We've carried a pistol around on hikes and river trips for nearly 25 years.
We've only had to use it once to kill a weird raccoon that had already bitten one person and was attacking a second individual.
It is a Smith and Wesson .38 "airweight." It weighs a few grams less than one pound when loaded with 3 rounds. Even though it holds 5 rounds, we carry only three. The hammer rests on an empty chamber and the next chamber in rotation is also empty. There's virtually no way one could accidentally discharge the pistol. The first round is snakeshot. The second is a typical garden-variety jacketed round and the third is a hollow point. We carry no extra rounds.
We have removed the grips to reduce weight. The alloy frame on this old 1970's piece is remarkable. It has been underwater for considerable periods of time when my kayak was pinned on trees, rocks, etc. Yes, it has corroded here and there but it's little 2 inch barrel is still fully function and reasonably accurate.
We practice religiously twice a year with two boxes of shells. We expend some at fixed targets over varying distances. We use the remainder on "hip shots" while walking at a medium pace in a typical Arizona dry wash.
We do not carry the pistol on our hip. It is always packed somewhere where access would NOT be speedy or convenient.
We also have a real nice 9mm auto with a real nice cordura holster. We had a gunsmith "tune" it up and and we keep it in nice (unsubmerged) condition. Once in awhile, we will carry it on our belt. Frankly, though, we don't see much of a reason for doing so. Besides, the dang thing weight a lot and gives me a kink in my side! It's more of a "car camping" piece that sits in the tent next to our air mattress.
The S&W airweight, on the other hand, is so light that sometimes it's easy to forget it is actually in our dayhike pack.
Of course, we practice that rule that "Thou Shalt Know The whereabouts of Thy gun at all times," mentality. A firearm that is "unaccounted for" is a very dangerous piece of technology!
We believe that anyone who carries (or maintains) any firearm for any reason should demonstrate regular proficiency in its usage and be aware of its location, presence and purpose at all times, day and night 24/7/365.
Hope that helps move the discussion along.
PS--We have spent inordinate amounts of time on bear country in 10 western states in the past two summers. We truly doubt that a firearm is the suitable means of providing "safety," whatever that means, in bear country. Industrial strength pepper spray seems to be a better choice. However, as noted in another post above, your NUMBER ONE defense against black bears, especially, is a clean camp and paying attention to all the rules separation of cooking, storage, cleaning and sleeping areas. If your take ANY scented items into your tent, your are basically a fool.
You should actually even change out of the clothes you cooked in before retiring to your tent. Buy or rent a bear canister. It's all common sense.
Bears have a sense of smell that is basically a ba-zillion times better than yours. They can probably smell Chap-Stick at a thousand yards. Keep scented stuff away from your body and there are very good odds that you will never be molested. If your food is properly hung from a tree or in a bear-proof canister at least a third of a football field from your tent, NO PROBLEM! Let the beasties have a merry old time messing with your food. They could care less about you, provided you are not slathered with some sweet smelling stuff that has a name like "Honey Flowers & Strawberry Bisque."
The government (in locales other than Arizona) has gotten pretty righteous about bears in recent years. Most places will provide copious amount of printed material to help you understand Bear 101 all the way up to post-graduate Bear 999. Avail yourselves of such advice. Those people know what they are talking about.[/code]