Having a sidearm may not be the first thing you think of when looking for equipment for hunting. However, it’s something that could save your life.
Not all sidearms are made equally, though. Some have a much better value and are more appropriate for emergencies than other weapons.
The important things to consider are the optic/sight, type of danger you face, type of handgun, ammo capacity, size and weight, and the carry system.
Do You Even Need a Sidearm for Hunting?
If you’re talking about weapons that you’ll be using to actually hunt, then no. You’ll either be using your hunting rifle, a crossbow, or a bow and arrow.
However, it is a need if you want to hunt safely. There are many situations where having a backup handgun sidearm can save your life.
For example, if you’re hunting using your crossbow and you’ve just shot and need to reload. Suddenly a wild bear or mountain lion starts charging toward you.
Without a sidearm, you’d be defenseless. That’s why having a backup handgun for self-defense ready to go is really important to have. It also helps you finish off targets for more humane kills.
Things to Look Out for When Picking a Sidearm for Hunting
Here are the things you should be looking out for when choosing a sidearm as a backup for hunting.
While there isn’t anything wrong with iron sights at close range, red dot reflex sights are still ideal for achieving clarity on target and offer an unobstructed aiming point.
While you’ll already have a red dot, holographic weapon sight, or scope on your hunting rifle or crossbow, having one on your backup sidearm is also quite helpful.
PRO TIP: While many red dot reflex sights have a long battery life, you should still verify and check to see if the batteries have run out before you go on a hunting trip.
Type of Danger That Could Be Encountered
You should consider what danger you’ll most likely encounter based on what type of game you’re hunting and which region you’re in.
When you’re hunting out west, the most likely predators you’ll want to protect yourself from are large predators like bears, mountain lions, and wolves.
This means you’ll want to get a sidearm with more stopping power, like a revolver with .44 Magnum rounds. If you’re in the South, feral hogs and even alligators are a legitimate concern.
Revolver or Semi-Auto
This consideration will come down to personal preference, except when it comes to durability and reliability under extended periods of storage with no use.
Single-action revolvers have a much better track record of working with lots of dust and even when not fired for a long time. However, this doesn’t mean semi-autos are unreliable.
A good M1911 is a great option that many people prefer because they’re comfortable to use, accurate to shoot with and have the right amount of stopping power. When it comes to life and death, you’ll want a gun that shoots well.
How much ammo you’ll want in either the moon clip of your revolver or the semi-auto’s magazine is another crucial consideration to make.
Usually, smaller caliber magazines can fit more rounds in them because of their size, while larger caliber rounds mean you can carry fewer rounds per load.
If you’re confident you’ll need less than 5-6 rounds, then a revolver is a good option, but if you want more, you’ll have to get a semi-auto with a larger magazine capacity.
That said, a larger magazine capacity also affects the weapon’s weight, as more bullets mean a heavier weapon overall.
Size and Weight
If your sidearm is too heavy and big to carry around comfortably, you might want to avoid bringing it along, which defeats the purpose of having a sidearm for self-defense.
You should get one that isn’t too heavy to bring along but still has enough stopping power to dispatch large predators like bears efficiently.
Handguns that are balanced well from front to back are also ideal for accuracy if you’re ever caught in a situation where you’ll only have one hand to use.
How you carry the sidearm every time you go hunting is also vital because you’ll want it to be close by and not packed deep inside your backpack.
When you buy a handgun, you should also get a holster that you can quickly access that doesn’t let the gun fall out easily.
You should also get a holster that doesn’t restrict your movement. You don’t want it chafing against your body when trudging long distances.
Benefits of Using a Sidearm for Hunting
- Only firearm you need to carry if you’re bow hunting
- Not a big hassle to carry around versus an extra rifle
- Most states allow you to carry one when hunting
- Switching to your pistol is faster than reloading
Frequently Asked Questions
After learning more about sidearms for hunting and what to look for, you might still have some questions about caliber, bear spray, or other related topics.
What Is the Best Caliber for Hunting Protection?
The best calibers are .41 or .44 Magnum, 10mm Auto, or .45 ACP. These calibers are small enough that many handguns offer them but powerful enough to deal with large predators.
Is Bear Spray or a Sidearm Better?
You should always carry bear spray if you’re hunting in a region with many of them around. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry a sidearm, as it won’t be as effective as a bullet.
What Is the Most Popular Handgun Caliber?
The 9mm Parabellum round is currently the most popular handgun caliber, followed by .45 ACP. Both rounds are found easily at most outdoor stores.
Can’t I Just Use My Hunting Rifle for Self-Defense?
While you technically can, it’s not ideal, and you might get caught in sticky situations. Most hunting rifles have a zoomed-in scope, making it hard to shoot at close range.
Having a sidearm with iron sights or a low zoom reflex sight can help with aiming better at wild animals charging at you in close range.
Having a sidearm for hunting is something that often gets overlooked in guides, but it’s something that could save your life one day.
Just make sure to look for one that fits your skill level, needs, and preferences. Always stay safe when hunting!