8 replies [Last post]
Location: Colorado Springs
Joined: 02/23/2009
Posts: 187
Best Pistol for Back-Up Against Bears

Alright all, I have a question.  Looking more for opinions v. written facts, etc.  I currently carry my .357 Mag. loaded with 180 Hornady XTP's around 1100 f.p.s. for backup when Elk hunting in Colorado.  I've run across a couple of Black Bears, but I've never been threatened by them, so I've never had to shoot one.  Recently, I read an article about backup pistols and author wrote about carrying whatever you're most comftorable shooting.  I have 2 pistols that I really enjoy shooting and carrying - my .357 and .40 S&W  I'm thinking about carrying my .40 this year b/c it has a capacity of 12 rnds., v. my .357 which holds 7.  I load my .40 with 180 gr. Hornady XTP's also, they're around 1000 f.p.s.  So I'm asking, 'which gun would you all carry?'  Just curious and looking for opinions.

Critter's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!Moderator
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 4423
If I was more conserned about

If I was more conserned about protection rather than hunting I would pack bear spray.  It has been proven to be better than a firearm when it comes to changing a bears mind when you just want to scare it away rather than shooting it.  It also weighs less than a pistol. 

Other than that I would pack a .41mag at minimum and go up from there if I was planning on hunting a black bear, so if you really want to pack a pistol for protection I would start there also. 

Remember even with 12 shots you have to hit the bear where it will put it down with the first couple of shots or that bear will be on you making mince meat out of you. 

Location: Neveda
Joined: 07/22/2008
Posts: 229
Not sure what facts you are

Not sure what facts you are looking for back up on "back up bear gun"

For a hand gun back up:

As big of caliber as you can handle:measure by ft lbs of energy. BIG Solid bullets

the situation you will be in, close range and your mind will be racing, this will come down trained reaction.

Best Option: Shotgun:  loaded as follows

1st shot  slug     2nd 00 buck, 3rd 000 buck, 4th Slug 5th slug.

if you get surprized you have lots of thump on the first shot, you can always dump the 1st shot by ejection the round and you have the buck shot.

you dont have to aim buckshot, just point


Joined: 10/08/2009
Posts: 110
I sometimes carry a 45LC

I sometimes carry a 45LC Ruger redhawk with buffalo bore hard cast lead, duplicates 44 mag balistics with a fatter hole, while hiking or during archery season. While hunting colorado, I am rarely concerned about bears, they run away at the sight or smell of humans 99% of the time. This is in the field not in some campground where they've been conditioned to be used to humans and eat snickers bars. Those bears are dangerous. 

If I was in big bear territory, hunting with a rifle, I wouldnt have a sidearm, my rifle would suffice. Most brown bear guides carry a rifle or shotgun with slugs, very few only carry a sidearm. If i was backpacking and didnt want to carry a shotgun or rifle it'd be my 45LC, but a 44 mag would do just fine. Anything above 44 mag just adds weight on your hip. A 500 S&W isnt going to stop a bear any faster at 10 yards than a 44 will cause you are talking about hitting them in the noggin at that point. You hit him in the chest at that range with a 50 BMG and you are probably still in for a bit of a fight. They are tough suckers from every account I have heard from guides and people who have hunted them.

SoCoKHntr's picture
Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
Posts: 1821
I now carry

a 44 mag loaded with HSM 305 gr hardcasts when bowhunting. Before I had the 44 mag I carried a Ruger GP 100 loaded with Buffalo Bore 180 gr hardcasts. The XTP is a great bullet but in the rare event I was faced with a huge angry black bear charging me head on I'd rather have a heavy hardcast that could punch thru heavy hide, muscle, and bone, on an adrenalized bear. If I was hunting bear and could pick a broadside lung shot I'd feel ok with the XTP but again, charging, give me something that will break the running gear down or penentrate the skull if needed.

Joined: 07/16/2009
Posts: 70
Oh gosh, a bear gun thread.

Oh gosh, a bear gun thread.  These are fun.  We all comment on what the best gun is, and most of us, if not all of us, have never shot a charging bear (including me).  So I guess, take my advice with a grain of salt.  I too foray in the Colorado wilds and typically pack heat, even when carrying a rifle.  Redundant, perhaps, but there are a lot of times when the rifle is not with me, e.g. camp, bathroom, quick trots to glass a nearby meadow, etc.  


I've carried a lot of different pistols from 45acp Commanders to 6.5 inched, 44 magnums.  My favorite is a Glock 20 with a 5.5" barrel (gives about 75fps more velocity with my handloads).  Is a 10mm with 700 ft lbs. of energy the best for stopping a charging bear, I'm going to bet not, but it's comforting enough for me.  Killing a bear and stopping a charging bear are two very different things.  I think for a charging bear, 454 Casull and up is necessary and even that's a crap shoot as I've read credible stories where a 12 gauge slug was not enough. 

SoCoKHntr's picture
Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
Posts: 1821
True enough

Never had a bear charge me and hopefully never will! Makes me think of the rare cases I've read of predatory black bears or mt. lions where they actually stalk you silently and coming from your blindside. If you survived the initial ambush it'd likely be hand to claw/fang combat just hoping they'd break off the attack and you'd live. I, like you folks prolly do as well, encounter black bears every year when bow hunting. I feel pretty secure with a 44 mag and heavy hardcasts that in a situation where I was able to see a bear acting funny or aggressive and get prepared the 44 mag would be enough. However, if it was a sudden blind charge at point blank range, really not much  one can do. In Grizzly country I'd feel undergunned  with the 44 but feel more secure against black bears. To clarify lets say one is on a trail and spy a large black slowly advancing towards you with hackles raised at fifty yards. He is now closing focused on you and yelling and raising ones arms is not halting this and distance is now 20 yards. If he continued to advance directly towards me I'd pull my pistol and consider firing a warning shot to see if this discouraged the bear. If he continued to close or started to pick up the pace and distance was closing fast once ten yards was broken I'd begin to take careful aim and at some point would have to consider trying to place a lethal shot and deal with the consequences whether he killed me or I had to prove to the DOW that I was justified in killing him. Again, an unexpected charge at close range not much you can do that situation. I guess in the end were lucky that in black bear country it is extremelly rare to have to worry about this, but having that 44 on my side when I've got a bow in my hand gives me confidence and for me that's what counts.

SoCoKHntr's picture
Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
Posts: 1821

and to what Critter said I could see where bear spray in my scenario would be ideal, maybe I'll get some, but again, if that wasn't a deterent it'd be nice to have the sidearm as well.

Joined: 07/28/2015
Posts: 1
Sorry for the late comment,

Sorry for the late comment, but just ran across this thread in a search.  I found the comments by JJHack in this thread very persuasive:


I don't know anything more about him, but he sounds credible and had over 1000 posts to that forum.  His point seems to be that you can *kill* an animal better (but slowly) with a deep-penetrating bullet but you can *stop* or *slow* an animal faster by distracting it with a shallower, more disruptive wound in the surface tissue where the pain receptors are located.

Based on this, I bought some Underwood 10 mm ammo in 180 grain JHP and 200 grain lead hardcast.  When hiking I load these JHP, JHP, lead, JHP, JHP, lead, JHP, lead, lead, JHP, lead, lead...the hope being that in the very unlikely event that I actully got the gun out during an animal attack, some JHP hits would encourage it to stop charging long enough to put some hard lead where they would count.

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