View Full Version : I've read alot of different opinions on which handgun would be best against bears?

August 24, 2006, 12:44 PM
I have read alot of different opinions on what non-magnum handgun cartridge would be the most effective again a bear, or mountain lion? I would like to run a poll on the one's that would be the best selections and can be carry concealed. Truely, I realize the magnum's are the best. However, if you don't have a magnum what would you settle with? If you didn't have any choice.

There is a table with all five of these handguns mentioned in the poll with their best hunting loads which one would you grab to fight a medium size black bear around 350 pounds.

August 24, 2006, 01:33 PM
-On a side note, I posted a message (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=218670)in the revolver forum - its about S&W 500ES - marketed as bear survival kit. Anyone know anything about it?

August 24, 2006, 01:38 PM
It's a kit in a yellow box, I think the cost was well over 1000 dollars wasn't it? I guess the point was to see out of handguns that most of us use what would be the best round out of them to use against a bear. I Think the bear survival kit would be an option if you heading up into Kodiak, Grizzly county.


August 24, 2006, 01:58 PM
I know a few guys who lived and guided in Alaska, and to a man they will tell you that even the most anemic rifle has more OOMPH than the biggest handgun. A lot of guides carry 12 ga loaded with slugs for bear work, or 338s or 375s, probably even a few 416s and 458s out there too. So, if a handgun was such a good tool, why aren't more guides using them? And if the guides don't carry them because they are not practical, why would you want to?

Mountain lions are relatively easy to kill, so it's not even an issue if you will have enough power. Besides that, in most states they're not legal for taking game. But seriously, these rounds are for killing bipeds, not for tough animals like bears.

August 24, 2006, 02:58 PM
But if you had no other choice I would think the 10 mm is getting close.

I would perfer a 12 ga shootgun with slugs no doubt about it.


August 24, 2006, 04:09 PM
Of the listed choices, 10mm is hands down the best, assuming that it is using the original hot loads, and not the standard factory stuff.

August 24, 2006, 08:12 PM
A lot of questions posed on TFL are difficult to answer - this is not one of them:


Art Eatman
August 25, 2006, 09:54 AM
Everything I've read about lower-48 black bear indicates that a heavy bullet from a .357 should be plenty.

Mountain lions are comparatively fragile, both physically and psychologically. Not all that hard to kill; not all that hard to scare. A lion that had attacked a couple of kids up in Big Bend National Park, some years back, was killed via a .38 Special. (Dunno how many shots or what ammo. Probably 158-grain RNL, from knowing the shooter.)


August 25, 2006, 12:03 PM
Yes you can kill a mountain lion a lot easier than a black bear. But Mountain lions are masters at ambushing you when you least expect the attack. You get a big male Mountain lion say 200 pounds and they hit you full speed it will feel like you have been hit by a truck. Now, can you get a shot off while this powerful animal is trying to sink his teeth in your neck, that's the question. In the Southern California foot hills there have been several attacks on humans jogging and riding bikes and very few have survived. The mountain lions that kill a human will kill more Humans again. It's a proven fact.


August 25, 2006, 01:05 PM
Art, the choice is .357 sig, not .357 mag. The Sig cannot even begin to hang with the .357 mag with heavy bullets - in fact, it's not even loaded heavier than 147 I don't believe. So, although the .357 mag with heavies like 180s is the equal of 10mm, or even past it, the .357 sig cannot hold a candle. Hence the choice of 10mm being the no-brainer in this particular choice of options,at least IMO.

If you seriously think that you have lions which are not afraid of humans, here's your indispensable puma-woods bummin accessory:


While they go for the neck kill, this should buy you just enough time to draw and fire repeatedly. You'll probably be gutted, however, in the meantime until the cat dies, so carry some duct tape to use in combination with your shirt, to keep your intestines inside until you can get back to civilization and medical care. Ain't nuttin' duct tape can't fix.

August 25, 2006, 01:46 PM
Everyone is thinking about the same as me on the right choice for the selections about. But after some additional thought I would think that some hot loads for the .40 S&W may work as well.

August 25, 2006, 05:14 PM
Some Hot loads for the .40 S&W may do a good job as well.

