Defensive Handgun Use Against Bears

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From reader Jack, this is by Dean Weingarten, who writes some of the best stuff on the web.

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 engaged in a search for instances where  pistols were used to defend against bears.  I and my associates have found 37 instances that are fairly easily confirmed. The earliest happened in 1987, the latest mere months ago. The incidents are heavily weighted toward the present, as the ability to publish and search for these incidents has increased, along with increases in bear and human populations, and the carry of pistols.

The 37 cases include one that can fairly be described as a “failure”.

The pistol calibers, when known,  range from 9 mm to .454 Casull. The most common are .44 magnums.  Here are the cases, sorted by caliber …

To summarize, we have found 37 verified cases where pistols were used to defend against bear attacks. Included, for complete data reporting, are two cases where bears were shot at with both rifles and pistols, making it difficult to determine the efficacy of pistols alone.

Of the 35 strictly pistol defense cases, one was a clear failure. That is the use of the .357 against an Alaskan grizzly by a geologist on 20 June, 2010. It is likely the bear was not hit in that incident.

There are four successful defenses with 9 mm pistols. The three grizzly bears were killed, the black bear was wounded and ran off.

Two of the three uses of the .357 were successful. One was against a grizzly that was stopped with one shot, but then escaped. The other grizzly was killed with six shots fired.

There were three uses of .40 caliber pistols, all against black bears, all successful, all of the bears were killed.

There was one use of a 10 mm pistol against a grizzly. 4 or 5 shots were fired.  It was successful and the bear was killed.

There were two uses of .41 magnum revolvers. Both were against grizzly bears, both were successful and the bears were killed.

There were twelve uses of .44 magnum revolvers. All were successful. One was against a black bear, it was mortally wounded but finished off with shotgun slugs. Eleven were against grizzly bears.  Two were driven of with “warning shots”. One was driven off, without evidence of being wounded.  One was wounded and not recovered.  One was wounded and finished off at the scene with a shotgun slug. Six were killed without further assistance.

There were four uses of .45 caliber pistols against bears. All were successful. One was against a black bear, which was killed with additional shots, probably from another handgun. The other three were grizzly bears killed with multiple hits from the .45 caliber pistols.

There was one use of a .45 Super pistol. It was successful. The grizzly bear was killed with one shot.

I covered on of these incidents, the first such incident with a .45 ACP or any handgun at all after carry was legalized in national parks.

You can read the incisive and detailed analysis by Dean for yourself.  I recommend that you do.  Most pistols were effective, especially .44 magnum and .45 ACP (and if you’re shooting 45 SCM in your .45 ACP handgun, you’re approaching .44 magnum muzzle velocity).

So any time you hear that spray is more effective and a handgun doesn’t work, remember that the progs are engaging in myth-making and fairy tales.


Comments

  1. On February 21, 2018 at 1:11 am, TheAlaskan said:

    Sometimes I think you post these articles just to wake me up Herschel. Just shows I’m paying attention. I will always listen to the engineer…why? Because my Dad was an aeronautical engineer. Smartest man I’ve ever known.

    What we Alaskans know is what we know…big bore pistols and 12 gauge slugs are bad bear medicine. Natives and non-Native alike know these bush-tested truths. Mass and velocity ruin the bruin.

  2. On February 21, 2018 at 11:59 am, Gryphon said:

    “Bear Spray”… Yeah Right, if that Grizzly wasn’t pissed off to Start with…
    .45ACP and Hollow-Points should be the minimum Weapon around Bears.

  3. On February 21, 2018 at 4:15 pm, TheAlaskan said:

    A correction for past posts I’ve made about the slugs I use in my 870. They are not 400gr…they are 602gr. Brenneke Black Magic Magnum (that’s why they hurt to shoot.)

    Sorry for the error.

  4. On February 22, 2018 at 9:42 am, revjen45 said:

    I would not choose .45 JHP for bear. A bear’s skull is thick and hard, penetration is the effect required to put it on the trailer, and JHPs do not penetrate as much as RNFMJ. Jack Huntington (who knows as much about using a pistol for big critters as anybody I can think of) says that ogive with 70-80% meplat is the choice for penetration through bone. That would be my choice in a .44 Mag.

  5. On February 22, 2018 at 10:08 am, Fred said:

    Revjen, I’ve done that. It just seemed like the right thing to do when I would swap out self defense rounds for jacketed when heading into the hills.

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You are currently reading "Defensive Handgun Use Against Bears", entry #18679 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published February 20th, 2018 by Herschel Smith.

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