Bears versus Handguns: Defending Yourself in Bear Country

In this episode of TFBTV, James discusses whether or not carrying a large caliber handgun is a good idea for defending the person against large predators (in particular, brown bears), alternatives to a handgun, the logistics of using one (including a quick-draw-and-shoot test!), the types of calibers and ammo to consider, and other related matters. James also enlists the help of fellow YouTuber, Hammerheart Outdoors, to give some insight on bear defense from the seasoned perspective of an experienced Alaskan hiker.

Special thanks to Corey at Hammerheart Outdoors/Tactical for the help, check his channel out here.

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  • Study by the US F&W service since 1992 which found that persons that defended themselves with firearms were injured in 50% of encounters, while bear spray users were injured half as often, and less severely:
  • Field & Stream published an article discussing a 2008 Brigham Young study that analyzed 600 Alaskan bear attacks and found that bear spray was effective over 90% of the time: of the 175 people involved in the bear-spray encounters, only three were injured and none required hospitalization:
  • According to a very wide ranging study cited in Outside Magazine that drew information from “readily accessible state and federal records, newspaper accounts, books, and anecdotal information that spanned the years 1883 to 2009.” Found that bear-inflicted injuries occurred in over half of the close encounters. Bears were repelled (or killed) 84 percent of the time with handguns, and 76 percent of the time with long guns:
  • “I’ll say this very clearly. No handgun has the energy to drop a bear in its tracks (barring a perfect, or extremely lucky shot). Even the .500 S&W has little more energy than a .30-30.”
  • Detailed story about a bear attack where .44MAG was successfully deployed:

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]

James Reeves

• NRA-licensed concealed weapons instructor, 2012-present
Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, 2011
• “Co-Director” [air quotes] of TFBTV
• Former Regional Sales Rep, Interstate Arms Corp., MA
• Champion, Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition
• GLOCK® Certified Pistol Operator, 2017-2022
• Lawyer
► Instagram: jjreevesii
► Twitter: @jjreeves
► Vimeo: JJReeves
► 500px: JJReeves


  • James Wilson

    I imagine James Reeves frequently has to defend himself in “bear country”…defend his maidenly virtue, anyway.

    • Klaus Von Schmitto

      Well that’s just ugly.

    • iksnilol

      That’s just crass and vulgar… you scoundrel, you!

      • .45

        You’re just upset you didn’t think of it first… ;D

        • iksnilol

          No, I’m thoroughly disgusted by the thought of James getting violated by a dirty, hairy bear.

    • Sianmink

      He doesn’t want to get raped by a she-bear like Leonardo did.

      • James Wilson

        As our President said, “somebody’s doing the raping.” …wait. I forgot the motto of this webside: No politics, just tight fitted shirts…or something like that.

    • BillyOblivion

      Well the punch line of that old joke is “you’re not hear for the hunting, are you?”

  • Kirk Newsted

    Rule of thumb for travel in bear country: Bring a .22 and a friend. When the bear gives chase, shoot the friend in the leg. You don’t have to out run the bear, you only have to outrun your friend.

    • James Wilson

      Careful with that joke. It’s an antique.

      • Mike

        The other old one i always liked. Whatever handgun you carry in bear country make sure you file off the front sight. It will hurt less when the bear is shoving it up your ass.

  • Bill

    Great choice of stock photos. Nothing looks more menacing than bear cubs.

    Then again, nothing is more menacing than a bear with cubs.

  • darkman

    Neither…Anything less than a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 3 inch magnum 4 shot is a waste of time. Killing the bear is not likely in most encounters. Aim for the face. That is the most sensitive area and presents the opportunity to blind the bear. If they can’t see you they can’t find you.

    • Risky

      I’m pretty sure a bear can find you by smell almost as good as sight.

      • darkman

        Not if you are moving. Although they have a highly define sense of smell they require sight to make the close in attack. If you stand in one place long enough they will find you but who is that stupid.