Some hot loads for any of the calibers you mentioned "may do a good job".
You obviously love your .40. Will it do the job? Sure. Is it the best tool for the job? It sounds like it is, for you.
I'll just keep toting my overweight, archiac, small capacity, magnum wheelgun. For me, it is the best tool for the job. I have been thinking about a 10mm, though, which is what I voted for, btw.
It's funny but no one seems to have voted for the 40. I wonder why? :D

I really liked the studded collar. Possibly a matching leather teddie with ceramic inserts would take care of the "intestinal" problem. Might even start a new fad. It would look better than lime green spandex, anyway.

August 25, 2006, 05:29 PM
However, for the poll I would take a 10 mm over a .40 S&W just because it's energy levels are up in the 700++ range and that would acheive better penetration, and it's close to the balistics of the .41 magnum as well. A well known bear hunting pistol. The .40 S&W is the little brother of the 10 mm, and you can hot load it's energy levels up into the upper 500's range which should be effective also. Just a thought anyway, but hey when a bear coming after you I will choose the best handgun available to me at that moment. I like my .40 S&W for BG's and I have seen information where bears have been killed by the .40 S&W. But your right I wouldn't select it over a 10 mm for this purpose unless it was all I had at the time.


Art Eatman
August 25, 2006, 05:53 PM
Oregongundude, yeah, the cougar has a lot going for it, for sure. The thing is that an attack is a very low probability. Of course, if you walk along staring at your feet, you might have a problem. In lion country, a fella oughta be for looking up as well as around. Doesn't hurt to look back behind, from time to time.

A buddy of mine, over in the Black Gap WMA on the east side of Big Bend National Park, was ambling along, just sorta casual about life itsownself. He kept thinking he heard an occasional sound behind him. He stopped, walked back, and about 30 feet back he saw grass slowly springing back up in a paw print. But, no sign of putty tat, and no more noises.

FirstFreedom, my guiding rule, I guess, is that there are some minima for certain jobs. For black bear and cougars, for me it's generally the .357 Maggie. I'm less emotionally attached to some Pet Pistol than I am toward staying unbitten/uneaten. :) However, when I'm quail hunting in the far back country, I generally have a Redhawk. That's "In case of in case."


August 25, 2006, 06:06 PM
well the 10mm is the best on the list, but id still rather have a 45 colt. (its not a magnum)

August 25, 2006, 09:40 PM
Pretty dumb poll. You auto guys.... I would not pack less than a 357 magnum if I were concerned about either black bears or cougars. And I would have a good fast sharp belt knife on me as well for close encounters with cougars.

August 26, 2006, 10:29 PM
Yes, it's gear more towards automatics no doubt about it. I feel that a .357 Magnum is a great Magnum level revolver as well. However, I would be hard pressed to say it's better than a 10 mm. I did some reseach at double tap ammo 's web site and found some interesting information involving 180 grain loads for the .357 magnum up to 8 rounds and the 10 mm, let's say a Glock 20 with 15 rounds.

Caliber : 10mm

Bullet : 180gr. XTP-JHP

Ballistics : 180gr. @ 1350fps/ 728 ft/lbs- Glock 20

Caliber : 357 magnum

.357 Magnum 180gr WFNGC
Velocity: 1300fps / 4" Ruger GP-100
Muzzle Energy: 676 ft. lbs.

Now let's look at 135 grain 10 mm rounds compared to 125 grain .357 magnum rounds.

Caliber : 10mm

Bullet : 135gr. Nosler Jacketed Hollow Point.

Ballistics : 1600fps/ 767 ft./lbs. - Glock 20

357 Magnum 125gr. Gold Dot

Velocity: 1600fps / 4" Ruger GP-100
Muzzle Energy: 710 ft. lbs.

I think I would take the Glock 20 10 mm over the .357 Magnum for bears just based on the energy levels and rounds capacity at least. The .357 is a fine revolver but it's second to the 10 mm in alot of ways. I think I will pick up a Glock 20 to add to my collection.


