Recently I spent some time with friends out in the Wyoming and Montana area for a get-together trip. One of my buddies was late to the airport because he stumbled on a Glock 20. He kept going on and on about how exciting it was to see one in a gun store finally and how hard it is to find a stocked dealer in the area. It was rather puzzling to me since oftentimes the 9mm variants are always sold out in the Midwest and the larger caliber handguns are oftentimes the guns that sit in store counters. I started to look at the factors of carrying concealed and after talking with locals, there’s a fairly large difference in mindset between different parts of the country. Let’s take a deeper look into how carrying concealed out west is different and why that is.
Differences In Midwest and Western Concealed Carry
There are a number of differences when looking at carrying concealed in the Midwest versus in western states. One of the largest differences between the two regions is the purpose of use and why people carry. On the East Coast and Midwest, handguns are carried to protect yourself against other people who have ill intentions. Over in the western states, it’s not people who are the main threat but rather the wildlife who lives in the area. Whether it’s huge grizzly bears or mountain lions, the western states have a number of animals that can make you have a bad day real fast.
The second factor to consider is population density and what the biggest threat is. For the East Coast and Midwest, the biggest threat is hands down other people and you need to be able to conceal a handgun since guns aren’t common for everyone in these regions. Out west is a different story since populations are typically smaller and people are much more independent and self sustaining than some would be in other areas. Combine the smaller population density with a better understanding of firearms in society, and there’s a different level of respect for your community members and crime altogether. Often times the overall level of robberies and self-defense situations are less in lower populated areas where animal encounters with predators are higher. There’s a variety of choices to look at when carrying in western states so let’s take a look at some of the popular options.
Semi-Auto Vs Revolver
The debate on semi-auto versus revolvers for concealed carry is still thriving in the western states. It’s still mainly a topic of argument between the younger generations moving to semi-autos where older generations use their trusty revolvers they have always carried. One of the most interesting things to me is just how often you see someone either carrying an older Smith & Wesson Model 29 or other classic revolvers when you’re out in town. Seeing older guys walking around with their wheel guns strapped to their hips isn’t super uncommon but in my neck of the woods, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. There are a few fantastic options to look at when it comes to self-defense in western states.
Glock 20 and Glock 21
Two of the most popular pistols I saw visiting friends out west were the Glock 20 (10mm) and Glock 21 (45ACP) as well as their compact variants. These two, especially the Glock 20, are popular with outdoorsmen who carry a handgun while in the mountains. Most will say it offers great firepower and capacity. With 15+1 rounds of 10mm, The Glock 20 offers a fairly substantial amount of firepower for its lighter 30oz frame. These handguns are great for carrying in the woods or mountains but can be a handful when it comes to recoil management.
There are several high-quality 10mm options in the 1911 platform that includes Kimber, Springfield Armory, SIG Sauer, Dan Wesson, Les Bear as well as a number of other options. These handguns are typically either the standard 5″ government configuration or the larger 6″ “hunter” models that many people use. This was another popular option I have seen since the 10mm has a higher velocity and energy transfer than a .45 ACP.
Having a standard .45 ACP variant of the 1911 and other handguns is an option as well when loaded up with hotter charged rounds. After talking to a number of guides around the western states, they all agree .45 ACP will do the job but there are better rounds for personal protection in the woods when encountering a grizzly bear or other predators.
.44 Magnum / .454 Casull
One of the more popular calibers for a woods gun out west would be some sort of .44 Magnum or even the .454 Casull that various companies make modern revolvers for. When you think of the classic bear protection gun, oftentimes you will see someone carrying either a stainless Smith or Ruger with the occasional Taurus mixed in as well. While these hand cannons aren’t quick to shoot, they pack a huge punch on big predators if things go south. Despite the slow reload speed and different manual of arms, revolvers are a great reliable option for protection in the backcountry of Montana and other western states.
.460 S&W Magnum / .500 S&W Magnum
In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity with the .460 and .500 Magnums from Smith & Wesson. The 500 became popular initially since it was the most powerful factory handgun made at the time of its release. It packed a massive punch depending on the bullet grain you choose. Later on, the .460 Magnum came onto the market and not only did it offer great performance but also allowed the users to shoot .454 Casull and .45 Long Colt. While the .500 Magnum is an absolute freight train, the 460 offers a ton of versatility with various calibers. Either one of these options is a great way to protect yourself from big game and predators.
So what’s the best way to go? It really depends on what you shoot best typically. Personally, I prefer a well-built semi-automatic like the 1911’s and Glock 20/21 so I can have a round with an effective velocity and energy transfer. Revolvers are a great option, don’t get me wrong, but I am way more comfortable with a semi-auto handgun compared to how I shoot with a revolver. The semi-auto feels more natural for me and that’s ultimately why I went with it. If you have more trigger time with a large caliber handgun then I would certainly choose that for protection out west, but the most important thing to go with is what you can effectively shoot under stress.
Let me know what you guys like to carry when you’re either out west or if you live there. Is a certain kind of firearm easier for you to protect yourself with or do you go with something you have confidence will stop a predator? Let me know what your thoughts are down in the comments below. If you have questions, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.