        • Typical White Person

          That dude who went out on a lark and fed hisself to bears in Alaska.

    • Michael

      Bears have an incredible sense of smell. They can quickly locate food within a mile, and detect it from ~20 miles.

      That doesn’t mean your strategy won’t work; I don’t truly know. But to say they can’t find you without their sight is simply not true.

      • jonp

        Yeah, I’ve read that meme and it is another internet fallicy that was put up somewhere, copied and has become “conventional wisdom” much like drinking 8 glasses of water a day. There is no scientific evidence I’ve ever found to back that 20 mile figure up.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      12ga, particularly buckshot, is not a very good penetrator. Id go with pretty much any other hard cast bullet first.

      • huh

        If a bear comes at you it’s on all fours. So you think a bear being shot in the face with 00 buckshot from a 12ga would have little to no effect on the bear?

        • Stuki Moi

          It will have an effect. But only a surface one. The bear _may_ decide to stop and wipe blood from his face. Or he may not….

          The guides who carry 12 gauges in Alaska, all carry bear slugs. You want as much penetration as possible.

          Ideally, you’ll hit the brain. In that case almost any caliber with a decent bullet will do.

          If you miss the brain, you want a crack at structures in the neck

          If that fails, chest, shoulders, heart……

          If that fails too, perhaps hit the spine further back. Although this is about as far as you can expect to get with a normal handgun caliber

          With heavy hardcasts in a long gun, you may also get a crack at hips, thighs and other hind structures. Which are the motor that powers the charge.

          If you do carry a large caliber long gun, there is no reason to shortchange yourselves by limiting penetration. Aim for ammo at least potentially able to shoot lengthwise all the way though, bones and all.

        • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

          Less than other rounds. The only advantage buckshot would have with a face shot is a greater probability of hitting the eye socket.

          • iksnilol

            Because now you’ve got a blind, ferocious beast gunning for you. As if that’s any better.

          • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

            The easiest way to the brain is through the eye.

    • Anonymoose

      Mossberg Cruiser with 3″ slugs.

    • Nonya Bidness

      Not even close to being accurate. A properly loaded revolver in anything from .41Mag and up is going to be more effective than any shotgun, buckshot or slugs.

      That’s the problem with bear discussions, too much rhetoric from people who have no clue what they’re talking about.

      • Darkman

        That would be you. Been there had to do that. Keep your pistol. I’ll go with the shotgun every time. Bear was blinded and died from the next shot to the side of it’s head.

        • Nonya Bidness

          I really don’t care what any one person has done with a shotgun, using slugs or buckshot. If you think that a handgun is somehow “less” or “a waste of time”, then you clearly do not have a clue what you’re talking about. Handguns have been used to take all manner of large game worldwide and give up very little to a big bore rifle. A properly loaded revolver will out-penetrate even the best of slugs by as much as 40% and break heavy bones in the process.

          The ONLY advantage a long gun has is that they are easier for the average person to hit with. So while a shotgun may be your choice, which is fine, the declaration that a handgun is a “waste of time” is patently false.

          On top of all that, intentionally wounding a bear with bird or buckshot to the face creates a very dangerous situation for anyone who may find themselves in the bears path. It is irresponsible to say the least but this is the internet, everybody is a badass.

  • DangerousClown

    I’d probably use firecrackers before bear spray or my .460 Magnum. But for my trip to Katmai, all I took was a Canon.

  • ExMachina1

    Great video James and thanks for not pandering to us gun folks by feeding us what we want to hear. I’d love an excuse to buy a “bear gun” but bear spray seems to be the recommendation I get from most guys who spend time in bear country. Moreover, the portability of a can of spray really guarantees you’ll have it with you, even for a late night pee break.

