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While discussing the effectiveness of pistols in defence against bear attacks, a consistent theme is the claim that they’re not effective, difficult to use, and that many more people who use handguns are badly mauled than use pistols successfully. I tried to recall an incident where someone used a pistol to defend himself against a bear in which it didn’t work. I could not remember one, so I posted this request:


“Actually, there are legions of people who have been badly mauled after using a handgun on a bear. Even some of the vaunted magnums.”

OK, give us a few examples. As you claim “legions”, it should not be too hard.

I never received a response. I believe the claim was made in good faith. There has been an enormous amount of propaganda, fantasy, and electrons sprayed out there to spread the claim. There doesn’t seem to be much substance to it.

I engaged in an Internet search for instances where use of a pistol in defense against bears did not work. I found one discredited urban legend about someone finding six .38 bullets in a bear skull. I was not successful in finding instances of failure. That does not mean there has never been a failure.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  But it indicates that failures of a pistol defense against bears are rare.

In contrast, there have been a number of successful uses of pistols as a defense against bear attacks in the last few years.  Here are nine from the last three years.

AZ: Bow Hunter Uses Handgun to Stop Unprovoked Bear Attack In Sept, 2016

PAYSON, AZ – Authorities found two bear cubs after an archery deer hunter fatally shot an adult female bear with a handgun when it charged him in the Payson area.

AK: Two more Successful Bear Attack Defenses, 1 with Pistol (Aug 7, 2016)

On August 7, former search-and-rescue captain Don Kluting shot a sow with a .44 revolver after it charged him and a hiking partner in Nakwasina Sound — the first time this lifetime resident and outdoorsman had shot a bear in self-defense.

On 29 July, 2016, about 4 p.m. Kim Woodman used a 10 mm in an effective defense

Kim had a Glock model 20 10 mm pistol with him.  He was able to stop the attack by shooting the bear as it charged at him.  While backing away from the charging bear, Kim tripped and fell backward.  He instinctively attempted to fend off the bear with his foot, while he concentrated on firing the shots that saved his life.  The last shot was just short of contact.  It probably hit the bear in the chest, but also took off the tip of one of Kim’s toes.

AK: Guide Kills Attacking Grizzly with 9mm

In the last week in July, 2016, Phil Shoemaker had use a 9mm pistol to kill a grizzly that was threatening his clients and himself.  It worked.

ID: Bear Attack on Sleeping Man Stopped with a .45 Pistol (Oct 2015)

Steven Vouch reached for his gun when he realized he was being attacked, but it wasn’t there.  That is when his friend shot the bear with a .45.  Vouch is on the left in the Cowboy hat.

AK: Details on Charging Kodiak stopped with a .44 Mag Revolver (July 2015)

The bear was roughly 9 feet tall and started its charge at about 20 yards away. The man shot the bear by the time it moved half that distance, Svoboda said. “It all happened in really tight quarters,” he said. “He shot at it five times before it finally stopped and then once it was on the ground, it was still moving. So he shot it one more time and then it died.”

MA:Handgun Defense against Black Bear (Nov 2014) WEST SPRINGFIELD

A Sikes Avenue man shot and killed a black bear with single pistol-shot to the head Friday night after it started to go after his small dog, police said. 

Glacier National Park: Bear first sprayed, then shot with a .357 (July 2014)

Murphy first sprayed bear spray at the bear when it was 15 to 25 feet away, firing one shot from his .357 revolver when the bear had approached to within 7-10 feet.  The bear was charging uphill at the time.     He only fired one round at the bear, which fell back and stopped moving when shot.   Many have suggested that he should have continued firing, but it is hard to argue with success.

AK: .45 vs 9-Foot Brown Bear (July, 2014)

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.

I contacted Dave Smith, prominent author and bear attack expert. Dave was not able to recall an incident where a pistol used in self defense against a bear had failed. We talked about the study Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska.

In that study, the authors included 37 instances of a handgun being present when a bear attacked a human.  The instances were collected over a period from 1883 to 2009. They recorded six failures to stop the attack out of the 37 instances, an 84% success rate.

Smith said that data from the voluminous Defense of Life and Property reports in Alaska were part of what was searched for the 269 incidents used in the study. There were over a thousand DLP reports from 1986 to 1996, with over 100 reports a year being added at that time. Unfortunately, exactly what criteria was used to include some reports and exclude others wasn’t stated in the Efficacy paper.

Smith told me that attempts to obtain the data set used for the Efficacy paper have been rebuffed. It’s a red flag against a study’s validity when its authors won’t release their data. It appears that Todd Orr’s case (top photo), where he chose to use bear spray instead of his pistol, would have been counted as a pistol failure in the study. The pistol was there and he didn’t successfully use it to stop the attack.

