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Old February 20, 2018, 10:27 AM   #1
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Handguns vs. Bears

Defense Against Bears with Pistols: 97% Success rate, 37 incidents by Caliber
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Old February 20, 2018, 10:33 AM   #2
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Interesting piece. The failure was because the shooter probably missed the bear.

I do know of a case in Norway where a 22 LR revolver failed to stop a polar bear. Whether the bear was hit was not in the report. Foolish choice of a gun. I also know one there where three hikers refused to carry a rifle as required as they though Mother Nature and karma would convince the bear that they were one with the cosmos.

A bear killed two - one survived by jumping off a cliff.
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Old February 20, 2018, 11:14 AM   #3
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I've shot competition for years with a handgun....very successfully I might ad. I've seen the vast majority of competitors let nerves get the best of them when the adrenalin starts to flow. That's far less stress than when a bear is attacking. Also, there's a huge difference in interpreting this "statistic" when you take in consideration of what the bear was actually doing when shot. Was it charging, standing there, or running away. I've shot a lot (I mean a LOT) of deer with handguns and by far the vast majority ran a ways before falling down. I can shoot very well under stress and pressure, and a handgun would not even be close to my first choice of defense. It's better than nothing, but it's wrong to even suggest it's a reliable source of protection when a bear is on the attack. I'd rate this thread as an RFT.
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Old February 20, 2018, 11:22 AM   #4
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While I get that the examples shown are not all inclusive and may represent a poor sample size I think it suspect to attack the reported numbers without some backing of the attack. Would I prefer to have a handgun if attacked by a bear? Nope. But it seems at least in this sample they were preferable to nothing.
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Old February 20, 2018, 11:34 AM   #5
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Occasionally there is the bear gun thread and we all have opinions. This article was interesting because of the factual reports. The 2nd to the last caliber I would want would be 38 special. But, my experience with bears is either at a safe distance or on TV. So my opinion is so much hot air.
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Old February 20, 2018, 01:58 PM   #6
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Handguns vs. bears is a crap shoot. No handgun cartridge is 100% guaranteed to do anything. Plus it's highly unlikely anybody would be capable of recognizing the threat, drawing and accurately placing one shot well enough for it to be fatal.
And distance won't help. Yogi can cover 100 yards in less than 6 seconds.
"...I and my associates..." Geezuz, that guy needs to go back to grade school. You can find stats to prove anything.
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Old February 20, 2018, 03:12 PM   #7
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Handguns vs. Bears

The percentage is misleading due to the nature of the sampling. Probably not included were cases in which the victim had a handgun but never had a chance to pull it.

BUT, it is still surprising that .357, 9mm, .40 were able to stop a charging bear, often killing it. These folks had good reflexes and I suppose that is why they lived.

And the collected accounts do illustrate it is not so hopeless to carry a handgun fir bear defense as some internet wonks are fond of advising to file off the front sight so when the bear...Blah blah blah.
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Old February 20, 2018, 05:35 PM   #8
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These are 37 case out of how many possible bear human interactions? I've had two in my life; one in Shoshone NF, one in Custer NF (I think, could still have been Shoshone). Both times, I used Counter Assault bear spray and it worked as my typing here with all my limbs and only bullet holes for scars.

But those big furry creatures are fast when they get going. And even though I have pulled a weapon many times under stressful situations, I have never encountered any situation where someone (or something) is running toward me and bouncing from side-to-side like a beach ball shot out of a canon. That is the advantage of the spray, it covers a nice wide area (if the wind is right).

I was once told by a guide in Alaska that a short barrel .44 or larger is the best. Not to be able to shoot the bear when charging, but to be able to maneuver it into his side and unload it into his heart and lung cavity behind his front leg, when he has you on the ground tearing you apart and peeling you like a bad banana.

If the bear is walking toward you, or if it nicely stand up in front of you giving you some great shots things change dramatically.

I continue to hike in these areas on a limited bases (not as young as I used to be) and I still carry a .44 with 305 gr Cor-Bon HC-FN in a chest holster and a Beretta loaded with 200 gr HC-FN in a owb holster. But I will always carry the largest can of Counter Assault made. But I makes sure to keep my Will up to date.

