Why Carrying A Gun Is Unnecessary And Dumb

BY Herschel Smith
11 months, 2 weeks ago


I’m not anti-gun, nor am I a city-dwelling ideologue. I’ve lived in Montana for nearly 20 years, and I own guns. The only time I carry one into the woods, however, is to hunt. To kill game. That’s what they’re built to do.

I’ve been an outdoor writer and editor for nearly as long, covering everything from skiing and climbing to hunting and fishing. I own a backcountry guide service and operate exclusively in grizzly country, including some of the most bear-dense parts of Yellowstone. I’ve had dozens of grizzly encounters, run-ins with polar bears on Arctic ski expeditions, and more than a few awkward conversations with disturbed individuals over the years—all sans sidearm and no worse for wear. Some of these experiences were scary, but I’ve never pulled the trigger on my bear spray (much less a pistol), and every one of those encounters made me a better outdoorsman.

Honestly, every time I read one of these pieces my eyes just glaze over when I have to wade through their ridiculous creds.  Why can’t anyone simply say what they think?  Why do they have to trot out their creds?  You know, that’s “appealing to authority,” or in other words, it’s formally called the genetic fallacy.  But this guy still isn’t finished.

I’ve also worked as an armed courier, transporting millions of dollars in an armored Freightliner—a job that required defensive-firearms training and certification with law enforcement and former military contractors. Guns were part of my wardrobe, and I’m comfortable with almost any firearm you could put in my hand. It’s guns in other peoples’ hands that make me nervous.

I’m not going to cite statistics about rifles and pistols or their effectiveness in wilderness-self-defense scenarios (the outcomes are generally piss-poor).

I don’t know anything about this guy and I’ve never met him, but one thing we learn from his writing is that he’s either a liar or a very sloppy and careless man.  But you knew that already.  His allegations disagree with what we learned from the fantastic research work performed by Dean Weingarten concerning bear attacks.  So whatever else you think of what he says, just remember he’s lying or is just too stupid to know the real facts.

We are not in danger on our favorite hiking trails and in our national forests. In fact, these places are ridiculously safe

So if someone listens to him, he disarms himself and loved ones in the face of potential danger.

There are three practical reasons why carrying a gun in the backcountry is silly.

First, any responsible owner knows that the highest priority is the security of their weapon at all times. On the trail, that becomes a real issue, since there’s no way to safely store your weapon. Want to go for a quick swim? Sorry, you can’t leave your sidearm unattended. Need to head into town for a resupply? Public transportation is off-limits, and most businesses don’t allow firearms. Want to grab a cold beer at the local watering hole after a particularly humid stretch of trail? Bummer, because in most states guns aren’t allowed in bars.

Second, hikers and backpackers are notorious gram counters. Are you seriously going to agonize for months over how to save a few grams on your stove, tent, and shoes, and then pack two pounds of loaded pistol on your hip? You may as well carry an external frame pack and a canvas-wall tent.

Finally, and most importantly, carrying a gun changes the way we interact with and feel about others. For thru-hikers, the social element is an enormously rewarding part of the experience. They meet people from around the world, adopt kooky trail names, share information (including who might be sketchy or carrying a weapon), and coexist for a brief time in a remarkable place, doing a remarkable thing. Bring a firearm into that dynamic, and it won’t be the same. Others don’t know you—they don’t know your training, demeanor, judgment, or intelligence. All they know is that you have a weapon and, with it, the power to hurt them. And that’s all that truly matters. Guns intimidate.

So basically this all boils down to three things with him.  First, beer.  Second, weight.  Third, intimidation.  So if you like beer on the trail, or if you’re concerned about a couple of pounds that could save your life, or if you like to gather with folks who call each other by kooky names, then perhaps he has a point.  Or maybe not.  I didn’t have any problems with a couple of additional pounds, I never had beer on the trail, and I’ve just never worried about intimidation when I carry.  That’s not the point.

If you’re not experienced in the bush but very concerned about how people feel about you – in other words you’re a unique and special snowflake – this might be the guide for you.  On the other hand, he might get you killed too.  My bet is that for whatever reason he has been blessed in the bush, and he is conflating his lack of means of and need for self defense with something totally out of his control.

He isn’t in control over the disposition of wildlife or two-legged threats in his life.  On the other hand, he is indeed in control over his own decisions, and he has chosen the option less safe.  That’s his prerogative, just as it is mine to call him an idiot.


