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Oh, how they laughed when I schlepped a Smith & Wesson .460 snubby into the American outback, snug in a chest rig that looks more like bondage gear than a holster. So be it. It will suffice until Grizzly Custom Guns finishes my lever brush gun. Sure, bear spray is a proven deterrent and a lot less cumbersome. Yes, bears tend to leave bipeds alone. But I can think of few deaths more, uh, grizzly than getting mauled to death by a grizzly bear. As TTAG writer Nick Leghorn likes to point out . . .

the odds of needing a gun are small, but the failure to have one when you need can be catastrophic. Is there anyone amongst you who wouldn’t want to carry a gun when reading this [via]:

A man has been killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone national park, according to the US national parks service.

The Montana man’s body was found on Friday afternoon in a popular off-trail area near Lake Village.

The victim’s name has not been revealed.

Authorities were not releasing an official cause of death until after an autopsy and other investigations.

Based on tracks found at the scene and other evidence it appeared that an adult female grizzly and at least one cub were likely involved, authorities said.

Here’s the kicker:

Bear traps were set in the area on Friday evening , with the Elephant Back Loop Trail [below] now closed to hikers until further notice.

If bears are trapped and identified as having been involved in an attack they are euthanised.

Call me insensitive, but I’d rather “euthanize” an attacking bear BEFORE it rips my face off and makes mincemeat out of my spleen. Provided that’s what it’s about to do.

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    • Yep. I have a .460 Rowland Conversion for my 1911. Works Great.

      Gotta love the .44 magnum ballistics in regular sized semi-auto pistol.

        • A standard conversion includes a threaded .460 Rowland barrel and a muzzle brake/compensator. Shooters who refuse to run a muzzle brake find that their .45ACP base gun and wrists get beat to hell. The .460 has twice the muzzle energy of .45ACP. The conversion will also shoot .45 Super, which typically produces 50% more MV than .45ACP.

        • (My first reply disappeared…)

          A proper conversion of a .45ACP (G21 or 1911) pistol with a .460 Rowland threaded barrel will include installation of a muzzle brake/compensator. This will reduce the stress on the pistol and on the shooter’s wrists. The converted pistol (it takes less than five minutes…) can handle .45ACP, .45 Super (50% more ME than .45ACP) and .460 Rowland (100% more ME than .45ACP). It works fine in my G21 Gen4.

  1. I’m right there with you. Carried my Glock 29, with a 15 round magazine in both Yellowstone and Glacier this summer. I also carried bear spray, but wouldn’t dare walk into those woods with my family without a firearm.

  2. I always carry my S&W 686 snubby whenever I go hiking. I live in the SF Bay Area so please keep this between us. Thanks

      • Furthermore, you don’t know anyone who does own weapons, hunts, or goes to gun ranges, and you never visited any weapons-related websites (including this one).

  3. Bear attacks are like plane crashes, statistically unlikely, but when they happen they really suck for those involved. Prepare as best you can……hope for the best, but don’t let it stop you from having fun. Really though, just hike with a slow friend and carry a 22.

      • No, to shoot the ptarmagin or spruce hens. I carried a 454 for years until I realized I got much more use from a 22, and a better lunch.

      • ” I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.” (shoots friend in knee with 22)

      • Yes, yes it is. 10mm might be enough for black bears in the East, but in grizzly country you better be packing a .460 Rowland, full-on .44 Mag, or Ruger .45/.454 at the very least.

        • I’m curious. Do bears consistently open their mouth and roar like that when one encounters them? (city boy. the only bears I’ve seen in the wild wear buttless chaps) I’ve always wondered if a .357 or 9mm into the open mouth of a grizzly would piss it off more or actually kill it?

        • At coffee addict:

          Regardless of the caliber, if you are good enough to hit a bear right in the mouth, right when it opens it’s mouth, with adrenaline coursing through your veins, you are a better shooter than I am.

