Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Best Handgun for Horseback

Russell wrote and asked: "Thanks for the information you have been writing. Don't think I found anything to disagree with. I have been riding for 45+ years and carried a handgun or rifle most of it moving cattle up in mountains and checking fence. I never thought about training my horses to accept gunfire. I now have a pretty broke six year old. I have a .22 revolver and a .30-30 winchester. If I need to get another pistol I will since I ain't fond of thinking of running into anything with four feet and fangs with the .22. What would you suggest for a decent pistol? Your articles and videos are probably good enough for me to get started. Thanks. Russell."

Russell, it looks like you may be in Mountain Lion or Grizzly country. A big bore revolver would be my preference. This means a .44 Magnum, which can also shoot .44 Special, or a .45 Long Colt (LC).  When I was a Conservation Law Enforcement Officer riding up into the mountains looking for poachers or archeological thieves, I did not feel under gunned carrying a double action revolver in .357 Magnum, but I had about as much chance of running into a Grizzly Bear as a smelly, toothless hog farmer has in finding a date for Saturday night.  I would not trust my life or my horse's life to a .357 Magnum if you are riding in Grizzly country. 

The advantage of a .45 Long Colt is, that thanks to the sport of Mounted Shooting, .45 LC blanks are readily available for training. This allows you to train your horse to gunfire at a reduced noise and muzzle concussion. If you have priced handgun ammunition recently then you see that as another reason.

A disadvantage of a handgun in the .45 LC caliber is that most of these on the market are single action, Colt Peacemaker type replicas. While these are great guns, they are single action. Meaning you have to cock the hammer for each shot....takes more than a little practice to do so reliable and quickly. You could get lucky and find a double action revolver in .45 LC. The more common one's would be a Smith and Wesson Model 25, Colt Anaconda, Ruger Redhawk, Dan Wesson and I think Smith and Wesson also makes what they call a Mountain Gun which is a slicked up Model 25 in stainless steel I believe, which they call the M625. As common as these guns once were, it'll be somewhat hard and maybe even more expensive to find one.  Double action revolvers are much faster to re-load as well using several different types of speed loaders. 

I always start shooting .45 LC blanks about 60 to 80 feet away while the horse's are eating. I fire one round. The horses will spook or flinch. Then they go back to eating. I fire another round. They flinch less and so I keep this up until I can shoot several blanks in succession and they ignore it. I move closer and repeat. The hay helps relax them, as horses mostly eat only when they are relaxed or feel safe. And if they leave, let them. Wait for them to come back to the feed and start again.

The pause between fired rounds serves to let the horse think about the stimulus and figure out that he doesn't need to run. The pause may be several minutes in some cases. But it will get shorter.

When I move to shooting while the horse is in a halter, I give the horse some slack in the lead line, stand with my back to him and shoot to the front using my body to break up and diminish the concussion wave and noise a bit. He'll most likely spook somewhat, so I let him settle before I repeat. I'll talk to the horses and rub on them during this pause. Soon enough the horse is settled and I begin again sometimes just cocking the hammer a few times as they will learn that this noise precedes the loud bang. I'll also shoot from the side of the horse away from him and towards his rear obliques.

When you are shooting from his back, use the same concept. Be sure to fire away from his head. Using the clock method. If the horse's head, or really his body, is pointing at 12 o'clock, then it helps to start shooting blanks at the 5 o'clock direction if you're right handed, or the 7 o'clock direction if your left handed. This will reduce the concussion the horse will feel from gas escaping the cylinder gap and from the muzzle, as well as the noise and allow him to get used to.  The pictures above, from Left to Right, are showing shooting from the one o'clock, three o'clock and five o'clock positions.

I would not shoot near the horse's head, say from the 10 o'clock to the 2 o'clock position. This needlessly sends gas and unburned powder from the cylinder gap and the muzzle too close to the horse's head, ears and eyes.

Hope this helps Russell. I think you'll do fine if you take your time. I'd like to hear about your progress. Safe journey.

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