    One thing that you failed to mention was that the Montana man you highlighted actually DID have a pistol. His account read:

    ” I slowly reached under my chest to grab at the pistol I was unable to get to earlier. I felt I needed something to save my life. The pistol wasn’t there. I groped around again but nothing. I wiped the blood from one eye and looked around. No bear. The pistol and holster were lying five feet to my left. The bear’s ferocious bites and pulling had ripped the straps from the pack and the holster attached to it. ”

    The take home for me here is that during the (rare) types of bear attacks where you would be better off trying to use a gun (ie, the ones where the bear is not just bluffing) can occur so quickly and violently that the gun would not be useable anyway.

  • Anonymoose

    Some guy used a 9mm to stop a bear with +P 147gr hardcasts. The story is on the Buffalo Bore website, but I personally would pack at least a 629.

    • Klaus Von Schmitto

      I’ve never really had to consider bears (Although we have had one roaming the neighborhood for 2 months now – but it’s a Florida bear so…..) but now I wonder.
      a. A bear can close at 15 yards/sec or thereabouts
      b. Any handgun is going to be underpowered
      c. Anything other than a vital hit is just inconveniencing/pissing off the bear
      d. Bear spray really inconveniences bears
      d. Inconvenience the bear enough and it’ll stop

      So – It makes me think that hitting the bear 10-15 times with a 9mm or .40 is better than once or twice with the .44 or .460. Maybe.

      • Anonymoose

        Only if you carry deep-penetrating bullets, maybe +P+ FMJs or hardcast. Maybe get some good solid 220gr 10mm?

        • Klaus Von Schmitto

          I cast so there’s that. Sounds like a good excuse to buy a 10mm which I have never owned.

  • David Il

    “he’s coming right for us” then bear jerky. While the convenience of pre peppered meat sounds good, the spray won’t put a bear in the table.

  • S Bond

    First thing: Avoid bear cubs at all cost – where the cubs are, the mom isn’t far behind. Mama Bear will defend their young with vengeance.

    The spray ‘attacks’ the sensory system, like OC does to humanoids. It’s a better option than hoping the bullet you just launched bullet will stop what will now be a wounded animal. Bears aren’t like hood rats that look for trouble.

    Any option that lets the animal evac the scene unscathed is the best option. Treat them with respect and chances are good the shots you’ll get to take come out as JPG or MPG images.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    If youre smart, particularly in the lower 48, you wont need to defend against bears. In the event that you do, the statistics definitely support bear spray, but Id also carry a gun.

    • phuzz

      How about a grenade launcher with CS rounds?
      The public needs to know 😉

    • Just Say’n

      Yes, but just remember they won’t let you fly with bear spray. The Jackson Hole Airport confiscates/”receives donations” of dozens of canisters a month from tourists trying to take it home (I suspect they resell them at the airport gift shop).

  • Bill

    I’d carry a gun in bear country, but only because I carry a gun everywhere.

  • Right2BEARarms

    As someone who lives in bear country, year around (Flathead County, MT), and who’s been working at a LGS as an armorer for the better part of a decade. I have a few suggestions:

    1. Ditch the fanny pack and get a proper holster. Something that won’t catch an exposed hammer (if any). Wear it in a location that will not impede your ruck/bergan. I know several who wear their rig on the belly-band of their pack, a few others who use a drop-leg or semi-drop, and other’s still who use a chest/tanker/paratrooper style holster. Practice drawing from it repeatedly as you would your EDC/CCP setup.

    2. Practice drawing and firing some more.

    3. Practice even more.

    4. Bear spray is nice and all, but do not rely on just one or the other. Ideally, bear spray in non-dominant hand and gun in dominant hand. Practice with your bear spray. Yes it’s expensive, but at least practice disengaging those safety clips, as can be a pain in the ass without practice.

    5. Be choosy with your firearm. Gun selection is up to the shooter, though I’m a fan of any solid 10mm Auto you like (Glock 20 gen4 is our best seller for hunting/hiking/camping/all-around-bear-defense, and is actually our 2nd best selling firearm; after the venerable Glock 19 for EDC). Something in .357Mag, .41Mag, .44Mag, 10mm Auto, etc. 12ga 3″ 1oz slugs are probably best, but most shotguns are not ideal to carry or deploy quickly. Maybe an “other” firearm like a Shockwave or TAC-14? Can’t Argue with a 12ga slug.

