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Loaded For Bear: Choosing a Shotgun and Shell Combo for Alaska

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May 10, 2013

Loaded For Bear: Choosing a Shotgun and Shell Combo for Alaska

By Phil Bourjaily

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.

The gun should be a reliable 12 gauge pump with a 18 ½ to 20 inch barrel and should be smoothbored with an Improved Cylinder choke.  

The barrel should be plain with nothing more than a brass bead, if that. Iron sights won’t be necessary up close and might catch on something at just the wrong time. I would fit it with some kind of tactical sling that would be comfortable for carrying the gun through the brush for days on end until I finally, urgently needed it. And, while the standard magazine-full of four shells should be enough, a magazine extension might make you feel better.Whatever gun you choose, it should have a safety located in the same place your other shotguns have safeties (top, front of trigger guard, back of trigger guard) so you can take it off without thinking.

For ammunition, a fullbore slug like a Foster-style or a Brenneke is the best choice. Sabot accuracy doesn’t matter, because you will only be shooting at a bear at range of a few steps.

Comments (42)

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from Clay Cooper wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

What every you got, even a grouse load in the face is better than anything! Have you ever witnessed what a 12ga loaded with 1oz of #6's does to a car door at 20 feet? Not exactly recommended, but beats a knife any day!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

PS, can't say anything about bell peppers, I wuz up dar before that idea was even conceived.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Hi...

IMuHO, the shotgun would make a satisfactory weapon for the circumstances described, with the "just-in-case" mag extension.

Question: what is the barrel length of the shotgun depicted...??

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from AAM wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Plus shotgun slugs kicks less than a 44 mag. And I have a question can shooting a slug through a full choke do any damage to your shotgun?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Even light game loads are pretty nasty at halitosis range!
But I think I'd prefer a semi-auto. Easy, one handed operation. On that rare occasion when one arm/hand may be encumbered or injured.
Just my opinion.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

If you already have one arm/hand injured by Mr. Griz, that shotgun may be too long to help! LOL

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I have said before that I do not like the short range of bear spray, a shotgun is much better, I still prefer my .45-70, but I favor my baby!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from crm3006 wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I don't favor pumps much, having grown up shooting a Browning Auto 5 and doubles. When I acquired my 1100, I found it to be just as reliable as the old Browning, and with less recoil from a 12 gauge than I was used to in a 16. That all being said, I would trust my 1100 in bear country, with slugs. So...My final answer to what to carry in bear country is....a Winchester Model 70 in .338 Win Mag. That's my final answer!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from allegnmtn wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I agree completely. I worked for three summers in Alaska deep in bear country for a couple of weeks at a time. We slept inside an electrified fence (solar charged), worked in pairs, and carried bear spray. One of the pair also carried a 12 ga Rem 870 pump or Browning 45-70. I always preferred the 870. Having grown up hunting just about every small game imaginable with an old Stevens shotgun, the 870 just had a more natural "to the shoulder" feel. As far as handguns, I wouldn't carry one. I'm a better than average hand gunner but when it's all on the line, I'm still a better shot with a long gun.

We were never charged. We did spray two juvenile bears who were much too curious for anyone's good and followed close as we tried to back away. A Griz is one of the absolutely magnificent animals you'll ever see. Being within 20 yards of one will give you a feeling like no other. I'd never shoot one unless it was a last resort but if it came to it, I'd want that stopping power of a long gun.

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from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

One of my friends who moved to the Gallatin gateway area 35 years ago with the intention to dedicate the rest of his life to fly fishing. Soon after he arrived there, he purchased a Blackhawk .41 mag., which he intended to carry with him while fishing. One of the locals asked he why he was carrying the Blackhawk, and he told him it was for protection from bears. The local advised that he cut off the front blade sight.He asked why and was told, "When a grizzly takes that gun from you and shoves it up your backside it won't hurt so bad"
Yea, I like the idea of a long gun in bear country too!

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from deadeyedick wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I don,t think I'd wait until a charging bear was 20 feet from me, it would be on you in a nanosecond. that short barreled 12 guage would also double as a home protection gun loaded with buckshot instead of slugs. After voiding your bowels in your pants along with other nasty bodily functions and if you have the time to actually aim your first shot, where would you place your first shot??? since you can carry a handgun on your hip why not simply carry both???

