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The logic behind "What caliber for bear defense?" threads.

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by bdgackle, Feb 1, 2013.

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  1. bdgackle

    bdgackle Well-Known Member

    I know this is a tired topic, but I have a question that I hope is different enough from the cliché to provoke an interesting discussion. Basically, when it comes to guns and brown bears and self-defense, the following seem to be general consensus:

    1) ALL handguns and most (or all) rifles are basically inadequate to stop a charge quickly enough to save your life.

    2) The bear can be stopped if you put a round in its brain… but shooting it anywhere else will not stop it fast enough to save you.

    3) If you are stuck with a handgun, the big bore magnums with a heavy, hard cast bullet are the best choice, because you need deep penetration for tough hide/muscle/fat/bone.

    So… my question: what advantage does that deeply penetrating bullet actually give you in this scenario? If shots to the vitals don’t do enough damage to stop the animal, then it seems like reaching the vitals is pointless. You either hit the brain, or you don't -- and that determines whether you live or die. It's kind of a pass/fail test.

    I don't understand how the big revolver buys you any margin. Is the additional penetration required just to get through the skull? I know that big bears have gone down with a 22LR… but is that just luck? Would we expect the tiny little bullet to bounce right off the skull most of the time?

    I am emphatically NOT arguing that we should run around carrying 22’s… people with actually experience in this area recommend bigger stuff, and I defer to their judgment. I’m just having trouble with what appears to be a contradiction, and I was wondering if someone had any ideas -- I'm clearly missing something here.
  2. mrvco

    mrvco Well-Known Member

    For "Bear Defense", get a can of bear spray and then you can carry whatever gun you like.
  3. M-Cameron

    M-Cameron member

    i dont quite get these questions either( the "what cal. for bear/ CC/ home defense/ ect.?")

    it seems to me the answer for all of them is: "the largest caliber you can shoot accurately"...

    unless someone can argue otherwise.....
  4. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    First let me say that I have zero experience shooting bears. I am however the closest thing deer will see to the Grim Reaper.

    My experience shooting animals is that they have varying degrees of physical and mental toughness. Not all of them react the same way when shot. Some have displayed an incredible "will to live" and others simply drop and give up.

    I say that as a preface to this...I imagine all bears are different too...and all bear "charges" might be different. Some bears might immediately stop an attack when they get injured...others might not...still others might not even realize they are injured until after the fact (i.e. until after they stomp a mud-hole in you).

    Having said that...the only insurance I can really purchase is a more powerful handgun...because it is most likely to get do enough damage to insure that those bears that might be dissuaded are in fact dissuaded.

    In other words you can't stop all of the bears all of the time but you can stop some of the bears some of the time. After that you just have to hope you get one of the lesser determined bears.

    I would also smear some honey on my hiking partner each morning just to be safe.
  5. bdgackle

    bdgackle Well-Known Member

    Agreed - the spray makes lots of practical sense. Honestly, I have almost no chance of even encountering the things. I don't spend any time in their habitat. I also don't have the skill to hit a charging bear in the skull, so the gun is moot for me.

    I mostly asked the question to improve my intuition on terminal ballistics and shot placement. While the practical aspects may be minimal, this seems like a good vehicle for exploring the real goal of punching holes in stuff.
  6. <*(((><

    <*(((>< Well-Known Member

    My vote is for a can of "bear spray" and the "smear honey on your hunting partner every morning" defenses.

    In all seriousness, the suggestion of bear spray and whatever carry gun you want was a good one. That bear spray is legit stuff, just search youtube, I'm sure there are accounts of the stuff.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  7. bdgackle

    bdgackle Well-Known Member

    I like the honey idea... :D

    The point about greater chance of dissuasion is interesting. Perhaps I over simplified a bit, and looked at it a little too much as either/or, when reality is more complicated.
  8. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    "why ? "

    Because most people are enamored with the belief that they could do it if they had to, if only the perfect gun or cartridge for it existed.

    From what we actually " DO " know, from personal recollections, published studies, and anecdotal evidence- is that the perfect weapon for bear would be a 6 shot 2" 12 ga snubbie- loaded with 3.5" magnum shells each containing a 1 oz slug, 3 pieces of 00 buck, 3 180gr HP rifle bullets, and 1/2 ounce of high concentration OC "bear mace" - the grip of said pistol containing an auto-lockon mechanism capable of engaging a bouncing tennis ball moving somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 MPH, which if failing to score a kill shot within 5 rounds automatically encapsulates the firers hand in shear-proof metal armor. This would allow the fatal final shot to be dispatched directly into the offending creatures mouth without severing the firers' hand at the wrist in the attempt.

    I know, I want one too

    I also strongly suspect some of it has an undercurrent of "If it could stop a big powerful bear, it could stop anything else" Which is ironically both as true and false as you personally believe it to be.
  9. OptimusPrime

    OptimusPrime Well-Known Member

    In other words you can't stop all of the bears all of the time but you can stop some of the bears some of the time. After that you just have to hope you get one of the lesser determined bears.

    Hahahahahahahha. Well said gspn.
    I think that was the late, great, bear hunter PT Barnum?

    OP, if you're interested in the contradiction between why some bears die against a .22 and some don't die against a .454, it all comes down to odds. You can "hit" while you're sitting at 20 but the odds of getting an ace are as good as, well, killing a bear with a .22. Carry the biggest you can comfortably shoot and carry, always, against bears or zombies.
  10. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    Oh and I forgot to mention...regardless of caliber I've heard it's wise to remove the front sight from your pistol. That way it won't hurt as bad when the bear jams it up your butt.:D
  11. pintler

    pintler Well-Known Member

    ...but shooting it anywhere else will not stop it fast enough to save you.

