Black bear vs. 9mm

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Sep 3, 2005
Black Bear roaming through Grand Rapids

I live in the metro Grand Rapids area, and this raises a couple of questions for me.

First, what are the chances of my 9mm CCW pistol taking down a black bear? I envision it being a pretty point blank headshot to be a legit self defense shooting, but I still wonder about it.

Second, I obviously wouldn't have a hunting permit for said bear, so where would that leave me legally?
Will a 9mm kill a bear? Well, yes. But the real question is, will a 9mm kill a bear "before" the bear does signficant damage to you. Unless you are really luck, probably not.

If you are seriously worried about a bear attack, carry a large bore rifle or shotgun with slugs. If you must rely on a handgun, think .44 mag and up, maybe a .41 mag, but those aren't all that common.

Score, first in on a bear thread:D:D
It would depend on the bear as each has unique personality. When I was in high school nimrod shot 700 pound monster in Green Mountain woods of Vt. While very rare meeting mound of meat like while carrying 9mm pistol would be frightening. I remember small gun shop in Poultney Vt where gunsmith handed me .350magnum stating it was his bear gun. I carry old Remington carabine in that caliber while camping in bear country.
VT state record bear is 525, and that was in 1965...

As for 9mm, if it is the only thing you have, use it...

Most Black Bear want nothing to do with people other than scavenging trash and groceries...

If you get between a Sow and cubs, all bets are off...
If 9mm is all you have, be ready to empty the entire magazine into him or her. Even then, you may still get mauled big time.
Unless you are really luck, probably not.

I'll take, oh, absolutely any proof at all of this. Black bears are routinely shot out of trees with .357 revolvers. If you think an almost contact distance shot with a good 9x19mm won't do one in, we live in completely different realities.

If 9mm is all you have, be ready to empty the entire magazine into him or her. Even then, you may still get mauled big time.

Yeah, okay. :rolleyes: If we were talking about one of the big Alaskan black bears, big and strong from feeding on salmon, that would be another matter. But most bears in the lower 48 are closer to a human in size. A rabid one (extremely rare) was killed recently with birdshot. If even birdshot will penetrate at just a couple feet, of course a 124-grain bullet traveling 1250 fps or faster will.

It really would be terrific if people had some hint of a clue what they were talking about before they volunteered their opinion.

To the OP: if you shot a black bear when you had no reasonable retreat, you'd be just fine, legally. While a rifle would of course be the best choice for hunting a black bear, any weapon that's a reasonable choice for a deer or hog will do the job just fine. A 9mm from a few feet kills deer. A 9mm from a few feet will also kill a black bear, and if you're that close, you should have no problem making a head shot. I would be sure you're using a sturdy bullet like a Gold Dot 124 grain.

Its fine if you know what to do with it. Fire your 9mm into the air and watch how fast the bear can run away. Shoot the bear with your 9mm and watch how fast he can eat you.
Don't you know bears (any bear) are harder to stop than a Tiger tank? Nothing less than an LAW will stop one reliably. ;)

On the other hand, if I had a 9mm on me, I'd use it. I suspect it would do just fine.
Carry your 9mm. It would be a last reasort . Buy some bear spray and if you walk up on a bear get ready but the bear most likely will turn and bolt away. Sprays work very well if no worry of wounding bear that would then have to be hunted by fish and game or killing a bear needlessly.
I agree it really depends on the bear... Yes, most black bears in the lower 48 are not much bigger than a human male, and yes animals respond to pain. I imagine a standing 6'3" 300-400lb. bear est. can be taken down with a .9x19mm (I doubt with just one shot, unless you hit it in the right place.), It is a fact they go down with a .357 Mag. (Now a 7'0" 1,000+lb. ticked off "Grizzly" and carrying a .9X19mm you may just go out of this world the way you came into it, in the fetal postion):D
A lot of people have really wild ideas about bears. As brnmuenchow points out- and I also was saying earlier- most lower 48 black bears aren't very large. Further, the ones that are likely to be nosing around human dwellings are probably there because they're having a hard time finding food.

(That equals skinny and malnourished, for those who need it spelled out.)

When I was doing a good bit of hiking and camping in GA, I carried my Glock 23 to handle potential Southeastern US threats:

wild dogs
black bears
dangerous humans

The 9x19mm is a little less powerful than the .40 S&W, but at three feet, that won't make much difference.