August 26, 2006, 10:59 PM
Bear spray. Bring a chemical fire extingusher...
Bring a dog with you...
I would look through all of these fluffy calibers you list, find the heaviest flat nosed, solid bullet I could find, get it going as fast as I could, and pray a lot...

Please don't say 'bear' and 125 grain hollowpoint in the same sentence.:rolleyes:

Hunting mountain lions, and stopping them, as with bear, are two different issues. Black bears are often run with dogs, as are mountain lions, and then shot out of trees, with a variety of marginal weapons, up to, and including, 22 short. A percise shot with a 22 short will give you 6" of penetration, getting a major artery, if you know what you are doing, and, the animal will hardly know it's been shot, which, is an advantage, since it will bleed out, without attacking you, or the dogs. Do I approve of this sort of hunting? NO, but, it's done.

Using a hunting example, when the person is discussing self-defense against a hungry animal, or a cat or mother bear, protecting her young, are really different situations.

They have tape somewhere of a mother cougar driving off an 800 pound brown bear, protecting her cubs. Something about lightning quick claws in the eyes, and nose did the trick.

Statistics show the most effective bear defense is pepper spray, bear pepper spray, and, it works very well against cats, and humans, as well. Handguns are NOT very effective against bears, or lions, in a defense situation. Rifles are, but, that's probably because the guy had the rifle ready, in a hunting situation, as the bear charged, or, the bear gave them a chance to get it out, like attacking a cabin.

finally, getting any of these guns to be reliable with heavy for caliber flat nose bullets is another problem. Stiffer springs, modified feed ramps, maybe necessary for reliability.


August 26, 2006, 11:08 PM
I was just listing some of the balistics comparison between the .357 Magnum and 10 mm rounds. Yes, I realize that Hollow points wouldn't be a good selection against a bear, Ball ammo would be a far better selection. I'll take my .308 browning automatic and black Lab with me just in case. I'll have my Glock 20 on my side as a back up.


August 26, 2006, 11:13 PM
I picked 10mm, but those are some pretty weak choices there.

August 26, 2006, 11:22 PM


http://www.udap.com/markfullstory.htm GO HERE FOR STORIES, AND PICTURES.



August 26, 2006, 11:44 PM
Thanks for your comments on this posting. It's a good thing I don't live in Grizzly county. I will settle with my middle size black bears.

August 27, 2006, 01:45 AM
this is the 10,000 time ive said this (im a little hard headed) the only thing ill spray at a bear is LEAD!!!

August 27, 2006, 06:33 AM
Don't have much against animals, less they want to eat me.
I've got a 510 Linebaugh max, with 525 grain bullets, at 1350 to 1550 fps. Still, against a brown bear, it may kill the bear, but not before it's torn me up, good. My choice is 458 Lott, for bears. Good chance my first shot will get her full attention, and, keep her from coming and eating me.

That said, I'm not much for killing mother animals, protecting their cubs, because I WAS STUPID, and invaded her, and the cubs, space, like the pepper spray guy did. I'm human, so, I'm going to screw up, but, not being able to smell a decaying elk carcass, and wandering into that area, means the guy wasn't watching the wind, and, was plain out of it.

Bear spray is a good way to solve human stupidity, and, not have to have either party pay for ones stupdity.

Reminds me of that idiot, the bear guy, that got eaten. Wasn't the bears' fault, he was just being a bear. Now, he's got to be destroyed, since some stupid human fed himself to a brown bear, that was obviously having problems getting enough food...

Remember: a mother picked a CAR up off her child, thanks to adrenalin, or what ever explanation you have for it. If a mother can do that, what do you think a brown bear, black bear, or mountain lion can do to protect their cubs? Mountain lion will drive off, or die fighting, a brown bear, for her cubs....


The Terminator
August 27, 2006, 07:23 PM
I would feel confident with a 10mm, but, if not, I'd pony up the dough and get a 45 to carry +P, (have one) or get a 44mag, or 454. Best -

August 27, 2006, 09:26 PM
To step outside the box, I'd take a 45 ACP, have it milled to lock over top dead center, and shoot 45 Super, 230 grain bullets, at 1100 fps, or, find a load with flat points, in 230 grain, and use that.

