Need Advice: Small Hands / Big Caliber


October 14, 2007, 10:10 PM

I am moving to Washington State and am looking for a self defense pistol while running outdoors and performing other physically challenging outdoor activities. Bear attacks have been reported around this area in the past and are an ongoing risk. Due to the chance of large animal encounter such as a bear, I am looking into buying a large caliber pistol that will be reliable, resilient, lightweight, able to take +P rounds with ease repetitivly, and be able to fit comfortably in my smaller hands.

I'm sure everyone's got Glock on their mind, and I have already tried them out. The gun felt awkward in my hand and simply too bulky. The 45 GAP platform felt better, but I would like a full size 45 ACP cartridge capability. I feel "limited" with the 45 GAP cartridge + it is harder to find and more costly.

The Springfield XD felt great in my hand at first, but felt weird while shooting it, and by judging by my shot placements, this gun is definitely not for me.

I love the way my Kahr MK9 feels (rather small 9MM to begin with). Love the way a 1911 feels in my hand and the way I am able to shoot it. Beretta's grip style also feels natural in my hand.

I have considered a lightweight 1911 platform as my perfect choice, but am worried about reliability with +P rounds and the expense incurred with such a platform. I have a Kimber Custom CDP II, and while it is lightweight, it has been jamming up frequently (I was told this was normal as it has only had about 50 rounds fired through it and hence, is in it's break-in period) and has a rather delicate finish.

Had a H&K USP .45 and had to sell it as the grip felt too big for me to comfortably operate. I am also not really interested in pursuing the idea of getting a revolver, looking for an auto at this time.

Any recommendations would be most helpful. Thanks in advance!!

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October 14, 2007, 10:23 PM
This is close to a "what micro pocket pistol is best for bear?" thread.

Honestly I don't know if there is any handgun caliber that would make me feel confident to repel a bear attack.

If you hadn't mentioned running and other "physically challenging activities" I would have suggested you consider a 12 ga shotgun loaded with slugs.

If you are set on a handgun, you might want to consider trying out a number of different .44 magnum revolvers. Even large bore revolvers can be shootable with small hands especially if you get the right grips on them.

The problem with autopistols is that other than oddballs like the Desert Eagle, which won't fit your size/weight criteria, semi auto pistols just don't come in calibers even close to the power of a .44 mag.

If you are set on a semiauto pistol, and like 1911's, you could look at a 10mm. A used Delta Elite (Colt) would be one; Dan Wesson and Kimber and I believe Wilson all make them too. Double Tap makes some very hot ammo for 10mm, but still I would not willingly take on a bear armed that way.

October 14, 2007, 10:32 PM
Antsi, thanks for the quick reply, and I definitely see your point about a handgun not being the first choice for standing up to a bear, but I have to run with this firearm and hence, this leaves me with little choice.

Went to the gun store today, and the salesman directed me to a .454. Casull snubby revolver. Just taking a look at the size of that revolver with such a hot cartridge makes me wonder who I would hurt more shooting that size of a revolver loaded with .454 Casull me or the bear.

If I HAVE to go with a large caliber revolver, then so be it, but I just wanna make sure there is nothing in the auto pistol market that may be more pleasing.


October 14, 2007, 10:34 PM
If you're open to revolvers, a S&W model 60 is fairly small and the newer ones are chambered for .357 magnum. That's probably the closest thing to a mouse-gun that might be able to stave off a bear.

October 14, 2007, 10:35 PM
Look, I'm Sergeant Schultz here; I know NOTHING, I see NOTHING...

But I have READ that there are pepper sprays especially formulated for bear that are more immediately effective than ANY handgun round. Anything less than a full-power .44 Mag is likely to just enrage them.

Or so I have heard. Maybe someone here can confirm or deny.

October 14, 2007, 11:26 PM
I've seen those bear sprays, and while they looked like a viable solution, they are effective up to 30 feet. Since bears can cover that distance in about a second, I feel safer with a gun. I also have no idea what else I may encounter out there, so the spray may not work for other game.

Honestly, the last thing I ever want to do is kill a bear or any other game unless I have to, or intend to kill it and use as much of the animal as possible, but that is still secondary to survival.

