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Old January 27, 2021, 01:03 AM   #1
idek
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which rifles catridges are superior/inferior to a 12 gauge for bear defense?

This is entirely hypothetical. I have no intentions of having run-ins with bears in the near future.

To narrow the focus, I'm thinking defense (not hunting) against grizzlies/brown bears. Assume you can use whatever ammo you figure is best (Brenneke slug, Foster slug, buckshot, or whatever)

I've often read that 12 gauge shotguns are popular for defense against grizzlies/brown bears in Alaska. Part of this may be because people can shoot a semi-auto or pump shotgun fairly quickly, the guns can be relatively lightweight (easier to carry and maybe faster to employ?), and they can be inexpensive compared to many rifles.

Those considerations shouldn't be ignored, but in terms of the effectiveness of the projectiles on an aggressive bear, where would you say a 12-gauge ranks in relation to some of the rifles people might use?

For example, is a 12-ga better or worse than a .30-06? A .35 Whelen? How about a .45-70? Or one of the .300 or .338 magnums? I suspect that when you get up to .375 H&H and bigger, they would be more effective, but I really don't know.
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Old January 27, 2021, 01:42 AM   #2
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slugs

I will only comment on 12 ga slugs in general. The typical, over the counter, common, Foster/ deer 12 ga slug is extremely soft. I have seen them fail to exit on close range, cross body shots on very typical whitetail deer weighing not much over 100 lbs. The slug tends to flatten on impact, and the thin skirt folds forward, and the resulting recovered projectile sort of resembles a silver dollar.

It is my understanding that the preferred slug for dangerous bears is the Brenneke, and they actually sell a dangerous game slug, as well as a line of tactical slugs, that are made with a harder lead alloy then the soft, generic Fosters. I am familiar with a US Park Ranger who was a bear guard on an oil spill clean up in AK, and another who worked AK seasonally for a few years. Both were issued Brenneke slugs for their agency supplied Rem 870's.

As a contrast and an aside, I read somewhere of a rather noted grizzly hunter who allegedly used an M-1 Garand (cal. 30-06 of course) and heavy (200-220 grain) bullets as his primary bear gun. Those heavy slugs would play hobb with the Garand's operating rod, but 8 rds of heavy '06 ammo in a combat rugged semi rifle (and a bayonet ) would be rather comforting if you didn't mind carrying the darn thing.

A noted grizzly guide, Phil Shoemaker, carried a bobbed .458 Win mag on a Mauser action for a number of years. He also carried big bore lever rifles in 45-70 ( and other calibers I think) and seems I read an article where he experimented with an carbine AR in .450 Bushmaser too. Shoemaker published several magazine articles on his bear rifles, one might search that a bit to read what someone who has actually "been there and done it" has to say.

The big bears are a fearsome thing, and they still kill or maim a few people every year.
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Old January 27, 2021, 03:31 AM   #3
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Projectile and placement are always more important than the cartridge in question.
There is no single answer to your question.
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Old January 27, 2021, 06:15 AM   #4
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The Alaska Fish and Game Department conducted a pretty thorough test of numerous rifles back in the 1980's and published a guide with their recommendations. I used to be able to locate a copy of it online, but can't seem to find it any longer.

They found that the magnums, 375 and up provided the best performance. The 2nd place rifle cartridges were a tie between 30-06 and 300 WM when loaded with 200-220 gr bullets. Lighter 180 gr bullets didn't do nearly as well.

While cartridges like 338 WM and 35 Whelen were OK, they didn't give as much penetration as 30-06. Rounds like 45-70 and 12 ga slugs were pretty far down on their list.

They concluded that if someone could handle the recoil 375 was the best option. But when you factored in recoil and availability they considered a 30-06 loaded with heavier bullets to be the best all around option.

This isn't the same article, but they still recommend 30-06 as the best all around choice.

