Pistols or Handguns 95% Effective When Used to Defend Against Bear Attacks, 63 Cases

Grizzly Bear
Pistols or Handguns 95% Effective When Used to Defend Against Bear Attacks, 63 Cases

U.S.A. -(Ammoland.com)- In January 2018, I published some original research on the efficacy of pistols in stopping bear attacks. It started with this observation, on the Internet, and in print, many people claim that pistols lack efficacy in defending against bear attacks. Here is an example that occurred on freerepublic.com:

“Actually, there are legions of people who have been badly mauled after using a handgun on a bear. Even some of the vaunted magnums.”

OK, give us a few examples. As you claim “legions”, it should not be too hard.

I never received a response. I believe the claim was made in good faith. There has been much conjecture about the lack of efficacy of pistols for defense against bears. A little searching will find a plethora of fantasy, fiction, mythology, and electrons sprayed about the supposed lack.

In the original article, there were 37 instances of bear attacks where people attempted to defend themselves or others from a bear or bears, with a pistol.

Of the 37 attacks, there was only one failure, giving a success rate of 97%.

The criteria for inclusion in this study is a pistol had to be fired to defend against a bear or bears. If a pistol was not fired, the incident was not included. If the use of the pistol stopped the attack, it was a success whether the bear was killed immediately, or left the scene, as long as it stopped attacking.

All methods of defense against bears have similar problems of access. A handgun or bear spray in a pack, or a rifle slung over the shoulder without a round in the chamber, should not be counted as a use of the method to defend against bears.  All of the methods can be carried for easy access. It is not a fault of the method if the user did not have them available for use, or if the attack was too quick to allow use.

I and colleagues have searched for instances where  pistols were used to defend against bears.  By the time of the original article I and my associates found 37 instances which were fairly easily confirmed.

Our renewed efforts have found another 26 instances. The earliest happened in 1936, the latest mere months ago. The incidents are heavily weighted toward the present.  The ability to publish and search for these incidents has increased over the years. In addition to the pistol defenses, there are two new instances where pistols were used in combination with rifles, one where a pistol was used on an aggressive bear hit by a vehicle, two examples where pistols were present but not used, one indeterminate case, and two examples of unconfirmed incidents.

Both bear and human populations have increased.  Reliable and powerful pistols have become more popular, legal, and commonly carried.

The 63 cases include three that meet the criteria for failure. That translates to a success rate of 95%. You need not rely on my judgement or that of my colleagues. Read of the successes and failures for yourself. Make your own judgements. Some links may not work. Sources on the Internet often go dead after a few years.

The pistol calibers, when known,  range from .22 rimfire to .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum. The most common are .44 magnums.  Here are the cases, sorted by caliber and date:

We found five cases involving a .22 rimfire pistol. Four were successful, against black bears. One failed against a polar bear.

1. 1936, Alaska: From More Alaskan Bear Tales Page 267 .22 Rimfire  Reference January 31, 1936 black bear

 A black bear with cubs had chased Mr. Nutter up a tree. When the sow came after him, he was able to shoot and kill it with a .22 pistol.

2. 1971, Idaho: From Guides tales of Adventure,.22 rimfire page 62 black bear

Walt Earl was a government trapper and hunter who also guided hunters. He had to kill a black bear and cubs in a depredation hunt.  The hunter forgot his ammunition for the hunter's .44 magnum. Walt took refuge on the trunk of a huge pine that had blown down. The sow came after him.

She climbed up and walked straight down the trunk toward me and my pea shooter.

Her head swaying and teeth popping, I held my shot. From behind the flimsy barracade of twigs, I took aim for her throat, and yelled for the dogs to take her. They moved by didn't answer the challenge.

She stood 20 feet away, with all her attention focused on my throat. I had, in a way, brought a knife to a gunfight.

With eight rounds left in my 10 round clip, I pulled the trigger with my sights on the swaying bruin's throat.

One. Two. Three. Four. If anything, these rounds just angered her more.

Five. Six. Seven. Eight.

Click…

On the eight shot, something happened. Rocket, that old redbone hound, charged up into the bear, sinking his teeth into the sow's side. They both went flying. from the log, claws flying and teeth snapping in midair.

As the dogs fought the sow, Earl reloaded. Then, as the sow came at him again, he fired 10 more shots from his Ruger .22 pistol. The dogs distracted the sow once more. The fight moved into a thicket. The sow was found there, dead from two .22 rounds that had reached her vitals. There were 14 .22 caliber holes in her. A bio of Walt Earl is included at the end of the book.

3.  1 September, 1995, Norway, Svalbard Island, .22 rimfire, Failure Polar Bears:  Proceedings of the Twelfth Working Group

On 1 September, 1995, two male tourists were attacked by an adult male bear on a remote island in eastern Svalbard. The two tourists defended themselves with a .22 calibre pistol which proved ineffective. One man was killed, the other injured. Police later shot the bear.

4. 24 June 2012, Arizona,  Pondorosa Campground, .22 rimfire, black bear, azgfd.net (caliber previously unknown)

The bear had entered the man’s tent and attacked him. His fiance’ and a one-year-old child were also in the tent and were able to escape unharmed and sound the alarm to other campers in the nearby area.

Reports indicate that another camper at a nearby campsite shot at the bear several times with a handgun at close range after the attack. The bear left the area, and it is unknown at this time if or how many times the bear was hit.