Where are all these instances of pistol defense failures against bears? According to the mythology, there should be plenty of examples. Please help us find these cases.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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    • Perhaps you would have more luck looking for rifle failures. Far fewer folks in the woods with bear pistols, especially a couple decades ago.

      Check out the book “Dying to Hunt in Montana” for a entertaining look at how hunters managed to die including plenty of bear and other animal attacks.

      • We have a fair number of bear attack defenses where people armed with pistols used them successfully. If pistols tended to get people badly mauled or killed, there should be a significant number reported.

  1. When it looked like we were going to move to AK a few years back one of the tards at Gander Mountain told us to buy bear spray. The guy we knew from our raising of “exotic” dogs, who also worked the gun counter, laughed and told the kid to fuck off.

    Instead the wife went with a 12 gauge Mossy JIC short shotty on a single point sling and I went with a Ruger Super Redhawk in .454.

    Unfortunately the move fell through when the hiring manager who made the job offer got fired, but we still have the guns.

    • I know everyone says that .454 Casull is minimum to fend off brown bears … and yet from these accounts people appear to be using 9mm, 10mm, and .45 ACP successfully.

      On the other hand, we probably never hear about the instances where any handgun caliber fails because we never hear from that person again. What do they say, something like 100 people go missing in Alaska every year never to be found again? I have to wonder how many of them were bear victims that we never find.

      Anyhow, I imagine a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6+ inch barrel and 300 grain hardcast lead bullets would have to be pretty effective even on big brown bears at close range.

      • These days I’d prolly go with the 10mm semi but at the time I was on a short timeline. We had everything we owned packed into boxes and were 12 hours out from signing a multi-thousand dollar moving contract when we got the news that it was off. Any idea how complicated and expensive shipping firearms from the COTUS to AK is by truck? The Canucks freak out about that AR. Special licenses out the ass and such.

        Shit moved fast. I didn’t have time for a ton of internet research on the best bear gun. I just knew bear mace was retarded because my cousins live up there and have told me bears actually like the taste of the stuff on salmon.

        • Lived in Alaska for 3 years, and actually met my wife there. Loved it. There is an old joke up there. So the tourist shops will sell packs of bells and bear spray. The bells are supposedly so you don’t accidently sneak up on moose or bears and startle them. Well the joke is how can you identify bear scat. It smells spicy and has bells in it.

          Also believe it or not moose are the biggest danger in Alaska. More people get killed by moose by far then bears. It happens to bicyclists a lot. Riding through a trail they sturtle the moose and it tramples them to death. Moose weigh as much as bears (some up to 2000 pounds) and move way more quietly. And mama moose are just as protective of their babies as sow bears.

          I remember seeing a small car Chevy Aveo or similarly sized hatcheck back crash into a moose on the highway. The moose got up and went BESERK on this woman’s car. After getting hit by a car doing 65-70. Luckily a state trooper was close and put the animal down before it could injure the woman.

          • The moose were hunted out in Maine so the state imported a few and didn’t allow hunting for many years. The herds reached sustainable levels. Of course, this meant that they were on the roads more often. We actually blocked off streets so they could migrate. .. and so no motorist would run into them. One night I had to respond to a vehicle accident which occurred at low speed. The motorist hit a calf and wiped out the front right corner of his car. Maine was decent though. If you collided with a moose, you had the choice of the meat or the state paying for the damage to your vehicle, or, as a minimum, your deductible. Up there you see signs posted that “THE MOOSE IS LOOSE”.

        • I actually live in southern maine now. Love it there to. In Alaska if the troopers have to put down a moose they donate the meat to the homeless shelters. Always thought that was a good idea.

    • Ruger Super Redhawk, .454 Casull.
      6″ barrel with a scope. I bought that particular pistol as well for when I go to vacation in Alaska. I meant to go sooner, but life intervened. But it is on the bucket list, first on the list.

      • Vacation? I want to move there.

        I was up there for 10 days for a couple interviews. It was… well fuck the COTUS if you get my drift.

        • There is something about Alaska. If I hadn’t been called to live here in NM, Alaska would be where I would want to live. Who knows, I might get the call to live there next. As G-d wills.

  2. Welp, I’m never again leaving my bunker without full-body armor and an AA-12 with magnum slugs.

    • That is 84% in the Efficacy study. That is the study where the authors wrote that if they had included more incidents, the percentage of successes with firearms would probably have gone up. It is the study where they refuse to release their data. The study is notably deficient in black bear attacks. Most black bear attacks are predatory and more easily defended against with a handgun.

      But if a black bear gets popped, and no one gets hurt, who is going to report it? And in this study, who is going to count it as a successful bear defense?

      • Actually it is black bear that have the highest number of lethal bear attacks. More than brown bear or grizzly.

        Google lethal bear attacks and Wikipedia has each lethal bear attack listed by year, with a detailed breakdown of each incident by species.