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I have always been skeptical about the utility of a shotgun as grizzly bear medicine. Most people pack a big pistol out of necessity. Fly fishing with a shotgun slung just doesn't work. Neither does it work to leave it laying on the bank while you're fishing. Hiking in the woods with a backpack is equally cumbersome with a shotgun. However, that's the way the National Park Service does it with their trail crews. Usually though the gun is traded off between the various crew members so that the same person doesn't use his arms up hauling the thing in hand. It is perhaps a good weapon for their particular situation ... but little else. As a ranger at Katmai with one hundred grizzlies in the vicinity of our camp (and that is no exaggeration - they were counted every year), I felt the shotguns were totally useless. For one thing they were locked in the cabinet until someone was getting chewed on. No kidding!!! Secondly, if someone is getting chewed on it is expedient to get a round of something into the bear as soon as possible and get it at least distracted if not dead. When a bear is skinning a fisherman alive a hundred yards upriver, a shotgun in the ranger's hands is useless. So the alternative is to take off running through the swamp/bog/brush and hope you can get in range before the griz has finished his work. It's always so easy to get off an accurate shot when you're winded and someone is screaming their lungs out! The USFS on the other hand, issues .375 H&H magnums to its employees for bear medicine (and yes, even the little women had to qualify with them!). A much better choice in my opinion. Even at close range a .375 is going to stall a charging grizzly long enough to get a second round in the chamber, if the first one doesn't kill him outright in his tracks! In my mind, the ideal bear medicine for Alaska for ANY situation would be a double-barreled rifle in .375 H&H. Open sights and barrels not too long. It has always amazed me that none of our North American gun makers has been smart enough to fill that niche. Oh, I'm sure they could sell them like hotcakes as the "extreme bear gun." Of course, even one of those would be no help for fly fisherman who fish all night alone like I did. I had to put my faith in bear spray because it was the only thing practical in that situation (and at that time the NPS wouldn't let tourists pack guns either). Having said that, I will also say that bear spray would always be my first choice for a charging bear even if I could pack a pistol or rifle. It is much easier to put a bullet in the bear's brain bucket if it's temporarily incapacitated with that stuff. A hell of a lot easier than if he's laying rubber towards me at sixty miles an hour, no matter what kind of gun I'm packing! And whipping the bear spray into action is no more cumbersome than unholstering a pistol or unshoulderiing a rifle/shotgun. If anything it probably is a lot more expedient.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I should also add that most charging bears are bluffing. They will usually cut it off at the last second. I know it takes a lot of nerve (believe me, I KNOW), but your best chances are to wait till the last second before taking action. Few, very few, experienced hunters/shooters, myself included, will have anything but a very low probability of killing a charging bear at close range with any kind of gun. And a wounded bear just changed gears from probably bluff to for sure tear-the-crap-outa-that-guy-who-just-hurt-me. So my advice is to wait till he's close enough for bear spray and see if he's still has the worst intentions. Then spray him. Then shoot him.

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from Zermoid wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

44 mag with 300 gr XTP's will ruin anything's day. A one ounce chunk of lead from a 12 ga even more so.

Mostly it would depend on what I was doing which I would prefer. As a shotgun is pretty cumbersome when working or fishing.

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from ITHACASXS wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

OH,I agree, but could a decent(not pretty, but sturdy) double rifle be made at a reachable price?

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

Ithaca, I think perhaps it could be doable. I mean, look at all the money they are getting for the AR platform guns these days and we know how much "art" and expensive labor/materials goes into making those things. Not much! Just like the ARs, it's a matter of creating the market, much like Ruger did when they introduced the No. 1. I mean, who would have thought that a fancy single shot hunting rifle would fly? But Ruger did a clever PR job. Focused on the trophy hunters carrying those things after sheep, goats, etc. Everyone wants to look like a famous white hunter, right? Nowadays it's everyone wants to look paramilitary. But I think that could easily be changed. A big no frills double rifle could easily be billed as the ultimate extreme wilderness defense AND extreme big game animal gun. Remington tried to make a run at importing some Bakial double rifles a while back (as well as single shot rifles) but that venture quickly failed. Largely I think because Remington is just too diverse and unfocused to promote anything well. The quality of the guns was apparently not that good either. And lastly, the calibers available approached both objectives independently rather than trying to find common ground (30-06 and 45-70).

