Can 5.56 rounds stop a bear attack?

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Oct 14, 2009
Lynnwood, WA
I'm not a hunter but curious to know if 5.56 rounds (or round) would stop a bear attack;
I know .22 caliber rounds aren't ideal for it but would it be enough to at least scare it away?

Thanks in advance.
It COULD with perfect placement but that would be about the last cartridge I would want in that situation. A heavy and slow bullet like a 454 would be much better.
Grizzly? Hmm. Likely, "Not soon enough."

Black bear? Maybe, with many rapid hits.

What you definitely don't want is a "scared away" wounded bear that might well attack an unarmed person. You shoot it, you finish it. Period.
I think a 5.56 would just piss off the bear. I wouldn't try it without a full power hunting cartridge.

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If hunting, on a calm black bear, broadside, vitals shot... probably will bleed out after awhile, but IMO not a good choice. Might not be legal in your area. You want better odds of success than that, so look at calibers you would use on deer and elk for a reliable kill. I wouldn't trust my life on .223 vs ticked off bear. For Grizzly, absolutely not a good choice.

In a trail-side confrontation, meh, better than nothing, but I'd rather use bear spray and then skedaddle. Always carry bear spray in bear country. If he kept on coming, I'd much rather have a slug gun or handgun with some punch.

A gunshot in the air might scare off a bear (not guaranteed), but once he learns he didn't get hurt, he'll be back and won't get scared off the next time. Also, you never know where a random bullet goes in that case. If you just wound him, he will look for the cause and stomp it (you) out. That would also be unethical and possibly illegal. So if you're trying to get rid of a pest bear, make sure your yard is clean of any and all attractants like pet food or wild bird food and trash cans. Call local wildlife cops or animal control.

Having seen enough dead bears,shot with arrows,shotguns,rifles,and pistols [ yes even a .38 special ], I believe that it is shot placement.

I do believe that you would NEED a heavier bullet [ the match 69 grainer ] and a mag of 5 rounds,and you would be reasonably safe against black bear.

Against grizz - forget about it.
Analyzing thr OP question:

"if 5.56 rounds (or round) would stop a bear attack;
I know .22 caliber rounds aren't ideal for it but would it be enough to at least scare it away?

"Rounds" is the key word...and preferably coming from a full auto that case there are good chances....

I'm confident a 30 rounder FMJ blast coming from a full auto M16 may stop a grizzly attack.....
I wouldn't choose it, but if it were what I had in my hands I'd use it. At one time (1953) the worlds record grizzly bear was killed with a 22 RF by a Canadian Indian woman who stumbled onto it while picking blueberries. It is now #4 all time.

It'll do better than many think. The 223 round is very common in Alaska and Canada and is sometimes used for big bears.
Can they? Absolutely no question. They have done so more than once. Even a small caliber rifle is still a rifle. A fellow in Kodiak used a .32-20 to bring down several DOZEN monster bears a hundred years ago.

Are they the best choice? Probably not. You are liable to create a very dicey wounded bear situation creating a grave risk to yourself and others. You shoot that bear, it's YOUR bear now. So whatever happens next is on you.
You mean to tell me all those stories my dad told me about killing a bear with his bare hands weren't true??? WTH!!!

An ice pick can kill a bear.
Stopping a bear before it hurts you, is what you need to be concerned about.

Go big or stay home.
I know reality T.V is terrible but on "wild alaska" (I think thats the name of it) a guy used an ar-15 to stop a brown bear. I'm sure you could kill a bear if you had 60-70grain bullets and could get a head shot, if its charging just make every shot count. My grandfather used a .30-30 to kill a fairly large black bear that had gotten into the yard.
an old buddy of mine was a freelance photographer who had dreams of doing spreads for nat geo. He got his shot, but it entailed a year long stent on kodiak island tracking and photographing brown bear.

One day while he was there, some military guys came from Alaska armed with 556 rifles to hunt grizzlies. That night they heard what sounded like a firefight out in the wilderness. The next day they went up to see what happened, and it looked like the movie predator. Their camp was ripped to shreds, there were spent mags littered all over the forest, and multiple blood trails.

They found the guys half eaten buried in a shallow grave with their weapons empty. The bear buried them to soften up and get ripe. Bears like their food aged a little.

Found the bear later on. He bled out real slow from dozens of 556 wounds, but not before he did them first.