        • The reason for more Black Bear attacks is that they are more domesticated and hang around campgrounds far more which means they encounter humans a lot more hence the high encounter numbers where foolish humans treat them like they would a dog.

        • “Cuz wikipedia is a reliable source of information?”

          Do you have a better one? It’s pretty accurate on the whole until you get into very expertise or politically charged topics. Certainly more so than what some guy in a gun store said.

        • If you think wikipedia is ‘factual on the whole,’ you simply are not paying attention. Wikipedia is SJW infiltrated shit.

          And yes, I do have a better one:

          Far, far better, and it’s not even one month after public release.

        • Let me suggest that it is a numbers thing too, when it comes to why so many more black bears are involved than brown bears. Browns are mostly (as I understand it) mostly limited to remoter parts of AK, WY, ID and MT. Maybe now N and E WA. Killed off most everywhere else. Seem to remember the last one killed in CO in maybe the 1950s. Being federally protected, they are coming back, but wolves seem to be rebounding faster. Blacks are most everywhere.

          Where we live in NW MT, we do have both, and, yes, the blacks are the ones who come in close. We had a big fire maybe 10 miles out of town this summer, and a forest ranger told of seeing a bunch of black bear running from the fire, swimming the river, and taking off into the mountains north of town. Asked about brown bear, he indicated that they have a corridor they keep open for them, but we have yet to see them in close to town, at least where we live. Originally, I think that they mostly were problem transplants from either Glacier or Yellowstone, but have done well in the wilderness area NW of us, except for two who met untimely demises, one from a BNSF train, and another against an armed opponent. Forest Service has posters up at their camp sites highlighting the differences (though you do hear the joke about bear scat with bells and/or pepper spray).

          Which is to say that you can probably arm for black bear in most of the country, but had better expect the bigger and more aggressive brown bears in those portions of those states. Not that bear spray is going to do that much good against a charging black bear sow protecting her cubs.

        • In general JR_in_NC you’d be right. But the Wiki list actually breaks down each bear attack, where it happened, who was attacked and what species of bear committed the lethal attack. It looks like a pretty accurate record.

        • Good quality Wikipedia articles like the one cited here are _very_ reliable because, like all reliable references, they include citations of the original source material which you can check out yourself. Reference works like Wikipedia are supposed to be the starting point of verifiable research, not the end. You use them to find more detailed and exhaustive information on your research subject and then use that to draw your own conclusions.

          This whole “Wikipedia is unreliable” attitude is nothing more than ignorance about how reference materials like encyclopedias are supposed to work. Yes, articles can be vandalized but it is also supremely easy to look at the edit history and roll these articles back to their previous state. The “flaw” that makes it “unrelieable” is also the advantage that makes it more adaptable to our fast-changing world. The cited article contains more than 200 references to published newspapers and books that you can read for yourself. Those little numbers sprinkled throughout the text actually mean something useful if you just scroll down to the part at the bottom of the article that nobody apparently ever reads.

        • I think we found the wikipedia editor.

          Wikipedia is converged SJW horse shit. Even on “factual” pages, there is opinion and subtle ‘nudging’ included. The social programming rampant at wp is open and bad enough that in STEM, we’ve been openly mocking the stupidity of wikipedia for going on a decade now.

          Go ahead, Steven, keep telling yourself wp is a ‘reliable’ source of information just because it includes little numbers to “citations.”

  3. I’m hoping to encounter a bear at a close enough distance to use my 10mm.
    I’ll be in bear country in 3 days.

    • Seems and odd kind of hoping. Like a race car driver wanting to wreck to see if his roll cage will hold up. All good and well until something goes wrong. I wish you a safe trip into bear country.

    • I don’t understand. Are you going bear hunting? Or are you hoping to get into a situation where you have to shoot a charging bear?

      If the former, please consider using something more powerful so you can make a humane kill. If the latter, please seek professional help.

      • Yup. Sounds like the guys who say “I wish someone would try and mug ME in an alley at 2AM.”

        You may come out okay, but there are plenty of endings to that scenario that aren’t good, even if you do things right.

    • Tom, I think you are a stand up guy in all respects, and you have funny and sometimes appropriately scary stories, but what passes for a good time to you I will just never understand.

      And I reckon that’s okay.

    • Umm, Tom in Oregon, step away from the bottle, put down the whiskey and take a deep breath, because if you are not drunk right now, you are definitely crossing into the territory of ….crazy?

  4. If I’m in “bear country” .357 Magnum is a bit light, a full-capacity 10mm Glock 40 is preferable. A .41 Remington Magnum is more comforting, and if you can handle anything larger, you’d best use it! If available, a Serbu “Super Shorty” in 12 gauge is the best “life insurance” you can buy.

    • .357 magnum: 180 gr (12 g) LFN Buffalo Bore Heavy: 783 ft-lb.
      10 mm 230 gr (15 g) Hardcast Solid: 676 ft·lb.

