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Old March 19, 2013, 06:44 PM   #1
landrand
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

I currently live in Northern Michigan (UP) and in two weeks I will be going to Palmer, Alaska for 6 months for a work project. Although I don’t know for sure at this time, but if I really like Alaska I may consider making AK my new home. I’m an avid outdoors person so I plan to do plenty of fly fishing, hiking, camping, and hunting on my free time. Although I don’t consider myself an experienced handgun owner/shooter, I do have some experience with a handgun as I currently own a 10mm S&W 1006. I also own several rifles; a Remington Woodsmaster 742 semi-automatic 30-06, 300 Savage, and a 35 cal Remington Woodsmaster 81.

Since large bore handguns are hard to come by these days and I can’t buy a handgun in AK, last week I decided I need to buy a larger gun here in Michigan to take with. After many hours searching, I bought a Ruger Redhawk 44 mag with a 5.5” barrel. I plan to carry this weapon during outdoor activities primarily for bear protection. Unfortunately, from what I have read online, it sounds like the 44 magnum isn’t all that powerful when dealing with large Alaskan bears and other big game. Therefore, I’ve also considered getting a larger second handgun, such as the 454 cassul, to take with as well.

Right now, I’ve found and am interested in two larger guns from local gun shops. I can either get a new Magnum Research BFR 6 ½” 454 single action for about $960 or a very nice used Freedom Arms Model 83 Premium 7 ½” barrel for $1429 out the door. I understand the FA is an awesome gun, but it is quite a bit more expensive than the BFR.

So here’s my question: Should I go to Alaska with the two guns, the Ruger Redhawk 44 and one of the 454’s? Which 454’s would you recommend or say is the better buy of the two? Another thing that I’m also thinking about is ammunition. Although I have never reloaded before, I do own a single stage press and am in the process of learning. Once in AK, if I can find the reloading supplies I plan to take my press, reload in AK, and spend plenty of time target practicing. At the moment I have very limited reloading supplies. Here’s what I currently have access to or can get:

-I have 200 each used 44 mag brass. At the moment, I can't find any new 44 mag brass. Looks like the 454 brass is readily available from Starline.

-I just bought 1000 large pistol primers and 1000 large mag pistol primers from a shop in Anchorage. I haven’t been able to locate any small rifle primers for the 454.

-Although the picking is sparse, looks like I can get some 44 bullets whereas I haven’t located any 454 bullets yet.

Anyway, thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing your recommendations.

Last edited by landrand; March 19, 2013 at 08:53 PM.
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Old March 19, 2013, 07:11 PM   #2
wnycollector
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My neighbors sons both work for Princess Rail Tours between Anchorage and Denali. The last time they were home visiting, we chatted about this exact subject. Both of them carry 44 Mag Ruger Blackhawks 300gr hard cast's and bear spray when fishing. When camping they will occasionally tote a 12ga shotgun loaded with Brenneke hardened slugs. I hope this helps.
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Old March 19, 2013, 07:52 PM   #3
RalphS
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When people talk about the 44 Magnum being underpowered for Alaska, they are usually talking about shooting the 240 grain JHP ammo at Walmart. This isn't the ammo that you want to carry for bear defense. Your Redhawk will shoot this ammo from Buffalobore- https://www.buffalobore.com/index.ph...ct_detail&p=54 and this ammo from Garrett- http://www.garrettcartridges.com/44hammerheadplusp.html

I also have a Redhawk 5.5 inch 44 mag. I can handload a 355 grain Beartooth bullet to 1225 fps and a 325 grain Beartooth bullet 1325 fps (much cheaper than buying Garrett or BB ammo, by the way). Those loads are at a completely different power level than the 44 Mag ammo at Walmart and start to approach the bottom end of what a 454 can do.

But the main consideration is - can you accurately shoot those loads? There's no point buying a 454 Casull that you can't handle.

If I was in your situation, I would take the Redhawk with some BB or Garrett loads, and a 12 gauge shotgun with Brenneke slugs. When you get back from AK, learn to reload for the 44 Mag and work up your own bear loads.

A couple more advantages to the RH 44M over a single action 454 -

Practice ammo is cheaper and easier to find. 44M brass is cheaper than 454 brass. I sometimes find 44M brass in the buckets at the range. I've never found 454 brass at the range. 44M bullets are cheaper and easier to find for reloading. It takes a lot of practice for most of us to become accurate (meaning to stop flinching) with the big bore guns.

There are people who shoot nothing but single actions and are very proficient with them. The rest of us are better off with double action revolvers. When that bear knocks you down and is chewing on your head and you are trying to hold him off with one of your hands in it's mouth and shoot it with the gun in the other hand, are you going to be able to cock the hammer after every shot or do you want to just pull the trigger 6 times?

