After all the research and post reviews I came away with even more questions. Was hoping a 308 rifle with a 180-200 grain bonded load with a 45 hollow points/ Springfield pistol would be more then enough for bear defense (realizing that neither of course was even close to suitable for bear hunting).
Now, after the research, I'm debating carrying my Remmy 12 guage with slugs on any hunting trip or deep hike. Hate to carry 3 guns but I would hate it even more if my last thought was "oh sh#t that's a big bear, wish I had a bigger gun". Any thoughts on a 308 rifle / 45 pistol combo for bear defense?
Looks like you visited the "outdoorsdirectory"!
From what I've read, the 308 and .45ACP would be poor choices for defense from a large grizzly.
After all my reading, hunting (never did connect with a bear but only went on about 6 bear specific hunts), and talking to folks who hunt bear I boil it down to a few bear defense solutions (in order):
- Dangerous game rifle (see links and excerpts below) of choice for hunting and hiking
- 12 gauge with hard cast slugs: http://www.brennekeusa.com/cms/
(sold at the PX)
- a reliable .44 magnum that you trust / can shoot well
On pistols: I had a S&W .460v but only carried hard cast 454 loads because the .460mag was just too uncomfortable to shoot steady. The 454 loads through that gun were much more manageable (to me). Of course, ammo was killer expensive so, in hindsight, I would have simply carried a .44 magnum. Of note, when you're fishing, you really don't want to deal with the hassle of a shotgun or rifle even if it's slung.
I wouldn't carry more than 1 weapon as in the mountains weight begins to be a big factor and can affect your hunting range (in the place I hunted, you had to pack out what you killed as no 4 wheelers were allowed).
Do a google search for "Johnson's pass trail" for a great walk in site. Lot's of bear sign in the area every year. Of course, check the current regulations to make sure it's still OK to hunt the game your're after during the time of year you want to hunt. Also of note, it's pretty much impassable without snow shoes during winter and early summer. You should also check out the book "hunting in AK" (by C. Batin). TONS of great info and almost mandatory reading for any AK hunt (he covers all common game animals, when/where to hunt, equipment, etc.).
If you're hunting bear, even if only black bear, there will be grizzly in the same area. As such, your weapon needs to be of sufficient caliber to kill a grizzly in self defense. Most experienced Alaskans say use a .30 caliber that you can shoot comfortably with no more than a 6 power scope (you won't want to risk more than a 100-150 yard shot anyway). I used quick release mounts on my .375 in case I had to flush a wounded animal. You are spot on about the bonded bullets. I used the federal premium safari loads and found them to be very accurate though I was not able to see how they did on an animal. Of note, they're also very expensive!
Here's one of the best articles I've seen which should give you more than enough info to make a rifle/caliber selection (along with 2 excerpts):
"The minimum recommended calibers for all of the great bears are the .30-06 Springfield with 180 grain (SD .271) to 220 grain (SD .331) bullets, and any of the standard length 7mm Magnum cartridges with 175 grain (SD .310) bullets. In addition to the .30-06, other suitable standard cartridges include the .338-06 A-Square and .35 Whelen, both with 225 to 250 grain bullets."
"In a recent survey it was revealed that the most popular caliber with Alaskan professional hunters and guides responsible for "backing-up" their clients was the .338 Winchester Magnum. With typical factory loads using 225 to 250 grain premium bullets the .338 Win. Mag. has a ME of about 3860-4046 ft. lbs. and a maximum point blank range (+/- 3") of about 270 yards. These can be taken as ideal ballistics for hunting any of the great bears. Recoil energy runs about 34 ft. lbs. in an 8.5 pound rifle."
As you might guess, I spent about 2 months in the maps and in the books before I set foot in the woods. Hunting in AK can be some of the most exciting hunting you'll ever experience, but it can also be some of the most dangerous (terrain, weather, game, etc.)!
Ah, what an experience you have ahead!