View Full Version : Alaska backpacking .44 Magnum loads?

May 4, 2005, 04:01 PM
Looks like I'm going to be going to Alaska this summer to do a few days of backpacking. Naturally I want to bring something for protection against bears. I have a Taurus 44 Magnum with a 4 inch barrel and believe that to be enough, but being from South Texas I really wouldn't know.
So if anyone from up north has any feedback on the best loads for bears in .44 Mag, if the .44 Mag is enough, any advise on dealing bears & any legal restrictions on carrying weapons in Alaska I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

May 4, 2005, 06:46 PM
Cor-bon 44 Mag - 305g Penetrator load.... The company ballistics data says Muz. Vel. 1300fps / Muz. Energy 1145. Looks nice on paper at 50 yards too. 1209/989 with about 2.72" drop. The web info page says it's built for people living or visiting areas that are home to big claws and big teeth. This might be my pick.... I would also check into the best red pepper spray that one can buy. I have heard that a good dose of the REAL DEAL stuff will turn a big bear around and send him home bawling like a baby???? Just a thought and if it were me 2 different ways to stop one from attacking you is a big plus....... Good luck and have a great trip.......... Tell us all about it when you return........ One day I would love to go back to Alaska again.... :D


May 4, 2005, 06:52 PM
where in AK are you going to be? The standard for brownies would be a 12 ga shotgun with brenneke slugs. I would think a .44 would be adequate for black bear. If you are gonna carry OC, the best is called "Guard Alaska." In general, open carry in the woods is normal here. This might be different if you are going to a crowded national park, like Denali.


May 4, 2005, 07:00 PM
2nd the 12 g. slug suggestion. the 44mag will be a good backup to that.

pepper spray is a good idea as well, another option, but its already a stretch to have at least one hand on the shotgun, another on the 44, and somehow sprout another arm to go for the spray.

then again, if one wanted complete uniformity, you could bring along a marlin .44mag levergun. only have to hump one caliber with ya.

if you have any time in anchorage be sure to stop by Wild West Guns (just realized now that they put me on payroll, i can start legitimately attracting business to them!) and drool over the model 04. (http://www.wildwestguns.com/EStore/MasterGuideOrder/WWG04/wwg04.html)

May 4, 2005, 07:25 PM
AKHunter: I'm not quite sure exactly where yet. I'm using military Space A travel to get up there, so it's kinda hit or miss with where I go. When it gets a little closer I'll have a better idea of where I'm going to exactly.
After I get done with my unit's AT I have lots of time to hang out and wait until a flight opens up. As for getting back, thats not a real problem I have lots of MREs and tent :D .
You have any sugestions on where to go?

May 4, 2005, 08:27 PM



maybe Corbon...

May 5, 2005, 12:27 AM
I'll go #3 for the shotgun approach along with the 44 to carry around camp. Bear hide is thick followed by a lot of fat. Use a fully jacketed fast moving round that will penetrate deep. We had a bad experience with hollow points when a bear started fighting our dogs. No penetration since they would mushroom and dissapate. Hit him hard but didn't kill him. Finally got everyone seperated and the bear down Didn't loose a dog but had some hellacious vet bills.


May 5, 2005, 01:12 AM
Humm........How nessicary is a shotgun for bear protection? If I brought one I'd bring my Winchester 1300 Defender, which is a great weapon, yet its heavy, especially over long distances. Since my primary goal here is just to get out and enjoy myself as opposed to hunting (which involves being around carcasses i.e.-bear bait), to me from my safe & sound air conditioned apartment here in Texas that sounds like a little much firepower for a backpacking trip but than of course I'm not there right now. Are bear encounters often or fairly rare in those parts?
Please excuse my lack of knowledge about Alaska. Down here in Texas the only "dangerous" critters we have are wild pigs/javelinas if you corner them or surprise them (I've been chased before) and mountain lions. My normal backpacking gun is my Sig 220, loaded w/ rat-shot first than Hydra-shocks, so this is a radical departure from the norm.

May 5, 2005, 03:58 AM
If I were to take the same trip, I would feel good with that Winchester 1300, equipped with a Knox CompStock and 3" magnum slugs.