.22 caliber mentioned at fox10phoenix story

5. 25 July, 2016, New Mexico, Silver City, .22 Rimfire, black bear.

The startled cubs bawled out for their mother, which came running around the corner. The woman fled into her house, but her dogs slipped out the open door. A fight ensued between the adult bear and the dogs, during which the woman attempted to scare the bear away. The woman’s husband arrived armed with a .22-caliber pistol and fired a single shot in the bear’s direction, Peralta said.

The bear ran off and collapsed about 40 yards away, dead from the gunshot wound, Peralta said. One of the cubs was found near the house and the other was found in a tree.

We found one case involving a .380 pistol. It was successful.

1. 14 April, 2006, Tennessee: From ljworld.com .380 defense against 350 lb+ black bear    The bear had killed a six year old girl and mauled her mother and brother. The attack occurred on Friday, 14 April in 2006, in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.

The bear bit the boy’s head, then went after the child’s mother after she tried to fend off the attack with rocks and sticks, Hicks said. The animal picked up the woman with its mouth and dragged her off the trail.

The girl apparently ran away, and almost an hour passed before rescuer Danny Stinnett found the bear hovering over her body about 100 yards off the trail.

Stinnett, a county fire and rescue chief, said he approached and was about 25 feet away when the bear charged him on all fours. He said he fired at the bear twice with his .380-caliber pistol, scaring it off.

“I know I hit it,” Stinnett said. “It reared up on its hind legs. It was as big as you and me.”

We found five cases where 9 mm pistols were used to defend against bears. All were successful.

1. 17 August, 2002, Alaska, Russian River,  Grizzly Charged Fishermen, 9mm

But then the bear turned, looked up at Brenner and lunged, said Lewis, who interviewed the three men Saturday.

Brenner fired twice at the center of the hulking shape closing to four or five feet away. The sow, estimated at 400 to 450 pounds, went down. Brenner then put three more bullets into her head.

He used a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. Lewis said such a low-caliber gun ordinarily doesn't pack enough punch to kill a bear. But Brenner loaded the pistol with full-metal-jacket bullets that penetrated to the bear's vital organs, he said.

2. 31 August, 2004, Colorado: Black Bear Charged  John Tiebohl, 9 mm, Bachelor Gulch

BACHELOR GULCH – The Aug. 31 shooting of a bear in Bachelor Gulch still echoes among residents in the upscale enclave.The Colorado Division of Wildlife continues to investigate the incident, in which homeowner John Tietbohl shot and wounded a bear outside his Daybreak Ridge home. Tietbohl told officers the bear had been trying to get into his home, then charged him as he was getting into his car that evening. Tietbohl, who had been carrying a 9-millimeter pistol as a sidearm to protect himself from the bear, shot and hit the animal, which left a trail of blood as it ran off.Earlier in the day, Bachelor Gulch security officers had repeatedly sprayed pepper spray at the bear near Tietbohl’s house, but the animal stayed around. The bear also reportedly slipped into Tietbohl’s garage in the days before it was shot.

3. 20 April, 2009, Germany, Kassel, Brown Bear  Spiegel.de, 9mm Sig is police issue

However, one of the bears attacked the cop and bit him twice on the left calf. The injured policeman shot the 180-kilogram (397-pound) bear five or six times with his service pistol. The circus director was sharply critical of the police action, which he described as “out of proportion.”

4. Last week in July, 2016, Alaska: Guide Kills Attacking Grizzly with 9mm

In the last week in July, 2016, Phil Shoemaker had use a 9mm pistol to kill a grizzly that was threatening his clients and himself.  It worked.


5. 6 October, 2017, Montana:  Bowhunters, Spray Failed, 9mm, Grizzly , account from two sources, Todd Orr, and Eye-witness, Beaver Creek

I interviewed both sources. The attack was reported to Fish and Game, but was not published.  Consistent incident recorded in USGS data base.

It was at the end of the day, and was getting dark. Two bow hunters, were returning from their bow hunt. They both had bear spray and pistols. They had agreed that if forced into defending themselves, one would use spray, the other would back up the spray with his pistol.

The grizzly bluff charged several times, blocking their return to camp.

Warning shots were fired in the air with a 9 mm pistol. The bear ran off, then came back. Bear spray was utilized but only extended 10 feet into a light head wind and did not reach the bear. The bear would not disengage. It kept coming back and getting closer.  The aggressive bear was finally shot with the 9 mm pistol at close range. It ran off. The report was made to Fish and Wildlife, and the bear was found dead the next day. Eye-witness believes it was one shot to the chest of the bear.

We found one case involving a 9.3 x 18 Makarov pistol, in Russia.

1. 2010, Russia:  9.3 mm Makarov (most likely) Police attempting to control bear.

Brown bear shot by policemen  after attack on veterinarian police s uses that time (2010) 9mm Makarov, I'm pretty sure about 95% it was basic FMJ (Full metal jackets) They shot around 8-9 shot, no one can tell how many actually hit the bear

We found two cases involving a .38 revolver against black bears. One was a failure, one a success.

1. May, 2013, Missouri, Rodgersville, .38 revolver, ozaksfirst.com, black bear

“The bear was being really aggressive and foaming at the mouth,” something a game warden told him happens when bears become angry. “At that point I shot the bear.”

The bear was hit three times in the chest and then ran away, climbed up a tree, and the fire department had to cut the limbs to get him down. The bear eventually died.

(skip)

“I brought a 38 pistol to scare it more than anything.”

