20 gauge slugs on grizzly bears


Southern Shooter
September 20, 2005, 12:07 PM
I am looking at doing some deep backwoods "vacationing" in grizzly bear country. I am from the Deep South where such animals do not exist thus I have no experience with them. I was considering investing in another gun for self-protection. But, before doing so due to finances, I wanted to ask this of those with experience with such animals:

I have a bantum sized 20 gauge shotgun with a 22" barrel and capable of holding 4+1 2 3/4" shells. Loaded with 3/4 oz. slugs that at the muzzle are moving at 1600 fps with and possessing 1865 ft. lbs. of energy, would this gun be sufficient to take down a grizzly that is in attack mode? If so, is it more than marginal? Would I be wise to alternate slugs and buckshot in the shotgun magazine or stick strictly to slugs? What more should I be considering? Any input would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

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September 20, 2005, 12:14 PM
anything is marginal against an angry bear.

(i know, i know, i'm good at not being helpful)

September 20, 2005, 12:37 PM
You might find the answer you're looking for here: http://www.alaskanha.org/bears.cfm

September 20, 2005, 12:39 PM
depends on where these grizzlys are at. if they are what we call 'lower 48' grizz's, then you could probably fight them off with your bare hands. grizzlies down in the states, when full grown, are about the same size as alaskan grizzlies when they are born.
so if you are coming to alaska, forget the 20g, get a 12, use 3inch mag slugs mixed with buckshot. and carry a backup, like a 44mag.

Matt G
September 21, 2005, 08:29 AM
I have a bantum sized 20 gauge shotgun with a 22" barrel and capable of holding 4+1 2 3/4" shells. Loaded with 3/4 oz. slugs that at the muzzle are moving at 1600 fps with and possessing 1865 ft. lbs. of energy, would this gun be sufficient to take down a grizzly that is in attack mode? Sounds great. Sure, a 4 ga. would be better [ :rolleyes: ], but this is much more effective for close range than most rifles and all reasonable handguns.

More importantly, it's what you've got. Go with it.

September 21, 2005, 08:57 AM
Probably would be best to find some Brenneke slugs - they'll reportedly penetrate a lot better than the Forster style slugs commonly used for deer hunting.

September 21, 2005, 09:49 AM
I'd look around for an inexpensive used 12 ga, if at all possible on your budget.

And avoid buckshot for defense. Using buckshot on a heavily built dangerous attacking animal is not well advised.


September 21, 2005, 10:42 AM
Using buckshot on a heavily built dangerous attacking animal is not well advised.

But, I thought I read somewhere (maybe on the internet?) that buckshot would kill anything... in fact, it was the ULTIMATE.

:rolleyes: :)

I miss Blain (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=28100&page=2&pp=25&highlight=dangerous+game) .

September 21, 2005, 12:30 PM
I know you already stated that's what you have, but I'd really recommend something a little bigger if you can get your hands on it. A 12 gauge in 3 inch mag would be a good start, with Brenneke slugs. Even better, if one of your friends has one of the old Remington .30-06 pump guns, put 180 or 200 grain strong bullets in that, and you're even better off.

A 20 gauge is a little light in my opinion, although anything will seem light if a bear is coming at you in a hostile mood!

And Spiffster - there's a story in this month's edition of Outdoor Life (or possibly Field and Stream - I forget which one) where a man hunting blacktails on Kodiak killed a big sow with his bare hands (and a hunting knife with a 3.5 inch blade). Sow came on him when he was dressing a blacktail, he had no time to go for his gun, and went at it hand-to-hand......he got lucky, God bless him.

Good luck,


September 26, 2005, 02:19 AM
20 G slugs have enough energy to take a grizz down. BUT A HUGE BUT> DO NOT MISS > MAKE YOUR SHOT IN THE HEAD.
If you ar being attacted make sure to hold right and be as calm as you can. If you have the feeling she wants to get you stand taller than him that will give you enough time to aim and shoot.

September 29, 2005, 05:09 PM
.410 loaded with #8 birdshot will do ya.

I read on THR that a 12ga w/ buckshot was overkill for cape buffs and charging elephants, so go forth armed with a .410 and fear no grizlies.

.410 also has the added advantage of being much lighter than its 12 or 20ga relatives :evil:

May 12, 2008, 05:01 PM
After reading what some of the folks have put in here about your percieved need for a Griz protection gun, I hope you decided to ask a pro. Some of these comments are so far out in left field that I believe them to be kidding. The Griz in the lower 48 are huge as well. I had an encounter with one that was able to take the nose off a muley at ~~ 11 feet off the ground.
The 44 mag pistol should be considered a minimum. It's Muz energy is not that great. You would need to use 300 gr solids.Can you stop them with less??? Yeah but at a few feet you gotta ask. DO I FEEL LUCKY??? You have to remember one thing. It takes a combo of bullet weight/speed/sec density = stop power...You listen to those others and you may be EATEN!!!

