The Best Firearms for Wilderness Protection

by Bogota

When venturing into the wilderness, whether for hiking, camping, or exploring, the need for personal protection is paramount, especially in areas where dangerous wildlife is present. Selecting the right firearm for wilderness protection involves balancing considerations such as weight, caliber, reliability, and versatility. Here we discuss some of the best firearms for wilderness protection, taking into account these factors and the types of wildlife one might encounter.

Handguns for Bear Country

  1. Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum: The .44 Magnum revolver, such as the Smith & Wesson Model 629, is a popular choice for protection against large predators like bears. Its stopping power is renowned, and the revolver’s reliability is critical in emergency situations. The Model 629 offers a stainless steel construction, reducing maintenance concerns in harsh wilderness conditions. However, its recoil can be substantial, requiring practice and strength to handle effectively.
  2. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan: Designed specifically for bear country, the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan packs a powerful punch in a relatively compact frame. Chambered in .454 Casull, it offers superior stopping power for any North American predator. Its short barrel makes it easier to carry and draw in a pinch, but like the .44 Magnum, it has significant recoil and requires training to use effectively.

Rifles for Versatility

  1. Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in .45-70: The Marlin 1895 Guide Gun is a lever-action rifle chambered in .45-70 Government, a caliber capable of stopping large animals. Its compact design and powerful cartridge make it ideal for navigating dense forests and for protection against bears and moose. The rifle’s lever-action allows for rapid follow-up shots, an essential feature in dangerous encounters.
  2. Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle: The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, chambered in .308 Winchester, is designed for versatility and reliability. Its bolt-action design ensures accuracy and dependability, while the .308 caliber provides sufficient stopping power for most North American wildlife. The rifle’s lightweight and compact size make it suitable for long treks in the wilderness.

Shotguns for Close Encounters

  1. Mossberg 500 Mariner: A shotgun, such as the Mossberg 500 Mariner, is an excellent choice for wilderness protection, especially for its versatility in ammunition. The Mariner model is designed with a corrosion-resistant finish, making it suitable for wet environments. Loaded with slugs, it can stop large animals at close range, and switching to birdshot or buckshot allows for defense against smaller threats.
  2. Remington 870 Express Super Magnum: The Remington 870 is a reliable, pump-action shotgun that can fire a variety of shells, including the powerful 3½-inch 12-gauge magnum slugs. It’s an affordable, versatile option for those who may encounter a range of wildlife threats. Its durability and ease of use have made it a favorite among outdoorsmen and law enforcement alike.

Considerations for Choosing a Wilderness Protection Firearm

Caliber and Ammunition: The choice of caliber is critical. It must be powerful enough to stop a large predator but not so heavy that it becomes impractical to carry. Ammunition type is also essential, as different situations may call for different loads (e.g., slugs for bear, birdshot for snakes).

Weight and Portability: Weight is a significant consideration, especially for those covering long distances on foot. A firearm should be light enough to carry comfortably but not at the expense of necessary firepower.

Reliability: In a wilderness survival situation, the reliability of your firearm is non-negotiable. Conditions can be harsh, and there may be no opportunity for a second shot.

Training and Familiarity: Regardless of the firearm chosen, one must be proficient in its use. This means regular practice under conditions similar to those expected in the wilderness. Familiarity with the firearm’s operation, maintenance, and ammunition requirements is crucial for safety and effectiveness.


Choosing the best firearm for wilderness protection is a deeply personal decision that depends on the specific circumstances of your adventure, including the wildlife you expect to encounter and your comfort and proficiency with firearms. Whether you opt for a powerful handgun, a versatile rifle, or a reliable shotgun, the key is preparation, practice, and respect for the tool you carry. Remember, the primary goal is to enjoy the wilderness safely and responsibly, with the hope that you never need to use your firearm in defense. For those looking into versatile and reliable firearms, CMMG offers a range of options that cater to the diverse needs of outdoor enthusiasts.

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