Pistols Or Handguns 95% Effective When Used To Defend Against Bear Attacks, 63 Cases

BY Herschel Smith
2 months ago

Dean Weingarten at Ammoland.

In January 2018, I published some original research on the efficacy of pistols in stopping bear attacks. It started with this observation, on the Internet, and in print, many people claim that pistols lack efficacy in defending against bear attacks. Here is an example that occurred on freerepublic.com:

“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 much conjecture about the lack of efficacy of pistols for defense against bears. A little searching will find a plethora of fantasy, fiction, mythology, and electrons sprayed about the supposed lack.

In the original article, there were 37 instances of bear attacks where people attempted to defend themselves or others from a bear or bears, with a pistol.

Of the 37 attacks, there was only one failure, giving a success rate of 97%.

The criteria for inclusion in this study is a pistol had to be fired to defend against a bear or bears. If a pistol was not fired, the incident was not included. If the use of the pistol stopped the attack, it was a success whether the bear was killed immediately, or left the scene, as long as it stopped attacking.

All methods of defense against bears have similar problems of access. A handgun or bear spray in a pack, or a rifle slung over the shoulder without a round in the chamber, should not be counted as a use of the method to defend against bears.  All of the methods can be carried for easy access. It is not a fault of the method if the user did not have them available for use, or if the attack was too quick to allow use.

I and colleagues have searched for instances where  pistols were used to defend against bears.  By the time of the original article I and my associates found 37 instances which were fairly easily confirmed.

Our renewed efforts have found another 26 instances. The earliest happened in 1936, the latest mere months ago. The incidents are heavily weighted toward the present.  The ability to publish and search for these incidents has increased over the years. In addition to the pistol defenses, there are two new instances where pistols were used in combination with rifles, one where a pistol was used on an aggressive bear hit by a vehicle, two examples where pistols were present but not used, one indeterminate case, and two examples of unconfirmed incidents.

Both bear and human populations have increased.  Reliable and powerful pistols have become more popular, legal, and commonly carried.

The 63 cases include three that meet the criteria for failure. That translates to a success rate of 95%. You need not rely on my judgement or that of my colleagues. Read of the successes and failures for yourself. Make your own judgements. Some links may not work. Sources on the Internet often go dead after a few years.

What a great article and stellar research.  Make sure to go look at his data.  It includes cartridges all the way from .22LR to the big bore rounds.


Comments

  1. On March 22, 2019 at 12:53 am, TheAlaskan said:

    I hate bears….they’re just about ready to come out….hungry.

  2. On March 22, 2019 at 8:58 am, Fred said:

    Some of those stories are great. They guy with a .22 and his dogs tag teaming is excellent. Man, those were some good dogs. And Russians being Russians, exactly what we’ve come to expect. I’ll have to circle back and read more.

  3. On March 22, 2019 at 9:23 am, BRVTVS said:

    I can’t imagine bear spray doing much good in a situation like this. https://youtu.be/OF3qpIYQHEU

  4. On March 22, 2019 at 9:34 am, MTHead said:

    Like an author at Guns & Ammo use to say, “whatever firearm you have will certainly be better than your fingernails!”

  5. On March 22, 2019 at 8:12 pm, Dov Sar said:

    Where I live we only have black bears. I always carried a .45 for that reason; if I couldn’t get away from a bear then Mr. Glock would come to my aid. Should I use full metal jacket or will hollow point suffice? I usually use hollow point for carry so that the bullet won’t go through my target to someone else, so I would have to change load when I stroll through the woods.

  6. On March 23, 2019 at 1:48 pm, MTHead said:

    Here in so. Oregon I carry a 44 mag. Ruger Alaskan. the problem is being able to affect the central nervous system.(small moving target), and just doing as much damage as possible. a glock in 45 with, 230 gr.fmj will certainly do the job on a black bear. if you can do your part. if not, make it wade through the brass to get to you! I am pretty sure survivors agree, you can’t have a big enough gun, nor enough ammo in it.

  7. On March 23, 2019 at 6:20 pm, Dov Sar said:

    Thanks!

  8. On March 24, 2019 at 9:01 am, bob sykes said:

    14 shots with a .22 lr, including a reload, and a couple of dogs, seems to indicate the bear wasn’t all that aggressive. Whatever.

    However, Weingarten’s research is supported by another study, involving over 2,000 incidents,

    https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/alternate-look-handgun-stopping-power

    I’ve posted this link before, but there may be some people who haven’t seen it.

    The gist is that any caliber, including lowly .22’s, .25’s, .32’s, are successful at deterrence, because of the pain of any bullet wound. Of course, once you get up to 9 mm and above, the perp is likely to die. That is most certainly not a good thing, as you would be charged with some sort of manslaughter in most states.

  9. On March 24, 2019 at 11:10 am, MTHead said:

    Penetration is key with dangerous, thick skinned animals. and for that one should look to the heaviest bullet-for-caliber one can find. bullet weight matters more than speed. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but its been proven true.

  10. On April 4, 2019 at 2:14 pm, BRVTVS said:

    Satire, but perfectly capturing the attitude of liberals: https://www.theonion.com/brave-mountain-lion-fends-off-group-of-hikers-1819570094

  11. On April 4, 2019 at 6:27 pm, Fred said:

    That’s funny.

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You are currently reading "Pistols Or Handguns 95% Effective When Used To Defend Against Bear Attacks, 63 Cases", entry #20801 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Animals and was published March 21st, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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