Hiking with guns

This is probably going to be a controversial topic. If you don’t like guns, just do everyone a favor and stop reading now. I will continue below








Ok, if you are still reading, you were warned.  What follows below will be a talk about things like shooting happy little unicorns with big mean guns and other mean people shit.


I carry a gun everyday, almost everywhere. There are some places in Texas (and on Federal property) where it is illegal to carry a firearm. I sometimes follow those rules. The pistols I carry vary, but generally are one of the following three:

-A Ruger LCP, in .380. Good pocket gun, carried when i wear lightweight athletic shorts.

– A Sig Sauer P225A1, in 9mm. A “compact” gun, this is my everyday carry pistol.

-A Sig Sauer MK25 in 9mm. Customized quite a bit, with Nite Sights, Threaded barrel, custom Hogue grips, and a TLR2g laser/light combo. This is my  “tactical” gun. If I could only have one pistol, this would be it.

Do I carry a gun when hiking? Damn Skippy. In Texas, we have poisonous snakes, coyotes, feral pigs, big cats (rare but growing), bears (moving west from Arkansas and Louisiana), and meth-heads. I carry because feral pigs REALLY are a big problem in Texas and I would prefer not to have myself or my dog get gored. I carry because I trust people as far as I can throw them, until they prove themselves trustworthy. I carry because I can.

Where do I carry?

When I am hiking, I generally carry in my Ribz pack. That keeps the gun easily accessible, but secure and concealed. Texas allows open carry, and I do occasionally, but most times it is just easier to conceal. Wherever you decide to carry, make certain you secure it, and it is stored safely.

Where do I store it at night?

Generally, I store my pistol in my gear hammock. That way it is stored securely, and within easy reach while I am lying down. My main concern at night is coyotes, and I have had to draw it before. One fall hike on the LoneStarHiking Trail, we heard coyotes in the distance when we turned in. Later that night, I was woken by Faith. She usually sleeps under my hammock and when she stands up she bumps my butt. She was growling pretty hardcore and I grabbed my pistol, turned on the mounted light and looked across the logging road we were camped along. Across the road (about 20ft or so) were more than 10 eyes glowing back at me. After engaging in a stare-down for a few minutes, the coyotes decided they had seen enough, and left. Most times, coyotes are purely opportunistic scavengers, but you starve any animal long enough and they will act in an aggressive manner. I refuse to be a snack.

Is carrying a gun the right thing for you?

Maybe. Maybe not.

-can you legally carry a gun?

– are you comfortable around guns?

-do you know how to use a gun? Safely?

-if necessary will you use the gun?

If you answered no to any of the above, then you probably shouldn’t be carrying a gun. If you answered yes to ALL of them, then you need to think long and hard before you take any further steps.

A gun laying on the ground is no more dangerous than a paperweight is. Pick up that gun and point it at something and that gun has not become a damn bit more dangerous. But you have. Gun ownership is still a protected right in this country, but the responsibility to carry and use it in a safe manner is all on you. Don’t go out and buy any old gun you see at your local gun shop.

-Find a friend who owns a gun and have them take you shooting to see if you like it.

-Try out different guns, most good ranges also rent guns. Try as many as you can and find what suits you best.

-Take a concealed carry class.

-Know your State laws. Is open carry legal? Concealed carry? Constitutional carry? Find out and follow the laws.

-Take a pistol class. Many ranges and shops offer classes on how to shoot, clean and carry a gun. Generally less than $100, it is money well spent.


Let me close by saying if you do carry, I hope you never need to use it. If you use it, I hope you hit what you aimed for. If you hit it, I hope it was a furry little animal. If it wasn’t, I hope you have a damn good defense or a damn good lawyer.


Hiking with dogs.


Why is my hammock suspension too tight/too loose?


  1. Avatar


    “A gun laying on the ground is no more dangerous than a paperweight is. Pick up that gun and point it at something and that gun has not become a damn bit more dangerous. But you have. ”

    Incredibly well written. The one thing I would add for any and all that make the choice to carry a firearm is recurrent training, and I do not mean the required training every 5 years when your permit expires. You need to shoot monthly or you are incredibly dangerous.

