303 Ok for brown bear?


September 7, 2008, 09:15 PM
Was just invited on a hunt next year, but all I have in a bolt is my old Enfield 303, even though it is an incredible shooter, might not be quite the ticket for this, and I'd need a 5 round mag. I am willing to bet an SKS might be a bit light...comments?

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September 7, 2008, 09:21 PM
I have never hunted brown bear, but the .303 has similar ballistic properties to the .308, which I consider to a very good deer round, but a little light for big dangerous game such as Brown Bear. I won't say it won't work, but personally I would look for something else a little heavier. With the proper bullet construction and proper placement it would get the job done, but it would not give you a great margin for error.

September 7, 2008, 09:32 PM
I'm down in Texas, so can't say I have much experience with brown bear. I know that plenty have been taken up in Canada with .303's, but I doubt it would be anyone's first choice if they had other options. You might think about trying to pick up a .300 Win Mag for cheap (it sounded like you're on a budget). I'm sure some would recommend something even bigger, but anything bigger than that is likely to run you some $$$$. Maybe try to find a .338 Win Mag and plan on selling it when the trip is over??

September 7, 2008, 09:35 PM
Hunters use .308 Win for non-grizzly bears. .303BR with a well-constructed heavy projectile loading should serve fine. The cartridge is a bit light if you're dealing with a charging bear.

SKS is chambered for 7.62x39,definitely too light for bear.

September 7, 2008, 09:36 PM
Could get yourself a nice cheap savage in .300 win mag. Price should be less than $350 for brand new with a cheap scope already installed and its a very accurate weapon.

September 7, 2008, 09:57 PM
I remember a few months back Mossberg had an article in their magazine that had a guy go brown bear (maybe polar?) hunting with one of their .338 win mags. He said he got asked why he was taking a Mossberg on a trip like that and he replied that he liked it, and was familiar with it. Anyway it worked in well below freezing weather and he finally got a bear. Good gun, and a good price since you probably wont use it much.

No I dont work for Mossberg, but that article dealt with exactly the same thing, a good gun for a rare hunt for a good price. ($450 retail in my area)

September 7, 2008, 09:59 PM
The .303 was used a lot to take things like Tigers and African lions back around the hay-day of African safaris - but still - there is a lot of difference between a lion or tiger and a Brown Bear.
Some of the early Alaskan sourdoughs and guides used the .303 for Brownies too. You might be fine with your Enfirld - especially if its' a good shooter. Like "TCB in Tenn" and others have said - a .300 Win Mag. or .300 H&H or a .338 might be a more comforting companion.
Personally - Brown Bears :eek: are probably too much ham for my eggs - but if I did lose my mind and hunt them I would want a rifle that fires an engine block at least 3000fps.


Prince Yamato
September 7, 2008, 10:03 PM
but still - there is a lot of difference between a lion or tiger and a Brown Bear.

Oh my!

September 7, 2008, 10:04 PM
but still - there is a lot of difference between a lion or tiger and a Brown Bear.

Oh my!


September 7, 2008, 10:08 PM
Having lived and hunted in Alaska for 2 years I guess I can comment.

The .303 while not great for Brown/Grizzly Bears, is adequate. Bearly :D adequate IMHO. As previously pointed out you need to use a good bullet design and I would limit my shooting range. Don't know if anyone makes "Premium" ammo for this oldie but if they do I would use them.

If you are hunting coastal Brownies, aka Kodiak Bears, I would not use a .303. Coastal Brown bears get much bigger than the inland variety (Grizzlies) based off of their better diet. For coastal bears I would use nothing smaller than a .338 Win Mag. Preferably a .375 H&H. These beasts go over 1,000 lbs and the record is well over that.

Is this something you want to use a .303 on ?



If you are hunting in Alaska you are going to pay quite a bit for an out of state Brown Bear hunting license. I'd drop a few hundred more on a decent used rifle in a "Bear Caliber".

