Five Reasons the 44 Magnum is the Right Choice for Carry in the Woods

So why is 44 Magnum the caliber of choice to carry in the woods? Here are five reasons. We’ll start with the obvious.

1. Bears

I’m not afraid of black bears. I never have been. I’ve stared down 300-pound sows. I’ve held my ground during false charges. I spent years in the backcountry in New Mexico, and never once had a problem I couldn’t handle myself. That’s not to say that a sow with cubs wouldn’t be a threat. So be prepared.

S&W revolver 44 Magnum
The 44 Magnum has great stopping power. It is a heavy bullet that moves reasonably fast.

A well-placed shot with a .44 Magnum will take down any animal in North America, even a buffalo. The emphasis here is on “well-placed.” If you are in bear country, I’d go for a bullet with superb expansion.

2. Hogs

Bears are cute and cuddly things until you threaten their cubs or piss them off. Either way, I see it as your fault. Hogs, on the other hand…. I’ve never met a hog in the wild that was friendly. And those vermin can take a beating.

The best way to ensure a hog won’t be a continued problem is with a serious crack to its thick skull. Again, a hard-nose 44 Magnum will give a hog one massive headache.

The Model 69 in 44 Magnum is big, but not too big.
The Model 69 is big, but not too big.

3. Deer

I had a dog once who wouldn’t listen. We were hiking in the Sangre de Cristos and came across a mule deer. The dog sniffed out its fawn and started playing with it. The mother, not understanding the behavior, took off after the dog and stomped him repeatedly.

I picked up a stick and jumped in to defend the mutt. It didn’t go well for me, the deer, or the dog. The deer got the better end of the deal.

A good 44 Magnum on your belt, though, would allow for a fast draw. This Smith & Wesson Combat Magnum would be a great gun to hang off your belt. While it may be overkill for a mule deer, it would be ideal for an elk, and could even persuade a moose it had better places to be.

4. Snakes

This may be where the .44 suffers the most. If you are going to start blasting away at a snake, I suggest patience. Aim. I’ve been surprised by a snake more than once, and emptied a pistol in its general direction, only to find that I stone-cold missed.

Smith & Wesson Combat 44 Magnum
Five shots. Is that enough?

5. Two legged snakes

I was out this summer, hiking in a remote national park. It is legal to carry in national parks now, so I had this 44 Magnum on my belt. My shirttail was concealing it nicely, but it was there. Long story short…. My wife had gotten ahead of me, by about a mile. When I caught up to her, I found she wasn’t alone. There was a man we did not know, and he was not going away. This sounds cliché but it is true. He was muttering to himself under his breath. And, there’s no other way to say this, he kept glaring at me.

The solution was simple enough. I tucked in my shirt. When he caught sight of the .44 on my belt, he left. That, as they say, was that. I may well have scared an innocent, albeit oddball dude unnecessarily. Or maybe I didn’t.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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