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Thread: Handgun for a lower 48 black bear encounter

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    Chill Wills's Avatar
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    Handgun for a lower 48 black bear encounter

    I ran into this guy up above our place while fishing a few nights ago. The bear and I tried to avoid each other. He had good social distance skills. Despite both our efforts we ended up crossing paths. Basically, he ziged when I zagged. There were no cubs in tow so maybe this is a he.


    Yes, due to the Moose and bear in the area and the always human threat, I carry when in the outdoors.
    This bear might go 250-275 pounds - that is my best guess with out giving him a bear hug and hoisting him up off the ground.
    99% of the time I favor a 44 Special for the woods. For some reason the S&W 67 (38 Special) was handier and I put it on that time. I have been playing with a Lyman 200grn round nose in the 38 and had a cylinder full.

    In my experience of a lifetime in the high country, I have only onetime felt the need to pull the trigger to keep an overly aggressive animal at bay. I mention that because this tool on the hip is so seldom used and is most often just additional baggage and a burden, that is until the one time it isn't. So, light and easy to carry v big enough to handle anything is the compromise.

    Large animal encounters are common here. Were it you, what would you feel is enough gun on your hip. What kind of load is enough, cast of course. There is nothing else in my world.
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    Chill Wills

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    Considering I've never taken a bear, and I don't feel burdened by carrying a handgun (I carry 24/7), I'd feel comfortable with a 44 special +P or starting 44 magnum load. For me it'd be a short barrel super blackhawk as that's what I have. Would a 357 magnum with 150+grain bullet and full charge load do it? I spect so. But i wouldn't feel comfortable with it. I've read several of the Bear Tales books by Larry Kaniut, and while it's often one in a million stories of the worst kind, it does happen.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master



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    Good afternoon
    I would consider a 5 shot 44 Special. We have several and really they seem to fade away after 30 minutes on my small frame.
    And a 44 Special spitting out a 250 grainer at 900 feet per is going to do a lot of damage to whatever it slams into. 4 more should be devastating.
    "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
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  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Nice healthy looking bear. We have a few which wander through our neighborhood that terrorize the pit bulls and play tag with the Jack Russels and rat terriers. They have great fun playing with gutsy and fearless small dogs, but the pits are snowflakes in dog clothing and are apparently no fun at all.

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    This fellow knows to stick to the tree line, as if he gets within 50 yards he'll get stung with rubber buckshot.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Read the thread about a 41Magnum against a black bear. I hunt from an outfitter's ground blind so I have a super Blackhawk loaded with a 300 gr Lee cast bullet over 16 gr of Alliant 2400. My rifle is a Marlin 45-70, but some blinds are too small to swing the rifle inside.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy Ozark mike's Avatar
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    44 mag is considered minimum for bear medication around here. Myself i may get a bh in .45 just for these reasons. Heres a true story just to make you think about how hard bear skull is. A feller i knew was back in the wilderness here carrying a 338 win. black bear pops up he smacks it right smack inbetween the eye gets a nice big plume of hear and skin. Bear balls up and rolls down the hill gets to the bottom jumps up and runs off. Well they go back get the dogs and go back out after it. chases it all over creation finally finding it treed puts a round into the boiler room bear hits the ground goes over looks at its head and discovered the round had glanced off the skull and took about a 6" diameter of skin and hair off its head.
    So that always comes to mind when i think about bear defense. Your mileage may very though
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Say, Chill--I read your other post about fishing and Covid-19. Really glad that you maintained your social distancing with the bear. I'm sure that right now he's a real pussycat and would let you scratch his ears and rub his tummy, but I've heard that bears with Covid-19 can be really grouchy. If I knew I was going to meet him in a grouchy attitude I'd take along a .30-06, but otherwise I'd take a chance with a .45 L.C.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozark mike View Post
    44 mag is considered minimum for bear medication around here. Myself i may get a bh in .45 just for these reasons. Heres a true story just to make you think about how hard bear skull is. A feller i knew was back in the wilderness here carrying a 338 win. black bear pops up he smacks it right smack inbetween the eye gets a nice big plume of hear and skin. Bear balls up and rolls down the hill gets to the bottom jumps up and runs off. Well they go back get the dogs and go back out after it. chases it all over creation finally finding it treed puts a round into the boiler room bear hits the ground goes over looks at its head and discovered the round had glanced off the skull and took about a 6" diameter of skin and hair off its head.
    So that always comes to mind when i think about bear defense. Your mileage may very though
    I brought that very topic up on another forum with regards to hitting a bear in the head and not getting a positive result. A couple of the self professed “experts” on that forum exploded and tried to tar and feather me for even suggesting such ideas while they kept touting braining a bear in a charge.

    A short time later I mentioned that discussion to a very skilled hunter and a favorite of bear hunting (he is a Tribal member and has shot a ton of them) and he not only backed my idea but told me of his identical outcome with a .30-06!

