Ah, Pumpkin Spice season – My favorite time of year. While the rest of the world is asking for an additional pump of high fructose corn syrup, hold the nutmeg, I feel the urge to retreat into the woods towards peaceful isolation – black coffee in hand. Strangely enough, I’m not alone in my need to go deeper into nature; the woods are full of animals scrambling to fatten up before the lean months of winter. So, before we venture out, let’s take a look at some ammunition choices for a fall woods gun.
What Round For…T-Rex? Ammunition For Packing A Fall Woods Gun
Before we get started on our little ammo adventure, I think it’s important to touch on a few backwoods reminders that may be helpful to both weekend warriors and experienced woodsman alike.
- You’re more likely to get injured in a car accident on the way to the woods than you are by an attacking animal. Buckle up, slow down and don’t drink and drive and you’ll be way ahead in the safety game.
- Similarly, you are more likely to have issues with two-legged attackers than anything with fur, claws or hooves. Plan accordingly.
- Encountering an animal in the woods is not a blanket excuse to pull a trigger. Most game, including the most fearsome beasts, are more scared of you than you are of them. Keep your distance and stay alert.
- Know your territory. If you are packing enough gun for a Kodiak bear in the Everglades, you either took a wrong turn on I-84 or you got some bad advice.
Expanding on the last point, let’s take a look at some common North American wildlife that can cause issues for hunters and hikers. For clarification, I picked animals that I could potentially stumble across in my neck of the woods. Your AOR may be different.
- Adults are 125 to 550 pounds
- Top speed 30 mph
- Chance of an adverse encounter: minimal
If you haven’t had the chance, our very own James Reeves of TFBTV has put together a series of videos regarding bear defense, including the North American Grizzly.
- Adults are 700 to 900 pounds
- Top Speed: 25mph
- Dumb. Like an angry, drunk sports science major
- Chance of encounter: moderate
Moose are not like deer – while they generally like to keep to themselves, they can be curious, stupid and ill-tempered. Give them a wide berth.
- 32,000 pounds
- 12 feet tall (hips)
- Feeds on bit-part actors and goats/cattle as available
Once thought to be long extinct, the Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur has seen a resurgence in remote areas after scientists were preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should – bring back the prehistoric beast.
For this exercise, we are sticking with handgun round suggestions. These gun/ammo combinations are suggestions for hikers or hunters (as backup) who may unexpectedly find themselves in a life threatening situation. We’ll get into heavy-hitting long guns another day.
The following guns were used as platforms for the selected ammunition choices. Each firearm will have a future corresponding review where we will hopefully capture some footage of the resulting muzzle blasts. Stay tuned.
- SIG Sauer P365XL – 9mm
- GLOCK G29 – 10mm
- Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan – 44 Mag
- Smith & Wesson 629 Performance Center – 44 Mag
Where’s the .357 Magnum? Instead of sacrificing ammunition capacity, I opted for 10mm which is as close as you can get to .357 Mag energy in a semiautomatic platform with the added benefit of quicker reloads. If you folks clamor for a .357 Mag addition, we can dedicate an episode of Wheelgun Wednesday to woods gun carry.
Penetration Versus Expansion:
This will be a hotly debated section, which is why I provided you with ammo that performs best in each of the categories. As an oversimplification, you want reliable expanding projectiles to create large temporary cavities near vital organs. The flip side of that argument, for large tough animals, is that you want heavy projectiles that won’t deform as they penetrate tough skulls and other dense bone.
I’ve included the muzzle energies for the selected rounds as available. If you’re interested in running your own calculations, use the link above and drop in the bullet weight and muzzle velocity of your selected round.
KE = 0.5 • m • v2
where m = mass of object
v = speed of object
Sources of information:
For this article, I used information I received from Buffalo Bore Ammo, Underwood Ammo, SIG Sauer Ammunition and our sponsor, AmmoToGo.com.
Two Legged Assailants And Smaller Beasts (Excluding Bigfoot)
9mm – Fall Woods Gun Ammo
In all my travels, I have seldom felt undergunned with a solid 9mm pistol and a proven round. Maybe that is because I am more concerned with coming across a human attacker rather than a furry beast. Or maybe I wasn’t fully prepared for my location Either way, sticking with your trusted CCW has the advantage of manual of arms familiarity.