For inexpensive rifles, Mossberg makes their 4x4 rifle in .338. There's also the great Savage 110.

7.62x39 (SKS cartridge) is definitely too small to use.


September 7, 2008, 10:21 PM
303 was the military surplus staple in Canada just like the 30-06 was here. It will do you proud.

Jeff F
September 7, 2008, 10:33 PM
I shoot the .303 quite a bit. I've taken a few elk and quite a few mule deer with it. I know that in Canada some big bears have fallen to the .303. I think with the right bullets and good shot placement it would work fine but I also think its a marginal cartridge for the job, are you willing to bet your life on it.

If its a planed hunt and you have a guide or someone you trust backing you up with a bigger gun I would say go for it.

September 7, 2008, 10:40 PM
I'd say go with the sks ,the 7.63x39 is = to the 30-30,bullet placement is vital,but will do the job and it's nice to have 9 follow up shots;)

September 7, 2008, 10:44 PM
Back in Colonial Britan, many an Englishman has slain elephants with his trusty .303 Enfield.

September 7, 2008, 11:39 PM
Proper bullets and a heavy load, it's acceptable, it's been done, and it'll do okay.

I personally would only hunt bear with a crew-served from a chopper, but if you're confident and the rifle's a proven shooter, shouldn't be any complications. If you truly have a good shot at the animal to kick things off, you don't need more than one.

September 7, 2008, 11:43 PM
Prince Yamato, that's funny.
The Enfield is all I have right now, but it will be a two person hunt, other guy has 30-06. He's basically offering to teach me HOW to hunt, I have gone twice in my life with idiots who knew less than me.

September 7, 2008, 11:59 PM
I have 150gr Fed Power Shok Soft point right now, my SHTF load if the yugo ain't available - good, or no?

September 8, 2008, 12:11 AM
I have 150gr Fed Power Shok Soft point right now, my SHTF load if the yugo ain't available - good, or no?

I don't know anything about bear hunting, but I do know that 150gr is on the light end of .303 spectrum. Remington has a Core Lokt load with 180 grain bullets and I believe Winchester also offers a 180 soft point.

September 8, 2008, 12:26 AM
I would need to check into that, or see what romper stomper handload I can cook up. Soft cast 180gr LRN do the trick? I know, have to order some good bullets...suggestions?

September 8, 2008, 12:30 AM
In 95 I realized a dream. I got a permit for Brown Bear in AK. Decided on a 45/70 using a custom load pushing a 350 gr SP slug really fast. I already had a Marlin, and an H&R, so I got a Browning 1885 for the hunt finale. Of course we had a guide, and we flew in for a 4 day hunt. Just after landing I wanted to look around and so myself and the guide went for a walk, the guide took his 338 magnum, I took the H&R single shot(it is nice and light).
Of course in 15 minutes we were confronted with the biggest beast I had ever been in the unobstructed presence of. You really have to see one of these incredible animals to appreciate them. At a range of 35 yards the bear-sorry, I mean MISTER BEAR-was getting surly, the guide was getting ready to defend himself if not me, I dropped him(Bear not the guide) wth one shot, then put a make sure shot in his brain.
Short hunt for me, but memorable. It kind of was the end of my large game hunting days. I still get my deer, pheasant, and the (very) occassional grouse each year, but after a Brown Bear everything else seems kind of not so great.
I have gone back to AK since, but just to watch the bears, for me they are now just too magnificant to ever hunt again. I am not getting soft, just appreciative of our resources and animals.
BTW I would have felt a little under gunned with a .303, I have one, but not for bear.

September 8, 2008, 12:53 AM
BTW, this is Arizona bear, kinda small.

Ben Shepherd
September 8, 2008, 01:03 AM

So you're actually hunting a brown colored black bear, correct? True browns(kodiaks) aren't in AZ to my knowledge.

If that's the case, your 303 is fine. Just use tough slugs. I.e.: Rem core-lockt, swift a-frame, barnes X, trophy bonded bear claw, nosler partition, etc.

