Back Woods Self Defense

Springfield 1911 10 mm

There is a wide range of opinions and a significant divide between well meaning and reasonable persons about whether to carry a gun in the back country. Without going into a lot of detail I prefer to carry a concealed weapon almost all the time - even at home, work and church.  This subject of whether to carry can be the topic for another equipment article.

Assuming you want to carry a gun, then what type - brand, model, style and caliber - are best?  I recommend a Springfield Armory Ranger Officer Elite Operator steel semi-automatic 1911 in 10 mm caliber. 

The reasons are that SA's pistols are forged instead of stamped metal which is a stronger tool than some other brands.  All steel has more weight and absorbs more recoil for easier and more accurate shooting that most modern polymer pistols, like Glocks and Smith & Wesson M & P's. 

The semi-automatic re-cycling action also absorbs more recoil for less barrel flip and quicker follow up shots.  Compared to the semi-automatic pistol, a revolver holds about half as many cartridges and is much slower to reload.  It also has more muzzle flip.  The revolver can be fired either single action with a much heavier trigger pull; or it can be fired double action which means pulling back the hammer with the thumb that makes for slower follow up shots.  All these features make the semi-automatic faster and easier to shoot and more accurate.  The revolver is also thicker in the mid-section making it less comfortable to carry. 

The 1911 model is slimmer than most modern striker fired (no hammer), double stack magazine pistols, making it more comfortable to carry.  It also has the most safety features of any reasonably available gun.  The external hammer (unlike the striker fired pistols) can be locked back by the strap of a holster so it can't be fired regardless of other conditions.  Next, the grip safety prevents the gun from firing accidentally unless a hand is holding the grip tightly.  Finally the external manual (or thumb) safety has to be flipped to "on" before the gun will fire.  Most available guns models have at most one of these type safeties; I am not aware of any other model with all three. 

10 mm cartridge has more speed and more power than the more common 9 mm and .45 ACP calibers.  Thus the 10 mm is better for defense against tough animals, like wild boar or black bear.  I have been camping and harassed by both types of animals.  It has similare speed and power to a .40 S&W  caliber, but a with little more of both, and it has more models available in the 1911 style.  It is not so heavy as to be hard to carry or shoot.  It can be reasonably be carried concealed in town and other civilized situations.

There is a debate among experts whether the 10 mm caliber is sufficient defense against a grizzly bear.  Some say not to carry less that a .44 magnum or .50 Casull. The .44 and .50 will hit even harder, but they are only available in a revolver, with the disadvantages listed above.  Other experts, including operators of a bear self defense training camp in Idaho, whose teachers are forest rangers, hunting guides and have been actually attacked by grizzly bears and killed them in self-defense, advocate the 10 mm.  So those are the reasons for my choice. 


Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.