      If you look at different loads, .357 and 10mm are consistently neck and neck, not much different between them except semi-auto capacity, which is a perfectly valid reason to choose 10mm, but .357 is definitely not “a bit light” compared to 10mm.

      • – What barrel lengths were those taken at?

        – Correct me if I’m wrong here, but with a handgun slug like that, isn’t it the diameter of flesh that is crushed by the bullet that does the damage, not the “energy”? In which case, as long as we get sufficient penetration, a wider flat nosed bullet would be the superior performer.

        • .357 magnum barrel was 4″, 10mm barrel was 4.6″

          Difference in diameter is 9/10th of a millimeter. That’s a pretty negligible difference in the anatomy of a bear.

          Not knocking your 10mm. Both are just fine, and there’s not a really significant difference between them. They’re right in the same class of power and effectiveness, just one’s for a revolver and the other’s for a semi-auto.

        • To add to my previous post, if I had to choose my S&W 681 or a Glock 20 for bear country, I’d have to admit the Glock 20 — 15 rounds of 10mm — would be a pretty attractive option. With all that capacity the Glock is still a bit lighter, and it’s a proven sturdy, reliable design, and as they say, nobody ever wished they had fewer rounds in the gun when a bear was trying to eat them.

          But since I don’t currently own a Glock 20, I’d take my 681 and not feel too bad about it.

        • IF it’s travelling fast enough–1300 f/s seems somewhere near the lower threshold–a flat-point bullet like an LBT LFN produces enough cavitation, tissue splash, to crush and tear the surrounding tissue and leave a wound usefully larger than the bullet. In .45 Colt, my 335-grain LFNs at ~1290 f/s would leave wound tracks the diameter of a golf ball and 42″ deep through wet newsprint, or break heavy bone (in deer, never took an elk with one), hold together and continue to penetrate. Wounds through deer were similar in diameter to those through newsprint, but varied with the density of the tissue struck. Boost the velocity to 1600 f/s from a carbine, and wounds through muscle could be the diameter of a tennis ball–but much smaller through tough, elastic, mostly-air-not-water lungs. But one non-expanding shot high through the lungs broadside dropped the little meat buck I’m remembering in his tracks anyway.

          The downside to hard cast bullets is that at much over 1300 f/s they begin to break up on heavy bone. They break the bone, and (at 1600 f/s) the remnant chunks of lead are big, and still penetrate a ways, but not nearly as deep as bullets that don’t shatter. So there’s a “sweet spot” with hard cast bullets, perhaps between 1300 and 1350 or 1400 f/s, and the best performance is to be had by throwing the heaviest bullet you can at that speed.

          I carry a 3″ M66 .357 in a shoulder holster for convenience most of the time when hunting–with a high-power rifle, shotun, or .22, depending on the game–in cougar/black bear country. I’d feel a bit under-gunned if I faced a big specimen of either, but bullet placement is half the equation, (adequate penetration is the other), and I shoot that little gun very fast and very accurately, especially with a little tachypsychia going.

          In grizzly country it would be a 5 1/2″, high-pressure .45 Colt.

          And BTW (with the right bullets) a .45 Colt carbine run at 38,000 CUP performs similarly to a much-more expensive .454 Casull revolver, and with a 16″ barrel is almost as easy to carry and as fast to handle. Just beware of Rossi (s); often their firing pins are too short for complete reliability. That almost got me eaten by a pair of feral dobermans once. Kid you not….

      • With the S&W M&P R8, you get 8 rounds of .357 in moon clips which negates the speed and capacity advantage of most 10mm auto-loaders. If I’m facing down a bear, I’ll take the simplest and most reliable firearm with the muzzle energy to accomplish the job. I don’t want any feed or ejection failures stopping me from getting all 8 rounds downrange.

  5. I guess the failure victims were all eaten by the bear and the bear took the gun as a trophy prize and had a salmon buddy of his turn the metal of the gun into a pair of grillz so that the other bears knew that he/she was an OG bear that no other bear better mess with.

  6. The Shoemaker account is particularly interesting. I really love my own 5900 series S&W but would hardly give it a thought for bear defense. Better than nothing comes to mind, but I have better. So did he and carried it anyway. One huge difference being, he really knows bears. Another being, he has experience with exactly that type of situation. Lacking both of those, I would opt for a larger caliber revolver that I know I can shoot well, for the sake of confidence at the least. The point being largely moot as very few bear problems have occurred here in SD since Hugh Glass inspired Leo to make a movie. I’ve read enough articles by Mr. Shoemaker to know that he endorses bear spray. Again, experience with bears likely makes all the difference as to when bear spray is a deterrent or a defense.

    • It may not be relevant, but Mr. Shoemaker has a financial interest in live bears. Each one is likely worth upwards of $10,000 to him in guide fees. It might color his endorsement of bear spray, it might not. We are not always conscious of how we arrive at our preferences.