September 8, 2008, 01:28 AM
The .303 is fine for brown colored black bears.
I'd stick with about any good 180 grain SP - IIRC both Remington and Winchester load these.

September 8, 2008, 03:04 AM
poops oops 7.62x39 is the best I say!

September 8, 2008, 03:16 AM
I would definately go larger if at all possible. If not, a cast bullet around
180 grains or someone load you a partition bullet. Penetration into the
vitals is the only sure way to keep them down. Even with the smaller
black cousins. Be a little shakey with just the standard expanding doing the
job as energy expanded outside of vital will really tick him off. Those stories
of 7mm and 303 in Africa were military and penetrated to where they needed
to be! An expanding soft nose at the same velocity wouldn't make it to
where it needs to be. No, the .303 is not almost a 308, nor close to the 7.62
X39. A bullet heavy enough with a velocity to penetrate to the vitals is
the consideration. Your skills to get close enough and being able stick that
bullet where it needs to be = dead bear

September 8, 2008, 04:03 AM
Your post title was misleading. You are apparently not hunting brown bear, but black bear with a brown coat. The coat is meaningless to bullet and cartridge selection so I don't know why you added that. For BLACK bear, the .303 in standard 180 sp is fine.

Using a .303 against actual brown bears can be done if you keep your range limited and aim well. You need to load it with a WOODLEIGH 215 grain RN slug. These are the rounds that allowed the .303 to take big game around the world, and are renowned for their killing power. They would be serious medicine for any black bear as well.

September 8, 2008, 05:18 AM
303 Ok for brown bear?

I don't know--he's not going to be able to get his paw inside the trigger guard very easily--do they make a winter trigger set up for the Enfield like they did for the M-1---that would help.

(Sorry-I couldn't resist). My biggest concern would be having to mess around with the five round mag---it's a load of non-sense that I imagine could really be a liability in terms of feeding. Is there a lawful option for limiting your standard mag's capacity instead? Just a stray thought.

Jeff F
September 8, 2008, 06:45 AM
Arizona, thats a black bear or a brown black bear not a brown bear or grizzly. Your good to go with the .303 its plenty of gun for a black bear.

September 8, 2008, 07:40 AM
Unless you have sufficient time, budget and range time available to both become familiar and tolerably accurate with a new rifle and cartridge stick with your .303.

The blast and recoil are very different for the suggested alternate calibers and if you are comfortable and competent with the 303 stick with it.

Better a swift and accurate aimed second shot from a weapon you are comfortable with than a fumbled miss with a shoulder cannon

September 8, 2008, 08:32 AM
If you insist on using the 303, then Cosmoline's advice is the best advanced here. Use as heavy a bullet as possible for proper penetration and the WOODLEIGH 215 grain RN is ideal for the job and I know MidwayUSA has them. They can be driven @2200fps. With a marginal caliber, proper placement is more critical, of course, so practice.


September 8, 2008, 08:39 AM
If I had that opportunity I'd try to pick up a used .338 mag and then possibly resell it if I had no further use. If this is really a hunt for black bear then get something in .308 or .30-06.You could probably get what you paid for it and in addition to possibly saving your butt, it would save you from looking like (fill in the blank) for going with an old .303 Enfield. I have nothing against the Enfield as a curiousity and for an everyday whitetail hunt, but a special hunt deserves an adequate rifle. And, since this is a year out, you should be getting the rifle soon so you have plenty of time to become very accustomed to it.

1911 guy
September 8, 2008, 09:11 AM
I was thinking Ole' Grizz for a while, too. But in Arizona, it's going to be black bears. The .303 will be fine. As mentioned by others, use a good bullet design like core-lokt, A-frame, etc.

Just curious, but what's up with the 5-round magazine requirement?

September 8, 2008, 10:24 AM
I was confused by your initial post and title as well. Thought you were hunting Grizzly, aka Brown/Kodiak Bears (Ursus arctos or / Ursus arctos horribilis). Not brown colored Black Bears (Ursus americanus cinnamomum).

