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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsFirearms and Sk...Firearms and Sk...Bear PistolsBear Pistols
New Post
10/20/2010 5:16 PM

You knew it was just a matter of time, right?  

These kinds of threads pretty much need standard disclaimers. Here's mine -- carry a pistol geared towards your most likely use for it. For most folks, the bear attack scenario is WAY down the list. Furthermore, situational awareness and common sense are your most valuable tools in a confrontation with a bear. With those disclaimers out of the way, there's just something about being prepared for a bear attack that ignites the imagination of most outdoors folks. Everybody's got an opinion, and for the most part those opinions are based on less than nothing. So, why am I starting this thread at all? It turns out that we've got a customer who is in a better position than most to have an opinion on the subject. What follows is some of my questions and his responses and comments taken from an email conversation. I'll start by letting him introduce himself:

Evan, I just got in from fishing the Buskin River for Silvers.  You'll be happy to know that your kit bag was 25yrds from a 5yr old female brown bear an hour ago. I am a Ranger here on Kodiak Island.  My responsibilities at work are- to be in charge of the brown bear viewing operations on the island.  Being able to carry a large caliber handgun and wear waders is paramount.

Of course, this piqued my interest, so I asked a few questions:

How often do you practice with [your full power 325grain buffalo bore] load? Is your training goal one good shot, or do you train for multiple shots? What is the range / accuracy standard that you try to maintain?


As always, curious about people’s perspectives on the “how do you stop a grizzly” question and you’ve obviously got a seasoned perspective on the matter. Don’t know if you saw the “bear gun challenge” thread I posted on Kif (maybe a year ago now). It was basically draw your bear gun and fire twice at 7 yards. Post your time and accuracy. Several people posted times and accuracy, but I noticed that nobody did so with a round that was bigger than 250 and faster than 1300. There were lighter faster and bigger slower, but no bigger faster. That left me wondering if bigger and faster than that is manageable or not. I’ve since shot a load that resembles a respectable 45/70 out of a .454 with a 6” (or 7”) barrel and decided I could do that once quickly and accurately but would have a devil of a time coming back on target for a second shot with that loading. Maybe that one good shot is really your goal anyway?


Here was what he had to say:

Multiple rounds are the goal for me.  I train to shoot until the weapon is empty.


I try and practice with the BB loads as much as my pocket book will allow.  I do shoot bowling pin matches with it.  I do alot of prac with cheap-o cowboy action loads to build muscle memory and fire arm familarization.  Keep in mind that our ammo supply here on the island is limited and some manufactures like Garrett just plain will not ship their goods here.


With the feds I instruct bear defense fire arms training for the refuge system.  Some of my choices are dictated by gov. policy.


We hold qualifications at 25 yrds for a stationary target.  Our moving target starts at 50 yards building up speed and ends at your feet.  The agency standard is 3 of 5 rounds in side a pepper shaker outline, roughly the same size as a police human sil. target.


From personal experience, if you get caught by suprise; get drawn, and get one round off you are exceptional.  Often, I am not that person.


I strive to maintain 8" groups with my 45-70 STP with a 16 1/4" barrel and 10" groups with my Redhawk on the moving target.  At this stage in my shooting career the BB load and the .45 colt are my max for defense.  I own a .500 linbaugh and am consideirng having my Bisley converted to .475.


For defense and being able to recover from the recoil pulse of a round, the .44mag Federal 300 grain castcore and BB 325 grain .45 colt are my personal limit.


With all the fascination of big bore guns these days.  It is still the gun you have with you that will make the difference.  A person could do alot with at .22 mag.


Shooting the bigger stuff is a hobby of mine that carries into work.  I'm not really sure that we need much more than a .41 mag in a handgun.


So there you have it. Lots of good real world information in these words, and I'm happy that he gave me the OK to post it here. Feel free to discuss or ask more questions. He may well get on here and answer them. I will be applying a heavy "moderatorial" hand to this thread if necessary to keep a good signal to noise ratio.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
10/24/2010 3:08 PM

Kodiak Ranger, Does anyone carry semi-auto's. Thinking of the Glock 20, 10 mm. Can shot a load similar to the .41 mag. Or is this not the gun for Kodiak Island.  Wheel guns only account of the caliber needed?

Just read a good story on Kifaru Hunting about a Mountain Goat hunt on your island. They didn't mention having pistol backup protection for bears. 

New Post
12/2/2010 6:52 AM

 Good info on the drills and accuracy potential from a guy in the know.

I just re-read an article by John Linebaugh discussing the 45 Colt and its potential.  He compared it to lighter, faster 44 Mag rounds.

