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Best Sidearms to Protect Yourself in the Field

Here are some suggestions for the best sidearms to take as protection while hunting.

From the Yellowstone region to Alaska, many hunters in the United States consistently venture out into what we like to call "bear country," frontiers of land that serve as a habitat for grizzlies and other sizable, dangerous bear types.

When hunters head out the door in these regions, they're going after the same animals that the rest of us hunt on a regular basis. They may be baiting whitetail deer during the rut or pursuing an elk into the wilderness, but by hunting within the proximity of known bear habitats, they are shouldering a great deal more risk than the average hunter.

If you've been checking out hunting headlines for long enough, chances are you've read your fair share of stories about grizzly attacks that befell hunters in bear country. Sometimes, these stories are sad, cautionary tales, speaking of a hunter who lost his or her life in a bear attack. Sometimes, they can also be stories of close calls, where the hunter in question managed to get a shot off and kill the bear before it wounded him or her in fatal fashion. And in most cases such as these, the gun that fired the shot at the bear was not the rifle the hunter was using to target elk or deer; instead, it was a sidearm pistol.

Too often, the possession of a sidearm is underrated in the hunting community. Some hunters figure that a puny pistol won't be able to do much against a charging bear; others insist that, in the moment, they will be able to use their rifle to plant a killing shot in the bear's brain; and still others remark that hey, maybe they will buy a sidearm when they've got a bit more money. Our advice? Don't take any of these mantras to be your own. Instead, get a sidearm now, just to be safe. While a rifle may provide you with more killing power, you won't always have it in your hands, loaded and ready to shoot, while you are trekking through the woods. A sidearm can be ready to fire in a split second, and can mean the difference between life and death if you find yourself up against an angry bear.

So which sidearms are the best for the job of stopping big bears? Generally, the higher caliber you can get in a pistol, the better. Bears are strong creatures, with durable hides, bones, and muscles that won't easily be penetrated by a weak caliber bullet. If you've only got one or two shots, you need to make them count.

Luckily, there are a huge number of different sidearms that can make those shots count in the way you need them to. For instance, you might consider a powerfully chambered Magnum (a .357, .41, or .44 should do nicely).

Alternatively, you can opt for a more modern semi-automatic, like the Glock Model G20.

Regardless of which gun you choose, make sure you have the highest caliber chamber possible. In addition, be sure to set aside some time to get comfortable with shooting the weapon and aiming with precision. You wouldn't take your rifle out into the field without any practice, and you shouldn't do so with your sidearm either.

Otherwise, it won't do you much good if and when you need it.

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Best Sidearms to Protect Yourself in the Field