Oh, I've done that already...:D


August 27, 2006, 10:11 PM
That's interesting. You'll note that .45 super is not a caliber on the list however. If it was, I'd pick it also. You guys must take a lot of mulligans in golf - you don't follow the rules of the game. :)

August 28, 2006, 10:16 AM
I have bowhunted for Elk in the Bob Marshall for several years.Carry a 44Mag because it makes me feel better.A few years ago a friend of mine and a hunter he was guiding came across a grzzly on an elk carcass.The hunter misunderstood the hand signals ,not seeing the bear,and moved in too close.The bear charged the man and he shot the grizzly once point blank with a 7 Mag before the bear knocked him down.My friend rushed to the man and shot the bear three times point blank with a 44 Mag.At this point the bear left the man.Luckily the man was not mortally wounded.The bear was trailed for about seven miles in the snow and never found,and of course there were hours of conversation with the wildlife people.Point I am getting to is that unless you have the talent to make a head shot with these animals ,you are probably screwed.

August 28, 2006, 06:43 PM
And "Bob Marshall" would be in what country & province & locale? :)

August 28, 2006, 08:33 PM
Sorry,It's the Bob Marshall Wilderness.Part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana.There are quite a few grizzly bears there.That same guide that was involved in that episode I related killed the last legally taken grizzly in Montana before the courts declared them endangered in the late 80's.I have been about 40 yards on one,could hear it and thought it might be an Elk coming in to a mineral lick I was hunting on.Luckily when it came in sight on the other side of the lick I was down wind and the Elk trails were so well worn that I could move away quietly.My cousin was hunting in a ground blind on the same lick a year earlier and had a sow grizzzly and two cubs come up on him.He took off up the tree above the blind and at about ten feet broke a limb and fell back into the blind destroying it.The bears took off scared to death.Bobby hit the ground like a rubber ball and right back up the tree he went.It took us several minutes to convince him the bears were gone and coax him out of the tree.Keep in mind we are bow hunting and only have a side arm.Mark got about 20 yards on one four years ago.He ran one way the bear ran the other.They are unpredictable as hell.The wildlife people will tell you in private that the bears in the Bob Marshall are not endangered and never were,and that as many are killed getting in to some mischief now as when there was a season,but that is another story.Sow bear with a cub and any bear on a kill is your most likely bad scenario.You stumble in to that and I don't know that any pistol is going to help you unless you are able to shoot the animal in the brain.

August 28, 2006, 09:16 PM
I use to train with a genteman that was a LEO in Achorage for a couple/few decades. People would ask him what kind of sidearm should they carry for bear.

His response: "A long gun". I believe his advice was good.

August 29, 2006, 08:41 AM
All of your choices are inadequate for a mature boar black bear. I have personally seen the 45 in action on two bears. Way too much shooting and too little killing. The bears were both killed, one by a 308 and the other a 30-06. The 308 was mine.

People kill treed lions with a 22 mag.

August 29, 2006, 05:36 PM
I love my .308 automatic browning know doubt about it. I would shoot a bear with it in a heart beat if I needed to to kill the animal.

However, I was just interested in which auto handgun would be the best just in case I don't have my .308 on me and needed use the most effective handgun available.

Rifles are far better for killing a bear.


August 30, 2006, 07:49 PM
The Forest Service did a study on bullet performance specifically for bear protection. Unfortunately, it was done in the early 80's so many of the newer cartridges have not been studied. However, it has some GREAT information.
Here is the link:


Personally, I live in Alaska and have seen more Brown and black bears than I care to while fishing and hiking the backcountry. It is a little different up here as the coastal Browns can get upwards of a halfton. Personally, I would not carry anything less than a 44 mag as backup, and typically a shotgun with slugs is the preferred bear protection. Don't have the cougar issue you have, so I will refrain from commenting.

August 30, 2006, 10:09 PM
Good link, adfraiser. A sticky along these lines would save some bandwidth.

They seem to have reinvented the dangerous game rifle used in Africa. Not suprising, since that's what bears are. There is alot of good advice in this document, 20 years old or not. It ought to be required reading for anyone that wants to make a "bear" post. Their comments on handguns as primary bear defense weapons were very "enlightening".