Short story is...the 45 will do the same or more work in a similar sized pistol with less pressure and damage to the firearm, less recoil and with less velocity.  Why?  Because you are shooting a bullet fully one caliber larger, it is heavier and your velocity from either round is the a constantly diminishing variable.

I'll try to find a link to the article and post it later.

I'll try to get out and shoot a few rounds for the timed drill Evan suggested and see how I do.  I'll be shooting 250 gr cast bullets at about 900 fps, so nowhere near the velocity or recoil of the BB 325's.

New Post
2/26/2011 11:13 AM

 I'm always hesitant to chime in on these type of discussions, but here is what I practice.

The handgun has to be with me, not left in camp.  That's where a good holster  (kit bag) comes in.

First and foremost my handgun is a noise maker.  I use it to place a round between me and the bear, but slightly off to one side.  No use in injuring a critter making a bad situation worse.  This type of hazing is quite effective and you are always ready for a lethal shot with the next round.

Most of the large caliber guns "for me", .454 on up have to much recoil to recover from and regain a follow up sight picture quickly.

In a pinch I have to be able to shoot the gun with my weak hand only.

That leaves me with the .45 colt, .44 mag, 10mm, and .41mag.  Platforms like the Smith 29/25, Ruger Redhawk, and Glock 20.

I think in terms of multiple rounds fired at the head.  If I miss or the miss calculate a lead, I could still obtain a spine shot.  The only way to stop a critter is a CNS hit or breaking large bone.

Practice by making a running bear target on a cable.  Then in your mind try and speed up the target speed 2X.  I have yet to get the target moving fast enough to suite me.  So I start making time restrains on myself.  Like draw, aim, and fire two rounds when the target closes in on five yards etc.  There are lot's of different ways to challenge yourself.

Most encounters have started and been over about the time that I am able to say "Oh @#$*"  that's about 1.5 secs.  If you have access to pact shot timer give that a try.  It's amazing how fast you can get with a little practice.

Most bear fire arms stuff is way over rated.  People would be much better armed learning bear behavior, habitat use, and realizing that just because a bears presence makes us uncomfortable doesn't always mean it's a threat.

Just my 2 cents

New Post
5/29/2012 9:39 AM

I agree with the above statement that a backup gun is a great noise maker and a shoot to the side should always scare an animal away and avoid a potentialy bad situation.  I have toyed with this issue for many years and being a bow hunter in a state that has more mountain lions than chipmuncks I just went went wich carrying my CCW choice of a glock 19.  This year in Montana during a bow hunt I did jump a black bear on a mountain side in very thick cover, about 15 yards from me.  His back was towards me and took off the other way.  Then he stoped and came charging back.  I had enough time to noc an arrow, he came in and stoped and looked very confused.  He then turned and ran.  So, when I now read these threads on how people give their opinion on what to or not to take in bear country I like to chim in by saying its always good to have something that you can rely on and be on the safe side.  I backback hunt and having the pistol makes you sleep a little better, a little, Im still on the ground.  But now I am thinking about buying the Glock 20 10MM for this purpose.  I will not be using this in grizz country so it should be suffiecient.  It seems that the data abouve is pretty solid when it comes to the ballistics and just wanted to know what your opinions are on the 10mm.  As a hunter I put the the gun through some pretty harch environments and the glock is made for that type of abuse.  What grain bullets have you used to fire 2 shoots and be accurate?

New Post
5/29/2012 10:09 AM

At this point I think that the Glock 20 is probably THE choice for back country use especially if a bear is in the mix. It has the capabilities and advantages of an auto, and damn near the power of a revolver.  I say damn near because it doesn't quite equal the .41 mag, which is my prefered revolver caliber, but the advantages of an auto (capacity, quicker reloads, faster follow up shots, simple robust design) outweight the disadvangtes of the slight lighter caliber.  The fact is that if you are truly worried about a big big grizzly you need to be carrying a rifle or shotgun with the appropriate slugs.  That being said a handgun is damn handy while doing certain things, and the 10mm is close enough. I have yet to put my money where my mouth is simply because I already carry a 1911 all of the time and I am fine with that for all of my non-big bear country uses.  In my mind if you carry a 9mm glock a 10mm glock is a no brainer. 

Having shot all the heavier loads out of other folks 10mm, my preference would be for the Double Tap 230grn. It seems to be the right mixture of shootability, bullet size, penetration and velocity.  If I was headed to AK I would be fine carrying it as a back up to my 45/70.