    • As fun as caliber wars are, I can’t help but weigh in.

      First priority is to hit the target. A hit with a .22 will work better than a miss with a (whatever you feel is big enough for bears.)

      Second, bullet selection is as important, or more important than caliber selection. (12 ga is perfect example. 22lr will penetrate better than 12 ga birdshot)

      Third (and arguably least important) , bigger holes are better than smaller holes. (Why is it we spend so much time on this detail?)

      • I dunno, a miss with a 44 magnum might convince a bear to leave where a hit with a .22 might anger her.

        • If you can get off a few shots BEFORE the bear has singled you out for lunch, a big bore has more impact than the zing of a .22.

      • With bears it’s about penetration mostly. The shear amount of hair skin fat and muscle a bullet has to go through before you hit something vital on a big brown is actually quite staggering. Also shot placement. A brownsa head is sloped and has been known to cause bullets to glance off. I have never personally shot a bear but because of there size I have heard stories of clean shots with large caliber (talking .44 mag and above) through the pump station still taking 2 minutes to kill a bear. This being because there heart is so big and pumps so slow that destroying the heart isn’t an instant killer. I have heard from a few guide friends that if a bear is charging head on to aim for the shoulders if you are using a shotgun or rifle. That way you can hopefully slow it down.

    • Regardless, as a seasoned guide, guiding for a couple fishing he knows better. Someone suggested that he may advocate the use of bear spray out of an interest in keeping them alive because they are worth a lot to him, alive…No problem there.
      In the same vein, it’s quite possible that he used some “bullet manufacturer’s round” who convinced him that he was well armed with a 9mm…and for whom he probably tested the ammunition. I don’t buy that philosophy when there is plenty of far better choice that is substantially more potent. Prior to reading about that story, I had sincere admiration, respect and appreciation for the man. After reading it, I have lost interest in contacting him for a hunt. It will never happen.

      I am not one to worship at the altar those who have a name and a reputation in a particular industry. In other words, I am not star struck. A guide with his name and reputation knows better and has absolutely no business being so irresponsible towards his PAYING guests. His fees aren’t exactly the price of subway ticket. A large brown bear we all know can weigh well over 1000 pounds. What is good for a deer is far from ideal to shoot a bison. The same mindset has to be applied in brown bear country. I don’t know what he was thinking when he carried a 9mm for the protection of his guests. Absolutely nothing good in my view and no explanation would make me change my mind. He is a professional guide and knows better. This is like an African P.H. backing his elephant shooting client with a 243 instead of the proper firearm. Please spare me the Karamojo Bell story, he shot armor piercing rounds. Please don’t explain about the moose who died with a 22 lr well placed in the middle of his eye because it took three horribly agonizing weeks for that poor animal to die. Use enough gun, especially in a situation where you are responsible for others. Take a 17 cal air rifle for yourself alone if you wish but NEVER when with clients. That is when you are obligated to be prepared to protect them in the most efficient manner possible.

  7. It’s like so much of the “science and statistics” behind gun control; you look into the details, and the facts recede into the nebulous background they came from, having been manufactured in the minds of the advocates for civilian disarmament.

    Overall, I suspect that the real numbers are skewed due to poor reporting, and the fact that a lot of cases where there were “failures to stop” bears were also ones where there weren’t any witnesses to the proceedings.

    My stepdad was a cook on a fishing boat up in the Gulf of Alaska back in the 1960s. Crew got tired of there being no fresh meat, so he said “You get deer, I’ll cook it…”. Chief complainer got the fishing boat’s dory, and went ashore on an island not too far off from Kodiak. He took with him a semi-auto rifle, I believe a Remington Model 742 Woodsmaster in .30-06. They left him there for the day, went fishing, came back for him in the early evening. The boat could be seen, still tied up where he left it, and no sign of him. They recovered the boat, did a quick search, couldn’t find him. Reported that to the Alaskan authorities, and they sent out some search and rescue types, who found his well-chewed remains and killed the injured bear they presumed ate his ass. The rifle they found had been fired once, and was in the middle of the reloading cycle when something hit it hard enough to bend the shit out of the receiver and jam the action midway through loading. From the evidence they found, the guys from the state decided that the bear had been stalking him, he spotted it, fired once, and the bear charged him. After the bear got to him, it was all over. As he had a pistol with him, one that was never brought into play, that case would likely go down as a “pistol failure”.

    Reality is, some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.

    • In your story, the dead man was found.

      I read most bear attack stories that I can find. Black bear attacks tend to be predatory, where the bear tries to figure out if the prey is dangerous or not before they attack. Victims often see the bears up close, either moving slowly, or still, before they attack. It is a perfect opportunity to pop them with a pistol (or whatever firearm is handy).