    • I think that there is no doubt a mathematical formula detailing the inverse relationship between being that slow and lumbering friend and the caliber of the gun you carry, or should carry. Since my woods gun (in the Southeast) is a Glock 20 Gen 4, you may safely surmise that I’m pretty old and fat 🙂


  4. I read somewhere that the bear spray study was cooked to show it’s better than it really is. I carry the spray, and a S&W 1006 . When the bear is hungry is bringing seasoning really a good idea?

    • As the old joke goes, you can always tell whether you are dealing with a black bear or a griz by the scat. Black bear scat often has a large amount of undigested vegetable matter. Griz scat has pieces of whistle and smells like pepper spray.

  5. Born and raised in Montana. I don’t always walk in the woods here, but when I do I carry for bear … and it isn’t bear spray. Although I could spray with what I carry.

  6. Elephant Back Loop trail is a bit dangerous because you can’t really see a beast until it’s too late. Out of the trails that I hiked in Yellowstone this one made me feel especially vulnerable.

  7. Even after living there for years, I just could not get to sleep in a tent at night in the Alaskan woods without a .44 magnum within easy reach. I never had that problem in Virginia.

    I took an elective course at UAA called Alaska Bush Flying, where we basically got to sit and listen to experienced bush pilots tell tales of their exploits and give us some practical flying instruction along the way. One pilot recounted how he had dropped off an out of state fisherman with his floatplane and reminded the guy there were likely bears in the area since the salmon were running. The pilot asked if the guy had a gun, and the man said he had purchased some ‘bear repellant’ in Anchorage that morning. The pilot says he wished him good fishing and took off in his floatplane, circling back to pass over the guy as he departed, and when he looked down the guy was writhing around on the gravel bar like he was in agony. The pilot landed again and went to the guys aid. He claims the guy had applied the bear repellant to himself like it was bug repellant, and basically pepper sprayed himself.

    Not sure if I really believe the story, but it was funny the way he told it.

  8. I’ve guided up in Alaska for better than 30 years and wouldn’t venture out in the wilderness without a firearm. Several years back, we resorted to using bear spray on a brown bear sow – scoring two direct hits in her face. The bear turned 180 degrees for a few moments and then continued to advance. I’ve seen bears lap pepper residue up off the ground. The best deterrent is using common sense – maintaining a safe distance of at least 100 yards and making plenty of noise. If things go wrong, time is clearly of the essence for they come fast. My weapon of choice is a large-bore rifle. When carrying a rifle isn’t practical, I rely on a four-inch .500 S&W which I maintain in a chest holster.

  9. My wife and I frequent the National Parks out west and we have the commercial bear spray in the industrial sized cans hanging conveniently near both front doors of our Wrangler.

    We have never had to use it on a bear but there was one really hilarious incident involving some trash talkers standing on a corner while we were stopped for a red light and the abrupt end to a verbal threat.

    It really will go 30 feet and turn into a mist. I wonder how they do that?

  10. I also live in Montana, and in grizzly country. The State just relocated one a couple of days ago about four miles from my place, after it killed a sheep. Bear spray is fine if the wind is to your back, and you don’t mind the bear getting close, and the sprayer works. Most charges are false (some say 90% or better), but you won’t know that until he’s on you. Helluva time to think, “Damn! I should have brought the bazooka”.

  11. G-20 full of buffalo bore hard cast. Even black bears around here can be pesky. Fall mushroom season is just around the corner.

  12. I took my 1st of many to be trips to Yellowstone this spring. I am a wildlife photographer and it was on of the best times in my life.

    A good friend of mine told me there was no need to cary a firearm and that the bear spray is the best way to go. I told him I don’t want my only defense against a bear to be deleted by a heavy breeze.

    If you get a chance to go to the area please keep your distance from the Bison. They are responsible for more attacks on humans then bears ( this may be incorrect I do my stats like Everytown ).

  13. After reading all these posts I can’t help but feel i bought the wrong gun for bear contact, 454 casull, dang!

  14. Too many idiots continue to think it’s either bear spray or a big bore gun of some sort. How ’bout both? Let ’em laugh. If there’s only one pissed off bear in the forest, with my luck, he’ll be the one SOB I run into.

