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Discussion Starter #1
I backpack and hunt in areas where there a lot of black bears. Haven't had a problem yet, but tomorrow is a new day. Sometimes there's a rifle, sometimes not.

Dispensing in advance with all the warnings about "dude, ya can't stop a bear with a handgun" etc., here's what I figure I need. 250-300gr. @ about 1200 or so. Preferably recoil to be no more than a factory .44 mag. I'd like the gun to be fairly short and light, say 40 oz. or so. This would be easy with single action guns. Ruger BH in .45  4 5/8" (done deal)

BUT!!!!  I've spent yearzzz becoming (sort of) proficient with DA guns. I wonder if the Smith 45 colts or the L frame 44 spl. can give this velocity without flying to pieces??

OR!!!! Should I start working on 200 gr. loads for my 7 shot .357?? OR!!!! Just start learning to shoot S/A guns??

The whole deal is that, if (unlikely) I have a bear sitting on my chest, I think my muscle memory would kick in and I'd be trying to shoot DA with whatever I have in hand SA, DA or whatever.

Thanks ya'll
 

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Dude, if the bear's on you it don't much matter what you have.  However, I have two recommendations:

1) get the latest issue of Handloader magazine.  Brian Pterce has an article on this very matter.
2) got a Freedom Arms Model 97 or Ruger in .45 Colt.
 

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And while you're at it [and i'm NOT a bunny-hugger] get yourself one of those large size 'industrial strength' OC sprays...  every one of us OWES it to these animals to first try a non-lethal means of self-defense.  When you venture into the wild you are going to where these animals live so you are in THIER home, NOT YOURS. How would you like it if a bear ambled into your abode, got scared sh*tless when he saw you then immediately pulled out a gun and started blasting away at you; i don't think you'd like it much [not that this is what you intend to do, but there are those that do  <!--emo&:)--><img src="http://beartoothbullets.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif" border="0" valign="absmiddle" alt=':)'><!--endemo--> ]. Yes, these are just animals and we aren't subordinate to them but maybe we should attempt to, in effect, 'train' these wild animals to continue to have the proper fear of humans they should... convincing them we are the biggest, stinkiest 'skunks' on the planet might be a good [and less detrimental to the wildlife population] start.   If you can't handle a close encounter with a wild animal w/o first automatically resorting to lethal methods of self-defense you really have no business being in the great outdoors to begin with [especially since most encounters with dangerous animals can be avoided by using common sense and vigilant attention to whats going on around you when in the wild] and it would be better for everybody [as well as the wildlife] if you'd  just keep your butt camped on your couch. As far as a handgun for back-up SD- it's really a 'no brainer'- just get the biggest caliber handgun you can afford and want to pack and are able to pack with you... that's all you can realistically do anyway so why bother to dwell on the subject at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Was that a reply to a gun question, or a speech on some other subject??

FYI the OC spray is already there. The existing data seems to indicate that sometimes it works, sometimes is doesn't.

I've hunted in bear country all over N. America for over 30 years and I have not done any panic stricken blasting away yet. But if ever a bear is chomping on me or my companion, I'll resort to all the leathal means at my disposal thank you.
 

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"Bad Joke Friday" Dan (moderator emeritus)
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jim,

Several experienced individuals I talked to on the subject of DA vs. SA for bear country suggest the DA based on it's ability to get the second shot off quicker. I can't answer if the S&W L frame could handle the a 300gr at 1200, but would guess it's over the top recommendation. S&W themselves would be a good source, and suspect they would say no, go to a .44.  A  revolver I really like that seems to fit your requirements is the Model 629 4" or 5" Performance Center gun. Nice to carry and I've always been pleased with the accuracy. But as you know, the recovery for the second shot will be slowed.

And then some of them say .475 so you don't have to worry about the second shot, but while I've not experienced it, I understand a large bear,once aroused can absorb one shot of about anything we make and keep coming.

Reminds me of the old story that concludes all you have to do is outrun the other fella!