When it fought back and became aggressive, he knew he had to take action, “it was self defense.”Since the incident he's gotten angry emails.

2. 6 September, 2015, New Mexico: Failure, .38 revolver  Ocate, black bear

The hunter received bite injuries to his foot through his boot as he climbed a tree to try to escape the bear. He was taken to Alta Vista Hospital in Las Vegas, N.M., where he was treated and released.

(snip)

In Thursday’s attack, the hunter told officials he was eating lunch under a tree when he spotted the bear and her cub in a watering hole. He took photographs and started shooting video of the animals when the mother bear got angry and charged. The hunter, who officials did not identify, climbed the tree to escape.

At one point, the hunter fell 15 feet from the tree and then managed to climb back up. He fired his pistol into the air and at the female bear in attempt to scare it, but the animal didn’t leave. He then radioed for help. His guide told officers he found the hunter clinging to the tree nearly 50 feet from the ground.

Investigating officers did not find any blood at the scene. Two bullets were recovered at the base of the tree. I interviewed  Clint Henson, one of the investigating officers. In the official report, obtained by a public information request, the revolver was identified as a .38. Only five shots were recorded. The revolver was placed in the archery hunter's pocket, so it was likely a 2″ barreled 5-shot revolver.

One warning shot was fired in the air as the bear approached. The bear continued to advance, so the defender put the pistol in his pocket and climbed the tree. The bear came up the tree and bit him in the foot.  He fired four more times at the bear as it climbed the tree toward him. Two of the times, the bear backed down the tree. He continued to yell at the bear, and it eventually left with the cub.

We have found three cases where .357 revolvers were used to defend against bears. Two were successful, one was unsuccessful.

 1. 26 June, 1987, Montana: Grizzly Bear Killed After Biting Warden in Montana Forest  .357 Magnum

Pictures at Field and Stream Article here

‘’I wouldn’t want to have another go-round,’’ the 60-year-warden, Lou Kis, said from his hospital bed after undergoing surgery for the bite, which was so powerful that it broke the leg bone below the knee.

Mr. Kris, a warden captain here for 22 years, killed the 400- to 500-pound bear with six shots from his .357 caliber Magnum revolver as it bit him.

 2. June 20, 2010, Alaska: Geologist Pistol Defense failure  Grizzly Bear, .357 Magnum

Miller managed to pull out his .357 Magnum revolver and squeeze off a shot, possibly grazing the animal. Then he fell onto his stomach, dug his face into the dirt and covered his neck.

The bear went for his exposed right arm, gnawing and clawing it and chipping the bone off the tip of his elbow. The attack lasted 10 to 15 seconds, then the animal lumbered away.

As Miller rolled over and was getting to his knees, the bear, only about 40 yards away, came at him again.

He managed to fire two more shots, but with his right arm badly injured he thinks he missed the bear. Then he lay still as the animal gnawed and clawed at him.

After the second attack, Miller played dead again, lying still for three to five minutes. He tried to move and realized he couldn’t. He was too badly injured.

“I was just hoping my radio was still in my vest pocket and it was,” he said. “I got it out and started radioing mayday, which nobody answered.”

3. 26 July, 2014, Montana: Glacier National Park: Bear first sprayed, then shot with a .357, grizzly bear

Murphy first sprayed bear spray at the bear when it was 15 to 25 feet away, firing one shot from his .357 revolver when the bear had approached to within 7-10 feet.  The bear was charging uphill at the time.     He only fired one round at the bear, which fell back and stopped moving when shot.   Many have suggested that he should have continued firing, but it is hard to argue with success.

We have found three cases where .40 caliber pistols were used to defend against bears. All were successful.

1. 2 June, 2006, Alaska:  Black Bear broke into Anchorage home, AK Glock .40

A large black bear broke into an Anchorage home early this morning, rummaged around like a burglar and feasted on a box of chocolates before the homeowner shot him dead with a Glock.

(snip)

Knowlton said the bear started back up the stairs toward his son. He shot the animal multiple times and it went back downstairs.

2. 20 October, 2011, Ohio: Zanesville, escaped bear, duty pistol,   .40 caliber (from Muskingum County Sheriff's Office)

But soon, he was facing another, much larger, problem. His commanding officer told him a lion had been cornered back at the Thompson home. He headed back, but instead of finding a lion, he was confronted by an angry bear.

“The black bear turned in my direction and ran directly towards me,” Merry told ABC News. “I fortunately was able to pull my duty pistol, fired one shot, killing the animal instantly. The black bear fell approximately fell seven feet in front of me.”

(snip)

Fred Polk watched in disbelief as he watched the bear charge Merry and a lion leap over a fence into his yard about 5 p.m. Tuesday night.

“One of the bears charged the deputy and the deputy shot it. After that one of the lions jumped the fence come down here and the deputy shot it in my front yard,” Polk said.

3. May 13, 2017, New Hampshire:  Bristol, Officer shoots, kills Aggressive Black Bear with .40 cal Glock

Police Chief Michael Lewis said Thursday that, on May 13 at 12:25 a.m., officer Thomas Seager responded to a 911 call from a resident on Riverdale Road about a bear breaking into a garage.

When the bear advanced toward Seager, he fired a “scare” shot, causing the bear to leave the area, Lewis said.

Seager reported the incident to the state’s Fish and Game Department but, nine minutes later, the property owner called to say the bear was back and up in a tree.