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Marion Johnson wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Jim Clark Jr. (Clark Custom Guns) builds double rifles on shotgun actions. I haven't checked the prices lately. I would agree with Ontario Honker on his decision tree regarding use of spray and gun.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Having both spray and firearm is probably wise to have in bear territory, but true life stories I have read of people who did not survive a bear attack indicate the spray was never used, or if activated the attack for some reason as not stopped. Dead men tell no tales...while most survivors claim that most attacks happen so quickly they did not have time to use the spray. SO, when hunting is one's main intent, most of us would hope to be more prepared for a bear attack...at least one would HOPE HUNTERS WOULD BE!

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Oh, and a pump with Slugs would get the job done nicely!

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Ralph, most guys in Alaska who are actually hunting for grizzly bears would not think of carrying a shotgun as their primary hunting weapon. It is preferred to take the big bears at a hundred yards or further ... for obvious reasons. For distance shooting the .338 or 375 H&H seem to be preferred.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Hmmm. I may have misunderstood your post. Sorry.

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from sd211mba wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

As I understand the requirements for bear protection gun are:
1. realiable,
2. has good stopping power,
3. able to shot several shots fast.

Double barrel rifle is supposedly an answer to this. But it is only a 2-shot rifle!
There are couple guns that meet the criteria, e.g. AK-47 (7.62 x 39) and AR-10 chambered in 308. For a bear attach happening within 200 ft, these are extremely powerful and effective guns, with 30-round magazine as a standard. Also, there are AK-action shotguns with 10 -round magazine chambered in 12 ga. Hard to beat that, especially considering that these are "standard" weapons that will not cost as much as a custom gun.

Most likely these are overkill anyway. I grew up in bear country, and have heard only couple cases when a hunter was mauled by a bear. In one case, the hunter accidentally woke up the bear during the winter sleep and he (the hunter) did not have slugs with him.

In almost all other cases the bear attack was not on a hunter. People just did not pay much attention to the surrounding.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RS08 wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Me thinks double or triple aught as we're talking charging bear and pinching washers outta your panties, not the best time for pinpoint shooting form

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Zumba: A bear charging from 200 feet will more often than not break it off. Trying to fill an 800+ pound speeding grizzly at that range with .308 bullets will likely only ensure you will get hurt. That's a marginal caliber for elk and moose in the best of conditions (a standing shot at less than 200 yards). No one in their right mind would use a .308 to shoot grizzlies unless they had to and I don't care if you have a fifty shot magazine. Most fatal attacks occur when the bear is surprised at very close range, often only a few yards. Quality counts in those situations, not quantity. Don't expect to get more than two shots. Might be lucky to get one round off.

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from VicF wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

I am curious to read some informed opinions on the advantages/disadvantages of 1-2 rounds of #00 buckshot followed by 3 rounds of slugs in the defensive shotgun.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

To VicF,
I have read a number of books on bear attacks, and most would agree that 00 buck loads do NOT make as effective bear defense load. Of course shot placement is always imparative, but we are talking about stopping a charging bear here. Close range work , need to hit them hard, and may only get one shot to get the job done!
IMO

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

ps-Heavy slugs are the ticket!

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from O Garcia wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

what if the bear had already knocked you down?

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from Safado wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

O Garcia,
I would pray and hope...pray for a 500 S &W and hope I could get one good shot off!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

If only it were possible to wear "pepper" as a scent. But that thing burns skin, darnit.

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from Iklwa wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

#1. Any weapon to be used in a dangerous game situation should be so familiar to the operator that there is no conscious thought used in its deployment. This advice applies to firearms used in home defense, self defense, lion, leopard, tiger, elephants, buffalo, rhino and bear. If there is opportunity for fumbling with a safety mechanism or manipulating a reload for a second, much needed shot, it will most assuredly come at the worst possible moment (i.e. the few nanoseconds before death comes a calling).

#2. If one is carrying a weapon for defense against a known threat, one should be using the best load available for the task (i.e. slugs).

#3. Always hunt with a person fatter (and slower) than you.

