A decade ago, it was illegal in many states for a bowhunter to carry a handgun to the stand. The rationale was that if a deer walked by, we couldn’t be trusted not to shoot it with a pistol and then stick an arrow into it to cover our tracks.

Times have changed.

Fish and wildlife agencies have realized that broadhead holes and hollow-point holes look different—and people inclined to poach are probably going to poach regardless. Legal carrying of concealed, defensive firearms has gained massive acceptance in general over the last decade, too. It makes sense that a person who packs heat to Walmart would also carry to the deer stand.

There are plenty of reasons to carry a handgun afield—but in this context, we’re not talking about bear protection or plinking around camp. These guns are not backup for dispatching wounded game (that’s usually illegal); nor are they suitable for actual handgun hunting.

The guns here serve one purpose: protection against a small, but real, set of dangerous people you could encounter in the woods just as easily as in a dark alley. These three models are compact enough for every-day carry but especially practical for the woods—each is exceptionally reliable, weather resistant, substantial enough for the job, and equipped with good sights.

1. Kimber K6s

The Kimber K6s chambered in .357 Magnum.
The Kimber K6s chambered in .357 Magnum.file photo

Chambering: .357 Magnum

MSRP: $899

A stainless-steel wheel gun still makes sense for many outdoorsmen. This one weighs 23 ounces and holds six rounds. Despite being the lightest .357 six-shooter available, it is remarkably easy to shoot and about the most capable snub-nosed revolver on the market.

2. Glock 26 Gen4

A Glock 26 Gen 4 in 9mm.
A Glock 26 Gen 4 in 9mm.file photo

Chambering: 9mm

MSRP: $649

Introduced in 1994, this 10-round 9mm is still one of the most popular concealed-carry guns out there. Mine goes with me everywhere legally allowed. I’ve carried it on hunts from the Rocky Mountains to south Florida and put thousands of rounds through it without a single malfunction.

3. SIG Sauer P239 SAS Gen2

A SIG Sauer P239 SAS Gen2 chambered in .357 SIG.
A SIG Sauer P239 SAS Gen2 chambered in .357 SIG.author photo

Chambering: .357 Sig

MSRP: $1032

The .357 SIG caliber is only modestly popular, but those who use it love it. It’s revered for its accuracy, and it throws a 125-grain bullet to 1400-plus fps, which is pretty hot for an autoloading handgun. The P239 takes a seven-round single-stack magazine and is a traditional double/single-action semiauto.

Where to Keep It

Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association’s Concealed Carry magazine (USCCA.com), certified pistol instructor, and -active-duty law enforcement officer, recommends carrying the same gun, in the same way, every day—whether you’re in the woods or in town. “We suggest people carry their defensive firearm on their strong-side hip,” he says. “It’s easiest to access there, and it’s the safest draw stroke. Shoulder and cross-draw holsters require you to draw across your body, and when you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to forget -trigger-finger discipline.”