Ironically, Evan and I were talking about this just this morning and agreed once again that a Glock 20 was the way to go.  Heck it would be a good choice to due to flat shooting characteristics for other carry uses.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
5/29/2012 1:32 PM

I agree, the Glock 20 is the answer for a backcountry handgun. Thats what I recommend to anyone that asks me what they should get for hiking/backpacking. Do I have one? No, not at this moment but I see one in my future.

Since the snow started falling last year, with hunting season over, the skis coming out and the bears asleep for the winter my Glock 30 45acp replaced the S&W 329pd 44 mag in the kit bag. I do not like the 45 acp for woods carry, I feel that it is a little under powered. My answer for that was to convert my Glock to run 45 super ammo. It shoots a heavier 255 gr bullet and has about 200 ft lbs more muzzle energy over the standard 45 acp. Also only 150 ft lbs less energy than the load I shoot in my 44 mag. Very comparable as far as ballistics to the 10mm. This is my answer to the Glock 20, for now anyways.

I try to shoot at least once a week and I quickly forgot about that brutal lightweight 44 mag. I can shoot the Glock 30 very well, even surprised my myself at how good. I had a trip planned to northern Idaho this last weekend, which could be consider griz country. I decided to make the rotation and get the S&W 44 mag back in my kit bag for the summer and fall. So last week I went out for an extended shooting session to get familiar with it again. Lets just say I did not like the results. I may have gotten spoiled from shooting my Glock but that 329pd is just not fun to shoot anymore. My accuracy was horrible, draw, sight, and target acquisition was slower than with the Glock. I decided after about 20 rounds with a painful hand and starting to develope a horrible flinch I was going to stick with the Glock.

So thats where I am at right now. Time will tell if my little big Glock 45 super will keep me from buying a Glock 20 or going back to a revolver.  BTW, I also have a 1911 in 10mm but its to heavy and too pretty to go out in the woods :) .

Oh, we did have a bear problem on our trip in Idaho too. Never did see it, sounded big enough to be a griz. Had the food bag hung about 20 ft from my SO BCS and at 7:00 am in the morning heard something trying to get into my cuben fiber food bag. I know the sound it makes, kinda like crumpling news paper. The food bag was at least 9 ft off the ground, had to be a big black or griz. After my buddy said "Hey, I think there is a bear outside" it let out a huge roar, got tangled up in the line and crashed around. I was a little nervous when I stuck my head out of the tent, gun barrel first of coarse but it was gone. I have some holes in my rock bag froms its teeth.

New Post
5/29/2012 1:42 PM

the ironic thing is that WEG can shoot that 329pd better than most folks shoot a wheel gun.

Hopefully, jfo4 (the guy who gave us the original perspective) will chime in on the Glock 10mm. I know that he had one at one time but sold it in favor of the Ruger revolvers in larger chamberings. Based on his training regimen, I suspect he shoots a revolver quite a bit better than most of us.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
6/2/2012 11:31 AM

scothill wrote

 The fact is that if you are truly worried about a big big grizzly you need to be carrying a rifle or shotgun with the appropriate slugs.

This is it.

I have a recreational cabin Just south of Denali National Park and just outside of the states intensive bear management area.  The last few years there has been more bear sign than moose sign.  I carry a S&W Mountain Gun in 44mag when I am out and about doing chores etc.  If I am doing something that allows it I have an 870 or my 338wm.  While I haven't been charged I have had close enough calls rounding a bend and catching the tail end of an 8ft bear jumping into the bush 10 feet in front of me or coming out of alders into a clearing and as soon as I am in the clearing a bear started "woofing"and making noise at the point of my exit. 

Bears will generally be alright as loong as they know you are there but my father-in-law says they are 9 out of 10 animals 9 times out of 10 they will do what you expect its that 1 time that will generally throw you for a loop.  He told me that after I called him about a bear breaking into the cabin it trashed almost everything the peculiar thing was it only took a dump twice and each time it had done it in a 5 gallon bucket.  it was the strangest thing.

Personally, at least around here or even at my cabin moose are an animal that I am concerned with ats much as with bears, this last year I was false charged twice by a 2 year old male who hadn't been kicked out by his mom yeat and it seems as many if not more reports of moose charges are out there than bear maulings.  Just something to think about when wandering around in bear (or moose).  My father-in-law was charged by a bull moose years back and used his 41 mag, he said that he must have hit the antler which diverted its head and fortunately it followed its head as it continued running past him with inches to spare.