For a good revolver, if I were using the .44, I would stoke it with Garrett Hammerheads--and carry a few reloads as well.

May 5, 2005, 09:35 AM
UT, you're correct. Ignore those that suggest carrying a long gun. For your purpose, backpacking, that's much too bulky & heavy, and occupies your hands, which you need for snapping pictures, holding hiking stick, whatever. Get the hottest buffalobore or garrett rounds that your handgun can handle, per those manufacturers' specs, put some bells on your person to scare off the grizzlies, and have a moderately large can of OC spray. Practice with OC - make sure it hits where you're aiming. Aim for the nose of the bear. I'd use OC first, sidearm second, in my understanding. Oh yeah, make sure you have a holster with a retention strap, so your revolver doesn't tumble down a mountain if you slip and fall. Practice drawing from retention. And obviously, you're going to have to ask the locals about legality and so forth, and further advice, when you get there. But most reports apparently indicate that OC spray is quite effective, as bears are really repulsed by it.

May 5, 2005, 10:47 AM
Ignore those that suggest carrying a long gun

Exactly, especially if they are from Alaska, they dont know what they are talking about. :D

The geologists, biologists, FS personnel, bunny counters and all those who spend extensive time in the Alaska bush packing stuff all around carry...

Long Guns


May 5, 2005, 11:24 AM
The reason I asked where you're going is because I wanted to try to figure out what kind of bears you're likely to find. As far as wandering across bait stations goes, baiting is only allowed for black bear, iirc,and bait stations must be marked and visible. The problem is that you might get the same effect with passing near a stored kill from a brownie or interior grizzly (mini-brownie) They don't have to mark their spots yet ;) Since you're flying with uncle, I'd bet that you'll end up in Anchorage or Fairbanks (the road system.) Spiff and WildAlaska are both up that way and can clue you to where to go and what to carry. I'd go to Denali if I was up there, but I'm sure they can tell you what's what. I'm in Southeast, and around here, I'd go to Admiralty Island or to Baronof Island--both big time brownie country--and I'D take my shotgun--AND a friend with OC and a pistol.


May 5, 2005, 11:35 AM
Probably more important than what gun to carry is to practice bear country camping safety. Stuff like no food or trash in your tent, ever. Imagine a triangle with food storage, cooking and trash at one point, latrine at another point and your tent at the third, each point well away from the other. There is more, but this should show you what I mean. If you are sloppy with it, then how big your gun is suddenly becomes Much More Important. :eek:


May 5, 2005, 12:18 PM
The geologists, biologists, FS personnel, bunny counters and all those who spend extensive time in the Alaska bush packing stuff all around carry...

Exactly. And he won't be. You want to weigh down this tourist with a longgun for the 0.00001% chance that ALL of the following will fail:

(a) Precautions regarding where and when to hike -not at night, etc.
(b) Precautions regarding staying in the open, and on trails
(c) Precautions regarding making noise, wearing bells, etc.
(d) Precautions regarding traveling in groups
(e) Precautions regarding storing food away from your camp, off the ground, etc.
(f) Precautions regarding making yourself appear phsyically bigger, making more noise, etc., if you do run across some bears - all of which he'll doubtless be in instructed in detail on, by all the locals.
(g) Emptying the can of OC, and
(h) Emptying 6 rounds of .44 mag garrett hammerheads


You live there. You know what you're talking about, in general. But you're not being realistic, IMO, given the very slim ODDS of an attack, coupled with this person's GOALS for his trip, PROVIDED he learns and uses the other precautions. :)

[Granted that if you reach stage (g), a longgun would be better. But its (a) through (f) anyway that go the farthest in keeping you alive.]

Wildwhoisverywiseandright99.99%ofthetimeAlaska. :D

May 5, 2005, 12:26 PM
pshhawww! and here all we were worried about was making sure this hiker was safe! ex-cccuuuussee us for living!


seriously though. bring that winchester 1300. dont need to hump a crapload of slugs, 20 will be more than sufficient.

May 5, 2005, 12:37 PM
if you have any time in anchorage be sure to stop by Wild West Guns (just realized now that they put me on payroll, i can start legitimately attracting business to them!) and drool over the model 04.

