Friday, January 14, 2011

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears.

I've mentioned that I have encountered two black bears while riding in the hinterlands. In two minutes. Yes, the two were within 100 yards of one another. A wee bit unnerving.

While black bear attacks are fairly rare, they can and do happen. According to these statistics, sixteen fatal encounters with black bears occurred in the last decade. I wasn't able to drum up stats for non-fatal attacks, but they do happen. Grizzlies are also starting to migrate south from Canada into the Pasayten Wilderness area of Washington, an area I hope to ride in someday. Fatal encounters with grizzlies seem to be few and far between, but I have no desire to be one of the unfortunate souls who do comprise the statistics.

Mountain Lions are also present in this area. I know of two experienced outdoorsmen who have been stalked by mountain lions, an experience neither cares to repeat.

Many hikers, backpackers, and trail riders carry bear bells and/or bear spray to ward off Ursus arctos horriblis, ursus americanus, and puma concolor, which is all fine and dandy, I suppose. As for me, should an encounter with one of these predators turn sideways, I want to know that there is more between than an aerosol can, harsh words, and sleigh bells standing between me and death by mauling. But that's just me. Therefore, I pack a sidearm.

Revolvers are my weapon of choice. They do not jam, and should a misfire occur, simply move to the next chamber. Up til now, I have carried a S&W Model 19 chambered in .357. This is a wonderful, well balanced revolver.

I tend to spend a great deal of time doing research on activities that I participate in. I like to be well educated. In the area of wilderness defense, said research led me to the realization that my .357 would be adequate against a two legged varmint, and passable against a mountain lion. Against a bear, however, it would likely serve only to further anger the aggressor.

Bear defense is best performed with a big bore, short barreled rife. Think Marlin Guide Gun chambered in 45-70. A portable cannon, which is not for the faint of heart. Realizing the impracticality of that option, most experts agree that the next best choice is a large caliber revolver chambered in .44 magnum, .45 Long Colt, or larger, if you dare. Semi-automatic pistols, such as the .45, are not preferable due to the slower velocities of these rounds.

When reading about the .44 magnum, I kept finding the statement "for those who can manage the recoil". This makes it sound a tad fearsome for the handler, no? Since I'm not the biggest fella on the block, I though perhaps this wasn't the round for me. But, proof is better than speculation, so I borrowed my Brother-in-Laws Ruger Blackhawk, purchased a box of ammo, and headed to the range. Fifty rounds later, I left saying "I gotta have one of these." Very manageable recoil.

I am now the proud owner of this beauty:

Ruger New Model Blackhawk in .44 magnum. I chose the stainless steel, since, well, it rains in these parts once in awhile (read: most of the time). It's single action, meaning one has to cock the hammer before firing, but I did that on my double action revolver too. It makes for less trigger pull, and greater accuracy. I admit I was initially skeptical about the "cowboy" style handle, but this pistol feels absolutely perfect in my hand.

There is one other reason for horse riders to carry a firearm, which I have mentioned before. Should a horse break a leg out in the boonies, there are few practical options available. None of us ever want to be in that situation, but it can, and does happen. I have heard one gruesome story o how this was dealt with when no gun was available. I'll spare you, but suffice it to say that the teller of this tale has never ridden unarmed since.


Rebecca said...

Nice peace keeper you got there cowyboy :) I carry a 9mm with snake shot and a magazine of regular rounds when I ride on trail. We don't have too many problems with mountain lions, though they are around. Moreso with rattlers and the occasional umm, illegal person out camping in the desert.

Kate said...

Beautiful pistol. We have a place in Colorado and I always hike with a pistol when I'm up there. I'm sure I couldn't handle a .44, but a 9mm is better than nothing, I guess.

Buck said...

Nice piece o' hardware there, BR. A single-action revolver helps one to focus, no? ;-)

Buckskins Rule said...

Rebecca: Sounds like your 9mm is suited for where your ride, and you're carrying the right ammo. Weapons must be chosen based upon the expected threat, right?

Kate: Glad to hear you pack while hiking. Truth be told, I think 2 legged varmints are probably the biggest threat out there.

Buck: It definitely forces one to have their head in the game. If you yank it out, aim and pull the trigger...nothing. Have to cock it first.

Jessica said...

I think if we do start heading into more back-country situations, we'll arm up. If at very least to ensure that I can put a horse down if needed. (Sorry, that's morbid, but it was recommended to us by a packing instructor.)

Lovely piece, by the way. I'd have to learn to shoot, of course. It's on the list, though!

Buckskins Rule said...

Jessica, I strongly recommend it, if for no other reason than the one you mentioned. If/when you decide to learn, take a firearms course. You'll learn the correct way first, and it will go a long way toward demystifying guns.