But the main thing is that a 12 gauge with Brennekes is far better than any handgun. They are just hard to carry when fly fishing a river.

Last edited by RalphS; March 19, 2013 at 08:05 PM.
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Old March 19, 2013, 08:30 PM   #4
tjh
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All though not as powerful don't count your 10mm out , some hot hard cast loads make it something to consider , with a few mags you could have seveal differant loads
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Old March 19, 2013, 09:17 PM   #5
landrand
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I don’t know if I can handle heavier loads in a 44 or 454 as I have never shot them before. My goal is to start out with the lighter loads and work up to the heavy stuff. As I’m sure it probably takes years of dedicated shooting, I’m thinking this summer would be my entry into art of shooting large bore handguns with heavy loads.

For the last week or two, I’ve been reading everything I can online about AK bear protection and big game hunting. I probably will be fishing/hunting mostly by myself as I don’t know anyone in AK at this time. I do like the idea of carrying a rifle or shotgun with me when I’m in the woods. Unfortunately, I think it might be difficult to fly fish with a shotgun/rifle hanging on my back. Although I don’t mind having a shotgun/rifle with, I would bet that most of the time it would be resting on tree on the shore while I fish.

When I get to AK, I can buy whatever I need for a shotgun/rifle for protection and hunting. Per your comments and what I read before, either the 12GA or Marlin 45-70 is ideal for bear protection. For big game hunting, I understand the .338 or .375 comes highly recommended. Not sure if my Remington Woodsmaster 742 30-06 would come in handy somewhere in this trip as well.

Last edited by landrand; March 19, 2013 at 09:24 PM.
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Old March 19, 2013, 09:19 PM   #6
RalphS
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You will find tons of info concerning fishing, hunting and shooting in Alaska at the Alaska Outdoors Forum.

http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/forum.php

Here's a good thread http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...en-out-fishing

Last edited by RalphS; March 19, 2013 at 10:48 PM.
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Old March 20, 2013, 12:07 AM   #7
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From what I understand about Palmer, you may want to worry more about two-legged predators, than bears. My understanding is that it has serious overall crime problems, a very high home break-in rate, and significant drug problems.
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Old March 20, 2013, 08:01 AM   #8
GeauxTide
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I would buy a short barreled pump shotgun with the above mentioned Brenneke slugs or a Marlin 1895 in 45-70 for camping trips. Hard cast 44s, starting at 300gr will be appropriate with the bear spray for fishing trips.
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Old March 20, 2013, 08:46 AM   #9
Seaman
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

"I think it might be difficult to fly fish with a shotgun/rifle hanging on my back. Although I don’t mind having a shotgun/rifle with, I would bet that most of the time it would be resting on tree on the shore while I fish. "

Same thing would happen to me. Bears like fish, they are not shy about taking your catch.

"Should I go to Alaska with the two guns, the Ruger Redhawk 44 and one of the 454’s?"

One is enough. My trail gun is a 44Mag S&W 29, 3" barrel, heavy duty non-fluted cylinder, just weighed it, 45 ounces empty, right about the weight of a Ruger Alaskan. I would go with the 454 Ruger Alaskan.

I've had longer barreled 44 Mags, but they are more suited for hunting, not close range self defense. A big bore snubbie is the ultimate rough and tumble gun.

Since you are already shooting 10mm you will likely be able to handle a big bore handgun. Its all about riding the recoil.

If you wind up dancing with a brownie, you won't feel the recoil.

I would not shoot 44 spl or 45 Colt thru the respective guns, this just cruds up the chambers, more cleaning required + wear & tear.

Best of luck to you, enjoy your time in the last great frontier.
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Old March 20, 2013, 09:29 AM   #10
Poindexter
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I would stick with the Redhawk. Remember you are not going hunting with it, you are carrying it for defense.

As far as long guns, one piece of conventional wisdom up here is, "If you can't kill it with a 30-06, you should hide."

Having said that .338s and up are quite popular. You can have my Marlin 1895GG in 45-70 when you pry my cold dead fingers... 12ga with slugs also a terrific option.
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Old March 20, 2013, 12:11 PM   #11
Isk
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Quote:
I probably will be fishing/hunting mostly by myself as I don’t know anyone in AK at this time.
I think this is why it seems like only the tourists get eaten by bears.

As a general rule, don't do anything on your own here. As kids, we didn't go deep into the woods without a group of four. More people means more noise and fewer bear encounters. Good woodscraft will save you more often than a gun.

RalphS has it right. In Palmer, the .44 Magnum is probably sufficient, if loaded with the right cartridges (everybody I know uses the Buffalo Bore stuff). It's typically the coastal brownies that require a Howitzer to take them down. I carry a .357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk loaded with either Buffalo Bore or Double Tap hardcast rounds. I don't feel undergunned, because I always hike with at least two guys with .44's and a guy with bear spray.
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Old March 20, 2013, 02:05 PM   #12
ClydeFrog
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Don't watch The Grey!....