I clicked on the link and there WAS drool on it! :D

May 5, 2005, 12:55 PM
Just a few brief points:

You said:
(a) Precautions regarding where and when to hike -not at night, etc.
Where and when for a tourist traveling alone should, imo, be in a park where someone else knows where you're going and when you should be back. There IS no real night time in Alaska in the summer.

(b) Precautions regarding staying in the open, and on trails
Even in Denali, there aren't any trails other than game trails and animals in general prefer to use human trails when available. There can be open areas and then there is frequently a willow thicket that can easily hide even a moose.

(c) Precautions regarding making noise, wearing bells, etc.
Noise is good, bells don't work around here, though. The bears seem to think they are some kind of bird.

(d) Precautions regarding traveling in groups
For some reason, I thought he was talking about being alone. No bear attack has ever occurred on a group larger than three people. Smaller groups, have, however.

(e) Precautions regarding making yourself appear phsyically bigger, making more noise, etc., if you do run across some bears - all of which he'll doubtless be in instructed in detail on, by all the locals.
That depends on the locals. It's kinda a secret, but alot of Alaskans don't really spend that much time in the bush. Others get a great deal of entertainment from bull****ting the tourists. The best resource on what to do is the video "Staying Safe in Bear Country" it was produced by ADF&G and the Yukon govt. You can get it online and it is worth every penny several times over.

(f) Emptying the can of OC, and
The spray really works within the limited parameters of it's design. They have to be Very Close. There has to be NO wind. The bear shouldn't already be in water.

(g) Emptying 6 rounds of .44 mag garrett hammerheads
If you go that route, you're pretty much married to it. You should use enough gun. Smaller guns have killed bears in defensive situations, but were fired from inside the bear's mouth. I prefer to not be quite so close. :eek: Typically, the situations that would cause a bear to be aggressive are kinda short notice--you can use the OC or the shotgun, probably not both. Best to bring a friend. A mature brownie has about 6 inches of hair, an inch of hide, 6 inches of fat and two feet of muscle and bone to penetrate before you get to anything important from a head-on shot. Brenneke slugs-- it's the only way to be sure. :D Of course, the best gun is the one you have--if one is unwilling to tote the shotgun, then bring the biggest you'll carry all the time, some OC and hope for the best. Regardless, get the video and watch it, many, many times.


May 5, 2005, 03:36 PM
Practice with your Garrets too...if you can draw and hit a softball thrown at you at 35 mph then you are ready to rely on a revolver in brown bear country :)

Me, I carry one just to make noise, I know that if one jumps me from the alders I better just cover up and take my chewing.


May 5, 2005, 05:43 PM
Snack?? ahh wouldnt guy's like you and I be considered at least an appetizer?? :D


May 5, 2005, 05:52 PM
Thanks for all the advice folks. I've narrowed my choices to either an RPG or M203 Grenade launcher. :p But if for some reason my local Walmart no longer stocks anti-armor weapons, what kind of slug would I want to use if I decide to bring the shotgun? Go with a regular slug or a saboted one?

AK: Thanks for the image of really how tough a bear is. Supposing that the proverbial fecal matter strikes the overhead rotating cooling device, where would I want to aim? A head shot or center mass?

May 5, 2005, 06:51 PM
Use the Rottweil/Brenneke slugs. Get that video: "Staying Safe in Bear Country" It's more important than the gun-- Really.


Rich Lucibella
May 5, 2005, 07:47 PM
Most agreed as to Brenneke, if the shotgun is your choice. Stay away from Sabots:
1) Unless you've really worked with the particular sabot in your gun, the Point of Impact may be disastrously different.
2) They're designed to reach out further; not hit harder.....for something that's about to crawl up your butt, opt for "hit harder".

May 5, 2005, 08:02 PM

now even he has the space bar virus

WildinfectiousagentAlaska :eek:

May 5, 2005, 08:03 PM
Snack?? ahh wouldnt guy's like you and I be considered at least an appetizer??

im a freeakin 7 course meal :D

Spiff of course is a buffet :eek:


May 5, 2005, 09:21 PM
thats 'Tactical Buffet' to you mr smartypants.


