31 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/30/2005
Posts: 2
Side arm for travels in Bear country

I ask this question cause i don't have a clue. I plan on taking a Pilot job in Ak spring of 06 and the more i read the more i realize i need more info. I consider myself a seasoned hunter but i have hunted only in Texas and its ajoining states nothing down here turns hunters into bear turds. I prefer long guns and have little use for pistols other than home defense. My question to those that hunt and travel in bear country , Do the pilots carry a handgun or opt for a rifle? I will not be hunting or in a guide type roll this is just an oh shit gun. SInce this is not a hunting type shot any suggestion on shot placement as more than likely you will have a head on target. I have a 44 mag in the 10.5 inch any thoughts? Thanks in advance


expatriate's picture
Location: Arizona
Joined: 10/26/2002
Posts: 3206
Side arm for travels in Bear country

Bears are tough, no two ways about it.

I read today that a typical hunter up here averages 4.2 rounds to kill a brown bear. And that's nice, controlled shots at a relatively calm target.

But in terms of defense, lhigh powered rifles are better for the energy factor. 12 ga slugs are fairly common as well.

But if you opt for a handgun, go for penetration. Go with at least a .44 mag using heavy bullets that don't expand. There are a LOT of .500 S&W hand cannons up here in just about any store that carries handguns. But if you're shook up already by Yogi's intent to use you for a hockey puck, a serious flinch won't help you any. A .454 Casull might be a compromise, because they're more powerful than a .44 but will also fire .45 Colt ammunition, which is a lot cheaper and a lot less intimidating for practice. Get proficient with the .45s, and chances are you won't be noticing recoil if you need it for real.

All that said, there's another solution -- pepper spray. I know that goes against the grain a bit, but statistical data accumulated over the past few years suggests that pepper spray has stopped bears over 90 percent of the time, while guns have done it something like 68 percent of the time. One might read that and conclude that by carrying both you up your chances to 158 percent. But another factor to consider is that state law says that if you kill a bear in self defense you must skin it out and turn in the hide and skull -- a strong argument for pepper spray if you ask me.

Bear in mind that bears will generally avoid you if given the opportunity. So your most likely scenario in a defensive situation will be a surprised bear in dense cover. Under those conditions, you've got almost no time at all and you've got to be accurate while your senses are in full overload.

Joined: 08/30/2005
Posts: 2
Side arm for travels in Bear country

Thanks for the info. I also ran across this website http://www.garrettcartridges.com they seem to make some hard hitting ammo for the 44 mag.and 45-70 He also wrote an article on defensive bear shooting. The more info i find the more i think i want a short DA like the Redhawk. Post your opinions surely others have experience for the newbies to bigger game.

Location: Kodiak, AK
Joined: 03/28/2004
Posts: 37
Side arm for travels in Bear country

Leave the 44 at home and get some Bear Spray. Just make sure its bear spray though and not just regular pepper spray. Most of the stories you hear of it not working are because the idiots tried to save some money and bought cheap pepper spray intended for use on humans. The only time I carry a gun is when I'm hunting and if I'm hunting solo I still carry Bear Spray. When I hike in the summer all I carry is bear spray. Also if your going to be flying into national parks you won't be allowed a gun anyway. You can bring the 44, expecially if your staying in Anchorage, since you may get some use out of it there. : )

Location: Bend, OR
Joined: 10/18/2005
Posts: 2
Side arm for travels in Bear country

While any sidearm is better that nothing. When it comes to pistols we always say shoot all the rounds but save one for yourself. That's definetly an exaggeration but I would say the best sidearm is a small sized 12 guage with buckshot. But as I said, something is better than nothing.

