Many people claim that handguns are useless for protection against bears. Numerous examples have shown that this is a false notion. Handguns may not be ideal as defensive weapons for bears, but they can be effective. In a defensive situation, you have to use what is available. In this case, a homeowner in Alaska used a .45 against a brown bear that was trying to get into his house on July 7th of this year. He and his son were in the home. He had scared off the animal with some warning shots just three hours before. adn.com picks up the story . . .

“I couldn’t believe that it came back,” he said.

Landess grabbed his .45 pistol, stepped out onto his upper deck, took aim and fired seven rounds toward the bear’s vitals. He said the bear “got crazy” and ran about 50 feet before it collapsed and died.

Landess said while he has seen bears around his property, living in close proximity to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, he had never experienced one this aggressive. He said he didn’t have any food around his house that could have attracted the bear but did have an empty cooler on his porch that the bear tossed around along with some chairs. He said this was the first big game he’d ever killed.

“I’m not a hunter; I’m a fisherman,” he said. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I wanted to scare him off.”

A comment by Landess’ son on ADN.com gives us some more details:  The pistol was a Hi-Point .45, and while seven shots were fired, only one shot hit the bear.

 Yes that was my dad and he shot it with a highpoint 45. Shot at it 7 times but only one shot hit in the directed area. One threw the lung dropped it.

This appears to be another case of a bear that became too acclimated to humans. It associated humans with food, and so it became a serious risk to human life.

Use of firearms as a defensive tool against animals is fairly common in the United States, though it is more common against an aggressive raccoon or a rattlesnake than against bears. No one knows exactly how many times a year guns are used defensively against animals. My personal observation: in rural areas, defensive uses against animals, whether to defend life or property, are more common than defensive uses against people.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

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149 Responses to .45 vs 9-foot Brown Bear

    • Think of the time and energy that he had to exert in skinning out that bear! It is required in bear self defense shootings in Alaska, and may be a reason why more are not reported. If some one shoots, and the bear runs off…

      Do they really want to follow up and be rewarded with a rigorous skinning job?

      Skinning a bear and packing out the hide and skull is not an inconsequential task.

      • Who gets to keep the hide and skull? If it’s the Department of natural Resources, they can come on down and skin their own damn bear. If it’s me, I’ll put in the work myself, thanks.

        • In Alaska the state gets the hide and skull and the meat is donated to a charity in defensive shootings. If the wildlife troopers or charity can get to it in a reasonable amount of time then they may come skin it out for you, otherwise it is your responsibility and it’s a serious criminal offense if you don’t do it.

    • where do you get your ammo? is $.35-.45 to much? evrn my top of the line defensive ammo is under $.60 a round. i know it costs more now a days but not that bad.

      would be nice to prices of 6-7 years ago. lol same for food n gas.

  1. I love that it was a Hi-Point and not a KImber or some other $1000.00 beauty queen. At least with a Hi-Point he would have an effective bludgeon after he emptied those seven rounds.

    • The bear didn’t know the difference. I’ll bet the weapon cost less than one dollar per pound of bear.

    • Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.

      As a participant in several brown bear encounters during my time in Alaska, this has me stunned. The Hi Point is interesting, but the .45 is stunning.

      And to think – I wasted all that money on those trick Brenneke 12 gauge slugs and my 629 with the mag-na-ported 3″ barrel…

  2. Wow, he’s pretty lucky. that situation could’ve been…
    (•_•)
    ( •_•)>⌐■-■
    (⌐■_■)
    Grizzly.

    • If I had to bet on the ammo, I would bet on 230 grain hardball. It is the most common. Perhaps others have experience with Hi-Point reliability with hollowpoint ammunition. Maybe we will see a review of the Hi-Point .45….

    • Against big game (for bear defense) you are supposed to use hard lead alloy. I think it comes as plain ball ammo, no jacket.
      It pierces further than expanding ammo.

        • Larry,
          Original cast (100% pure lead) bullets used by big game hunters in Africa had a tendency to splatter on large thick skinned animals. The pure lead bullets would produce a nasty shallow wound but wouldn’t kill the beast. Not good to piss off a Rhino or Elephant. They tried solid copper bullets but they tended to go straight though the beasts without causing to much trauma or large wounds. Copper clad bullets allowed the bullet to stay together and have a controlled expansion while penetrating deeply. Modern copper clad bullets used alloyed lead so I don’t see any reason to use an unclad bullet. Ball rounds should do the trick for penetration.