May 5, 2005, 09:27 PM
For what you are going to be doing, the .44 should be okay if you are going to be in the Interior where the bears are smaller. Any hardcast loads from Buffalo Bore, Cor-Bon, Garrett and Federal's Cast Core should be good enough.
If you are going to be in a coastal area definitely bring the shotgun and a supply of Brenneke Originals 1 1/8 oz in the green box.
Check out the photos I posted on THR in the hunting forum on the thread "My Brown Furry Neighbors".

Fat White Boy
May 29, 2005, 12:18 AM
Like the others said, be sure to carry a can of pepper spray and have some bells on to make some noise so the bears hear you coming. You can tell what kind of bears are in the area by the droppings. Black Bear droppings will have, berries, grass, twigs maybe some mouse fur...Brown bear droppings will have berries, bells and bits of pepper spray cans...

May 30, 2005, 12:27 AM
i have heard that you should aim at the shoulders, take away their ability to run because even if you put one through the heart they can still keep coming at you, all the advise i have gotten from alaskans is take out the shoulders

Al Thompson
May 30, 2005, 10:19 AM
Check with the military folks - you may very well not be able to fly with a firearm or even bring one on base. It would truely suck for you to have your firearm seized and be facing UCMJ or Federal charges.

June 11, 2005, 08:31 PM
I have hunted blackies in Florida and Virginia. I don't recall any time that the bear was the aggressor.


says a lot about bears,and bear encounters. The section on using firearms is interesting. It does not mention handguns at all.

If you intend to carry a firearm, make sure it’s adequate. 30 caliber or larger or a 12-gauge shotgun with rifled slugs. Practice until you can shoot quickly and accurately under stress and at close range at an object moving rapidly and irregularly toward you. Mentally rehearse the situations where you’d use it. Wounding a bear can make the situation a lot worse.

Sounds like pretty good advice.

June 11, 2005, 09:02 PM
Depending on where you're going, you may not be able to bring a gun - it's illegal to bring a gun in Denali Park at least, but I believe most other areas, no issues.

No matter what, I second the suggestion on reading up on bear encounters. If you don't approach them (like any animal, they have a zone of personal space, inside which they'll feel threatened), and keep food out of camp, the odds of an encounter are small. Don't run if you see one - may arouse the predatorial instinct. I backpacked AK for 3 weeks (Glacier Bay, Denali and Wrangell St-Elias) and saw a lot of bear, including both big blacks as well as bigger grizzlies, but we suffered no casualties. If outside Denali, I suppose it couldn't hurt to bring a gun for insurance but I think your best weapon is your wits.

Capt. Charlie
June 11, 2005, 10:51 PM
I think your best weapon is your wits.
+1 Best one I've heard in awhile ;) .

June 13, 2005, 07:38 PM
Some of you may have seen this email. I left the picture off of the body of the man with the meat stripped from his legs, as it's not for the faint of heart. I think a slug gun seems most appropriate......... Buy a shotgun sling.

"The following (first two) pictures are of a guy who works for the US
Forest Service in Alaska and his trophy bear. He was out deer hunting last
week when a large grizzly bear charged him from about 50 yards away. The
guy unloaded his 7mm Mag Semi-automatic rifle into the bear and it dropped
a few feet from him. The big bear was still alive so he reloaded and shot
it several times in the head. The bear was just over one thousand six
hundred pounds. It stood 12' 6" high at the shoulder, 14' to the top of his
head. It is the largest grizzly bear ever recorded in the world. Of
course, the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Commission did not let him keep it as
a trophy, but the bear will be stuffed and mounted, and placed on display
at the Anchorage Airport (to remind tourist's of the risks involved when in
the wild). "

June 13, 2005, 11:21 PM
I have seen those pictures too but the story was a bit different. If I remember the guy had his friend there and it only took 2 or 3 shots and the bear was dead, no charge. And the chewed leg was a totaly different event that just got thrown in to make the story more dramatic. Still it is a huge bear.

June 13, 2005, 11:35 PM
Extremely impressive bear - intimidating. Still, I can't help but think that there are roughly 50,000 people killed in auto accidents each year, yet noone is afraid to drive, heck, most aren't even careful... and I'll bet those all those broken and mashed bodies wouldn't look real pretty in photos either. Something about claws and teeth just scares the beejeezus out of people.