Dan

(Edited by DOK at 5:40 pm on Oct. 19, 2001)
 

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Jim
Funny that this topic came up. I own a Super Redhawk .454 Casull and a friend has a Freedom Arms revolver in the same caliber. We tried to see who was faster and it was pretty much a tie. The problem is that with full power loads the gun rises off target so much that by the time you recover you have time to cock the hammer. My friend is really good with a single action, though. But I can shoot my Ruger almost as fast SA as I can DA. One thing about the SA though is that if you are trying to shoot really fast you might miss the hammer with your thumb in all the commotion. The advantage of the DA for me is it eliminates one step (cocking the hammer). Not necessarily faster, just a little easier. Also, a 300gr bullet at 1200fps is a little hot for a S&W. I'd either download for the Smith or buy a Redhawk. Just my personal thoughts.
Dave
 

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You're right about that, Jim... that's why i practice using OC w/ my offhand so my shootin' hand is free to be drawing my sidearm; even if it's not sufficient to completely repel a dangerous attacking animal it may slow him up enough to get off a good shot if need be- which may do the job.  The main problem is... well... wild animals are just that.  It's entirely possible to be suddenly face-to-face with a beast the size of a NFL lineman [or in some cases TWICE the size] that moves faster than a runningback.  In those instances the only thing you can do is trust your own survival instincts and hopefully prevail. My theory is that if my weapons don't do the trick at least i know my 45 will put me out of my misery if the beast didn't finish the job.
<!--emo&:)--><img src="http://beartoothbullets.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif" border="0" valign="absmiddle" alt=':)'><!--endemo-->
The resource value of wildlife shouldn't be wasted needlessly.  Taking responsibility and sensibility when venturing out into the wild goes a long way to keep oneself out of trouble... how does that saying go- 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' [and failing that an ounce of lead will usually do the trick].    
 

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Actually, i plan on just carrying the same 45 as i've had for years but if i was in the market for a defensive sidearm now i'd probably check into something chambered for the new 480 Ruger round- sounds like it might be just the ticket.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Slamhound;

Practicing with the off side hand is a great tip. I never thought of it. When I bought the spray, I bought 6 cans so that I could practice at different distances and in wind.  But, it was pretty easy to use so I only burned two cans. I carry the spray in a belt clip on the left side of my pack belt and the gun on my right so it would be a natural to pull the spray and use it lefty.

To: others who've commented on SA vs. DA.

I may be paranoid on the subject beacuse an AK bush pilot that I flew with several times told the story of having to shoot a bear off of himself once. He used a SBH 7 1/2" and said that after the first shot, the long barrel and trying to thumb back the hammer (while being beat about by the bear) it was very difficult to get things lined up.

I've owned a few SA guns but dozens of DAs.  DA shooting is ingrained and SA just isn't. So while the obvious answer for some may be the 4 5/8 Ruger in 45, I'm just afraid that in a case of real need, I wouldn't get those extra shots off.

So, what I thought was perhaps a 3" or 4" DA LC or 44 spl would carry very well and be manueverable enough to get in the right spot and squeeze off a long DA shot insted of trying to grope for the hammer.

But, it sounds like that gun oughta be a 44mag. There are a bunch of Mountain Guns and Mountain Backpackers available used so that seems to be the way to go.
 

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I would say which ever one you can handle comfortably and get the sight picture with which comes like second nature. as regard to caliber that is a toss up. Bob Baker of freedom arms took a big brown in alaska last month and the first shot @25 yds with a 475 (400gr xtp) the shot Did not go as intended to hear it from Bob, the bear turned bit at the wound and then headed bobs direction in a hurry. Bob then fired 4 more rounds with only one hitting the bear out of 4. It then headed past him and He pulled his 4 3/4" 454 loaded with a 360gr hardcast If  I remeber correctly and made one shot to the spine in which put the critter down. I hope I did not tear up bobs story to bad. but bullet design and shot placement is the key whether you shoot a single shot or da,sa firearm. just choose which ever one your most proficient with especially when you might only have one shot to do or die with. Myself if confronted by a big bear that was about to turn me into an appetizer I think even Bob Munden would have been proud of me. nothin like 5 shots of 475 linebaugh in a single action in 1.6 seconds. Sorry just had to throw that in there. Jim.
 

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Hey Jim, i'm impressed you're already carrying OC.  I hope i didn't come off as too touchy [and touche'] on the subject but over the years i've run across several individuals who purposely wanted to get themselves attacked by grizzlies so they could kill them and then be able to claim self-defense if they were caught [and one was rumored to have done just that- the 'shoot, shovel and shut-up'. one other person i know of in fact did that and did get caught but the 'self defense' thing didn't work because it happened to be in a national park and he still got busted for having a firearm! Now he's a felon and can't own firearms at all].
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Slamhound

Wow! Intentionally provoking a grizzly attack?  Their moms didn't raise any smart kids that lived!!

If I ever go looking for one of them there critters, It'll be with a goodly sized rifle.
 

