Handgun Or Pistol Against Bear Attack: 93 Cases, 97% Effective

BY Herschel Smith
2 months ago

We discussed how Dean Weingarten had been tracking bear attacks with associated data on the effectiveness of handguns to stop them.  He previously had cataloged 63 cases.  Now, Dean updates his data to include up to a total of 93 cases, concluding that a handgun was effective 97% of the time.

As of March 2020, we have found 20 more handgun cases, for a total of 93 cases, with three failures, for a success rate of 97%.

In addition to the handgun defenses, there are four more instances where handguns were used in combination with long guns, bringing the total to eight; 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.  All of these additional incidents are referenced but are not included in the 93 cases or the 97% success rate.

[ … ]

The handgun calibers, when known, range from .22 rimfire to .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum. The most common are .44 magnums with 28 cases, all successful.  There were 2 combinations of .44 magnum and .357 magnum cases. Six of the combination handgun and long gun cases involved .44 magnum revolvers.

For this update, we found another .22 rimfire case, two additional 9mm cases, another .38 special case, three additional .357 magnum cases, another 10mm case, five additional .44 magnum cases (included in the 28 total .44 magnum number), another .45 ACP case, another .454 Casull case, four more cases where the caliber was unknown, and one more case where both .357 and .44 magnum revolvers were used. All 93 cases are referenced below, as well as the combination cases and examples of incidents that were not included, in the interest of transparency and completeness.

And he lists the cases for any detractors, stating that they can be independently verified.

Once again, congratulations to Dean on outstanding research.  Lesson: In the bush, carry means of self defense.  I prefer a larger bore bullet, specifically, 45 SMC.

What would TheAlaskan think about carrying a .22LR for self defense in the Alaskan bush?  I think I’ll take a pass on that.


Comments

  1. On March 27, 2020 at 7:29 am, Fred said:

    No data is given on how many times somebody yelled at a bear and it left without incident. There are so many variables but especially agency of the bear. I’ll take large bullets as well simply because of the nature of the beast in question.

    I’ve never seen a bear attack in person and don’t want to, but I have called off a bear, of course that was in the Smokies where they are responsive (most of the time) to humans. I’ve also been too close to both a black and brown. Neither of those bears SEEMED to care about me. But there was that one large male black that was shadowing me along the top of a ridge on the Benton Mackaye trail. That was unnerving. Why do I keep running into bears? That’s good question. If you know tell me.

  2. On March 27, 2020 at 10:23 am, Herschel Smith said:

    @Fred,

    Read again. Dean is making no claims as to WHETHER a handgun is needed or how many times a bear sighting occurs with nothing happening. He has no data for that and makes no claim to.

    His analysis is limited to one issue. At the beginning of the article he describes what that is. The claims were made that handguns are ineffective at stopping bear attacks (in favor of spray, standing your ground, playing dead, or whatever the silly ideas are).

    He set out to demonstrate one way or another whether handguns are effective at STOPPING BEAR ATTACKS.

    That was his only mission, and he clearly says so. He achieved his mission.

  3. On March 27, 2020 at 12:13 pm, Fred said:

    No no, I didn’t mean to disparage Mr. Weingarten or his work in any way. I think it’s quite valuable actually. I thought to mention that after I hit post. You are correct. I should have explained; I find animal behavior to be very interesting, so excepting for hunger, what drives an attack or no attack choice in an animal is fascinating, mostly because it’s pretty much unknowable outside of surprising one into defending itself.

  4. On March 27, 2020 at 1:18 pm, Ned2 said:

    Fred, also note most of the attacks he mentioned were out here in the west and Alaska. Grizzlies love bear spray because when it blows back in your face, it seasons dinner for them.
    Most of the time, attacks are the result of the bear being surprised, caught on a kill/cache, or too close to their young. Having a firearm greatly increase your chance of survival, as all the hunters I know will tell you. This article proves that.

  5. On March 27, 2020 at 1:51 pm, Fred said:

    Yep, and with spring coming, they should get some more numbers to increase the sample size…stay safe out there.

  6. On March 27, 2020 at 2:46 pm, TheAlaskan said:

    Carry your 44 mag on your chest (out of the way) when you’re in the Alaskan bush…always. Bears, all five varieties, roam the bush/tundra in Alaska. And btw Ned2, bear kills/caches are usually evident by magpies and ravens and jays…from a distance. The location of the bear (or wolves) isn’t always known. It’s a flag you best steer clear of…by a wide margin…and unlimber your 44 while doing so.

    In the winter, when the bears aren’t about, I also carry a 22 just in case those spruce chickens decide to charge. ;<)

  7. On March 28, 2020 at 9:46 am, Ned2 said:

    @Alaskan
    I’ve stumbled on caches here in Wyoming that hadn’t been found by the birds yet and they were days old. I’ve also stumbled on day old gut piles without birds on them. You just don’t know.
    Are those the man eating spruce chickens you’re talking about?

  8. On March 29, 2020 at 6:04 pm, TheAlaskan said:

    “Are those the man eating spruce chickens you’re talking about?”

    Yes, and we lowly humans know our place in the food chain here in Alaska. In fact, the most voracious man eater in the summer is not the bear, albeit the most terrifying. No sir. That distinction belongs to the Alaskan Mosquito. Drive you to near madness, flailing about trying to escape but to no avail.

    The 44 mag has no chance against such a blood thirsty nasty, except maybe….oh wait, there is deet….

    Wear your bottle of deet, next to your hog leg on your chest at all times when you’re in bush Alaska.

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You are currently reading "Handgun Or Pistol Against Bear Attack: 93 Cases, 97% Effective", entry #23742 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Animals and was published March 26th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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