    6. Be choosy with your ammo. Flat-faced, hard-cast or bonded-jacketed FMJ (flat face), loaded way hot, is best. You do not want expansion vs. bear, as penetration is your saving grace. Glock won’t admit it, but hard-cast is ok out of a factory barrel (proper hard-cast is NOT the same as lead, much harder and higher melting point).

    7. If you do have to pull the trigger on a bear, a few options: A) If you have the capability, aim for shoulder/hip sockets; solid hits on 2 or more will bring the bear down so you can safely finish it off with as shot to the head (what many Alaskan guides do). B) If you’re good (or lucky), a CNS shot to the brain/brain-stem/spine. Hard to do if the bear is moving, and most likely will be.

    8. Be prepared to lose your weapon if you use it on a bear, even if it’s justified it might take awhile to get back after the investigation.

    9. Torso shots on a bear in the heart-lungs will work, but bear in mind (haha, bear) that it can take 30-60sec to drop and can do a lot of damage in that time.

  • Right2BEARarms

    Oh, also, if you find you have wandered between a mama and her cub, no amount of bear spray on earth will help you.

    Bring a gun.

  • ActionPhysicalMan

    My wife and I came to the same conclusions. We make noise, carry bear spray, and carry revolvers with high sectional density hard cast flat nose bullets. The guns are really for things other than bear even if the bullets are chosen for bear effectiveness.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    On the pistol vs rifle vs shotgun issue, contrary to popular opinion, I find a 12ga to be quite insufficient as a bear gun. When defending against a bear, penetration is king. Just like handgun vs human situations, you have to hit the vitals. If you dont it doesnt matter how big your gun is. Also like handgun vs human encounters, if you do hit the vitals, it also doesnt really matter how big your gun is. What matters with bears is that you have enough penetration to get to the vitals.

    12ga slugs (dont even think about buckshot – and birdshot is seriously a joke; this isnt home defense [sarc]) are wide and soft; the opposite of penetrating. To properly penetrate you need a hard bullet that wont deform and expand and you need a high sectional density. That means high bullet weight and a small diameter. Wide bullets have to displace more flesh to penetrate the same distance and lose more momentum because of it. However that doesnt mean they are useless. Because of their wider diameter they have more mass which means more momentum.

    • Andrew

      Assuming someone is most comfortable with the AR-15 family, would you choose 338 federal, 458 socom, or other?

      • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

        Id probably go with .308 in a AR308 platform of 6.8 or 6.5 in a AR15 platform. I wouldnt object to .458 Socom though. The .458 Hornady DGS is a pretty sweet bullet.

    • Nonya Bidness

      Agreed, there is far too much myth and nonsense surrounding the 12ga slug and its performance on dangerous game like brown bears.

  • Roguewriter

    Hey, Glock fan boy. Glock 40 with Underwood’s hottest ammo.

  • Dirt-Torpedo

    Androgynous, shirt-cocking bears, like Winnie the Pooh.


    • FightFireJay

      “shirt-cocking”… someone has been to Burning man.

      (I was with the LEO support group)

      • Dirt-Torpedo

        Glad someone else got it.

        I never went. I like water, and lots of it.
        ETA: I miss Steve J’s contributions, but James ups the game of this site. Well done.

  • Alan

    BFR in .30-30 or .45-70?

    (Bear spray is useless for taking home the pelt.)

    • Stuki Moi

      Garrett is loading a purpose built for the BFR 45-70 bear repellent now.

      540 grains….. I’ve shot their .44 mags and 45-70 lever rounds; as well as other heavy rounds in the 45-70 BFR, and suspect this BFR one will prove quite the wrist and elbow punisher…. But also be the closest you’ll get to the holy grail of full lengthwise penetration of even large bears in a handgun.