      Thus it is likely that there were numerous cases of black bears that were popped at close range and either not reported, or, if they were reported, were not counted in this study because there was no human injury.

      The study of Defense of Life and Property accounts shows about 1/3 black bears, 361 of 1038. The Efficacy study has 10% black bears, 36 of 357.

  8. Nope, you don’t need a magnum.
    My father and his brother killed a treed black bear near Bayview ID with two single shot .22LR rifles. It was during the depression, and the bear ended up as a lot of suppers. The hide was a rug on Grandpa’s floor for as long as I could remember. It did have numerous bullet holes . . .

    • Let’s say there’s a 5% success rate with .22lr against bears. Your anecdotal (second-hand) experience may fit within that rate, but it doesn’t mean that it’s even close to a reasonable idea to depend on.

      • I sure wouldn’t want to bet my cajones on a .22lr against a grizzly, black, Kodiak, polar bear. The bears we have in California, in my experience, are considerably smaller that AK bears, but even those would not be a risk I would willingly take.

        It was bad enough that my grandfather was so nearsighted that the last bear he took, dropped near his feet… and that was with a much large caliber.

    • Still have black bear by Bayview, Idaho. Would have been interesting to see it back then, during the Depression. Love the town now. Gorgeous view of cliffs falling into the Pend O’Reille. And, a Navy base, the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment operates from Bayview, testing new submarine and surface ship shapes and subsystems. Yes, in land locked Idaho. Lake is extremely deep and seismically inactive, so the Navy does a lot of its sonar research there. You can sometimes see 1/4 scale subs and surface ships (including our latest destroyer) going out at dusk and returning at dawn. Still, maybe the thing that changed the area most, between the Depression and the present, was Farragut Naval Training Station, where almost 300,000 Navy personnel underwent basic training during WW II.

  9. If I was a fantastic shot with a pistol, I would consider using the precious few seconds I have defending myself against a bear with a pistol. Since I’m not, I’ll lay down a cloud of bear spray instead, because I’m far more likely to hit the bear that way.

  10. I gotta ask: what is up with TTAG’s obsession with bears? This is the only firearms site on the net that posts a freaking bear story nearly every day… Did a bear run off with one of the editors’ wives or something? Seriously, there are what, two or three fatal bear attacks in the U.S. per year? Give the goddamn bears a rest already.

    If you’re that worried about being attacked by a bear, stay out of the woods. Problem solved.

    • Bear articles are popular. Maybe it has something to do with the way our genes are set up. Stories about big furry creatures that try to kill and eat you hit some sort of primeval chord in our minds.

    • When men read bear attack stories men get to dreaming of hunting/hiking trips to big bear country. When they dream of trips to big bear country they assume they’d better get a big bear-defense pistol. They buy one. They give up on the trip or move. So they go back to practicing with their .22LR or 9mm to avoid expense and recoil. Everyone’s happy, except the long-suffering wife.

      • What’s wrong with that? Planning on an old fashioned road trip out west with the family this June. Planning on SD (no bears) and Yellowstone (bears!) Was looking for 10mm at TFF to try out. I don’t need a giant big bore, I’d prefer something I can carry daily afterwards.

        • I live in Bear Country (SW Montana). For this season, I picked up an EAA Witness in the full-size steel frame (CZ-75-based).

          Man, it was dead accurate right out of the box. Recoil is firm but manageable. Loaded with 220 grain Buffalo Bore hardcasts, runs like a dream.

          See if you can find one to shoot. Best part, it was less than $500 delivered to my FFL.

        • How many users move up to that super big bore planet killer only to find that they hate the recoil so much it goes into the safe and never sees daylight again. Typical among many shooters, they won’t sell the piece and won’t use it.

    • I carry UDAP, along with a 10mm auto. Never had to use either on a bear, but they’re a pretty well-respected company in these parts.

      EDIT: You’ll want to check out the Bear Defense page, and get the Magnum size – the guy in the original article dumped his entire can without any effect. My only question – what was the expiration date. Bear Spray has a limited shelf life. I keep my expired ones for demonstration/practice.

  11. I maintain that the best hunting rifle for North America is any semi auto in 7.62×39 with a full thirty round mag. One shot for the game animal because maximum meat for the dinner table is the objective, but the other twenty-nine? Well, don’t know how many it’s going to take to drop a charging bear but I’ve got a good idea how many I’m gonna use.

  12. I’ve killed a bunch of bears with 357, 10mm and 44mag. None were charging but it wasn’t hard to kill them. The caliber wars are funny

  13. Seems a asinine statement that hand guns are not effective against bears! seeing as every now and then someone stabs one to death with a Bowie knife! or kills with a .22 etc.
    personally I’d worry about the bear spray as now you have really pissed off an already mad Bear!
    shooting calmly and accurately when a mass of Bear is charging you takes lots of intestinal fortitude spray and pray is tough with only 5 bullets or only a Magazine full

    • Actually, bear spray works quite well. If there is no wind and the aim is proper, bear spray is very efficient and can buy you a few seconds to get to your firearm if need be. In a national park where it would be the cause of very hefty fines, loss of equipment and prison (almost guaranteed). Bear spray has a place. It is almost essential to try it before shooting. Shooting would be a very last resort.

