AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear (2008)

AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear (2008)
AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear (2008)

Arizona -( Zeb Cadzow and Paul Herbert are experienced hunters who live north of the Arctic Circle in Fort Yukon, Alaska.

In late March of 2008, residents of Fort Yukon, Alaska become concerned because a bear was not exhibiting any fear of humans near their town. Peter John originally saw the bear eating lynx carcasses near a cabin on the edge of town.

People did not believe the white bear was a polar bear. Polar bears had never been seen in the area. They thought it was an albino grizzly or a grizzly bear covered with frost.

The hunters, who depend for their lives on their rifles, did not carry .357 magnums or .30-06 model Winchester Model 70s. They carried AR-15s.

Many hunters who depend on rifles for survival in the far north carry high-velocity, small caliber rifles. They can carry much more ammunition, they are easy to shoot, and are flat shooting. They offer excellent accuracy. The magazine capacity is a plus.

The two experienced hunters, on tracking a large bear that showed no fear of people, choose the AR-15 in .223. From

“There’s usually grizzly around this time of year,” he said. “You want to get rid of it because it’s hungry.”

The men tracked the bear three miles out of town to the Porcupine River, where it moved onto a river island.

At that point, most of the hunters returned to Fort Yukon for a sled dog race, leaving Cadzow, 30, and Paul Herbert, 60, to continue the hunt.
“We assumed we were chasing a grizzly bear,” Herbert said.

Cadzow concurred, thinking the white description meant it was an albino bear or a grizzly covered in frost.

While Herbert waited at one end of the island, Cadzow, on foot, went into the brush tracking the bear.

Suddenly, the bear came out from under a brush pile about 10 yards away. It charged straight at Cadzow, who was carrying an AR-15, a rifle similar to the U.S. Army’s M-16.

AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear
AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear

National Geographic Wild included the incident in a 2015 video. Not surprisingly, they mis-characterized the rifle.  They said the rifle was an M-16. Then they dubbed in a shot of automatic rifle fire to make it seem the bear was stopped with a burst from the rifle.  The incident is recounted at about 19:00 to 21:30 in the video.

The .223 is more capable than many realize. One .223 round has more energy than most .44 magnum rounds.  From

According to a story in the Fairbanks News-Miner, the polar bear charged straight at Cadzow who didn't have time to lift and sight his rifle.

“I shot from the hip, seven or eight times,” he said. “If I had gotten it to my shoulder, it (bear) would have been on top of me. It happened so quick, by the time it was down, it was about 10 feet from my feet,” according to the News-Miner.

The bear was in good condition. It was not starving.

When facing dangerous opponents, be they men or bears, there is much to be said for rapid, controllable fire at close range. The AR-15 offers those characteristics and 30 round magazines.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 25 thoughts on “AR-15 Used to Defend Against Charging Polar Bear (2008)

    1. THANK YOU – you guys who KNOW whaazzup with this bear in Alaska. It’s VERY interesting to read about it – and your experiences and your opinions of what it takes to stop one. The vast majority of us readers have no idea ! For all of the rest of us that that don’t – sit back and learn some facts about Alaska wildlife – there’s stuff up there you have never seen except in the San Diego Zoo – and THAT ain’t ‘real’.

    2. Hey Shannon guess how sick you would be if the bear found you.

      For those who have not been in Alaska, I have lived, worked and hunted in the state and there are dangers in every area. These animals live in the wilderness (i.e.ENTIRE STATE) and rely on their ability to kill in order to eat. The food they prefer is anything, any body, live or dead. Yes a .358 or English double in .700 would be great but not practical. A high capacity semi auto is as one comment mentioned capable of a “shotgun effect” with .556 ammo. Heck of a lot better than a slow bolt action. I have not met a Polar bear face to face in the bush but have encountered numerous grizz or “Mr Brown Coat” as we called them. The closet was 9-10 feet. Too close for comfort. The thing about encounters in the wild with an animal capable of making you the main course is to avoid if possible and if not a semi auto is better for IMMEDIATE protection than a slow moving bolt action.

