It’s warming up, and most of us enjoy time on the water, fishing, boating, swimming or just soaking up the rays like lizards. However, the right to self-defense doesn’t drop when the mercury rises. The challenge is that many summertime activities, with their combination of salt spray and limited clothing options, present a new set of concealed-carry issues.
My personal preference is to avoid on-body carry while I’m on the water. So this leaves two options for carry: my cooler or my tackle box. Obviously, I opt for the tackle box, and now I have a dedicated tackle-box gun. What follows is advice on choosing yours.
Water brings a whole new element to gun selection because if a gun is dropped overboard or the boat tips, the firearm is likely gone forever—depending on the depth of the water and your likeness to Jacques Cousteau. Water and sun (not to mention the grimy things that fester in tackle boxes) play Hob on blued metal finishes. So for these reasons I don’t recommend taking your new Kimber to the lake at all. Instead, my ideal tackle-box gun is inexpensive, so if I fumble it overboard or it or it gets forgotten alongside the stinkbait and rusts out, I won’t shed too many tears.
Secondly, the gun should be small enough to fit in a tackle box while allowing room for purple plastic worms (is there any other color?) spinnerbaits, filet knives, pliers, sinkers, catfish bait, bloody stringers, sunblock and copious crankbaits. That means the “Dirty Harry” hog leg is out.
In this special case, I prefer a revolver because they’re more reliable even when dirty. A semi-auto’s magazine is often its weak link. Magazines are rarely made of the same stainless steel as the host gun, and therefore it often rusts inside the gun, rendering your tackle-box gun less useful than the anchor.
While snub-noses work fine in a close-quarters pinch, I’m not the biggest snubby fan because they can be difficult to shoot accurately further than the canoe’s middle seat. That’s why I prefer a 3- or 4-inch barrel, because I anticipate doing some plinking. Still, snub-noses have their place in tackle boxes due to their size.
Then there are caliber considerations. As always, gun shop experts might recommend their usual hand Howitzers suitable for the Loch Ness Monster, but I disagree. I like .22 rimfires because they are fun for plinking, are perfect medicine for snakes and things that snap. For these reasons, my ultimate tackle box gun is a Taurus 992SS4.
It’s a stainless-steel, 4-inch-barreled .22 LR/Magnum revolver that I keep in a plastic bag in the bottom of my Plano tackle box. It holds nine rounds of potent .22 Magnum (or .22 LR with its interchangeable cylinder), weighs a little over a pound, has a great Ribber grip, excellent sights, and is nearly impervious to water. Of course I keep it oiled down like a Malibu beach sun bather and sealed up tighter than King Tut’s tomb, but it’s always served me well.
I keep it in an inexpensive Uncle Mike’s nylon holster along with a box of hollowpoint ammo and a few rounds of .22 snakeshot. In 30 years of boating and fishing, the only time I’ve ever used it in a defensive situation was when an unruly cottonmouth insisted on sharing my two-man bass boat with me. Other than that, I’ve used this tackle-box gun on multiple occasions to plink cans when the fish were tired but the kids were not.
So this summer, get a cheap gun, stash it in your tackle box, and be prepared for whatever toothy—or toothless—monster slithers your way.
Other Tacklebox-Gun Options
Taurus Polymer Public Defender: While the Public Defender is heavier than ideal, it can shoot bullets or shotshells, so I give it some slack. At 24 ounces of waterproof plastic and stainless steel, it’ll shoot five rounds of .45 ACP or .410 shotshell. The MSRP is $650, but chances are that you can get it for less.
Kel-Tec P3AT: This is the one semi I have on the list, just because it’s so darn small, impervious and inexpensive. This .380 auto weighs 8 ounces, holds seven rounds and costs around $300.
Double Tap Tactical Pocket Pistol: I think this gem should be called the “tactical tackle box pistol,” because this 15-ounce, all-aluminum and steel dual-shot derringer is perfect for the Plano. Its 5/8-inch-wide frame houses two additional loads of .45 ACP. It’s so simple that it would take some pretty awful tackle-box funk to prevent it from firing. Expect to pay $300 to $400.
Charter Arms 52370 Pathfinder Lite: Don’t forget about Charter Arms, the venerable maker of affordable handguns. I think its 52370 Pathfinder would be better called the Platypus due to the way it can paddle in the water and come out unscathed, thanks to its matte and stainless-steel finish. At 12 ounces, this isn’t the six-shooter that’ll drown you if you fall in with it either, literally or in a financial sense. Purchase one for around $300, put it in your tackle box and cease worrying.