Handgun caliber for use against black bears


Alan Fud
September 20, 2003, 11:34 PM
Just took my sister-in-law's dog for a walk (small, 15-pound whitem fur-ball) and hear a WEIRD sound. Kind of scarry. Went back inside to get a 3,500,000 candlelight spot light and began shinning it around and saw off in the distance what appeared to be a bear -- to bulky to be a dog or wolf unless it was a Saint Bernard or something like that but it definitely didn't sound like a dog.

I kept shinning the light at it and it moved into the bushes. Since I couldn't see it any longer and was afraid that it might be circling around me, I grabbed the dog and went inside. I'm gonna have to take the dog out again in a few hours. I don't own any rifles or shotguns -- never felt a need for one until MAYBE now.

What handgun caliber should I arm myself with when I go out again? The most powerful ones that I have is my Smith & Wesson 686+ (a seven round .357magnum) ...


... and my Smith & Wesson 1006 (a ten round 10mm) ...


... I also own a few .45's ...


... but I'm assuming that under circumstances, I would be better armed with either a 10mm or a .357magnum than a .45ACP. Please don't suggest any other calibers because that's not going to do me any good right now. I plan on getting a shotgun as soon as I can save up for one.

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September 20, 2003, 11:39 PM
Take the 10 mm and tell the doggie to do his business fast!! :D

Ala Dan
September 20, 2003, 11:54 PM
Greeting's Alan-

I didn't vote, cuz I don't believe any handgun caliber
is adequate for bear's!:( But, if I were out in the woods
on a slow stroll (cuz I ain't too swift anymore), I would
want my 5" barrel Smith & Wesson 629-5 "Classic" .44
magnum loaded with the heaviest loads possible; just
in case I happened to come face to face with a big old

FWIW, its not uncommon to see a few strays running
through the woods of eastern Tennessee; and they
are not just limited to The Great Smokey Mountains
National Park. If you live deep enough in the woods
and have apple trees; they will roam right on down
into your backyard and help themselves.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

September 20, 2003, 11:56 PM
.357mag w/ a good hard cast 180 gr SWC.
(Should be enough to get you to your car so you can go buy yourself a proper caliber or gun ;))

September 21, 2003, 12:16 AM
I would take the .357 AND the 10mm just to be safe. Never know when a gun is gonna break.

Alan Fud
September 21, 2003, 12:18 AM
I was hoping to use one hand to hold the flashlight -- it's pitch black out here with no street lights and no moon to light the way.

September 21, 2003, 12:23 AM
I would also take both the 10 and the .357. I personally use the 10 for bear protection when in the wilds of upper Michigan, because It's the largest and most powerful handgun I can rapid fire accurately, something I cannot do with a .44 mag, and have yet to see anyone that can.

September 21, 2003, 12:42 AM
.44 mag Mountain revolver with 300grain Hornady XTP. Hey I COULD have used 325grain Garret load or my .454Super redhawk with 340's.

Alan Fud
September 21, 2003, 01:00 AM
... .44 mag Mountain revoler ... No guns stores open at this hour PLUS there's that federal waiting period -- which ain't gonna do me much good when I gotta take the dog out again.

September 21, 2003, 01:12 AM
Seriously, take both guns I mentioned. If you have to Mexican carry the 10mm or .357 so be it. Just don't MC the 10mm with a round chambered :D I didn't say have one gun in each hand, just to have them both with you.

I don't think anybody has actually MENTIONED it, but nobody has voted for the .45ACP because of questionable penetration on medium to large sized carnivors like bears.

September 21, 2003, 01:15 AM
If you can outrun the dog....no sweat.
If not, either the 10 or the .357 oughtta do.

Just have the dog leashed and stay close to the door.

No guarentees....makes life interesting.


September 21, 2003, 02:22 AM
I'm with WonderNine, take the 1006 & the 686! What I'd add tho is to make sure if you have to use them, DON'T MISS! ;)

September 21, 2003, 02:52 AM
10MM.. i prefer it to .44 Magnum//as the MG kicks quite a bit with
Magnum loads.