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...nting.firearms

Finn Aagard, an African PH and gunwriter conducted an almost identical test on suitable cartridges for larger African game and reached the same conclusions.
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Old January 27, 2021, 09:01 AM   #5
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I just found some 220 gr partitions which I bet would be plenty juju out of my 300 wby. Some dealers are completely cleaned out of 308 bullets/ammo.
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Old January 27, 2021, 09:42 AM   #6
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This will likely be interesting...

As with self-defense against humans, caliber is usually irrelevant
Grizzly have been downed with a single shot of 22 rimfire, 9mm, 30 Carbine, and a host of other supposedly "inferior" cartridges
Look at the long LONG history of successful black powder hunting and self defense use against Grizzly

But what about the numbers?
You need xxxFPS, you need xxxFT/LBS
Archery anyone?

Bottom line...
As with human self-defense...

Practice
Placement
Penetration
Trumps everything else

(I know this isn't quite the path you were after OP, but I like to preach this stuff every chance I get )
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Old January 27, 2021, 11:09 AM   #7
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if we are "talking entirely hypothetical", I would go with 16in naval cannons, should get the job done. If we are talking single person portable.... 50bmg.

Personally, 450 bushmaster would probably be a good choice. As i understand it it is fairly similar to the 45-70, and it will run in an AR....
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Old January 27, 2021, 11:34 AM   #8
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I would go with 16in naval cannons, should get the job done.
It's one of the few cartridges that kills your game and processes the meat at the same time.
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Old January 27, 2021, 02:39 PM   #9
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Look at the long LONG history of successful black powder hunting and self defense use against Grizzly
IF you're talking long LONG in terms of time, I'm thinking that would be about a hundred years or so. When did men with firearms first meet Grizzly bears? wasn't it somewhere around 1800 or so?? Maybe a little earlier?? and Smokeless powder came into use beginning around 1890 or so..so during that period of time, black powder was the only choice.

If you're talking about a long LONG list because of the number people who were successful against Grizzly with black powder, I can see that, but I would mention one thing for consideration.

The long, LONG list of people who were UNsuccessful, with black powder (or anything else). That list doesn't exist to be checked, because we don't make lists of those kinds of failures very often.

Just as a few Elephant hunters became famous for successfully using "light" caliber rifles, no one knows the number of others who tried to do the same and failed. Africa "recycled" them. There's no list...

Like our caveman ancestors, hardy brave souls who hunted huge dangerous beasts with pointed sticks and sharp rocks, no one knows how many were killed for each success, there's no list to look at.

Look up "Old Mose" and note some of the folks who went hunting him never came home. Also note he was killed by a .30-40 bullet in 1904...the 7th one that hit him, according to accounts....

Then there's the case of the bowhunter attacked by a grizzly (in the 70s, I believe) who managed to kill the bear by STABBING it to death with a broadhead arrow. He was very badly injured but he survived. Story goes that a couple months later he was in court charged with killing the endangered grizzly. According to the story, the judge looked at pictures of his injuries, and at the guy in court, still in casts and bandages,, and threw the case out!

Point here is, only the successful ones get remembered....

Quote:
I would go with 16in naval cannons, should get the job done.
While it would get the job done, as you say, 16" naval rifles can't be counted, here, they aren't cartridge firearms!

If you're a good rifle shot, then I'd say a heavy caliber repeating rifle would be the best choice. If you're "most people" then a 12ga with good slugs is
probably a better choice for emergency defensive use.

I was briefly at an Army post in Alaska in the mid 70s, literally over 100 air miles from anywhere. 2 of the many things that impressed me were that 1) the buildings were all roped together (to hopefully save lives during a whiteout) but the really impressive thing to me, impressive for its practicality, was the fact that nearly every building had a loaded 12 pump gun somewhere close to the door, and not locked or secured, but ready for use by anyone. Completely at odds with the usual Army practice of having all arms and ammo locked up when not "on mission".

