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camp and trail guns

Hot Picks From .22 Plinkers To Bear-Country Big Bores

This content is sponsored by Guns.com

When venturing into the great outdoors, the choice of a handgun can be crucial for both utility and self-defense. Whether you’re looking for a versatile .22 rimfire handgun for small game and general use or a high-power pistol for backcountry bear defense, selecting the right camp and trail gun is essential. Here’s a guide to some of the best options available.

dead raccoon shot with a keltec prm 30
This raccoon with a missing tail met its maker via a Keltec PMR 30.

.22 Rimfire Handguns

Tried and true .22 rimfire handguns are popular among outdoor enthusiasts for their versatility, light recoil, and affordable ammunition. These handguns are excellent for small game hunting, target practice, and can serve as a reliable backup firearm. Here are some top choices:

Ruger Mark IV 22/45

Overview: The Ruger 22/45 is known for its reliability, accuracy, and ease of maintenance. It features a simple, one-button takedown for easy cleaning. The latest rendition of the 22/45 is the Mark IV, but I’ve still got my first generation 22/45 that I had the muzzle female threaded ½-28 TPI to accept a threaded tube to allow attachment of a suppressor. Thankfully, every version from the factory these days comes threaded for a suppressor. If you’re looking for a deal on a new or used Ruger 22/45, they’re as common as ticks on a hound’s ear on Guns.com, and at some really affordable prices.

ruger 22/45

Specs: It typically comes with a 4.2- to 5.5-inch barrel, adjustable rear sights, and a capacity of 10+1 rounds of .22 LR.

Best Use: Ideal for target shooting, plinking, and small game hunting.

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory

Overview: This handgun offers excellent accuracy and modularity. The SW22 Victory comes with a match-grade barrel and a fiber-optic front sight.

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory

Specs: It usually includes a 5.5-inch barrel and has a capacity of 10+1 rounds of .22 LR ammo.

Best Use: Great for competitive shooting, small game, and general outdoor use.

Keltec PMR 30

Overview: Known for its ergonomic design and smooth trigger pull, the Keltec PMR 30 is a rugged favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. It fires the .22 WMR round, which is quite a bit hotter than the standard .22 LR.

keltec pmr 30
Around the farm, the author carries his Keltec PMR 30 on the left hip, which frees up his strong-side for doing chores.

Specs: It features a 5.5-inch barrel, adjustable sights, and a 30-round magazine.

Best Use: Perfect for target practice, plinking, and small game hunting. Once the weather gets warm, I carry daily the PMR 30 that I picked up in 2010. It’s got no less than 4,000 rounds down the pipe and still going strong. There’s no telling how many field rats that pistol has sent to rat heaven over the past several years of cutting hay on my Tennessee farm.

Walther WMP

Overview: Walther PPQ M2 fans got jazzed up in October of 2022 when the Walther Magnum Pistol was initially launched. The WMP, chambered in .22 WMR, is a quality semi-auto that offers an optics-ready slide, ambi reloading mechanism that incorporates both paddle and button releases (Quad Release).

Walther WMP
Walther’s WMP has both beauty and ruggedness built into a well-established shooting platform.

Specs: Features a 4.5-inch barrel, two 15-round mags (10-rounders are available for restricted-state gun owners), and an overall weight of 27.8 ounces (empty). 

Best Use: Perfect for target practice, plinking, small game/critter dispatching, and all-around adventure seekers. In a pinch, the WMP can pull personal defense duty.

High-Power Pistols for Bear Defense

In bear country, carrying a high-power handgun can mean the difference between life and death. The ideal handgun for bear defense should have stopping power, reliability, and manageable recoil. Here are some top contenders:

Smith & Wesson Model 29

Overview: The Model 29 (or lately the 629) is a .44 Magnum revolver, renowned for its power and reliability. It’s a favorite among those who venture into bear territory.

Smith & Wesson Model 29

Specs: Since its introduction in 1957, barrel lengths ranging from a stubby 3-inch to a 10 5/8-inch got the attention of Hollywood and Dirty Harry Calahan made it famous. Sporting a 6-round cylinder, hot and heavy loads abound that can change a bear’s mind fast. Want to do some plinking, just load up some milder .44 Special.

Best Use: Excellent for bear defense due to its stopping power and durability. Not bad as a plinker with .44 Special loads.

Glock 20

Overview: The Glock 20, chambered in 10mm Auto, is a semi-automatic pistol known for its reliability and capacity. It offers a balance of power and capacity.

Specs: Includes a 4.6-inch barrel and a 15-round magazine.

Glock 20

Best Use: Suitable for those who prefer a semi-automatic handgun with a higher capacity for bear defense.

Taurus Raging Hunter

Overview: Available in calibers like .454 Casull, the Taurus Raging Hunter is built for power and precision. It has a ported barrel to reduce recoil. If you want to tame this bull, load up a cylinder full of .45 Long Colt and do some plinking.

Specs: Typically features a 6.5-inch barrel and a 5-round cylinder.

Taurus Raging Hunter

Best Use: Great for those needing a powerful revolver with manageable recoil for bear encounters. Makes for a great whitetail revolver, too!

Considerations for Choosing a Camp & Trail Handgun

When selecting a camp and trail handgun, consider the following factors:

Purpose: Determine whether the primary use will be for hunting small game, target practice, or self-defense against large predators.

Caliber: Choose a caliber that suits your needs. .22 LR is great for small tasks, while .44 Magnum or 10mm Auto is better for bear defense.

Reliability: Opt for a handgun known for its reliability in adverse conditions.

Ease of Maintenance: Select a firearm that is easy to clean and maintain, especially in the field.

Weight and Size: Ensure the handgun is lightweight and easy to carry during long treks.

Recoil Management: Choose a handgun with manageable recoil to ensure accurate follow-up shots.

Parting Pointers

Whether you need a versatile .22 rimfire handgun for everyday tasks or a high-power pistol for bear defense, selecting the right handgun is crucial for safety and effectiveness in the outdoors. Always prioritize reliability, ease of maintenance, and suitability for your specific outdoor activities when choosing your camp and trail handgun.

A Helpful Guide To Buying Semi-Automatic Pistols for Home-Defense
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