Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We Get Letters

"Have you ever used a handgun to shoot a bear to hunt one like that...are they as good as some rifles?

Twice in my life I've had to defend against a mean attacking black bear. The first one, a runt of only 300 lbs or so went down with 5 shots of .45 acp and 2 more to make sure. The second ate a cylinder full of the old .44 magnum Pin-Grabbers before he stopped kicking, but this was a brute weighing in at close to 600 lbs. Don't ask why a long gun wasn't used but suffice to say they were around but not close enough to risk a run for. If you are expecting a set-to with a large black, a Ruger Redhawk will allow you to load the most powerful .44 magnum rounds in existence, 320-330 grain hardcasts that will penetrate the skull if necessary and anything that will crack a bears brainhousing group will usually do the trick when pointed at the boiler room.

For the obvious reasons, hunting a bear is a lot different than defending against one. Taking that well aimed, perfect shot, versus running and screaming like a little girl while cranking out round after round is what I'm talking about. I'd never pick a sidearm over a rifle for self defense but many, many hunters have downed the biggest Kodiaks ever with .44 magnums and above, with the newer .500's seeing a lot of action of late. A 30-06 is probably the least amount of rifle you want to have handy, stoked with the hardest rounds you can find. 45-70's have taken down many a big bruin even though up close and personal the .450 and .500 Smiths are more powerful, but since I'm talking rifle now I myself wouldn't feel comfortable going up against a ticked off Brown with anything smaller than a 375 H&H as a top of the foodchain guarantee.

Hard 3" slugs from a 12 gauge have and will prove quite effective. Forest Rangers do it all the time. But since you asked this as a personal question and I've never used a rifle OR shotgun to fend off a charging bear its conjecture, with erring on the MORE-GUN side whenever possible a sensible recommendation. Thats the difference asking questions here versus querying chairborne commandos who've read up a lot and shot up a little. If I've done it I'll relate how I done it. If not, I'll shrug and point to the ones that HAVE done it. I am not, nor will I ever be, an expert on killing large bears. No one who has not killed a lot of large bears is. I've seen blacks go down, I've put them down, but there are 1600 pound Alaskan bears out there and while I've always wanted to take one on, I haven't yet. If and when I do I'll get back to you, but it still wouldn't make me a pro.

Bottom line: Keep the handgun as a backup, or for that well-placed shot, preferably with a buddy next to you packing long heat. It is not possible to over-emphasize the difference between hunting one, and fighting one for your very life.

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