Using your .303 on Black Bears will be no problem. I would shy away from the 150 grain bullets and use something in the 180+ range. But I personally would not hesitate to use a 150 grain bullet if that was all I had.

A .303 using a 180 grain soft point bullet is an excellent cartridge for Black Bears. With the conventional wisdom of being able to place your shot in a vital area.

My one and only Black Bear, which was cinamon colored by the way, was shot using a .308 Win with a 180 grain Silver Tip bullet. It was 5'10" and about 280lbs


September 8, 2008, 10:52 AM
.303 should do just fine for any bear that you are going to find in Arizona, especially with a decent 180 grain bullet.

I find it interesting that some folks think that a .44 magnum handgun is adequate for the vicious grizzly in Alaska, but question the use of the .303 rifle.

September 8, 2008, 10:57 AM
I just got it! I thought you meant grizzly type brown bear, not brown, black bear. The 303 will be fine, even the 7.62x39 with soft points would work.


September 8, 2008, 02:31 PM
If you are dead set on the .303, ya need a P-14, they are strong enough to handle the heaviest .303 loads!


September 8, 2008, 04:51 PM
for brown or black bear my vote is .303 Brith with a decent grade soft point commerical/reload good hunting

September 8, 2008, 05:14 PM
" I find it interesting that some folks think that a .44 magnum handgun is adequate for the vicious grizzly in Alaska, but question the use of the .303 rifle."

I would prefer the .44 magnum handgun. I could run faster and have both hands free for tree-climbing. :eek:

September 8, 2008, 06:42 PM
BTW, this is Arizona bear, kinda small.
Today 04:30 AM

Alrighty then......

The Brown bear is a coastal version of the Grizzly and lives in the coastal regions of the North Pacific ocean. As in Alaska, Canada and Russia. they can obtain sizes of over 1,000 lbs.
They do not live in Arizona unless one has escaped from the zoo.

The species you will be hunting in Arizona is the Black Bear. They come in several different color phases but the species is the Black Bear.
They can be colored black, red, blond, brown, silver or blue.

You can safely hunt black bear with anything you feel happy about hunting a mule deer with. A .303 will be more than adequate as will an SKS. Black bears are thin skinned and light boned.

Jeff F
September 8, 2008, 08:00 PM
If you are dead set on the .303, ya need a P-14, they are strong enough to handle the heaviest .303 loads!

You don't need the heaviest load for black bear. 150 grain or 180 grain your choice will get the job done. If they were real big like some of the eastern bears I would go with just the 180's or a heavier hard cast lead gas checked bullet.

For the bears your hunting a good Ole 30-30 would work just fine, and a .303 has a lot more punch to it then a 30-30. A .303 has more punch to it then most people unfamiliar with it give it credit.

September 8, 2008, 11:31 PM
I, like, some others was laboring under the thought he was talking about the BIG browns or ole grizz.


September 8, 2008, 11:44 PM
Sorry, did not mean to mislead, the gentleman who invited me said brown bear. Thanks for the carification!
That old Enfield does great from the bench, have to try some more "rigorous" shooting positions. it's favorite load is a 174gr FMJ/BT, which probably wouldn't be what I need. I'll have to look around, and make sure I get the right bullet!
As for a new rifle, the only one I'd be likely to get anytime soon would be a CZ vZ58, if I can.
Oh, yeah, the other reason for the Enfield - pigsticker. Last ditch spear if I REALLY screw up. :)
Thanks for all the help guys! I have been wanting to go hunting with someone who can show me what the heck I am supposed to do, for sometime.

September 9, 2008, 12:16 AM
.303 is fine for Brown Bears. The bears will be fine.:)

September 10, 2008, 11:30 AM
Gee, you are really filling me with confidence...
Sooooo, what semi auto rifle for black bear, if I need to buy a new one between now and then?

September 10, 2008, 04:00 PM
I shot a black bear in Alaska last May with a .375 Weatherby:what: Serious overkill but it was really for a coastal brown bear which I did not get.