  • Major Tom

    Around my neck of the woods in Colorado the black bear is what you find here. Usually they don’t want to fight humans, they especially don’t want to fight larger, stronger, and aggressive humans.

    So they flee far more often than fight. But if a bear stands his or her ground usually owing to cubs or severe hunger/desperation you don’t reach for pistols period. It’s either a good rifle more powerful than .223 (ideally .30 cal or better such as .30-06) or retreat.

  • Michael Powers

    the bear professionals (wildlife managers, fish and game, biologists) all carry bear spray AND 12 gauges with slugs on Kodiak Island…..
    the fishermen carry a variety of handguns and bear spray.
    I think I am going with the guys who get paid to deal with bears…

    • Stuki Moi

      The more people are in your group, the further the balance tilts in favor of guns. The bear won’t/can’t charge everyone at the same time (now if you’re ambushed by a whole gang of bears, well, I guess it’s just you’re time to clock out…..), and a well deployed gun in an appropriate caliber, is a much more definitive stopper than any spray. I’ve never seen a guide only carry spray……

      But for going solo, unless in the wide open, it’s rarely realistic to assume you’ll have time to draw, aim fire and hit before the bear is on you. A Grizzly can supposedly run at 35-40 miles/hour. That’s 15 yards or more a second….. Or 50 yards at James’ probably optimistic-for-reality split time.

      I’ve seen bears barreling through thickish woods, and they’re like cats. You may hear something, but don’t really know what nor exactly where. If any of them were coming towards me with ill intent, I’d have a fraction of a second between first seeing them, and them being on me. Bear spray, if carried appropriately and practiced with, can possibly be deployed in that time. Unless you’re Miculek, I doubt a holstered handgun can. (A subgun/pdw carried at ready possibly could. I still believe those would be the ultimate bear repellent. Stoked with lots of tracers, even if target focusing like mad from fear, you just may be able to “hose down” the bear sufficiently to give him a royal headache……)

  • Wolfgar

    I see there is a fellow Montanan with some good advice. I have worked and hiked around bears all of my life and have been fortunate to see Grizzlies many times. I have never surprised or been surprised by any bear. The best recommendation I can give you is to always pay attention and never get lazy and let your guard down. I see newbies walking in Grizzly country with their kids strung along 50 to 100 yards apart like they are strolling in a city park, crazy! Pepper spray should be easily accessible as your firearm. Bears can move incredibly fast and in enclosed areas I have my spray or firearm ready.

    • jcitizen

      I’ve hardly ever hiked, and I saw bears on two different occasions. Luckily they were moving away from me at the time. Now I’ve gone on a LOT of straight legged marches, but there weren’t any bears on those military bases.

  • jonp

    If your primary defense against a grizzly bear attack is a handgun your gonna die. That said, a 45LC with 300gr hardcast at Linebaugh levels is an awesome thing and I’d rather take my chances with that than a can of hairspray.

    Be careful, be aware of your surroundings.

  • FightFireJay

    And yet, the most recent documented use of a handgun against a grizzly was a 9mm with a 15 round mag.

    The the coastal (fish eating) brown bear was successfully put down and no one in the fishing party was hurt.

    Ammo was commercial hard cast lead with a flat nose for deep penetration and tissue damage.

    • Donttouchtheart

      Theres an article about this on Buffalo Bore’s website which is the ammo the guy was using.

  • alternator

    Handgun vs. bear is STUPID. Plan accordingly or suffer the consequences.

  • nonobaddog

    This topic has been chewed on so much already over the years – its like it was attacked by a hungry bear.

  • Jim

    I use to hunt in NW Montana near Glacier National Park with some buddies that grew up there and were loggers. Any time they were in woods, they carried RIFLES. They joked that the only reason you carried a pistol in grizzly country was to shoot yourself so you wouldn’t get eaten alive.

  • 10mm underwood hardcast. or just out run your partner

  • Robert Kruckman

    Nice little jaunt to the west coast to see a Total Eclipse Of The Sun. Reminds me of the Carly Simon song “Your so Vain”. Now back hard at work? Just Kidden!!!!

