Written By Casey Hartwell

Top 7 Backcountry Sidearms


Introduction: The Call of the Wild 

Hey there, Hunt Bums! Are you gearing up for an adventure into the heart of the wilderness? That’s the spirit! But before you step into the untamed world, let’s talk about a crucial companion for your journey – your sidearm.

In the backcountry, it’s more than a tool; it’s a part of your survival kit.

We’re here to guide you through choosing the best sidearm, focusing on what really counts for rugged, backcountry adventures.


The Unpredictable Backcountry 

The backcountry is a realm of unpredictability and excitement. It’s where you face nature in its raw form – dense forests, steep mountains, and perhaps a few curious critters.

This environment demands a sidearm that’s as reliable and adaptable as you are. We’re talking about something that can handle a bit of mud, rain, and the occasional drop.

It’s about finding the right balance between stopping power for potential predators and something that won’t weigh you down on those long treks.


Deep Dive into Top Sidearms 


  • Glock 20: This 10mm semi-auto pistol is the epitome of reliability. Designed to perform in adverse conditions, its polymer frame and standard 15-round magazine make it a favorite among backcountry enthusiasts.
    • Pros: Exceptional stopping power, ideal for deterring larger wildlife. The high magazine capacity is a bonus when multiple threats arise. It’s also surprisingly lightweight, making it easy to carry on long hikes or climbs.
    • Cons: The recoil might be intimidating for those new to the 10mm round. It lacks some of the aesthetic and ergonomic refinements seen in other models.
    • Ammo Tips: The Underwood Ammo 10mm 180 gr Xtreme Penetrator is a beast against predators, offering deep penetration. For regular training, CCI Blazer 180 gr FMJ rounds are affordable and consistent.


  • Springfield XDM Elite 10mm: A modern-day warrior’s choice, combining the power of the 10mm cartridge with advanced features for unparalleled performance.
    • Pros: The match-grade barrel and high-capacity magazine make it a precision tool for any situation. Its ergonomic design ensures comfort and accuracy, even in high-stress scenarios.
    • Cons: Its advanced features come with a learning curve, and more compact options exist for those who prefer a more subtle sidearm.
    • Ammo Tips: Hornady 175 gr Critical Duty delivers unmatched performance, ideal for stopping predators in their tracks. For practice sessions, Winchester 180 gr FMJ offers reliability without breaking the bank.


  • FN 510: A testament to modern firearm engineering, this high-capacity, striker-fired pistol is built for endurance and performance.
    • Pros: Its large magazine capacity and ergonomic grip make it a reliable choice in various scenarios. The pistol’s design ensures consistent performance, which is critical in the unpredictable backcountry.
    • Cons: It’s on the heavier side, which might be noticeable on longer journeys. The size can also be a factor for those looking for a more compact firearm.
    • Ammo Tips: The Hornady Custom 10mm 180 gr XTP offers superior penetration, crucial for stopping larger predators. The Remington 180 gr UMC is perfect for range shooting, offering good performance at a reasonable price.


  • Colt Python: This revolver is more than a firearm; it’s a piece of history. The .357 Magnum revolver is renowned for its precision, reliability, and iconic status.
    • Pros: Its accuracy is almost unparalleled, making it a top choice for situations where precision is critical. The solid construction means this revolver can take a beating and keep on shooting.
    • Cons: The price point is on the higher end, and it’s heavier than some of its counterparts, which could be a downside during lengthy treks.
    • Ammo Tips: The Federal Premium .357 Magnum 158 gr Swift A-Frame offers outstanding performance for predator defense. The round’s reliability and deep penetration make it a top choice for serious backcountry enthusiasts.