The concern was bears, and not grizzly or brownies, but Polar Bears.
No idea what they do today, but back then it was considered "just common sense".
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Old January 27, 2021, 02:50 PM   #10
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Personally, 450 bushmaster would probably be a good choice. As i understand it it is fairly similar to the 45-70, and it will run in an AR....
AR, yes.
Similar to .45-70? Not really. It does arguably better with light bullets, but falls on its face with "standard" weights for .45-70. Think of .450 BM as a lower pressure .460 S&W.

The bullets designed for .450 Bushmaster are generally meant to expand readily in thin-skinned game. Probably not the best option if you're looking for penetration in big bears.

You can side-step to .458 SOCOM for tougher rifle bullets, but you also take a velocity penalty and drop to 1,400-1,800 fps -- or less, if you want to use the 500-700 gr bullets.
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Old January 27, 2021, 03:02 PM   #11
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Once upon a time, western US park rangers trained with .300 Win Mag rifles, 12 ga shotguns with slugs, and .44 Magnum revolvers. Some of the urbanite wildlife studies grads had a hard time getting used to the idea of shooting anything in their care. And the heavy bear bumpers were a challenge.

I understand a shotgun full of Brennekes is considered suitable fisherman defense in Alaska but you better have a very close call to kill a bear out of season.

I recall Phil Shoemaker writing about his Alaskanized .458. He said he went from .30-06 clear to .458 because Nosler was not making .375 Partitions at the time.

I once read a yarn about one of those isolated Army posts.
On the wall a shotgun, under the shotgun a couple of large dogs dozing, and a sign.
"Fear not any man, no matter what his size,
just call on me and I will equalize.
This weapon is LOADED."
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Old January 27, 2021, 08:29 PM   #12
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My dad was an engineer on the Alaska pipline about 1975-1978. I remember him telling me of how the Alaska fish & game people used to remove bears who had become a problem (usually due to the good intentions of pipeline workers feeding them leftovers or the bears scavenging leftover lunches in work areas). They had one youngish male, about 500 lbs, who decided he didn't have to wait for the lunch scraps to be offered, he would go take them. Next morning, a Alaska warden showed up, spotted the bear, opened up his truch and took out a 458 and leveled that young rascal. No messing around. Another incident, this one a customer of mine who guided for a well-known outfitter in AK, a bear casually strolling along the riverbank decided that he wanted the fish some of the fishermen had in their possession and postured, huffed a few times, then charged, promptly getting leveled with a 416 Wby. So, if you find yourself being eyed by a large fuzzy, think along the same lines. Hard hitting, large-ish caliber rifles work best. People who tell you a shotgun with slugs is best, well maybe, but I want somewhere north of the 2,500 ft/lbs a slug packs. Portability being important, there are a lot of short lever rifles in calibers starting with a 4, short-barreled rifles with bores starting about .375" up to .50".

And then there's my friend who lived and hunted and fished in AK for 23 years. He would just throw them a salmon and leave. And he's in his 70s now, so it must have worked.
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Old January 27, 2021, 10:47 PM   #13
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I'd rather have #6 birdshot than slugs. At least I will get out alive.

Even a .30-06 has vastly better penetration than a slug.
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Old January 28, 2021, 08:48 AM   #14
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I think I would take any of the OP's mentioned rifles over a slug gun, but only with the right bullet.

The good 'ole 30-06 is often mentioned, and just for fun I have loaded some 220 RN. A max load of IMR-4350 got me 2,441/20 Std out of an old Model of 1917. Not too shabby.

The .338 Win Mag is often ignored, but you can feed it some nice high SD bullets. Swift A-Frame 275s at 2,491/12.7 Std will certainly do the job, and they are "one hole" accurate in my Savage. If I were hunting big bears, that's probably what I'd take. For a little more weight, Woodleigh 300 RN go 2,415/6.4 Std.

