The reasons for carrying a handgun afield can range from hunting, to self-protection from animals, humans...or a combination of the three. Whatever the reasons, here are a few carry options for taking your favorite handgun along with you in the great outdoors.
For me, the most comfortable way to carry a handgun, especially one with some heft, is on a gunbelt. A sturdy leather belt, 2½ to 3 inches in width, with a good holster distributes the weight of the gun, (for me, usually a big bore revolver), evenly around the waist. Cartridge loops are a matter of personal preference. I have found that I prefer them more forward of my hip bone. Reasons being, with loops on the back of the belt, cartridges tend to be pushed up and out from the loops, or bullets get marred when I'm sitting against rocks while glassing for game. This method doesn’t tug at my pants and makes for effortless carrying of a handgun. Barrel length does make a difference; the more sitting or riding in a vehicle you do, the shorter the barrel I suggest you use. My 5½-inch Ruger Flattop is all the barrel I need for practical gunbelt carry. Of course, it’s really no problem to unbuckle the belt, roll it around the holstered handgun and sit it in the seat by you if you desire a longer-barreled gun.
Belt holsters are another good way of packing a handgun. Like all holsters, you get what you pay for. Buy quality gear that will protect your gun, fits it properly and will last for years. One time I was carrying a 4-inch S&W .44 Magnum in a “cheapo" belt holster while hunting feral hogs. I had to jump from rock to rock while crossing a small creek and in doing so heard a “splash.” Yep, my sixgun went for a swim. This is a good time to mention straps, hammer thongs and other retention devices. Pick what you like, and use it to avoid having your expensive handgun hit the rocks, dirt or water! Matching the belt size to the holster’s belt slot size, (example: 1¾-inch belt width and 1¾-inch holster belt slot) is also a good idea to create a tight fit of belt and holster, and to avoid your holstered gun sliding around on your waist. You may desire a cross-draw holster, especially for a longer-barreled handgun or to avoid gun-to-gun contact while carrying a slung rifle.
Shoulder Holster/Chest Holster
Wearing a shoulder holster or chest holster is an excellent way to carry a handgun. While I don’t normally carry these ways, I had a good friend who swore by his homemade shoulder holsters for ease of carrying his single actions while hiking, hunting and riding horseback. Another amigo of mine has abandoned his belt holsters for a shoulder rig made by a local saddle maker. He too sings the praises of wearing his pistol under his arm. These methods are particularly easy to conceal if need be with a shirt, vest or jacket, which can also be a good way of protecting your firearm from inclement weather. I’ll be taking a long barreled 44 to the field this fall and it will be riding in a chest-style holster. Either are good, the difference is that the gun is worn on your chest, as the name implies, or under your support-side arm with the shoulder holster.
Concealed Carry Afield
Depending on your particular needs, wearing your handgun in a concealed holster can still be a viable option for field carry. When I'm not planning on the possibility of taking game with a handgun I’ve been known to leave the big sixgun at home and simply stuff my snub-nosed revolver in a vest pocket while hunting with a rifle. My Barranti Summer Classic, an inside-the-waistband holster made for a 4-inch .44 Special, is comfortable enough to take on any hike or hunt—and the .44 Special lends itself to being a good general-purpose round for self-defense or hunting.
In the end, find the holster method that fits your needs. Make sure it’s comfortable, practical and securely holds your handgun. And one final bit of advice, try it out before you take to the field. You don’t want to get 5 miles up the trail or on the far side of the mountain and find out that your holster rubs your side, tires your shoulder muscles, flops annoyingly on your belt or pulls your pants down.