    There is also the school of thought that suggests a shoulder/hip shot, because it will immobilize the bear immediately. If you think about the position a charging bear is in, you want enough penetration to reach the hips, lengthwise.

    it seems to me the answer for all of them is: "the largest caliber you can shoot accurately"...


    There is a lot to be said for spray, as well.
  12. Grassman

    Grassman Well-Known Member

    What ever you do, don't have a pic-a-nic basket on you. They love those....
  13. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    One of the things that complicates "just shooting a bear in the brain" is the fact that said brain (what little there is of it, that is) is encased in a small, hard, rounded skull that will deflect all sorts of bullets.

    Complicating things further, during any sort of motion on the part of the bear, especially that of a "charge"- it is probably near impossible to hit that small, "armored" target under the stress of such an incident unless one is a very cool customer and one helluva damned good shot.
  14. WCraven

    WCraven Well-Known Member

    This was on another board awhile back but it was more about blackbears and the question was between a 10mm and 45acp i think, many didn't think the 45acp could get the job done,
    but people that make and sell bullets said the 45acp would have no issue pennin bone of a bear and some reseach says that the 45acp hit's different then others by making a shock wave threw the body that other don't.

    Now about the 22lr, there is a video on youtube that explains this as the U.S. Army reseach says it takes 59flbs to be lethal, so they take a 1/2 pine board which takes the 59flbs to pen and shot it at different ranges @ 400+ yards the 22lr can still pen that board.

    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  15. BSA1

    BSA1 Well-Known Member

    The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.
    They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.
    Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear's sensitive nose and it will run away.
    It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
    Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.

    p.s. You all knew this one was coming. <];-)
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  16. jeepnik

    jeepnik Well-Known Member

    One advantage of large caliber rounds that penetrate deeply will have a better chance of taking out a shoulder joint. It won't stop the bear, but it will slow it down.

    I look at the rifle vs handgun issue this way. I usually carry a rifle (specifically a Marlin 1895 GS, 45-70). But, you can't always have a rifle in your hands or even slung (think about your outdoor activities and how often you really set the rifle down and walk away from it, even if only a few steps). So, I also carry (and sometimes only carry) a Blackhawk in .45 Colt. A holstered handgun is generally always there.

    In both, I use my own reloads using heavy hardcast lead bullets with a flatnose profile.

    Will they work if I'm attacked by a bear? Never been attacked so I have no way of knowing. But, I'd much rather have something that shoots a big hard hitting bullet than a puff of gas of questionable effectiveness.
  17. kayaks

    kayaks Well-Known Member

    For what it's worth, we had a guide outfitter business in Southeast Alaska that guided people to a bear observatory that had blacks and browns. Also have spent some in the bush. We carry pepper spray and a .458. Had a friend with fish and game shoot a brown with a shotgun several times and its was nearly not enough. Not sure a pistol would be much good. Your mileage may vary.
  18. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    AAAAHAHAHAHA!! Nice play.
  19. BLB68

    BLB68 Well-Known Member

    Not true. Especially not true on blacks, but on browns as well. Many bears have been stopped without brain shots.

    Anyway, here's my take on the bear thing:

    1. Don't go into the bear's woods. Best defense, but may limit your outdoor recreation options.
    2. Have a partner with you if you go into the bear's woods. Preferably one that runs slow.
    3. Everyone should have bear spray. It should be on your hip or pack strap where you can deploy it without removing it. Get a practice can and practice shooting from the hip.
    4. Bear spray is not 100% effective when the bear is hit by it. Despite the old bear scat joke, it's somewhat less effective on black bears. If you're successfully stalked by a bear (or other critter, or human), you also may not get to deploy the bear spray.
    5. If the latter happens, your partner should be spraying the heck out of the bear (and, unfortunately, you) to get it off you.
    6. If you need to shoot it, something with good penetration that can be fired with one hand while being mauled is a good idea if you're alone. If in a group, at least one person should have a long gun, especially if the bears are on the bigger end of the size spectrum.
  20. Leanwolf

    Leanwolf Well-Known Member

    I have no experience shooting Grizzly or Brown bears. I have killed two Black bears, one with my S&W 57 .41 Rem. Mag., and the other with my .280 Rem. bolt action Remington 725. Neither bear was charging, but one round from the revolver and one round from the rifle did them in.

    That said, those two bear kills do not in any way, shape or form, make me an expert on smoking Smoky. There is, however, a man who posts on 24 hour campfire named J.J. Hack, who has an educated opinion. He is a professional guide, both Africa, Alaska, and the lower 48 States, who has been in on the kill of hundreds of bears.

    He advises, with revolvers, a .44 Mag. or equivalent, using jacketed hollow point bullets. He says that in his experience, those JHPs are a better bear stopper than the hard cast lead loads.

    I can't vouch for his opinion but the one Black bear I killed, 400+/- pounds, I shot with one round of that .41 Mag., was a Rem. factory 210 grains JHP bullet. The bear was dead before it hit the ground.

    Charging? I don't know. I've not been charged, but if I were, and if I had only a handgun, I'd do my damndest to poke a few rounds into head and chest with my .41 Mag., or .45 Colt.


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