The mighty TEN is good for black bear. I've came across many a
internet post by seasoned bear hunters. I have also talked to
bear hunters locally that like the 10mm. There seems to be quite
the legion of bear hunters and 10mm fans in Minnesota, and in

180 or 200 gr. Hornady XTP. I'm told that the 175 gr. Silvertip
has shallow penetration on bear and deer.

September 21, 2003, 02:55 AM
Anytime I hear someone ask what handgun to use against bears, I'm reminded of this old saw:

So, this young greenhorn is out for his first hunt in bear country, and he's a little worried about what to do if he actually runs into a bear. So, he asks the grizzled old guide, "What kind of gun will you be using if we get attacked by a bear?"

The old guide hauls out a .38 snub-nosed revolver.

The greenhorn asks incredulously, "Are you kidding? You don't seriously expect that little thing to stop a bear, do you?!?"

Whereupon the guide replies, "This gun don't have to stop a bear - all I need it to do is slow YOU down." :evil:

September 21, 2003, 06:45 AM
Get out that 10mm and get some DoubleTapAmmo from a guy on GlockTalk.

Has some 200 grain rounds that would easily stop that bear - no doubt.

357 mag is what some hunters use on black bear, but I'd rather make sure I stop him.

DoubTap's 180 grain GSHP get 707 FPE out of a 4.6 inch barrel Glock 20.

That should be plenty for a 200 pound black bear.

September 21, 2003, 08:50 AM
Yup, of the guns you have, I'd also say carry both the 10mm and the .357.
But if I'm in the woods where there were thought to be bear, I'd have at least two DA .41 mag revolvers, and a glock 20, with a few magazines loaded with Mc Nett's finest double-taps, as well as a shotgun or two in the car.
Call me paranoid, but I can't think of a reason to be unprepared in a situation like that.

If you actually see a bear, I'd say the dog better go in a hurry, 'cause if it were me, I would have already soiled my shorts.

September 21, 2003, 09:21 AM

Like my old buddy Ala Dan, I non-voted, since I really do not believe any of the options are truly satisfactory. If I were compelled to use one, it would be the .357 magnum loaded with Federal Cast-Core hunting rounds. However, I would much rather have a good .44 magnum or a Ruger .45 (Long) Colt (stoked with above-standard-pressure cast lead projectiles). All this said, as you know a long gun is MUCH better suited for this job than any handgun.

September 21, 2003, 09:27 AM
Take the .357 with the heaviest (at least 180 gr.)hard cast loads you can find. Hollow point pistol ammo and bears aren't a good combination.

Sean Smith
September 21, 2003, 09:55 AM
Guys, chill out and read closely. We are talking black bears here. Not brown bears, grizzly bears, or polar bears. Yes, a black bear is a potentially dangerous animal. But we are also talking about an animal that isn't that big or (generally) that aggressive. A 10mm or .357 Magnum loaded with hot & heavy hunting loads is a perfectly reasonable choice for a just-in-case backup weapon for somebody who isn't looking for trouble.

My vote was 10mm Auto... bigger bullet going as fast or faster than the .357 Magnum. I'd suggest Cor-Bon 200gr Penetrators, or some of that Double-Tap 200gr stuff.

Avery Goodschott
September 21, 2003, 10:09 AM
Looks like you're into the tarbaby..

Now that you believe there is a bear in your neighborhood, you HAVE to carry something or appear foolish. And you are not foolish.

Carrying something everytime you walk the dog at night will eventually become tiresome....so pick only one.

"Revolvers for defense, pistols for offense" is a good notion.

Your .357 can be loaded to give you the penetration you need to kill or cripple a "blackie"

If you have personal doubts, don't go into the night feeling undergunned...trade the .357 for a .44.

September 21, 2003, 12:27 PM
A black bear isn't that big a critter. I'd use the 10 or the .357, depending on what kind of ammo you have for them. Some heavy wadcutters would be a good choice.


September 21, 2003, 01:02 PM
Originally posted by Keith

A black bear isn't that big a critter. I'd use the 10 or the .357, depending on what kind of ammo you have for them. Some heavy wadcutters would be a good choice.