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from VicF wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

To Ralph the Rifleman and O Garcia -

I asked because I have read of African PHs carrying a 12 gauge pump with #00 buck into the tall grass or dense bush after a wounded lion or leopard that was holding a grudge. The dense pattern makes sense when point-and-shoot is the only option. I may have an Alaskan trip in the near future (details need to be worked out), so these things interest me.

Mr. Bourjaily, do you have any opinion concerning buckshot in Alaska?

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

Understood VicF; I have read the same thing on PH hunters..lets see what the more experienced hunters have to say??

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from T3climbr wrote 49 weeks 4 hours ago

Buckshot vs. slugs: buckshot is good for thin-skinned and light-framed animals. It simply does not have the dependable penetration and bone-breaking power necessary to be counted on in a serious bear encounter.
(Leopards are relatively small, light-framed animals. Buckshot works. And for lions, the only time I have known people to go intentionally after lions with buckshot was when tracking through heavy grass or bush.)

Shotgun vs.heavy rifle: if you are EXPERIENCED with a heavy rifle ... great. But for most less-experienced shooters/hunters, a short shotgun is lighter, easier to carry, easier to shoot better, and easier to use for multiple shots.

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from T3climbr wrote 49 weeks 4 hours ago

BTW ... have you ever actually seen the way YOUR shotgun patterns buckshot?
When I did that, I was amazed how SMALL the spread was at 10 yards.
There are some situations in which one does not want tremendous penetration (home defense, hunting in more crowded areas, etc.). Bear defense in Alaska is not on that list.

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from ishawooa wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

I tend to agree with Honker for the most part, having quite a bit of bear experience myself. Without fail the guys who pack shotguns eventually lean them against a tree and walk off to attend to something. I carry a bear sprayer (got to be politically correct and they work well under some conditions) and a .44 mag with 300 gr hard cast gas checked wide meplat bullets. Bear balls we call them. If I believe that the charge is more than a bluff at breath smelling range I know which I will use. Maybe a .44 is not the best decision but it will be the one on my side and in my hand. For many people it has proved effective in preventing severe injury or death, unfortunately for others not so much.

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from VicF wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

Thank you, T3Climbr -
That makes sense. I have seen what buckshot can do to whitetail deer and coyote, and having read of African PHs using them in the tall grass/dense bush against lion and leopard led me to consider it in Alaska. Your reasoning is logical, though. I believe I will stick to slugs.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

For me it would be a pump gun with slugs and a .41 Rem Mag with 250 gr FNGC hard cast loads and a prayer that I don't have to use them. Keep your buckshot, if you please.

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from Black Watch wrote 48 weeks 4 days ago

There's a couple of misconceptions here. There's also the consideration of the physiology of the attacker. Bears, when hibernating, have a heart beat of ~6bpm. Awake, it's about 22-28 when calm. Once a bear gets it's dander up and the adrenaline gets flowing, Betty bar the door because you will only stop him by breaking him down. As a matter of contrast, I have taken a number of bears with a 30-06. My go to for hunting here in AK. I always fish with a 45-70 or a 12ga. When hunting, you are the one doing the hunting and they are (Or should be) in a relaxed state (The meat of black bears tastes much better that way..) As a comparison, I have taken many bears with a single shot and they hump up and fall in their tracks. Even Brownies. Occasionally, two shots. I watched a trio of guys hunting in the Arctic who jumped an Artic Griz and put 14 rounds with .338s into that poor thing before it died. His adrenaline was pumping. Many stories about heart and brain shots and the bear continuing for an amazing amount of time. They're true, I've watched. If I don't have a clean shot and am on my game, I don't shoot. Period.
Now, the real secret to dealing with problem bears is to be smart. If you're fishing in bear country, you have the same goal as the bear. You leave his space alone, he'll leave you alone. Make noise, keep a clean camp and cut a line if he wants your fish. Same with berry picking. Given the opportunity, they want nothing to do with you. Give them that opportunity. I was charged once and it was entirely my fault. I was being ignorant. Walking back to my plane at 2 am with a couple Silvers and being too quiet. I woke the bear.
We as humans tend to think of all the bad that can happen. Given a little situational awareness, we won't have to live it.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 48 weeks 4 days ago

12ga. with #4 buck are what many fishing guides in Canada use, at least on my trip. These loads btw are not ought buck.