The second time the officer responded, the bear came down out of the tree and advanced on Seager again, according to Lewis.

“One round was fired, terminating the bear,” Lewis said.

The animal was killed with the officer’s .40-caliber Glock handgun.

We have found two cases where a 10 mm pistol was used to defend against bears. Both were successful.

1. 29 July, 2016, Alaska: Kim Woodman Kills Charging Grizzly with 10 mm

On 29 July, 2016, about 4 p.m. Kim Woodman was attacked by a sow brown bear at Humpy Creek.

Kim had a Glock model 20 10 mm pistol with him. He was able to stop the attack by shooting the bear as it charged at him. While backing away from the charging bear, Kim tripped and fell backward. He instinctively attempted to fend off the bear with his foot, while he concentrated on firing the shots that saved his life. The last shot was just short of contact. It probably hit the bear in the chest, but also took off the tip of one of Kim's toes.

 2. 25 July, 2018, New Mexico:  Man stops New Mexico bear attack with 10mm Glock 20

Bridger Petrini is attacked by a near 400 lb cinnamon Black bear. He kills the bear with his Glock 20 10mm during an extended fight. I interviewed Bridger. The case is detailed at the link.

We have found two cases where .41 magnum revolvers were used to defend against bears. Both were successful.

1. last week of June, 2003, Montana: Grizzly Bear attacked, man mauled, used .41 Mag to stop second attack

Bozeman daily Chronicle

Then the bear attacked again, he said, moving incredibly fast, and that's when Johnson, still on his back, reached for the pistol he wore in a holster on his belt.

“I had my hand by my side,” he said. “I pulled the gun and went boom. Tell me how fast that is.”

The bullet struck the bear just below the snout and it collapsed immediately and almost landed on him, he said. Then he rose to his feet and put three more 240-grain slugs in it.

2. 19 July, 2009, Wyoming: Clark, .41 Magnum, Grizzly

Jerry Ruth saw the grizzly for just a fraction of a second before it was on him.

Within seconds, the 275-pound animal had crushed the Wyoming man's jaw when it bit him in the face, fractured his rib and punctured his lung and left deep bite wounds in his calf and scratches across his back.

After the attack, the bear left him for her three cubs that Ruth saw for the first time as he lay bleeding on the dirt. When it reached the cubs about 15 yards away, the bear turned toward him again, “squaring off” as if to charge, Ruth recalled Friday.

Ruth grabbed for the .41-caliber magnum revolver he was carrying in a hip holster and relied on his training and experience as a police officer to save his life. He fired three times, saving three bullets in case his first shots failed.

But the bear dropped and didn't move, ending the furious encounter as swiftly as it started.

We have found nineteen cases where .44 magnum revolvers were used to defend against bears. All were successful.

1. late 1960s, Alaska: From More Alaskan Bear Tales Page 270, .44 magnum,  Alaska Magazine, January, 1980 black bear

The bear started to enter his shed. He took an aggressive stance and told her to get out. The bear showed no signs of leaving, so he stomped on the floor toward her. . Vic said, ” Her front bows moved like black lightning… the staccato of her claws rebounding off the door and frame…. The speed at which she could move was frightening. She was too fast for me to see the movement.”

She ground her teeth, and in a blur she came for him. He poped a cap and dropped the bear. What would have happened had Vic not had a pistol?

2. Spring of 1969, Alaska: Grizzly killed in self defense by “Dolly” Walker 

  Spring of 1969 as detailed in Year of the Bear. Nizina Valley east of McCarthy in Alaska. Shot by Beverly “Dolly” Walker. Picture of Dolly with bear that attacked her. She is holding the Smith & Wesson .44 magnum she used to defend herself at the Alaskan homestead.

3. Fall, 1971, Alaska: From More Alaskan Bear Tales Page 269 grizzly

In the fall of 1970, Al and his hunting partner Ron Trumblee had gone waterfowl hunting with their shotguns. Knowing there were bears in the area, they packed their .44-magnum handguns as defense against a possible bear attack.

The men heard brush breaking nearby and were soon face-to-face with an angry mother brownie. As she charged, Albert leveled his pistol and fired. He said, “She shook her head and kept coming. When she was about ten feet away, Ron drew and fired his pistol from the hip and the bear fell dead four feet in front of me.” Alaska Magazine, September 1971.

4. 28 July, 1996, Arizona:  .44 Magnum used to stop black bear attack, AZ Republic, page 39 -Newspapers.com,

Comprehensive article from Gun Watch published in 2017

Jul 28, 1996  The 16-year-old counselor, Anna – Knochel, was in critical condition. Brett Kramer drove away the 340-pound male bear by shooting it twice with a .44 Magnum pistol.

5. 24 September, 2004, Alaska: Muldoon, Hiker Kills Charging Brown Bear from 20 feet with .44 Magnum, 

Original story from Anchorage Daily News

“I fired the first shot, and I aimed at its shoulders. When the first shot didn't faze it, I fired the second time, and it turned into the ditch, and I shot three more times, and it went down,” said Boyd.

Boyd was down to one remaining bullet in his .44-caliber Magnum when he called Anchorage police for assistance. State trooper Kim Babcock helped Boyd finish off the bear with her shotgun.

