Saturday, April 16, 2016

On The Fence About A Bear Gun

I have been considering a 357 Magnum revolver instead of a 44 Magnum as a bear defense gun for our upcoming Alaska trip. That would be as backup to bear spray and to a Remington 870 shotgun.

The reasoning behind me even considering a 357 is that while the 357 not as powerful as a 44 Magnum, it is probably easier to control and thus much quicker with which to get off an aimed 
second shot or possibly third - which in all likelihood would be the outside highest number of rounds you could get off at a charging Brown Bear (1). Note that I put the word reasoning in italics because the reference article containing that opinion seemed based upon little more than an opinion with little to back it up. Then again, I suppose each of the three articles I present as references in this blog post are opinions although the other two seem somewhat more substantial in the amount of thought put into them.

Getting back to the caliber choices, the 357 is also considered by some, to be suitable for defense in Brown Bear country (2). Adding that consideration t the premise of the first article I indexed, I started to lean to the 357. While you might be able to get off two or even three shots with a 44 Magnum, reacquiring the target, and then reengaging with a second well aimed shot, after the recoil of the initial shot, will take a bit longer with the 44 than with a 357. A good aim, at the central nervous system is an absolute must to stop one of those steam rollers with huge teeth and bigger claws. If you can get that on the first shot all might be well and fine and result in a one shot kill. I tend to doubt that - when my or Brendan's knees are giving out, or when our bladders have let go a warm stream down our legs and the pucker factor has just let loose behind us - either one of us might get off a perfectly aimed first shot as we are being charged by one of the great bears. It may be that well aimed but who can tell until it happens and you actually shoot that well under such fearfully intense pressure. Even if we were able to stand our ground with steely and icy cold reserve and a belly full of the grittiest true grit, while facing one of those monsters eye to eye, I would hope for at least two shots and better yet three. Thus, lately, I have been leaning toward a 357 from my precarious perch on the fence.

I suppose it was inevitable that the next article I would find on the subject did not completely discount the use of a 357 but blatantly said that at best it is marginal for large bears. The writer of that opinion openly admitted to not being an expert (maybe his advice is best) and also admitted to never having hunted bears. Yet he rather eloquently said one of the most thought provoking things out of all the authors whose works I have read on the subject of whether or not a 357 is suitable for great bears:

"A note on grizzly bears: they are smart, strong, mean, bulky, motivated and fast. The grizzly bear is the one predator in North America that truly inspires terror in my heart. No matter what you can do, he can do it better. He or she can be merciless in defending turf or litter, and may just kill you for kicks." (3)

After reading that I have to admit the 357 may not be enough. That is true especially if one shot is all we could take. In that scenario, it seems logical we would rather have all the power we could get out of 44 Magnum. Some of the gun gurus consider the 44 magnum to be the low end of a bear defense caliber (4). The fourth referenced article completely rules out 357 Magnum and 41 Magnum rounds. Now that I reminded myself of these last two references, here I am again not leaning either way - sitting straight up on the center of the fence - and my arse is starting to hurt because I have been sitting here so long trying to make up my mind about which to get. I definitely am not going to go for a larger caliber revolver than a 44 Magnum, no matter that some believe it the low end for great bear, if only because I truly believe the revolver would be both too heavy and have too much recoil. It is not easy making up your mind with all these experts out there with differing advice. What makes it more difficult is living in an area where there are no guns shops/ranges at which I can rent a 44 to test fire it and see how well I do. There is one in PA, at least a couple of hours away but I have not had the chance to visits it and time is running short to order a revolver. I may not order one today as I had hoped but I hope to order it at least by the middle of the week and am determined to do so by the end of the week at the latest! Decisions, decisions...

One of the things, other than the actual guns and caliber of the ammo, that is talked about in some of the reference materials I have looked over, is the bullet type in any given bear defense caliber ammunition. From what I can gather, hollow points (in handgun rounds) should be avoided as bear defense rounds and solid points of one type or another should be chosen. If I go with the smaller caliber 357, I think I would opt for a round with a solid lead core bullet. Corbon offers this one, their 357, 200 grain, Hunter HC. HSM offers this one, a 180 grain, hard cast, RNFP-GC Bear Load. The Chuck Hawks article also made mention of a similar round by Federal but I searched for it and it does not seem to be available in the current market. I would also go for a similar round in 44 Magnum if available, but right now they do not seem available from any manufacturer.I n lieu of that, I would go with something like this, the Prvi Partizan 44 Remington Magnum, 300 grain semi jacketed soft point. Decisions, decisions...

So, I am still on the fence. I don't have to make up my mind by the time I get to my dealer today but I would like to select one before then or at least have a much better idea of which I want. Either way - decision made or not - I am going to talk this over with Bruce, from Hunter's Essentials. Bruce is the owner and is also a very experienced hunter from what I can tell. His experience may be able to convince me one way or the other and I don't think the price difference (as in profit difference) will sway his judgment to steer me toward the one that would make him a few more bucks.

All the best,
Glenn B



B said...

Once, long ago, an old man who knew what he was talking about told me, when confronted by a bear, to "throw shit in his face"..."That'll stop him, or atleast slow him down"

"Where am I gonna get shit in a situation like that, out in the wilderness?" I asked

"Trust me, son, it'll be there when you need it"

Glenn B said...

That gave me a good belly laugh. Thanks.