Ha ha ha.

If it were me in AK for 6mo, I'd get a S&W Gov revolver. It fires .45acp .45LC & .410 shotshell.
A forum member once said there are no snakes in AK but I wouldn't want to be the first to meet one, .

The snub Ruger AK revolver in .454/.45 LC(long Colt) or a Super RedHawk revolver may fit the bill.
The S&W Gov is robust, fires more calibers & can be fit with a Lasergrip; www.crimsontrace.com .
For a semi auto, I'd seriously consider a Glock 20 10mm with the Guncrafters Industry .50GI kit.
You can handle bears, wolves, critters & ___ers .

CF
ps; I spent part of the summer of 2012 in North Naknek AK(Bristol Bay). $5.00 for a can of domestic beer, $6.00 for a can of Cambells Chunky soup, $30.00 for a pizza.
No thanks!
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Old March 20, 2013, 02:30 PM   #13
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Just my $0.02. I think your 44mag is plenty for protection. If you want bigger I would skip right over a 454 and go to a 460,480,500. Also you mentioned that you would likely be fishing alone. Of all the things that can be an issue, being alone in such a environment is the most dangerous. Less so in summer, but still major. I dont know how confident or experienced an outdorsemen you are. AK has the potential to wipe you out as quickly as any Grizzly or Polar bear. Coming from MI I would guess your pretty used to the cold and snow.
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Old March 20, 2013, 03:04 PM   #14
wyobohunter
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

You remind me of me ten years ago when I moved out of America ;-)

I prefer 454 because you can also use 45 Colt... Although your 44 mag is plenty with the heavy loads others mentioned and I believe you can run 44 special as well. I'd save your money and get a nice chest holster for the gun you have. The remaining money can be spent on a decent 8 wt fly rod and some nice waders if you don't have them. If you want to go all out get an 11 or 12 wt rod for Kings too (PM me if you want a good deal on a used Orvis Trident 11 wt).

Fear not the heavy loads... They are really no big deal. Though you should find a nice 44 special load that hits same POA at 10-15 yds to practice with.
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Old March 20, 2013, 03:27 PM   #15
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RalphS has nailed it. If you have never even shot a .44Mag, you don't need a .454. Lots of folks like to quote the USFA study that was done back in the `80's and conclude that the .44Mag (and .45-70) are poor bear stoppers but that the 220gr .30-06 is king. If you consider the poor loads they used for testing, this is true. Step up to proper loads in both and you have two cartridges that do a better job than the 220gr .30-06 (Remington CorLokt) they used in their tests. That would be a good 320-355gr LBT in the .44Mag and a 420-500gr in the .45-70. Forget the .454, it's a lot of pressure and recoil that produces a lot of velocity but practically, only serves to flatten trajectory. Same for the .460 and .500S&W. They are more difficult cartridges to master and won't yield you any gain. You're already against the wall just starting out with the .44Mag. Although the .480Ruger is a very practical cartridge, it's probably still a little more than you need right now.

Shotgun slugs are pitiful.


Quote:
If it were me in AK for 6mo, I'd get a S&W Gov revolver. It fires .45acp .45LC & .410 shotshell....For a semi auto, I'd seriously consider a Glock 20 10mm with the Guncrafters Industry .50GI kit.
You can handle bears, wolves, critters & ___er
I would recommend against both the Governor and the .50GI. The .410 is useless for such purposes and the Governor is not a very good general purpose woods gun. It's not strong enough for appropriate .45Colt loads. Poor choice. The .50GI is a very moderate big bore that does not utilize heavy enough bullets for bear duty. You'd be better off with the 10mm and 220gr loads from DoubleTap.
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Old March 20, 2013, 06:53 PM   #16
tomrkba
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Make sure to buy Hogue Decelerator grips. You may want to use a padded shooting glove when you practice shooting the heavy loads.

I'd still keep a pump action shotgun or 45/70 levergun handy while out and about. The long gun is the way to go, but you'll have to make allowances for it. A quality sling will be essential.

Quote:
Shotgun slugs are pitiful.
What's the problem? I just watched "Bear Island" and one of the guys with LaVern Beier had a pump action shotgun. Someone mentioned "Brennekes"...what are the attributes to look for in a slug?

Quote:
You remind me of me ten years ago when I moved out of America ;-)
Yeah, no s**t. I'm seriously considering doing so since the political retardation is getting so bad. Even my state is infected. I hate going to "large" Libertarian meeting and find only 10 people. It's sad to see so few interested in any sort of liberty.