Apparently you haven't seen some of the black bears we have here in Pennsylvania. Couple years ago, one was taken about a half hour away from where Alan now lives, and it weighed in at 750#'s. Another documented one is roaming in the Poconos that goes over 1,000#'s winter weight. Quite few are taken up here that tip the 500# mark. We got some big critters running around.

Jeez Alan, you from asking what is good for Aligators to run ins with black bears. Let me know what club you are going to shoot at up here. I don't want to be around. Or I'll end up posting a question of "What handgun is best to have when Fud's around?":D

Alan Fud
September 21, 2003, 07:23 PM
Thanks for the replies everyone. No more sight of sound of whatever it was. I definitely plan to save up for a .45/.70 carbine and hopefully get one relatively soon.

Rob96, what gun clubs do you recommend around here? And where is a good place (good service, fair prices, etc.) to buy guns, ammo & accessories?

4v50 Gary
September 21, 2003, 08:44 PM
10 mm in a Glock 20 (because it's the only 10 mm I have). The Glock would be stuffed with those fast & heavy 10 mm bullets one of our members (the bullet mfg) had posted here.

September 21, 2003, 09:30 PM
I voted for the 10m/m......and given what you got that might be what I would carry until my .460 rowland conversion kit came in for my Para P14 LDA. But I would probably be carrying a .45 as that is all I got right now.
Sorry, guys...the .357 is a gussied up 38 no matter how you slice, dice it and sugar coat it. A charging husky I shot in Alaska circa 1978 with a pair of 158 gr JSP's was NOT impressed. Had to drop it with a head shot, on a dark moonlit ski trail at less than 2 meters. The first two were center mass torso hits later verified.
In my hiking days, I encountered several black bear and they all ran off when they realized I was there. At the time I had a Colt LW Commander with 215 LSWC and 200 g flying ashtrays...never had to use it for bears.
Actually, I think, given the choices presented, the Para P14 with high cap mags and a decent hunting round...by corbon, or hornady would probably suffice. In .460 Rowland, it would out do the Ten.
My choices are what I have and that is strictly .45 autos at the time....though my .38 snub might be nice to aid this old, outta shape gent, in out running a whipper snapper(good one Kor, LMAO!!).
Doubtful you'll ever need it, but the comfort factor of 'just in case' is immeasurable!

September 21, 2003, 10:00 PM
Where's the option to not mess with bears unless you've got a large bore rifle or 10/12 gauge with slugs?:D

September 21, 2003, 11:10 PM
OK .357 it is: go with the Corbon 200 wlfp load OR Winchester premium 180's, that should do it;) ;)

September 21, 2003, 11:55 PM
I never understood the point of finding a weapon that was just adequate. Especially with bears. I've had a lot of encounters with black bears but very few with browns. In general, I'm not afraid of bears but I wouldn't want to be between a sow and her cubs or near a bear's kill.

Personally, I would pack something with superior characteristics and the power to stop anything. Currently, I carry a Super Redhawk .454 in a shoulder holster as backup while hunting. I agree that your .357 has the capability of killing a bear but I'm not willing to risk my skin to prove a point against a charging sow bear.

In Flight School, they taught me that "there are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots".

Anyone who stakes his life on a barely adequate weapon has only himself to blame. Good luck.

September 22, 2003, 05:27 AM
Posted by Alan Fud

Rob96, what gun clubs do you recommend around here? And where is a good place (good service, fair prices, etc.) to buy guns, ammo & accessories?
I shoot at Ontelaunee Rod & Gun in New Tripoli. Anual membership is $10 a year. They have 25yd pistol, 50, 100, 200 and 300 yd rifle ranges, International Trap, Internation Skeet, Archery, Walk Thru Archery, fishing pond, and an indoor rimfire range. You also have Guthsville in Orefield, but they are more pricey and you don't get as much.

Places to buy: A.F. Boyers Hardware in Slatington, Keifers in Walnutport, and the Army&Navy in Whitehall. If you need directions to any of these places drop me an e-mail.:)

September 22, 2003, 05:51 AM
I'd go with Remington 870P with rifle sight (night sights) and slugs. Or, I'd go with a relatively short barreled rifle (30-06 and up) with heavy bullets (200 gr and up).