So can 37 people attest to shooting bears with 9mm/.40/.357 rounds and kill them? Sure; but I would love to see the statistics on how many died trying. But bear attacks are not that common, considering how many I actually see when camping in WY/MT/ID/UT.
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Old February 20, 2018, 07:11 PM   #9
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All you need is a .22 so you can shoot your friend in the kneecap which lets you get away unscathed....
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Old February 20, 2018, 07:18 PM   #10
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I was told that in bear defense training for surveyors, they had a problem in that someone would hesitate to fire if the bear was on their partner. This was with 12 gauges and they were afraid of hitting the partner from a distance.

They were trained as mentioned above to put the gun behind the front leg and unload the shotgun. I asked if anyone had done this yet and the answer was - not yet.

But this was about 20 years ago.
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Old February 20, 2018, 09:42 PM   #11
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He and his staff found those 37 instances where a hand gun was used successfully but why didn't he and his staff search for and list the times the hand gun failed to kill the bear? He belittled the person who stated that there were many incidents where the pistol failed because he supposedly never got a response. He states that it should have been easy to find them if they existed. Why didn't he search for and list those incidents if they were so easy to find? Because he had an agenda to prove that handguns are effective against a bear. His 37 listed instances hold no credibility for me. Without evidence to the contrary it could be that these cited events were the exception rather than the rule.
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Old February 20, 2018, 09:46 PM   #12
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The important thing that the shooter missed it completely (target) and failed.
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Old February 20, 2018, 11:46 PM   #13
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Here's one when a .22 did win the day.
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Old February 21, 2018, 10:55 AM   #14
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Very interesting read. I don't carry bear spray in FL, though we do have black bear in some parts. More worried about wild hogs and meth heads here. 9mm is what I carry, with a .380 in my pocket. If I lived in grizzly country, I'd carry spray and my .45 colt.
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Old February 21, 2018, 11:31 AM   #15
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Disclaimer: I don't live in bear country, so taking my advice would be like asking a barber how to best construct a battleship.

If I was in a bear-populated area, I'd want as much firepower as I could carry. Maybe a PTR91 or Garand? Of course, they do get heavy after a few miles...

I'd rather run than shoot, though (I'd prefer the bear to live and get some capsaicin in his eyes rather than die to my rifle) so bear spray would probably be my first choice.
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Old February 21, 2018, 01:30 PM   #16
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Glenn , I know that story and it's a but a good example of inability to deal with realty !
And Watson , bring your revolver !
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Old February 21, 2018, 05:09 PM   #17
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Not a pistol story but it might provide some context. I have a picture somewhere of a paw print the size of my watch with band unbuckled and laid out in a straight line. (So about 8 inches across).

About 25 years ago I was walking alone in the woods road to an abandoned rock quarry to plink. There was some snow left over from winter in a shady spot and that's where I saw the tracks. I had laid my watch down next to the print for scale.

After that I never shot out all my plinking ammo, always kept the gun loaded for the walk back to the car. I loaded up the rifle once I was a few yards away from where I parked and I kept my head on a swivel.

I never saw any bears but if one had ambushed me I'd be toast even with a .50 BMG....lots of heavy brush in those woods. I'd plink with various mil surps but that rifle was an SKS.
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Old February 21, 2018, 06:57 PM   #18
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Haha everytime I see an internet badass talking about how a 44 magnum or any caliber is not enough for bear protection I'm going to post this article.
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Old February 21, 2018, 07:29 PM   #19
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I have made this statement before. A big grizzly knocked my father down, it was put down with a .357. this wasn't some poopy pant's little black bear, it was a big grizzly.
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Old February 22, 2018, 09:32 AM   #20
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Hand guns used as a defense in bear attacks puts a whole new perspective on the age old "one shot stop" arguments. And while mere display of a defensive handgun often precludes actually having to fire in defense against two-legged aggressors, a bear is not so intimidated.

The difficulty of getting off a good killing shot on a charging bear has been described as hitting a softball, bouncing up and down 6" and travelling at 30+ mph. Multiple shots? Probably not. Getting a chance to fire once more while in contact with the bear...probably not after being hit by 200 lbs. travelling at 30 mph. Will 'coolness under fire' win out given the above conditions? Probably not in my opinion....a really heavy caliber handgun strapped across the chest is comforting no doubt, but far from real protection, IMHO.