    Shooting, like flying, is a perishable skill!

    You may not think anything of it, but if you ever have to use it, you WILL be under stress. You’re adrenaline WILL be high. And missing in ANY environment can and WILL have consequences…in a parking lot you could miss and hit a mom loading her kids into the minivan, on the trails you could miss and hit your hiking partner (person or fur baby!)

    I personally made the choice to quit carrying because I was not devoting the time and effort to keep the skill up and recognized that I was dangerous with a gun in my pack/waistband. I have no problem using deadly force if I feel threatened or feel another life is threatened, but I want to make sure that I deal with the threat accurately.

    In place of a gun I always have knives on my person. It is more close contact and the risk increases to myself, but the trade-off of knowing I will not harm an innocent person or animal is worth it for me at this point.

  2. G_Man

    Nicely written article. Being a gun guy, I of course like it! Which brings my question. Given the critters you named, do you feel adequately protected with what you’re carrying? Obviously there are concessions to be made. Smaller and lighter will get carried, while my 3.5# single action comes out for hunting not hiking…..usually :? .

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on that, perhaps in another blog article??

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    Here is the FBI’s conclusion, and remember, they were ALL ABOUT 10mm, but have switched to 9mm. My thoughts will follow at the bottom

    FBI 9MM Justification, FBI Training Division
    This has been making its way around the Internet and we thought it was worth sharing.

    May 6, 2014

    FBI Training Division: FBI Academy, Quantico, VA

    Executive Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

    Caliber debates have existed in law enforcement for decades
    Most of what is “common knowledge” with ammunition and its effects on the human target are rooted in myth and folklore
    Projectiles are what ultimately wound our adversaries and the projectile needs to be the basis for the discussion on what “caliber” is best
    In all the major law enforcement calibers there exist projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing LEO’s in a shooting incident and there are projectiles which have a high ting incident likelihood of succeeding for LEO’s in a shooting incident
    Handgun stopping power is simply a myth
    The single most important factor in effectively wounding a human target is to have penetration to a scientifically valid depth (FBI uses 12” – 18”)
    LEO’s miss between 70 – 80 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident
    Contemporary projectiles (since 2007) have dramatically increased the terminal effectiveness of many premium line law enforcement projectiles (emphasis on the 9mm Luger offerings)
    9mm Luger now offers select projectiles which are, under identical testing conditions, I outperforming most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI
    9mm Luger offers higher magazine capacities, less recoil, lower cost (both in ammunition and wear on the weapons) and higher functional reliability rates (in FBI weapons)
    The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)
    There is little to no noticeable difference in the wound tracks between premium line law Auto enforcement projectiles from 9mm Luger through the .45 Auto
    Given contemporary bullet construction, LEO’s can field (with proper bullet selection) 9mm Lugers with all of the terminal performance potential of any other law enforcement pistol caliber with none of the disadvantages present with the “larger” calibers
    Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

    Rarely in law enforcement does a topic stir a more passionate debate than the choice of handgun caliber made by a law enforcement organization. Many voice their opinions by repeating the old adage “bigger is better” while others have “heard of this one time” where a smaller caliber failed and a larger caliber “would have performed much better.” Some even subscribe to the belief that a caliber exists which will provide a “one shot stop.” It has been stated, “Decisions on ammunition selection are particularly difficult because many of the pertinent issues related to handguns and ammunition are firmly rooted in myth and folklore.” This still holds as true today as it did when originally stated 20 years ago.

    Caliber, when considered alone, brings about a unique set of factors to consider such as magazine capacity for a given weapon size, ammunition availability, felt recoil, weight and cost. What is rarely discussed, but most relevant to the caliber debate is what projectile is being considered for use and its terminal performance potential.

    One should never debate on a gun make or caliber alone. The projectile is what wounds and ultimately this is where the debate/discussion should focus. In each of the three most common law enforcement handgun calibers (9mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 AUTO) there are projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing law enforcement officers and in each of these three calibers there are projectiles which have a high likelihood of succeeding for law enforcement officers during a shooting incident. The choice of a service projectile must undergo intense scrutiny and scientific evaluation in order to select the best available option.