6. 7 September, 2006, Alaska: Grizzly attacked Moose Hunters,  Alaska, .44 magnum, The Longest Minute

 When Reed distracted the bear from its attack on me, I had time to concentrate on the holster. I saw a buckle with a strap running through it. I could not figure out how it held the gun in place, so I grabbed the buckle and attempted to rip it off. To my surprise, the buckle was actually a snap and the strap peeled away. As I pulled the revolver out, a sudden calm came over me, and I knew everything would be fine. I looked in the direction of Reed only to once again see the bear charging at me. He was about ten feet away coming up and over the initial log that I had tripped over. That was when I pointed the revolver and fired at center mass. The .44 magnum boomed in the night and the boar fell straight down, his head three feet away from where I stood. As he fell, he bit at the ground and ended up with a mouthful of sod. I stood in a dumbfounded stupor. I had no expectation that the pistol would kill the bear. My hope was that the shot would sting the bear and help scare him away along with the flame and loud report. As his head sagged to the ground, I shot him three more times in quick succession, out of fear and anger.

7. 17 September, 2007, Wyoming: Flying H Ranch, Bowhunters Attacked by 600 lb Grizzly, Stopped Charge with .44 Magnum

Byrum started to pull his .44 Magnum pistol out of his holster. After bumping into Byrum, Hambelton dove to the ground and curled into a ball, with his backpack facing the bear.

“I just gritted my teeth expecting the bear to bite me,” Hambelton said.

With the bear closing to within six feet, Byrum fired a shot into the bear's neck.

“I kept telling myself, don't shoot in the head,” said Byrum, fearful that a bullet to the head would glance off the bear's skull.

As the pistol fired, Byrum tripped over a tree stump behind him. With Byrum on his back, the bear fell in front of his hunting boots.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is going to be bad,'” said Byrum, who could see smoke coming out of the bear's fur where he had shot him.

 8. October 6, 2007, Montana: From bozemandailychronicle.com: (Tom Miner Basin), .44 Magnum grizzly

It attacked a pair of bow hunters early Saturday afternoon. One of them used bear pepper spray and halted a charge within nine feet, but the grizzly turned and charged a second time. That’s when the second hunter shot it twice with a .44 magnum pistol.

9. 2009 Nevada City Nevada, .44 magnum, black bear, 

Reported by Nevada Bear Biologist Carl Lackey

Lackey said one resident reported shooting the bear right between the eyes with a .44 Magnum after the hungry giant lifted a sliding-glass door off the tracks and started toward him. The bullet glanced off and sent the bear whirling around the kitchen, and a second shot prompted him to scramble out the back door, according to local newspaper accounts.

10. June 2010, Canada, British Columbia: A Grizzly Bear, a .44 magnum, and a brush with death

Link to video on Youtube

He kept one hand on the tripod and drew the other to his holster, pulling out the gun he'd never had to use. The grizzly zigzagged toward him, roaring the whole time.

Mr. Lorenz lifted the gun and set it off, just four feet above her head. The shot was enough to startle the bear and make her turn in the opposite direction.

“This was something that she wasn't expecting, to get blasted in the face; that was enough to put a damper on killing me,” he said. “If I didn't have the gun, I would have been dead.”

11. 2010, Wyoming, Paint Creek, Shoshone National Forest, Bow hunter shot Charging Grizzly with .44 magnum

Paint Creek reenactment

A bow hunter reenacts for investigators how he fired a .44 Magnum revolver at a grizzly bear near Paint Creek in the Shoshone National Forest in 2010. Investigators followed a blood trail for half a mile, but could not located the wounded bruin.

12. July 24, 2014, Alaska:  Eagle River, 200 pound Brown Bear Sow, .44 Magnum Revolver

“This is not in an Anchorage subdivision,” Battle said. “This is out in the big woods.”

Battle said the sow attacked the man, who in turn fired at it three times with a .44 Magnum.

“The last time, I think, he got it through the lung,” Battle said. “It ran back into the alders and he could hear it wheezing.”

13. 19 March, 2015, Norway: Polar Bear attack stopped in Svalbard island, with .44 magnum handgun.

On Thursday, 19 March, 2015, a woman with a .44 magnum stopped a polar bear from attacking Jakub Moravec, 37, in the Svalbard archipelago. Polar bear attacks are expected there, and tourists are not allowed unless they carry a high powered firearm. In this case, the rifles were left outside the tents, but inside the protective alarm wire. The armed woman, mother of Zuzanna Hakova, shot the bear three times with the revolver.

14. 21 June 2015, Alaska: Details on Charging Kodiak stopped with a .44 Mag Revolver

The bear was roughly 9 feet tall and started its charge at about 20 yards away. The man shot the bear by the time it moved half that distance, Svoboda said.

“It all happened in really tight quarters,” he said. “He shot at it five times before it finally stopped and then once it was on the ground, it was still moving. So he shot it one more time and then it died.”

15. August 15, 2015, Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park: Fisherman fires warning shots with .44 Magnum, Deters Grizzly Bear Attack

According to the angler's report, he was fishing when he heard a noise behind him. He turned around to see three grizzly bears, one adult and two cubs, coming toward him. The adult bear stood on its hind legs, at which point the fisherman fired one shot into the ground to the side of the bear. The bears then turned around and departed the area. The fisherman noted that he was near the “worm hole” area of the Snake River located approximately three quarters of a mile downriver from the Jackson Lake Dam.

16. 31 August, 2015, Idaho: Bear Attacked Bow Hunter, Could not  Reach Bear Spray, Drove off Bear with .44 Magnum pistol shots grizzly

The hunter reportedly was carrying bear spray, but apparently couldn’t access it when the attack occurred. Fish and Game officials said the man was able to scare the bear off after he tried to shoot her several times with a .44 magnum revolver pistol at point-blank range.