So I'd suggest getting some bear spray, learning to use it from someone who really knows what they're talking about, and if absolutely necessary to travel in country where bear attacks are a serious concern...then carry a 10 or 12 gauge with appropriate loads. That's those are the recommendations I've received from friends living, fishing and hunting in the Anchorage AK area.

Rod...safely ensconced here in my arm-chair in La Grange, bears in sight. (aside from my wife this am who's not yet had her coffee!!!)
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Old February 22, 2018, 09:39 AM   #21
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Let me be right up front about this. I don't want to attempt to stop a charging bear with any handgun. Come to think of it I don't even want to attempt to stop a charging bear with a long arm. I prefer not to be on the receiving end of a bear charge.

However I think we have, as hunters and shooters as a whole, gotten so caught up in the tremendous numbers put up by whatever cartridge we have awed over that we forget the power to cause serious injury or death of our other cartridges. I get, in a world where we can reference and discuss the numbers put up by a .500 S+W, a .458 LOTT, or a 12 gauge, the numbers of everything else look a little suspect. We forgot that those that came before us managed to survive with far less.

Even with a relatively small caliber pistol like a 9MM you are still able to put a projectile into important parts of an animals anatomy. While I get that many animals can ignore pain and continue an attack many will chose not to. Bees did not develop the ability to sting solely to keep away humans.
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Old February 22, 2018, 10:20 AM   #22
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Ask yourself this:
What do people seeking to shoot a bear use? What do the guides who encounter them all the time, and have to defend themselves and their clients use?

When I go fishing in places with lots of bears I sling my .444p. It's short, fast, ported so the recoil doesn't throw the barrel up, and the boolets go deeeeeeep. I also bring a change of under ware in case I actually have to shoot a bear!
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Old March 7, 2018, 11:12 AM   #23
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what a great many of these discussions lack is details on what projectile was used and where it impacted, how deeply it penetrated and what vital organ was missed or destroyed..
anyone who has a decent quality 357 mag or larger bore revolver, with the correct ammo and the ability to place shots precisely has the required tool to kill any bear, elk, deer or hog, based on the fact that a properly loaded hard cast bullet, of the proper design, from a revolver like a 357 mag will without any doubt punch through a bears, elk, deer or hog,skull into the brain or through the chest wall into the heart/lung area.
thats not the same thing as saying a 357 mag will instantly stop an infuriated bear full of Adrenalin,who might see your destruction as his only goal at that time.
But if you start randomly punching holes in his anatomy.
only hits to the brain,or forward central spine,from behind the head to the area between the shoulders will be likely to provide a nearly instant mobility stop, you can randomly punch an infuriated bear full of Adrenalin,as full of holes as a colander, used to strain water off spaghetti, if you don,t destroy the vitals and that bear will want to discuss your lack of proper marksmanship up close and personal, with you for well over the time he requires to bleed out.
now a larger handgun caliber like a 44 mag, 480 ruger, 454 cassul, 500 S&W, will without doubt destroy far more tissue, with each shots impact, this does increase your odds of creating significant and lethal damage , and inflicting pain that may cause the animal to retreat., but the fact still remains that the vitals must be hit to provide an instant mobility or lethal damage stop.
most people under stress can,t hit crap, and just shoot in the general direction of a threat, and you'll be lucky in most cases to get off more than one or two shots on a charging bear.

Last edited by hardcastonly; March 7, 2018 at 11:46 AM.
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Old March 7, 2018, 12:00 PM   #24
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97% success rate? Isn't the success rate of handguns against criminals only like 85%? Are humans really tougher than bears? Especially when brown bears are in the equation?
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Old March 7, 2018, 12:57 PM   #25
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More and more indigenous Alaskans, pilots, work crews, and fishing & hunting guides, while out in the bushy boonies of AK, are carrying 10mm Glock 20s in a center-chest holster, and "loaded for bear" too, which is to say, 15+1 of some hot-n-heavy 10mm load.

The days of Alaskan's toting a 5- or 6-shot, boat-anchor weight Mega-Magnum wheelie on their hips are quickly dwindling. And most of those get taken off the belt anyway after the first hour or so and tossed into the bottom of the back-pack where the weapon's exactly useless when Mr. Bear 'rounds the trail.
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