1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What Bullets for bear?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by nobody.special, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. Okay, so many of you have heard about the story of the guy killing a bear in Denali with a .45 auto, right??

    Plus there are the recent bear attacks near Yellowstone you may have heard about?

    We live about 2 hours from Yellowstone and go there often. So... there has been some talk going on at my work about these stories and what to carry in your pistol of choice when in bear country.
    Now, I used to have a .44 mag specifically for this, but had to sell it years ago and although I plan to get another, the largest caliber I have right now is .45 acp. Between me and the guys at work, the calibers in discussion are .357, 10mm and .45 Auto. (Obviously, a large rifle would be best, but that is a little impractical for general hiking / camping and beyond the scope of our debate.)
    So here is where we stand:
    The .357 guy says Hollowpoints, and that he'd definately take that over a .45, even if he is limited to 5 shots.
    The 10mm guy says "high quality self defense hollowpoints" (PDX1, XTP, Hydrashock, ect)
    and I'm thinking my .45 with FMJ round-nose or maybe semi-wadcutters.
    My thought behind this is that hollowpoints are going to open and slowdown too much, whereas the FMJ would penetrate deeper though the hide and/or skull.
    What you do guys think, and what is the reasoning?
    Yellowstone is Grizzly country, and we have Griz, Brown and Black bears througout the state.
  2. saturno_v

    saturno_v Well-Known Member

    Hollowpoints on a handgun platform (including the big boomers) against a bear is a recipe for a disaster...

    Usually the rule of thumb is that as the muzzle energy decrease, you need a solid non deformable bullet to obtain the maximum possible penetration to reach vitals/CNS.

    High energy rifle cartridges (for example a 30-06) can usually "afford" to use some expandable bullets (especially when using very high SD slugs) against bears because the have so much energy that some of it can be used to make wider wound channels.

    As a practical example of this, 220 gr. soft point 30-06 bullets are well regarded Grizzly stoppers but I would not trust a 240 gr. soft point 44 Magnum bullet (especially fired from an handgun) to stop a big bruin
  3. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

    Alaska is the only state with brown bears. As to your question, FMJ's (or if you reload) some sort of hard cast flat nose slug. A .45 acp is a poor choice though. The guy in Denali just got lucky.
  4. slabuda

    slabuda Well-Known Member

    From all I have heard, and what I will carry is something hard and heavy. Like lead hard cast flat nose with as much powder as allowable. Think buffalo bore.


    If a .45 ACP is all you have I would pick one of the bottom 2.
  5. Justin Holder

    Justin Holder Well-Known Member

    Stay away from hollow points, one exception being Nosler Partition Gold handgun bullets.

    A FMJ in the right place (brain, spine) would be OK but not the best choice.

    You want a non expanding bullet of sufficient mass with a large flat meplate (bullet nose diameter) to aid in penetration and tissue damage.
  6. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    Sorry but there are no brown bears in the lower 48. People often get confused when seeing a color phased black bear with a brown coat but there are no brown bears in MT.

    As to the question about bullets. When using pip squeek calibers like the one mentioned you'll need good quality non expanding bullets to get to the goods on most bears. Hollow points are simply not an option when grizz is on the menu.

    And I'll second what's already been said occasionally you'll hear about a guy killing a grizz in a defense situation with caliber like a 9MM or a .45 ACP but these guys got lucky and it shouldn't be taken as an excuse to use these under powered and unreliable killers for bear protection.
  7. hardluk1

    hardluk1 member

    If these are your limit to calibers then carry atleast a 4"+ 357 mag and Hardcast bullets of 180 to 200gr . You want to punch a hole through them BUT also carry bear spray. That maybe what saves your life. If you or going to buy a handgun? Buy a 44 mag with that same 4"+ barrel and some double tap, grizzy or buffalo bore 300gr+ non-expanding ammo.
  8. Thanks for the feedback guys... and thanks for correcting me on the Brown Bears... my mistake.
    Yeah, I agree that these handgun calibers are definitely NOT ideal for bears, especially Griz, but I think that having something would be better than having nothing at all, right? I certainly would not go out looking for a bear with one of these, or any pistol for that matter.
    I used to have a 7" .44 mag Super Redhawk, and carried it w/ 310gr hardcast flatpoints whenever hiking or camping. Even then, I wasn't really comfortable, but I sure felt better with that than w/ my .45 auto. The family wants to go camping again, and I'm trying to stall until I get another Super Redhawk, but I don't think they'll let me put it off much longer.