  • David G

    This was a good video. Nice work James.

  • Robert Kruckman

    Seriously James: I read a case where a guy was tried by a grizzly. He kicked the bear in the face which caused the bear to bite his foot and pull him out of the tree. Since he fell out of the tree he hit the ground first. He grabbed pack and when the bear came at him he hit in the face with bear spray. He said the bear went down and out like it was cole cocked.

    • Typical White Person

      This Cole sounds like an awefully mean feller!

  • Sandydog

    I’m afraid that the answer to the question is “All of the above.”
    There are different tools for different situations–close cover and bad light/weather, open ground, known animal presence, ‘suspicion’ of presence, even ‘type of bear and bear gender.’ All of these variables affect what works and what won’t, what saves your life and what gets you mauled or killed.
    The tool with sufficient effectiveness that you can deploy QUICKLY is the best one: The bear spray can in the hand, or nearly so, with the safety catch off, the rapidly-deployed large pistol, the shotgun with chambered slug round carried at the low ready, the big-bore rifle in the same condition carried by a skilled and prepared user–all of these things will be effective IF things are going your way. Improperly or too-slowly employed, the tools that we rely on can become useless, or worse than useless. Caught unaware, the human will almost always be on the losing end of a serious bear confrontation.
    There is also the factor of the animal itself: Is this critter defending food or cubs? Is it a dominant animal? Are YOU food? Is it sufficiently amped up on adrenalin and killing rage to fight through severe wounds and pepper spray, just as would certain ‘dedicated’ humans?
    There are no guarantees, no magic bullets; It’s a question of circumstances and variables.
    The only sure thing is to avoid places where there are bears. If you must be in places where there are bears, be very aware of the fact that the bears will know that YOU are there before you know about them.

  • hacedeca

    Very cool video, I enjoyed it very much! Bear Spray – it is some kind of pepper spray? So, your reach will be what – 10 foot? That is pretty brave against a Grizzly!

  • Dave M

    “Take off and nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

    Another vote for bear spray. Lifelong Alaskan… When I’m looking at my pile of fishing gear, last thing I want is the extra weight of a large handgun. Bear spray is light and effective. If I have a real concern about somewhere I’m going, I don’t mess with handguns. I take a 12 gauge with slugs.

  • Montanalivin

    I bowhunt in the bob marshal wilderness in Montana. My companion is a redhawk Alaskan in 454, and bear mace. The mace is plan A. A charging grizz has a heart beat around 40 BPM, it takes a long time to bleed out. So that means you need a cns shot to shut em down. I read a article where the author asked, can you hit a 30 mile an hour bouncing softball under a high stress situation? That’s the size of your shutoff switch. That’s why bear mace is plan A, and my 454 is please get off me, and stop chewing my face.

    • dlh0

      About as well and concisely put as I’ve ever heard. My only contribution to the thread is about a black bear confrontation I had where a 200 lb boar entered my 14×14 alaska fishing cabin while I was kneeling on the floor unloading my pack. I happened to be unpacking my S&W .44 Backpacker at the time and had just laid it on the rack. When I saw the bear we were quite close, 8′ or so. He did not respond to my intentional screams intended to scare him off, nor to the involuntary screaming that preceded them. When he started to close (slowly, fortunately) the remaining few feet separating us, I grabbed and fired. The first round took him through the snout, but I think it was the singed facial fur and muzzle blast that turned him. The second round took him low in the chest cavity hitting the heart. The bugger STILL made it out the door before he died. If he’d kept coming he would have had plenty of time to eat my face. Fortunately, after turning away from the 1st round face blast, he was pointed toward the door when the second round hit him, sending him bolting in that direction. I was using hornady 240 grain XTP loaded hot. Even with the hollow point, I got through and through penetration on my second shot with lots of tissue damage. It showed me just how hard it is to drop a bear at contact distances before they can get to you. I now carry a big can of bear spray as my first option.

