“The .41 Remington Magnum was introduced in 1964 to fill the ‘gap’ between the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum revolver cartridges,” Chuck Hawks of chuckhawks.com opines. “That this gap did not need to be filled appears not to have occurred to anyone except consumers. It uses actual .410” diameter bullets, unlike the old obsolete .41 Colt cartridge (which therefore cannot be used as a practice round in .41 Magnum revolvers).” How Wyoming resident Jerry Ruth came to be carrying a .41 caliber handgun is a story in itself. Which The Washington Post will not be telling. But the paper does give us insight into what happens where, when and what happens when a grizzly meets at .41 caliber bullet, and why it’s important to anyone other than the bear, Mr. Roth and providers of obscure caliber cartridges . . .
On the ground and barely able to see, Ruth grabbed his .41 Magnum-caliber revolver and started shooting. The third bullet pierced the bear’s heart and spinal cord, killing it from 25 feet.
“I’m glad I was armed with a firearm and I’m glad I was able to shoot straight,” said Ruth, attacked last July 19 a couple miles from his home not far from Yellowstone National Park.
Ruth’s gun quite possibly saved his life. It also provided fodder for a long-standing debate about whether a gun or bear spray is better in fending off a grizzly attack.
And why, pray tell would The Washington Post wish to resurrect this debate? As of Feb. 22, 2010, visitors to America’s National Parks can now pack heat, in states where it is legal to do so, in strict accordance with those laws. This is the first spring since the law was changed, and [some] people are worried that visitors will now be capping bears.
“Experience shows that putting firearms and grizzly bears in the same place ends up with dead grizzly bears,” said Steve Cain, senior biologist for Grand Teton National Park.
“Time will tell. Of course there is the potential for unintended consequences – injury to bears, injury to people,” said Glacier spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt.
Hang on; let’s check that law again.
The law does not allow visitors to fire or discharge the firearms in any way, brandish the weapon in the view of others, or any other use of the firearm. Enforcement of regulations concerning firearms use remains under the purview of the Department of the Interior.
So if you use your gun to defend yourself against an attacker—be it four legged or two—you’re looking at charges. At the discretion of the Department of the Interior and/or any other local, state or federal authority that wishes to pursue the matter. Lest we forget, grizzlies are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Ruffling a grizzly’s hair—never mind blowing its spinal cord to smithereens—is a federal beef.
So here’s what we have: a story predicting bad things from a law that does not allow bad things to happen but might (or might not) “encourage” good things to happen (relative to protecting yourself from being eaten by a grizzly bear). Are we done yet?
Yet park rangers in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier are still telling visitors that a pressurized can of hot-pepper oil – bear spray – is their best defense.
Their reasoning? Studies show that in most cases, putting a cloud of bear spray in a grizzly’s face works better than trying to stop a moving 400-pound animal with a perfectly placed bullet.
“You’ve got to be a really good shot with a gun,” said Yellowstone bear biologist Kerry Gunther. “That’s the beauty of bear spray. You don’t really have to aim it. All you have to do is pull it and pull the trigger.”
Bear spray, of course, also happens to be better for bears.