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Old July 9, 2019, 07:47 PM   #1
Prof Young
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Hand guns and bears . . . let's chat.

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Yours truly is in Alaska.

I didn't think I'd get the opportunity to fish in an unpopulated area, but we stayed in Cantwell prior to going to Denali and got the opportunity to fish in the Jackson River. Walking down there a group coming back up tells us that the fishing is good. The lead guy has a huge handgun strapped to his chest. He tells us to stay "aware" as a grizzly has been chasing the local moose around. We get to the river and meet a fellow fisherman. Gary too has a huge handgun on his hip, and he too mentions the moose chasing grizzly. I'm now starting to think I should have brought one of my large handguns along.

Next day we are in Denali. We have the good fortune of seeing a sow grizzly and two cubs about 150 yards away. The binoculars bring them in close and it is clear that the mama is MORE THAN HUGE. Huge doesn't even begin to describe her. (Amazingly majestic animal.) Now I'm thinking a big handgun would be better than nothing, but not by much. You'd have to have a really big gun and be a really good shot to stop this thing with a hand gun. I talk about this to the park guide who suggests that properly used bear spray is a better bet. I'm thinking well that's the park person talking so . . . I talk to the guys behind the gun counter at Sportsmans Warehouse in Fairbanks and they agree, bear spray is better bet. So I suppose one should take both.

Let's talk about this.

Life is good. Watch for more gun related posts from Alaska.

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Old July 9, 2019, 07:53 PM   #2
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spray is hampered by the wind, may it always be at your back and the bear at your front.
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Old July 9, 2019, 08:09 PM   #3
mehavey
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From who spend their lives in such situations:

A firearm (even a big one) may kill the bear, but not before he kills you.
Spray (actually a high-pressure stream) will stop a bear dead in its tracks "almost every time"

Carry both, spray first.
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Old July 9, 2019, 08:20 PM   #4
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Yep. I grew up in So Calif. our bears are like big dogs. When i went to Ak for the first time, i was told to bring a rifle. The largest one i had was a Steyr scout in 308. Once up there, and seeing my first Ak bear in the wild, i wanted something bigger...like 375 or so. Lol
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Old July 10, 2019, 01:22 AM   #5
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If you do a search you will find a TON of "what handgun for bear" threads of numerous variations.

Many things get discussed, though somethings are often overlooked. Like how service class semiautos are not good for bears. Their lack of thumbs means they have trouble with safeties and magazine buttons....and, for the same reason, SA revolvers are about out...

The long claws really need a pretty generous open triggerguard, so probably the best choice is a large frame DA revolver.

ok, a bit more serious, bear spray is a DETERRENT (if/when it works) Firearms are a defense, IF/when they work. The desired end result of both is the same, not having the bear disassemble your parts, but the approach is completely opposite.

Neither one is right for ALL situations, so carry both, and know how to use either correctly.

Ol' Elmer used to say something like "any decent caliber handgun will stop a bear attack, every time, if you keep your nerve"... what he meant by "decent caliber" was .38 and above, and what he meant by "keep your nerve" was being able to shoot the bear through the mouth and break the bear's neck. He never claimed you wouldn't get "clawed or chawed, some" only that if you kept your nerve, you would win.

Never had even the slightest desire to test the truth of that, but it made sense. Having heard of a bowhunter who managed to survive a grizz attack by stabbing the bear with an arrow, (and survive long enough to reach medical attention, and beyond) I'd say a sufficiently determined fellow with a fairly powerful handgun stands a reasonable chance.

The other side of the coin is, its defense, not stand your ground to the last man and the last round. Meaning, mostly, yield to the bear if its after something that isn't you or someone else body. In other words, don't fight them over what in your creel or camp cooler.

Spray is for you can't retreat, NEED to drive them off, but aren't at enough risk to justify shooting. A gun is for when nothing else will work.

Seems to me that only carrying one, or the other in dangerous bear country is artificially limiting your options needlessly.
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Old July 10, 2019, 12:30 PM   #6
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"..."what handgun for bear" threads..." This one's about that in Alaska. Last I heard it would be a .44 Mag you can shoot. If you can't shoot a .44 accurately and fast, you might as well carry a stick with a bell on it. Mind you, no handgun round will give you a 100% guarantee. Neither will any round, handgun or rifle, stop anything in its tracks. Physics doesn't allow that.
Not that it'll help anyway. You'll never be fast enough to recognize the threat, draw and fire. Said firing being aimed at the central nervous system only. A small target on a great big critter. Even less so if Yogi(more likely to be Cindy) is coming from under 100 yards. Either of 'em can cover 100 yards in less than 6 seconds.
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Old July 10, 2019, 12:46 PM   #7
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I've hunted in Alaska twice. I wasn't hunting bears either time but I saw lots of them and they can get big. I was carrying a 30-06 both times which would probably be adequate most of the time from a power and penetration standpoint, although it wouldn't be the fastest gun to get rounds on target. A big bore carbine loaded with hot hardcast flat nose is probably the best answer.
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Old July 10, 2019, 02:15 PM   #8
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I bought my Dan Wesson 10mm 1911 after someone saw a black bear 90 miles away. For some reason, the thought of buying bear spray never occurred to me.
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Old July 10, 2019, 03:15 PM   #9
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I agree with IdaD, a high power rifle would provide me FAR more comfort in Grizzly Bear Country than any handgun or Bear spray.
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Old July 10, 2019, 03:54 PM   #10
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For anyone that thinks a loud high pitched whining noise will deter bears here's some famous proof positive it won't:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3qhEIZBlX8

Her "bear spray" doesn't seem all that effective but the bear does react some...but for all I know she might have got "bug spray" by mistake.