  • Rusty S.

    I carry both. I try and give bears the heads up that I’m around and usually they take off. However, I’ve had a long face-off with a bear over a moose carcass that I was dressing out. That bear wouldn’t move off for anything, but also never became aggressive, just curious. And hungry.

    • iksnilol

      What would happen if you threw it some scraps to occupy it?

      • Rusty S.

        It didn’t budge for clapping, whistling, shouting, things thrown, warning shots, etc. almost like a bear statue, standing on its hind legs for long periods of time. I think it was just damn curious as to what we were. Eventually he felt comfortable enough to go eat on the gut pile and bones. He ate for two days and even slept on the gut pile! I never let my guard down or turned my back to him, but I did remember to not get tunnel vision and scanned for other bears occasionally.

        • iksnilol

          bearomore, quoth the bear.

        • Sianmink

          You can always keep pocket sand in reserve though.

          • Rusty S.


      • Dougscamo

        He’d probably be like your dog….come up to take them out of your hand and then your hand along with it….

        • iksnilol

          “Give scraps with dummy hand”

          Duly noted.

  • Nate G.

    We don’t see many bears in the Los Angeles area, but this is what I take away from James’ article – coat your large-caliber bullets in bear spray prior to loading your hand cannon, and you’re probably going to stop the bear 160% of the time.

    • Jim Foster

      Actually, that sums up most of these comments

  • jerry young

    If I had to worry about bears I’d definitely carry bear spray and a large caliber handgun, I just watched a video of a bear that was sprayed and it still attacked so I’d say neither is 100% foolproof, luckily where I live in the lower 48 bears are not that common now in our neighboring state black bears are plentiful and sometimes roam into our neck of the woods but not often enough to worry.

  • Richard Allen

    I came to pretty much the same conclusion as you. I always have some gun anyway (since there are predatory humans everywhere) so among the griz, I pay the weight and shootability penalty and carry the 44. But bear spray is the first line of defense. A word about the spray, however. It is less potent than LE grade stuff since the mission is different.

    I thought putting the bear bells on the dog was an outstanding idea. Dogs have this unfortunately tendency to beeline for their protector when confronted with something beyond their ability to deal with.

    • Dougscamo

      That’s how they tell if it is a bad bear….it has bells in its sh%t….

  • Bucho4Prez

    …nice marmot…

  • BeGe1

    A .32 ACP will do.

    You just gotta have something to use on yourself while the bear is munching on you.

  • Mike

    AR-15 30rd mag full of hornady hog hammers. Bear would be dead. end of story. You guys act like these bears are some mythical creature that can only be killed by a direct heart shot with a 50bmg incendiary penetrator, on a Tuesday evening when the moon is half full.

    • Out of the Blue

      The problem is that you need to kill the bear NOW when it charges you, not just score a solid hit on its heart or lungs. You need to damage the central nervous system to do that. Not the easiest task with a handgun, or a rifle for that matter.

    • Nonya Bidness

      Shoot a bear with a 5.56 and YOU will be dead.

      The .450BM, .458SOCOM or .50Beo is a different story.

  • Dougscamo

    Good article…and touched on one of my questions about the number of successful bear spray deterrents….spraying a nuisance bear munching on trash at a campground and counting it in the statistics would skew the number disproportionally….

  • Some Rabbit

    Bear spray is like pigs carrying Tabasco sauce on their way to a BBQ. I’ve had 5 close encounters/tense standoffs with bears over the years and felt safest armed with my Mossberg 500 loaded with slugs.

  • FOC Ewe

    X-15 FTW!

  • Billy Jack

    Bear spray is tear gas in my state. You can’t buy any defensive spray over 1oz as a civilian here. But you can buy a gun as long as the background checks work or you can find a p2p sale. Pretty stupid since we have bears, coyotes, wild dogs who have seriously mauled and killed people. The small jogger sized sprays work but not a lot of room for error and I wouldn’t want to have to get close enough to use it on a bear.

