The Best Bear Guns

by Zach Lazzari
Large caliber guns are the best bet for big bears.

Large caliber guns are the best bet for big bears.

The best types of bear guns fall into two distinct categories; guns for hunting and guns for self-defense. The thick-skinned nature of bears makes them difficult to penetrate without a large caliber gun and a heavy bullet. For the purpose of self-defense, the largest caliber, most portable gun is ideal. For hunting, a heavier rifle is necessary to absorb the shock of the large caliber recoil.

Hunting Rifles

Bear hunters most often carry rifles with a backup pistol for emergency defense. The .30-06 caliber loaded with a minimum 200-grain bullet is a great option for any bear hunt. The .338 caliber is also a great choice for black, grizzly and brown bears. Ammunition in these common calibers is readily available and accessible for most people. They also shoot well when scoped at distances over 100 yards. For hunting larger grizzly and brown bears in the 800-pound-plus range, choosing a larger bore .416 caliber will add stopping power. However, the larger caliber rifles are more expensive and the loads are more difficult.

Shotguns for Hunting and Defense

Shotguns are used for hunting with slugs and for defense with either slugs or buckshot. The 10-gauge and 12-gauge shotguns are the best possible choices for both hunting and defense. The shotgun is most common for close-range black bear hunting from the safety of a tree stand. Shooting grizzly and brown bears from the ground with a shotgun is dangerous and very uncommon. Pump shotguns are the best option because they are the least prone to failure in inclement weather and severe outdoor conditions. Shotguns used for defense are best used with alternating loads of buckshot and slugs. This provides ample spray with the buckshot and stopping power with the slugs.

Handguns for Defense

The three best handguns for self-defense are the .454 Casull, .44 Magnum and the .357 Magnum in revolver form. All are heavy-caliber guns capable of stopping a bear. The .357 is the lightest caliber of the group but it remains a viable option. Smaller caliber handguns are useful but do not have the same impact as the larger loads. Guns with a stainless finish are the best for extended in use in the outdoors. The stainless finish is durable against moisture and does not form rust easily.

Carry Method

The manner in which you carry the gun is critical in bear country. Quick access to the gun is ideal for defense but you must also carry in a safe manner. Carry handguns on a hip or shoulder-chest style holster. The shoulder and chest holders are the best option because the gun is protected while wading through streams. Carry shotguns with a sling-style shoulder strap that allows quick removal and preparation for a shot. Carry the rifle with a heavily padded shoulder strap. Hunting with a heavy rifle is hard on the shoulder unless you have a high quality strap. Keep a pistol on your chest as a defense system.

About the Author

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer specializing in hunting, fly fishing and the general outdoors. He guided fly fishing trips for 10 years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Patagonia-Chile. Zach lives in Montana and splits time between the river and keyboard.

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