    3. I agree with what I know,
      Although the situation ended up fine for the people with an AR 15 in .223,
      Why not carry an A.R. 10 in .308?
      Twenty and even thirty round magazines of the heavier, bigger, harder hitting cartridge with manageable recoil
      There are even lightweight A.R. 10 type rifles if you have to lug your rifle up and down the mountains in Alaska
      Even a lightweight A.R. 10 rifle will have less recoil than typical hunting rifles
      Hunters and wilderness people do not carry combat loads of 210 rounds of ammo
      Two mags on the belt and one in the rifle is 80 rounds of 168 grain ammo
      Even .308 military ball fmj ammo makes bigger and deeper holes than expanding .223
      While an AR 15 worked here, I see no advantage to that rifle over the slightly heavier and much more powerful AR 10

      1. I would certainly agree with THAT – an AR-10 vs the -15. Sure thing for bigger game/protection. But in THIS case – probably all he had handy. That – or his standard .06 bolt action type for hunting. Grab the multi-bullet semi-automatic and go get the potential man-killer. OR, order the not-so-common AR-10 and wait a week or more for delivery north of the Arctic Circle ! 🙂 🙂

    4. Polar bears are extremely dangerous. Everything on the ice is food. They are the top predator in the arctic on the land and the ice. They fear nothing and will hunt anything that walks, swims, or flys. You do not generaly hunt a polar bear. You let him hunt you. When a polar bear makes a kill they eat it all immedately and do not stop eating untill the kill is gone. Several years ago in Canada in the arctic a cook that was working in a remote camp was throwing out some hot water or something out the back door of the cook shack. There was a polar bear leaning up against the cook shack wall waiting for the cook to come out. When the cook opened the door the bear took off the cooks head. That bear had been waiting in that spot for hours for the cook to open the door, as you could see the ice on the wall from the heat of his paws. Unfortunatly cooky did not have a weapon and even if he would of had one it would have done no good.

    5. Several points here starting with carrying the gun and ammo through Alaska I would prefer an AR15 opposed to a heavier gun and ammo. With the likes of a 30.06 if you missed or grazed the bear with the first shot you may be in deep doo doo.

    6. Hunting may be a lifestyle up in AK, but that did NOT justify those IDIOTS to shoot that bear. If they had some concerns they should have monitored the situation. NOT going out to hunt him down. I guess they could not resist. It’s not he hunting that bothers me, but THAT kind of MENTALITY certainly DOES.

      1. A FED bear is a DEAD bear. We do not COEXIST. This bear showed no fear of humans, who will then become its natural prey starting with the smallest, most defenseless. It is a choice which creature stays at the top of the food chain, which humans must constantly reinforce in order to keep their position. Snow Leopard and @Shannon, come up here and commune with the bears and show them your love and kindness. My children carry a .44 when they go for a walk.

        Pogo-bear attack while collecting soil samples
        Anchorage-bear attack while running a race
        George Lake-bear attack while walking to his cabin
        Denali-bear attack while taking pictures
        Chicagof Island-bear attack while camping
        ANWR-bear attack while camping
        Katmai-bear attack while camping
        Hyder-bear attack while camping
        Liard River-bear attack while visiting hot springs
        Glennallen-bear tore into cabin to attack
        Uganik Island-bear attack while hunting
        Kenai-bear attack while hiking
        Kenai-bear attack while working
        Gates of the Arctic-bear attack while hiking
        Anchorage-bear attack while walking
        Point Lay-bear attack in the middle of town.
        King Cove-6 year old boy stalked by a bear and separated from his mother to be killed and eaten.

        These are just the last couple of decades and only the fatal attacks, and many of them have multiple victims. Liard River is in BC but I include it because I knew Ray Kitchens.

    7. @What I Know……I think we all know that, that’s really not the discussion pardner. Which is the way these discussions always go, which is why they keep coming up. The author is just offering an incident where a cool head and a good rifle were used effectively, no more. No one is writing, Or Reading!, An article in support of bear hunting with an incapable caliber. Your opinion is respected, but for us to pay it mind, stay on topic.
      @ Shannon or whomever, if hunting and firearm possession is so repulsive to you, why waste your time on websites that anyone with a logical mind can see relate directly to these subjects. At least stick to abortion and the protection of unlawful immigration, topics I’m sure you are well versed in.