    Understanding Handgun Caliber Terminal Ballistic Realities

    Many so?called “studies” have been performed and many analyses of statistical data have been undertaken regarding this issue. Studies simply involving shooting deaths are irrelevant since the goal of law enforcement is to stop a threat during a deadly force encounter as quickly as possible. Whether or not death occurs is of no consequence as long as the threat of death or serious injury to law enforcement personnel and innocent third parties is eliminated.

    “The concept of immediate incapacitation is the only goal of any law enforcement shooting and is the underlying rationale for decisions regarding weapons, ammunition, calibers and training.”1

    Studies of “stopping power” are irrelevant because no one has ever been able to define how much power, force, or kinetic energy, in and of itself, is required to effectively stop a violent and determined adversary quickly, and even the largest of handgun calibers are not capable of delivering such force. Handgun stopping power is simply a myth. Studies of so?called “one shot stops” being used as a tool to define the effectiveness of one handgun cartridge, as opposed to another, are irrelevant due to the inability to account for psychological influences and due to the lack of reporting specific shot placement. In short, extensive studies have been done over the years to “prove” a certain cartridge is better than another by using grossly flawed methodology and or bias as a precursor to manipulating statistics. In order to have a meaningful understanding of handgun terminal ballistics, one must only deal with facts that are not in dispute within the medical community, i.e. medical realities, and those which are also generally accepted within law enforcement, i.e. tactical realities.

    Medical Realities

    Shots to the Central Nervous System (CNS) at the level of the cervical spine (neck) or above, are the only means to reliably cause immediate incapacitation. In this case, any of the calibers commonly used in law enforcement, regardless of expansion, would suffice for obvious reasons. Other than shots to the CNS, the most reliable means for affecting rapid incapacitation is by placing shots to large vital organs thus causing rapid blood loss. Simply stated, shot placement is the most critical component to achieving either method of incapacitation.

    Wounding factors between rifle and handgun projectiles differ greatly due to the dramatic differences in velocity, which will be discussed in more detail herein. The wounding factors, in order of importance, are as follows:

    A. Penetration:

    A projectile must penetrate deeply enough into the body to reach the large vital organs, namely heart, lungs, aorta, vena cava and to a lesser extent liver and spleen, in order to cause rapid blood loss. It has long been established by expert medical professionals, experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds, that this equates to a range of penetration of 12?18 inches, depending on the size of the individual and the angle of the bullet path (e.g., through arm, shoulder, etc.). With modern properly designed, expanding handgun bullets, this objective is realized, albeit more consistently with some law enforcement projectiles than others. 1 Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness: Firearms Training Unit, Ballistic Research Facility, 1989.

    B. Permanent Cavity:

    The extent to which a projectile expands determines the diameter of the permanent cavity which, simply put, is that tissue which is in direct contact with the projectile and is therefore destroyed. Coupled with the distance of the path of the projectile (penetration), the total permanent cavity is realized. Due to the elastic nature of most human tissue and the low velocity of handgun projectiles relative to rifle projectiles, it has long been established by medical professionals, experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds, that the damage along a wound path visible at autopsy or during surgery cannot be distinguished between the common handgun calibers used in law enforcement. That is to say an operating room surgeon or Medical Examiner cannot distinguish the difference between wounds caused by .35 to .45 caliber projectiles.

    C. Temporary Cavity:

    The temporary cavity is caused by tissue being stretched away from the permanent cavity. If the temporary cavity is produced rapidly enough in elastic tissues, the tensile strength of the tissue can be exceeded resulting in tearing of the tissue. This effect is seen with very high velocity projectiles such as in rifle calibers, but is not seen with handgun calibers. For the temporary cavity of most handgun projectiles to have an effect on wounding, the velocity of the projectile needs to exceed roughly 2,000 fps. At the lower velocities of handgun rounds, the temporary cavity is not produced with sufficient velocity to have any wounding effect; therefore any difference in temporary cavity noted between handgun calibers is irrelevant. “In order to cause significant injuries to a structure, a pistol bullet must strike that structure directly.”2 2 DiMaio, V.J.M.: Gunshot Wounds, Elsevier Science Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1987, page 42.

