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.44 vs .454 vs .460 for Black Bear Defense

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by 4Freedom, May 12, 2009.

  1. 4Freedom

    4Freedom member

    I am been looking over and researching about the best type of bear defense gun/hiking/outdoor gun to purchase for the summer. I am planning to spend a lot of time in the forest doing hiking through trails and camping. From all my research I have been getting a lot of different opinions about different guns to get for bear defense. Some people have gone as far as saying not to carry a gun at all, just pepper spray.

    I was tracked by a bear in central Oregon coast trail , 7 years ago, and after that frightening experience, I will never put my life on a can of spray. Many people say you only need a .40 or .45, .357 to take down a black bear, but I don't know if many of these people have been charged at 20 yards by a frantically enraged black bear, filled with adrenaline, defending its cubs. Some of the black bears up here in the north can hit even 400lbs, some even larger.

    Of course , I know 2 legged predators are the greatest threat, and I plan on carrying my S&W M&P 45 and S&W 642 .38 snub as my BUGs for this situaiton. Although through all my time of hiking in the woods, I have had some scary encounters with bears and mountain lions. I have had a scary encounter with one two legged predator in the woods, but I picked the guy up hitchhiking. THis never happened on a hiking trail.

    Well, my question is.. Is having a real big caliber a bad thing? I figure if I am going to shoot a charging bear, the more power I have in my gun, the better. Yes, we do have a bear problem around here and thanks to animal rights activitists, there numbers are becoming too much for certain areas. Since, I like a one gun that can fit all situations, would having a .454 or .460 be a bad idea? I know that carrying a large rifle or shotgun wiht slugs is ideal, but it is neither practical for my lange range hiking, as well as will attract unwanted attention on the crowded trails filled with yuppies, liberals, jerky rangers (not all of them are bad, but some) and other types of anti-gun people.

    I am in pretty good shape and don't think an extra pound or two will hinder me, I don't plan on doing any mountaineering. I know a .460 weighs in around 4 or 5 lbs and .44 weighs in around 2 or 3lbs. I was thinking with a chest holster the weight can be distributed evenly. As far as recoil, I have strong hands and can shoot a .45ACP with one-hand without any problem and with ok accuracy. If I practice with .460 would it not be too hard to develop enough skill to shoot it accurately enough? If the .460 is too much as first, I think I can start out with 45LC, then move to .454 casull and upwards until I feel comfortable. Thats another featuers I like about the .460 is that I can shoot multiple calibers. I hear 45LC can almost equate the 44 mag in power, with proper load.

    Also, what barrel length would be appropriate for concealment and carryign during hiking, which would still allow the gun not to lose too much velocity or accuracy. I know there is a compromise, but I am looking for most reasonable caliber and barrel length that would allow me close range and accuracy out to 25 yards or so. I was thinking a 4" is pretty popular hiking caliber and may go with that. If people think a 5" woudl be sufficient, I would probably be happier with that, but I am not sure about the weight and size difference and feasibility of using it for hiking.

    I say I would probably go with .44 mag revolver in Ruger or S&W with 4" barrel, but I am just exploring other options. The .460 XVR looks like a snazzy piece and I never woudl feel undergunned. Seeing, that most bear attacks happen at very close range, hitting the target would not necesarrily be an issue. I remember my last run in with bear, happen around 10 yards distance. I knew at that time, I wish I had the biggest cannon at my disposal.

    I appreciate people's opinions here. If you have any other suggestions like 10mm , I like to hear your take on it. Although I pretty set on .44mag plus revolver. And for anyone who says I don't need anything more than .45ACP, let me know where you cite your sources from. Have you ever been charged by a bear or had a bear close to you, following you?
  2. publiuss

    publiuss Well-Known Member

    The only problem I have w/most of those guns is their size. Don't think I want to do much hiking lugging one of those around. freedom Arms .454 would be a good choice but a hot handloaded .45 Colt will do the job.
  3. bandk

    bandk Well-Known Member

    4" Redhawk
  4. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    IMO use the biggest gun you can shoot well. That said, if the gun is very heavy like a .460 Magnum is you might not carry it everywhere. IMO if you are going to carry a gun as large and heavy as a .460 Magnum you might as well carry a lever gun in 45-70 or a shotgun instead.

