There is still a lot of time left in the vacation season. Just because you’re on vacation though doesn’t mean danger is. So it’s important to think about how carrying a firearm might change during various recreational activities. (You can also check out some tips for carrying a firearm while camping.)


I normally have a handgun with me while boating in freshwater, be that on a lake or river. While I don’t expect to have to repel a boarding attempt by pirates or fend off a shark attack in Lake Michigan, I am simply accustomed to having a handgun available and always at the ready.

Carrying on a boat creates specific requirements — whether on a speedboat, pontoon, rowboat, kayak or canoe and on a lake or river. Any gun that I carry on the water could be referred to as a “boat gun,” and it stays on my body at all times.

A boat gun has three characteristics. First, it is light enough that it won’t weigh you down like an anchor if you fall in accidentally or jump in during an emergency. Second, it is inexpensive enough that if you do lose it in the water, it won’t cause a financial hardship. (Aboard ship is not the place for your custom high-end 1911.) Third, it is carried in such a way that it can be easily jettisoned — waist packs work best for this.

These particular specifications do not apply if you are canoeing or kayaking in dangerous bear country, where serious, hard-hitting and deep-penetrating rounds are needed. My favorite carry gun on the water is the lightweight Smith & Wesson M&P five-shot .38 Special with integral laser sight. The Diamondback DB9 I recently tested, or any gun from the SCCY pistol series, would also be a great choice.


Hiking is one of my family’s favorite activities. We are fortunate to live close to many places to hike, ranging from paved paths to remote woods. The requirements for a good hiking gun are similar to those of a boat gun — with the exception of waist-pack carry. The same power upgrades in angry bear country mentioned above apply to hiking guns.

In the warm weather months, keeping the carry gun’s weight to a minimum is critical. The lighter the better since water, snacks, insect spray, a field knife and various other gear will be a part of my load. One of the many handguns that I wish I had kept is the S&W 386 PD Airlite Titantium, a seven-shot L-frame .357 Magnum revolver that had a scandium-aluminum frame and titanium cylinder. Although it was brutal to shoot with magnum loads, you could carry it forever without discomfort. A hiking gun I like today is the Bond Arms two-shooter. The .45 Colt/.410 barrel is great for snake country, and I have also carried my Bond with the 10mm or .357 Magnum barrel affixed in black bear country as additional backup.


Wearing a snowmobile suit or other heavy outer winter clothing makes waist carry difficult. This is where shoulder holsters and chest holsters excel since the activity requires a lot of seated time. My Iver Johnson .38 Super 1911 in an El Paso Saddlery’s 1942 Tanker shoulder/chest military holster would work well. A standard under-the-armpit or cross-chest-type rig is good too. Make sure you practice your access to the rig from a zippered coat to ensure you can get to it smoothly in an emergency.

Wrap Up

The outdoors house some of my favorite activities. Getting out in the great outdoors for some fresh air and sun is, according to a number of reports, also important in building Vitamin D and maintaining a healthy immune system. Select the right gun and carry method for your “mission” and enjoy!

About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.