Then there's this parody video too:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm2mWYbsLZc

And of course there is the apocryphal story the park rangers tell of the tourist asking how long before they enter the woods should they apply their bear spray.
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Old July 10, 2019, 04:32 PM   #11
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This is a good read


https://www.ammoland.com/2018/02/def...#axzz5tJOdZ6pH

In a nutshell they investigated 37 incidents involving bear, both grizzly and black bear, and handguns. The handguns either killed the bear outright, or stopped the attack in all but one instance. That involved a 357 mag and it is thought the shooter missed with all shots.


Handguns ranged from 9mm up to the 454. The 44 magnum was used most often, but 9mm, 40, 45, and 10mm worked 100% of the time and combined for more successful stops than 44 mag.

Somewhere out there is updated data where and they have profiled something like 60-70 incidents. The overall success rate remained about the same.

Another good read.

https://www.wideopenspaces.com/alask...-a-9mm-pistol/


I've always felt handguns were UNDER RATED for bear defense. This backs up my suspicions. I'd not have any issues with 9mm loaded with heavy hardcast bullets on typical black bear. But for bigger bear I feel that heavy 10mm hardcast loads is as small as Id want to go. Regardless of Shoemakers success.

Quote:
a high power rifle would provide me FAR more comfort in Grizzly Bear Country than any handgun or Bear spray.
Me too, BUT... carrying a rifle and having it in your hands 100% of the time is no more practical in the woods than walking down main street. Last fall a guide was killed in Idaho by a bear while gutting an elk killed by his client. He HAD a pistol, but took it off while gutting the elk. They were archery hunting so no rifle.
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Old July 10, 2019, 04:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
Not that it'll help anyway. You'll never be fast enough to recognize the threat, draw and fire. Said firing being aimed at the central nervous system only. A small target on a great big critter. Even less so if Yogi(more likely to be Cindy) is coming from under 100 yards. Either of 'em can cover 100 yards in less than 6 seconds.
The proof says otherwise.
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Old July 11, 2019, 08:45 AM   #13
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My first experience with a good sized brown (900+ lb) was from a tree stand about 15 yards away. He was tall enough to probably have reached my feet if he wanted and my .300 mag and .44 mag didn't feel like enough (though both would have done the job).

My wife describes them as "furry smart cars", I feel it is quite apt.
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Old July 11, 2019, 09:05 AM   #14
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you should always take a friendly bar bum who is legaly blind-over weight with a bum leg along with you. they can be gotten at a local bar by offering a free week end of drinking at the end of the trip.
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Old July 11, 2019, 09:18 AM   #15
IdaD
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Originally Posted by jmr40 View Post
Me too, BUT... carrying a rifle and having it in your hands 100% of the time is no more practical in the woods than walking down main street.
That's the main rub with a rifle for bear defense. You would have to be disciplined about keeping it on you all the time which is much harder than a handgun.

Cool stats on handguns and bear defense, though - thanks. I've never felt undergunned with a 9mm in where I live (Idaho) but I think cats are a lot more likely problem than bears. Frankly people are a lot more likely than either - animal attacks are really rare.
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Old July 11, 2019, 10:58 AM   #16
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Just going to leave this here for you to read.

https://above.nasa.gov/safety/docume...vs_bullets.pdf
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Old July 11, 2019, 02:55 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikejonestkd View Post
Just going to leave this here for you to read.

https://above.nasa.gov/safety/docume...vs_bullets.pdf
The only logical answer is that somebody needs to make cans of bear spray that mount on a rail so you can send a mixture of bullets and bear spray downrange at the same time.
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Old July 11, 2019, 07:55 PM   #18
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Few people speak bear (I don't). Bear spray works when the bear is being pushy, not when the bear is focused on killing. If you don't speak bear, you either error on the side of killing the bear or you risk getting munched.

I speak dog pretty well and I know a little black bear. But I don't speak any of the Grizzly species. So I would tend to rely on a firearm versus bear spray.
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Old July 11, 2019, 10:42 PM   #19
DaveBj
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I have been given to understand that if one speaks dog to a bear, the bear doesn't like it, and will run away. I do not plan to try that out on an angry grizzly.

D
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Old July 12, 2019, 03:36 AM   #20
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So... soak your ammo in bear spray, then?
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Old July 12, 2019, 06:11 AM   #21
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"... Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality -- based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used"

See Post 16, above.