    • If a griz is charging, it’s doubtful one will have time for both. Think I’ll just go for lethal force. You going to use spray on a human that has multiple knives in each hand and on the toes of his boots when he attacks you? Oh, and take a good look at those teeth in the picture. They will puncture your skull with very little difficulty. Spray? ROTFLMA! No, thanks!

  15. One issue with bear spray is some folks that tote it tend to spray it whenever they SEE a bear and the ” surveys ” about spray vs guns count that as an effective deterrent .

    Gun guys tend to wait until they know it’s an attack.

  16. I’ve never hiked in grizzly country. Much as I love my handguns I think I would like something heavier in grizzly country. A 12 loaded with slugs would probably be my choice.

    I have encountered black bears a number of times in the woods. I think a .357 would be enough gun for those.

    But I’ve actually had to defend myself from stray dogs twice in the woods. Very unpleasant. Once with a .22 rifle and once with a 1903 colt in .32 acp. The .22 was a one shot kill on a large german shephard type.

    The .32 was against a pack of threatening dogs. I have no idea if I hit any but, it was dark, but I emptied an entire mag and the threat went away.

    I like dogs. But I like me better.

    • “Park visitors are able to openly carry legal handguns, rifles, shotguns and other firearms per a federal law approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in February 2010.”

      I can see the MSM headline now: “BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTS OPEN CARRY OF RIFLES!!!”

      Oh wait…

      • “And visitors should not use guns as self-defense against large wildlife, but rather carry bear spray and take other safety precautions.”

        Also, that word “should” puts a grey area on this. It sounds more like a rule, rather than a law. A law would state “shall”. I can totally see immoral people cooking up the “that trophy animal was threatening my life…” excuse but in an actual human-life-threatening emergency I’m sure there’s some wiggle room.

        • “If I can’t shoot my gun, why are they allowed?

          According to park ranger and guides, the main reason for allowing guns in Yellowstone is to facilitate town-to-town travel for local citizens. Many areas outside of the park are prime hunting locations, and hunters often use roads through Yellowstone because it’s the most direct route, or in the case of Cooke City in the winter, the only route. It’s difficult for rangers to restrict people from carrying guns in their vehicles.

          While guns are allowed in the park, each state has its own individual regulatory practices. Because Yellowstone encompasses parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it’s important that visitors understand and comply with all applicable state and local firearms laws (in addition to national laws) before entering this park. The 2010 federal law did not affect other weapons like bows, swords and pellet or BB guns, all of which remain prohibited by the National Park Service.”

  17. After his EOD battalion got notice they’d be going to Afghanistan in 2008, my son and a few of his buddies started hiking the trails near Pike’s Peak wearing full gear in order to acclimate themselves to working at high altitude. All of them were armed, my son carried a double-stack 1911 .45. His buddies were similarly armed, either with .45 or .40 caliber handguns. As they stopped to rest on the trail one day, a couple of tourists clad in shorts, short sleeves, sandals, and no emergency clothing came over to his group to say that they were “offended” at the sight of the openly carried guns my son and his friends were wearing. The soldiers apologized and suggested that the tourists go on ahead while he and his friends rested so they would thereby avoid any further sight of the firearms. As the tourists righteously marched up the trail, one of the guys in my son’s group said, “Do you think we should have told them that’s bear dung that they’re stepping over?”

    • I was OCing while I climbed my first fourteener here in Colorado. Only got two reactions: one guy said, “Nice Glock! I should really carry more out here.”

      Another hiker asked, “Is that a gun?” When I replied in the affirmative, he muttered, “Oh, sh!t,” and walked away.

      The fact that the second dude had a European accent probably stands to explain a lot.

  18. Nineteen years ago, a married couple were hiking in Kluane National Park in the southwest corner of the Yukon. They both carried bear spray. When a young, male grizzly approached them, they were able to drive him away with the spray but he returned after it wore off. They went through several repetitions until they ran out of spray. Then, the bear mauled both of them, killing the wife. The message here is that bear spray works but you should carry a firearm as a last resort

  19. Was anybody else pleasantly surprised to learn that carrying in Yellowstone was fully legal? ‘Cause guess who’s got two thumbs and a huge smile on their face ….

