Cartridge for Brown Bears?


Father Knows Best
December 19, 2006, 10:31 AM
A buddy of mine is a serious hunter; I'm not. He took a trip this past fall to hunt caribou and wolf in Canada, and was successful on both. His rifle on that trip was a .300 Magnum.

He is now arranging a trip to Alaska to go after Brown Bears. His guide apparently told him that he would need more gun, and he asked me last night for recommendations. I told him (honestly) that I have no idea, but I know some guys who might. That's where you come in. Anyone here really know anything about hunting brownies? He mentioned a .375, which I'm not overly familiar with. I'd appreciate hearing whether the .375 is "too much" (is there any such thing as "too much" for brownines? :evil: ), "too little" or "just right." Are there other cartridges that would be even better?


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December 19, 2006, 10:36 AM
nothing is "too much"... well maybe, but from what i understand, the .338 Win is a recomended minimum for AK Brownies, with the .375H&H being widely used.

December 19, 2006, 10:52 AM
I'm interested in the answer to this question myself. A friend's son is working for a few months in Pennsylvania, and might get the chance to go bear hunting. The locals told him that a .308 is not enough and will just make the bears mad, so his dad asked me the similar question of what is big enough. I don't know the answer either (the only bears we have around here have a black and white paint job on their cars with flashing lights).

December 19, 2006, 10:54 AM
338 min with the 375 being perfect..the 338 works well but I like the insurance of the 375

Father Knows Best
December 19, 2006, 10:56 AM
TJ, if your friend's son is hunting bears in Pennsylvania, he's hunting black bears. They are MUCH smaller than Alaskan brownies. Any gun that is "enough" for brown bears is almost certainly overkill for black bears. Frankly, I view the .308 as being plenty for black bears -- at least the ones we had in Michigan when I was a kid.

Father Knows Best
December 19, 2006, 10:59 AM
338 min with the 375 being perfect..the 338 works well but I like the insurance of the 375
What about .338 Lapua Magnum? Too much?

December 19, 2006, 11:00 AM
he's right, the browns and griz up in Alaska are much bigger than blacks. i would think a 375 would be my starting cartridge.

December 19, 2006, 11:17 AM
The National Park Service in Alaska recommends a 300 Magnum ( for bear defense.

I would say that for brown bears, the rifle is only too much when the hunter can't adequately handle it.

December 19, 2006, 11:38 AM
TJ, .308 is plenty of gun for PA blackies, granted there are a few shot every year that go over 800#, they're not a tough or dangerous as an Alaskan bear. Most hunters use their deer rifle, I use a 7mmSTW w/barnes 140gn triple shock bullets and I know several people here who use 243. and have taken bear with them. I don't recommend anything that small but if you shoot it well it works, here at least bear hunting isn't a 1 shot game animal with any normal caliber, even if it drops at the first shot you put a few more into it before you get to close, better safe than sorry.

December 19, 2006, 12:35 PM
Lapua would do great being stronger than the win mag...If you want faster follow ups, a hot 45-70 lever gun with garret or buffalo bore rounds or BAR in 338 would work...can't be to overpowered on brownies...most guides from what I have heard carry 458's.

December 19, 2006, 12:45 PM
Brown Bear ammo (, of course.

7.62x54R Brown Bear Soft Point, 203gr.

Surely Cosmoline would concur.

December 19, 2006, 01:00 PM

It depends on where in Alaska he's going hunting - if he's going after brownies on the peninsula or Kodiak Island, the .338 WinMag would be good and the .375 maybe even better, GIVEN that he can shoot that caliber accurately and comfortably. If he's comfy with the .300 Mag he should be fine, but the .338 and .375 are a definite step up in recoil. The .338 Lapua is a .416 case necked down for the .338 caliber bullet, which gives the round range out to 500 yards and more for a good shooter - but you won't be shooting any brownies at 500 yards, so it may be more than you need, and I think they're pretty expensive guns as well.