    I think the most important consideration is how well you can shoot the gun because no matter how powerful a handgun is, it's useless unless you hit what you are aiming at. Under stress a very large caliber is difficult to shoot well. No matter what you choose practice with it a lot and try to duplicate stressful situations. (BTW, a 4" S&W Mountain Gun in .44 Magnum or .45 Colt would be my choice)
  5. currahee1

    currahee1 New Member

    I have been thinking about getting one of these Smith & Wesson 329 ALASKA N BACKPACKER 44 Mag.
  6. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    Just remember that's a very light handgun so the felt recoil is considerable. If you can shoot one before you buy it would be best IMO. A heavy .44 Magnum round will be hard to control in a handgun that light let alone a fast and accurate followup shot.

    I'm not saying it's not a good choice, only that you should be totally aware of what you are buying.

    Welcome to the forum...

    BADUNAME2 Well-Known Member

    Umm, isn't this what the Ruger Alaskan was made for?

    I can't imagine trying to hike whilst toting an M&P, a snub, and a hand cannon. You wouldn't have much trouble with bears, they'd hear you clanking long before you got close enough to surprise one. Though I reckon that wearing a cowbell might serve the same function.

    Anyhow, the guns I'd consider would be the Ruger Alaskan, 4" or 5.5" Redhawk, or possibly that S&W 329PD, in .44 Mag. A Super Blackhawk would also be worth considering, if you're any hand with a SA. The .454 is a wild ride in a packable package, and .460s are sizable enough that you could just as easily tote a guide gun.

  8. Ridgerunner665

    Ridgerunner665 Well-Known Member

    Get a 454 and shoot some 45 Colt +P+ loads through it...good bear medicine.
  9. Stainz

    Stainz Well-Known Member

    I love my 625MGs in .45 Colt - and consider them as great protection here in the SE. If I were in the PNW, I think I'd tote a regular production 4" 629, SKU #163603. It weighs 2 oz more - mostly that non-tapered tube. It also has both a larger hammer and trigger, as well as a white outline rear and red ramp front vs the black/black sights of the MGs. The 4" 629 is a 2" shorter barrel version of my 6" 629, SKU #163606. The Ahrends wood grips are fine for typical .45 Colt loads - those .460/.500 Magnum Hogue/S&W monogrips pad the backstrap on the 629 and really help with recoil.


  10. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    I think you are on the right track. However, bigger is not always better. Life is a jouney. You learn as you go. At this point in my journey, I would choose a 41 or 44 mag revolver with 4" barrel. Personally, a 357 mag revolver is sufficient for your needs. Learn to shoot whatever you end of buying.

    The trick is to learn to avoid the bear contact in the first place. More than likely you will have trouble stopping any "enraged bear" with a handgun (any caliber) even if you can draw the weapon, take careful aim, and fire. Completing each of those steps is questionable when you're scared in any controlled fashion.

    You mentioned a 400 lb black bear? Have you ever considered what it would be like to fight a wild animal intent on killing you that can run faster than you can, reacts faster, is all claws and fur, and has teeth made for ripping flesh? You would have a big problem with a little 200 lb bear if it was intent on killing you.
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
  11. Maelstrom

    Maelstrom Well-Known Member

    The .44 or .454 is what I'd pick. The increased velocity of the .460 isn't worth the extra weight of the X-frame.

    That velocity might pay off for a 100 yard shot but if you're planning on using the gun in a defensive use, as opposed to hunting, I think something smaller would be fine.

