9MM Pistol for bear protection?

Explorerinil

Observer
I carry firearms for a living and train at work to deal with the most leathal animal, humans. No one I work with on my department carry’s a 9mm, nore is it allowed. I’ve seen plenty of dead people with small caliber rounds, but I would never carry a 9mm into the woods for defense against a bear, when camping I take my 10mm glock and a Remington 870. In my night stand, I keep my duty weapon, 1911 .45 acp.
 

DieselRanger

Well-known member
Bear spray is like wasp spray. It's a thick stream, not a fog.
It's a thick stream that does have smaller droplets that do get carried by wind, as evidenced by first-hand accounts of people who have had it blow back in their faces. Furthermore, it's not going to work well in heavy rain or very cold weather, limitations that firearms do not suffer.
 
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Buliwyf

Viking with a Hammer
I don't doubt it. But I'll deal with the burn while the bear runs away. That 1st demo vid was nothing like my spray, unless the main stream didn't show up on camera???

Bears don't always notice a bullet. Not much different than a soldier that runs to a bunker, only to notice he was hit as he ran there. But the bear spray hits them hard with a nose that big.

The bear spray is also nice because you can go straight to it without a moments hesitation.
-Is it a bluff charge? Black bears bluff ALL the time. I've been bluffed 3 times already. I'm glad I didn't shoot 3 harmless picnic basket bears.
-Is it safe to shoot? Kids in the back ground?
-Am I going to jail for having a pistol here, and/or shooting it?
None of that hesitation with spray.
 

DieselRanger

Well-known member
I don't doubt it. But I'll deal with the burn while the bear runs away.

Bears don't always notice a bullet. Not much different than a soldier that runs to a bunker, only to notice he was hit as he ran there. But the bear spray hits them hard with a nose that big.

The bear spray is also nice because you can go straight to it without a moments hesitation.
-Is it a bluff charge? Black bears bluff ALL the time. I've been bluffed 3 times already. I'm glad I didn't shoot 3 harmless picnic basket bears.
-Is it safe to shoot? Kids in the back ground?
-Am I going to jail for having a pistol here, and/or shooting it?
None of that hesitation with spray.
IF the bear gets a full dose in the face, and you only get a little blowback, that's great, as long as you can recover on your short walk back to you car and as long as the bear doesn't decide to charge you a second time. But IF you miss the bear with the spray, AND you get blowback, AND you're deep in the backcountry, now you're dealing with a real problem, as you'll be incapacitated for the better part of an hour and a predatory bear will not give up - it may retreat for a short time and then continue to stalk you. Furthermore, the MINIMUM time recommended to employ spray at a dangerous bear is SIX SECONDS. You have to hold the spray on the bear for SIX SECONDS for it to be effective. At 25 feet away, a black bear can cover that distance in just about two seconds, a Grizz in about three bounds, and sometimes they turn away and then charge again - if they think their bluff is ineffective, they may attack.

As I mentioned previously, if you're in the front or sidecountry, bear spray is sufficient - bears habituated to people are always going after your food, not you. I've treed or spooked bear that I didn't know were there until they started scrambling up the tree and chuffing, or running away - no need to shoot them with anything, but it does give you a good boost of adrenaline on a mountain bike or long hike. Picnic basket bears are not the issue, unless you are carrying your picnic in your backpack as the bear is trying to get it, in which case he may think YOU are the picnic. At issue here is the backcountry, in areas where bear/human contact is rare by default, but where the outcome of that contact can be dire. In those areas, families should always travel with small children between adults or immediately in front and close enough to touch, so you can move them behind you quickly. A bear will probably not notice a 9mm - but I guarantee you it WILL notice a .454 anywhere in its body. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that open carry is legal EVERYWHERE in the US, so you will not go to jail for open-carrying a firearm in public in the US. And you have to be alive to go to jail, so there's that. In other areas like Canada, you do need a license to carry, but it's not unobtainable.

You can go straight to a firearm without a moment's hesitation as well, and there's nothing wrong with putting a round in the dirt at the bear's feet - and knowing bear behavior is a must. Predatory bear behavior is very, very different from food guarding or protecting young.
 