If he's hunting the interior grizzly and not the coastal browns, the .300 Mag should be fine. I will say that many use a .300 WinMag for coastal brownies, and many residents use a .30-06 or something similar, but those cartridges might be a little light if he can handle a little more gun.

Depending on where he's going, make sure not to overscope - I see guys at the range with these 6-20x scopes on their rifles, and laugh when they talk about hunting grizzlies or brownies with that - I point to the 25 yard target, say "There's a bear RIGHT THERE, get on him" and watch as they try to find the target in the scope...bear country in Alaska can be very thick and most first shots are taken under 150 yards, with many being much closer - so a quality 1.5-6x or a 2-7x scope would be terrific.

As for the PA black bear question - our bears out here don't have the tenacity of the Alaska bears, because they don't need it - even though the farm-fed blackies can get really big, a .308 with a strong 180 grain bullet (Swift A Frame, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Nosler Partition) should be fine with a well placed shot.

Out of curiosity, where in Alasks is he going, and who did he pick as a guide? Send me a PM if you want, and best of luck to your friend.


December 19, 2006, 01:23 PM
TJ - "... in Pennsylvania, ... The locals told him that a .308 is not enough and will just make the bears mad,..."

Those numbskulls don't know what they're talking about. As others here have stated, the .308 Win. with good bullets such as a Nosler Partition, will take care of any Black bear in Pennsylvania, or any other State, for that matter.

I've killed Black bears wih my .280 Rem., .308 Win., and .41 Mag. S&W 57, without any trouble.

Using his Win. 70 Featherweight .308 Win., my cousin has killed 22 bull elk, more Mule deer than he remembers, several Black bears, and one Idaho Shiras bull moose. He uses Remington 180 grains Core Lokt cartridges, as he doesn't reload. He just hunts hard and shoots well.

Tell your friend to practice accuracy with his .308 and then enjoy his bear hunting efforts.


December 19, 2006, 01:38 PM
Thanks for the information. I am passing this on to my friend.

December 19, 2006, 02:14 PM
.44 magnum worked for this guy, who was "jumped" along with his hunting partner while cutting up a trophy moose.

One shot in the chest from ~3 ft. as the bear charged him.....I posted the link to the story on the hunting forum.


Essex County
December 19, 2006, 02:22 PM
I have no personal experience, but a couple of friends who have disagreed. One swore by a scoped .300 H&H and the other a .375 with a reciever sight. I have no idea, but this is an interssting thread....Essex

Mr White
December 19, 2006, 02:36 PM
The locals told him that a .308 is not enough and will just make the bears mad I call BS! A PA black bear might get mad when hes shot with a .308, but only for a few seconds. Then he'll be dead.

Here in PA, probably the most common bear gun, mainly because its the most common deer gun, is a 30-30 Win. PA black bears are nothing compared to brown bears and grizzlies. Around here, 400-500 lbs is considered a big bear, with 600 pounders killed now and then.

December 19, 2006, 03:18 PM
Brown bear....

man, if I was given the choice...I would have to say a slicked up Marlin in 45-70 or...if money were no object...then one in 450 Alaskan...

Go bigger and you won't have any worries...


December 19, 2006, 08:00 PM
My Uncle used to hold the PA record for Black Bear and he used a .32 Win Special (which is the equal of the 30-30). PA bears don't need anything special in power but DO need a good penetrating bullet and proper placement.

BIG Bears are a different story. Hunting them is very different than defending from them. The 375 H&H 300 Sierra BTSpitzer matches the 30.06 180grn trajectory so taking a 150-200 yd shot would be realtively easy...and safer.

Plus, the 300 Sierra will hold up when hitting big things close up so that is the direction I would go. 45-70's and 450 Marlin hit really hard, but the rainbow trajectory would make the 150-200 yd shot a lot harder to make.