- Muzzle Energy: 364
- Muzzle Velocity: 1150
One of the most-trusted names in the shooting world, Federal has been producing high-quality ammunition for almost a century. Headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota, Federal uses innovative technology to deliver reliable loads for every modern shooting application. Federal Premium’s Law Enforcement line is manufactured with only quality components and is engineered to deliver reliable feeding and function specifically in semi-automatic handguns. This line of ammunition provides the consistent performance necessary for difficult law enforcement applications.
This package contains 50 rounds of Federal Premium LE Tactical 9mm Luger (also known as 9×19 Parabellum) ammunition. Each cartridge is loaded with a 124 grain HST jacketed hollow point projectile. Featuring a specially designed hollow point cavity that won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers, this bullet holds its jacket even in the toughest urban shooting conditions. Delivering 100 percent weight retention and impressive terminal expansion, these loads are perfect for civilian and law enforcement self-defense applications.
This 9mm +P cartridge by Speer is loaded with a 124 grain Gold Dot projectile. The bullet’s jacket is created via Speer’s proprietary Uni-Cor process, where it is electrochemically bonded to its alloyed lead core one molecule at a time. As the result the Gold Dot’s jacket is virtually incapable of separating whether it must pass through media such as heavy fabric, drywall, or steel en route to its target. The bullet’s nose cavity is formed over the course of a two step process: the first to establish fault lines that direct expansion to a set width, and the second to control the rate of expansion for maximum takedown terminal effect.
This round’s nickel plated brass casing is inherently able to resist corrosion, and further provides the lubricity needed for extremely reliable feeding in a semi-automatic weapon. Speer’s primer and propellant are highly trustworthy, and totally befitting of a round that might one day save your life. Please take note that this is +P ammunition.
Bigger Beasts, Bigger Rounds
10mm – Fall Woods Gun Ammo
Specialty ammunition is expensive, at times breaking the $2/round price mark. SIG Sauer has a great option for the 10mm crowd with an FMJ training round that matches the ballistics of their well done V-Crown loading.
Outside of the smaller ammunition manufacturers, many 10mm loads are ballistically just 40S&W rounds in a longer case. SIG has not followed that path, and by all reports have created a very capable real 10mm option with the V-Crown listed below.
- Muzzle Velocity: 1250
- Muzzle Energy: 624
Do you rely on Sig Sauer’s V-Crown self-defense ammunition to keep yourself safe out on the mean streets? Then you’ll love training with this 10mm range cartridge which is designed to match the V-Crown’s ballistics. This cartridge features a 180 grain full metal jacket projectile. Its copper jacket is impressively concentric to promote straight flight, and remains intact after impact. The bullet’s meplat is flattened out somewhat, making it a great option for shooting paper targets when you’d like to assess your performance from up range.
Sig Sauer was founded in Germany in 1976. Even a cursory inspection of one of their products will reveal the renowned Teuton attention to detail, and indeed this cartridge is made of superior components. Its factory fresh brass casing is concentric and uniform, and holds a propellant charge that produces a consistent muzzle velocity. Sig’s Boxer primer is non-corrosive to keep your big pistol’s bore and action intact.
- Muzzle Velocity: 1250
- Muzzle Energy: 624
This 180 grain JHP 10mm Auto ammunition is made by Sig Sauer, and is a premium self defense round. Sig’s line of ammo is high quality, accurate, and effective. Sig uses a V shaped hollow point that produces predictable expansion in bare ballistics gel and after passing through barriers like plywood, drywall, and heavy clothing. The JHP has sharp petals after expansion, which are designed to create a devastating wound channel. The bullet also uses a unique toothed cannelure, which provides nearly perfect weight retention every time! Each round is loaded into a reloadable nickel-plated Boxer primed brass case. This ammo is perfect for carrying for self defense, and will not fail you when you need it most.
Muzzle Velocity: 1350
Muzzle Energy: 627
This package contains 20 rounds of Buffalo Bore lead-free 10mm Auto ammunition. Loaded to SAAMI specs, this ammo is safe to use in all 10mm handguns. Each factory fresh cartridge is loaded with a Barnes TAC-XP hollow point projectile. These solid copper projectiles offer excellent weight retention and impressive barrier penetration. Although these bullets were originally designed for personal protection applications, Buffalo Bore uses them in their full power 10mm loads for hunting deer, bear, and similarly sized game animals. The company admits these rounds are impractical for self defense, because the muzzle blast and excessive recoil are serious disadvantages for rapid and accurate follow-up shots.
Each round produces a consistent muzzle velocity of 1350 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 627 foot pounds. This non-corrosive ammunition is brass cased, boxer primed, and non-magnetic.
