The big cottonmouth just would not leave well enough alone, every time I would take a stick and push him out of my ground blind he would return. I was wild hog hunting in Georgia and really didn’t want to shoot the invader with a .375 JDJ. It seemed a little like overkill and I really didn’t want the loud report. After three tries to scare the determined snake away, I simply pulled out the H&R Model 999 in .22LR I carried as a belt gun and ended the standoff. Belt guns do have a place in hunting and fishing.
I have carried a belt gun when afield since my early trapping days back in the 50s. From the beginning, the need for a belt gun has been apparent, even when my primary firearm was a hunting rifle or handgun. During warm-weather fishing trips or woods roaming, I have had to use a S&W Model 60 .38 Special or Ruger Single Six .22 LR loaded with shot loads to dispatch a rattlesnake, copperhead or cottonmouth that presented a potential threat. During several of my hunts, handguns like the .22 S&W Kit Gun or Rossi .22, gave the coup de grace without destroying a cape. On two occasions, during my wildlife career, feral dogs required the use of my belt gun. And there is the time, while on a spring scouting trip, when I am sure the Kimber .45 on my hip kept two “weed” farmers from taking the matter of my “being there” any further.
Belt Guns for Dangerous Game Backup
Selecting the right belt gun for different situations is one of personal choice but some thought needs to be given as to which belt gun goes on what trip. In North America the most extreme situation is when hunting in big bear country. Back in the middle 1980s I wrote a book entitled Hunting North America’s Big Bears. At that time there was not one documented case of a hunter saving himself from a grizzly attack with a handgun. However since then the big revolver calibers have been moved up from a maximum of a .44 Magnum to the .454 Casull, .500 S&W Magnum, .460 S&W and .480 Ruger. I know of at least one documented case of the .454 Casull saving a hunter’s life.
I now have in my handgun battery one of the Ruger Redhawk Alaskans in .454 Casull for my ventures into bear country. Other good choices of belt guns for backup when hunting dangerous game include the new S&W Model 460ES, S&W Model 500ES, and Freedom Arms Model 83. I don’t think I need to remind anyone reading this that handguns, even handguns for backup, are not permitted in Canada, so leave your belt gun at home when hunting in that country.
Belt Guns For “Ferals”
The second most extreme situation in the backcountry is coming upon one of the two legged, critters, some call human, that are up to no good. A Model 1911- type Kimber, Springfield Armory, Sig, Taurus, Colt or S&W can be of comfort to have in a holster close by your side. The slab sided autos are easy to carry and with .45ACP hollow point loads they can do the job on feral dogs as well as two legged “dogs.” And, for whatever it is worth, it is my opinion that feral dogs are a far greater risk than bears or “sick” humans in the backcountry.
Belt Guns For “No-Shoulders”
In snake country any of the compact .38 Special or .357 magnums loaded with CCI shot-loads are like a small shotgun at close range. Also, the shot loaded Federal .22 LR loads do a good with dispatching of a venomous “no-shoulders” that get too close. Taurus has a new line of .410 revolvers in the Model 4410 lineup. They are 5-shot revolvers chambered for .410 shotshell in 2.5-in. or .45 Colt cartridges. In the .410 it is an excellent snake gun.
Belt Guns For “Camp Meat”
Another use I have made of belt guns while handgun hunting is bringing back to camp meat for the pot. Two of my favorite small game handguns has been the semi autoloader Ruger 22/45 Mark III and the Browning BuckMark. These flat sided .22LR pistols ride well on the hip when hunting and are accurate enough to take squirrel, grouse, and rabbit.
Holsters Are a Matter Of Choice
For carrying the sidearm on a hunt I like a Cordura nylon belt holster or a quality leather holster. The belt holster does not get in the way of long gun shooting, as a shoulder holster can, and when made from Cordura nylon it conforms to the various positions I get into when hunting. For fishing, especially when wad fishing, and canoeing I like a shoulder holster. With the number of good holsters available today it is not hard to find the right holster for your belt gun and your style of hunting.
The belt gun, when properly selected, can be a good companion on any hunting or fishing trip and you will be surprised at how many uses you can find for it on any outing. As often as not it can be a fun plinker to use during down time in camp.