New Post
6/3/2012 9:57 AM

Currently I am using either a S&W Model 57 in .41 mag or a Ruger Security Six in .357 for field carry. I carry the model 57 when in Grizzly country and the Security Six the rest of the time. I have been debating replacing the .357 with a Glock in 10mm for years. To me they make perfect sense, I just simply haven't made the switch yet.

My dad recently picked up the .50 GI conversion kit for the Glock 20/21. I believe they are made by Guncrafter Industries. They look pretty cool. I look forward to giving it a good work out to see if it would be something I would be willing to use in the field, at least part of the time. There is some definite appeal to being able to quickly convert your pistol caliber depending on the needs of the day.


New Post
6/3/2012 11:06 AM

I forgot to mention in my previous post Joe Nava an NRA instructor as well as the man that gives firearms training to the state biologists that go out into the field out of Fairbanks actually will recommend the 357 for any of the dangerous game in Alaska that is of course after the 12 gauge.  His thinking is that the smaller faster 357 round will hit and penetrate a charging bears thick skull instead of glancing off.  He preaches accuracy over bullet size.  The 357 he has found can be shot by almost anyone where as women have a harder time with the larger calibers and thus won't shoot as much thus negating the point of having a firearm.  He himself has successfully used the 357 in a DLP shooting as well as a young female biologist that was charged by a brownie.  He uses a snow machine or 4 wheeler  pulling a sled with a fullsize griz target on it to simulate a charging bear from 20 yards. 

Glock has in the past sent up factory reps to the outdoor shows up here to get people to switch to the Glock in 10mm.  They point to capacity of rounds available making up for any lack of power as opposed to the larger caliber wheelguns.  The problem for Glock is not that they convince guys to try it and change but that their (single) distributor for up here won't always ship them up (have had multiple stores say they can't get them) it becomes a hassle for guys who don't want to special order and they either buy a wheel gun or stick with what they have.

New Post
9/7/2012 9:02 PM

I have a ruger super redhawk 454 that i had cut down from 7.5 inches to 4.25.  Honestly it kicks less than the 3" 629 i traded for it.  I kinda alternate between the redhawk and my Glock 20.  We have black bears in the mountains of SC and some on the coast, but i mainly tote them for hogs.  They are everywhere.  Trying to decide which kit bag to get to tote both of these and have a small survival kit in their as well.  Just found ya'lls site and products.  Was looking hard at a guides choice holster for my redhawk, but i think ya'lls thing might work better.

New Post
10/29/2012 10:06 PM
An old schoolmate is an engineer with thr USPHS in Alaska, is an Alaska native, being born there, and has lived and worked most of his life in bear country. He says that in close quarters with a big bear no handgun is a sure stopper. He carries 4" S&W Mod. 29 .44 Mag. with 300 gr. Federal Castcore as EDC, but says a 12-ga. with slugs or00 buck is more effective. Before 1970 most nuisance bear kills were done with12-ga. 00 buck. M1 Garand with 180-gr. Nosler Partition in Federal Premium is also well proven.
New Post
11/6/2012 7:42 AM

I also just found this site and have been delving into handguns for bear protection.  I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, along the shores of Lake Superior and am a bear hunter.  Thankfully we don't have the big bears around here but we have had fatal attacks by black bears, one close to me a few years ago.  Actually, wolves are probably just a big a possible threat around here as we are getting over run with them.

I have done alot of hand gun shooting and found that any thing larger than the 41 Mag is more than I can handle , because of arthritis in my hand. I have recently sold a Ruger Bisley 41 Mag because I have decided that I do not like single action hand guns. I havn't found an affordable ( I am retired on a fixed income) 41 Mag revolver that I like and fits my hand, so my current woods carry gun is a Ruger GP100 4 inch .357 Mag, stoked with Buffalo Bore 180 gr. hard cast flat nose bullets. This gun is about to get CT Laser grips. I did have a S&W  Mountain Gun in 45 Colt that I foolishly sold and wish I had back. I am a reasonably good handgun shot and handgun hunter, so I have confidence in this set up.. I will likely never get to Alaska at my age so the big bears are not a consideration for me.

New Post
11/8/2012 7:13 AM

I love any excuse to buy a new gun. 

Last year my brother in law and I did a North Slope bou hunt,  In my research I came to the conclusion that the best  pistol to use in the event that #1 a bear attacks and #2 I cant kill it with my rifle would be a .22 to shoot my BIL in the leg so that I can outrun him. But since it was a drop hunt and weight was a concern there were no back up guns taken.  Next year however I will be returning for a fishing trip.  Weight will not be as big a deal so I will be taking plenty of firepower.  My plan is to build a 460 Rowland,  I am a big fan of  1911s but I am leaning toward a Glock 21 as the base for the build.  Should be a great fishing companion carried in a kit bag.  I also plan on takining my 16 inch guide gun and whats left of a box of Garrett Hammerheads, its not like you shoot those for fun.