    D. Fragmentation:

    Fragmentation can be defined as “projectile pieces or secondary fragments of bone which are impelled outward from the permanent cavity and may sever muscle tissues, blood vessels, etc., apart from the permanent cavity”3. Fragmentation does not reliably occur in soft tissue handgun wounds due to the low velocities of handgun bullets. When fragmentation does occur, fragments are usually found within one centimeter (.39”) of the permanent cavity.4 Due to the fact that most modern premium law enforcement ammunition now commonly uses bonded projectiles (copper jacket bonded to lead core), the likelihood of fragmentation is very low. For these reasons, wounding effects secondary to any handgun caliber bullet fragmentation are considered inconsequential. 3 Fackler, M.L., Malinowski, J.A.: “The Wound Profile: A Visual Method for Quantifying Gunshot Wound Components”, Journal of Trauma 25: 522?529, 1958. 4 Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness: Firearms Training Unit, Ballistic Research Facility, 1989.


    Any discussion of stopping armed adversaries with a handgun has to include the psychological state of the adversary. Psychological factors are probably the most important relative to achieving rapid incapacitation from a gunshot wound to the torso.5 First and foremost, the psychological effects of being shot can never be counted on to stop an individual from continuing conscious voluntary action. Those who do stop commonly do so because they decide to, not because they have to. The effects of pain are often delayed due to survival patterns secondary to “fight or flight” reactions within the body, drug/alcohol influences and in the case of extreme anger or aggression, pain can simply be ignored. Those subjects who decide to stop immediately after being shot in the torso do so commonly because they know they have been shot and are afraid of injury or death, regardless of caliber, velocity, or bullet design. It should also be noted that psychological factors can be a leading cause of incapacitation failures and as such, proper shot placement, adequate penetration, and multiple shots on target cannot be over emphasized. 5 Ibid.

    Tactical Realities

    Shot placement is paramount and law enforcement officers on average strike an adversary with only 20 – 30 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident. Given the reality that shot placement is paramount (and difficult to achieve given the myriad of variables present in a deadly force encounter) in obtaining effective incapacitation, the caliber used must maximize the likelihood of hitting vital organs. Typical law enforcement shootings result in only one or two solid torso hits on the adversary. This requires that any projectile which strikes the torso has as high a probability as possible of penetrating deeply enough to disrupt a vital organ.

    The Ballistic Research Facility has conducted a test which compares similar sized Glock pistols in both .40 S&W and 9mm calibers, to determine if more accurate and faster hits are achievable with one versus the other. To date, the majority of the study participants have shot more quickly and more accurately with 9mm caliber Glock pistols. The 9mm provides struggling shooters the best chance of success while improving the speed and accuracy of the most skilled shooters.


    While some law enforcement agencies have transitioned to larger calibers from the 9mm Luger in recent years, they do so at the expense of reduced magazine capacity, more felt recoil, and given adequate projectile selection, no discernible increase in terminal performance.

    Other law enforcement organizations seem to be making the move back to 9mm Luger taking advantage of the new technologies which are being applied to 9mm Luger projectiles. These organizations are providing their armed personnel the best chance of surviving a deadly force encounter since they can expect faster and more accurate shot strings, higher magazine capacities (similar sized weapons) and all of the terminal performance which can be expected from any law enforcement caliber projectile.

    Given the above realities and the fact that numerous ammunition manufacturers now make 9mm Luger service ammunition with outstanding premium line law enforcement projectiles, the move to 9mm Luger can now be viewed as a decided advantage for our armed law enforcement personnel.

    I have always been a shooter. My Dad was a Navy SEAL, and more importantly, a Gunner’s Mate…I grew up shooting hundreds of rounds a week regularly. When I joined the military, I went Special Ops also, just in the Air Force. We got to choose our own weapons, within reason. Our 3 primary weapons were an AR, an HK MP5, and a M9 or M11. Some of us chose to carry a 1911 in .45, but there are 2 problems with that. First, you only have 7 or 8 rounds in the mag + 1 in the chamber vs 12 or ore +1, and the only purpose of a pistol is to allow you to get to your rifle. Second, carrying multiple calibers is not efficient.

