Just because the sun is shining bright on your stroll through the forest doesn't mean danger isn't lurking ahead. Pack one of these guns and be prepared.
One morning in mid-June I stopped by my cabin to grab my fishing gear. When I sat my tackle on edge of the shack's porch, I was startled by sudden commotion 6 inches from my hand. Instinctively I lurched back just as six fat feet of diamondback rattlesnake showed me his dental work. Let me tell you, it was impressive! He recoiled and rattled while I regained composure and checked the standing of my shorts.
I don't mind snakes, and I often let them live, but my porch steps are treacherous enough without a pit viper sleeping under them, thank you. So I pulled my .40-caliber Glock 23 and moved around the agitated serpent to avoid shooting my truck. Countering me, Mr. Fangs broke for cover under the porch. Not wanting it to find asylum, but not being able to see its head, I fired, and like usual when I shoot at a snake with a handgun, I was left with ringing ears and a very ticked-off rattlesnake that now dwells under my cabin.
The moral of the story? Handguns are handy, but with normal ammunition, they suck for snakes. Here are five guns that are perfect for summer scouting, camping and snakes on the trail.
Savage Model 42
A .410-shotgun may be the ultimate snake charmer, but who wants to lug a shotgun on a Sunday scouting stroll? Besides, snakes are but one of many rare pitfalls camouflaged on the shadowy path, and plenty of times a rifle and its added range is handier. Savage's Model 42, a newer version of its 70-year-old and wildly popular Model 24, offers the best of both. It's a .410 shotgun and a .22 rifle. Likely marketed for preppers, in reality the Model 42 may be the ultimate camp and truck gun because its cheap plastic stock is indestructible and therefore owners shouldn't worry when it's thrown in the truck box along with the tent stakes. Its break-open action is not fancy; its hammer is stiff; its sights are embarrassingly plastic. Even so, it delivers .410 patterns and .22 Magnum bullets where I aim every time. Had the 42 been with me when I bumped into that big rattlesnake, I'd have no big rattler problem now. $485.
A handgun that fires .410 shells and .45 Long Colt rounds? Put the venerable Taurus Judge at the top of any trail gun discussion. Say you're hanging your treestand and a rabid skunk charges. Blam. Resume hanging the treestand. It's available in stainless steel, so keep it in your holster on your waist and fear not the rust bunnies. Its only downside? Due to its lengthy cylinder that accommodates the .410 shells, a significant gap exists between the .45-caliber bullet, if so loaded, and the lands of the rifling. What this means is that you might not be able to hit a bear's behind with it past 20 yards. Then again, if danger is 20 yards and going away, perhaps you should let it. For critters and human vermin, it's perfect trail medicine. $653.
Turn Any Handgun into a Snake Snuffer
Don't bother buying a new gun for the trail if you already have a handgun you like. Instead, buy a pack of CCI's Blazer centerfire shotshell ammo.
Of course this snakeshot ammo is great for rats and snakes, but it can also provide you with a non-lethal option for lager attackers, if you're feeling charitable. A stinging spray of No. 9 shot will likely make a mountain lion reconsider dining on your flesh, but if it doesn't, you always have the option of following up with a lethal dose of hollow-point persuasion. Shotshells for handguns are available for most common calibers, including .17, .22, .38/.357, 9mm, .40, .45, and more. No. 12 shot is most desirable for rats and snakes, but No. 9 shot is more versatile, allowing a few yards greater range and penetration.
Smith & Wesson Air Lite 351 PD
While any handgun can fire snakeshot, most semi-autos won't cycle these light rounds, so in essence if you fire snakeshot in a semi, you're shooting a single shot. But not so with a revolver. The problem with a revolver, though, is that most are heavy. Therefore, a great trail gun is Smith and Wesson's 351 PD. Thanks to its aluminum alloy frame and cylinder, it weighs just over 10 ounces, so you can put it in your pocket or fanny pack and forget about it. Yet it holds seven rounds of .22 WMR (.22 Mag.). I'm not sure what you think of a .22 Magnum, but the truth is, with solid bullets placed in the perfect spot, there are not many living creatures that it won't teach a swift lesson in proper trail etiquette. If this Smith wasn't as pricey as snakeskin boots, I'd have one in every tackle box. $759.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular rifles of all time, and now it's made even handier by way of a two-piece rifle kit that comes apart in seconds.
Now you can carry your 10/22 in your backpack, tennis racket case, or four wheeler's rack box. Heck, if Indiana Jones would've had this baby, he wouldn't have needed that silly whip. It weighs less than 5 pounds, holds 10 rounds of venerable .22 LR in its rotary magazine and comes with its own backpack-style case. Most decent shots can hit a snake's head with a rifle if the distance is close, but the reason rifles don't dominate this list is because most are impractical to carry while working or scouting in the woods. The 10/22 Takedown is the exception. It can be assembled in seconds if you happen to fall face first into the holy heaps of hell. $399;
Bond Arms Backup
At 20-ounces, Bond Arms' Backup, a derringer-style handgun, is one of the smallest handguns on the market that shoots a .45 ACP. Place snakeshot in one barrel, a hollow-point in the other, put it in your boot and be ready for any little surprise life flings at you. Unlike most derringers, it has a safety, and more importantly, a trigger guard, so it's safe even while in a pocket or pack. Optional barrels are available in .38/.357, .40 S&W and .45 Colt. If it weighed any more, I'd opine for a compact snub-nosed revolver, but there is something cool about this wicked little pocket pistol. $410.
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