  1. On June 13, 2019 at 12:29 am, Jack said:

    This Skinbags…thoughts/feelings/rant…mean Zero to me.
    You summed it up perfectly.
    That said..
    I shall continue to carry till my demise
    If you choose not too, thats your choice. I shant infringe on that.

  2. On June 13, 2019 at 1:18 am, Nosmo said:

    Not to mention the extra weight of a spare tire in the trunk dragging down your gas mileage, and carrying those heavy fire extinguishers home from the store is so tiring…. Whenever a discussion arises about “not needing a gun” at a place or event I ask how often they leave their spare tire at home because they’re sure they won’t have a flat that day. So far, I’ve not found anyone who does.

    RE: “Bring a firearm into that dynamic, and it won’t be the same.” I’m not sure what “dynamic” he’s referring to, but the “dynamic” I’m most interested in is surviving in good health whatever enjoyable recreational pursuit I find worthwhile. Without that the trip just isn’t the same…..

  3. On June 13, 2019 at 1:18 am, Michael Donato said:

    Not an idiot, a douche.

  4. On June 13, 2019 at 4:10 am, June J said:

    Every article I read like this I dismiss as anti gun propaganda. This guy is a glorified ski bum, his “backcountry guide service” is for skiers. I’d bet he owns exactly zero firearms.

  5. On June 13, 2019 at 5:08 am, revjen45 said:

    I really don’t care if a snowflake is intimidated by the sight of a gun. I don’t behave in a threatening manner so they can pound sand.

  6. On June 13, 2019 at 6:43 am, ragman said:

    Useful idiot.

  7. On June 13, 2019 at 7:26 am, George said:

    The writer makes the classic confirmation bias error. He has never experienced needing a weapon so he believes he never will. Although if he is a guide in the type of environment he describes I seriously doubt that he does not know of instances where a weapon was needed by someone.

    Anyway he is free to carry on. However we can all do without his holier than thou judgments about the rest of us.

  8. On June 13, 2019 at 7:29 am, Jack said:

    We use to hear the same arguments regarding seat belts and airbags in cars.

    We still hear the same arguments regarding seat belt use in airplanes, even after a woman was partially sucked out of an SWA flight and hundreds of people have suffered concussions and broken limbs due to inflight turbulence.

    I’m not sure if Nassim Nicholas Taleb gets the credit, but his term ‘Intellectual Yet Idiot’ definitely applies to Mr. Pogge

  9. On June 13, 2019 at 7:46 am, Thomas said:

    I carry because there are bad people out there. There even is a religion, started by a guy in the desert, that tells there will only be peace when all infidels are gone. There are animals in the wild that stay mad and hungry. He can do what he pleases, but for me, prudence is best.

  10. On June 13, 2019 at 8:17 am, SGT.BAG said:

    I hiked into Supai with my grown daughters last year and it was a target rich environment if one was so inclined. Until Mr. Pogge grows a pair he and his ilk will be satisfied with a Bible and a rape whistle.

    If you look like food you will be eaten.

  11. On June 13, 2019 at 8:27 am, Fred said:

    “It’s guns in other peoples’ hands that make me nervous.”

    I’m less inclined to have a sanguine attitude about this Drew guy. He wants to “coexist.” Uh, huh, sure he does. They all do, even if that means bulldozing you into a trench.

    He was an armed currier of money. Yep, those jobs around here start at $9 an hour and you must be willing to shoot somebody over a pile of worthless federal reserve notes, that are insured anyway, and have lost 98 percent of the fictional ‘value’ that they had when they were invented as a notional digit based on thin air. Sure, this guy isn’t a total statist retard.

  12. On June 13, 2019 at 9:12 am, Herschel Smith said:


    Oh, I don’t take him for a Bible type at all. I take him for a professional tree-hugger type. But maybe free is right – maybe he’s just another collectivist.

  13. On June 13, 2019 at 10:04 am, Dov Sar said:

    When I was a wee young lieutenant stationed in California, I used to hike the Sierra Nevadas for days and also dog sled camp there. My first experience in hiking in the wilderness and running into people was thinking, ‘what do they know that I don’t?’ as they carried and I did not. I figured since they were older than me and had been around a bit they might know more than me, and time proved them right. You would feel pretty silly if you needed a gun and all you had was harsh language.

  14. On June 13, 2019 at 10:10 am, Fred said:

    “…most importantly, carrying a gun changes the way we interact with and feel about others.”

