USCCA members and regular readers likely know the firearms and ammunition combinations that will be effective for self-defense. But many of us spend time outdoors, where other threats exist.
Obviously, where you live matters. Wolves have made a huge comeback in recent years across the Northwest. Coyotes have lately been spotted in urban and suburban centers throughout the Midwest. Black bears can be found from Washington State to Florida, and packs of wild dogs are found everywhere — even in residential neighborhoods.
Alligators, once thought endangered, are back with a vengeance here in Florida, where they turn up on golf courses and in homeowners’ backyards!
A seriously growing threat is feral (i.e., wild) hogs. Their numbers are exploding nationwide. They are getting bigger all the time, are extremely aggressive and have nasty tusks capable of ripping open your leg in a single swipe.
Most guns carried for self-defense can be at least somewhat effective for defense against wild (or semi-wild) animals as well. In general, typical self-defense loads in most standard calibers are adequate against modestly sized, thin-skinned animals like coyotes and wolves.
But black bears and wild pigs are bigger, with tough hides and muscular builds, so most experienced hunters recommend heavier, deeper-penetrating loads (either jacketed or hard-cast flat-nose).
Note to Glock owners: Despite persistent claims that hard-cast lead bullets will harm Glock barrels, extensive testing and experience have failed to confirm this. It’s your call.
Without going into a long and overly complicated discussion, let’s look at the most common calibers chosen for self-defense — and what loads might be appropriate for defense against critters.
For smaller animals, 124-grain JHP loads work fine. For bears and hogs, 147-grain jacketed flat-point or hard-cast lead are preferred. Such loads are offered by DoubleTap, Buffalo Bore and others.
Basically any standard 125-grain JHP load is fine for smaller predators. For hogs, black bears and similar animals, 158-grain JSP are a minimum; 180-grain or even 200-grain jacketed flat-nose or hard-cast lead bullets would be preferred.
For wild dogs or wolves, popular 155- or 165-grain JHP loads will do. But when it comes to black bears and wild hogs, use 180- or even 200-grain loads, either heavy-jacketed hollow-points, flat-nose or hard-cast lead bullets.
This is a potent “woods” caliber when loaded with full-power 180-grain or 200-grain JSP or hard-cast lead loads, such as those from Buffalo Bore, Grizzly, DoubleTap, etc.
For woods use, I’d go with a “+P” 230-grain flat-nose bullet or some of the 255-grain flat-nose hard-cast loads. Even 230-grain “ball” ammo is deep-penetrating and adequate against most bears and hogs.
The above is merely a basic overview, and certainly not comprehensive. For example, birdshot is preferable for snakes and is available in most calibers.
Alligators are in a league of their own. Sure, “gator-hunters” can make a brain shot with a .22 Magnum, but they are shooting down at an animal trapped on a line. Try visualizing a blindingly fast, heavily armored, 700-pound gator charging at you. Good luck.
If you’re entering the habitat of brown bears, moose or similarly sized creatures, you really should be carrying at least a .44 Magnum, a .454 Casull or even a .500 S&W Magnum, all with heavy hunting ammo. Alaskan guides typically carry such hardware, not to mention either an “Africa-qualified” rifle or 12-gauge “slug” gun.
Bottom line? As Robert Ruark allegedly quipped, “Bring enough gun.”