It’s often prudent to be armed when in bear country. Here are our picks for the 10 best bear defense guns that are available on the market today.
When you head into bear country, you must accept that you are no longer at the top of the food chain. Luckily, most bears usually do not want any trouble and will leave the area as soon as they detect you. However, this is not always the case and you should be prepared to defend yourself if you get in a tight situation. A good bear gun should be a part of your defense plan.
That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. By using your brain and taking a few basic precautions out in the woods, you can dramatically reduce your odds of being attacked by a bear.
Give any bear that you encounter, especially a sow with cubs, plenty of space. Make lots of noise so that any bears in the area know that you are there, and carry bear spray.
Firearms should only be used as a last resort to defend yourself from a bear.
A charging bear can move extremely fast and only a hit on the bear’s central nervous system (brain or spine) is guaranteed to stop a bear in its tracks. Even on the biggest bears, the central nervous system is not a large target, so stopping a determined charging bear with a gun makes for some very challenging shooting.
Because of this, you must practice drawing and shooting your chosen gun extensively. Remember: even the biggest and most powerful bear defense guns are not guaranteed to stop a charging bear if you don’t make a good shot.
Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan
Designed to be a practical and easy-to-carry gun for self-defense against large predators, the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan is a great choice as a bear defense gun. Available in .44 Magnum, .454 Casull, and .480 Ruger, the Super Redhawk Alaskan packs a lot of power into a small package.
The revolver is available with a 2.5-inch barrel which makes it very compact and easy to carry. However, the short barrel comes with a price of increased recoil, muzzle blast, and slightly reduced power. Even so, the gun still packs quite a punch and has been successfully used by many people to defend themselves against bears. As long as you practice with it extensively, it is a great choice.
Smith & Wesson Model 629
The Smith & Wesson Model 629 has been successfully used for protection from bears for decades.
Chambered in .44 Magnum, the stainless steel 629 is a potent and versatile handgun. With 2 5/8-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch, 6-inch, 6 1/2-inch, and 7 1/2-inch barrel lengths available, there are plenty of choices for those who want to balance portability with the advantages of a longer barrel. If you’re looking for a good bear defense gun, you could do a whole lot worse than the venerable Smith & Wesson Model 629.
Though .44 Magnum is often considered the minimum cartridge for a bear defense gun, that is not necessarily always the case. This is particularly true if you’re most concerned about defending yourself from a black (instead of grizzly or brown) bear. Especially when shooting hard cast or other non-expanding bullets, the .357 Magnum can be relied upon for deep penetration and is more than capable of stopping a charging bear with good shot placement.
Many shooters are also able to shoot both faster and more accurately with a .357 Magnum than a .44 Magnum or other larger cartridge. With this in mind, a high quality handgun chambered in .357 Magnum, like the Ruger GP100, can be a very effective bear defense gun.
Taurus Raging Bull
While the Taurus Raging Bull is available in a wide variety of barrel lengths and chambered in .44 Magnum or .454 Casull, the .454 Casull version with a 2 1/4-inch barrel is a nasty blend of power, versatility and portability.
Since the .454 Casull is a longer and more powerful version of the venerable .45 Colt cartridge, the Raging Bull may also safely and accurately fire .45 Colt cartridges, adding to its versatility. Additionally, the revolver features the famous red “Raging Bull” backstrap on the grip, which considerably tames the gun’s recoil, making it another good choice for bear defense.
Some people consider it almost sacrilegious to recommend a semi-automatic handgun chambered in 10mm Auto as a bear defense gun. However, the 10mm Auto is no slouch and if you place your shots properly, it will do the trick.
The Glock 20 has several big advantages that make it a great bear defense gun: it’s accurate, it gives the shooter the ability to take rapid follow-up shots, it has a large magazine, it’s incredibly reliable, it’s easy to shoot, and it’s easy to carry.
That being said, there are better choices for those who live in areas with lots of grizzly or brown bears. However, the Glock 20 is a very underrated black bear defense gun.
Sources: Ruger, Smith&Wesson, Glock, Taurus, John McAdams