        • This is a “it depends” things. On game a hard cast SWC produces good penetration and larger wound channels than hard ball or expanding handgun bullets. The key is hard cast. Soft cast bullets are great expanders and tend to not breakup. But penetration is more like a JHP which can be deficient on game like bear.

    • vs bear hide… FMJ 230gr all the way. HP will make a bigger wound but not get vary deep. fur, hide, bone, you need a deep wound to get into the vitals or you only piss it off.

      sucks armor persing rounds are “illegal” they are awesome for hunting.

    • Rapid fire a HiPoint .45 under those conditions. I wouldn’t even want to imagine it. The gun is no nail driver on a square range much less the dead cold of Alaska facing off the boogeyman in brown fur. Facing the bear with a HiPoint alone is an act of testicular fortitude that would leave a pair of bowling balls on the light side of the scale.

      • It is July. In Alaska, July is much like northern Wisconsin in July, only the days are even longer, at least on the Kenai peninsula.

        I have been there. Much like northern Wisconsin.. with mountains and ocean…

      • It’s summer in Alaska, too. I just checked the weather for Sterling, Alaska, and the low for tonight is projected to be over 50 degrees. I don’t know what it was ten days ago, but I doubt it’d qualify as “dead cold.”

        Edit: was beaten to it.

        • FWIW, I lived on the Kenai Peninsula for a few years … summer highs were often 50s or 60s, sometimes 70s, and rarely (but occasionally) 80s. Didn’t hit the 80s most years but it does get there sometimes.

          And during late June / early July, there is easily 18+ hours of daylight. Plus extended twilight.

        • I’m in the lower 48, and we’ve had maybe two days this year that topped 80. A few more that got close, but never went past 78 or so. Looking at the forecasts for the area in question, it’s not that much cooler than here.

          Then again, a week or two ago we had lows getting down into the mid 30s, so it might have been a bit chilly up there. I still wouldn’t call it “dead cold.”

      • High Points are actually pretty damn accurate. Maybe it’s the fixed barrel, but you can get good groups out of them if you can manage the awful trigger.

      • Worst part would be dealing with that crap safety. Honestly that’s the only thing keeping me from buying one. I know it works but the ergonomics just plain suck.

      • I have a Hi-point C-9 9mm that is tack driver with 115 gr fmj. not so much with hp’s. But I would not use it on bears. My 1911, thats a different story.

    • I read it as his son said one shot went where he wanted, I don’t interpret that to mean the other six missed the bear, just that they didn’t hit the vital zone.

    • +1 True.

      That said there is a hell of a big difference between emptying a mag at a bear off of your front porch and facing a charging bear.

      In the situation mentioned in the article, I think a Ruger 10/22 would have worked just as well.

        • There are quite a few recorded Grizzly kills with .22lr. Even at least one off the top of my head while charging. Google is your friend.

          Brown bears are big, heavily built, and tough as hell but they aren’t magical unicorns that bullets bounce off.

          The point I was trying to make is that killing an animal is a lot different from stopping an enraged animal in its tracks.

  3. If it were me, I would have use my .338, but of course he said he was a fishing man not a hunter. I would like to give him a hint, if in Alaska better to have at least a 44 mag. a 45 is for us city folk (flat landers)! Always watch your backside.

  4. “He shot it threw the lung “(sic). Original reporter should go back to school since spelling is his/her JOB. Anyway 1 for 7? Shake much?

    • Like a damn leaf I imagine. If you had nothing but the cheapest .45 on the market in the dead of night against something that could EAT YOU and wasn’t going to be scared away you’d be likely less then a bench rest worth the steady at the time.

      • The way the story reads, the ex-bear was trying to burglarize the home at the lower level, whilst our intrepid angler was positioned in the home’s built tree stand (i.e. the upper deck).

        Hardly seems like a scene that would inspire the shakes.

