Why Single-Action Revolvers Make Awesome Trail Guns
When it comes to getting the most out of our revolvers, the Uberti USA Posse tries to walk the walk (literally) as well as talk the talk. Fortunately, national parks have become a lot more gun-friendly in the last couple decades, with a 2009 federal law opening them for carrying—pending the laws of the individual state in which you may be hiking. We have therefore taken advantage of this liberty by adding a single-action Uberti USA revolver to our gear list when hiking the many trails around the Shenandoah valley, West Virginia and the surrounding areas. Following are some thoughts about why we think that a single-action revolver makes an awesome trail gun.
To this particular member of the Posse, there are few situations scarier than hearing a grumpy black bear claw at your tent at night, sniffing and grunting in his barbarian ursine language. You become nakedly aware that only a flimsy few microns of fabric separate you from 200 lbs. of pure caniform muscle, claw and dentin, while images from Backcountry freeze in your imagination like icy thumbnails of pure terror. Besides, what’s the inscrutable reason Yogi’s cantankerous relative may have for picking on your particular tent on this particular day? Does your camp live between mama bear and her cub? Do you, after a day’s hike, smell like a tasty filet mignon au jus, ready to be pulled apart into morsels, enjoyed with a side of roots and washed down with a snoutful of fermented berries? This is when it’s tremendously reassuring to slip your hand around the grip of a .45. Yes, there’s always the bear-spray, the infinitely preferable and more humane way to deal with the megacritter (as a friend of mine once said, “hey, bears are cool people”). But if the level of determination of that particular Ursus Americanus is such as to even shrug off the noxious jet of getawayfromme, it’s him or you, and—well—as your mother surely told you at some point in your life, you are unique and special.
This is the point where Audubon types will tell you that you have a greater chance to get struck by lightning than to be mauled by a bear—but people do get stricken by lightning and they do get mauled by bears. Or mountain lions. Or even hooved animals like deer and moose, if you catch them at the wrong time. Or fellow bipeds looking for no good while out in the boonies. And you don’t want to be that exception to the rule, no matter how exceptional. Fires and fire-extinguishers and better having and not using then needing and not having, and all that. So, carrying a revolver is cheap insurance against any such possibility—and, even more importantly, against any anxiety you may have that could make your trip less enjoyable.
My particular kit consists of a 4 ¾” Uberti USA Bisley openly carried in a very Western-looking Safariland Kenda Lenseigne Signature crossdraw holster. While not exactly hi-tech-polymer light, the whole getup does not weigh me down, even on one of the more strenuous hikes like a daily 20-miler along the famed Rollercoaster section of the Appalachian Trail (Harper’s Ferry, WV to Purcellville, VA). The holster fits very snugly at 11 o’clock on a Galco SB5 Sport Belt, which sits right at my waist and gives me plenty of support while (as I mentioned) making the gun feel light. Since I suffer from bear-phobia—or, as the proper psychological condition is called, an arktophobia—for hiking purposes I feed my Bisley with Buffalo Bore’s reassuringly-heavy 255-grain lead semi-wadcutters, which will give me almost rifle-like penetration as well as a respectable 950+ FPS out of my 4 ¾” barrel. Pressure is not +P and is well within SAAMI specs, so it’s perfectly safe to shoot in a Colt clone. Oh, and I do only load 5, since the Bisley does not yet have the retractable firing-pin technology of the newer Uberti USA Cattleman II.
There is also another factor weighing into the choice of a single-action revolver for hiking: the optics. No, I don’t mean those optics—I mean the way the gun will look to other hikers (if it’s open-carried). A single-action revolver in a Western-looking holster will look far less threatening than your average polymer-frame semi-auto in a tactical rig. Yes, I know. It’s your right to keep and bear whatever arms you choose on the trail (as long as it’s legal), and if you are more comfortable with your lightweight hi-cap 9, by all means go for it. In a way, it’s up to us gun people to educate non-gun people to look upon carrying as normal, non-threatening and, most of all, quintessentially American. But to your average Granolio, the sight of an old-West revolver on the trail will make for a far gentler upward slope from “Point Eek!” to “Point OK” than, say, a Glock, H&K, Beretta or Walther.
There are of course other options for carrying on the trail. If you want to go total incognito, you have a myriad of concealed-carry choices, ranging from the fanny-pack to toting your sixgun in your rücksack (less desirable as far as having it handy if you ever need it). I’m personally not a big of inside-the-waistband carry while on the trail because 1) a hike is not like a normal day at the office and you will get chafed and uncomfortable, no matter the quality and fit of the rig and 2) you’ll sweat all over your gun. If you want to go old-West lightweight, the 5 ½” Uberti USA .38 Special 5-shot Old West Self Defense is built on a .22 Stallion frame and features dainty birdshead grips, although its smaller cylinder can only accommodate 5 chambers and give you 4 shots of regular pressure .38. A great compromise would be the Short Stroke CMS KL Pro, which has a 3 ½” barrel and birdshead-like grips, but it offers a full 6-shot cylinder and the assurance of the .45 Colt caliber. The gun also comes with regular SAA-style grips, by the way, sans the KL denomination.
So, if you haven’t done so yet, upon your next hike take your hogleg along with you. It makes for a different experience and, if you’re like me, one that becomes addictive. It carries with it the vestige of a time in history when man saw himself as much more than an economic unit—which is why so many of us relive with our imagination the days of the Old West. In the end, though, it’s all about enjoying your freedom—and enjoying yourself. Check your state’s laws, leave no trace, be safe and responsible, and keep yer powder dry.