Three Letters Re: Advice on Bear Protection?

Thought I would pass on some advice that I received while I was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base just south of Fairbanks, Alaska . During “newcomers” orientation, we were told by the local game warden, that “playing dead” might work with a grizzly, but if they decide to charge you, “playing dead” won’t save you. They are coming to kill you and won’t stop the attack until you are. I remember reading about an Alaskan couple who tried to escape a black bear attack by climbing up on the roof of their cabin. It had a lean-to type roof and unfortunately for the couple, there was a tree that the bear climbed and got up on the roof with the couple. The woman was killed. I don’t remember what happened to the husband. I believe he survived somehow. The one brown bear hunt I when on, the smallest rifle caliber in my group was a 300 Win Mag. (There is no such thing as too big of gun for bears.) – Rick E.


I’ve been watching the bear protection thread and thought I might toss-in an idea or two. Last year I experienced an invasion of hungry and seemingly fearless black bears onto my property in southern Colorado. My last bear encounter had me armed with an EAA Witness in 45 ACP and I was not at all comfortable with my odds. Fortunately, shots were not required.
The situation left me thinking about a better way to defend myself if there was a confrontation with one of these bears. I did some simple web-based research on bear hunting with handguns and found more than one reference to “200 grains, 1000 fps” as the “bear minimum” load. (Pardon the pun,) That works out to about 445 ft.- lbs., which is beyond the abilities of all but the hottest 45 ACP rounds. And I would probably want to run those loads only through a revolver, not an autoloader. Additionally, the articles tended to recommend solid-/soft-point bullets in lieu of hollow-points to achieve better penetration.
I already had a single-action 44 Mag but its 7-1/2″ barrel makes carrying it 24x7x52 a burden. For me personally, the sheer size of the revolver makes it a bit intimidating for quick response, close encounters. I felt I needed something else and started my search for The Perfect Bear Handgun. (Okay, close to perfect.)
What I ended up with was a Taurus 425 in 41 Magnum. This 5-shot stainless steel revolver has a ported 4″ barrel, a great trigger, and a fabulous rubber grip. Being a 5-shot’er, it’s relatively compact and the lighter weight makes it much easier to carry all day. Since factory ammo is not available in much of a variety, I (happily) resigned myself to reloading for it. I’ve worked up a load with 210 grain soft points that chronographs at about 1200 fps. That makes the bullet energy right around 675 ft.- lbs., or about 50% more than the “200 grains, 1000 fps” rule-of-thumb. In my book, that’s plenty adequate over-engineering!! The 41 Magnum recoil is stout — you know you’re not shooting a 357 — but it’s tolerable and quite a bit more manageable than the 44. The 425 is also surprisingly accurate. I found a nice Galco holster for it and some speed loaders. Needless to say, I’m very pleased. (And, no, I don’t work for Taurus.)
Hopefully this gives folks another option to consider. – Scott W.


I read your site everyday and have passed on this resource to all of my contacts! The site is among the best on the Internet, in my view. I was surprised and proud that Walter Williams reads your site the same as myself.

Anyway, a couple of years back I went fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska and stayed with a friend. That friend spent about 10 years there doing ‘Alaska’. Anyway, he had a couple of bear encounters. On one such occasion, he had helped another hunter bring a Dall Sheep off of a mountain. Upon arriving back at their camp, they realized a brownie had followed them into camp. My buddy banged the bruin with a .454 Casull, one shot and the bear was down.

Your recommendation of a .454 Casull would be seconded by my friend. According to him and the cartridge manufacturers, the Casull has more gumption at 100 yards than does the .44 Rem. Magnum at the muzzle.

For my part, I use a 629 S&W with a 6″ barrel. I got my brother, who resides in Anchorage, to get me a box of what I call “.44 Heavies.” They are hand loaded in Alaska specifically for bears. They are hard cast 420 grains of sheer terror. Anyway, they are packaged in a wallet style carrying case holding 18 rounds. I would recommend these type of rounds for that caliber in the event one anticipates a cat or bear encounter. However, I would not recommend the ‘recreational’ use of these heavies as they are hard on the shooter and the gun. One more thing, both my buddy and my brother said to always, always never shoot the 6th round in the .44 at a brownie, but to instead save it for yourself after you have really pissed the bear off. – Matt, Somewhere south of Kentucky and north of Alabama.