Don't know if it's true or not, but my buddy swore to it.
Don't know if it's true or not, but my buddy swore to it.

It has ever appearance of being completely, utterly untrue. Have there been bear attacks? Yes. I know people who've lost loved ones and been tossed around like rag dolls. Have bears sometimes ransacked camps? Yes. Very rarely with people still in them. Have they eaten parts of people and buried other parts? It's exceptionally rare, but has happened a few times. Most brown bear attacks are defensive, not predatory. So your buddy there appears to have taken a variety of true stories probably from Larry's books and mixed in the new (and false) notion of three arrogant guys with AR's who all get killed and eaten after a Predator style firefight. They're not Spielberg dinosaurs thankfully.

So no that didn't happen. A rifle firing 5.56 is still a rifle. It's extremely powerful. It can kill any living thing on the planet that's big enough to hit. Mini-14's have long been a favored weapon of subsistence hunters who live their whole lives in the bush amongst griz and even polar bear.
Can 5.56 rounds stop a bear attack?

The Germans use 5.6x57mm RWS with bullets 60gr or so for red deer. You can get similar bullets at similar velocity for 5.56x45mm ARs which are adequate for whitetail deer (used only where the caliber/energy levels are legal under state game laws.)

Personally, I don't think 5.56 is adequate for stopping a bear attack. I don't bear hunt but black bear attack is a possibility (defending against a bear attack would initially be treated as an illegal bear kill so I consciously practice bear avoidance when in the mountains; they are cool to observe from a distance). The lightest gun I own that I would consider adequate for bear protection is my 6.5mm Carcano with 160gr bullet ~2000 fps for deep penetration. Marlin in .30-30 Winchester second step up. Then my .303 Enfield. What I have heard is recommended for bear defense in Alaska as a minimum is the 12ga with 1 ounce slug. The last time we camped out on the mountain on family property in Tennessee we had 12ga just in case.

I notice the opening post is from a member in Seattle WA. Washington State has bigger bears. I have been warned by people with more experience than myself that 5.56 does not have the penetration or bullet momentum to reliably kill eastern black bear. I will opine that 5.56 does not have the penetration or bullet weight to stop a western brown or grizzly bear in attack mode.

I don't know bear anatomy well enough to determine what would be "perfect placement" with an inadequate round; in a bear attack I would prefer to bet my life on center-of-mass with 12ga 1 ounce slug. Poaching does involve taking the time to place a shot perfectly; as I recall, the reason we saw no deer on the mountain in the 1950s was that folks had fed their families during the Depression by shooting deer with squirrel rifles until there was no sustainable deer population left (but they have made a comeback). Defense against bear attack does not allow time for surgical shot placement.

As far as scaring a bear away, people have stood their ground like they belonged where they were and yelled at bears to go away; bears supposedly respect other critter's territory as long as their own is not threatened (or at least it worked for Anthony Hopkins in The Edge).

I don't know about Washington State but in Tennessee I expect a self-defense shooting of a bear to be treated as an illegal kill until some kind of hearing: initial forfeit of gun and vehicle and fine, unless the hearing determines self-defense and not poaching.

I do wish the opening post had been Can X caliber stop a charging bear? Then I could have recycled my old answer to that question: only if you're good enough to shoot the card out of its paw. (Come to think of it, I stole that joke from someone else. Shameless.)

I'm confident a 30 rounder FMJ blast coming from a full auto M16 may stop a grizzly attack

I'm confident in a grizzly attack that a 30 rounder FMJ blast coming from a full auto M16 may have the first two or three rounds on the target and the rest on the countryside.
ARs for bear defense
223: forget about it.
6.5 Grendel/6.8SPC/300 Blackout: maybe depends on how good a shot you are under pressure.
450 Bushmaster/458 Socom: YEP
50 Beowulf: HELL YEAH!
Stopping an attack is nothing at all like hunting. It doesn't matter how "pipsqueaky" the cartridge of a successful hunter is. That's not the issue; not the subject of the thread.

When you have only a very few seconds to do whatever is needed to survive the attack, you need more than some small cartridge to have any reasonable chance of escaping serious injury, if not death.

If I'm out wandering around with an AR or other such rifle in country where an attack is reasonably likely, I'd want to have a very strong pepper spray ready to hand.
I'm confident in a grizzly attack that a 30 rounder FMJ blast coming from a full auto M16 may have the first two or three rounds on the target and the rest on the countryside.

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