      1. Sorry, Shannon, you should have read the article. This was a bear that was unafraid of humans and was feeding near them. It was one of the few animals that actively hunts people. That is a guarantee of it attacking people in the near future. Not a chance, or a possibility, a guarantee. Lynx aren’t much of a meal to an animal that size, neither are dogs. Humans and cute little seals are what it prefers. That’s why they went looking for it. scaring it off doesn’t work with animals that aren’t scared by people. I suspect that you’ve never been hunting, or had to spend any time “in the wild.” Research is your friend, and is less likely to get you killed than finding out on your own how things really work. I recommend it.

        1. @Dave in Fairfax and Rokflyer, It constantly amazes me that people that do not know anything about guns, shooting, wild live, or dangerous situations feel like they have a superior opinion. That would be like me commenting on fashion or gourmet restaurants. I have no respect for aka Shannon’s opinion. She only seeks to use words to control other people.

        2. @Shannon go live up there for a couple years then tell us how you feel . I mean actually get out and live the life see what it is like .

    8. After several years experimenting with different loads, my personal conclusion is pretty firm. I have no problem carrying a 556 for protection, or whitetail hunting or wild hogs. With good sights and certain 69 gr bullet I’ve come to trust, it’s more than capable of doing the job. I’m amazed at scoffers who constantly belittle this setup. I’m not saying I would go Elk or bear hunting without my 300 Winchester, I’m just saying it’s a very formidable weapon and I have no problem with it for wilderness protection. Let the contradiction begin.

    9. Well, certainly a ‘standard hunting rifle’ of 30.06 caliber, or similar, would NOT have been as good at this fully automatic machine gun . ( KIDDING !!). I too would rather have 20-40 rds of rapid fire than trying to bolt action my 2nd shot at a charging bear. Somebody said “shotguning the bear” with .223 rds……sounds good to me at 10-15 yds and closing…..

    10. Everyone is talking the gun! What about the round used?
      Incident when I was the Navy, 1973. I was a small arms petty officer and got Naval Ammunition Reports (NAR) .
      The incident was US Marine standing his post some remote area in Alaska. The NAR reported that Marines at these locations were being issued a different ammo, don’t remember the Mil Spec for the ammo, basically .308 hardball to .308 soft nose.. The post this Marine was standing was over run, the guard shack was demolished, blood trail lead back into the wilderness, body not recovered. Investigation found that the Marine had expended all ammo he carried, assuming they found all shell casings around the guard shack.
      Hadn’t thought about that incident until this article. Age dims memory somewhat.

    11. “National Geographic Wild included the incident in a 2015 video. Not surprisingly, they mis-characterized the rifle. They said the rifle was an M-16. Then they dubbed in a shot of automatic rifle fire . . . ”

      In other words, the people at National Geographic Wild are liars who falsify stories and fabricate phony facts. Fake news in the tradition of NBC and Tom Brokaw who used footage of machine guns being fired in their fake news coverage of the Clinton assault weapon ban back in 1994.

    12. AR 15 in .223 ammo is too light to being used on big bears!

      AR 10 in .308 ammo would be better than the smaller ammo.

      They did the shotgun affect on the bear

      1. For a 1 shot 1 kill hunting rifle? Yes too small, but as a personal protection rifle with good bullets and a 30 round magazine?? I’d feel much safer toting an ar15

      2. The hunters that tracked down and killed the wayward bear were not fools. They may have had eyeballs on the animal before the hunt. They did however had tracks. From the tracks alone they knew that they were hunting a juvenile bear of small stature. They correctly deducted that an AR15 would be up to the task. If the bear had been a full grown adult polar bear it could have been an entirely different story. There is a stuffed bear in the Anchorage airport terminal in a glass case. The animal is as big as a house. He must stand 12-16 feet or more on his hind legs. The bear is jaw dropping huge. AR15? I dont think so, unless the hunter can get in a brain shot. 375 H&H for sure and you do not hunt it, you get your back to a wall of ice and let him come to you

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