No, not to shoot at hikers. There’s a constant question on different hiking boards and Facebook groups about whether to carry a gun while hiking, and what to carry IF you carry a gun, along with the legalities of such.
Since I started hiking in 2012 I’ve probably walked over 500 miles, and carried a gun exactly twice. Once was just as a test carry, to see how I liked it and what the extra weight was like. There were eight of us in a group, so I didn’t think I would NEED it, but I carried just the same. The other time was on a day hike, which was a geocaching adventure. I didn’t need it there, either, but I was glad I had it during a certain part of the hike. My friend had his, too, and not to get too technical, but there was definitely some creepy factor there. This guy is a narcotic agent, and when he says, “I’m glad I have my gun right now”, one tends to sit up and take notice.
Recently, there was a report of a lady named Kadie who was mauled by some hunting dogs while she was hiking in North Carolina. There’s a big controversy over it because the owners weren’t identified, and the Sheriffs’ Office in the county doesn’t really care to get involved. Apparently, hunting dogs are “protected” in the sense that if they attack people or animals while hunting, the owners can’t be charged with a crime.
Seeing the recent report of the woman and her dogs mauled in NC by hunting dogs, makes me rethink guns. I’d rather drop the dog where he stands than get mauled. Normally I pick up a rock, which I can drop when no longer needed. I have had two occasions where dogs were close enough to make me nervous and go rock hunting. Sure, I carry two trekking poles, but a few ounces of aluminum aren’t going to do a thing to a vicious dog, even if used ineffectively as a spear.
So, the gun discussion came up on Whiteblaze (it’s an AT hiking group, not a center for some White Power movement like it sounds), and I posted the following:
A friend of mine has a Glock 380. It’s a very nice gun, and light. I’ve used the bodyguard BG380 by Ruger, it’s a decent, small, light gun but has a sharp recoil. It’s hard to shoot a lot without wearing out your hand. I have a walther Pk380, but it’s a bit large and heavy. Great gun, shoots well and the recoil is lighter of course.
I haven’t shot one yet, but there are several hammerless airweight revolvers out there in 38 caliber. If I was thru hiking I’d probably want one of those instead… Auto pistols have more parts and are more finicky. Revolvers don’t jam, if they don’t fire you just pull the trigger again, which is good if you don’t shoot much and aren’t used to clearing misfires under pressure (I practice with dummy bullets). Also, if you shoot some dog you aren’t throwing shell casings all over the trail. The biggest problem I see (besides the extra weight) is rust. You’re going to be in the wet, damp, heat/cold, for extended periods. If you don’t check the gun often and oil it, it’s not going to work when you need it. Even aluminum frames will start to pit and oxidize.
Then there’s the legality of it…where can you carry and where is it illegal? A lot of state parks prohibit guns. Odds are unless you use it, no one would know you even have it. But what if you use it? Are you prepared for fines or even jail? I’ve only carried twice on a hike, so I’m not a “gun nut”.
The biggest question is more of an internal one than anything. Could you bring yourself to shoot a dog or worse, a person, especially when it’s going to be just your word against a dead guy about what happened? Questioning whether or not your chosen invisible sky man would approve you shooting something is not something to do when you’re lining up the sights on another creature. You need to figure that out before you go gun shopping.
I’m an avid believer in “hike your own hike”. As long as you don’t trash the woods or hurt anybody, do your own thing. Odds are very high that carrying a gun may give someone a feeling of safety, and the only consequence they will ever have is slightly stronger calf muscles from lugging the extra weight around. Some people are into the full-on open carry thing and love showing off their gun in a holster as they walk along. Tactically that’s just not really safe in a non-military or law-enforcement mode. It puts a lot of people off, and gives your attacker an advantage if there’s someone that really wants to hurt you. To me (and this is just my feelings!) The best gun is the one NO ONE knows is there until a situation arises in which a gun is needed, after which the people involved say, “Wow, I’m glad you had that gun”.
But guns used wrongly or without regard to safety do hurt people. A gun pointed in the wrong direction, for example. A gun fired at a dog on the trail without regard for the hiker coming up the hill behind the dog. A gun used by someone who only fired it once the day it was bought, two years ago, and now it’s being pulled hastily from a holster or pack pocket… as they accidentally shoot a hole through their pack or into the ground or into a bystander. A gun stolen as part of the pack it was carried in, then used by a criminal later for nefarious reasons. Or even a gun turned on its owner by someone much more willing to use it than the person who carried it for 1500 miles.
So before you even go gun shopping, ask yourself; are you willing to commit to practicing with the gun? Are you willing and able to clean and care for it properly? Are you capable of becoming proficient with its use? Are you capable of killing some one or some thing in a crisis situation? And of course, Are you willing to accept the consequences of killing some one or some thing?
Carrying a weapon is a personal choice, but unlike picking a certain water filter or sleeping bag or even whether to use a tent or a hammock, it affects not just you, but those that hike with you and around you. A bad tent choice may only hurt you… not so with a firearm.
Of course, this conversation is about as touchy as abortions or gay marriage or which is better: Ford or Chevy. It usually doesn’t take long to devolve into personal attacks and people yelling at each other. If you have feelings either way feel free to post them, just stay civil.