    • Typical White Person

      Where is this moronic principality?

      • Billy Jack

        Southern Carolina/ Sith Carolina

        • Typical White Person

          That’s my ghey azz no Open Carry “Southern” state.
          I dient know it was illegal!

          • Billy Jack

            I found out… while trying to buy bear spray a few years back. And we even have friggin bears here. Some camp grounds are lousy with em. Couldn’t believe how stupid the law is. I guess we’re a purple state or some red tinged state.

          • Billy Jack

            Everything but the smallest jogging size pocket spray is illegal due to the size constraints. Lots of places won’t ship any to SC because of the constraint. No major defensive spray manufacturer will send anything over the 50cc size to South Carolina even though the law says tear gas and there’s no mention of pepper spray at all in the law. Really outdated and stupid. You could go buy an AK 47 and a thousand rounds of ammo in ten minutes but we’re not responsible enough to fight bears without firearms. I avoid campsites with bears around here (that’s a lot because these people are filthy) because I’m pretty sure these commie park rangers would be pissed at me for defending myself. Backasswards.

  • Kurt Akemann

    It would work better on bears than it did on T-34s. 🙂

    • B-Sabre

      True enough, but a 7.5cm PaK 40 would be a bear to take on a hike.

  • scaatylobo

    My problem with all the “amazing” statics about bear attacks and the outcome favoring the spray = WHO was the one that actually knows which bear was bluffing and which was actually attacking ?
    Hope you see the point, no one actually knew which bear [ OC v/s gun ] was the attacking one and which was the bluffing one.
    That being the case,do YOU [ yes you ] want to have a can of gas in hand,or a gun ?.
    You can only panic reach for one,bet the gun comes out faster.
    If at all possible,I will have at least the 2 options.[ prefer a long gun ].
    But if that bear is THE ONE that is not bluffing = I want the gun.

  • Haulin’ Oats


    A 50BMG Semi-Auto is ideal, standard mil-spec ammo is all you need. But if you cant lug that around, then a 460 smith and wesson is ideal; basically its a 454 casull on steroids.

  • Colonel K

    Bear spray is popular her in Montana. My children keep it on their walking sticks. There are some caveats to remember about it. Few people practice deploying it, so how quickly one can engage with it under stress is problematic. It has a shelf life and should be replaced periodically. It has less effective range than a firearm and so must be discharged at danger close distance. It is affected by the wind, which can disperse it or even redirect it back on you. Not all bears appear to be affected by it. When the can is empty, you can’t reload it. I think carrying both spray and a firearm loaded with heavy penetrating ammunition is the best option. Most of all, practice safe woodcraft when in bear country.

  • Richard Lutz

    If you are hiking in bear territory you should be carrying a high power rifle for defense, not a just a handgun and/or pepper spray (which should be open carry, NOT concealed). Ideally a loaded Browning BAR in .338 WM (with an Aimpoint red dot sight and back up iron sights) loaded with Barnes VOR-TX ammo with 225-grain TSX bullets.

  • Repoman3737

    I realize it would be hard to do under such a high stress situation but does anyone think multiple rounds from 9mm or preferably larger but still common carry ammo to the bears head and face would change the bears mind? Im not saying it will stop it in its tracks but i would think it would be painful enough to make it change its direction. I know it will be a hard target to hit but I’m just thinking if you could. If im in bear country and being charged or attacked and carrying im emptying whatever gun i have into the bear because you definitely wont drop/stop the bear if you dont atleast shoot at it. You may get a lucky shot. Im pretty sure even a 22 would pentrate the eye socket into the brain. I would not think i could ever make that shot unless it was dumb luck but ill take dumb luck over being bear food anytime.

  • CavScout

    .40S&W seems well suited to the task, in say 165gr FMJ rounds.
    Pretty sure .44mag and the like are just people clinging to revolvers and old comboy rounds for the task.