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Old December 15, 2018, 08:51 PM   #1
Sniper 51
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Bear PROTECTION, not Bear Hunting

I live 150 feet from the Smoky Mountain National Forest Boundary so I am only talking about black bear. Don't tell me black bear attacks are rare and not to worry about it. I'm not worried, but I have sense enough to be cautious. I love living out like this and that's not going to change.

I've had one on my property this year and the neighbor has had 3. Approximately 5 have been hit by trucks within a 2 mile radius from my house and to top it off, one of my neighbors was mauled by one last month while standing in his driveway. I like to hike and see bear skat all the time so I am just looking for something for protection.

I have a .357 mag and 9mm and know that Buffalo Bore makes ammo for both rated for black bear. I feel like the 10mm is almost an identical twin to the .357 so I have been looking at a SA 45lc and the S&W Model 69. I feel that any 240 to 255 grain bullet traveling at 1,000 fps will handle whatever I need. I know that the .357 will handle a black bear when hunting but will it do what needs to be done on a charging bear? If not, what are your opinions of the SA 45lc vs the Model 69.

What are your suggestions for my situation as far as a weapon is concerned. Not interested in Bear Spray either.
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Old December 15, 2018, 09:18 PM   #2
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Go 44 magnum. Because when it comes to self protection, if 1000fps is good, 1500 FPS is better.
Also, their are more ammunition options available for 44 magnum than 45 colt. Anything from 44 special ‘cowboy loads’ to Underwood and Buffalo Bore heavy magnums. If you are a reloader, this is a moot point.

Last edited by Dragon breath; December 15, 2018 at 09:28 PM.
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Old December 15, 2018, 09:29 PM   #3
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Use the biggest caliber you can shoot accurately under great stress. Won't do you any good to have something big and miss the bear until you hit him on the top of the head with the barrel of the gun.
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Old December 15, 2018, 09:53 PM   #4
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I live in north GA. We have nearly as many bear as SMNP and I spend a LOT of time hiking and camping here and in the Smoky's. The vast majority of trouble bear are young 1-2 year olds that have recently been run off by mom and are struggling to survive on their own. They aren't attacking people usually, just trying to steal your food. Most are in the 150-200 lb class, no bigger, nor tougher than a typical human. It doesn't take a cannon to stop one if it gets too aggressive.

But I do think it wise to be armed. You cannot control what others do, and when others feed bear either on purpose, or by neglecting to protect their food they are training bear that food is easy to take from humans. Those are the dangerous bear.

I own 357 and 44 mag revolvers, but depending on the situation a G29 in 10mm or one of my 9mm pistols is what gets carried. Even in bear country the greatest threat is still humans and I arm myself with that in mind. A smaller, more compact gun that is with you is better than the big one you leave in the car or house. Even my 10mm is now used most often when I've been in Yellowstone or other parts of the west with grizzly. I think the 9mm, properly loaded is enough for black bear.

There are 300-500+ lb black bear out there. But bear don't get that big by interacting with humans. Those are the ones you'll never see. And even if you do it doesn't take nearly as much gun as most think.

Read this. There are 37 documented cases where people have defended themselves from both black and grizzly bear with handguns. In all but one case they were successful and in that case the shooter missed.

The 44 magnum was the most commonly used firearm, but 9mm, 40 S&W, 45, and 10mm combined for more successful stops than 44 or 357 mag.

If you still think you need a cannon read this, then buy some good ammo for your 9mm.
"If you're still doing things the same way you were doing them 10 years ago, you're doing it wrong"

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Old December 15, 2018, 10:22 PM   #5
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I agree black bears sometimes decide to eat people.I'd carry a gun.I'd agree with the most powerful one you can shoot.A 10 mm Glock set up for 200 gr cast bullets is interesting.

I won't tell you to leave your gun behind,but bear spray can be a contingency.
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Old December 15, 2018, 11:08 PM   #6
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TN has some big black bears .... If I go tromping in the woods .. I useally have a Glock 29 or a Glock 20 .. stoked with Underwood 200gr FMJ or Underwood 200gr XTP ...

But Id feel OK with my Ruger Security Six loaded with Underwood 158gr Gold Dot .
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Old December 16, 2018, 02:38 AM   #7
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Because when it comes to self protection, if 1000fps is good, 1500 FPS is better.
Only if you are using a single shot, OR are practiced and expert shooting 1500fps loads rapidly.

Sniper 51, you have a .357 and a 9mm, so I assume you aren't an experienced .44 Mag shooter.