I like the 10mm as a cartridge better than the .357Mag, but if the bear got on you, a revolver should be more reliable than a semi auto pistol that can have the slide pushed out of battery.

If you have money after buying a shotgun (as someone else mentioned) a 5" S&W 629 .44Mag would be nice. If you can handle a something bigger, go for it.

Good luck,

Alan Fud
September 22, 2003, 06:43 AM
Thanks Rob. Posted by nemesis: ... I never understood the point of finding a weapon that was just adequate ... I'm not a hunter and I just moved out into the country less than a month ago. The guns which I own were purchased for two-legged creatures and that's all I got at the moment. As I said about, I plan to save up for a .45/.70 rifle. Or would a shotgun be better?

September 22, 2003, 10:56 AM
All you need is your bare hands to fight off a bear....at least that's what happened last week in Minnesota by a woman north of Duluth......
The woman opened the door leading to the attached garage and a mama bear and cub were eating sunflower seeds out of a container in the garage, the woman and mama bear were face to face and the woman tried to close the door, but, the bear came into the house, grabbed the woman, threw her down and bit her in the head, both shoulders, both thighs, and then the woman got mad, thought about what her grandfather had told her about bears. She grabbed the bears nose, and started shaking the bears head and yelling. Mama bear released her and ran out of the house into the woods.........
Now, why would you need a handgun when all you have to do is to grab the bears nose and head and shake it??????
This is actually a true story......

September 22, 2003, 02:52 PM
We have black bear on the property regularly.

A little over a week ago, one killed and ate a llama (yep - not a mountain lion, a bear) about a half-mile from here.

The .357 with hard & hot 180gr loads will work, but keep your cool when you shoot (know where to aim).

I handload 300gr solids for my .44 magnums, and carry either the Super Redhawk or the Desert Eagle whenever I go out around dusk or dawn.


September 22, 2003, 03:41 PM
The deal is that black bears are generally pretty small, and not very aggressive. I know they can get large in some areas, and I know that they do occasionally attack people or livestock, but come on!

If someone was asking for advice on a back-country gun for bears, I'd advise a bigger gun. But really, having black bears around is just not that big a deal. They are more like raccoons on steroids.
If you want a special gun for it, get a shotgun or Marlin Guide Gun to park next to the back door. In the meantime, your .357 with some heavy wadcutters is plenty good medicine for all but the largest black bears.

Keep in mind that having a bear in the yard is not reason to shoot the bear - in the eyes of the law. If you don't want bears in the yard, keep your trash locked in the garage and don't put dog food or bird feeders out there.


Alan Fud
September 22, 2003, 04:07 PM
... Keep in mind that having a bear in the yard is not reason to shoot the bear - in the eyes of the law. If you don't want bears in the yard, keep your trash locked in the garage and don't put dog food or bird feeders out there ... Our garbage IS in the garage and we don't have any bird or dog feeders outside. It was just me and my sister-in-law's dog out there and 'it'.

How close does a bear have to get to me before I have reason to shoot it in the eyes of the law. With a handgun, I wouldn't attempt a shot unless it was closer than 50 feet away and closing (eyes ain't what they use to be a decade or two ago) and I was an equal distance, or more, away from the safety of my home or garage.

September 22, 2003, 04:15 PM
You probably won't have a personal, up close encounter around here Alan. One item you may want to carry with ya while walking is a good fog styly pepper spray, like Fox brand.

September 22, 2003, 04:18 PM
In Alaska you are allowed to kill a bear in defense of life OR property (your pets for example). You should talk to your local fish and feathers people for guidance in your state.

They usually give you the benefit of a doubt on this, particularly with black bears which are just a nuisance nearly everywhere.

There are no hard and fast rules (in Alaska), but generally if the bear is close and shot in the front (it's facing you), you are OK. "Close" is usually defined as ten yards, but if the bear is behaving aggressively (or you say it was...), further is OK too.