        • I got the shakes really bad after I shot my first buck when I was 13. But, they did not occur until after the event. I think I read somewhere that it happens coming down from an adrenaline high…

        • If you don’t get the shakes after shooting a bear with a handgun, I want to know what your nerves are made of.
          Every time I’m near one, they make me sweat. Then when I find it cooling down, I have to wait to dress it.

        • Having spent 10 years in Alaska I can tell you that a grizzly can be awfully mean. There have been instances where a Grizzly has been shot 4 times with a 300 win mag and the 6 times with a 44 magnum and it stopped at the mans feet. They are extremely dangerous animals!!!! But Moose kill more people in Alaska then Grizzlys do!!!!

    • His son wrote that in the comments following the news report, not the reporter. Read this TTAG article again, and you will agree.

    • A .357 Magnum revolver with a 6+ inch barrel and 180 grain hardcast lead bullet ammunition is fairly potent for what you would likely encounter in Washington.

      Nevertheless, consider moving up to .44 Magnum. While the recoil is stout, it is not anywhere near as bad as everyone claims and most men should be able to handle the recoil. I would rather launch a .429 inch diameter, 300 grain bullet at a four-legged attacker than a .357 inch diameter, 180 grain bullet.

      Important note: .44 Magnum revolvers are heavier than .357 Magnum revolvers and the added weight reduces perceived recoil to about the same level as .357 Magnum in a revolver.

      • Fired a .44 Magnum for the first time this year. Desert Eagle and then the S&W 29. I wouldn’t take the Eagle into the woods of Alaska but the recoil was light. Lighter than my .45.

        The 29 has a stout recoil, but it’s not monstrous. In fact, it’s about as bad as many people make .45 out to be. I’m not a big guy at all, so it’s not like I’m some gorilla who thinks its a small gun. I would get pretty tired firing a hundred rounds through it, but for carry and general practice purposes the .44 Magnum is not all that bad. Plus it is a hoot to shoot. I thought it was more fun than the Desert Eagle.

  5. My other thought on this is the man was very blessed and fortunate.

    Hopefully after this he goes out and buys himself a good shotgun and keeps it loaded with slugs.

    Who the heck lives in country with NINE FOOT bears and has only a handgun?

    • He should be able to obtain a reliable pump 12 gauge for the price of a Hi-Point .45.

      Buds lists the Hi-Point for $162 and the ASI Pump 12 Gauge for $179…

      But hey, the guy is a fisherman, a pistol is easier to take on a boat.

      • I see your point, but seems to me a cheapo 12 guage that works would be worth taking on a boat and if he loses it, so what?

        Ever see Alaska State Troopers, those guys have a 12 gauge next to them in their cars loaded up for Moose constantly.

        I’d probably have two of them “loaded for bear”

        Cliches have a grounding in fact.

        Moose are far more dangerous than bears. They are way too stupid.

        The bear must have had a bad day to come back.

        • I would get a shotgun and a Highpoint 4595 carbine which can use the same mags as the handgun.

      • Actually the fisherman part makes it more surprising. Shotguns are pretty common on boats in certain places for killing sharks or big fish up there like halibut. There’s a reason they make Marine versions (hint: it’s not the Corps variety)

    • “Who the heck lives in country with NINE FOOT bears and has only a handgun?”

      Seriously! I understand using it for the warning shots, but when it came back… He was a very underprepared lucky guy.

      • That’s a good question. Nothing wrong with handguns in .45acp, we own two such in our household, but those are just two in an entire collection and we’re generally only dealing with six foot tall predators in the city. In bear country, I would do the research, but initially I would think that 12 gauge slugs or a rifle in .45-70 govt. would be called for.

        • “a rifle in .45-70 govt. would be called for.”

          .45-70 Govt is generally where my mind goes first when I think “bear gun.”

          That said…requisite anecdote: I once helped track a wounded black bear in eastern NC..shot by a .45-70. Nothing is 100%.

          (Yeah, in that case, shot placement may well have been the primary issue, but couldn’t resist throwing it out there. 😉 ).

      • I met a guy recently who said he won’t carry concealed because it would be too expensive to defend himself (in court) if he ever had to use it. The world is filled with all kinds of stupid, people. This guy got lucky.