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from delweaver wrote 24 weeks 5 days ago

When I lived in AK I cared bear spray as well as my 870 with slugs. It made my wife feel better and I figure I could slow it down enough with the spray to get a shot or too off. I would also make a lot of noise when hiking to keep from walking up on one, an suprising it.

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from vanbachbn wrote 9 weeks 16 hours ago

I had 3 years experiences for hunting in Alaska. I usually use a Browning 45-70, i also bought a rifle scope at riflescopecenter.net. And i didn't have any problem in my hunts.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

If you already have one arm/hand injured by Mr. Griz, that shotgun may be too long to help! LOL

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from crm3006 wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I don't favor pumps much, having grown up shooting a Browning Auto 5 and doubles. When I acquired my 1100, I found it to be just as reliable as the old Browning, and with less recoil from a 12 gauge than I was used to in a 16. That all being said, I would trust my 1100 in bear country, with slugs. So...My final answer to what to carry in bear country is....a Winchester Model 70 in .338 Win Mag. That's my final answer!

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from Clay Cooper wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

What every you got, even a grouse load in the face is better than anything! Have you ever witnessed what a 12ga loaded with 1oz of #6's does to a car door at 20 feet? Not exactly recommended, but beats a knife any day!

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from AAM wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Plus shotgun slugs kicks less than a 44 mag. And I have a question can shooting a slug through a full choke do any damage to your shotgun?

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from FirstBubba wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Even light game loads are pretty nasty at halitosis range!
But I think I'd prefer a semi-auto. Easy, one handed operation. On that rare occasion when one arm/hand may be encumbered or injured.
Just my opinion.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from allegnmtn wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I agree completely. I worked for three summers in Alaska deep in bear country for a couple of weeks at a time. We slept inside an electrified fence (solar charged), worked in pairs, and carried bear spray. One of the pair also carried a 12 ga Rem 870 pump or Browning 45-70. I always preferred the 870. Having grown up hunting just about every small game imaginable with an old Stevens shotgun, the 870 just had a more natural "to the shoulder" feel. As far as handguns, I wouldn't carry one. I'm a better than average hand gunner but when it's all on the line, I'm still a better shot with a long gun.

We were never charged. We did spray two juvenile bears who were much too curious for anyone's good and followed close as we tried to back away. A Griz is one of the absolutely magnificent animals you'll ever see. Being within 20 yards of one will give you a feeling like no other. I'd never shoot one unless it was a last resort but if it came to it, I'd want that stopping power of a long gun.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Iklwa wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

#1. Any weapon to be used in a dangerous game situation should be so familiar to the operator that there is no conscious thought used in its deployment. This advice applies to firearms used in home defense, self defense, lion, leopard, tiger, elephants, buffalo, rhino and bear. If there is opportunity for fumbling with a safety mechanism or manipulating a reload for a second, much needed shot, it will most assuredly come at the worst possible moment (i.e. the few nanoseconds before death comes a calling).

#2. If one is carrying a weapon for defense against a known threat, one should be using the best load available for the task (i.e. slugs).

#3. Always hunt with a person fatter (and slower) than you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 49 weeks 6 days ago

PS, can't say anything about bell peppers, I wuz up dar before that idea was even conceived.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

Hi...

IMuHO, the shotgun would make a satisfactory weapon for the circumstances described, with the "just-in-case" mag extension.

Question: what is the barrel length of the shotgun depicted...??

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I have said before that I do not like the short range of bear spray, a shotgun is much better, I still prefer my .45-70, but I favor my baby!

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from deadeyedick wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I don,t think I'd wait until a charging bear was 20 feet from me, it would be on you in a nanosecond. that short barreled 12 guage would also double as a home protection gun loaded with buckshot instead of slugs. After voiding your bowels in your pants along with other nasty bodily functions and if you have the time to actually aim your first shot, where would you place your first shot??? since you can carry a handgun on your hip why not simply carry both???

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

O Garcia,
I would pray and hope...pray for a 500 S &W and hope I could get one good shot off!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

If only it were possible to wear "pepper" as a scent. But that thing burns skin, darnit.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

One of my friends who moved to the Gallatin gateway area 35 years ago with the intention to dedicate the rest of his life to fly fishing. Soon after he arrived there, he purchased a Blackhawk .41 mag., which he intended to carry with him while fishing. One of the locals asked he why he was carrying the Blackhawk, and he told him it was for protection from bears. The local advised that he cut off the front blade sight.He asked why and was told, "When a grizzly takes that gun from you and shoves it up your backside it won't hurt so bad"
Yea, I like the idea of a long gun in bear country too!