It really is bad news to shoot a bear unless you are absolutely sure you can kill it. A bear raiding garbage is a nuisance, a wounded bear is a very real danger to everyone around.


September 22, 2003, 06:25 PM
Trisha............When I go berry picking in Wisconsin, I carry my Ruger SBH with Garrett's 310 gr. heavy cast 44 mag ammo at 1325 FPS.......these Minnesota and Wisconsin black bears get plenty big, and there have been bear attacks in the last couple of years here in the upper midwest and it pays to watch your step in the woods.....

September 23, 2003, 12:26 AM
How did I miss this thread earlier? You need to get some DoubleTap 200gr. FMJ/ FP @ 1270fps for that 1006! It will do the job if youplace the shot. I have hunted black bear with my G20 using my 200XTP load and an 180gr handload to successfully harvest two black bears in the 200-250lb range. I have yet to recover a bullet! (complete penetration)

September 23, 2003, 01:26 AM
I didn't vote either, because I do not like the choices. It's true that in a lot of parts of the country it's rare to see a bear bigger than 150 pounds or so. And with these little guys, a .357 or .10 will probably work just fine, with proper loads, assuming you're able to set up correctly to get off a good shot or two. But I don't like bears, and I believe that you're most likely to encounter them when you're least prepared, and that means that you want the "margin of error" to be in your favor. Just get a .44 and some Garrett (or similar) rounds, or at least some Federal hard cast hunting loads.

Johnny Guest
September 24, 2003, 03:49 PM
- - - With the proper ammo. Just forget all about hollow points. Use your favorite anti-alligator armament, Alan.


September 25, 2003, 02:27 PM
Any of those calibers should work. I vote for the 10mm it should be plenty enough gun for a black bear. Now if it were a brown bear, I'd stay in the house til I got a 12ga with slugs of a bolt action in 300 or 338 Win Mag, minimum.
I have two friends who hunt black bear with 45 ACP's. They have no problems downing them. 10mm would be better, no subsitute for heavy bullets at a even higher velocity.

September 26, 2003, 01:27 PM
.500 S&W magnum :D

September 26, 2003, 01:44 PM
something I cannot do with a .44 mag, and have yet to see anyone that can.

A wise man once said, "Don't judge others by yourself."

I've seen enough folks who CAN to know the problem is not with the caliber.

September 26, 2003, 06:04 PM
Black Bears are the reason I want a 629 Mountian Gun :evil:

Until then I've been carrying one of my 4" 357 Magnum's loaded with 180gr Partition Golds while in Black Bear country (with a 12ga near by loaded with some nice slugs!)

September 26, 2003, 09:43 PM
I was hoping to use one hand to hold the flashlight -- it's pitch black out here with no street lights and no moon to light the way.

Screw that -- use a headlight. They aren't that much more expensive.

September 28, 2003, 12:25 AM
Take both guns....if attacked and you unload both of them on a still charging bear....throw the dog as a disctraction and run like hell.

Ok...kidding. Sheesh...relax. Take a 44, 480 Ruger or Casull.....
or at least BOTH guns and the dog....in case you need the disctraction :D

Shoot well

Alan Fud
September 28, 2003, 07:49 PM
This may become less of an issue soon as my sister-in-law is leaving in a few days with her dog. Although it'll still be an issue when I take out the trash and do other stuff around the house at night & twilight.

September 29, 2003, 05:25 AM
Ahhh. Don't worry Alan. The bears will soon be denned up. This has actually been a very quiet year around here for bears. In the past couple of years with the lack of rainfall, the bears were making their way all the way down to the Lehigh Valley Mall in search of food. With all of the rain this year they really haven't had to travel. Are you sure it wasn't a coyote that you ran into, beings you didnt really see it?

September 29, 2003, 06:02 AM
I wonder if a bear wouldn't be more deterred by a big ol' stick than a handgun.
It sounds like he won't usually die if you shoot him, at least not with a handgun. And he doesn't know he's supposed to be scared, because he doesn't watch TV. :)
But I suspect that a bear would think a guy with a long stick was "difficult prey", and leave him alone. If not at first, maybe after a couple of whacks.
Does anyone know the real answer here?

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