Ark

Member
I live in Alaska and I get out to hike quite often. I carry a SW 329PD (nice and light) with very hot, hard cast rounds in a chest holster that I can get to quickly.. I try to always hike with at least one other person and we have both the gun and bear spray.

I have always gone by Buffalo Bore's article on "stopping" bears. In general, if you're carrying a handgun you will have to rely on a brain shot to stop a grizzly. A 10mm, .44, .454, .500 have enough power to make it through the skull and will all do the trick with the right ammo. None of these guns are ideal though. They're fine and can technically kill a bear but it's all really a compromise for weight and portability. If you're honestly hunting a bear you need a rifle. A handgun just doesn't have the energy.

One thing I would caution with both the lightweight .44's and the 2" .454 specifically is to look out for "jump crimping". There's a chance these ultra-high recoil guns could jam up from the bullets working their way out of their casings. Not something you want to have happen in an emergency situation. Buy good quality ammo.

Our tactic while hiking has been that if the bear is charging, we use the bear spray. We're more likely to hit the bear in the nose where it counts and it's more likely to make the bear stop. It's just too hard to hit the bouncing, softball sized target coming at you at 20mph when I'm surprised and freaking out.

I consider the gun as a backup to the bear spray. If you can't hit the bear in the face with the bear spray because of wind or rain or maybe the bear surprised you and has its face next to the ground chewing on someone then the gun will work a lot better shooting the bear in the butt than spraying it in the butt. There was a situation on the North Slope last year where a black bear surprised two people and attacked one of them before they could react. The partner sprayed the bear but the bear had it's face down chewing on the other person so they were unable to spray the bear in the nose.

The gun does have a lot of advantages. A month ago, a grizzly charged a group of hikers in Eagle River but they shot at it's feet and surprised it with the noise. Additionally, if you're lost it's pretty nice to have a gun to signal rescuers.

One of the local outdoor shop owners who is also a shooting instructor up here once told me "you know, bear spray is way more effective and I would always tell even an experienced shooter to go for the spray first. That said, in a survival situation I have never heard of anyone bear spraying a squirrel to death for dinner"
 

dwh

Tail-End Charlie
That said, in a survival situation I have never heard of anyone bear spraying a squirrel to death for dinner"
Never heard of anyone using a .44 or .454 for shooting squirrels for dinner either.
 

robert

Expedition Leader
Seems like a case of just because you can doesn't mean it's a good idea. I'd think 10mm as a minimum; it seems to be popular with a lot of Alaskans these days. .45 Super is another cartridge I've heard some Alaskans carry.
 

DieselRanger

Well-known member
If you're honestly hunting a bear you need a rifle. A handgun just doesn't have the energy.
If you're hunting a bear you don't have a hair on your ass unless you do it wearing a loincloth and carrying a six-inch hand-knapped Clovis point on the end of a stick - gives the bear a fair chance. ;) Otherwise, let 'em be until they attack you - bear meat tastes like sh*t anyway.

Opinions are like a**holes, everybody's got one. Nothing wrong with "defense in depth" - bear spray and a firearm, my only point is don't go out there thinking you're going to draw down on an 800lb Grizzly and put him down with one shot between the eyes with a 9mm. Ain't gonna happen. The best chance to stop a determined, predatory bear, especially in a grizzly maze deep in the backcountry, is with a heavy, fast, high-powered round. If you can't handle that kind of weapon, travel with someone who can.
 

Ark

Member
Didn’t say I hunted ‘em! If I go after anything with a hand-knapped chunk of rock it’ll be a fat packet of better with cheddar jalapeño brats

Everyone’s got an opinion but I agree. I’d rather have a 9mm than a rock but not by much
 

Dalko43

Explorer
If you're hunting a bear you don't have a hair on your ass unless you do it wearing a loincloth and carrying a six-inch hand-knapped Clovis point on the end of a stick - gives the bear a fair chance. ;) Otherwise, let 'em be until they attack you - bear meat tastes like sh*t anyway.
I don't think anyone was asking for your views on hunting.

BTW, people have actually hunted bears with spears (where it is legal). There was a s@#tstorm on social media over the whole thing, so I don't buy the "make it fair" argument.

Bear hunting is hard enough with a rifle or compound bow. The meat actually tastes good so long as the animal hasn't been feasting on dead fish.
 
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