Finding the best trail gun is a challenge because every trail calls for a different weapon. Some trails call for a gun that will stop a bear, while others only need to deal with the occasional snake. That having been said, portability is vital for all trail guns, and versatility is usually valuable because most areas contain a variety of potential dangers. Since finding the right trail gun can be hard, we put together this list of ten solid options, based on their portability, reliability, and their ability to perform in an emergency.
10. Smith and Wesson Model 629
|Manufacturer||Smith and Wesson|
|Caliber||.44 Mag/.44 S&W Special|
The Model 629 is an excellent weapon that suffers from a high price. Stainless steel construction makes sure that it won’t rust, even after heavy use in the wilds, and the firing mechanisms are just as reliable as those of any other revolver. It’s a fairly loud weapon, but that is an asset in a trail gun because it can scare away dangerous animals. The weapon does suffer some from high recoil, but most people can handle it. The real downside is the cost, which is too high for casual shooters. Experts should consider this weapon, but intermediate shooters should look for something cheaper.
9. Ruger GP100
The GP100 is not the most powerful trail gun, but it is one of the most convenient. It’s a double-action revolver, so it doesn’t need much maintenance, and it breaks down into subassemblies without special tools for easy cleaning. A triple-locking cylinder also makes it more reliable than most revolvers. The grip frame can take a huge number of custom grips, and the default is heavily padded, so it’s also a comfortable weapon. Those features make it one of the best choices for irregular shooters, especially those that don’t need a huge amount of power to stay safe on the local trails.
8. Glock 20
The G20 is the best trail gun in the Glock collection. The 10mm caliber is unusual, but it does offer enough power to deal with large animals without being excessively large. The gun itself offers excellent ergonomics, replaceable backstraps, and enlarged controls, so it’s very easy to operate even under adverse conditions. Like all Glocks, it is highly reliable, and it should feel familiar to anyone who has used a different Glock before. That makes it an excellent choice for people who own other Glocks, or for novices who want to take advantage of its reliability and ease of use.
7. AR-7 Survival Rifle
|Manufacturer||Henry Repeating Arms|
The AR-7 floats, which makes it the best trail gun for use around the water. It breaks down for storage inside the stock and can be reassembled without special tools, so it’s much more portable than it first appears. It was originally a military weapon, so it offers high accuracy and reliability. The downside is that the small caliber prevents it from dealing with some large threats. Pick it if you expect to deal with small threats, but scale up if you’re dealing with bears.
6. Taurus Raging Bull
The Raging Bull is balanced hunting handgun. It has enough power to stop a bear, it’s fairly reliable, and it has a huge number of special features. Those features include a cushioned insert grip and barrel porting, which make it comfortable for even small shooters to use. It’s also an unusual safe weapon since it includes both a transfer bar safety and a system that can lock down the entire gun with a key. Those bonus features make it the best trail gun for novices, but they can also be useful to shooters who have more experience and want to stay safe.
5. Henry Frontier Rifle
|Manufacturer||Henry Repeating Arms|
The Frontier Rifle is bulky for a trail gun, but it does offer features that compensate for its weight. The ammunition capacity is enormous, and it offers far more accuracy than most of the other guns on this list. The barrel is grooved to take a scope, which can further boost accuracy. A lever action also makes it extremely reliable, even after long periods without significant maintenance or cleaning. Pick this gun if you want a superb survival tool, but be sure to try walking around with it or a similar weapon before you buy, to make sure you can handle the bulk.
4. Marlin Model 1895
The Model 1895 is a specialized weapon. It is only barely light enough to be used as a trail gun, but it also offers a huge amount of killing power. Its lever action design helps with the weight, and also makes it more reliable in adverse conditions. Its limited ammunition capacity is enough for most emergencies, but only for people who can shoot straight under stress. This might be the best trail gun for people who need to be sure that they can drop a bear or other large animal at a distance, but it’s too heavy to be useful outside of those high-risk areas.
3. Savage Model 42 Takedown
|Caliber||22LR over 410 bore|
The Model 42 is the best trail gun for people who love versatility. It’s a break action weapon with one rifle and one shotgun barrel, so it can load an appropriate round for just about any target. It features a very thick recoil pad, so it’s accurate and comfortable. It’s also more portable than most of the competition. The downside is that it only holds one round in each barrel, and needs to be manually cocked before each shot. That makes it unforgiving for novices, but experts will get a lot of use out of it.
2. Mossberg 500
The Mossberg 500 is the top trail gun among shotgun lovers. Reliability is its biggest asset. It has an aluminum receiver, which resists rusting from exposure to the elements. A set of dual extractors and an anti-jam elevator also boost reliability. Ambidextrous controls, including a top-mounted safety, make it appealing for left-handed shooters. Since it’s a shotgun, it tends to be more forgiving of mediocre aim than the other options, so this is one of the top picks for new shooters who need a trail gun, especially those who can deal with the extra bulk of a long gun.
1. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan
|Caliber||454 Casull/480 Ruger/44 Rem Mag|
The Alaskan is meant to take down polar bears, so it can handle almost any threat. It’s often overkill but it’s better to have too much power than too little. The gun is made of stainless steel, so it won’t corrode in the wilderness, and a transfer bar safety makes it safe to carry on rough terrain. An extremely short barrel makes it easy to carry but does cause it to lose some accuracy at long range. That makes this the best trail gun for people who need raw power at short distances, but a cheaper gun might be better for people who don’t need all that power.
Making The Right Choice
The best trail gun is always the one that is tailored to meet the needs of a specific trail, which means that it pays to look at a lot of options. If you know of an option that we overlooked, you should share it in the comment section along with some details about the environments in which you have used it. And to ensure your complete safety at all times, here is a list of body armors you might want to pair with your choice of weapon.