September 10, 2008, 04:23 PM
If you're just hunting black bears, then either your SKS or your .303 will do the job. To me the choice would depend mostly on how close I expected to get. So far as I know, Arizona is mostly open land and for that, I'd want the .303. Up close and personal, I'd want the other nine shots that the SKS provides.

September 14, 2008, 10:00 AM
If you are going to go with 303 look at Woodleigh Bullets. They would probably be the best for this.

Didn't Cosmoline write about Woodleighs in the past

September 14, 2008, 11:22 AM
Where at in AZ? I have hunted the bears there and your .303 is perfectly fine. Depending or the area your going to your shots can be rather long. There are some pretty big bears in the southern part of the state. Baiting ain't legal, so are you going to be using hounds, or spot and stalk?

September 14, 2008, 11:27 AM
British Soldiers across their world-wide empire took down EVERY kind of game with their SMLEs. It should be just fine for any animal in the USA.

September 14, 2008, 11:53 AM
Stalking, I think, haven't had a real chance to discuss it with the other party. I will look into some Woodleighs from Midway.

September 14, 2008, 04:48 PM
Don't worry about the .303. I dropped a buffalo a few weeks back just fine. I also witnessed another one later that day with the same lee enfield. They were neck shots though...

September 14, 2008, 05:10 PM
Any .30 better than x39 or 30-30 should be enough. Just be prepared to give a follow up if needed. Any CNS hit will drop just about anything on this planet

September 14, 2008, 06:11 PM
" I find it interesting that some folks think that a .44 magnum handgun is adequate for the vicious grizzly in Alaska, but question the use of the .303 rifle.

Most of the commentary I have heard about the .44mag is that it is considered to be the best carry gun to have in Grizzly country. Lots of power and small enough to actually keep ON you, which is vital for use. I have NEVER heard anyone (at least no one knowledgeable) who claimed that the .44 mag was more powerful than a .303.

September 14, 2008, 06:36 PM
If I was deliberately hunting brown bear, I would want something like a .35 Whelen, .45/70, or 12 gauge with Brenneke slugs.

For most black bear (except those in a few colder states), any good deer and boar (not a 5-6mm!) rifle cartridge is fine, as is any handgun cartridge stronger than .357 Magnum: .41 or .44 Magnum, stout .45 Colt, etc.


Ak Austin
September 14, 2008, 07:05 PM
I live in SE Alaska, and probably 90% of the people here hunt with .30-06s, even on admiralty island which has about 1 brownie per sq. mile. BUT as you are specifically hunting them you might want something a little bigger.

September 14, 2008, 07:40 PM
How long can we drag a thread through the mud?? If all you have is a SMLE then use it. It will do the job if you do yours. Same goes with Mauser, 1903, and Mosin. They all will pack enough punch to kill anything on 4 legs or 2. Study the vital areas at different angles and where to shoot it. You will do just fine.

September 14, 2008, 07:40 PM
the 303 will be just fine in AZ. If you reload the Woodleigh is perfect as is the new Barnes 150 gr Tripleshock in 0.311". HSM used to offer the 303 load with a 200gr Grand Slam bullet. The 150-180 gr normal factory loads should also work quite well on black bears.

September 14, 2008, 10:28 PM
There is nothing wrong with the .303 for bear or other large game as long as you use the right bullet. Penetration is the key. You need a heavy bullet to break thru bone,hind and muscle to get to the vitals. There have been lots of moose, griz and other big game killed by the .222 and .30-30. Of course they were good shots.

September 15, 2008, 10:27 AM
Handload the 215 grain woodleigh and you will do just fine. I get about 1950 fps in my 20" carbine with 43.5 grains of IMR-4350. In a full length you should get 2200 fps +. Short range proposition though.

September 15, 2008, 10:54 AM
I will check Midway for some Woodleighs. Thanks. Got a while to make sure I have the perfect load.

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