    Thanks again for the feedback, and for making such a great forum community!
  9. natman

    natman Well-Known Member

  10. Evergreen

    Evergreen Well-Known Member

    I think I may have to disagree with people who say there is no grizzlies in the lower 48.. There has been a reintroduction of grizzlies and wolves into the lower 48.. Also , British Columbia has a grizzly population. Now, do people distinguish between grizzlies and brown bears? I was told brown bears are the larger coastal cousins of the grizzly?

    US Fish and Wildlife
  11. OYE

    OYE Well-Known Member

    "I think I may have to disagree with people who say there is no grizzlies in the lower 48.. There has been a reintroduction of grizzlies and wolves into the lower 48.. "

    Actually the two remnant populations of Grizzlies in the lower 48 ( The Yellowstone area and the Northwest Montana area) were not "reintroduced". They never went away. Expanding in population and range at present.
  12. springfield30-06

    springfield30-06 Well-Known Member

    Well, out of the 3 choices you are talking about I'd pick the .357 with Buffalo Bore 180gr hard cast flat nose bullets.

    I wouldn't even begin to feel comfortable until we were at least talking about a 12ga with Brenneke Black Magic Magnum 3 inch 1-3/8 oz. slugs or a 30-06 w/220gr bullet, but I know that these are not very practical unless you are actually setting out to hunt them.
  13. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    Brown / Grizzly Bear Facts

    Taxonomy: While there has been much confusion about the taxonomy of brown bears (Ursus arctos), taxonomists agree there are at least two subspecies in North America -- the grizzly bear (U. a. horribilis) and the Kodiak bear (U. a. middendorffi). There is confusion about whether to consider others, like U. a. gyas and U. a. macfarlani, as separate subspecies.

    The Kodiak bear has lived separately on Kodiak, Afognak, and Shuyak Islands in southwestern Alaska for thousands of years with no interbreeding with other populations. However, there is no such geographic demarcation between the coastal U. a. gyas and the inland U. a. horribilis. There is a continuum of difference between the larger coastal brown bears and the interior individuals that are generally called grizzly bears. Coastal brown bears have a greater amount of animal protein in their diet, achieve larger size, and have slight differences in coloration. At any point from the coast to the interior there is interbreeding between the populations (Jonkel 1987, p 456-473).

    Home Range: Grizzly bears can be found in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories; and the US states of Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and Montana. In general their home range is between 10 and 380 square miles. A grizzly bear's home range is basically inland - away from major bodies of water. In most cases, a grizzly bear's home range includes an area of forested land or shrub cover, which is used mostly for escape (Jonkel 1984, p 21).

    Food Types: Grizzly bears feed on berries (blueberries, bearberries, etc.), roots, bulbs of plants, ground dwelling rodents, and most importantly whitebark pine nuts. Sometimes grizzlies will locate a cache of these nuts that a ground squirrel has stored for the winter. With their excellent sense of smell, grizzlies can locate carrion from miles away and will readily feed on it (Bauer and Bauer 1996, p 62).

    Grizzlies may also prey on moose, elk, mountain goats and mountain sheep. During the spring months, grizzlies also feed on the calves of these animals (Jonkel 1984, p 23).