The archer sustained injuries to his hand and wrist, but hiked out under his own power and was transported by ambulance to Madison County Hospital in Rexburg.

17. 7 August, 2016, Alaska: Successful Grizzly Bear Attack Defense with .44 Magnum

“We immediately found ourselves in a confrontation,” Kluting said. “She ended up turning around and for a split second we thought she would leave – but then she turned back and came at us full charge.”

Kluting fired off a warning shot into the creek. At that point the sow was 15 yards away.

“She ran through that without even flinching,” he said.

So Kluting aimed in the middle of the brown blur, now about 3 yards away.

“I barely had time to get the hammer back for another shot before she reached me,” he said.

She collapsed in the river about 5 feet – two steps – away from them.

18. 24 September, 2017 Montana: Father Uses .44 Magnum to Shoot Grizzly Bear off Son 

Dave had closed to within six feet of Rory and the bear. Not wanting to hit Rory, hoping to get the bear to release his son, he shot the bear in the hip.

It worked. The bear dropped Rory and spun toward him. His next round was meant for the bear's shoulder. The situation was dynamic. The 240 grain slug went through the bears neck.

With the bear coming at him, the bear's mouth was within two feet of his .44 Taurus when he fired the last shot. The bullet went alongside the bear's head, into its neck, penetrating the chest cavity.

19. 24 September, 2018, Montana:  Bow hunter used handgun to stop grizzly bear attack .44 Magnums

Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Director Dona Rutherford says the man killed the moose on Monday and was preparing to move the animal when he was attacked by the bear.

Rutherford says bow hunters are allowed to carry guns and the hunter shot the bear with a handgun.

 Detailed article From Rural Montana Magazine December, 2018

We have found six cases where .45 caliber pistols were used to defend against bears. All were successful.

1. Alaska: Skilak Lake, Kenai Peninsula, From More Alaskan Bear Tales page 271, Maurice Goff and Jack.

Between bear raids, both men yelled and frantically sought the pistol (having forgotten the shotgun). Finally, Maurice found the pistol, pulled it from its holster and emptied the gun into the charging hulk.

The bear altered its course, and Maurice scrambled for a tree. He begged Jack to do likewise, but Jack refused to do so until he got his hands on the scattergun. Moments later Maurice felt the barrel of the shotgun and discovered Jack was on his way up the foot-thick cottonwood.

2. August 22, 2009, Montana: Grizzly shot with 9 rounds of .45 from a Glock 21 from gunnerforum.org reported

There was not much news coverage of my friends incident up on his place in Marias pass area here in Montana. The proper agencies investigated and found him to have defended himself against this 400 lbs sow grizzly with 2 cubs. 

Roy was up on the edge of his property tending his fence line, when out of the brush she was a coming straight at him with her ears back. Roy drew and put 3 rounds of 230-gr FMJ in her neck shoulder area, then took off away from the trail about 5 yards. Roy said the bear was still coming at him, and he fired 3 more rounds into her frontal area. And again took off another 5 yards off in another direction. The sow continued to follow coming at him, so Roy fired 3 more rounds into her frontal area and she dropped taking a dirt nap.

Roy called to report the incident, and they came out and brought a metal detector to locate spent extracted shell casings. Roy was found acting within his right to protect himself against the grizzly bear attack. But they said, they wished he would have used Counter Assault Bear Spray. Roy did not have any, so they gave him a can, plus some 12 ga cracker shells, and some other 12 ga shells will rubber bullets in them.

Roy came into town and purchased a Glock 20 10mm auto now.
I'm glad Roy is okay.

3. May 28, 2010, Alaska: Denali National Park: Backpacker Stops Grizzly attack with .45 pistol

A grizzly bear that emerged from a thicket and charged two backpackers in the backcountry of Denali National Park and Preserve was shot and killed by one of the two who was carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to park officials.

The killing Friday is believed to be the first instance of a hiker killing a grizzly in the park's wilderness. The killing occurred in the original Mount McKinley National Park portion of the Denali, which was expanded by two-thirds in 1980.

4. 2 July, 2010, California, Yellow Jacket Campground (.45 ) ktvn.comh black bear

Officials say the camper woke up to hear the bear going through an ice chest. He confronted the animal, and it charged and scratched the man's face.

The man shot the bear, but it got away.

Wildlife rangers tracked the bear down and killed it late Friday.

Department of Fish & Game leading the investigation attack at 2 a.m.

From pirate4x4 quote:

The man went out with a gun and tried to shoo the bear away, Macintyre said. The bear charged the man, knocking him to the ground and scratching his face.

The bear left with food, Macintyre said. The man tried to shoo it away again, but the bear charged and knocked him down again.

Macintyre said the man then fired a shot from a .45-caliber pistol, and the animal ran away.

5. 7 July, 2014, Alaska: .45 vs 9-Foot Brown Bear, .45 semi-auto

Many people claim that handguns are useless for protection against bears.   Numerous examples have shown that this is a false notion.   Handguns may not be ideal as defensive weapons for bears, but they can be effective.  In a defensive situation, you have to use what is available.   In this case, a homeowner in Alaska used a .45 against a brown bear that was trying to get into his house on July 7th of this year.  He and his son were in the home.   He had scared off the animal with some warning shots just three hours before.