If you're really worried about bear, I'd honestly recommend upgrading to a more powerful round. While 9mm is fine for two-legged predators, and will eventually kill a black bear, you might want to consider carrying something more powerful if you're hiking in the woods. Many people change what they carry based on where they're carrying, and if you're hiking in bear country, you should prepare accordingly.
Just listen to JSHIRLEY, he knows what he's talking about. Especially in the lower 48. I've hunted in just about every state in the union, (a lot of hiking) and in that time saw a lot of wildlife, including black bears. None of the bears were any bigger than some large men, and never did I have to fire a round at any of them. They all just took off lumbering away. I'm sure a 9mm would dispatch a bear but why would you want to, further you better be able to prove your life was gravely in danger; or have a bundle of money to defend yourself in a court of law. I know there are stories about bears attacking hikers etc. but they are definitely few and far between.:scrutiny:
Most Black Bear want nothing to do with people other than scavenging trash and groceries...

If you get between a Sow and cubs, all bets are off...

The last black bear attack here in Washington didn't happen to any of the thousands of unarmed hikers or backpackers, several of whom reported seeing and being very near a sow and her cubs, but to some guy walking his dogs in a rural neighborhood. It was speculated that the bear was protecting its food source. He made a few changes.

In any event, despite the usual direction of bear thread advice, I will point out that all bears are not the 12' tall, bullet resistant, hopped up on PCP, with a rabid angry chipmunk living up their butt beasts some of the armchair outdoorsmen believe them to be.
I believe Fatcat gave some advice to fire into the air as a warning shot. PLEASE don't do that!! Not very sound advice. If you give a warning shot to scare it, shoot into the ground. What goes up must come down and you are responsible when that bullet comes down and if it strikes someone or something. We had an incident last summer here in KC where guys shot their 9mm into the air last 4th of July and it came down and killed a teenage girl. NOT a good idea EVER!
A Canadian Mounty gave my friend this advice when we where canoeing the boundary waters. "Smear the 9mm pistol in bacon grease, when the bear stops to lick the pistol make your retreat."
I figure the odds of me having to dispatch a bear already hit by a truck are slim to none, so I am not going to worry with it.

Whatever you have handy at the time is what you have, no one plans for this scenario.

A shot or two from a 9MM should do the job if you believe folks who deal with black bears, and I have no reason not to. :)
9mm FMJ shoot as fast as u can at the head, neck area
It will work just fine
Just keep in mind they hunt deer with 375 H&H mag
and they also
Kill 800 lb + alegators, 1200 lb cattle with a 22lr
Shot placement is EVERYTHING !
Here's the long and short of black bears. Unlike their bigger brown brothers they generally do not bluff. It's my understanding if a black bear charges (which is highly unlikely and very rare) he intends to kill and probably eat you. Standing your ground to call his bluff or curling up in a fetal position and playing dead is about useless with balck bears. With that being said don't go where you might get mauled but if have to then carry the extended mag that day. The 9mm will get the job done eventually but if I'm having a show down with a black bear intent on having me for a snack a Mossy 500 loaded up with some Foster slugs would be my preference.
While I agree that a lot of black bears are smallish, they may also be extremely angry if you happened to stumble onto a female's cub. And, while, yes, a 9mm will most likely kill a lot of things with one shot, I am not about to stand there testing whether my 9mm loads are about to stop momma bear from keeeling me.

If there is any attack by the bear, I am shooting until the threat ceases. If it means dumping four magazines into the critter than so be it.

If I am carrying my gun for protection, what good is it if I do not act like I am using it for protection? If someone comes at you with a knife and is starting to slice you up, is just one shot going to suffice? Maybe, maybe not. It is my understanding that WE shoot until the THREAT HAS CEASED!

Is that not true?

You can do it however you want to, but as for me, I am not going to stop until I am certain the mauling has stopped.
Being I have no larger caliber weapons at the time I carry one of my 9mms loaded with 147 LFPs. Judgin by the size of the black bears in this area I have no doubt I COULD kill one with it and its a lot better than having nothing but I would prefer to have a larger caliber weapon. I think my next woods gun will be a .357 magnum loaded with some heavy hunting bullets. I would feel fine with that.

If I was in an area with the really big bears I would carry something a lot heavier.
While its probably not WISE to take on a black bear with 9mm, shot placement still rules - and realistically black bears aren't THAT large.

I have a cousin who 15-20 years ago heard a lot of commotion out by his pig pen. He grabbed up the only weapon he had loaded and ready at the moment which was a .22LR rifle. He's isolated where he's at so other people around were rare, and black bears are occasionally seen around here but also fairly rare. Largest predator you normally have to worry about would be a coyote or a bobcat.

Anyways, he got out there to the pig pen and sure enough there was a black bear out there that charged him. I'm not positive on the number of shots he fired but he did drop the bear before it did any damage.

Not the recommended weapon, but sometimes when danger presents itself you use what you got.
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