      I’ve hunted bears for decades, with bows and arrows, usually on my own, with rifles, with handguns. They all work. The fastest kills, by far, took place with the sharpest broad heads in front of heavy arrows. I’ve never tried bear spray but on my next trip to NW Montana, I’ll carry a can. I may also carry one with me when hunting in states where it is prohibited to have a sidearm while bow hunting.

  14. Impressive……..two bear articles in two days and not one mention of the right to keep and arm bears! You guys rock.

  15. 1970ish hunting show. A hunter using a scoped Ruger Blackhawk with a 9″ barrel and using a fallen tree for a rest, dropped a bear with a single shot, then added another to make sure. As I recall, the distance was 100 feet and the caliber was .30. I was amazed. At this point in time, I can not recall where the first bullet struck.

    One of my troops (Gary) had just returned from AK where the USAF had assigned him to a R&R lodge in bear country and filled me in on why he was limping and why he didn’t need to go to the hospital. While on patrol he saw a bear close in to the lodge so he dismounted his patrol vehicle with the intent of scaring the bear off with some closely placed shots. In short order, the bear had him treed and was climbing after him. The bear grabbed his ankle and started chewing. My man had his M-16 slung over his shoulder with a near full magazine. He hit the bear in the head a few times and the bear decided to go. Later in the day it was found by one of the lodge guides. It was dead but reportedly, most rounds had bounced off the bears skull. Gary’s ankle required an operation and wires to hold it together.

    I would say that the failures reported may have something to do with where the bullets hit, and whether you are under pressure or not.

  16. If all of this could be distilled (the studies, the other studies, the anecdotal incidents, the ‘geezer science’ and historical information), there are probably some useful points that could be learned.
    One might be that bears are much like humans in how easy or difficult they are to stop or kill; A human just standing there, calm and unsuspecting, might easily be killed by a .22 Short to the heart. A bear standing broadside, rooting for berries (or pickanick baskets), might succumb readily to the same .22 Short.
    Contrarily, the drugged-up, adrenaline-fueled attacking human charging full tilt might not be stopped in time with a magazine-load of .45ACP JHP to the chest; The miffed bear doing a homicidal charge out of sheer anger or fear might not die quite soon enough with its aorta blown away by a .375 H&H. One bear might be deterred by having a toe clipped off by a bullet, and just might retreat, bawling; Another identical bear might just ignore the missing toe, or broken hip, or lung shot, and proceed to eat large bits of the person most proximate before giving up the fight.
    Having a holstered pistol, and being surprised by said homicidal bear coming at full tilt (25mph or so) at close distance in thick cover, might make the presence of the big-bore sidearm moot; Having a BIG can of wide-dispersal high-concentration OC spray unlimbered and ready to go might be just a tad more useful than said holstered handgun if the conditions are the same.
    Contrarily, a big can of OC spray hidden in a backpack pouch will be less useful than a big handgun ready to use and in the hand.
    Of course, having a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with slugs, safety off, pointed in the proper direction with sufficient warning and distance, is a really good idea. The same shotgun, slung, with an empty chamber, may not be quite so useful.
    Each encounter with bears is different; There are no universal panaceas. What works with one bear one time may not work with another the next time; It depends.
    So–what we need to do when going into bear country is to ALWAYS know about the bear’s intentions in advance, never run across irritable bruins if possible, always be pointed in the right direction of said bear’s approach if it IS irritable, have your OC can ready in one hand, a big-bore handgun unlimbered in the other, and a good-sized rifle or 12-gauge shotgun in another that’s off-safe and good to go.
    OK, maybe you need a partner. One who will walk ahead of you. Smeared with bacon fat. Singing.

    • OC for bears is much stronger than the MACE used by cops and military. The problem is that is doesn’t work on an irate bear intent on having you for lunch. A bear traveling at 35-45 mph (the average speed of a mama bear going to defend her cubs) over a short distance is on you, usually, before you can get your OC out, safety off, and trigger pulled. The impact when they hit will send about everything you are carrying flying through the air rendering it useless. They bears can play with the OC later when they sneak up on humans using outhouses. By the way, a mama bear which thinks it’s cubs are threatened, will charge a much larger male. If she’ll do that, I think a human takes on the persona of a black fly.

      • By that argument, you wouldn’t have time to pull a pistol and fire off some properly aimed shots before you were dead anyway.