    My personal philosophy on caliber has changed over the years, and has a few factors. One is ammo availability. My two goto calibers are 5.56mm and 9mm. If a SHTF situation ever does occur, the 3 most common calibers in the US are .22, 9mm and 5.56, making the ability to resupply hopefully easier. Don’t get me wrong, I still have other caliber guns, but my main focus is 9mm and 5.56. I have a couple rifles in .308, some guns in .22, and two 1911’s in .45, but they are collectors items that were my Dad’s and will one day get passed down to my son. I also have a shorty AR in 300 Blackout. Focusing on the two like I have allows me to make bulk purchases (1000 or more rounds at a time) easier.

    To me, caliber is less important than ammo choice. My carry pistols all have Speer Gold Dot in them and IMHO, it is one of the best performing personal defense rounds available. I have killed a hog with a suppressed 9mm shooting Speer Gold Dot and I was pleased with the performance. I am most likely to come across a person, a hog, a coyote or snake, all which I know I can take down with a 9mm…especially 16 rounds of 9mm.

    Lastly, I like to shoot suppressed a lot, and prefer to limit the suppressors I have to buy, and the tax stamps I have to pay for (and wait for). I currently have two 5.56 suppressors (one for carbine, one for my AR pistols) and two 9mm cans, one for my Sig MK25 and the other for my Sig MPX sub-gun.

  4. Avatar


    As one of those who is currently researching carry options, I have nearly settled on the Sig P320 compact and/or the Glock 17 (?) carry option. I may be wrong on the configurations of these items, as my handgun experience is limited to double stack .45s, and military training with the M9 and 1911. I do have other experience with long arms, but I prefer the larger caliber rifles like the M-14 and the M1 Garand, over the M-16 variants, but that is also a service-related bias. (Former Navy) I like the Ribz packs I’ve seen, and like the idea of having the handgun weapon on the chest when hiking vs on the belt or in the pack.

    For some reason a great quote from the movie, “Quigley Down Under” comes to mind. “I said I didn’t have much use for one. Didn’t say I didn’t know how to use it.” Referring to the Colt Shooter, a great movie by the way.

    I’ve ruled out the smaller subcompacts that are single stack 9s, like the M&P Shield. I can’t fit my hand around the grip with the magazine out, and I definitely don’t want my hand fat getting in the way of a mag switch. Plus, I do tend to like more reload options, as that is how I have previously trained.

    As to carry “all the time”: I agree with all about this being a mindset; are you willing to use deadly force, and with that, face the long term legal and mental challenges to those choices? My other suggestion to consider is what I call the “Likelyhood” matrix. How likely are you to be in a situation where you will need to use deadly force for defense? Is avoiding those situations a better option than arming up for those contingencies?

    And, how trained up are you? Myself, not much, I would be likely more dangerous to myself (And others) without proper training. Also, regarding mindset, how likely are you to engage into a conflict (Aggressive driving comes to mind) when you are armed, vs when you are not? My belief, and the research shows out, that the reaction will not beat the action. Unless, you are so trained to be “condition red” all the time and have the tactical skills and equipment to match.

    This is similar to the whole backpacking philosophy; will you be the Boy Scout and follow the “be prepared” motto, “one is none, and two is one”, or follow the “not needed, so not carried” motto of the ultra light community? (Shorten your tooth brush, carry a tiny blade, no extra weight, etc.) I’m in favor of carrying more, but the options tend to suffer as a result. (Like removing your concealed carry to go mail a letter; remembering to lock your car consistently, dressing around the weapon, training, training, and more training, etc.)

    All these are good philosophical discussions, and consider that “failing to plan is planning to fail”. And, practically, my current career choice has me visiting and working in “gun-free” zones, another whole discussion for a later date!

    So, I don’t carry currently, but am exploring options and will be making firearms purchases in the near future with the option to “concealed carry” in my option explorations.

    Take it easy,

  5. Avatar


    added a picture to the blog post that I wanted to include but couldn’t find.


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