December 19, 2006, 08:13 PM
I'd pm Cosmoline. He lives and hunts Alaska

While there are lots of guys here that dream about hunting Alaska. I suspect very few actually do it

There was a thread some time back that showed the breakdown by caliber of the firearms used for bear in Alaska. IIRC, the most popular (in actual use, not internet lore) was the .338, then the .300 WM, and .30-06.

If it were me, I'd forget the exotic calibers. A 200 grain bullet is a 200 grain bullet. Unless there's a significant differrence in velocity, the bullet design is a lot more important than the shape or headstamp of the case

I guess if the guide wants him to get a bigger gun, I'd go with a .338. IIRC, that was #1. A .375 should be great.

December 19, 2006, 08:37 PM
Having lived and hunted in AK, take my advice for what it costs you.

The bullet construction is more important than ultimate caliber.

A .338 Win Mag with a bullet like a Winchester Silvertip might be ok for Elk, but will be a poor choice for Brownies.

.308 or .30-06 would be fine if you can place your shots and are using a good bullet.

Most guides I knew up there would rather have someone that could put their shot where they wanted under pressure, with an '06 than someone that would flinch shooting a Magnum.

They will have a guide that will be backing them up with most likely a .375 H&H or the like. I built an extremely light weight .458Win Mag for use and sold it to a Master Guide in SE AK.

I used several guns for bears, Sako Light Weight Hunter in .375H&H, Remington 700 Classic in .35 Whelen, Custom Mauser in .458Win Mag and Remington 700BDL in .270

If your friend is comfortable with his .300 and can place his shots where he wants, he just needs to get some 180-200 premium bullets like a Swift A-Frame and get dialed in. He should also check with the guide he will be using and make sure they approve of his choice.

Personally, I would find another guide if he insisted on an unfamilar gun.

Picking a Guide is a very personal choice, and if you are not completely comfortable in their abilities, you don't go. There is a reason that the state of AK requires a guide for Brown Bear.

December 19, 2006, 08:39 PM
up here in canada there have been more black bears killed with a 30-30 than any other rifle,it will work just fine ,
but i would still recomend something a little more stout.
.308..303 british.30-06 .270,.280,anything like that will be more than efficiant for blackbears,if they work up here were the big ones are than they will work in PA. for they are pretty much the same size.they can range anywhere from 150# as big as 800#(rare but they have been taken)and 300# to 450# being all your going to want to drag any way.
all that being said shoot what your comfortable with and place the bullet well you will be OK!
just my oppinion.hope i didnt sound like a know it all,not what i was trying to do.
see ya!

December 19, 2006, 08:50 PM
The National Park Service in Alaska recommends a 300 Magnum for bear defense.

The feds "borrowed" that recommendation (actually word for word, as it appears on the NPS site) from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's The Essentials for Traveling in Bear Country. ( ADF&G recommends on that page a .300 magnum or 12-gauge slugs for bear defense and discourages relying on handguns, especially when held by "untrained hands." "Untrained" in this context means incapable of reacting with accurate, bear-stopping fire to a brownie bursting out of the brush.

Elsewhere on the ADF&G site, ( an ADF&G representative recommends the .300 magnum again as an all-around round for Alaska hunting. His acceptable range for a hunting rifle runs from .30-06, 180 grain, to .338 Magnum, 225 grain. (I know there are many, many other opinions on appropriate or Grail-like "perfect" rounds for the multitude of big game species in AK.)

Finally, another ADF&G page Choosing a Firearm, Cartridge and Bullet (, states:

The two most common complaints of professional Alaskan guides are hunters who are not in good physical condition and hunters who cannot accurately shoot their rifles. Because they do not practice enough they cannot shoot accurately enough. They miss their best chance at taking their dream animal or worse yet, they wound and lose an animal. Most experienced guides prefer the hunter come to camp with a .270 or .30-06 rifle they can shoot well rather than a shiny new magnum that has been fired just enough to get sighted-in. If you are going to hunt brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula or Kodiak Island, a .30-06 loaded with 200 or 220 grain NoslerŪ or similar premium bullet will do the job with good shot placement. Only consider using a .300, .338 or larger magnum if you can shoot it as well as you can the .30-06.