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I should also add that most charging bears are bluffing. They will usually cut it off at the last second. I know it takes a lot of nerve (believe me, I KNOW), but your best chances are to wait till the last second before taking action. Few, very few, experienced hunters/shooters, myself included, will have anything but a very low probability of killing a charging bear at close range with any kind of gun. And a wounded bear just changed gears from probably bluff to for sure tear-the-crap-outa-that-guy-who-just-hurt-me. So my advice is to wait till he's close enough for bear spray and see if he's still has the worst intentions. Then spray him. Then shoot him.

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from Zermoid wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

44 mag with 300 gr XTP's will ruin anything's day. A one ounce chunk of lead from a 12 ga even more so.

Mostly it would depend on what I was doing which I would prefer. As a shotgun is pretty cumbersome when working or fishing.

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from ITHACASXS wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

OH,I agree, but could a decent(not pretty, but sturdy) double rifle be made at a reachable price?

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from Marion Johnson wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Jim Clark Jr. (Clark Custom Guns) builds double rifles on shotgun actions. I haven't checked the prices lately. I would agree with Ontario Honker on his decision tree regarding use of spray and gun.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Having both spray and firearm is probably wise to have in bear territory, but true life stories I have read of people who did not survive a bear attack indicate the spray was never used, or if activated the attack for some reason as not stopped. Dead men tell no tales...while most survivors claim that most attacks happen so quickly they did not have time to use the spray. SO, when hunting is one's main intent, most of us would hope to be more prepared for a bear attack...at least one would HOPE HUNTERS WOULD BE!

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Oh, and a pump with Slugs would get the job done nicely!

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from RS08 wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Me thinks double or triple aught as we're talking charging bear and pinching washers outta your panties, not the best time for pinpoint shooting form

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from VicF wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

I am curious to read some informed opinions on the advantages/disadvantages of 1-2 rounds of #00 buckshot followed by 3 rounds of slugs in the defensive shotgun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

To VicF,
I have read a number of books on bear attacks, and most would agree that 00 buck loads do NOT make as effective bear defense load. Of course shot placement is always imparative, but we are talking about stopping a charging bear here. Close range work , need to hit them hard, and may only get one shot to get the job done!
IMO

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

ps-Heavy slugs are the ticket!

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from O Garcia wrote 49 weeks 2 days ago

what if the bear had already knocked you down?

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from VicF wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

To Ralph the Rifleman and O Garcia -

I asked because I have read of African PHs carrying a 12 gauge pump with #00 buck into the tall grass or dense bush after a wounded lion or leopard that was holding a grudge. The dense pattern makes sense when point-and-shoot is the only option. I may have an Alaskan trip in the near future (details need to be worked out), so these things interest me.

Mr. Bourjaily, do you have any opinion concerning buckshot in Alaska?

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 49 weeks 1 day ago

Understood VicF; I have read the same thing on PH hunters..lets see what the more experienced hunters have to say??

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from T3climbr wrote 49 weeks 4 hours ago

Buckshot vs. slugs: buckshot is good for thin-skinned and light-framed animals. It simply does not have the dependable penetration and bone-breaking power necessary to be counted on in a serious bear encounter.
(Leopards are relatively small, light-framed animals. Buckshot works. And for lions, the only time I have known people to go intentionally after lions with buckshot was when tracking through heavy grass or bush.)

Shotgun vs.heavy rifle: if you are EXPERIENCED with a heavy rifle ... great. But for most less-experienced shooters/hunters, a short shotgun is lighter, easier to carry, easier to shoot better, and easier to use for multiple shots.

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from T3climbr wrote 49 weeks 4 hours ago

BTW ... have you ever actually seen the way YOUR shotgun patterns buckshot?
When I did that, I was amazed how SMALL the spread was at 10 yards.
There are some situations in which one does not want tremendous penetration (home defense, hunting in more crowded areas, etc.). Bear defense in Alaska is not on that list.