I'm curious, what is the hottest, heaviest recoiling load you have used in your .357? Take that memory and double it, and you're in .44 Mag recoil territory. (no, its not exactly double but it gives you a good idea)

Bear DEFENSE with a firearm is about putting bulletS with enough power where they need to go, before the bear reaches you. Both the .357 and the 9mm have the power needed, but getting them in the right place on a fast moving (attacking bear) target isn't simple and the more shots you can take before contact ups your odds of one doing the job.

There is such a thing as too much gun for a person's skill level. Think about how long it takes to recover your sight picture from recoil with the guns you have. With a .44 Mag it will take LONGER. Would be a bad day if the bear starts eating your butt while you are still pulling the hot .44 (1,500fps?) down out of the sky when a .357 or even a 9mm would have allowed you a second, or possibly 3 shot which MIGHT save your butt.

You can LEARN to master a .44 Magnum, I've been shooting them since the 80s, revolver, single shot and semi auto. But to learn how to shoot full house magnums fast AND accurate is no small task.

For defense, if you can't do both with a .44 or .45 magnum, you are better off with a .357 or even a 9mm that you can do both with.

No bear is impressed with what is stamped on the barrel of your gun. The only pay attention to hits in the right places. Study the anatomy of the bear, The vital spots aren't quite where most assume they are, inside that shaggy bear suit.

Ol' Elmer used to tell folks something like this... if you have a decent pistol (and he meant a .38 on up) AND you kept your nerve, you would win. Every bear opens its mouth as it attacks. Shoot through the mouth, break the bear's neck, you win. Elmer never promised you wouldn't get clawed or "chawed" but only that if you kept your nerve (made the shot) you would win.

Practice with what you have, the tools are adequate, IF you have the skill. Get a .44 or a .45 Colt if you want, but then PRACTICE with it.

We talk about this kind of thing a lot, and lots of people will tell you to get the biggest hand cannon you can MANAGE. Others will tell you to get the biggest hand cannon there is, often they are people who don't have experience shooting one and are just reading energy specs from a table.

within limits, the biggest engine doesn't win the race, the best DRIVER does.

Good Luck and stay alert.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old December 16, 2018, 11:01 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sniper 51 View Post

What are your suggestions for my situation as far as a weapon is concerned.
Use what you feel most comfortable with, have the most confidence in and are most proficient with. In the long run, that will count more than what grain bullet in which caliber outta what platform. A few more FPS or mm in diameter will not make as much difference against a blackie as being able to put rounds where they need to be, quickly enough to save you azz.

Black bears in the last few decades have become more acclimated to being around humans and associating them with an easy food source more often. Not as eating humans as food, but as humans leaving food out and around. Bird seed at bird feeders in the back yard and trash left outside the back door. This being closer to and around humans more makes for more interactions and thus, the increase in potential risk.

Originally Posted by Sniper 51 View Post
Not interested in Bear Spray either.
Why would anyone disregard a proven effective deterrent, which can be easily used by folks that may or may not be proficient with firearms? Not every bear incident is initiated by the bear. Many times it's the humans fault for getting in between momma and her cubs, surprising the bear, or just getting between the bear and where it wants to go. Why does one think the bear needs to die automatically when there is an deterrent proven as effective or even more so and lets the bear walk away? Got too many bears, get a bear license and hunt them proper. Keep pet/bird foods out of bears reach and keep trash/garbage secure. Be highly observant when in the bears backyard and do whatever possible to prevent an incident. Around here we have a lot of Blackies. There are incidents every year that generally turn out bad for the bear. Most of the time is is proven that it was either a false charge where there really was no threat, folks just shot the bear outta fear just cause they saw it.....or they just wanted to kill a bear and there was one there. Funny how upset those folks get when they find out they can't keep the bear or its head/hide.

I'm not saying there is no threat at all from Black bears, only that it is very small. One that can generally and easily be avoided by being aware when in bear country. When one has the knowledge of how easily those incidents can be handled non-lethally, it can be a plus. While I agree, ain't no bear's life more important than one of my grand-kids, but a bear's life should not be dependent on my stupidity.

Last edited by buck460XVR; December 16, 2018 at 12:43 PM.
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Old December 16, 2018, 11:42 AM   #9
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To address your original question, I would opt for the double action M69. In a strictly defensive situation (up close and personal, stick it in their ear situation) and possibly injured with slick bloody hands, the double action is easier to use one handed or with your weak hand. For me, The M69 is easier to shoot fast and is more compact and easier pack all of the time.

