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Dean Weingarten writes [via]:

On the morning of 24 September, 2017, David Buckallew, 63, and his son, Rory, 35, were hunting black bear. David was along as an observer. Only Rory carried a long gun, a Remington Model 700, semi-customized in the Wildcat 6.5mm-06 caliber rifle. Dave carried a Taurus Tracker stainless-steel (4-inch barrel) .44 magnum handgun in a Montana Holster shoulder rig made by Norm Schertenleib. Rory also carried a Glock Model 20 sidearm in 10mm Auto.

The morning was cool with a light frost in low spots at Kalispell, Montana. There was little wind. Sunrise was at 7:28 local. Before 9 a.m., the men had spotted a black bear and were attempting to get in position for a shot. They were moving through thick backcountry cover on the steep side slope east of the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

No Dirty Harry here. Heavy loads for heavy bears.
For self-defense against bears in the United States and North America, pepper spray might not be enough. Backcountry travelers in locations such as Hungry Horse Reservoir in Montana usually favor hard-cast +P+ loads (like those made by Buffalo Bore or top-level reloads) in revolvers and FMJs in pistols such as the 10mm Magnum. 12-gauge shotguns with slugs or buckshot also find favor if bear encounters go bad. Many trekkers in bear country say 45 ACP isn’t enough to reach vital organs. First-time travelers in these areas should be advised.

Then they heard it. A large animal was crashing through the undergrowth. It was moving along the side slope angling up the hill, above them. As it came directly above them, about 30 yards away, they could see bushes move. It changed direction and charged down the hill at them. Neither man knew what it was. It was coming directly at them. Both men fired a shot in front of the beast in an attempt to divert it or scare it off. David fired his .44 caliber pistol, Rory his Model 700 bolt-action Remington rifle. The animal was only 7 to 8 yards away, but the cover was so thick, they could not see it.

In a split second, the bear appeared as it slid to a stop only two feet from and just beyond Rory. The charging bear lunged at Rory, and Rory jammed the barrel of his rifle into its mouth. Then, as the bear jerked aside, he hit the bear’s head with the barrel.

The bear slapped the rifle aside, sending it spinning out of Rory’s hands. As the bear lunged for his face, Rory instinctively blocked with his right arm. The bear grabbed him by the elbow, its nose only inches from Rory’s.

The bear grabbed him by the elbow, its nose only inches from Rory’s.

Dave had closed to within six feet of Rory and the bear. Not wanting to hit Rory, hoping to get the bear to release his son, he shot the bear in the hip.

It worked. The bear dropped Rory and spun toward him. His next round was meant for the bear’s shoulder, but the situation was dynamic. The 240-grain slug went through the bear’s neck.

Taurus Tracker stainless steel 4 inch .44 magnum ​burglar colorado homeowner shot man shot

Seeing the bear charge at him, its mouth was within two feet of his .44 Taurus, he fired the last shot. The bullet went alongside the bear’s head, into its neck, and penetrated the chest cavity.

Dave says he doesn’t know if it was the three close-range hits with a .44 magnum, or the muzzle blast of the revolver into the bear’s face that turned the bear. The bear whirled downslope. It paused momentarily, 15 feet away, looking back. Then it crashed off into the brush.

Dave did not try another shot. He knew he was out of ammunition. He had been taught, 50 years ago, to carry a single-action revolver with an empty chamber under the hammer. In the five-shot double-action Taurus, that left him four rounds.

One had been fired to try to turn the downhill charge; the other three went into the bear.

Dave asked Rory “Did it get you?” Rory told him yes, and it hurt. Dave was relieved not to see any arterial spurting of blood, splintered bones, or a mass of torn meat.

He told Rory his Taurus was empty.

Most people in a deadly fight are not able to count their shots. Dave could, and did. Experienced shooters and hunters are often able to “call their shots”, and say where each shot went. Dave told me he informed the Fish, Wildlife and Park (FWP) officers where each shot had connected, and they told him he had been within a couple of inches for all three hits.

Rory handed his father the 10mm Auto Glock semi-auto to stand guard while he retrieved spare .44 magnum ammunition from Dave’s pack.

American Eagle 240-grain jacketed hollow points can be both hunting loads for big game and bear-defense loads, especially in lever actions or other carbines. Other makers have similar loads, including Winchester, Remington, and Hornady. 
Rory reloaded the Taurus. They traded pistols, retrieved the rifle, and started back toward their vehicle. They kept their pistols in their hands. The shortest route would have been straight downhill, but they did not know the location of the bear. To avoid another attack, they headed back a quarter mile along the side slope, then downhill to the road in a more open area. It took them 25 minutes to reach their vehicle.

