Handguns in Defense Against Bears by Caliber - 9mm, 11 incidents

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Mar 5, 2015
the Great State of Wide-open (WY)
"Many readers are interested in how various handgun calibers have performed in defense against bears. This is a complicated subject. Sometimes, any caliber will do. Sometimes a level of power may be required. Sometimes, a level of accuracy or speed may be required. Many permutations exist.

"The most important aspect, if a confrontation occurs, is to have a firearm available, easily and quickly accessible. The specific caliber is less important..."

"...We found 11 cases where 9 mm pistols were used to defend against bears (6 black bear, 5 brown). All were successful..."
Dec 25, 2007
Having a gun(any gun) is paramount to using a gun for defense. A 9mm immediately accessible is 100% more effective than the 497 super whammy left behind due to weight/recoil/noise.
A 9mm certainly would NOT be my first choice as bear defense but I'd use it if that's what I had immediately available.
I heard a first hand account of a 9mm used in defense during a black bear attack. When the bear approached, the bowhunter climbed a tree but the bear followed. When the bear was almost within reach of the bowhunter's feet, he fired 2-3 shots into the bear's head killing it instantly. In this case, the bear was seriously disadvantaged by the circumstances.
Another first person account of a grizzly attack told of using 5 shots(4 hits) from a 44 magnum to stop the bear. In this case, the bear seemed totally undeterred by a miss, a peripheral hit, 2 solid body/shoulder hits, and only stopped when hit in the head.
The pattern I'm seeing is a handgun isn't very effective unless the bullets penetrate the brain(especially on a griz).
May 29, 2011
I know zero about Brown Bear, Griz. I have come across many black bears over the years where I hunt, especially in the Dismal Swamp. I carry a 9mm, but not for the bears, but for the Human Predators that I might come across. However, I love to hear caliber wars on Big Bears and the video below makes more sense than any I have read over the years.
My personal belief is that I will never carry any weapon that I cannot shoot a minimum of 250 rounds per session and a minimum of three training sessions per week. I have done this with a 9mm frequently over the years. Although I have cut way back since Bidenomics.

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