Even though I'm a big fan of the M69, for the stated use, your 357, although marginal and not my first choice, should be adequate. If you want a new gun, go for it.

A professional hunter over on the 24hourcampfire (jjhack) killed something like 200 black bears while working bear control on paper company's property. He was a firm believer in 240gr JHPs with 1,200 fps impact velocity to dissuade even the most aggressive black bear (grizzlies require different ammo choice).

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Old December 16, 2018, 01:03 PM   #10
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Of the choices you are looking at .....the 357 you have will work. I consider it to be the minimum I would carry in bear country. My preference is 44 mag, so the model 69 would be a good choice in my opinion. It sounds like you are looking for factory ammo, so I would stay away from 45 lc. It is only slightly more effective than the 357 you already have. If you haven't shot 44 mag before it will take a bit of practice to tame the gun. If you have a friend that owns a 44 I would recommend trying it out before purchasing the gun. Not everyone likes that much recoil. A good in between choice is the 41 mag. Ruger is still producing new Redhawk revolvers in it. Not as much recoil as 44 and more power than 357. You may have issues finding ammo locally, but it can be ordered online. I like to keep options open

I have had many very close encounters with black bears. One that I could have tapped with my rifle barrel. The really close ones were not aware of my presence until the wind shifted. Never had one attack. They always ran the other way. But that doesn't mean I will be leaving my sidearm in the truck! Bears are like people. They have good days and bad days. Grumpy bears are more dangerous than happy ones.
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Old December 16, 2018, 03:10 PM   #11
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I think 44AMP hit the nail on the head. The .44 mag is great if your hunting big game but to much of a good thing for self defense. I my younger days I packed a 7-1/2 inch super Blackhawk in the northern Michigan woods. Then I switched to a 6" model 629 which was a little lighter. As the years progressed I came to realize that the recoil was detrimental to fast follow up shots and I started handloading rounds to around 900/1000fps. Having adopted the
"Big and slow is the way to go" philosophy about 10 years ago I bought a 4" model 625 mountain gun in .45 Colt. I load it up with a Cast Performance 265 grain WFLNGC bullet and 9 grains of Unique for about 850/900fps.

It's light, comfortable to carry and I can Squeeze off 6 rounds DA pretty darn fast.
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Old December 16, 2018, 03:16 PM   #12
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A 5.5" Blackhawk, with 285 SAA @ 1050, will blow through any Black to 40 yards.
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Old December 16, 2018, 04:34 PM   #13
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Thanks guys. Great imput. I agree with the .44 mag being too much for follow up shots. If i went with the model 69 i was considering running something like a 240 gr 44 special load at approx 950 fps the same with a 45lc as i reload. I have a 45lc but it is a sa clone and dont want to run anything hot in it. As for the .357, i have shot just about everything made for one through it so i am familiar with that recoil. Been shooting and reloading for about 40 years, just never considered anything for bear protection until now.
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Old December 16, 2018, 04:53 PM   #14
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Accuracy and straight penetration trump raw power. So if you can shoot a 357 mag or a 10MM auto well and fast but not a 44 mag, a hot 45 colt or 454, go with the 357 or the 10.
BUT. ----
If you can shoot the larger gun well, raw power will never be a bad thing when it's "your hiny on the line".

I am doubtful you could tell the difference between a 44 mag, a 45 colt with a hot load, or a 454 Casull on a black bear. All will go clear through at any angle if you use the correct bullet. It's the bullet hole that kills the game, not the gun or the bullet. So more power is never bad if you can handle it, but over a certain point I don't think it helps much if the game is not larger then a black bear.

As always it's 98% the man and 2% what tool he uses.

I have killed a few bears with handguns. All with 44 mags except one that was killed with my 454 Casull. No real difference in how the died. I carry the 454 more where I live because we have few black bears but a LOT of grizzlies. I have never killed a grizzly with a handgun, but I have killed elk, cattle and horses with it and I can tell you, the 454 is a HAMMER when it comes to breaking big bones and going clear through. But a 350 pound bear is WAY smaller then a 1100 pound horse or a 1400 pound cow. or even an 800 pound elk. I can see a difference in how fast a 44 mag drops a cow compared to a 454.

If I were in your place I would go with the most powerful gun you can shoot fast and well under stress as MS6852 said, but I'd probably stop short of the 454 Casull, the 460 and the 500 S&Ws.

