the nearest town (or transmitter). Then the 4Runner battery dies also. Walking out is not a good plan. Best to stay with the vehicle, easier to be found by others. That vehicle also means shelter AND whatever food, water and equipment I brought. It may be an additional week or two before “they” find me. Extra game meat would be very appreciated.

To get some, I can’t think of a better weapon than a combo rifle/shotgun, like my Blaser ES-70, which also happens to be quite light at an even 6 lbs. I would also suggest a ‘poor man’s” combo, a simple 12ga single shot and an insert barrel. Those come in many calibers, like .22LR, 9mm, .357 Mag, .45 Colt, etc. I’ve had such insert barrels for decades, one in .45ACP, another in .45-70. Barrel length also varies. More on that in another story.

Blaser ES-70

Or of course, use whatever primary hunting gun I came to said remote location with. Case in point, while certainly not a survival situation, back in ’96 my brother came to Arizona to hunt elk. On our third day he wanted ‘the experience’, shot a squirrel for that evening’s pot. The critter was a little too close for the 12ga on his Krieghoff Drilling, so he took its head clean off (to paraphrase Harry) with the 30R Blaser rifle barrel (in power just shy of 300WinMag). Over the years I’ve done similarly on a few squirrels with my 308. Note that there is another extreme. Eskimos have killed moose with 22LR.

Scenario #2: You’re at home, and all electrical power is out in the entire country, for months! At least water still flows. But all stores are soon empty, and no more new supplies. Now every creature in the yard equates to food. Even neighbor’s kitty, quickly re-classified as roof rabbit, is fair game. Can’t think of a better game getter than a (preferably suppressed) .22 rifle.

There was a similar situation in Germany after WWII. Food and income were scarce. Many, after retrieving their single shot .22s from some dark place in the attic, or more likely digging them back up somewhere, were very keen on any wood pigeon, Hungarian partridge, cottontail or hare that ventured too close (or was outright poached in the neighboring woods). My mother knocked the occasional pigeon out of our cherry tree, using a .22 Flobert (its case even shorter than a .22 short, with a lead ball bullet). Yes, long term, the .22LR rules indeed. It clearly would be tough to beat in any subsistence scenario.

Camp / Entertainment
I agree that for plinking any air pistol or rifle or a suppressed .22 is the ticket. Since I also enjoy pursuing coyotes, either my .243 Win or 300BLK, always with can, get those off-season jobs. Since I cast my own projectiles, using the BLK as a more destructive plinker is still cheap fun. Those are my choices among the guns I already own.

Here now a short list of what I would consider the ideal weapons for Trail, Camp, Survival:

For protection, a Glock in 10mm – it can spit out an awful lot of hot lead in a hurry, and carries way lighter than any 44 Mag. Also, based on how Mike 308 dominated with his 10mm during our last Handgun Hunter’s Challenge, it would bring home much bacon.

For food procurement, a combo in 20 Ga/5.6x50R Magnum, which would be even lighter than mine in 12ga/7x65R. The 5.6x50R Magnum is like a stretched 223, with rim, in speed nipping at the heels of the 22-250.


For an only one gun, do-it-all weapon I’m struggling. It would have to be a handgun, meaning always on me. What semi-auto 22LR out there is utterly reliable?? And that is what I would want, the thing going bang when I need it to, ALWAYS. If it were reliable, Dan’s Taurus TX-22 would be a clear winner. But he reported 2 failures to feed out of 150 shots. I want better! Apparently, that was with Federal HP ammo. Let’s assume that she will purr with some good schtuff, like from the SK family. Then adding just a small light suppressor to take most of her bark would be something I’d explore. As best as I know, the .22 pistol with a reputation for utmost reliability is the (old school) Beretta 71.

Whichever, I would definitely experiment with some type of stock for that pistol. Nothing that attaches, which would be illegal or cost an extra $200 and months of patience. No, something to press against, to see what accuracy gains that would yield if game meat becomes a priority. Something that would rattle around in my vehicle, only to see action when I’m far from pavement and really hungry.

May it never happen.

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