My idea of a trail gun is a handgun that, with 50 pounds of ammunition, will make a package small and light enough that you are unaware of its presence until you need it. It adds practically nothing to the contents of a backpack or to the saddlebags of horseman or cyclist. Worn in a neat holster on the trouser belt, it lies flat and doesn’t sag your pants. It also looks at home in a fishing box.
Being small and feathery, my trail gun is of necessity chambered for a small-caliber cartridge. For the purposes outlined, I suggest the .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .32 S&W Long, .32-20 or .38 Special. Although I seldom carry a 9mm automatic on the trail, it would qualify in certain guns for those who like the auto pistol.
The odds-on caliber for the man who doesn’t handload, and maybe even for the one who does, is the .22 Long Rifle. This famous cartridge has been in continuous production since the 1880’s and millions are manufactured in the U.S. each day. It is probably our most highly developed cartridge and certainly one of our most accurate. It cannot be reloaded, yet compensates for this by being extremely inexpensive.
The .22 LR normally comes with an outside-lubricated 40-grain solid or 37-grain hollowpoint lead bullet. The latter is a very effective small-game load out to 50 and perhaps 75 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter. The HP cavities on commonly used .22 Long Rifles are quite deep and open rather rapidly, especially at close range.