I DON'T CARRY A REVOLVER IN THE WOODS: Believe it or not, despite the popularity of .44 mag and .454 Casull and other high power revolver rounds, I do not carry a revolver as a "woods gun". I do not shoot them as well as I shoot semi-automatic sidearms, they are not comfortable and I hate the long trigger pull. My choice for a woods gun is based, in part on what I also carry concealed in town. Muscle memory is everything. Practice and repetition are what make one capable of getting the job done in an emergency situation. So, if I carry a 1911 as my choice for concealed carry, would it not make sense to practice the same muscle memory for both a concealed carry weapon and a woods sidearm? If I instead chose to carry a Glock 19 or even 43 as a concealed carry weapon would it not make sense to use the same platform, if not caliber for a woods gun? Some might disagree due to the level of power out of some of the revolver cartridges out there, but semi-auto cartridges have come a long way as well.
I believe that in western states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and other areas with growing grizzly bear populations, cartridges like .45 ACP, .40, 9mm are all underpowered for a woods carry weapon. But I carry a 1911 for my concealed carry, so what are my options? Enter the .460 Rowland, designed by Johnny Rowland out of Oklahoma. One can order a conversion kit for their 1911 through 460rowland.com or Clark Custom Guns. They claim that the kit will drop right in, it might, it depends on your gun. My .45 ACP is a Colt Rail Gun and I had to have the barrel fit by a gunsmith. I ordered mine from Johnny Rowland's operation, but I have not heard anything negative about the products from Clark Custom.
BUFFALO BORE: .460 ROWLAND IS "SQUARELY AT MID 44 MAG POWER" I won't go into every detail or all of the ballistics, but let's just compare it to .44 mag. Buffalo bore sells a .460 Rowland 255 gr HC-FN that they clocked out of a 5" 1911 (conversion from Clark Custom) at 1300 FPS with 957 foot lbs of energy, this is what I carry in the woods. In contrast, Buffalo Bore's Heavy .44 mag load, that MUST be shot only through specific firearms, is moving a 305 gr at 1478 FPS with over 1600 ft lbs of energy, through a Ruger RedHawks with a 7.5" barrel. The other less powerful .44 mag options sit pretty close in velocity, though they still have an advantage with ft lbs of energy in comparison to the .460 Rowland cartridge.
I know that some folks will read this and be thinking, "but the .44 mag is more powerful, why wouldn't you want more power?" There a few reasons. More ammo, easier reloading, trigger pull, muscle memory and the ability to attach a light are some of my main considerations. In my 1911, 8 in the mag and one in the chamber, I have 50% more ammunition than I would if I were carrying a revolver, or I can carry a 10 round magazine with one in the chamber and have nearly 100% more rounds. It is much easier to quickly reload a semi-auto quickly than a revolver. Reloading was one of the factors in the studies I referenced in last week's post.
Another major factor in the study was simply just being able to hit the target, quickly and accurately. I prefer the single action trigger pull of a 1911, and compared to the long pull of a double action revolver. My drills with my concealed carry weapon (a Springfield EMP) and my drills with my woods gun involve a lot of the same actions, safety, similar trigger, similar sights etc. So my proficiency with my concealed carry weapon has a direct relationship to my proficiency with my woods gun. It takes only a few minutes to change out the barrel from .460 back to .45 ACP, so I can also practice on the cheap. I RARELY shoot any .460 through my gun. One reason I wanted a combat style gun over a revolver is also the ability to have a light attached to the weapon. Walking to where one is hunting in the dark in lion country can be creepy. I like having a light on my weapon for that reason.
I should also point out that .460 Rowland conversion kits are available for Glocks, XD, M&P platforms as well as the 1911. Unlike a lot of shooter's today, I prefer a firearm with a thumb safety. It is arguably an archaic preference. As a corrections officer I had to qualify on a Remington 870, an AR-15 and a Glock 17. During my qualification, if I learned anything, it is that Glocks are in many ways easier to shoot than a 1911. If you own a Glock in .45acp the conversion will run just under $400. Way less expensive than a Ruger Alaskan.
SIRIUS DOGSLED PATROL, A DANISH SPECIAL FORCES UNIT, PREFERS 10MM. They used to carry Sig210, but they found that the 9mm was not effective against polar bears. So if you prefer a Glock, 10mm is a fine option in my opinion as well. The Buffalo Bore outdoorsman 10mm, HC-FN travels at 1200 FPS with 700 ft lbs of energy, giving the .460 Rowland only a slight advantage in velocity and energy over the 10mm. And if one carries a Glock, they have even more ammo than I would out of my 1911. If it were me and I wanted to carry a Glock, I would still likely go for the .460 conversion over the 10mm, partially for the energy but also due to construction. Glock barrels according to some sources (Not Buffalo Bore) are not supposed to have hard cast rounds through them. I don't know all of the arguments there, but if I knew I wanted a Glock, and I was going to put a new barrel in it anyway, I would likely spend the money for a full conversion to have the round with slightly more power.
WHAT IF I ONLY HAVE A 9MM AND I CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY A NEW GUN? Recently I read a story recently of Phil Shoemaker, an Alaskan fishing guide. Not too long ago he decided to pack a 9mm instead of his old .44mag in the woods, guiding a couple on a fishing trip. The ammo he carried was Buffalo Bores 9mm Outdoorsman round which is a Hard cast bullet traveling at 1100 fps. He and his clients ran into a large boar, and he was able to get the job done with his 9mm. So while it would not be my preference, a 9mm, with the right ammunition is capable of getting the job done and Phil's story proves it. The only caveat is that you need to make sure that the round will function in your firearm before you carry it. I attempted to use this in my Springfield EMP and it will not function in that gun. But that should be true of any ammunition one is going to carry for defense purposes. To me, the story leaves me feeling even more confident in my choice with the .460 Rowland.
Here is a link to Phil's story and the Buffalo Bore 9mm ammo.
Here is a link to .460 Rowland ammo via Buffalo Bore's website.
Stay Tuned. Good Luck. Be Safe.