Carry Methods

For Hunting Handguns

The across-the-chest design is a good option for scoped revolvers.
This fine holster was made by 7X Leather.

Thad Rybka has been making quality crossdraw holsters for decades.
This rough out version is great for hunting revolvers.

Right off the bat, I’d like to say I feel honored and privileged to follow in the footsteps of J.D., who has written this column about forever. J.D. and I took our first African safari together back in 1983 in Zimbabwe. The following year we spent over a month in Africa hunting a bunch of game with SSK Contenders in several JDJ calibers. Luckily I didn’t come home to a divorce for being away over a month and having the time of my life. Handgun hunters can be thankful for the multitude of contributions from J.D. From his writings, promoting handgun hunting through various venues, to cartridge innovations that have been used all over the world, J.D. was a true pioneer to modern handgun hunting. He inspired and helped me immensely through the years. While I will never be able to fill his shoes, this column will continue to discuss handgun hunting-related topics in a fun and informative manner. Words cannot convey my gratitude — Thanks, J.D.!

How To?

We’re all built differently, hunt in different locales with a lot of different handguns, and our needs vary greatly. There are many variables and personal preferences involved, all of which makes choosing the right carrying method subjective. Over the years, though, I’ve found some basic concepts to have value and you can use what I’ve learned to choose your own system.

A lot of consideration will be directed by weather. It might be snowing, raining, brutally hot, blistering cold, or there may be lots of dust to contend with. Will the handgun be worn inside a coat or outside of your jacket? Other factors will hinge on what type of hunting you’re doing — will you be chasing a pack of hounds in pursuit of boar or bear? Climbing mountains for days in less than friendly environments presents unique challenges. Mounting a horse, getting in and out of a vehicle frequently or climbing a ladder stand may all have a bearing on what type of carrying system is best suited for the day. Although maybe you’re just strolling to your deer stand!

There are a ton of holsters for open-sighted handguns, ranging from less expensive nylon types to custom, high-quality leather rigs. For non-scoped revolvers, I lean toward cross-draw designs. I’ve been using radical crossdraw holsters from Thad Rybka, DeSantis and others for many years. Freedom Arms makes a comfortable crossdraw for their revolvers which fit some other models as well. This system allows you to bend over if you’re sneaking through a lot of brush, getting on and off an ATV or mounting a horse without discomfort. The revolver can easily and quickly be drawn into action. The crossdraw rig doesn’t put any weight on one hip, but more in the middle of your torso. For me, this is a most comfortable manner to carry a hunting revolver.

If hunting with semi-autos, Diamond D Custom Leather makes one of the neatest across-the-chest rigs I have worn. See Sammy’s Carry Options column in this issue for more on them. When carrying a 1911 around the farm I frequently wear this holster. It comes with a spare magazine holder too. Weight is distributed evenly without a burden on either shoulder and it really puts the gun at-hand.

A padded case with shoulder strap is a simple but effective
carrying option for large, scoped, single-shot handguns.

Alternate Ideas

Moving up the ladder with scoped revolvers, 7X Leather makes a quality across-the-chest rig. When carrying the Mag-Na-Port custom Ruger on a recent deer hunt, this holster worked fine, and can be adjusted according to the clothing worn. Scoped revolvers can be large with more weight-to-shoulder than non-scoped revolvers. The across-the-chest design is safe with a leather strap going around the hammer, securing the handgun properly. Extra cartridge loops are a wise addition. Galco’s Kodiak Hunter Shoulder Holster is another good option to consider. This across-the-chest holster is designed for large-frame double- and single-action hunting revolvers.

Large scoped single-shot handguns present more of challenge in regard to comfort. Many hunters actually prefer using a sling, and that sling can also be used as an aid when shooting. Others simply like carrying their scoped handguns in their hand. There are circumstances I find this not only the simplest method, but most practical as well.

Another option for these large, scoped handguns is a padded case with a shoulder strap. This simple but effective method has served me well on mountain hunts. It keeps the gun protected from inclement weather, and a wide, padded shoulder strap helps to take the strain off the shoulder.

Some backpacks incorporate a scabbard for placing a firearm. This is another option I have found useful on mountain treks or all-day pursuits where I would be wearing a backpack anyway. Eberlestock makes several models with integral scabbard.

Whatever manner is best for you, your handgun and your particular endeavor, safety and comfort should be a priority. Enjoy the journey.

Editor’s Note: A little about internationally famous handgun hunter Mark Hampton. Mark’s hunted with handguns on six continents, and in over 30 countries. He’s taken over 180 different species of big game using handguns, including Africa’s Big Five — with many of his trophies never having been taken with a handgun before. Mark’s 24 African safaris and 18 hunts in the high mountains of Asia have landed him in some of the most difficult, remote regions of the planet.

While Mark is well known for hunting internationally, I know he’s just as passionate about hunting squirrels, varmints and whitetail on his own farm in southern Missouri. It would be difficult to find someone who has more diverse field experience. Mark’s a life member of the NRA, Handgun Consultant for Safari Club International and on the board of directors for the Grand Slam Club.