6. 6 September, 2015, Colorado,  Winter Park .45 handgun (Mike Porras) cbslocal.com and Mike Porras CO Fish and Game, black bear

 According to Mike Porras with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the bear came into the family’s campground while they were present and went after some food that was out.

An armed adult attempted to scare the bear by firing two shots but the bear didn’t show any fear and wouldn’t leave. The camper then shot and killed the bear and immediately reported the shooting to wildlife officers.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has determined the shooting was justified and no charges or citations will be brought against the camper.

We found that one of the previous .45 cases was done with a .45 Colt/.410 revolver, the Taurus Judge.

1. October, 2015, Idaho: Bear Attack on Sleeping Man Stopped with a .45 Colt/.410 revolver, black bear

Steven Vouch reached for his gun when he realized he was being attacked, but it wasn't there.  That is when his friend shot the bear with a .45.  Vouch is on the left in the Cowboy hat.

More extensive account in Field and Stream Here. The pistol was a Taurus Judge

I yelled and started reaching for my pistol, but the bear had shoved it out of reach while rummaging around. But then Bobby woke up and saw him standing over me and grabbed his Judge revolver. He lifted the tarp to see and then, sticking the gun right above my head, shot the bear in the face from, like, a foot away.

We have found one case where .45 Super pistol was used to defend against a bear. It was successful.

1. 6 Oct. 2017, Wyoming: .45 Super Stops Grizzly Bear Charge

The hunters jumped up and separated. The bear momentarily halted. Kelley fired a warning shot from his .45 Super. The bear moved away a little, behind some fire killed trees and brush, then came in again, fast. Kelly fired again, and the bear went down, rolled down slope and came to a halt, motionless.

We have found two cases where .454 Casull revolver was used to defend against a bear. They were successful.

1. About 1993, Alaska, Kenai peninsula, .454 Casull, Craig Medred Grizzly Field & Stream February, 2003 Letters. (numerous mentions in Medred's columns) 

And here I thought the Kenai Penisula brownie I shot off my foot with a .454 Casull about 10 years ago got the worst of it.

2. 2 August, 2009, Alaska: Kenai Peninsula, Charging Brown Bear Stopped with Ruger .454 Casull,

Because of many bear-related incidents in this area, Brush always has brown bears on his mind…even when walking a well-maintained road. On just such a road, less than 500 yards from his house, Brush stopped when he heard a twig snap behind him. Turning his head toward the sound, Brush saw a monstrous brown bear charging toward him. “There was no warning,” he stresses. “None of the classic teeth-popping or woofing, raising up on hind legs, or bluff-charging that you read about. When I spotted him he was within 15 yards, his head down and his ears pinned back. He was coming like a freight train…in total chase-mode.”

Brush instinctively back-pedaled to avoid the charge, drawing the Ruger from its holster. “I fired from the hip as he closed the distance,” Brush recalls. “I know I missed the first shot, but I clearly hit him after that. I believe I fired four or five shots. “

Brush finally fell on his back on the edge of the road. Miraculously, the bear collapsed a mere five feet from his boot soles, leaving claw marks in the road where Brush had–only seconds before–been standing. The bear was moaning, his huge head still moving, as Brush aimed the Ruger to fire a finishing shot. “By then my gun had jammed,” Greg says. “I frantically called my wife on my cell phone and told her to bring a rifle. When she arrived I finished the bear.”

We have found one case where a .460 Smith & Wesson magnum was used successfully.

1. May 18, 2018, Wyoming: Cora, 460 Smith & Wesson magnum   Grizzly.

 The two men with bear spray had fallen 50 yards behind. The dog alerted on something. Noah thought it was some sort of big animal. Then he saw the bears, a grizzly sow and cubs, uphill. He yelled at the dog, but it was too late. The dog came running back. The sow grizzly charged, moving extremely fast. His friend from Chicago bolted back down the trail. Noah had his revolver out, as the bear came to a stop, just a dozen feet away

We have found eight cases where the handguns used to defend against bears were not identified. All were successful.

1. 2 August, 2005, Maine, Rangeley, Unknown pistol, black bear policeone.com

 On Saturday night, a bear wandered into town and wouldn't leave, even after Officer Brian Hughes tried to scare it away by clapping his hands and firing his gun into the ground, Weymouth said. The bear then snarled and hissed before charging Hughes, who shot it with a handgun.

The animal ran off and was found dead the next day behind the town offices.

2. October 6, 2007, Montana: (Tom Miner Basin) and pistol defense of Roman Morris From mtstandard.com grizzl bear:

‘‘It charged down the hill and just drilled me,’’ said Morris, 21, of Whitewater.

Over the next 30 to 45 seconds, Morris fought with the bear as it bit and clawed, severed his left hamstring, punctured his shoulder, chomped at his head and tossed him around.

‘‘I thought the whole time, This is so messed up. I’m going to die, I’m going to die,’’’ said Morris, a pre-med major.

The bear ran off after a friend fired a pistol. Morris underwent surgery at a Livingston hospital and was recuperating Monday at his brother’s house in Helena.

3. December, 2010, Alaska: Video of the event video posted

Described as an archery float hunt in Alaska. Video posted in Dec. 2010. A revolver was used to stop a charge by a sow with three cubs. The muzzle blast and splash from the bullet stopped the charge from 8 feet out.