  6. I have to admit that I am a little disappointed. When they said .45 caliber, I figured it was .454 Casull or perhaps .45 Long Colt +P. But .45 ACP? Wow.

    Just about any big-bore handgun will kill a brown bear given enough time. The question is whether a big-bore handgun can incapacitate a brown bear before it harms you. That is where .44 Magnum, .45 LC +P, .454 Casull, and .460 S&W with hardcast lead bullets are the preferred choices in a handgun. Of course a long gun is always better.

    • Maybe he actually hit it with one of those “warning shots” three hours earlier and ol’ Ursa Major was just coming back to die on his killer’s doorstep. Like as a clue for the police.

    • There were some statistics compiled a few years ago in Russia of various cases involving brown bears and self-defense with a handgun of different calibers – there was everything there from .380 ACP to .45 ACP, though the most common, as you’d expect, was 9x18mm Makarov.

      For the most part, the numbers were too small to derive statistically significant conclusions from them. But one thing that stood out was that all calibers from 9mm NATO and up had virtually the same stats in terms of successfully stopping the bear, and those stats were ~80% success rate.

      • so what about the unsuccessful 20% How did they get their story or did they find a empty gun with a pile of bloody clothes next to it?

        • It means that either the person survived (e.g. because they were not alone and someone else packed something more substantial, or bear spray etc, or because the bear broke off – they do it sometimes). Or they found the remains with a fired handgun on them.

          Note though that because handguns are not legal to carry by civilians in Russia, such cases are very rare in general, regardless of the outcome. Most of them involve military units stationed in wilderness areas, where a soldier went for a walk in the surrounding forest, or something like that. Hence why 9×18 Mak is what was used in most encounters.

  7. TTAG Commentors: “Handguns suck at killing people.”

    Really? Cause they worked pretty well against a moose, and against this brown bear. And of course there are thousands of people killed with handguns every year.

    • Improper analysis.

      It’s “Rate” that is an issue…as in reliable likelihood.

      How many people are shot with handguns but do NOT die? Eh?

      All that said…first rule: Have a gun.

    • While it did kill the moose and the bear, they do still “suck”. I wouldn’t call getting crazy and running 50 feet effective. If this had happened without a barrier between the two, it likely would have ended tragically. The “suck” is relative to rifles/shotguns most of which are more effective than .45 ACP.

    • No, not improper. There are more than 6,000 murders per year committed with handguns in the US per year. A handgun in the hands of a skilled user is indeed a deadly weapon – a weapon which accounts for one of the highest death tolls of available weapons used in murders in the US.

      I could have the idiotic attitude that my handgun is worthless in a DGU – because it “sucks at killing people,” or I could have the cold, hard determination to use the best weapon at hand to the best possible effect. Yes, I’ll transition to a long gun if I can, but that option is not always available.

      Should I face a handgun in combat, should I think “No big deal. Handguns suck at killing people?” Good luck with that. Something does not become true simply because it is repeated.

      • Congratulations, you completely missed the fvcking context in which “handguns suck at killing people” is used.

        It is a fact that most people survive gunshot wounds. a even higher survive handgun gunshot wounds. It is also a fact that compared to long guns, handguns do indeed suck at “killing people”.

        Furthermore, I dont think anybody means that phrase as it is literally said, as in “handguns suck at killing people” in that people aren’t killed.

        So swiiiiishhhh….thats the sound of the point flying completely over your head.

        • Oh no, you made a swish sound! You must be smarter than me!

          The “handguns suck at killing people” is a comment that has always annoyed me. If you’re a military guy, then perhaps you believe that. That’s what we were taught in the Marine Corps Infantry – that handguns were basically worthless.

          I consider that comment stupid, and always have. It doesn’t make me dull or less tactically sound than anyone here.

        • I’m with you 81. If handguns suck so bad why haven’t they become a footnote in gun history. Pistols are not a primary weapon, the rifle is. And true more people probably do survive pistol shots but that’s most likely due to people like in Chicago that never fire their weapon except during drive bys and don’t know how to aim them and usually when someone is within pistol range the pucker factor is force 10 and all you want to do is shoot the guy to stop him.
          We can all pontificate about this and that about pistols but I’d rather have one than not. BTW all of you guys that complain about the recoil of a .45 should go to the gym and get rid of that limp wrist.