Dave drove back to Kalispell, as they came into cell-phone coverage, they called Rory’s wife, Kristine. They told her to call Urgent Care, so they could have Rory’s wounds treated. When they got back, Kristine told them Urgent Care said it would not treat a bear-attack victim. Rory would have to go to the hospital. Rory insisted on taking off his hunting shirt. He left it at the house so the hospital staff would not cut it off him in treatment.

At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff specialized in treating bear-attack victims. He treated Rory. Fortunately, no bones were broken. Dave had shot the bear off of Rory before massive damage was done to his arm. There were a couple of scrapes on Rory’s shoulder from the bear’s claws. The claw scrapes did not require stitches.

At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff has specialized in treating bear attack victims.
At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff has specialized in treating bear attack victims.

Dave does not know who called FWP. It may have been someone at the hospital. As Rory was being treated, Dave accompanied the FWP officers back to the attack scene.  The FWP helicopter, Two Bear Air, arrived. By this time it was afternoon. The sun had heated the slope, so infrared detectors on the helicopter could not find the bear.

The FWP officers told Dave if he had bear spray, he might have avoided having to shoot the bear. Dave noted the FWP officers were all armed with shotguns and had loaded pistols on their hips for bear protection. From “FWP would like to remind hunters and recreationists that carrying bear spray is another deterrent option” for bear defense.

Dave told me if he had spray and had sprayed the bear, he would have had to spray Rory as well. Then, if the bear turned on him, Rory would have been unable to help.

It is a reasonable assumption. Tom Sommers was attacked through a cloud of bear pepper spray, three weeks earlier, near the Idaho/Montana/Wyoming border. The bear had him by the head when his friend Dan sprayed the bear again from two feet away. Sommers was blinded by the spray and the blood. When he fired his powerful handgun, he could not see the bear. He missed. Whether it was the spray or the gunshot, the wild animal left the scene and did not attack Sommers again.

David Buckallew said “I will depend on my .44 magnum” and suitable ammo.

The bear never vocalized during the attack. Dave said you could hear the loud breath of the bear, but there were no warning growls, or other sounds from the bear.

FWP found the dead bear the next day. It was a 12-year-old dry sow. It was not lactating and did not have young cubs. It was about 250 lbs, and in good shape. At 250 lbs, it was a reasonable weight for an adult sow grizzly in bear country. The bear did not have any tags, or previous history of aggressive encounters with humans. Unprovoked grizzly attacks have been noted throughout the history of grizzly bears. The current fad is to always assign a human motivation.

Dave and Rory never heard or saw any other bear near them. There is no evidence that any cub, or yearling grizzly, was nearby. The sow’s body was found about 50 yards from the attack location.

In the fall, bears feel a tremendous urge to eat and put on weight for the winter hibernation. Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed in an unprovoked grizzly attack in Alaska on October 6, 2003. They did not have a .44 magnum for self defense in grizzly country. Neither survived.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch



About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Counter Assault: Bear Spray is Better Than A Gun

Alaskan Grizzly Bear Attack Demonstrates Effectiveness of .44 Magnum

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Gun Review: Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum Revolver

Grizzly Bear Kills Yellowstone Hiker

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    • Be reasonable. Most urgent care type places are not at all equipped to handle traumatic injuries and the complications that can come along with them.

      It’s much, much better for to the the facility and the victim to direct trauma patients to a hospital with a capable ER regardless of the apparent extent of the injury. It would do nobody any good for them to attempt treatment and only then realize that it is beyond the capabilities of that facility and have to stabilize a patient for movement to a second location.

      Now if you just showed up bleeding and injured from some traumatic incident would the doctors there do what they could to save you… absolutely, but you should always go to a properly equipped trauma facility when able.

      • This is what I love about Montana. There are bears everywhere just waiting to attack you, eat your arms, and suck on your guts.

        So head down south to Disney World, or hike up the Empire State Building. Just stay out of Montana if you want to stay alive.

        Sorry MT Tourism Bureau, but if it bleeds it leads.

    • Urgent care clinics are NOT ER’s. UC’s are for (predominately) kids who have the usual childhood infections, scrapes, bruises, etc.

      A bear attack victim needs an ER. They need X-rays quite a lot of the time, they might have internal bleeding, they often need advanced interventions. A competent UC clinic will make sure the patient is alive and call EMS and the ER for them.