Note no 3,000 fps loads. "African" big game rounds are generally 500 gr @ 2,100+ for 45s and 400 gr @ 2,400+ for 40s. Those should work on angry bears, too.
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Old January 28, 2021, 09:22 AM   #15
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I had an old article about a fashion among Alaskan guides at the time for .40 Whatever.
Mostly various .404, .411, and .416 wildcats, although one guy wrote about salvaging a Mauser conversion to .416 Rigby.
Interesting that most of them settled on lighter bullets, 300-350 grains instead of the near standard 400 grain safari load.
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Old January 28, 2021, 03:56 PM   #16
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So, if you find yourself being eyed by a large fuzzy, think along the same lines. Hard hitting, large-ish caliber rifles work best. People who tell you a shotgun with slugs is best, well maybe, but I want somewhere north of the 2,500 ft/lbs a slug packs. Portability being important, there are a lot of short lever rifles in calibers starting with a 4, short-barreled rifles with bores starting about .375" up to .50".
I don't know how much truth there is to it, but my father used to often tell a story about an oil field worker in Alaska. They were prohibited from having firearms on site, so the guy bought a cap and ball revolver.

One day, while a bunch of them were gathering firewood for the nightly bonfire, they had an encounter with a brown bear and he had to empty the revolver. It was ineffective.
Several other people followed his lead and bought black powder guns.
After a few months of people taking pot shots at bears, and one person getting mauled to death, the oil company finally conceded.
They bought a few Winchester 1895s in .405 Winchester and had at least one person on bear watch 24/7.
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Old January 28, 2021, 04:30 PM   #17
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I don't know if I would have the pelotas to shoot a grizzly with a cap and ball 44, especially considering what Larry Kelly (founder of Mag-Na-Port) told about his meeting with a grizzly in a little survival shack in Alaska. Long story short, 44 mag 6" revolver with super-hot loads, 6 shots into a grizzly at contact to maybe 6" range, absolutely no discernible effect. But the bear did retreat from the shack, which was what he wanted to begin with. His guide finished the bear with 2 shots from a 375 H&H. It's on the internet, somewhere.
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Old January 28, 2021, 06:45 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by FrankenMauser View Post
AR, yes.
Similar to .45-70? Not really. It does arguably better with light bullets, but falls on its face with "standard" weights for .45-70. Think of .450 BM as a lower pressure .460 S&W.

The bullets designed for .450 Bushmaster are generally meant to expand readily in thin-skinned game. Probably not the best option if you're looking for penetration in big bears.

You can side-step to .458 SOCOM for tougher rifle bullets, but you also take a velocity penalty and drop to 1,400-1,800 fps -- or less, if you want to use the 500-700 gr bullets.
You are correct, the heavier factory loads are only in the 300gr range at about 1850fps at the heaviest.

I was thinking more from a handload than factory ammo spec.
450 bush, case capacity 73.5g, pressure 38,500 psi
45-70, case capacity 76.9g, pressure 28,000 psi

based on the stats, even with the reduced case capacity, the higher PSI should more than make up the difference between the two and the 450 should out perform the 45-70...
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Old January 28, 2021, 06:58 PM   #19
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the higher PSI should more than make up the difference between the two and the 450 should out perform the 45-70.
If you can get a significant difference it will be due to the rifles you're shooting and loading to non-standard pressure levels.

A 300gr .45-70 in the 1800fps range is within the capability of the 1886 Winchester loads. And, if you have a stronger rifle, the .45-70 can go well beyond that. There are loads for the modern 1895 Marlin driving Hornady's 350gr to 2100fps and out of the Ruger No.3 the same bullet can do 2200fps.

Can you match that with the .450 Bushmaster? Can you beat it??
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Old January 29, 2021, 05:57 PM   #20
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For working in bear habitat, when I had to carry it, an 1895 GS 45-70 with 400 gr lead hard cast.

In camp where weight is no issue, a BRNO 602, .375 H&H, 300 gr Failsafes. Barrel has been cut down to 20".

The two on the left.

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