    Another major food source for grizzlies are army cutworm moths. During the summer months in the Yellowstone area, these moths congregate on sub-alpine plants located above the timberline at elevations higher than 10,000 feet. During the early morning hours these moths drink nectar and then during the day they cluster on the surrounding rocks. Grizzlies from all around climb to these high elevations to consume 10,000 to 20,000 of these moths a day. At times like this, when food is abundant, numerous grizzlies will congregate and feed together. Once the food source is depleted, the grizzlies will go their separate ways in search of other food (Bauer and Bauer 1996, p 67).

    Kodiak bears generally rely on the same types of food as grizzlies, with one addition. Living in coastal areas provides these bears with a rich supply of protein. These coastal areas are so rich in salmon that a 40% higher density of brown bears can be supported there (Bauer and Bauer 1996, p 97).

    Face: Brown bears have a concave or ‘dish-shaped' face (Brown 1993, p 69).

    Paws: Grizzly bear paws are black or brownish in color with wrinkled skin on the pad (Brown 1993, p 73).

    Shoulder Hump: Brown bears have a distinguishing shoulder hump. This hump is actually a mass of muscle, which enables brown bears to dig and use their paws as a striking force (Brown 1993, p 77).

    Claws: Brown bear claws are long and curved, ranging in color from yellow to brown. In rare cases grizzlies have been observed with white claws. These claws are used to dig up roots and bulbs of plants as well as to excavate den sites (Brown 1993, p 74).

    Tracks: The toes fall close together and nearly in a straight line in a brown bear track. The toe pads are generally touching each other with the smallest toe on the inside of the track. Impressions from the fore claws are usually found far in front of the toes because the claws are twice as long as the toe pads. The front tracks of brown bears measure 6-8 inches long (excluding heel) and 7-9 inches wide. Hind tracks measure 12-16 inches long and 8 to 10 ½ inches wide (Brown 1993, p 76).

    Coloration: Grizzlies range in color from white, blonde, brown, black and shades thereof. The tips of most fur are lighter in color giving them a grizzled effect (Brown 1993, p 65).

    Growth and Development: Brown bears can weigh 150-200 pounds at the end of their first year of life. They reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5 years and are considered fully grown by 8 to 10 years of age (Brown 1993, p 139).

    Weight: Females reach their maximum weight of 270 to 770 pounds in 8 years. Males reach their maximum weight of 330 to 1150 pounds in 12 years. The heavier a female is the better are her chances of having cubs. The heavier a male is the better chance he has of successfully breeding with a female. Males are 1.2 to 2.2 times as heavy as females.

    Kodiak bears can grow to 10 feet long and weigh over 1,000 lbs (Jonkel 1984, p 22).

    Making a Living: In general, brown bears will flee as soon as they detect humans. Finding food, finding mates, and avoiding being preyed upon govern a brown bear's life (Stirling 1993, p 91).

    Most brown bears are active during the morning and early evening hours. During the daytime they rest in day beds, often constructed in dense cover to escape the heat. During the late summer and fall months, when they are fattening up for the long months of hibernation, brown bears may be active throughout the day. As food items become scarce, the brown bear's territory increases. Within their home range, brown bears use a wide variety of habitats. Brown bears travel from alpine food sources to estuaries, to berry patches, to salmon spawning sites - visiting each site when its particular food source is available (Stirling 1993, p 92-93).

    Dens: Dens must provide protection and security during the winter months. Brown bears can excavate a den but often use rock caves and hollow trees. Dens are dug in dry, stable soil where winter temperatures will remain above freezing. Usually the den site terrain is sloping. As snow falls it covers and helps to insulate the den. Generally the den is just large enough to accommodate the bear. The entrance to the den leads to a tunnel that slopes downward to the actual sleeping chamber. This sloping tunnel allows stale air to escape. Most dens are used only once. Occasionally a den built in unstable ground will collapse (Stirling 1993, p 94).