October 15, 2007, 12:11 AM
The smallest lightest weight gun that I've seen that still packs a nasty punch that might deter a bear is a S&W scandian J frame .357. You could put in your pocket easy, but you only lookin at 5 shots. I have a kimber custom CDP II as well. It is true that it will jam once in a while until you get about 500 rounds through it. Mine worked perfect till I hit around 200 then started jamming quite often. After that is slowly worked it's way out and by 400 rounds I was jam free. I've got about 2000 through or so... I stopped counting, and never had a problem since. That .45 might be a good enough bear gun. Most the bears in WA. are black bears of the fairly small (for a bear) variety, so I think it would suffice.

October 15, 2007, 12:30 AM
Consider a 10mm 1911 or EAA Witness (compact?). Both have slimmer grips than a Glock and pack more punch than you'll find in anything short of a Desert Eagle.

October 15, 2007, 03:20 AM
You seem to have two criteria you are trying to meet:

1) Good defensive round

2) best platform for small hands.

The problem you face is that these two options are often at odds with eachy other. Often a weapon has to be larger and bulkier to handle the abuse of higher powered rounds.

But I think Fosbey toughed on a great compromise in a single stack pistol chambering the 10mm round. I too have small hands and I have found that I much prefer to carry single stack pistols (1911s, Sigs, Kahr, etc.). I have found they also print through my clothing much less.

As for the 10mm, is an extremely versatile round with the magazine capacity of a .40S&W. It is a especially great defensive round. It's hotter loads give you the ballistics of a 41 Magnum in a semi-auto platform. But when it comes to picking or just range shooting, their lighter powder loads are pretty much on par with the .40 S&W. The only real disadvantage I have found is that ammo can be harder to find (you will have to find it in a gunstore rather than Walmart).

In addition to the EAA Platform Fosbey mentioned, other available platforms include: Kimber Stainless II, a Tangfolio, a Colt Delta Elite, S&W 1076, S&W 610 (revolver) and Glock 20/29 (double stacks).

October 15, 2007, 07:16 AM
How bout a Taurus Raging Bull 500 Magnum snubbie

Loaded with these 700gr rounds

700 gr. Hardcast
Muzzle velocity = 1200 fps
Muzzle energy = 2240 ft. lbs
Recoil = 64 ft. lbs.

October 15, 2007, 07:26 AM
I don't think you will find a pistol that meets your criteria, I'd pick a revolver like a S&W 329PD (, or a Taurus ( ultra light revolver. They are not small, but are light and powerful. The S&W takes a wide variety of grips, I don't know about Taurus grip availability.

October 15, 2007, 09:56 AM
Zen21Tao, thankyou VERY much for all the info, it is most useful!!

MPanova, that thing is amazing!! I guess it was only a matter of time before a company made a 500 S&W Snubbie :what::uhoh:

I owned a Desert Eagle .50 back in the day, and while the round itself was okay, I would never have relied my life on that gun as it jammed up and malfunctioned way too frequently for my tastes. Plus the gun weighs well over 7 pounds fully loaded.

Gator, thanks for the links to the revolvers and the advice.

October 15, 2007, 10:04 AM
If you want an auto, get a Glock 29 10mm subcompact and load it with the nastiest Double Tap ammo.

However, if it was me in your shoes, I'd get a snub .44mag. The bigger stuff is even more difficult for me to handle and 44 mag is probably pushing the limit. S&W, Ruger, and Taurus all make snub revolvers. I think Buffalo Bore makes some tough loads.

October 15, 2007, 10:38 AM
How close would a hot .45 ACP +P load like a Cor-Bon come to a 10MM? Would it still stand up against large game like bears?

October 15, 2007, 10:54 AM
I wouldn't go with a .45 for bears, no. Not enough penetration.

You really do have a problem with two opposite needs here, and you have my sympathy. Of course, if you're running, you can wear a fanny pack, and they will hold up to a K-frame snubbie (model 66, say). If I were you, I think I'd look at a revolver in .357. It's hardly ideal and you'd certainly never HUNT a bear with one (not a snubbie, anyway) but if you stumble onto a bear, you'd have six shots (and frankly, I'd carry speedloaders, if I were you) of pretty strong ammo. I cannot even think of shooting .44mag out of a snubbie without pain. I have a .44, but it's a SRH and it has a long barrel, and even THEN the magnum loads are no picnic.

