You can argue—and many do—that pepper spray is a more effective bear stopper than any gun. We’ll leave that aside for now, because this blog is not called “The Spray Nut.” Instead, we’ll assume you have already debated guns vs. pepper spray and opted for a gun. (Or you may decide to carry both.)
Not surprisingly, I would tell you to take a shotgun over a handgun. Shotgun slugs have about three times the muzzle energy of a .44 magnum and make much bigger holes. Unless you are a practiced handgunner, a .44 magnum is a difficult gun to shoot straight—even at a very big target.