    Mating: Females generally are first able to reproduce between 4 ½ and 10 years of age. The number of cubs in a litter depends upon the female's body weight. Mating occurs between early May and mid July with cubs born between the end of January and early March. Usually a female brown bear reproduces once every 3 to 5 years (Brown 1993, p 132, Bauer and Bauer 1996 p 94). Since only 1 in 3 females breed in a given year, males must range widely in order to find a mate (Stirling 1993, p 92-93). A mother brown bear will remain with her young for 1 ½ to 3 ½ years (Brown 1993, p 145).

    Data compiled by John Derych (2001)
    Resources used:

    * Bauer, Erwin and Peggy Bauer. Bears: Biology, Ecology and Conservation. 1996.
    * Brown, Gary. The Great Bear Almanac. 1993.
    * Jonkel, Charles. Bear Essentials. 1984.
    * Jonkel, Charles. Wild Furbearer Management and Conservation in North America. 1987.
    * Stirling, Ian (editor). Bears: Majestic Creatures of the Wild. 1993.
  14. gofastman

    gofastman Well-Known Member

    I, first and foremost would do everything I can to avoid bears in the first place; talk loudly with friends, sing, tie bells to your belt, etc.
    Out of the 3 calibers listed I'd take these first:


    these second:

    and if I "only" had a .45:


    In reality I would much prefer a .500 or .460S&W
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2010
  15. waffentomas

    waffentomas Well-Known Member

    Of the three calibers you listed, well, I'm highly biased towards the 10mm. I carry a Glock 20 with a 6" hunting barrel and 15 round mags. I load with 200gr flat nosed lead from Double Tap. One of my hunting party had a close encounter with a grizzly in Idaho a few years back while we were elk hunting. Nothing bad happened, but I've never seen him so shaken...he drove back to camp at 10am and called it a day. Frankly, I have no desire to shoot a grizz while elk hunting, and carry bear spray as my first line of defense. I know, what a wuss right? Well, I'd just rather not shoot a bear that I am not hunting, and that I may be able to chase away. I may shoot first and ask questions later, but if the encounter looks like I can make it non-lethal, I'll do it.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  16. Girodin

    Girodin Well-Known Member

    I'm no expert on bears so perhaps someone could tell me if I am wrong but I thought brown bear was another name for a grizzly bear or that perhaps grizzlies were a sub category of brown bear. There are definitely grizzly bears places other than Alaska. Grizzlies are without question in Montana as well as Wyoming and Idaho. They (along with wolves) are spreading.
  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

    Taxonomically speaking, they are the same species according to modern sources. They range from Mexico up through Alaska and thence west through Asia to the Scandinavian countries.

    However, for sporting purposes the coastal brown bears in North America are recognized as a separate category from the grizzly, just because they are so much larger.

    It's much like the Shiras Moose in the lower 48 vs the Alaskan moose subspecies - the Alaskan ones are bigger and the record books categorize them separately even though they are both "moose".
  18. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Forget hollowpoints or softpoints for handguns. Go with the heaviest hardcast available. For .357's this is usually 180 or 200 grain. FMJ is just a soft lead slug with some metal over it. It is NOT hardcast.
  19. skykid

    skykid Member

    45 long colt with a 250 or 300 gr bullet
    it can do anything a 44mag can at a lower pressure
    also I would use a soft cast bullet less chance of it fragmenting if you hit bone
  20. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Well-Known Member

    Any handgun is a poor substitute for a long gun, either rifle or shotgun
    If carrying a handgun, bring the largest one you can shoot well, and realize that if a bear is coming after you, it's a 40 mph boulder with lots of bone and fat and muscle before anything vital. I would suggest carrying bear spray, even if you carry a gun, there are less questions with bear spray (as in non) no dealing with cops and F&G, no waiting to get your guns back, less hassles.

    But for me the biggest thing is aiming, with bear spray you get a continuous funnel of ouch, that is very effective on bears, the only down side is you need to move, cause they like OLD bear spray that has aged a few days

    Lots easier to hit with that than a little ol bullet.

Share This Page