  8. Are the misses on the gun or shooter, I wonder? At $150 I’ve been considering a 45 hi point, not as first choice but as a stashable weapon. Obviously when he did hit it, it was effective.

  9. I was given a hi point by a gun snob… 2000+ rounds later without a single problem. Ugly even by Glock standards ( I own several) but it goes bang reliably.

  10. The Hi-Points that I saw when I was actively instructing were reliable and reasonably accurate. They were also top-heavy, felt awkward to me, and I did not like the control system.. but they generally worked, at least with ball ammo.

    • Hmmm. My initial response was to ask what planet you were teaching on, but come to think of it, I’ve seen a couple of Hi-Points in the last year that made it through a 250 round class with only a non-induced malfunction or two.

      Those were certainly the exceptions.

      The rest of them lived up to their one-malfunction every 29 rounds reputation.

      John

  11. Friend killed a charging bull moose with a .40, not dead in his tracks, but drew him off the charge. Animal collapsed a few yards away. Hornady 165gr critical defense, 5 in and around center mass. Said it looked like he hit his insides with a blender. He tells the story very well, would make a good reader submission the next time RF gives away a gun.

    Glock .40 = “moose gun”

  12. Why would a dude leave his gun (even a Hi Point) in his truck, in bear country? What would he expect to do if a TWO legged threat appeared?
    Remember the old saying, The best gun is the one you have with you!

  13. There was at least one case I’ve heard of where a bear was killed with a .22LR (I believe it was through the mouth or the eye and the bear right on top of the victim). Sure, .45 ACP is within the realm of providing a “killing” shot on a grizzly.

    No handgun short of maybe a .500 or .460 will reliably *stop* one, though, even with hardcast loads. If the bear can still move it can easily maul you until it expires from blood loss and organ damage, the constitution and aggression of these animals is not something you want to take chances with.

  14. The bear ran off for 50 feet, then collapsed and died.

    If you’re in a direct confrontation with a brownie or grizz, and you shoot it through the lung(s), it will quite likely die. A couple of super-velocity .22LR’s would probably do capably for a lung shot.

    And if that bear decides to munch on your before it crumps from bleeding into the lung(s), you’re going to be at the very least pretty messed up.

    Ask a bow hunter how long it takes for an animal to collapse due to a lung shot. Bow hunters prefer lung shots – and with modern broadheads, animals bleed out perhaps even faster than from bullet wounds. But they’re not “dead right there” killing shots.

    When I meet a bear, I’d like to skip the part where he gets to gnaw on me for a few moments before he shuffles off his mortal coil.

    • Bears have a very low heart rate and are slow bleeders. I am sure a shot to lung is going to kill them but you still might be their last meal.

  15. We all know that the caliber wars are stoopid. There is only a fingernail or two difference between a 9mm and a 45 ACP. There is you answer a 9mm is not bringing down a 9′ brown bear with a single round. This isn’t the first time that a 45 bagged a big one. Somebody took down a Kodiak at Denali a few years ago with a 45.

    • There are plenty of cases of a 9mm killing a bear and plenty of cases of more than 5 shots of 45 ACP needed to kill a bear.

      If this is another one of your 45 ACP fanboy orgasms, then this is quite pathetic.

      (45 fans should be sprayed with a can of bear mace)

      • “(Rabid fans of any caliber or brand should be sprayed with a can of bear mace)”

        Minor improvement.

      • Find us one where a 9 killed a grizz with one shot. A quick search on google did not turn up anything…

  16. Isn’t a Hi-Point 45 something like 42 ounces? I had a 380 & was afraid to shoot it. It weighed a ton too. Hey use whatever you got. Great story.

  17. Thank you Mr Browning…. just goes to show the stopping power of the 45 ACP…. It will still put big nasty critters, 2 and 4 legged down…. It’s been my personal choice for self defense ever since Uncle Sam first let me shoot one…

  18. Just when I was wishin I had a HiPoint .45 range toy… I find out its a bear stopper! No I’m not serious! But an equally cheap Stevens 12G pump would have been a lot better, maybe even hold more rounds too.
    My friend got a hipoint 9mm and IT WORKED. It fires bullets, when you pull the trigger, accurately, and you can afford ammo with all the bills you saved. Obviously I would prefer my G26 if things get serious but im lucky I used to make enough money to afford one, and got it when i did.
    Anyone remember the story of the old lady fending off some hooligans with her old rusty HiPoint carbine? Another win for the company that makes perfectly fine guns people can afford. Get over it, snobs.