I predict that no amount of truth will overcome the emotion of "feeling safer with a..." and besides, what do the Colorado Fish and Game people know about bears that a bunch of fellas on the Interwebs don't know better?

The most important conclusion in that report is basically "Learn about bears, avoiding them, and don't act like a tourist with a hamburger in his pocket." I may have exaggerated that quote. Heck, I maybe just made it up, but it's in there somewhere! Really! (not really)
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Old July 12, 2019, 01:57 PM   #22
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Quote:
a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used"
THEY SAY, numbers don't lie. I agree with that. But, conclusions using numbers as "proof" are not necessarily the truth.

Every one of those bear attacks studied (and those which weren't) is DIFFERENT. Different people, and different bears. The only thing that isn't different is that people and bears were involved.

Any one remember the oft repeated (sometimes still repeated) bunk about how having a gun in your home makes you 17%, 43%, 67% (I've heard all three numbers used and others etc) more likely to be murdered???

That particular "study" was debunked a couple years after it came out, but certain people continued to use that conclusion as if it were fact, for decades!!

There is an old saying, attributed to African native wisdom,
"today, you meet a lion on the path, he roars at you, and walks away. Tomorrow you meet the lion's brother on the path, an your family wonders why you did not come home...."

The point is that animal behavior can be as individual as human behavior. And what gives one set of results with Bear A can give much different results with Bear B, etc.

I take leave to doubt conclusions based on numbers that only take into account PART of the factors involved in very complex situations.

Even if those conclusions are "accurate" there is a 50/50 chance that they will not apply to any situation you or I find ourselves in.
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Old July 12, 2019, 02:17 PM   #23
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While working in Colorado some years back, I met a fellow who looked like a movie character, and who had a three-legged dog. When I asked him about the dog, he said it was a bear dog, and "It generally costs a dog a leg to learn something about bears."

I still have all my limbs, but in working with domestic animals for a few decades, and a small amount of work and quite a bit of observation of wild animals, my opinion of their behavior is similar to 44 AMP above - highly individual, and therefore always somewhat unpredictable.
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Old July 12, 2019, 03:51 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkeypete View Post
"... Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality -- based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used"

See Post 16, above.

I predict that no amount of truth will overcome the emotion of "feeling safer with a..." and besides, what do the Colorado Fish and Game people know about bears that a bunch of fellas on the Interwebs don't know better?
.....and it always amazes me that folks will find 900 ways to debunk the truth using off the wall scenarios."Well, iffin you're in a hurricane when the bear attacks, the spray isn't going to go very far!" Yep, and there's always a 50/50 chance their scenario is going to be different.....but as the facts show, even with a myriad of different scenarios, the outcome is generally the same. Folks don;t admit it because they don't want to. Pepper Spray is not as macho or manly like carrying a big sidearm they can't shoot. Better to die a man with a gun in your hands than live like the lady in the next tent that had bear spray.....

I tell folks, use what you are comfortable with, confident in and proficient with. Making that choice by emotions instead of facts and real life encounters is up to you. It's only you, your loved ones and anyone else with you, that may find out how correct that choice is.

I don't live in grizzly country altho I have been there. I do live with Blackies tho. I have found that knowledge of bears, their habits and their preferences, along with observation, awareness and presence of mind, is much more important in the field, than what protection you are carrying.
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Old July 12, 2019, 04:18 PM   #25
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Quote:
. Pepper Spray is not as macho or manly like carrying a big sidearm they can't shoot. Better to die a man with a gun in your hands than live like the lady in the next tent that had bear spray.....
Makes you wonder how much of that is involved in the bear shootings they studied. Idiots who can't /don't use a gun effectively are about identical in the statistics to those who do. This could tend to skew the results, about how effective the gun is, in the database numbers.

MAYBE the reason some of those folks who used a gun got hurt was because they couldn't hit the broadside of a barn from the inside. Maybe not, but the statistics don't take that into account.

MAYBE its because the bear thinks "you shot me, it hurts, I'm mad AT YOU!" when MAYBE when you use bear spray the bear doesn't connect that with you, directly, and just thinks, "hmm this place smells bad, I'll go elsewhere"

NO study takes those kinds of things into account. The simply cannot.

It may be true that A+B can =C, it may be true that A+B causes C, sometimes, but I think its hubris to flatly state A+B always results in C...when there are equally valid examples of times when it did not.

Am reminded of the story about the bush pilot who drops off a "Nature Enthusiast" at a remote Alaskan lake. Pilot notices the guy is unarmed, and offer to loan him a .44MAG. Guy says no thanks, he's got bear spray, he'll be fine.

Pilot says "ok, its your butt..etc" taxis to the end of the lake and makes his takeoff run past the beach where he dropped the guy off.

As he's taking off, he looks and sees the guy, rolling and flopping on the ground. He lands, and picks the guy up and takes him to medical aid.

Apparently the guy didn't know that bear spray is NOT like mosquito repellant!!
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