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from ishawooa wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

I tend to agree with Honker for the most part, having quite a bit of bear experience myself. Without fail the guys who pack shotguns eventually lean them against a tree and walk off to attend to something. I carry a bear sprayer (got to be politically correct and they work well under some conditions) and a .44 mag with 300 gr hard cast gas checked wide meplat bullets. Bear balls we call them. If I believe that the charge is more than a bluff at breath smelling range I know which I will use. Maybe a .44 is not the best decision but it will be the one on my side and in my hand. For many people it has proved effective in preventing severe injury or death, unfortunately for others not so much.

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from VicF wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

Thank you, T3Climbr -
That makes sense. I have seen what buckshot can do to whitetail deer and coyote, and having read of African PHs using them in the tall grass/dense bush against lion and leopard led me to consider it in Alaska. Your reasoning is logical, though. I believe I will stick to slugs.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 48 weeks 6 days ago

For me it would be a pump gun with slugs and a .41 Rem Mag with 250 gr FNGC hard cast loads and a prayer that I don't have to use them. Keep your buckshot, if you please.

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from Black Watch wrote 48 weeks 4 days ago

There's a couple of misconceptions here. There's also the consideration of the physiology of the attacker. Bears, when hibernating, have a heart beat of ~6bpm. Awake, it's about 22-28 when calm. Once a bear gets it's dander up and the adrenaline gets flowing, Betty bar the door because you will only stop him by breaking him down. As a matter of contrast, I have taken a number of bears with a 30-06. My go to for hunting here in AK. I always fish with a 45-70 or a 12ga. When hunting, you are the one doing the hunting and they are (Or should be) in a relaxed state (The meat of black bears tastes much better that way..) As a comparison, I have taken many bears with a single shot and they hump up and fall in their tracks. Even Brownies. Occasionally, two shots. I watched a trio of guys hunting in the Arctic who jumped an Artic Griz and put 14 rounds with .338s into that poor thing before it died. His adrenaline was pumping. Many stories about heart and brain shots and the bear continuing for an amazing amount of time. They're true, I've watched. If I don't have a clean shot and am on my game, I don't shoot. Period.
Now, the real secret to dealing with problem bears is to be smart. If you're fishing in bear country, you have the same goal as the bear. You leave his space alone, he'll leave you alone. Make noise, keep a clean camp and cut a line if he wants your fish. Same with berry picking. Given the opportunity, they want nothing to do with you. Give them that opportunity. I was charged once and it was entirely my fault. I was being ignorant. Walking back to my plane at 2 am with a couple Silvers and being too quiet. I woke the bear.
We as humans tend to think of all the bad that can happen. Given a little situational awareness, we won't have to live it.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 48 weeks 4 days ago

12ga. with #4 buck are what many fishing guides in Canada use, at least on my trip. These loads btw are not ought buck.

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from delweaver wrote 24 weeks 5 days ago

When I lived in AK I cared bear spray as well as my 870 with slugs. It made my wife feel better and I figure I could slow it down enough with the spray to get a shot or too off. I would also make a lot of noise when hiking to keep from walking up on one, an suprising it.

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from vanbachbn wrote 9 weeks 16 hours ago

I had 3 years experiences for hunting in Alaska. I usually use a Browning 45-70, i also bought a rifle scope at riflescopecenter.net. And i didn't have any problem in my hunts.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 5 days ago