    No, he’s not Christian (or he’s been mislead by the American church into this fallacy). A gun, his own gun, changes the way he(?) feels. It changes his emotional state and his spiritual state, he claims, ‘feelings’ being his word of choice here. Or yes, he’s a statist. Maybe not as overtly and perhaps just a controller in mindset (is there a difference?) but he states that it changes the way “we” feel. Changes us, collectively, in our emotional and spiritual state. That is a big, slow, fluffy, and soft, no so mean as an outright threat but none the less, a full on Propaganda statement. Mr Herschel has discussed what religion it is of those that believe and think (feel) inanimate objects control their very being. That isn’t the Gospel Christ Jesus this much I know.

  15. On June 13, 2019 at 11:17 am, NOG said:

    Outside magazine? What we use to call “a yuppie hippie rag”. The liberals view of the outside world. Same sort that goes to Morocco and gets beheaded because it’s a cool place to go that the proles don’t go. Or the same type as that kid in Alaska that “wanted to become one with the brown bear”. Dinner served………and he did (become one with a brown bear, at least until the bear defecated).

  16. On June 13, 2019 at 12:10 pm, Differ said:

    I bet these folks wished they’d been armed in May:
    8 murders on the AT since ’74 is Remote probability, but dead is Catastrophic outcome…so risk is Serious, and as more people explore wilderness areas, the probability of encountering antisocial ones increases…..

  17. On June 13, 2019 at 2:31 pm, Damocles said:

    I too have spent a lot of my life in the wilderness with bears and some big cats. Much of it in and around Yellowstone. I have always been armed and have never needed a firearm against a 4 legged apex predator . I have had several show and tell sessions while out and about that might have gone differently without a firearm. This guy may some day find Tim Treadwell fame for his approach.

  18. On June 13, 2019 at 2:35 pm, Rocketguy said:

    Oh, good grief…stated another way:

    I’ve been driving all my life. I’ve put in a lot of miles both professionally and for leisure. I’ve never been in an accident so I’ve never needed a seatbelt or airbag. In fact, these “safety” devices tend to make us feel invulnerable and actually make the driving experience worse for everyone. Seatbelts and airbags are bad, bad, bad.

    Does that cover his argument?

  19. On June 13, 2019 at 2:38 pm, Sanders said:

    So, he’s been lucky all his life. He expects to always be lucky – until he isn’t.

  20. On June 13, 2019 at 3:54 pm, June J said:

    Hopefully he doesn’t procreate and his offspring grow up without a father when he becomes bear/mountain lion scat.

  21. On June 13, 2019 at 7:17 pm, Tim said:

    The whole “bringing a gun into the dynamic” just irks me. What does he think-that armed people go hiking and just wave their handguns willynilly at every flower and bumblebee? I recently got my CC carry and wore my 1911 to church in a rig under my arm and concealed under a comfortable shirt. No one knew, and no dynamics were automatically triggered. I bought a separate rig for outdoor wear in the woods. As others have put it, the author is more than welcome to stroll around a potential victim & scat for something with sharp teeth and no Party affiliations. But the rest of us readers would not presume to always be that lucky-especially when it comes to being eaten versus going out to eat.

  22. On June 13, 2019 at 7:42 pm, Rocketguy said:

    I’m pretty sure it has been brought up before but the whole “bringing a gun into the dynamic” thing is all about transference. Leftists are unstable and controlled by their feelings. They know that, if they were carrying a weapon, it would affect the how they carry themselves and how they interact with others. They know they might whip it out and use it at the slightest provocation…and they assume everyone is like that.

    Leftist\commie\progressive\etc is a mental disorder.

  23. On June 14, 2019 at 7:57 am, Ned said:

    Guy is an authority on being an authority. This is an example of some idiot making so many false statements that it would take pages to properly fisk. That being said, You did an elegant job, Herschel.

  24. On June 15, 2019 at 8:19 am, Longbow said:

    “The only time I carry one into the woods, however, is to hunt. To kill game.”

    You see? I have a LEGITIMATE REASON to own my firearms! I’m a hunter!

    It’s all you other people who are the problem! All you people who aren’t… me.

  25. On June 16, 2019 at 12:59 pm, 41mag said:

    Read “Trail and Camp guns” by Tim Sundles.

    Great discussion on his reasons and experiences for needing a long gun while backpacking in MT.

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You are currently reading "Why Carrying A Gun Is Unnecessary And Dumb", entry #21409 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Animals,Firearms,Guns and was published June 12th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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