View Full Version : .38-40 Winchester for black bear? Your views or experiences.

James F. Walsh
December 2, 2002, 08:03 PM
I have a 92 Winchester, circa 1892, in excellent shape and I am considering using it for a black bear hunt. Range would be under fifty yards max. Anyone have any experience with this caliber for whitetails or black bears? Any favorite loads for lever guns? Thanks.

Art Eatman
December 2, 2002, 10:29 PM
Factory ammo is loaded pretty gentle. Not really suited for most hunting. I guess you could load your own to better levels, but it's still not a bear cartridge. Not sure just how nice is your "nice shape", but it's probaly in the high hundreds of dollars for value. Fjestad's "Blue Book" would allow you to grade it and give a starting point for its value.

I'd strongly recommend going on up at least to a 94 in .30-30, if you like Winchester lever guns.


December 4, 2002, 08:28 PM
I've hunted whitetail with my Winchester Model '92 SRC in .38-40 and even with rifle specific handloads I consider it marginal (I also have a Ruger blackhawk convertable in .38-40 / 10mm on my hip).
For black bear the humane thing to do would be to move up to at least a .30-30 or .35 Rem in my opinion.

James F. Walsh
December 7, 2002, 10:47 AM
I also have a 94 Winchester, circa 1901, in .32 W.C.F.. How does this seem to anyone experienced with the .32 W.C.F.. Black bear worthy or not?

December 7, 2002, 06:55 PM
32 Winchester calibers cause a lot of confusion. the .32 WCF is the same thing as the .32-20. I handload for my Model 92 rifle in that caliber and can just about duplicate .30 carbine balistics. Not nearly enough for bear.

The other 32 chambered in the Model 94 is the .32 Special. This is a kissing cousin and contemporary of the .30-30. These two along with the .35 Rem are in the same ball park and have taken a lot of deer and black bear.

James F. Walsh
December 7, 2002, 07:34 PM
It is a .32 special. The barrel is stamped .32 W.S.. I've taken two black bears in Manitoba with my bow so it surprises me that the .38-40 would be considered inappropriate (underpowered). I guess my thrill comes from using antique Winchesters so it doesn't matter if it is my 110 year old model 92 or my 101 year old model 94 that I end up using.

December 8, 2002, 02:01 AM
I'm looking at my copy of the Shooter's Bible , and it list the .38-40 with a 180 grain bullet going at 1160 ft per second and generating 538 ft lbs of energy . I wouldn't recommend using such an anemic cartridge on something that could eat you .

Long Path
December 10, 2002, 09:16 AM
With a standing broadside shot, with a good rest, under 50 yds, with the bear unaware? With an accurate (NOT souped up) handload utilizing a qualitiy bullet? With good receiver peep sights (Not buckhorn open sights)? Keeping in mind that it's basically a handgun cartridge on a rifle platform?

Sure. Why not? :)

Johnny Guest
December 10, 2002, 06:17 PM
- - -and, expounding farther - - -

We can consider the .38/40--180--1160 fps load in much the same light as a 180 gr. .357 revolver load from a six-inch barrel. It has a little larger frontal area, though, and the carbine (or is it a rifle-length piece) does give you a superior launch vehicle.

It is a stunt, of course, but certainly do-able, given the proper circumstances. Couple of relevant questions - - -
Locale of the proposed black bear hunt? What size do the bears typically run? What time of year? Some places and some times of year, bear wallow in mud when convenient, to keep off the insects. Dried mud in bear fur can be very like armor plating, and penetration might be a problem.;)

The more I think about it, the more I'd be inclined to use your .32 Win Special for bear, and hold the .38/40 for a white tail deer.


Art Eatman
December 10, 2002, 07:43 PM
I dunno, Johnny. You're dealing with a critter that's commonly between 250 and 400 pounds, and heavier-boned than a deer.

Pull off a bit and get a bad hit on a deer, and you've not really caused a problem for other people. Do the same with a bear, and he might decide not to curl up and die all by himself.

Not saying James doesn't have a calm temperament, nor that he can't reliably pick which gnat's eye he wants to hit, but the old adrenalin can pump...

:), Art

December 11, 2002, 09:27 PM
A famous quote from the author (and fellow Tarheel) Robert Ruark was "Use enough gun". I think this is a good example. Will under the right circumstances a .38-40 kill a black bear? Certainly. Have black bears been killed with a .38-40? Without a doubt. Is it enough gun to quickly and humainly kill a black bear under most real world circumstances? I think possibaly not..... Please use enough gun.