Last edited by tomrkba; March 20, 2013 at 07:02 PM.
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Old March 20, 2013, 07:48 PM   #17
wyobohunter
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

By out of America I meant Alaska. Many Alaskans call the lower 48 "America" as if they were their own country.

Long gun is obviously better but absolutely useless when you are in the river and it is on the bank and you suddenly realize you need it toot sweet.

Try fishing (especially fly fishing) with a long gun slung in any way imaginable... It will end up on the bank where it is useless. Even if it was on you the only feasible way to not drop it would be Robin Hood style, see how fast you can get it into action.

Edit-just realized I was repeating what you already said... Sorry.

Also, when camping it is much easier to swing that revolver in the direction of scary noises than a rifle.

Finally (maybe) as FrankenMauser mentioned the Mat-Su area is second only to Anchorage in crime. You are allowed to either open or concealed carry in AK so long as you are legal to own a firearm. Though a Redhawk isn't the best CCW it's better than nothin at all.

Last edited by wyobohunter; March 20, 2013 at 08:04 PM.
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Old March 20, 2013, 07:55 PM   #18
wyobohunter
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

Quote:
Originally Posted by ClydeFrog View Post
Ha ha ha.
A forum member once said there are no snakes in AK but I wouldn't want to be the first to meet one, .
:
The forum member was correct, there are no snakes. Although "snake" shot type loads are good for bagging grouse and ptarmigan for supper, there are lots of those and a small game license isn't too spendy even for an out of stater.

Accounting for all of the other stuff I said, the 5.5" Redhawk in 44 Mag would be an excellent one gun choice for everything you say you intend to do on this trip.

Don't want to start a fight but the difference between 44 heavy loads and 10mm "heavy" loads is not even close to trivial.

Last edited by wyobohunter; March 20, 2013 at 08:10 PM.
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Old March 20, 2013, 08:04 PM   #19
jmr40
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Buy some quality ammo for the 10mm and go. I'm getting 1300+fps with Double Tap 200 gr hardcast bullets from my Glock. A short 3"-4" barreled 44 won't do all that much better. A 44 mag will offer quite a bit more power, if you want to shoot it from a 6" or longer barrel. But those tend to get left behind when you really need them. The Glock 20's are gaining a good reputation and a lot of Alaskans are choosing them because of their compact size and real world performance. The 1006 should be at least as good. If carrying most handguns with more than a 4" barrel I find a carbine easier. A Marlin lever action in 44 mag would be my choice in 44.

Of course the 454 takes things to a different level, but those cannons are going to get left behind and not carried a lot because of the size. I view them more as hunting handguns where long range power is desired. I don't see them as practical personal protection guns.
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Old March 20, 2013, 08:51 PM   #20
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I would stick with your 44 mag redhawk. Get some hardcast bullets and do some practicing at relatively close range (15 yds). You should be fine. The holster choice will be important. Look at Diamond D shoulder/chest holster or something similar.

I would carry my S&W 4" 41 mag with hard casts for the purpose you mention unless I just happen to buy a Ruger Alaskan in 480 Ruger as I hope to in the future.
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Old March 20, 2013, 09:07 PM   #21
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I'm a governor fan for any woods carry. Remember, a bears neurologic pain is felt immediately in the head/nose area.....but is a non starter in the torso. I feel more comfortable turning any bear inside 10' with #6 shot than thinking you will stop being mauled or killed with a 44 or 454 to the breadbasket. The chances of hitting the head/nose/eyes with a single shot bullet inside 10' are slim to none and you are toast.

Good luck on the fishing. Should be fun.
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Old March 20, 2013, 09:34 PM   #22
newfrontier45
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Shotgun slugs, even the vaunted Brennekes have a pitiful sectional density. Compare them to common handgun bullets and you'll find them wanting.


Quote:
I feel more comfortable turning any bear inside 10' with #6 shot...
That will get you killed. I've seen a brown bear soak up 5 .416's and you think you're gonna change his mind with a .410???
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Old March 20, 2013, 10:02 PM   #23
wyobohunter
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

+1
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Old March 20, 2013, 10:02 PM   #24
dorc-1
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I'll take my chances with #6 to the face inside 10' any day. I'm looking to turn the great bear rather than kill it. You like your chances with big guns on a charge then have at it. There are expert shooters out there that I would feel comfortable standing behind with a large caliber handgun or rifle to make an accurate shot, but I'm not one of them...........perhaps you are and good for you.
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Old March 20, 2013, 10:15 PM   #25
wyobohunter
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Help: 44 Mag or 454 Handgun and Recommended Ammo for Extended Stay in Alaska

And it may work. If it does you are knowingly injuring a bear. He then becomes somebody else's problem. To some degree you are responsible for what the now angry bruin does to the next human it encounters.
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