November 22, 2019 7:00:00 AM PST
6 Bear Guns To Keep Bad Bruins At Bay
The subject of bear guns is actually a little complicated, as there are handguns AND long guns. Some people carry the former as a backup in bear country, others insist that handhelds just don’t have the requisite power and thus insist upon the latter.
David Petzal of “Field and Stream” has recounted a story from a Canadian hunting guide, who was charged by a grizzly while in the field with a client. The guide had a .44 Magnum, and missed all six shots. What saved their Canadian bacon was the client, who was toting a .338 Winchester Magnum and knew what he was doing. So don’t go thinking a maggie is a guaranteed lifesaver.
With that said, let’s go over 7 top choices of firearm for bear country. We’ll include examples of both classes. If you decided in favor of firearms in the bear spray vs gun debate, these are good starting points.
Ruger Redhawk: A Big Bore Handheld Bear Gun
You’d be hardpressed to find a more rugged handgun than the Ruger Redhawk, which is why a lot of people get one as a bear gun. If you’re operating in grizzly country, opt for a big-bore model. A lot of people like to tote theirs in a Redhawk chest holster to keep theirs close.
The standard Redhawk is offered in .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt/.45 Auto. The latter three are the ones to get. .41 Magnum is a known bear cartridge, and modern .45 Colt +P loads are literally .44 Magnum loads in every single respect, with the benefit of a machined cylinder that lets you shoot .45 ACP if you so chose.
The most common barrel length is 4.2 inches, though 5.5- and 7.5-inch barrels (.44 Magnum only) are also available. Some models feature overmolded Hogue grips, and others have wood panel grips. The former fill the hand a little better, and are in truth recommended if shooting the hot stuff.
Old School Bear Gun: Marlin 1895G
Any bear gun list is remiss if it doesn’t have at least one .45-70; this one has the Marlin 1895G series. The G series, ostensibly for “Guide,” have carbine-length (18.5-inch) barrels for fast handling. While this reduces the capacity of these totable lever-action rifles to 4, the Marlin 1895 is a big-bore lever gun, chambered for .45-70 Gov’t. There are several choices of finish, stock material and other options.
.45-70 Gov’t, for those unfamiliar, is an old black powder round from the buffalo hunting days (it was also a military cartridge for a time) and seats projectiles ranging from “light” 300 grain pills all the way up to massive 500-grain bullets. It hits hard and heavy, though doesn’t destroy the shoulder to the same degree as the scary magnums.
Long-range applications are an experts-only affair; the .45-70 shines inside 200 yards, where it blasts through brush and pulverizes anything it hits. In fact, the Marlin 1895G and similar rifles are common bear guns in much of Alaska and Canada for this reason.
S&W500: The Most Powerful Handheld Bear Gun
If you just can’t abide anything less than THE MOST POWER EVER, then the S&W500 is the bear gun for you. The massive X-frame series currently holds the title of “most powerful handgun in the world” and isn’t likely to relinquish the crown anytime soon.
The Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum is a wickedly powerful round, pushing a heavy handgun bullet into rifle territory; it has almost double the muzzle energy of .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, and many loadings have broadly the same muzzle energy as a .308 Winchester.
All models have a muzzle brake. While a snubnose model (with a 3.5-inch barrel) is available…we’d caution you to get a longer-barrel model if you aren’t used to magnum revolvers.
Stoeger M3000R: Auto-Loading Bear Gun That Won’t Break The Bank
The Stoeger M3000R is a rifled-barrel variant of the Stoeger M3000. For those unaware, the Stoeger M3000 is a semi-automatic shotgun featuring a slightly simplified version of Benelli’s inertia action. In other words, you get about 90 percent of the stuff people love about the M4 or Super Black Eagle, but for about $600 instead of almost $2,000.
The M3000R features a rifled barrel for use with slugs. Rifled slugs can put more than 1 oz of lead (about 440 grains) down range with each squeeze of the trigger, which is why a number of federal agencies as well as residents of grizzly country load heavy Brenneke and other slugs in case of maleficent bruins.
Solid slugs can crush bone and other tissue like an empty beer can. Inertia action systems help tame recoil a little better compared to gas-systems, making follow-up shots a touch faster. The M3000R has a 3-inch chamber, so 2-¾” and 3-inch slugs both work.
Glock 20: A 10mm Bear Gun That’s Tactical And Practical
The Glock 20 is Glock’s big-bore frame in 10mm. While we wanted to go with “Colt Delta Elite” here (because 1911) the truth is the Delta Elite only holds 9+1, but the Glock 20 holds 15+1 of 10mm. It’s about 10 percent bigger than the Glock 17, but then again it shoots a bigger, way hotter bullet!
10mm has become the de rigeur semi-auto chambering for Alaskans and people that live in grizzly country elsewhere (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming) and 10mm pistols have been successfully used to defend people from problem brown bears. Heck, the Danish army issues Glock 20 pistols to the Sirius Sled Dog Patrol, a military unit that patrols Greenland on sleds. The Sirius team patrols vast glacial areas in two-man teams, often out for days or weeks at a time, and polar bears are a real problem. They found the 10mm does fine.
Ruger Hawkeye Guide Gun: A Bear Gun For When You Aren’t Kidding Around
If you aren’t kidding around with your bear gun, the Ruger Hawkeye Guide Gun isn’t either. Ruger Hawkeye rifles use Mauser-style actions, with controlled-round feeding/extractor claws. Ruger installs a 20-inch barrel and express sights for fast handling, and a muzzle brake to tame recoil.
You have your choice of .300 or .338 Winchester Magnum, .30-06, or .375 Ruger – essentially a .375 H&H Magnum load in a standard-length case – if you’re being reasonable. However, if you feel that you need a gun for when you aren’t reasonable AT ALL, the Guide Gun is also available in .416 Ruger, which (like the .375 Ruger) packs a .416 Rigby load in a standard-length action.
That’s right. Ruger will sell you a compact elephant gun. And for the not-too-expensive sum of $1279 MSRP.
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