I don't think that recent developement in cartridges would change their recomendations that much. I'm sure the 45/70 would do better, they'd recommend stainless steel and there are certainly more powerful handgun cartridges available today. Still very pertinent.

Does anyone know if the Forest Service still not only encourages it's employees to go armed as a matter of policy but also trains them and supplies the arms? They should.

Welcome to the forum

August 30, 2006, 10:24 PM
I guess I would have to pick the 10mm. If I had my own choice I would choose my Security Six (.357 magnum) loaded with heavy solid bullets.

August 30, 2006, 11:13 PM
I know up here the Feds still have at least one person carrying when survey crews and archaeology crews are out in the field. You have to get certified, which includes a test with a shotgun, and they supply the arms. Again, this is a different country up here, and you can run into trouble at any time. In fact, a jogger got mauled today, and I believe it is the second one this year. Neither were fatal, but last October a rafting couple were eaten, and the year before man was mauled and is now blind in both eyes at a popular fishing hole.


August 31, 2006, 01:34 AM
Please don't say 'bear' and 125 grain hollowpoint in the same sentence.

Socrates, thanks for saying this so I don't have to. People don't realize that even a black bear has a good chance of taking mutiple .45/.40/9mm rounds and shaking it off right before it disembowels the fella that disrespected it. Even .357/10mm/.44 mag is marginal at best.

For me, the lightest load I would use would be the Buffalo Bore .357 mag 180 grain LFN-GC for 1400 FPS and 783 ft-lbs. http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm#357

The 10mm definitely would not be as effective as this load as the sectional density of the 10mm would not be a high, nor would the velocity. Hard cast bullets have been proven time and again to be more effective against heavy animals than lighter jacketed bullets or hollow points. The 10mm would, however be the best of the choices listed. I would not even think of using a .40 S&W. There is a reason they call it the little brother of the 10mm.

I would also think a heavy loaded .500 magnum would be better than say a .243 win I don't care if the .243 is a rifle or not. It still will not have big, heavy bullets that smash through bone and muscle tissue and cause immense amounts of damage. So, if it has to be a handgun, give me one of those.

August 31, 2006, 11:10 AM
I have thought about this .David said there was 10 inches of snow on the ground and when the Grizzly came after the man he was kicking black dirt into the air.I think if a 600 pound Grizzly is coming at you at 40 miles an hour,a good use of the pistol would be to shoot yourself.

August 31, 2006, 11:32 AM
I found this tread about a home owner in Alaska some of you may have seen it before. It's about a home owner who drops a large bear with Glock .40 S&W. It is the 10 mm little brother but it can do the job. I have heard that it has killed a couple of black bears with one shot in the past.

I'm not in anyway reccomending it for bear hunting, but it can kill them.



August 31, 2006, 03:28 PM
Their comments on handguns as primary bear defense weapons were very "enlightening".

I don't think that recent developement in cartridges would change their recomendations that much.

I would agree with that - the .454 casull and .500 sw mag are still pipsqueaks compared to to the .375 HH mag, etc., recommended there.

August 31, 2006, 05:23 PM
Of the choices listed, the 10MM through and through. :D

August 31, 2006, 10:25 PM
Oregongundude, .40 S&W can definitely kill a bear, and so can a .22, but there's no way in hell I would use a .22 for bear defense. Especially since they are considered back-up nose guns for human defense. Using a .40 on an animal that can run over 30 miles per hour, has huge claws and teeth, has heavy bones, and extremely strong is very unwise and potentially deadly for the person behind the gun.

September 1, 2006, 09:01 PM
ZeroJunk, thanks for explanation.

adfrasier, that 1983 U.S. Forest Svc. link is very interesting; thanks.

I find it interesting that the top four choices, after the testing are the .458 winmag, the .375 HH mag, the .338 winmag, and the .30-06 220 gr, and that BOTH the .30-06 220 gr, and the .30-06 180 ranked FAR higher than the .300 winmag, .300 Wby mag, and 8mm rem mag. Not that their numbers system is the end-all, be-all; it's not, but interesting, balancing energy, penetration, retained weight, and expansion, all equally.