    The reality is that a bear in a charge does not hold it’s head still. It bounds with the head oscillating. A skull well designed for surviving fights not with butterflies but rather other similarity equipped bears. The angle of the frontal plane of a bears skull is flatter than a cars windshield and the accounts of handgun slugs glancing off of windshields by police are numerous.

    My point is this: A small handgun is no match for a charging bear. If you are lucky enough to be able to present your handgun and it is up to the job, your best shot would be to hope to connect with the junction of the two shoulder blades near the hump. You will not kill the bear that way but the strategy is to deflect the charge and if you are lucky, then be presented with a more favorable orientation of the bear to your position.

    You want the bear sideways and distracted so you can stuff more rounds in his boiler room or if close and you are good under stress hit the bear in his head sideways just below the ear. That hunter with the big number of bears harvested? His favorite shot was with a .204 Ruger 2” below the ear sideways into a bears head!

    Not for me no thank you! Make mine a bigger gun!

    My two recommendations for a handgun for lower 48 are both in 44 magnum. I suggest the 629 Mountain Gun or the 329 Titanium/Aluminum. I own a MG and it is a real sweetie. I have shot stiff loads in the 329 (with wooden grips) and found it controllable. For a gun carried a lot and fired a little, the 329 S&W is the real deal.

    Three44s
    Last edited by Three44s; 06-28-2020 at 09:14 PM.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Well, Three44s, they shouldn't have been so rude to you. When a bear charges it usually has it's nose pointed straight ahead and it's head tipped slightly rearward because the first thing it has in mind to do is to bite you. So, it's hard to get a head-on brain shot anyway, but besides that a bear's skull is hard, thick, and slopes rearward from it's eyes. It's kind of like a bazooka round defecting off the glacis of a tank's hull. If his head is down, you can probably brain him, but the chest is a bigger, better target. Stick around here at Castboolits, we're nicer folks.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    chill wills,
    my opinion of what constitutes a bear gun isn't worth posting.

    but that is a pretty cool looking place to fish.
    ..

  11. #11
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    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point."
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    "The Highest form of ignorance is when your reject something you don't know anything about".
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  12. #12
    Boolit Man
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    Isn’t there something like a 4-3-1 rule or something like that for a “bear handgun”? A gun with a .4 caliber or larger, at least a 300 grain boolit moving 1000fps or faster. Not many bears around here to make practical use of this information

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy Ozark mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Three44s View Post
    I brought that very topic up on another forum with regards to hitting a bear in the head and not getting a positive result. A couple of the self professed “experts” on that forum exploded and tried to tar and feather me for even suggesting such ideas while they kept touting braining a bear in a charge.

    A short time later I mentioned that discussion to a very skilled hunter and a favorite of bear hunting (he is a Tribal member and has shot a ton of them) and he not only backed my idea but told me of his identical outcome with a .30-06!

    The reality is that a bear in a charge does not hold it’s head still. It bounds with the head oscillating. A skull well designed for surviving fights not with butterflies but rather other similarity equipped bears. The angle of the frontal plane of a bears skull is flatter than a cars windshield and the accounts of handgun slugs glancing off of windshields by police are numerous.

    My point is this: A small handgun is no match for a charging bear. If you are lucky enough to be able to present your handgun and it is up to the job, your best shot would be to hope to connect with the junction of the two shoulder blades near the hump. You will not kill the bear that way but the strategy is to deflect the charge and if you are lucky, then be presented with a more favorable orientation of the bear to your position.

    You want the bear sideways and distracted so you can stuff more rounds in his boiler room or if close and you are good under stress hit the bear in his head sideways just below the ear. That hunter with the big number of bears harvested? His favorite shot was with a .204 Ruger 2” below the ear sideways into a bears head!

    Not for me no thank you! Make mine a bigger gun!

    My two recommendations for a handgun for lower 48 are both in 44 magnum. I suggest the 629 Mountain Gun or the 329 Titanium/Aluminum. I own a MG and it is a real sweetie. I have shot stiff loads in the 329 (with wooden grips) and found it controllable. For a gun carried a lot and fired a little, the 329 S&W is the real deal.