      If someone walks into a UC clinic with a GSW or from a car wreck, they’re going to say the same thing. UC’s are not for major trauma, period.

      • I’ve seen more than one UC place call an ambulance for a trauma victim who makes it in. I’ve also seen others just turn them away, which is bad policy. As you say, they’re good for scrapes, wheezes and sneezes.

    • That’s not what urgent care is for, genius. Unless the nearest hospital is a hundred miles away, I can’t see any urgent care being willing to take a bear attack victim, especially if that’s all they know about the source of the injury. Urgent care is for sprains, minor fractures, minor burns and lacerations. Anything above that goes to the ER.

  1. Several things jump out…
    You were bear hunting and when a bear charged you you both fired warning shots at it? I think you mean to say you missed
    You left the chamber under the hammer empty? Isn’t this a modern revolver with a firing pin block?

    • I just reread and noticed they couldn’t see what it was at that point. My question then becomes why were you firing “a shot in front of the beast” when you don’t even know what it is? Could be some idiot hiker.

      Also what happened to comment editing?

    • Yes. Taurus revolvers have a transfer bar safety and can absolutely be kept fully loaded.
      Sounds like this fella simply gave in to the training from his childhood and kept one chamber empty out of habit – not that falling back on our training is a bad thing; it’s usually better than the alternative, but he could use some RE-training after this. 🤠

    • It is 2017 and I STILL have friends who will download a revolver by one no matter how much history I explain and how many modern references I show them.

      • I have had to take modern transfer-bar or other safe-action DA revolvers, load six primed (but empty) rounds and then smack the spur with a brass hammer to show people that modern DA revolvers can be loaded with six.

        There are far too many people who refuse to actually LEARN WTF they’re doing – with cars, gardening, dog training, hammers, nails, home construction, you name it.

        • DG, my trick as a handloader (long ago) was to leave a case sized and primed, no powder or bullet, load it in my Python, cock the hammer and then flick my finger over the trigger until I dropped the hammer. Showing people that there was not the tiniest dent in the primer usually convinced them of its safety. The way I expressed it was that I could fully load the gun, cock the hammer, and toss it off the top of the Empire State Building, and the only way it would injure someone was if it landed on him, the gun would not discharge one time in 1000 tries, simply would not happen.

  2. Good story Dean, but I believe it is quoted were left out with the first shots missing/out of order, describing only the reactions.

    • Usually, they just make chewing and ,”Umm, tasty!” sounds.

      I think this is well written, and provides a great deal of useful information on bear attack behavior. It certainly confirms my choice of sidearm when out in the woods, although I carry loaded with 305 gr. hard cast bear loads.

  3. The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.
    They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.
    Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear’s sensitive nose and it will run away.
    It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
    Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.

  4. Glad they made it out with relatively minor wounds all things considered. Quick question so if a .44 is good bear medicine a .223/5.56 should be too right?

      • Cool article thanks I was having the old bear caliber discussion with a friend just the other day. The brown bears don’t get huge around here and I “think” a .223 will convince a bear to keep it moving. On the other hand I KNOW a 30.06 can drop a bear in like a ton of bricks.

        • All bets are off when dealing with bears. There was an article posted a couple years ago about a person in Alaska who was forced to dump a grizzly. It absorbed multiple rounds from a .300 Win Mag, good hits, too, and survived for long enough to continue to pose a risk.

          I sure would not plan on using 5.56 as protection against bears. If you prefer the AR-15 platform, a “thumper” caliber like .450 Bushmaster or .500 Beowulf would be a preferred choice.

    • If you’re going to carry a long arm in bear country, make it a major caliber rifle (ie, .308 or .30-06 or larger), or a shotgun loaded with Brennke slugs. Preferably the latter.

      People who have to work in bear country take shotguns loaded with slugs. You get the energy and mass of a .375H&H or heavier rifle, in a gun you can reload very quickly, and is light to carry.

      • I’m near the USGS regional office for the Rockies. I took my Marlin 45-70 Government in to the local gunsmithing school to get the sights replaced. When I checked it in with one of the instructors, I mentioned that I suspected he didn’t see a lot of them. He replied that they saw bunch, as the USGS sent them out with their back country crews. The school had the service contract for them.

    • Proud Chicano,

      I would ALWAYS take a .44 Magnum revolver over an AR-15 rifle in .223/5.56 for self-defense against bears, especially grizzly bears. (In fact I actually do in bear country.) Even though both calibers have about the same muzzle energy, the .44 Magnum makes a much LARGER hole and a much DEEPER hole than an AR-15 in .223/5.56.