New Post
11/30/2012 6:58 PM
I agree with Joe Nava of the NRA staff that knowledge of bear behavior, anatomy, marksmanship, and a stiffly constducted bullet which will not fragment, but which stays together and penetrates deeply is proba ly the way to go. My friend Tom who is with the USPHS in Alaska says that his 300-gr. .44 Mag. loads are only about 110) fps, but keep on going like the energizer bunny. I think that any solid bullet with as large a flat nose as possible, at velocities over 1000 fps will penetrate enough. The 180-gr. in. 357 or 10mm sbluld do the job, or something 240+ in the. 44s.
New Post
2/6/2015 8:57 AM
I first moved to Fairbanks in 2009 with the Army, and now that I am out I am moving back. This weekend actually. I had multiple long discussions with people, including Joe Nava and bought a 4inch barreled .357 mag and a bunch of Cor Bon 200grn HC. I sold that gun when I moved, and am now in the market again, with more experience and alot of the same questions.
In western Washington, where I have been, I have carried a 1911, Glock 21, and Ruger SP101, but here we mostly have smaller black bears. The kit bag has solved my concealed and comfort problems when in the woods (I have stories that are too long for this about those problems) so I need not worry about going too big. Of course practice with any firearm, and practicing good habits in the woods, and having spray are more important than which launching platform you use, so here's my question: am I crazy if I carry a 3 inch .357?
Thank you in advance for your input!

Government in its best state is a necessary evil. -Thomas Paine
New Post
2/6/2015 6:03 PM
Excellent thread!

Phil Shoemaker would also be an excellent person to quiz.

I have never seen a brown bear in real life so I don’t claim to be an expert on them.

My issue with the really big bore pistols, 10mm/41mag and up, is the controllability in adverse situations under time constrains. It is one thing to pull off a drill on a sterile range with warm ups and fresh cup of coffee. It is another to try and hit a running, pissed off animal when it’s raining and you just dumped your ass in the mud trying to back up. I shot a pistol well and have killed a mess of stuff with one. I also realize for ME that the real hard hitting big bore pistols are too much of a good thing. It’s just physics.

Bigger and faster is always better but it comes at the price of shootability, portability, deployment speed, and rounds on target. Not to mention training costs.

What is the penetration difference in any of the loads that have been listed? How would they compare to the a 9mm/147gr or 357/158-200gr? Let us also assume a 4-5” barrel for all loads. Is a hot 44mag, 45LC, or 454Casull load really worth twice the recoil and recovery time between splits?

I have killed stuff with 12g buckshot and have always found it lacking. If it’s close enough that you get a solid pattern with buck you would probably be better off using a well-designed slug. I would bet that anyone that is using buckshot consistently on animals is doing it because that is all they have.

Maybe we can run some drills at the summer gathering. I will bring the shot timer if someone brings the bigbores.

All that said I think this is more of a training issue than a hardware issue.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
2/7/2015 5:14 AM
strow wrote:I would bet that anyone that is using buckshot consistently on animals is doing it because that is all they have.


I would add to this that there may also be places, (usually more populous areas of the country) where buckshot is legally allowed for hunting, and other projectiles are not. That said, where I live, buck is not allowed, but handguns, shotgun slugs, and rifles are all allowed. That suggests to me that buck doesn't do well for most hunters. Probably because they are shooting too far. 

New Post
2/7/2015 3:56 PM
Anybody else ever read the papers that came from the Linebaugh seminars? Like has been stated in this thread already a heavy slug at 1200fps is about ideal, they dont seem to gain a whole lot by pushing them faster than that.
I ended up with a Glock 20 because it weighed the same as my .357 with nearly 3x the capacity. The 10mm and the .357 are near identical ballistically unless you have a very heavy framed .357 that can be loaded extra hot and even then you are limited to no more than 6 rounds. I worry more about grow operations when I'm out wandering than I do about critters so I like the capacity of the Glock. Now on the other hand if I ever do end up in a place where big bears are a concern the Glock will likely be left behind in favor of my .454, it's just comforting knowing you have that much power handy (and yes I know and understand that power is nothing if it can't be delivered were needed). My .454 is the upper limit of what I can shoot well and even then I limit range sessions to no more than 20 rounds, even so I still have a hankering for a .475 Linebaugh. I dont have any practical use for it but it might come in handy someday if I ever need to stop a locomotive.
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