But "fast and well under stress" is WAY more important then "most powerful".
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Old December 16, 2018, 05:23 PM   #15
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My 625 isn't rated for hot .45 Colt loads and the handload I mentioned is not a Ruger only load, although I use it sparingly, it really doesn't need to be.
In my instance I carry it on a belt holster as a companion to my 20 gauge SxS and a Springer Spaniel while Grouse hunting.

I think a .452" hard cast bullet weighing in at 265gr and going 900 fps. is more than adequate for any Bruin I might encounter and a double action revolver allows for fast follow up shots which one doesn't get with a single action.
Recoil is slightly more than a .45ACP.
As 44 AMP says, "Bigger bullets work better".

By the way I also carry a can of bear spray as a first choice solution.
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Old December 16, 2018, 06:04 PM   #16
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Whatever you do not feed them and do everything you can to keep your neighbors from feeding them.Almost all residential bear attacks are caused by someone feeding them or allowing them to get at a feed source.A .357,40 or 9 mm on you is a lot better than a bigger gun at the house.There is a big difference between going to where bears are for a walk and living and working there 24 7
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Old December 16, 2018, 06:23 PM   #17
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According to two of my buddies that are bear-hunting guides up in AK, your best bear defense gun is a rifle. For black bear they both advised me years ago to get either a lever in .30-30 or at least .44 mag or a semi-auto Ruger 44 Carbine (no longer manufactured).

However, your post is in the Revolver section, so I'll go from there. You have a .357 mag, and with either hot loaded 158 grainers or my usual 180 grainers from Buffalo Bore should be more than adequate to the task. The trick, as someone stated earlier, is getting hits where you need them, and in time.

It took me some time and practice to become fairly proficient with my GP-100 DA .357 mag revolver. Probably in the vicinity of 1,000 rds, to be honest. But now, with a little warm-up (haven't run the drill in a few months), I can consistently put all 6 rounds of 180 gr. BB bear ammo into a baseball-sized space (about 3 inches) at 20 yards in less than 10 seconds.

From low ready, not the draw.

It's not easy, and sometimes I either will drop a round or go over 10 seconds, but it's the best I can currently do.

At 15 yards I can get them all out of the gun in about 6 seconds.

Is that good enough to stop a charging black bear? I don't know. But it's what I can do without starting to spray rounds downrange. And compared to the average shooter at the range, I think I'm better prepared than all of them (not many revolver shooters at the range so this might be a skewed POV).

This is also two-handed from a strong, stable shooting position. No chance I can do the same thing one-handed.

With my M69, everything takes longer. With one less round (M69 is a 5-shot), it takes about the full 10 seconds at 20 yards. About 7-8 seconds at 15. A bit longer if I use the bear purpose 305 grain BBs.

From 10 yards, using every Jerry Miculek trick I've learned, I can unload my M69 in about 4 seconds (from low ready) into a 3-inch circle, but it's not realistic, IMO. Also, it took a LONG time to reach that level of speed/accuracy. More than a year. About 1,700 rds, I think. It is fun though.

One-handed/off-hand? Probably take me a week to get all 5 rounds into a 3-inch circle at 20 yards.

Honestly, unless you have more than a little familiarity with DA revolvers, I'd probably look at a semi-auto. Probably something in 10mm.

Oh, and since you asked, I've had my S&W M69 for several years now, and I really like it. I put a Hogue grip on it and now it's really comfortable to shoot, runs like a watch, and is really pretty accurate. It's a very solid gun. And good-looking, in its own way.
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Old December 16, 2018, 10:18 PM   #18
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A lot of good info in this thread. I live near a large swamp and according to my game cams some as close as 50 yards from the house there are quite a few black bears moving through my property. I spend a lot of time in the woods. I am retired and have the time to wander around in the woods as much and whenever I like. I load my own and for the past few years I have been carrying a GP 100 357 mag with 180gr. LWFNGC over a stout load of 2400 in the woods and around the clearing that is my yard for black bear and wild hog protection. I see a lot of hogs but rarely run into any black bears except for a sow that hangs around here and has cubs every couple of years. I have ran into her cubs many times. My little Chihuahua squirrel dog has even treed a few of those cubs. Anyway to the point. I have never had to shoot at or into a bear. I am pretty sure that the hot 180gr 357 mag cartridge I built will take one down. I am a large fellow and have no issues shooting big bore handguns so I decided I would feel better with a 44 mag. I have a Redhawk on order right now and look forward to working up loads for it. Thanks to everyone who posted. There is a lot good information and food for thought in your words.
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Old December 17, 2018, 11:03 AM   #19
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Aaakkk! Yet another “what should I use for bear protection” thread often answered by well-meaning folks who’ve never actually seen a bear in the woods but are full of opinions. OP, a simple search of TFL for “bear protection” turns up 20 threads on the topic with over 600 replys. There you’ll find your answer.