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I'm sure you have probably made a decision by now, but thought I'd put in my two cents.  I faced this same dilemma a few years ago after a friend of mine was mauled by a griz (after she sprayed an entire can of pepper spray into the bears eyes and nose).  I'm not an expert on the subject by any means, but work in remote areas of Alaska for extended periods of time.  I see many more bears than people when I'm in the field.  I carry a 12 gauge slug gun when in the backcountry, but sometimes when going hiking or fishing, it's cumbersome to carry the 12 gauge.  Basically I looked at this as a pure self defense first shot.  If you have time to avoid the encounter, you should by all means, but if not it's going to be fast and furious.  The ability of getting off that first shot by just squeezing the trigger is an advantage, especially if you find yourself in a full on charge at close range.  The timing of the second and successive shots are not as critical as the first.  The Ruger Redhawk and Super Redhawks are very strong sidearms and many 'smiths are turning these DA's into 475 & 500 Linebaughs.  That is what I went with and the reasoning I had behind my choice.  Anyone that has ever been charged by a large bear will tell you, even if you don't have to use lethal force, it is much more comforting and wiser to have lethal force capability than to have a can of bear spray.
 

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i say carry what you shoot best, as that is what you have the best odds of success with...s&w 25 or 29 should be alright.
 

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Jim,
Here is my two bits worth.  You are comfortable with a DA revolver.  In this instance I would say buy a Redhawk in .45 Colt.  There are some really good heavy loads out now in this caliber that, at least to me have less felt recoil than the .44 mags I have fired.  And it is a bigger heavier bullet.  Corbon has a heavy loaded 325 gr lead load out now.  I have tried the 300 gr jsp and like them.  
Stay away from S&W 25-5's, they wont hold up to this real heavy stuff.  Good for standard loads but not much else.
I suspect that when and if you ever encounter a problem with a bear it will be close, so the 5.5 in barrel would probably be the best choice.
 

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Gentlemen,

I understand the concern, and i do think the comments by inlarge are very well advised, but i do have a few things to add on the subject.

I have spent allot of time in Bear Country myself, in fact, alyskea, i'm a veteran of crow creek trail to eagle river,hiked it a dozen or so times when i was up your way,  and i did pack a shotgun with big mean slugs when i was engaged thusly.  Brown bear defense is a two handed gun propisition in my humble opinion.

However, if the discussion is Black bears, then there are a few other things to consider.  While certainly, the big guns, 480s 454s, 45 colt +p and 44 Rem mag, are very adequate in terms of killing bear, i think they are better classified as bear "hunting" guns, rather than bear defense guns.  Bear defense implies that the action will be close, and time short, as a prudent individual will give the bear every oppurtunity to take off, first.  I  am of the opinion that the handgun ought to be one that the shooter has shot to such a level that he is reflexive with it.  I have a 4 inch model 29 Smith, and i love shooting it at long range targets, but i have not shot it in the defensive mode enough that i would consider packing it for defense, for bears or humans.  Hunting, surely, defense, no sir.  The three guns I can shoot reflexively, are not exactly hunting weapons, 1911 patern 45, Beretta 92F, and a 4 inch model 10 smith.  If a fellow can shoot and hit quick with a 44, drive on, i cannot, and would rather hit a bear 8 times with a 45 than miss him 6 times with a 44.

Additionally, i know that some states are real protective about their game being shot, and would investigate a defensive shooting of a black bear like a man was already guilty.  Maine requires all firearms to be unloaded, at the dictated end of the hunting session, so a fellow always walks from his stand to the truck, several miles, without a loaded firearm.  Crazy, heck yes, but it is the law.  I am sure if a man shot a bear in maine as self defense, and was carrying a hunting grade gun, then it might add to such a thing.  

Well, ya'll take care, shoot a great big one.

Steve
 

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Hey Steve good to know you've visited one of the most beautiful valleys in all the world.  Even though we are only 35 miles from Anchorage, sometimes it feels a world away.  It's nice to hear you visited Girdwood so often.  There are some incredible backpacking trips around here.  I wouldn't be too concerned about brownies around here, though.  In the 6 years that I've lived right on this salmon stream, I have only seen 3 brownies in my yard.  I generally see 4 to 6 black bears per week during the spring through fall though.  They are kind of neat, definitely have their own personalities.  I have only seen one black bear in the entire valley that I would be afraid of using a 44 on.  The bear was near crow pass a couple of years ago.  500 lbs if he was an ounce.

Basically I work on Montague Island, Hinchinbrook Island, Afognak, Kodiak and around Cape Suckling.  Bunch of work around Icy Bay.  In a 3 month period last fall we totalled 99 brown bears.  I have been the subject of several bluff charges, but have never had to kill one of these magnificent creatures.  Lordy the stories I can tell you.  Some are even true!!!  Take care.
 
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