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Hand Gun choice for Vac in Alaska

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by bassdogs, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. bassdogs

    bassdogs Well-Known Member

    Wife and I are making our 2nd visit to Alaska in Sept. Last time we went commando and there were 6 bear attacks in and around the general areas we visited within a week or 2 of when we were there. This time I am taking a weapon for SD [not hunting] while visiting in the wilds of Alaska. Just want something that offers a better chance than rolling up in a ball and hoping for the best. I've seen several fishing videos [someone in your party should be armed] where 2 or 3 rounds from a 45 will generally convince a pesky grizz to wander off. The recommended Handgun for Alaska is a 44mag, but I don't own one and I don't see myself wandering down the trail from the motor home with a 44 on my hip. I have several options, but have pretty much selected my Glock 40. It has a 15 round mag and some pretty serious punch with a 180 grain load. Also have a 357mag colt [6shot] and a 45 LC [5shot]. The 357 might be preferred but with a 6" barrel, its not an easy carry. The short barrel on the 45 offers a lower muzzel Vel and only 5 shots.

    Have been lead to believe that the best ammo for a potential encounter with a big bear is a heavy solid load that offers the best penetration. Does that rule out the 180 gr JHP that is my normal SD load? Is the 180 gr FMJ that I shoot for target practice a better choice? Is there a better 40 cal round that anyone would suggest.

    Remember this is a "precautionary" not a hunting situation. I'm not going up there to confront a bear. I know we will see several in the wild and have the very real probability of one or more closer than any tourist would prefer. Just don't want to be a meal for a bear without more than a rock to defend with.
  2. Thompsoncustom

    Thompsoncustom Well-Known Member

    My thoughts on this is a .45 is to slow of a bullet to guarantee penetration to something vital. If you don't want to carry a 44 mag a 10mm auto is probably as low as I would recommend for carrying around bears, that being said anything is better than nothing an a heavy fast bullet from any gun might work.
  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    I concur that the 10mm is the minimum one should go. I would actually prefer a double action 44 magnum revolver.
  4. NavyLCDR

    NavyLCDR member

    I would go with specially formulated pepper spray for bears. I think a .40 S&W is likely to just "annoy" a bear. Also, a wounded bear is more likely to attack the animal that just wounded it. IMHO.

    I would call professional guides in Alaska and ask their opinion....
  5. amprecon

    amprecon Well-Known Member

    If it were me going where your going, I'd go with a G20. Now I'm not really a big fan of 10mm, and like the .45acp for most handgun applications. But I shoot my Glock 21 the best of all the handguns I've ever tried and I imagine I'd be just as good with the same frame in a different caliber.
    But I'd go with a Glock 20 with heavy grained semi-wadcutters, but that's just me. I can't shoot revolvers as good or as fast as I can my Glock so more hits with lesser caliber is better than misses with more caliber.
    From what you currently own, I'd take the Glock.
  6. cluttonfred

    cluttonfred Well-Known Member

    1) I agree with the idea alred mentioned that you're better off with cautious behavior and pepper spray rather than a handgun.

    2) If you do go with the gun, then you didn't mention the make and model of the .45LC, but it would be most effective caliber against large animals of the three you own. With ammo chosen for penetration, not expansion, like Buffalo Bore hard-cast wadcutters, you'd have a chance.
  7. bergmen

    bergmen Member.

    If the wind is in your face when you spray it you're going to wish you hadn't. With handguns, wind don't matter.

    I totally agree with calling a pro for advice, good suggestion.

  8. bassdogs

    bassdogs Well-Known Member

    The 45LC is a Tarus Judge 410/45LC. My concern with that gun is its only a 2 inch barrel but has an AND only has 5 shots. Would definitely load it up with the heavy 45s only for this application, but am thinking 15 rounds from the 40 would serve me better.

    Will also pick up some good bear spray as well. But want the handgun to make some noise if necessary and shoot for effect as a last resort.

    Any 40 cal ammo that offers a better penetration? Are solid wadcutters better than FMJ at 180 grains?
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Where are you going to be and what are you going to be doing?

    Your reference to a motor home suggests you're going to be on the road system at least, but how much remote backpacking are you doing? What areas are you going into?

    Handguns can work, but only if you can draw fast enough and fire accurately enough. It's dicey for most of us.