It is very popular now to purchase large magnum rifles equipped with a muzzle brake. Most muzzle brakes are very effective at reducing recoil. A .375 magnum with a muzzle brake recoils much like a .30-06. Before you are convinced that you should use a muzzle-braked rifle in Alaska, you should consider its disadvantages.

A muzzle-brake increases the muzzle blast and noise to levels that quickly damage the ear. Even when just sighting in or practicing, everyone near you at the range will find the blast and noise bothersome. Anyone near the muzzle brake when the rifle is fired may suffer hearing loss or physical damage to the ear.

You cannot wear ear protection when you are hunting and neither can your hunting partners or guide. An increasing number of guides will not allow a hunter to use a muzzle brake because of the danger of hearing loss.

December 19, 2006, 09:21 PM
That complaint is the same in Africa .Many get the biggest gun they can and miss [I heard of a 30 yard miss on a cape buffalo !] ...Another good one not mentioned is the 45-70 with some of the warmer loads.

December 19, 2006, 10:17 PM
Some considerations for your friend, that are unique to hunting Alaska:

- If he's staging out of a small village - i.e., taking commercial airline to someplace like Dillingham, Iliamna, King Salmon, etc - and gets separated from his ammo, he'll have the best chance of finding good factory ammo in small villages in the standard Alaska calibers - .338, .30-06, .375, and .300. If he goes with something a little more unique, it may be hard to find ammo if his is misplaced.

- Depending on where he's going, it can rain like you've never seen, so make sure he has REALLY good raingear.

- I'd make sure to ask the guide when he last checked the sights on his gun, have seen guides carrying a .375 as backup that couldn't hit within a foot of where they aimed - not much use, except to scare bears with loud noise.


December 19, 2006, 11:03 PM
My father has hunted (and killed) brown bear multiple times in AK, incl. successful hunts on Kodiak, the AK peninsula and the Seward peninsula. He always hunts with a .375 H&H, usually his Browning Stainless Stalker but last year with a Kimber. The .375 H&H cartridge is plenty for bear, can be had in readily affordable rifles, produces recoil that is manageable (tho not necessarily pleasant) for most adult males, and ammo is a) available everywhere and b) among the most affordable of the true big game cartridges. My dad is 62 yrs old, 5'11" and 165 lbs and tho he says the fun of shooting the .375 is beginning to wear off (he's been hunting with his Browning for abt 15 yrs.), he's never had a problem shooting one.

Car Knocker
December 19, 2006, 11:08 PM
I see that Wild West Guns has just converted an AR-30 to .338 Federal. :D

December 19, 2006, 11:30 PM
A buddy of mine has gone after brown's twice now. The first time, he carried a 375 H&H, and the second time he took a 416 Rem mag. He said if he goes a third time, he will take the 375 again. Both worked very well, but the 375 is a little easier to shoot in the field for him.

December 20, 2006, 01:20 AM
I'm sure he knows this already, but remember SHOT PLACEMENT & Propper bullet construction. Allot of brownies have been downed with a 30-06 loaded with 220 grain controlled expansion loads. The ADFG says its far better to use a caliber you shoot well than a magnum you can't. They say a 220 grainer from a 06' is adequate for brownies. Jack O' Connor has used an 06' with great success on a number of brownies. That being said, theres nothing wrong with stacking the odds in your favor with a .375 H&H, or .338 win mag. I've seen a number of folks using 45/70's, but the SE is pretty thick brush country. It depends on where he's hunting. I would not feel the least underguned with a 30-06 or 45/70. You dont really want to use that heavy magnum for a mountain hunt. I prefer a more all round caliber.

Good Luck

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