        The beautiful thing about American is we have choices. If you feel confident with your pistol, use it. No judge and jury in this country will convict you of any wrongdoing, no matter what the Park Service rules are. If you feel more confident with bear spray, use that instead.

      • “OC for bears is much stronger than the MACE used by cops and military.”
        Actually bear spray is weaker them what police and military use or can get.
        “Bear spray typically contains higher levels (typically 1-2%) of major capsaicinoids (the key active ingredients) than pepper sprays intended for self-defense against human assailants (typically 0.2-1.3%).” source –
        The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have pepper spray that’s 20% capsaicinoids.

  17. Most people mauled by bears did not have handguns. That right there should tell you something.

    Practice practice practice, and you will live.

  18. Bears are not Superman. The bullets do not fly off. Dump the entire mag of the caliber of your choice into the bears skull. Then grab a hatchet and chop the head off. Just to be sure.

    Dead bears = good bears and what the world needs now is alot more good bears.

    • I kinda like having bears alive and kicking it in the woods. If we made the woods truly “safe”, they wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to venture out in.

    • Really? Dead bears = good bears? Bears are only a problem if you get in their way. They play a vital role in their ecosystem, they are rather magnificent animals, smarter than some people…. Sure, defend yourself if you gotta, try to be smart enough, in bear country, that you don’t gotta, and otherwise don’t hate bears just for something to hate.

  19. Bears can be impressive in there speed and strength but cmon people they don’t have super powers. I would rather be hiking in bear filled woods with a 38 special than walking the streets in Chicago unarmed because the government said it was illegal. Men are 1000 times more dangerous.

    • You are correct. People are by far the greater danger. Most people are surrounded by thousands of the most dangerous predators on the face of the earth, and never give it another thought.

    • But in places like Chicago, you expect to get shot.

      In th area where I live, the biggest bear problems are in the parking lots at trail heads. Bears have learned to identify objects inside locked cars. If it looks like a cooler, even covered by a blanket, the bears go for it. Those claws have totally destroyed the exteriors and interiors of a large number of cars in their search for goodies ala Yogi Bear. They have used their claws to pry open doors and break windows. Many a hiker has returned to their car to find a heap of torn metal,shattered glass, ripped upholstery, etc. Even worse, the food and cold drinks are long gone.

  20. Those reports start with 1883. Pistols, particularly revolvers, should become more successful as you read through the timeline. An old .45 LC doesn’t really stack up to a modern .44 Magnum.

  21. Apparently Dean’s obsession with defending against bear attacks has grown nearly as compulsive as his obsession with open carry. Too funny!

  22. There are 600,000 black bears (estimated) in the US, and perhaps 32,000 brown bears, mostly in Alaska.

    It stands to reason that there would be more encounters with black bears than brown bears. In addition, black bears — like coyotes — are likely to be habituated to humans.

    What’s really important is that there are only 3-5 bear attacks every year.

    People are three to five times more likely to be killed by “man’s best friend” than they are by bears. Then again, there are perhaps 80 million dogs in the US, so a person’s chance of a deadly dog encounter is also remote.

    The upshot is that you are more likely to be killed on the drive to the forest than you are hiking in the forest.

  23. My friend killed a bear with a revolver
    We are all wondering where a bear got a revolver!
    Must be a pretty rough neck of the woods that a bear needs a revolver

  24. If I recall correctly there was an incident in Alaska a few years back where a bear had developed a taste for people and by the time Alaska Fish and Game caught up with it it had eaten a few people. When they opened it up they found a few rounds already in it, not to mention parts of its most recent hiker.

  25. I thought that the question “Where Are All The Bear Attack Pistol Failures?” meant that there were “Bear-Attack-Pistols” and that they seemed to be more dependable that previously thought. So I wanted one.

    Read a different way though, bears could be doing the attacking, with pistols, and they have had few failures. A tragedy yes, but a pistol attack might be more humane than if a bear used what GOD gave them.

    Seriously though, it’s a merely a problem of RELIANCE on a pistol to kill a bear, as you’re not likely to ward-off a bear should you come in contact with one. People can say whatever they want in that respect, but it’s your ass, protect it as you see fit.

  26. Bear attacks don’t generally happen from a 100 yds. Many times the person is on the ground by the time they realize they are being attacked. I’m in the woods here in Alaska 20 to 30 times a year. I’ve been charged only once in over 30 years. Being “Bear Aware” is the best plan, then have a back-up plan. Having something strapped to you will ensure that you have it when the need arises. A long gun in the vehicle, cabin, tree, or pinned under you will not be much help.

    Each caliber/firearm has its advantages and disadvantages, pick something and be very proficient with it. As mentioned above a pissed off bear will not instantly die regardless of what you shoot it with. When it goes down you will only have time to react, there will not be alot of rational thought happeneing. Your primary objective will be to survive and sustain as little injury as posible. Personly, my objective is to convince the animal to leave me alone, and buy myself some time.

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