  19. I wouldn’t go too far on the “pointy stick” comparo, Chuck Adams’ story of his bow hunt for Brown bear still resonates with me.

  20. Neither the caliber nor the brand would be my first choice against a bear. (I’m thinking .338L, if I am going to go TO the bear. But lugging one of those around daily is unworkable, so a lot of the things people have mentioned upthread would work. The easiest, logistically, is probably .44 magnum. Presently I use a G20 in 10mm for hiking, but this isn’t ReallyBigBear country.)

    But obviously under the right circumstances even a combo like this can work. He’s just lucky the bear couldn’t get to him while it was dying.

    • Steve, My opinon is the 10mm is a good choice for just about everything you would run into. Small and light enough to carry and powerful enouh to take care of most problems 4 or 2 legged. Down south we have a terrible problem with wild pigs. I don’ know anyone that goes into the woods hunting without a large calibar auto because of them.

  21. In rural areas defensive use against animals are much more common than against humans. And, of course, they are much more likely it involve shots fired and lethal results; due to the radically different rules of engagement.

    I’ll admit I’ve often carried a .45acp as back-up against black bears and never felt helpless–but u would have wanted something more substantial to defend the homestead against an intruder that size!

  22. And a sucker-punch to the appendix killed Houdini. This doesn’t make 45 ACP a credible round for bear defense.

    • I think a .45 would do fine against most black bears but I would sure like a 338 win mag or a 12 gauge if I was staring down a charging coast grizz.

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  24. Griz with a little adrenaline in them simply defy the laws of nature as I thought I understood them. The first one I remember was at 3 years old. A few chickens had gone missing over as many days, I was outside after dusk in the front driveway when my dad came sprinting down the steps with his Argentinian Mauser rebarrelled in .30-06. Turns out ol griz was down at the bottom of the driveway, about 90 yards away. Bear saw us, started his charge, dad took the shot. In the time it took for my dad to work the bolt and put his eye back to the scope, the bear had closed the distance to about 5 yards, at which point it dropped its face into the dirt and came to a stop.

    Griz got hauled down to the barn, skinned and butchered (clearest memory of the whole episode: bbq’d bear ribs, YUM). Pretty sure his ammo stock at the time was milsurp (point being, FMJ cuz pops was too cheap for soft point), which agrees with the relatively linear path found in the amateur autopsy that followed.

    My dad determined that the round had smashed up a rib going in the right side, pierced the right lung, burst one of Griz’ heart chambers, pierced the other lung, and cracked a rib on the other side before coming to a stop. …and that toothy brown bastard still came bad-breath close to dragging us into the abyss with him.

    Point of all this being, Griz is just not to be taken lightly, whether from the 2nd floor or 4th or whatever. I’ve seen enough that if I was Mr. Fisherman standing there with — bless me — a High-Point in .45, I’d likely be shaking sufficiently for my sight picture to include the magazine floorplate, and thinking at least I’d die with a warm feeling in my pants.

    Cheers,

    #OREGON HOBO#

  25. I recall reading about a Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy that killed a charging black bear with one shot from a 9mm and then, minutes later a female tiger (both animals had escaped a large animal sanctuary).

    No, I don’t have the link to the story and no I don’t know what brand of ammo the dept. issues, quit asking. 🙂

  26. Thankfully he had the advantage of a protected, elevated position. Had this happened in the bush, we may be reading a story that is completely different.

  27. Obviously a handgun is not the preferred choice for this job unless it’s of a “cannon-caliber” with the “bear” minimum (see what I did there?) starting with “Detective Harry Callahan’s” preferred choice> and going up from there…

    • I forgot to conclude my previous diatribe/ramble with “David killed Goliath” with a rock and yes a sling-shot can kill a beast (be it of 2-4 legs or no-legs at all) if it’s all one might have at his disposal during the time of a “life-or-death” event…

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