Marlin 45 carbine
May 12, 2008, 05:46 PM
20ga would do the job - if you have time to put 2-3 into him at a lethal spot! those things are fast when they want to be.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
May 12, 2008, 08:54 PM
Certainly not ideal. But a hardcast Brenneke or Dixie 20 ga beats a soft lead Foster type slug 12 ga any day. The type of bullet makes more difference than the caliber/gauge. Shot placement make more difference than either. But sure, if it's hard lead, it will offer enough penetration to do the job. Assuming you're lucky enough to get a shot off before fangs are wrapped around your head and paws battering away at your body. Most of the conventional wisdom suggests that pepper spray is a better defense than a gun however - the best behind awareness & making noise.

May 13, 2008, 07:47 PM
Were it my life on the line, I'd opt for a .45/70 levergun, but nothing less than a 12 gauge full of slugs.

May 13, 2008, 09:00 PM
If you're asking if a 20 gauge will make a grizzly angry enough to kill you then the answer is yes.

May 13, 2008, 10:56 PM
Call a forester in one of the the many USFS or BLM offices...they will tell you the straight dope.

Maybe an old timer from Alaska here will chime in.

May 13, 2008, 11:15 PM
A 20 guage slug will do damage. A 12 will do more damage than a 20. Its as simple as that.

A grizzly bear's flesh isint impervious to 20 gauge slugs. It will do damage. A 12 gauge is no guarantee, just as the 20.

I must disagree with most here. I do not live in alaska or having shot a bear for that matter but im sure your 20 gauge is lighter, more economical and easier to carry than a full 12.

I would feel just as safe with the 20.

May 14, 2008, 01:42 AM
12 ga, Brennke slugs, and practice- those things kick hard, as hard as a .375 H+H rifle.

May 14, 2008, 03:48 AM
Whatever you have make sure you always have it. A .458 would be better but it does you zero good at home in the closet. If you're expecting them I'd say arm up (Loaded for bear isn't just an expression!) or stay home. If it's just a random off chance, then still carry the most powerful stuff you can afford and guaranteedly carry.

May 15, 2008, 02:31 AM
A .44 rem mag. has done the job in the past and it is what I carry when hiking in bear country, (all of Alaska)(w/300 gr. hard cast bullets) . Your 20 gauge is at least that good and a lot easier to hit somthing with. Don't put a sling on it and don't have it stashed or lashed to your pack. If you do you won't have it if or when you need it. Have it in your hands if you are really worried about it. I would forget the buckshot thing. At the range you will need to shoot the pattern will be no bigger than a slug.(And a good slug is a lot better.By the way, I carry a .375 H&H when going after our coastal bears.

May 15, 2008, 02:47 AM
Hey There:
Most of what I see is pretty sound advice. The 12 with hot rod slugs would be better. But , A 20 may save your life if loaded right and used right.
One thing to keep in mind. A really pissed off Grizzly is a lot faster then you are. Way , Way faster. If charged in a full out charge. your only way out is to KILL that bear. You will not likely scare him off . And By the way. In some areas Big bears have been know to investigate the sound of a gun being fired. Some have come to learn that the sound was as good as a dinner bell.
This has happened in areas where hunters kill game and have to come back later for it.
Again , All bears can be very very fast. It is said that even a Black bear can run at 17 plus mph in heavy brush. You can not..... take Care.

May 15, 2008, 08:04 AM
Your talking abouy defending your life, why go with maybe good enough. 12ga with the first shot buckshot, then the rest slugs. Reason behind this if you cross a bear most likely it will be a surprise to both of you. With buckshot aleast you will get some lead in him, then you can take your time(what very little time u will have) and put the slugs where you need to. Best advise is to call a Game Ranger, or a guide where your going and ask them.

May 16, 2008, 07:44 AM



It is incredibly effective. Get one canister for everyone in your party, that way you are maximizing an effective response. Seriously, this stuff works.

I posted a link that can give you some general advice. The pepper spray is your best bet to avoid a NASTY ordeal.

To answer your question, a .20 gauge with slugs would do a bear.

