I have long been a fan of large calibers. This is based on my research and personal experience. Depending on the need, I favor the 1911 in .45 ACP or 10mm, or magnum caliber revolvers. I have been concerned with animal defense for years. Among the many things I wish I had not seen was a photo that my Sgt., later Chief, showed me of a pretty youngster (perhaps four) with most of her scalp and face gone above the nose. She had been killed by a large dog.
These attacks seem depressingly more common these days as inadequate personality types and ex-cons obtain these animals and treat them badly. Others simply have no idea how to treat an animal and have no respect for their capabilities. As a young man, my constant companion on duty and when hunting and hiking was a Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum. While the four-inch barrel .357 Magnum is a great all-around handgun for personal defense, I moved to the 1911 .45 which I found ideal and managed to carry on duty.
Safety, reliability, and hit probability with the 1911 are all that could be desired. I have wondered from time-to-time if it was practical to combine the features of the 1911 with a hard-hitting cartridge and make for a suitable outdoors 1911. Twenty years ago, a correspondent in Alaska, asked me to help work up an outdoors load for his use as a lawman that would also be suitable for dangerous animals. Both bad guys and wolves come with a layer of fat and fur, he said.
I worked up a Hornady 250-grain XTP at a hot 938 fps. I used heavy-duty recoil and firing pin springs. I loved the load, although it cracked the frame of my 1911 at a high round count. However, by then, I had won several bowling pin matches. I retired the Colt after 15,000 rounds. A friend purchased it and used it with the cracked frame for many years. I think my Alaskan pen pal liked the load as well. I looked to the magnum revolver as my choice for trail gun once again.
Ruger SR1911 10mm
I had experience with the 10mm 1911, but their reliability and longevity were not what I wanted, then came the Ruger SR1911. This pistol features adjustable sights, making it a true outdoors pistol. The bull barrel and full-length guide rod made for a muzzle-heavy pistol that dampened recoil. This pistol is as suitable for constant carry as any steel frame 1911.
The SR1911 features a well-designed beavertail safety that helps with the pistol’s recoil. The Ruger weighs 39 ounces. This is recoil-absorbing weight! Even with full power loads, including the Double Tap 200-grain flat point, recoil was controllable. The piece allowed relatively fast follow-up shots and rode well on the hip. Good leather wasn’t hard to find.
Most of us never encounter a bad-tempered bear or cougar. Wild animals demand a certain set-off distance for comfort, and when you invade that comfort zone they may become belligerent. Plan A is to avoid trouble. The Ruger 10mm makes a good plan B. However, load choice makes the difference. If you wish to use the pistol for deer or hogs, the Hornady 180-grain XTP is a great choice. Federal Cartridge offers a bonded core 180-grain bullet that offers excellent performance. It is a pure hunting load. For defense against dangerous animals, the hard-cast lead bullet loads from Buffalo Bore work well. We need as much penetration as possible.
An outdoors pistol is often exposed to the elements. Stainless steel is a good choice for most of us. The primary cause of finish wear is friction as the piece is drawn from a holster. A tightly-fitted leather holster offers a good balance of speed and retention. My pistol is most often carried in a Galco Combat Master, a classic design with much to recommend. My personal SR1911 10mm has been upgraded with a few judicious modifications.
Friends using other examples have reported 4.75-, 5.0- and 5.25-pound trigger release. My SR1911 arrived with a 7.0-pound trigger compression. I performed a trigger job and replaced the trigger, sear, hammer, and disconnect with quality Ed Brown parts. The trigger was adjusted to 4.25 pounds—ideal for a trained shooter.
There are areas in which feral dogs are a problem. I have dealt with them and seen what they do to livestock children and the elderly. The 10mm is a good choice for these problems. With proper loads, the 10mm is well suited for defense use against mountain lions or small bears.
From the Bench – Five Shot Groups at 25 Yards
|Ruger SR1911 10mm
|CCI Blazer 180-grain FMJ
|Federal 180-grain Hydra-Shok
|Hornady 155-grain XTP
|Hornady 180-grain XTP
|Double Tap 135-grain JHP
|Buffalo Bore 200-grain FP
|SIG Elite 180-grain FMJ
I added a magazine well that aided in rapid magazine changes. The pistol was also fitted with a set of Ahrends Skip Checkered grips. These are first class, hand-cut grips that offer a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. This combination of upgrades made a difference in handling. My choice for outdoors defense and trail use has turned out well. The pistol is also suited for town use, with proper loads and a well-designed IWB holster.
I like the 10mm very much. It isn’t as controllable as the .45 but much faster into action and for fast follow-up shots than the Magnum revolver. It is accurate, reliable, and with certain modifications, a very good shooting handgun. When originally adopted by the FBI there were two tiers of loads, a standard defense load and a high-powered, high-penetration loading. This works well for outdoorsmen.