Location: Anchorage AK
Joined: 12/03/2004
Posts: 46
Side arm for travels in Bear country

you say you already have a .44 Mag in a 10.5 inch barrel. How comfartable are you shooting that? How quickly can you get 6 shots off with it on target at short range (20 feet)? The reason I ask is stick with what you know rather than go bigger and not be able to hit squat. If you are comfortable with your .44 Magnum, I'd look into another one in a more packable size, 4 inch barrel being about the usual. Like you said, this is for your, "OH CRAP" situation. Stick with what you know. That way the body just does what it is used to.
Shotguns are nice, especially a 12 guage with a mag extension, full stock and alternating loads of slugs and shot, BUT, they have a tendency to be left places leaning against a tree when you are, "just going" to take a leak, look over that hill, etc. The revolver on your hip will at least go along for the walk.

Then practice, practice, practice.

Have fun when you get here!

Location: Alaska
Joined: 11/25/2005
Posts: 33
Alaska Pistol

I would suggest a good Ruger 4-5/8" Stainless in 44 Mag. I suggest having it Mag- na-ported and maybe a good action job. I favor the 250 FPJ factory load from Federal Gold Medal Match. Alot of hunters use the 320 grain LBT hardcast also.

Location: SE Alaska
Joined: 04/27/2005
Posts: 70
Side arm for travels in Bear country

I would have to agree with the posts that suggest the use of bear spray. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, you have to think about the circumstances under which you are going to have to use your chosen bear "deterant". Being a pilot you can understand the effects of high stress situations have on the human mind and body. Fine motor skills diminish, decision making skills are hamperd, and periphial vision no longer exists "the tunnel vision effect". In other words, OH CRAP! Just getting a pistol out of a holster is a monumental feat much less bringing it up on target and scoring a fatal shot in five or six rounds or less depending on how much warning or distance the animal gives you before it reaches you. No training in the world will put you under the conditions one would face with a 1000lb bruin charging at 20 yards in an alder thicket. To place a .45 cal bullet in a vital area in these circumstances is more than I would want to bet on.
With the use of a bear spray some of these factors are taken out of the equasion, or at least minimised so that they are more in your favor. With a bear spray you are not trying to place a shot dead on target in order to end the threat. The placment is more forgiving, you have a fog that is created that doesn't have to be "aimed" just pointed similar to the use of a shotgun with bird shot. Most sprays use a finger hole on top of the canister and are dispensed using your thumb. Very easy to use under high stress situations minimising the loss of fine motor skills. As with anything there may be some draw backs to the use of spray. Wind, rain, and the distance at which the spray is used all can have negative effects on the use of spray.
If you do chose to carry a firearm, my personal choise is a shotgun loaded with slugs, equiped with a slug barrel and ghost ring sights. It may be heavy and cumbersom compared to a hand gun, but the heavyer slug and greater ammo carrying capacity might be enough to turn the table in your favor.This is of course just my opinion.

Joined: 11/15/2002
Posts: 4
Side arm for travels in Bear country

Foeget the sidearm

carry a short 12 gauge shotgun
loaded with foster slugs

mtcop71's picture
Location: Prattville, Alabama
Joined: 01/10/2004
Posts: 64

I agree carry the shotgun.

I carry a mossberg 600 cruiser with slugs. I have been charged once by a bear and shot next to him at 20 yds, he got the idea and took off. It was comfortable to shoot and your not going to feel any recoiil with your adrenaline flowing like that.


Location: Juneau,Alaska
Joined: 02/21/2006
Posts: 31
bear protection

Patrick and also hello all. This is my first post . I see in your post that you are taking a piloting job I assume this is in small aircraft. I think you might have an issue with bear spray an planes. Can you imagine if by accident the spray went off in the plane? Also you should use an EPA listed bear spray such as udap or counter assault as they are not all of the same quality. Wild West Guns in Anchorage customizes or converts 45-70's into what they call 457 wild west mags. this is a stretched out 45-70. This gives you a little more horse power and with a bonded 405 grain kodiak bullet you have a pretty potent bear gun. They also do one they call the pilot which is a break down which would make storing it easier. The option of medium loop lever lets you use it with gloves.

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