My 66-3 came with two sets of grips: one is wooden, which are really rather small, and one is rubber, which is what I use, and is larger. You could use the smaller grips and still not have the recoil be as bad as a .44


October 15, 2007, 10:59 AM
Handgun against a (big!) bear? Forget "big caliber" (unless you're talking really big; .44 magnum at minimum; the new generation "monster revolver calibers" are better). Think "penetration."

I read years ago of a government hunter in Africa, responsible for thinning the herds of elephants that wreaked havoc on crops. He used a big bore rifle (I don't recall whether traditional double or a bolt gun). What caught my eye was the "finishing" weapon he carried, to ensure each pachyderm was "really most sincerely dead" (with apologies to the Wizard of Oz).

He packed a 9mm BHP, loaded with FMJs; a carefully placed round into the skull of the critter would penetrate into the brain.

I'd truly hate to be in the position of trying to stop a big critter with a handgun, but think placing penetrative rounds into the cranial area would be superior to less precise rounds from a hand cannon. If you can handle a good 9mm or .38 Super (or .357 revolver) better than a huge magnum, I'd go that route.

Just to back up the bear spray, though!

Ghost Tracker
October 15, 2007, 11:05 AM
Get your hand around a Ruger SP101 .357 mag (3.06" barrel) with an aftermarket Hogue Monogrip installed. The weight of the 25 oz. stainless revolver (in a j-frame size) along with the recoil-absorbing capability of the Monogrip will let you shoot the hottest .357 mag painlessly. I have smaller-than-average hands & it's the most comfortable .357 mag revolver I own. However, the 5 round capacity may be an issue. Also, Ruger just released a 4" .44 mag Redhawk with Hogue grips from the factory. It's gonna' be a chunk heavier but with much better stopping power & an extra round of capacity. The single-action Ruger revolvers (Blackhawk, Super Blackhawk) also fit a small hand pretty well.

Your application is much better suited for a revolver than an autoloader. By the way...are we talking about Black Bear or BROWN BEAR?

October 15, 2007, 11:13 AM
Ya know, as much as well ALL love a good bear thread, let's compare this to a SD/CCW situation. Obviously, the best defense is to not get into the situation at all! If a member asked "What's the best gun for Bloods in Compton, CA?" we'd all reply, "BE ELSEWHERE." Find a new house, apartment, job, girlfriend, pool hall, etc. If you're wandering around bear country for fun, why not find elsewhere to run? Hiking is a bit different, since you don't have the weight concerns a runner has.

So yes, I'd like to amend my answer from .44 Mag or bigger to "Be Elsewhere."

October 15, 2007, 11:16 AM
Just kidding. Take a look at the new S&W emergency survival kit hand cannons. Here's a link to the .500 magnum. They're not cheap, but they pack a lot of whallop in a "relatively" small package.

October 15, 2007, 11:19 AM
I think the Glock 23 should fit your hands, and the .40sw is as good as any for your intended use.


October 15, 2007, 09:34 PM
Facts- bears are everywhere in W. Wa. They very seldom attack people.
The odds of getting a stopping shot at close range and no warning with a handgun are slim- CNS hit needed. Carry bearspray if you are worried about bears. If it does not stop the bear, use a gun.
You are far more likely to need a gun against a two legged predator than a bear. Cover both bases and get a .357 revolver, use a hardcast bullet, or a JSP. You need penetration on a bear, size and power of the projectile is sort of irrelevant in a handgun, you are not going to be breaking the bear down with a shoulder hit. A four inch SW 686+ would be perfect. The only auto caliber I would consider would be 10mm, with hardcast bullets.
If I were really seriously worried about bears, and had the choice between spray and a handgun, I would pick the spray.

October 15, 2007, 09:40 PM
I owned a Desert Eagle .50 back in the day, and while the round itself was okay, I would never have relied my life on that gun as it jammed up and malfunctioned way too frequently for my tastes. Plus the gun weighs well over 7 pounds fully loaded.

They're plenty reliable once you learn how to manage the recoil (and keep your hand off the magazine baseplate. And they're actually under 5 lbs loaded.

For use against bears, I would use FMJ or hard cast in heavy .357 or 10mm loads as a minimum. THe 10mm will have the advantage of magazine capacity-between 8 and 16 in the mag, depending on platform. The Aforementioned Witness holds 15+1.

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