  5. After watching a NOLS lecture, I generally prefer to carry bear spray when hiking. If I am hunting though, might as well carry a backup gun. Both are similarly effective as a deterrent.

  6. If you want to read the missing paragraph (before the paragraph that begins “It worked”) describing David’s second shot with the Taurus, follow the attribution link to

  7. Some Story! Hope Rory is ok and recovers 100%.

    As to the use of Bear Spay vs having a firearm handy, you need to put that proposition in the following context. Let’s assume that the Bear spay is as effective as a Skunk’s spray.
    Let’s also assume the Dry Sow Grizzly was hungry and trying to put on some weight before winter. When bears get hungry they will eat most anything, including a skunk if necessary. So how effective is a skunk’s spay going to be against a hungry bear?

    ANS.: About as effective as it would be against an 18 wheeler bearing down on the skunk crossing the road.

    Moral to this story: Carrry the 44 Magnum and a Colt 1911 as backup.

    Here in CT if you bow hunt state law prohibits you from carrying ANY sidearm. (The law figures you might cheat and use it instead of the bow). Problem is, CT now has a real, healthy population of black bear and Coyotes too. What do you do if you bow hunt a 10 Pointer, hit it with an arrow or bolt and track it only to find the bear is at it when you show up to dress it? Somehow I doubt that carrying a can of bear spray will provide you much comfort.

    • “Here in CT if you bow hunt state law prohibits you from carrying ANY sidearm”

      Sounds like a good reason to carry a Mossburg ‘Shockwave’ in a scabbard across your back while bow hunting.

      Loaded with something like the Brenneke hard-cast slugs…

    • What’s the penalty for breaking that rule?

      If it’s purely admin / regulatory / fine – then whatever

  8. “Father Uses Taurus .44 Magnum Revolver to Shoot Grizzly Bear Attacking His Son”

    And that’s why you carry a “bear gun” in bear country…

  9. I carry 200gr loads in my .357 in WY but because of the data I have seen will use the bear spray I usually wear first. I doubt I’d have time to get to the gun after trying the spray so I sure hope the folks who provided the attack data I have seen are right.

    • You have a point there. How was the grizzly to know they weren’t hunting her? Have have some sympathy for the bear as well. The men were the aggressors and hunting bear wouldn’t be as interesting if it wasn’t dangerous.

    • I too definitely put man at equal value with bears. If a man hunts a bear and dies, no sympathy for him or his family or kids etc. I feel the same way towards steak and chicken. If a bull tramples and maims a butcher who would like to feed his family or someone else’s family, no sympathy. Everyone should be eating vegetables only.


  10. The FWP officers told Dave if he had bear spray, he might have avoided having to shoot the bear. Dave noted the FWP officers were all armed with shotguns and had loaded pistols on their hips.

    WTF. Montana fish, wildlife, and parks (FWP) lecturing people about bear spray while carrying firearms.

    • Retired Chicago Police Officer. In any LEO Theater, This would be considered a Traumatic Incident. If I ever heard the comment made about Bear Spray, I’d ask that Copper to leave the room with me and then tell him “I’m going to beat you senseless. Maybe next time you’ll keep your mouth shut.” The only comment I’d make would be this “Is your .44 Double/Single Action?” Then I would strongly advise (if it is) you to carry it fully loaded. And explain to him my opinion for doing so.

  11. My next-door neighbor has a big Kodiak bear mount in his play room. That bear took five direct hits from a .375 H&H before it went down. He was so close when he finally dropped that bear slobber splattered on the hunter’s face.

    He also has cape buffalo, elephant, lion, etc trophies that took less hits from the same rifle than the bear.

    Bears can take a whole bunch of great big powerful bullets and still kill you.

    Bear spray is stupid.

    • Agreed. I think most of the people advocating bear spray have never actually seen a grizzly up close. They need to take a trip to a zoo and see just how goddamn big a grizzly is then get back to reality on using hot sauce to repel that beast.

  12. a 250lb grizzly is just a piker. even black bears can get a lot bigger than 250 lbs.

    imagine what a 1,000-pounder grizzly would do….

  13. I bet that scared the piss out of them. And I think a high capacity 9 mm would probably work as well as a 5.56. After all the 5.56 ‘s daddy was a great varmint caliber

  14. 4 clicks to arrive at this article from the last one.
    Please restore the next/previous article buttons.
    Respectfully, another RF

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