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Old December 17, 2018, 05:46 PM   #20
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Having hiked in the Stevens Pass outside Everett, Wa.,

I never felt under -protected with a 4" RSS, with 140gr Hronady XTP and a spare speed-loader loaded with Federal 180gr., Hot-cast lead loads.

Never need to use / engage.

Also had Colt GM 1991 loaded with then Hornady 230 gr FMJ-FP ball ammo.

Spoke with Sierra techs and they recommended the Feral loads OR the heaviest

bullet @ the maximum velocity that you and the firearm can withstand and be PLACED on TARGET for maximum effect.

First and only bear was feeding on decaying log and when spotted it, moved behind a standing tree and observed to see if I was spotted, then eased myself back the way I came.

Then made note in trail-head book, noting location with date and time.
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Old December 17, 2018, 06:59 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by TX Nimrod View Post
Aaakkk! Yet another “what should I use for bear protection” thread often answered by well-meaning folks who’ve never actually seen a bear in the woods but are full of opinions. OP, a simple search of TFL for “bear protection” turns up 20 threads on the topic with over 600 replys. There you’ll find your answer.

+1 here
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Old December 18, 2018, 06:31 PM   #22
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Bear spray first and foremost, but I'd still carry a big revolver...of the choices you mentioned, I have the M69 Smith which weighs just a cpl oz's more than my M19, but is infinitely better if you ever need it. Hard cast 240 Magnums would be my suggestion and get some practice in with them. The lighter weight will encourage you to carry it on your hikes too.

In that regard, a good holster that you can draw from with split second timing, is worth some study. I'd choose a "tanker" type of chest holster that can be worn over or under a hiking jacket/windbreaker. A OWB, cross-draw type might work out as well but would be hindered if the outer jacket is too long.

Mine is a great gun, the two piece bbl. and cursed lock notwithstanding. Grouping inside 2" at 25 yds, and with a reasonable DA trigger and superb SA trigger, it's a great handgun.

Best regards, Rod
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Old December 19, 2018, 11:12 AM   #23
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Not interested in Bear Spray either.
Please elaborate on this.

As others have mentioned, bear spray has been proven to be extremely effective on even charging bears (98% percent of people using it in one Alaskan study escaped a close encounter with no injuries), and is likely more effective than most handgun calibers in avoiding injuries from a bear. Think about this - a handgun may injure a bear, but unless you kill it outright, it can likely still carry on with an attack. Bear spray attacks the bears senses, and thus its facility to continue with an attack or encounter.

If you are serious about protection from a charging bear, you can't be so dismissive of bear spray. And if you are of the mindset that you must kill or injure a bear because it crosses paths with you on a hike, you need to remember that you are the one encroaching upon the bear's territory, and not the other way around.
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Old December 19, 2018, 01:48 PM   #24
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It sounds like your situation is a bit different than most "bear gun" threads. Most seem to be people going out into bear country hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. You live where bears come around the house. So, you need a gun that will work for you should you have a chance encounter at home with the bear as well as serve as your general CCW, right?

The more I read, the more it seems that any decent self defense caliber with a round known for deep penetration should work. Even bear defense 9mm loads are made by the specialty ammo makers. The rub is that you need something with enough penetration for bear that won't have too much over penetration for home defense or out of the home self defense in a populated area (unless you want to switch guns when outside the house v. in the car/CCW and at home in the house). I'm thinking a hot self defense load in 10mm, .40, .45LC or .357mag may be your best bets. For one ammo selection for all duties situation, I'd avoid bear loads since they greatly increase your chances of having a through and through on a human attacker and hitting an innocent bystander.

Also, I know you said you don't want it (and I understand not wanting to only rely on it), but you should really consider also keeping a good can of bear strength pepper spray handy.
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Old December 19, 2018, 02:23 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
Around here we have a lot of Blackies. There are incidents every year that generally turn out bad for the bear. Most of the time is is proven that it was either a false charge where there really was no threat
If the encounter "turned out bad for the bear" exactly how does one retroactively "prove" what the bear would have done?
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