  • Taurus Tracker 627: A robust and versatile revolver, the Taurus Tracker is a practical choice for those who want reliability without a hefty price tag.
    • Pros: Its affordable price makes it accessible to a wider range of hunters and adventurers. The ported barrel design helps manage recoil, making it user-friendly for shooters of various skill levels.
    • Cons: The trigger pull can be stiff, which might affect quick follow-up shots. While durable, it doesn’t quite match the refinement or prestige of higher-end models.
    • Ammo Tips: Buffalo Bore .357 Magnum 180 gr LFN heavy loads are designed for deep penetration, making them suitable for defending against larger predators. For regular use, Blazer Brass 158 gr FMJ rounds are a reliable and cost-effective choice.


  • Ruger GP100: A revolver that’s built like a tank. Its reputation for strength and reliability makes it a favored choice for the ruggedness of the backcountry.
    • Pros: Known for its durability and ease of use, this revolver is a reliable workhorse that won’t let you down. Its heft is beneficial in managing recoil, aiding in accuracy during high-stress encounters.
    • Cons: The bulk and weight might be a downside for those who prioritize portability. It’s not the most subtle of sidearms, but its performance more than makes up for it.
    • Ammo Tips: Winchester .357 Magnum 158 gr Dual Bond rounds offer superior performance for predator defense, with excellent penetration and expansion. They’re a solid choice for ensuring your safety in the wilderness.


  • Smith & Wesson 629: This .44 Magnum is a statement of power and style. It’s a combination of raw stopping power with an aesthetic that appeals to firearm enthusiasts.
    • Pros: The stopping power is beyond question, making it a reliable option for deterring large predators. The design and build quality add to its appeal, making it a prized possession for many.
    • Cons: The significant recoil requires practice and skill to master. Its weight, while aiding in recoil management, might be cumbersome on long backcountry excursions.
    • Ammo Tips: Hornady .44 Magnum 225 gr FTX LEVERevolution rounds are ideal for both hunting and self-defense. They offer excellent terminal performance, ensuring that you’re prepared for any encounter.


Maintenance: The Key to Reliability 

Your sidearm is only as good as the care you give it. Regular maintenance is essential for ensuring your firearm operates reliably, especially in the demanding conditions of the backcountry. Here’s a breakdown of essential maintenance tasks:

  • Cleaning: Your firearm should be cleaned after every use, especially after exposure to harsh conditions like rain, mud, or dust. Disassemble your firearm according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a quality gun cleaning solvent to clean the barrel, chamber, and action. Use a brush to remove any stubborn residues, and then wipe down all parts with a lint-free cloth.
  • Oiling: After cleaning, apply a thin layer of high-quality gun oil to all moving parts. This not only prevents rust but also ensures smooth action of the firearm. Be careful not to over-oil, as this can attract dirt and debris.
  • Magazine Maintenance: Magazines are often overlooked in maintenance routines. Regularly disassemble and clean your magazines to remove dirt and debris. Inspect the springs and followers for wear and replace them if necessary. This helps prevent feeding issues and ensures the reliability of your firearm.
  • Optics and Lights: If your sidearm is equipped with optics or a tactical light, regular maintenance is essential. Ensure that the batteries are fresh, and the lenses are clean. A dirty lens can affect the performance of your optics or light. Use a soft, microfiber cloth to gently clean the lenses.
  • Frequency: The frequency of maintenance depends on how often you use your firearm. If you’re a frequent shooter or often find yourself in harsh conditions, a thorough cleaning every few months is advisable. However, a quick clean should be done after every outing to ensure your firearm is always ready for action.


Conclusion: The Perfect Match for the Backcountry

Choosing the right sidearm for the backcountry is a personal journey. It’s about finding a firearm that resonates with your style, meets your needs, and ensures your safety. Whether you prefer the raw power of a .44 Magnum, speed and imact of the 10mm, or the precision of a .357, the key is finding the balance that works for you. Stay informed, practice regularly, and maintain your firearm well. With the proper preparation and mindset, your backcountry adventures will be safer, more enjoyable, and filled with incredible memories.


Join the Conversation 

Now it’s your turn, Hunt Bums! What are your go-to sidearms for the backcountry? Got any maintenance secrets or favorite ammo brands? Share your experiences and tips in the comments. Let’s learn from each other and keep the backcountry safe and thrilling for everyone!



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