Muzzle Velocity: 1250
Muzzle Energy: 694
This 10mm cartridge is loaded with a 200 grain hard cast projectile. The non-expanding bullet’s exceptional hardness enables to penetrate very deeply, and its flat nose is designed to keep it on a straight path. You’d have a much easier time convincing a bear not to bother you with one of these loads in your chamber, and a hard cast’s greater ability to ignore hide makes this round good for taking wild boar as well.
Underwood jacketed this round’s bullet with polymer-based Hi-Tek, which helps the hard cast to stave off bore fouling like an FMJ would. In addition to keeping the bore cleaner, Hi-Tek makes the shooter’s environment cleaner by reducing airborne lead. This round features a Ducta-bright 7a nickel plated brass casing, which provides all the performance benefits of nickel but with less risk of cracking or failure. If you plan to use this round on crepuscular game, then you’ll appreciate its flash suppressed powder’s ability to preserve your night vision.
This 10mm cartridge by Underwood sports a 180 grain jacketed hollow point projectile. The bullet, which is made by Speer, has a jacket and core which are tightly bonded together via the company’s unique Uni-Cor electrochemical process. Their separation during penetration is virtually impossible, resulting in the kind of stellar weight retention you should be excited to see from your personal defense ammunition.
Underwood especially stands by this cartridge’s brass casing, which has been nickel plated according to their Ducta-Bright 7a process. Its plating means that this round feeds remarkably reliably, has a high degree resistance to corrosion, and is easier to clean up for reloading purposes.
This cartridge further offers a flash suppressed powder, so you won’t be blinded by the light of your first shot if you ever have to fire in self-defense in a dark environment. Along with the devastating terminal performance of its bullet, that makes this round an all-around sure bet for effective self-defense.
Muzzle Velocity: 1030
Muzzle Energy: 424
From snowy Minnesota comes one of the most effective personal defense loads of all time — the Hydra-Shok! This 10mm cartridge by Federal features a 180 grain jacketed hollow point projectile that loses virtually none of its destructive potential after passing through thick fabric thanks to its unique center post design — that little column in the center of the bullet’s nose cavity does its job well.
This bullet’s jacket sports notches around its tip which serve to preprogram expansion by providing fault lines along which it can peel back during penetration. The Hydra-Shok’s tendency to mushroom reliably not only creates a wide wound channel, but further greatly reduces the chances of overpenetration that could jeopardize bystander safety.
The Hydra-Shok’s bullet’s base is also protected by its jacket, so firing it won’t create toxic fumes which would detract from a target shooting session. (Training with your personal defense loads before using them in the field is very advisable.) This round’s new brass casing, sensitive primer, and consistent propellant are all indicative of Federal’s commitments to innovation and quality, so you can chamber it with confidence!
44 Magnum – Penetration
Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan with the Desantis Hunter Dual Angle Holster
- Muzzle Velocity: 1425
- Muzzle Energy: 1533
This is .44 Mag Heavy Buffalo Bore 340gr. +P+ LBT Lead Flat Nose Ammo. Buffalo Bore 4D is designed for super deep penetration on large game. The big flat nose keeps the bullet penetrating straight and deep. You can expect a good three + feet of penetration in normal flesh and bone. This new load is designed ONLY for certain firearms. They are as follows; Ruger Red Hawk, Ruger Super Red Hawk, Ruger Super Blackhawk or Vaquero, Freedom Arms Model 83, Taurus Raging Bull, Colt Anaconda and Dan Wesson Revolvers. Suitable rifles include T/C Encore, “modified” Marlin 1894 (see Buffalo Bore Website), Winchester 1894, any rifle with a falling block action and the Handi Rifle. Buffalo Bore gets hundreds of emails asking if this load can be fired in S&W revolvers or some firearm other than what is in the above list. The answer is NO. Muzzle velocity of 1425fps. This ammo is packed in 20rd boxes.
This is .44 Mag. Federal 225 grain Barnes Expander Vital-Shok ammo. This ammo has been developed for handgun hunting which is one of the most challenging ways to take game. You choose to use your wheelgun because you like to get up close and personal with your trophy. The Vital-Shok with the Barnes Expander allows for outstanding expansion upon striking the target. This ammo comes packed in 20 round boxes.
T-Rex Defense: Fall Woods Gun
Let’s be honest. There’s no suitable handgun round that will take down a charging T-Rex. My suggestion would be to carry a small, light, ultra-quiet gun that you can use to wound your best friend that you’ve known for 20 years. Hit him in the calf or thigh and quietly escape in the other direction. Of course, there’s the whole living with yourself issue.