  20. Almost ran over (realistically 50 feet) a big Brown, mountain biking in the Yellowstone area around 6 weeks ago. When on foot, I combine hiking time with voice practice, belting out “My Way” in my best Sinatra voice, so I rarely get to see much in the way of wildlife…..

    But on a bike, at least downhill, you move too fast. The bear was right on the trail, but took off 90 degrees when it saw me popping up from behind a tree. I am in no way exaggerating when I say those clumsy looking things are at least as fast and agile as a cat. Just one that happens to be the size of a small car. No way would I even be able to draw, and certainly not aim properly for that little brain way back in the skull, before that thing would have been on me, had he/she wanted to.

    With Bear Spray, at least you have a much, much bigger chance of hitting the bear with something…. Bear defense is one of the few properly defensive uses I can see for a subgun. An MP5 with daylight visible tracer rounds and a 100 round “bear drum,” would be about the only gun that would give me any kind of warm and fuzzies against a determined one of those buggers.

    • I gotta slow down and be more observant. I didn’t see the comma in your first sentence. I thought you said you ran over a brownie that was mountain biking!

  21. And to think in the mid 1800’s trappers hunted ‘Griz with muzzle loading Hawkin’s and Bowie knives. Brave men. Good shots, too.

    • There weren’t many that were crazy enough to hunt griz. They avoided them whenever possible as they often lost the fight with a griz or ended up maimed and broken even if they won. Buffalo hide was the was the norm for winter coats and sleeping robes. Much safer to acquire.

      • If you want to read a story of one tough mountain man. Get the book, “the saga of Hugh Glass.” Amazing survival story after getting mauled by a grizz.

    • Not to take anything away from those guys, but “hunting” is generally less risky than “happening upon one that charges” on a trail. hunting is certainly more risky than simply hiking, but by the time the hike has led you to be charged, you are in plenty more danger than most hunters find themselves in.

  22. Call me insensitive, but I’d rather “euthanize” an attacking bear BEFORE it rips my face off and makes mincemeat out of my spleen.
    If that’s the way you feel Robert, stay the fuck out of THEIR TERRITORY.

    • Please explain why the bear has more rights to that territory than i do? Are his tax dollars supporting the park? Did he buy a pass that also supports the park. As Teddy once said “walk softly and carry a big stick” If the bear leaves me alone, i leave it alone. If it fucks with me i’m using the stick.

    • Maybe I should stay out of South Central LA – cause it’s THE PITBULL’S FUCKING TERRITORY. Actually, I’ll not be retarded and OC spray or shoot an attacking pitbull.
      Since I’m required to operate in South LA from time to time, and it pays the bills, I’m going to be a grown up and do what I need to do. Further, I’ll support the right of every responsible citizen to defend themselves.

      I’m curious where you get these ideas, and wonder if you avoid the ocean because it’s the “shark’s f$&@ing territory.”

  23. According to Jurassic World, all I need is a lever action rifle. If it’s good enough to hunt an Indominus Rex, it’s good enough for a grizzly! 😉

    • .44 Mag, .454, and .45-70 from a carbine will certainly do the trick on a grizzly, as will a 12 gauge slug.

  24. I’ve been out in the area and was uncomfortable the entire time. These protected areas are far more dangerous than other parts of the wilderness. I approached a lake and suddenly was facing a bull moose. Big, and bigger when you’re not expecting to see one. I lived to tell the tale. I walked in the lake to clean up.

  25. I was just in Yellowstone and was didsapointed to not see one bear (out of season supposedly). Only had a .45 though

  26. Nice article. Typo correction: shouldn’t it be “grisly” death instead of “grizzly” death?

  27. Vile slander! Bears are noble creatures at one with nature,just like Cecil the lion. Clearly the human deserved it for desecrating Gaia merely by existing. /s

  28. The included picture of the Elephant Back trail is incorrect. That is in fact the Teton Crest trail prior to descending into Alaska Basin, which still has a significant bear population, mostly of the black variety.