I have always been skeptical about the utility of a shotgun as grizzly bear medicine. Most people pack a big pistol out of necessity. Fly fishing with a shotgun slung just doesn't work. Neither does it work to leave it laying on the bank while you're fishing. Hiking in the woods with a backpack is equally cumbersome with a shotgun. However, that's the way the National Park Service does it with their trail crews. Usually though the gun is traded off between the various crew members so that the same person doesn't use his arms up hauling the thing in hand. It is perhaps a good weapon for their particular situation ... but little else. As a ranger at Katmai with one hundred grizzlies in the vicinity of our camp (and that is no exaggeration - they were counted every year), I felt the shotguns were totally useless. For one thing they were locked in the cabinet until someone was getting chewed on. No kidding!!! Secondly, if someone is getting chewed on it is expedient to get a round of something into the bear as soon as possible and get it at least distracted if not dead. When a bear is skinning a fisherman alive a hundred yards upriver, a shotgun in the ranger's hands is useless. So the alternative is to take off running through the swamp/bog/brush and hope you can get in range before the griz has finished his work. It's always so easy to get off an accurate shot when you're winded and someone is screaming their lungs out! The USFS on the other hand, issues .375 H&H magnums to its employees for bear medicine (and yes, even the little women had to qualify with them!). A much better choice in my opinion. Even at close range a .375 is going to stall a charging grizzly long enough to get a second round in the chamber, if the first one doesn't kill him outright in his tracks! In my mind, the ideal bear medicine for Alaska for ANY situation would be a double-barreled rifle in .375 H&H. Open sights and barrels not too long. It has always amazed me that none of our North American gun makers has been smart enough to fill that niche. Oh, I'm sure they could sell them like hotcakes as the "extreme bear gun." Of course, even one of those would be no help for fly fisherman who fish all night alone like I did. I had to put my faith in bear spray because it was the only thing practical in that situation (and at that time the NPS wouldn't let tourists pack guns either). Having said that, I will also say that bear spray would always be my first choice for a charging bear even if I could pack a pistol or rifle. It is much easier to put a bullet in the bear's brain bucket if it's temporarily incapacitated with that stuff. A hell of a lot easier than if he's laying rubber towards me at sixty miles an hour, no matter what kind of gun I'm packing! And whipping the bear spray into action is no more cumbersome than unholstering a pistol or unshoulderiing a rifle/shotgun. If anything it probably is a lot more expedient.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 4 days ago

Ithaca, I think perhaps it could be doable. I mean, look at all the money they are getting for the AR platform guns these days and we know how much "art" and expensive labor/materials goes into making those things. Not much! Just like the ARs, it's a matter of creating the market, much like Ruger did when they introduced the No. 1. I mean, who would have thought that a fancy single shot hunting rifle would fly? But Ruger did a clever PR job. Focused on the trophy hunters carrying those things after sheep, goats, etc. Everyone wants to look like a famous white hunter, right? Nowadays it's everyone wants to look paramilitary. But I think that could easily be changed. A big no frills double rifle could easily be billed as the ultimate extreme wilderness defense AND extreme big game animal gun. Remington tried to make a run at importing some Bakial double rifles a while back (as well as single shot rifles) but that venture quickly failed. Largely I think because Remington is just too diverse and unfocused to promote anything well. The quality of the guns was apparently not that good either. And lastly, the calibers available approached both objectives independently rather than trying to find common ground (30-06 and 45-70).

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Ralph, most guys in Alaska who are actually hunting for grizzly bears would not think of carrying a shotgun as their primary hunting weapon. It is preferred to take the big bears at a hundred yards or further ... for obvious reasons. For distance shooting the .338 or 375 H&H seem to be preferred.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Hmmm. I may have misunderstood your post. Sorry.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

Zumba: A bear charging from 200 feet will more often than not break it off. Trying to fill an 800+ pound speeding grizzly at that range with .308 bullets will likely only ensure you will get hurt. That's a marginal caliber for elk and moose in the best of conditions (a standing shot at less than 200 yards). No one in their right mind would use a .308 to shoot grizzlies unless they had to and I don't care if you have a fifty shot magazine. Most fatal attacks occur when the bear is surprised at very close range, often only a few yards. Quality counts in those situations, not quantity. Don't expect to get more than two shots. Might be lucky to get one round off.

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from sd211mba wrote 49 weeks 3 days ago

As I understand the requirements for bear protection gun are:
1. realiable,
2. has good stopping power,
3. able to shot several shots fast.

Double barrel rifle is supposedly an answer to this. But it is only a 2-shot rifle!
There are couple guns that meet the criteria, e.g. AK-47 (7.62 x 39) and AR-10 chambered in 308. For a bear attach happening within 200 ft, these are extremely powerful and effective guns, with 30-round magazine as a standard. Also, there are AK-action shotguns with 10 -round magazine chambered in 12 ga. Hard to beat that, especially considering that these are "standard" weapons that will not cost as much as a custom gun.

Most likely these are overkill anyway. I grew up in bear country, and have heard only couple cases when a hunter was mauled by a bear. In one case, the hunter accidentally woke up the bear during the winter sleep and he (the hunter) did not have slugs with him.

In almost all other cases the bear attack was not on a hunter. People just did not pay much attention to the surrounding.

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