    If you're in an area with a lot of bear activity a slug gun with Brennekes would be the best option. If you're stuck with just a handgun then go with heavy hardcasts of high sectional density. That rules out the fo-tay. FMJ's aren't much better. I know one incident where a very luck hit from a 9x19 broke a sow's shoulder, but those are some dice to roll.
  10. Thompsoncustom

    Thompsoncustom Well-Known Member

  11. bassdogs

    bassdogs Well-Known Member

    Renting a motorhome in Anchorage and think we will be driving west toward the big Nat'l park near the Canadian border. No backcountry stuff, just day hiking and given the time of year [Sept] we don't anticipate seeing a lot of people. Camping is where ever there is a flat spot for the motorhome and we've had enough for the day. For those who haven't been to Alaska, on our drive from Anchorage to Denali in 08, over 200 miles, we passed maybe 25 cars the whole day. Point is the campgrounds if you stay in one will be remote, and we will likely be the only ones there. The state and national forest services have primitive camping areas all over the place. I could take a 12g with slugs, but it wouldn't be with me all the time like a handgun. Understand it would be better, but wouldn't be as readily available. Saw several fisherman with handguns [44's and 45's mostly]. I've read that you're unlikely to get off more than 2 or 3 shots if you surprise a bear, so maybe the extra rounds in the 40 shouldn't be a factor. I've also been advised to take what I'm most comfortable shooting as rounds on target are better than rounds that miss. I'm pretty comfortable with the Glock.
  12. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

    Take a shotgun. A handgun is just an excuse not to carry a real gun.
  13. David E

    David E Well-Known Member

    Buy a .44 magnum and get good with it. Always wear it anytime outside.

    Kodiakbeer knows about bear attacks, so heed his advice and get a shotgun, also. Put a sling on it and get skilled in bringing it into play from the shoulder quickly. (I prefer muzzle down carried on the off-side shoulder)

    Either take it seriously and do it right, or buy some bear pepper spray and hope the wind is in your favor. Or stay home.

    NOLAEMT Well-Known Member

  15. Mike1234567

    Mike1234567 member

    I'm a sniveling coward when it comes to huge/fierce Alaskan beasts so I'd pack the biggest/baddest handgun I could afford/carry. My thoughts are toward a .500 S&W Mag or .454 Casull.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  16. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    There are some really nice backpack scabbards available these days. Alaska Sportsman makes a line of them. You can carry an 18" shotgun with full stock no problem. In fact I find it easier to tote long guns with the scabbard than big magnum handguns on the hip.

    Bear spray is also a very good idea as back up and for little black bear cubs coming after you.

    The most important defense is your ears, eyes and of course your common sense. Never be afraid to leave if you get a bad feeling or see an unusual amount of sign. You can often hear the bears in the undergrowth even if you don't see them. They'll barge around under the devil's club in tunnels, making a very different sound from browsing moose. Sometimes, too, you'll notice the moose and black bear are unusually agitated and that's a sign to get out of Dodge.
  17. bassdogs

    bassdogs Well-Known Member

    Ok, I get the point. Will look for an appropriate shotgun and probably take one of the handguns for back up. Appreciate the candid feedback. If you think a 40 is not adequate, you have to keep in mind we went commando in 08. Traveled thru the Kanai [sp] Pen., up to Danale and then east on the Glen highway. We were truely unprepared in 08. That was the year of several spring attacks, even a few in and around Anchorage. That is why I am taking it seriously this time. Don't plan on going to Kodiac [hard to get to in an RV] but maybe on the next visit. This time we're going in the fall. I understand we will see more color and less snow.

    We will be armed this time.
  18. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    You're still statistically more likely to get hurt on the highway than on the trails, so don't worry too much about it. And obviously don't go around shooting bears on sight or something. 99% of the time you leave and they leave so everything's fine.
  19. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

    It's easy to get to Kodiak in an RV. Just drive on the ferry in Homer and drive off in Kodiak 11 hours later. The weather is quite a bit warmer here than on the mainland and the silver salmon fishing is hot until well into November, and it's beautiful. Buy a hunting/fishing license and catch some fish and bag a blacktail. It's worth the trip - at least you can say you got off the road system...


  20. Cactus Jack Arizona

    Cactus Jack Arizona Well-Known Member

    Funny, I don't worry about the reliability issues of a semi-auto here in the city. However, out in the wilds of Alaska, there is only one gun I'd take with me, the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .44 Magnum. Meeting up with a big mean hungry bear and becoming his meal would not be my idea of a nice relaxing vacation.

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