    For those arguing the .357 or something. I'll grant that bears have been killed with them, but, again, we aren't talking about hunting from the relative safety of a tree stand. We're talking about a bear possibly charging and the increased penetration of the bigger magnums will pay off here.

    Look at it this way. A bear is charging on all fours. A bear shot in the shoulder or chest might be lung shot by a .357 before it runs out of penetration, especially since most of the velocity will be bled off by traveling through the shoulder. On the flip side, the .454 has been known to penetrate both shoulders of a moose and exit the far side. The round can potentially travel through a shoulder, through a lung, and continue on to cause more damage further down, causing more bleeding and more shock.

    Finally, the longer a round stays supersonic INSIDE the bear, the more hydrostatic shock caused to organs near the bullet's path of travel. Whereas a 1400fps .357 will go subsonic within a few inches, the 1700 fps .454 can possibly stay supersonic for a much longer distance.
  12. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    I knew it was time for another bear defense thread. I love them. :D
  13. fineredmist

    fineredmist Well-Known Member

    Glock 20 - 10mm with 2 extra mags.
  14. Redhawk1

    Redhawk1 Well-Known Member

    Ruger in 44 Mag, 45 Colt. 4 to 4 5/8 inch barrel. Or the Ruger Alaskan in 44 Mag or 454 Casull with Hot 45 Colt loads. The only reason to go bigger is because you want to.
    My 4 inch 500 Mag packs well.
    They do make a 5 inch 460 Mag.
  15. kanook

    kanook Well-Known Member

    the smaller the firearm the more recoil the less chance for multiple hits. 357 180gr hard cast, just remember you may have to shoot one handed in a hurry. 454 alaskan with 300gr flat point, hang on for the ride and possible bullet pulls. :D
  16. krs

    krs Well-Known Member

    I'd make room in my gear for a Marlin Guide gun in .45-70 or at least a pump 12 guage slug gun if I was going into ground where big bears live, especially in the spring when they're hungry and mating.

    Best not to go at all but if you can't carry anything more than a sidearm then you only need one big enough to kill yourself with.
  17. dvnv

    dvnv Well-Known Member

    A 44 mag is all you need. My choice of bullet would be a 250 gr Partition loaded modestly warm.

    A 454, 475 or 480 loaded to a comfortable level might be better. A 10MM has lots going for it too...but my choice would be a 1911 platform, not a Glock. I don't think a 460 is worth the weight.

    I'd stick to 4-6" barrel lengths.

    my .02, dvnv
  18. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    A .357 K frame is plenty for black bear "defense". A great trail gun is the 3" SP101. If I'm going to carry an X frame, I'll take my rifle, thanks. It's lighter and more powerful and a lot more accurate.

    I normally carry a .357 4" DA revolver weighing about 35 ounces with 165 grain hard cast SWCs when I'm hiking in bear country. I don't need no stinkin' .44. I have a 4 5/8" .45 Colt Blackhawk, but it's over 40 ounces to tote. Tosses a 300 grain bullet at 1120 fps, plenty of power, there.
  19. tuckerdog1

    tuckerdog1 Well-Known Member

  20. KBintheSLC

    KBintheSLC Well-Known Member

    I was in this same predicament a while back... I figured that a 44 mag was plenty for about 99.9% of the situations I could possibly foresee in the woods. However, for backpacking, I found that a large revolver was far too bulky. I know that this is a revolver forum, but I ended up getting a Glock Model 20 in 10mm. It holds 16 rounds of punchy 200 grainers, with another pair of spare mags on my hip.

    For black and brown bears, the 10mm is plenty to end things quickly. Therefore, unless you plan on spending time in grizzly or polar bear country, I would advise against getting a full frame revolver. The G20 loaded weighs about half that of a full frame 44 mag. It is highly weather resistant, and will make for a good deterrent for both 2 and 4 legged predators. No need to carry 2 or 3 different guns.

    Just my $0.02


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