    I was in Yellowstone, backpacking at the same time as this man, and did not see any wildlife at all. No deer, moose, elk, bison or bears. Kind of odd, but this has typically been my experience, feast or famine.

    His big problem was that he chose to hike off trail, where the chance of bear encounters is much higher. Bears aren’t stupid and typically won’t be a problem if you stick to the trails. I always recommend spray for the trails, firearm for the bushwack. As a side note, when dealing with the permit issuing ranger, she appeared to be disgusted that firearms are now allowed in the park. She very matter of factly stated that they must be carried under all local laws and applicable permits. Good thing Wyoming is an open carry constitutional state!

  29. Interesting remarks. Number 1: When you use bear spray successfully, you take that opportunity to get the #$%^ out of Dodge (I mean you wouldn’t stand around after spraying a mugger or rapist with pepper spray, would you?). A female griz and her cub? You might as well feed yourself deliberately to a 25 foot great white shark. We have a female griz who eats berries 1/4 mile from my house. She nearly constantly has some cub with her, either 2 year old, or yearling. So far she has taken every opportunity to haul booty when a human comes into sight. Her weaned cubs do the same (so far). If she ever attacks a human, why should she be punished for protecting her young or herself? Did the Yellowstone bear go into the hiker’s tent? No, it was likely a chance meeting because the air wasn’t in the bear’s favor so the hiker and bear bumped into each other. Number 2: If you go hiking in wild animal turf, you should expect possible trouble. Would you go swimming in the ocean, get shark bitten, then try to hunt down and kill that particular shark, based on a chance meeting? Bear spray ages, so Alaska incident does not have all the facts for us. Bear spray does work. Many Montana wardens carry it and it has saved one of them 4 times (3 bears and 1 moose). I carry it, but I have a heavy caliber pistol as backup (the wind isn’t always going to be in my favor, unless the bear followed my scent deliberately). The hiker was there to see some scenery and some wildlife. He/she got her wish. Better luck on next reincarnation. A griz can cover 40 feet in a second, so if you are closer than 80 feet you can expect a “bear hug”, maybe a little ear nuzzle, etc. I can draw and hit a target twice in two seconds. 80 feet means it is point blank and I won’t miss. I may get eaten, but it is doubtful the bear will need hunting down. So, all you city bred and city ignorant hikers just stay in your cities where you will be safe with the gangs. As I have said, I have come within 50 feet of grizzlies twice, with not even a car door between us, and circled around and confronted a mountain lion that was following my son and me. I prefer the animals to the gangs, mainly because I can take action without some cop coming up and cuffing me later. And yes, I have been assaulted by gang members. No guns involved, but they were all knocked down. Those Korean Army karate lessons in ‘Nam paid off in more ways than one.

  30. I am surprised that more tree hugging hikers don’t end up as food for predators. An unarmed hominid facing a couple of aggressive coyotes is pretty much dog food. It just shows how much most wild animals respect the threat poses by humans right up to the point where they figure out we are defensiveless without the right tools.

    I never go into the woods unarmed even in the “benign” Midwest and East Coast. I saw a trail cam shot of a mountain lion taken between Tomah and Sparta Wisconsin. A big cat attack is inevitable in Western Wisconsin. Just ask David Barron.

    • Coyotes don’t attack adult humans… there might be an exception out there somewhere, but they are usually scared off by bipeds. I’ve had lots of neighbors cats and dogs taken by coyote but they turn tail quickly when a human is involved.

      • Tell that to the family of Taylor Mitchell. the Canadian singer killed by coyotes in Nova Scotia.

        One of the dumbest statements you can make about wild animals is “predator X won’t attack humans” Predators won’t go after humans until they do. Always apply the 75/25 rule. If a wild animal comes within 75 yards of you and doesn’t move off get ready and If it approaches within 25 yards shoot to kill because even a rapid ‘yore can close very quickly. Oh and with wolves and coyotes look behind you. They often hunt in pairs. one distracts you while the other approaches from the blind side.