    Three44s
    Yep even seen it happen with a dog. neighbor shot our dog a young Sheppard with a .22 and the bullet passed under the skin but bounced off the skull that dog lived but he got the other one. should of shot the little (insert opinionated word here) but he was only like 16 or so.
    But anyways if you have to just be aware it can and has happend. I personally carry a bfr in 45-70 with an accurate 460-502p
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    I’d just pump away on my 7600 chambered in 35 Whelen and leave my pistols home. I’m one heck of a shot, and shot a few black bear in my life...and still wouldn’t bet my life on drilling a bear in the melon at a full charge. I’d keep my 329NG strapped on for a last resort to put it against the bears skull while it’s chewing on me. I have removed a few nuisance Raccoons and possum that have been causing destruction to my property in the last couple of days with head shots. I placed a few 22lr bullets (taking head on shots) at the wrong angle and missed the brain on one or two. Entered in the nasal area and veered off into the neck. The varmints acted like they weren’t even hit. A quick follow up shot took care of the issue. What ever you use just make sure it has a large capacity magazine and your able to get off a couple of quick follow up shots if needed. BTW black bear are more afraid of you than you are of them. Most will run in the opposite direction if you yell at them and raise your hands above your head and wave your arms to let them know you are a human and bigger than them. You just don’t want to take a chance.
    Last edited by Tripplebeards; 06-28-2020 at 11:17 PM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by M-Tecs View Post
    M-Tecs - That was a good link. 72 or so accounts. Good read. interestingly enough - Not a 44 Special cited. (my choice in side arm since the early 1980's.) The irony is the one day I don't have my 44 I end up close to this guy.
    I will still stick with the 44 Special for most woods work. I am guessing that long blunt 200grn 38 I had in hand would have been tons better than just throwing rocks. But still, my forty four will be back on my side. RCBS "K" 269grn as cast and 825 fps.

    Beerd - You have a good eye for the trout water. Runoff just peaked and the water cleared up though still very high. It should be better fishing each day.

    Outpost75 - Nice bear picture! I assume you took that picture at your place? Rubber buck shot I like it!


    BTW- you guys out there telling me your carrying rifles aren't getting any fishing done with a 30-06 on your shoulder.
    Chill Wills

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Gebirgsjager View Post
    Well, Three44s, they shouldn't have been so rude to you. When a bear charges it usually has it's nose pointed straight ahead and it's head tipped slightly rearward because the first thing it has in mind to do is to bite you. So, it's hard to get a head-on brain shot anyway, but besides that a bear's skull is hard, thick, and slopes rearward from it's eyes. It's kind of like a bazooka round defecting off the glacis of a tank's hull. If his head is down, you can probably brain him, but the chest is a bigger, better target. Stick around here at Castboolits, we're nicer folks.
    Thanks!

    Yes, the members are nicer folks here and that’s why I hang out here much more!

    I pointed that all out as well, the head attitude in a charge. ...... Oh, you’d thought I had suggested voting for a Dem! The way those two carried on, one from Alaska the other from Montana and it just goes to show .... there are internet jockeys and there are folks from out of the brush. And I will tell anyone, I am no expert with bears at all. But I have to put cows down, horses occasionally and I always want my bullet to be perpendicular to the actual skull bone and none of those animals can hold a candle to a bears head.

    My wife and I were at the County Fair one year and they had a bears skull there on display .... mighty impressive. After some trusted friends witnessed what they swore was a grizzly on our cow mountain range almost 20 years ago, I have been doing a lot of thinking and studying on the matter.

    The bear must have been restless and eventually moved on but I stayed the course and began fielding, shooting and handloading/casting in 44 Mag inspire of that.

    There are two ways a Rancher is going to get tied up with a bear, either horseback or on foot. I could not envision having a long gun when I needed it the most. The left handguns in the mix.

    I knew it would have to be a revolver to get enough power, though the 10mm is close. And the best power/weight/bulkiness option seemed to center around the 44 Mag. By 2000, I had three of them, a Redhawk, a Smith MG and lastly a SRH. The SRH (44) got traded for an SRH in 480 Ruger.

    Three44s
    Quit fretting about climate change. It’s how much stronger gravity is getting every day that is bothering me!

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy Rainier's Avatar
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    This guy and a friend keep showing up around these parts...

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    That's about 25/30 feet from my house. I usually have a S&W 329PD loaded with 429421's on my hip. The weight of the scandium makes it a joy to carry but not so much fun to shoot. (Big shout out to Shuz for the grip and load suggestion!) I suspect that your 44 Special will get the job done without much difficulty as long as you have it with you
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  18. #18
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    A very good friend has an interesting black bear story. He had just got out of his stand over bait and was walking out when he spotted a large black bear heading his way. It was just past legal shooting time and he was in the open so he opted to lay down to not spook the bear for the next day. When the bear got to the trail he was on it turn and was walking directly towards him so he shot it at about 10 yards with a 7mm Rem mag with a 175 grain jacketed. The first shoot clipped the top of the nose and traveled the length of the nose and it followed the curvature of the skull but never penetrated. At the shot the bear grabbed it's face and started spinning around. The second shot dropped it. As to proof I did see the skull and you could clearly see the bullet path on the skull.

    I've only shot a couple of black bears and I found them easy to kill.

    That being said an actual charge is much different but personally for a black bear handgun 44 Special, 45 Colt, 10mm Auto or 44 Mag would be fine with me.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

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  19. #19
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    Great suggestions already.

    On the scandium smiths, watch your top straps. Several rounds down range really wear that thin stainless “shield”. I know GregS has some experience with those as well.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    One of those Glock 10mm would be a bit lighter than a wheel gun although the bullet weight is perhaps less than ideal. I think being armed in the woods is important and having at least a man stopper is far better than nothing.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
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GC Gas Check