EDIT - For no reason, I felt I should include the below: :neener:

BUT, if the bear attacked at night and / or the spray didn't work (because it was old or something) I would be put in a position where I had to defend my family. In that instance fire until empty shotgun, fire until empty pistol (unless you gave it to wife or responsible kid), shuck the bowie knife, grap some hair and hold on. The idea here being to mortally wound (hamstring, cut artery, nose, eyes, bury knife in the skull, et cetera) the bear or otherwise keep him occupied so when the adrenalin stops, he does too. Remember to thrust and twist pull out repeat. Memo to self, most likely you would not live through this, but what the hay, you died game and will go down in the annals of THR history. ;)

Another EDIT - The 20 gauge is often unfaily mocked, beat up on and maligned. It is a quality round, powerful and can admirably serve for virtually ALL self defense purposes. Frankly, moose, buffalo, rhino and the like scare me FAR MORE than bears, lions, tigers do. 1.) death comes much quicker from Predators and 2.) Predators are smarter than prey, that is a fact. They also don't want to die, so generally a bluff works. Freaking plant eaters are stupid. Very very stupid and bluffs rarely work. I almost got mauled by a bull whilst deer hunting a few years ago. I was carrying a .243 great for deer, not so great for 1 ton of raging bull. The idiot rancher didn't warn us of the bull in the pasture, most likely hoping we would kill his "prized bull" and sue us for millions. Prized bull my eye. I told him that I wasn't happy with his con and he got all offended. Anyway, beware of plant eaters. As Hank the cowdog said "... but just because they are stupid doesn't mean they can't hurt you."

FINAL EDIT - hopefully

I am going to post a thread now about the dangers of bulls in the pasture and we can all discuss the possible consquences of shooting the brainless hulk of angry mass that is a bull.

May 16, 2008, 11:38 AM
In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the
Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and
fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in
the field.

"We advise that outdoorsmen wear noisy little bells on their clothing so
as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. We also advise
outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with
a bear. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear
activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear
and grizzly bear poop. Black bear poop is smaller and contains lots of
berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear poop has little bells in it and
smells like pepper."

May 16, 2008, 01:38 PM
Sounds like a good excuse to buy a 45-70 guide gun :-D

May 16, 2008, 04:54 PM
.....an AK with at least a 40 rd mag full of JHP's. Nothing on this planet will last up to that...especially as the first ten just make him mad as he is charging but the balance of your rounds should eventually slow him down so you can exit the area as the worst case scenario. Stopping power also equals NUMBER OF ROUNDS DOWNRANGE.

After that fun diatribe...ask the local pro's. What does a guy from Georgia know about Griz's!

September 26, 2010, 08:58 PM
Well a 20 gauge slug about equals a 454 handgun, but is lots easier to shoot specially if your using a 1100/11-87. Factory Sabot loads for the 20 gauge often use bullets designed for the 454 because of this.

I would use hard Brenneke either 3/4 or 7/8 oz, though there are some brands of slugs in 1 oz loadings for the 20 gauge I don't know of any that hard for deep penetration.

3/4 oz slug= 328 grains [this about ideal 454 bullet wt IMHO]
7/8 oz= 383 grains
1 oz= 437 grains

September 27, 2010, 08:34 PM
This is simple...

All you need is a .22 pistol (even a single shot will work). and a friend.

If you see a bear, shoot your friend in the leg and run; the bear can't chase you if he's busy eating your friend.

September 28, 2010, 09:03 PM
Bit by a zombie bear!

September 28, 2010, 09:46 PM
I can't find it but IIRC there is a poster over at leverguns whose son dispatched a grizzly at night with a 20ga. I personally would scratch the Brennekes as they are still made of soft swaged lead so as to squeeze through a shot guns choke. However they are solid in forn rather than hollow like a foster slug, which gives them the advantage over foster slugs.

If your going into an area populated with a good amount of grizzlies then you owe it to your family and yourself to get the best there ammo you can for your shot gun. Do you and your family a huge favor and contact Mr. James Gates who owns and runs www.dixieslugs.com I know he has something that will work for your 20GA. Read here about his newest 12GA offering.

Pete D.
September 28, 2010, 10:06 PM
I wonder what the OP did with the gun and the trip? Whether there was any occasion to use it or to consider using it.
Certainly he has had ample time to go and return - the original post was made five years ago.

Rusty Shackleford
September 28, 2010, 10:47 PM
Just use a .22 short and aim for the eye. If you're that worried about it, bump up to .22lr. If you're a bad shot under pressure, the .22mag should do the trick.:what:

September 28, 2010, 11:19 PM
Shoot your friend thats a good one.

I would get, like others have said, the best slugs you can for your 20g. A 20g is better than hand to hand combat with a bear. You said you didnt want to invest money in other gun or pepper spray, i understand that, however most bear pepper spray can be bought for the price of high quality slugs. I think i would take both. When i'm in bear country and out for a hike i always make noise sing whistle beat on stuff with a stick, that way i dont spooke a bear. Might be worthless but it keeps my happy making noise. guess its the kid in me.

September 28, 2010, 11:37 PM
He didn't return to tell the tale. That proves a 20 GA wasn't enough. He should've taken the AK-47.

September 28, 2010, 11:40 PM
Pete D 5 years no response . He must have got ate. I knew that a 20 g wouldnt work on them Alaska brownies.

Art Eatman
September 29, 2010, 09:58 AM
'Nuf necrothreadia...

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