  31. I call BS on the bear spray, at least in california. For those of you that don’t already know get a load of this.

    “As of February 22, 2010, a federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws, to legally possess firearms in this park….
    …Discharging a firearm for any reason is illegal…

    Other Weapons
    The possession, use, or discharge of pepper spray (including bear spray), pellet guns, and BB guns in Yosemite National Park is prohibited.”

    So screw you if your life is in danger or you even want to fire off a warning shot. Cause even though you walk out of that park alive, you’ll be spending those days behind bars (I highly doubt my state would let you off with a fine, I hope to be proven wrong though).

  32. I just returned from hiking Yellowstone backcountry last week and can attest to the effectiveness of Bear Spray. After a 4 day/3 night hike to Heart Lake I decided to head North for a day hike through Fawn Pass.

    I’m usually very Bear aware: making noise, hiking in groups, looking for sign, watching/listening to Ravens and other carrion that could signal a carcass. On the long overnighter we saw elk, bison, and deer. Some parts of the trail definitely got the hair in my neck to stand up, as we passed some prime bear habitat and heard crashing through the woods but never saw anything. One of the backcountry campsites had some bear sign by the cooking area and bear poles so we hiked a bit farther to the next site. Overall a great hike, but no bear sightings. That changed on the next hike.

    A buddy and I headed out at about 9am to hike Fawn Pass–a tough hike through some of the best Grizzly habitat in the park. Just after the Big Horn Pass cutoff we came over a rise and saw a mama grid and her 2 Cubs about 100 yards in a meadow–they looked to be feeding. We stopped and I quickly unholstered my Bear spray and my friend unholstered his 44mag. I was carrying my 1911 in 460 Rowland as well but we decided earlier that I would spray and he would stand ready with revolver if need be. As we started backing up mama put her head way up, looked right at us, and charged.

    If you’ve never been charged its hard to describe just how FAST the big grizzlys are and just how scared you become. First instinct is to run but we all know that almost always ends badly. So, we stood our ground, put hands in the air to make ourselves look bigger. She just kept coming. She probably covered 80 yards in about 4 seconds–head and nose down and loll on head back and forth. I remember both of us saying “oh shit” over and over. I was about to spray and she pulled up about 20 yards short and started “woofing” and bounding back and forth on her front legs. I started to talk gently to her and back away and my buddy did the opposite: yelled and flailed his arms. We probably should have talked through a strategy in more detail but when you’re that scared it’s almost all instinct.

    She put her head back down and started to charge again. When she was within 10-15 yards i let loose and just stood on the trigger. The wind was non existent and she ran right into the cloud. It was like she hit a brick wall–she flipped over, jumped up and bolted 180 degrees back the way she came. If I didn’t see it I wouldn’t have believed it. We both saw her eyes get HUge and then it was like she got shot with a cannon–she literally fell over and jumped back up and ran away.
    I took my buddy’s can of spray since mine was out and we both turned around and quickly walked back the way we came. Both of us shaking so badly we could hardly walk. I could not get my heart rate under control until we saw the trailhead and were headed into the truck.

    It seems we came upon her feeding on something. It had to be a dead animal as all 3 were gathered around something. Grass was too high to see. We are still trying to figure out if we could have done anything better. We’ve both seen lots of bears but this is the first time we’ve been charged. And hopefully the last. I can see why people run–it’s instinct. We both had to tell each other to stay put, and not run.

    Ok my hands are shaking writing this. I got home last night and started googling everything about bears and bear encounters. This my landing on this forum. We shall see how this plays out. As of now, I’m not too keen to go back anytime soon but I’m sure the feeling of terror will pass. I hope.

    Anyway, that’s my bear spray story. One thing I’ll tell you is that I wished the spray would work at a greater distance. Waiting that long is almost impossible. Luckily I had a HUGE can and just kept spraying. It seemed to last quite a while. Well over 10 seconds I think. But then again, time was standing still so I could be way off.

    Ok enough reliving it. I hope no one gets to experience that feeling. Me and my friend are both big guys, but at that instant we felt like scared little kids. It was very unnerving.

    Take care,


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