4. Nov 2014, Massachusetts: Unknown Handgun, Defense against black bear

 WEST SPRINGFIELD – A Sikes Avenue man shot and killed a black bear with single pistol-shot to the head Friday night after it started to go after his small dog, police said.

5. October, 2015, Colorado, Rockrimmon, unknown pistol, kktv.com 550 pound black bear

But likely not an incident that will result in any charges: officials say that based on the investigation, the man who fired the weapon acted in self-defense.

According to CPW spokesperson Kyle Davidson, a man living in the Rockrimmon area shot the bear after it broke into his backyard. The man told authorities that he tried to shoo it away by banging pots and pans and throwing things at it, but nothing worked.

That's when he said he grabbed his pistol.

“It was a very small backyard. The bear broke through his fence…the homeowner tried to scare the bear away, get the bear away from his house. When those efforts didn't work, he felt he needed to protect his home and his family at that point,” CPW Wildlife Officer Steve Cooley explained.

Cooley said the homeowner fired at the bear once, fatally injuring it. After the shooting, the man called 911 and reported the incident.

6. Arizona: Bow Hunter Uses Handgun to Stop Unprovoked Bear Attack In Sept, 2016

PAYSON, AZ – Authorities found two bear cubs after an archery deer hunter fatally shot an adult female bear with a handgun when it charged him in the Payson area.


7. California:  14 December, 2016, Deputy Shot Aggressive black bear in Live Oak Canyon

The family exited their vehicle and were walking up the driveway when they rounded a corner of the home and saw three bears near trash cans. One of the bears began to charge at them, according to the release.

“Fearing for his life, and the lives of his children, the deputy fired several rounds from a handgun toward the bear,” the release stated.

The apparently injured bear and the two other bears fled into the nearby brush.

8. Montana: 26 September 2018, bow hunter stopped attack by sow grizzly and nearly grown cub

A spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks told the Associated Press that the bow hunter was in thick brush on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front when he came across the bears at the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area.

The hunter shot both with a pistol. The adult female bear was killed and the 2-year-old cub was wounded and had to be put down. It was unclear what led up to the shooting

There were six cases where combined arms were used to defend against bears. The four with both rifle and pistol calibers are included in the interest of complete data reporting. They are not used in the calculation of the success rate. One was hit with an automobile, then shot with pistol. The one case with .357 and .44 magnum pistols is included in the 63 pistol cases. All six cases were successful. 

1. Alaska: 26 April, 1993, combination 30-06 rifle and .44 magnum revolver

Rifle jammed, pistol did not.  From dailymail.co.uk:

The hunter, now very much the hunted, shot into the bear’s body, but the grizzly continued to attack him, breaking Bagley’s jaw.

I could feel bones popping and breaking in my head, but I didn’t feel any pain

Dale Bagley, attack victim

It bit him again, crushing Bagley’s cheekbones, ripping out his entire top row of teeth from his head, and puncturing behind his right eye. Another bite pulled away at the top of Bagley’s skull, and wrenched his entire body upwards.

That gave Bagley just enough room to let off more shots, and mercifully, the bear ran off.

2. Oregon: Black Bear, wounded with .338 rifle; Glide, 31 May, 2008 .45 pistol and .44 magnum revolver

GLIDE, Ore. — Aaron Wyckoff didn’t start to panic until his .45-caliber pistol quit firing, and the bear kept chewing on his arm.

So, he recalls, he tried to pull the bear’s jaws apart. Then he tried to roll down the ridge where he and the bear were wrestling. But the bear grabbed his calf, pulled him back and went for his groin.

Wyckoff said he countered by shoving his pistol and his hand into the bear’s mouth. But by then, the struggle in the Cascade Range in Southern Oregon attracted the attention of Wyckoff’s party, and other hunters rushed over.

Justin Norton fired a round from his .44-caliber pistol into the black bear’s stomach, to no avail. He approached the bear, put the gun behind its ear and fired again. It finally rolled away.

“I walked right up to his head, and he didn’t even look at me,” said Norton, 26.

With the dying bear still struggling, a final round finished him off.

“He was dead. He just didn’t know it,” Wyckoff said. “It was just all adrenaline.”

Wyckoff was helping friends track a wounded bear May 31 on the last day of the hunting season.

Fifteen-year-old Chris Moen of Glide, who had drawn the tag, hit the animal in the shoulder with a .338-caliber rifle round, but he and his father couldn’t pick up a trail of blood.

In this account, the pistol is revealed to be a Llama .45 with a 3.25 inch barrel. From shootersforum.com.

3. June 2010, Louisiana,  Walker, Bear shot by officer with a .40 cal (9 mm?) after being hit by car. (combination)

A Walker Police Department officer arrived on the scene at Burgess Ave. near Tiffany St. around 11 p.m. to investigate the auto incident and determine what kind of animal the vehicle had struck. The driver was not able to identify the animal before it moved into a wooded area near the accident site. While searching the wooded area for the animal that was struck, the officer came upon the black bear, startling the injured bear and forcing the officer to react in self defense.

Dr. Jim LaCour, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) veterinarian, determined the bear had moderate to severe internal injuries from the vehicle accident, but could not determine if the bear would have survived those injuries.

The bear was an adult male weighing between 350 and 400 pounds. LDWF records indicate the bear was previously captured in 2008 in Patterson, but had not been reported as a nuisance bear since. Nuisance bears are captured, tagged and released using aversive conditioning in an effort to dissuade them from returning to residential areas.

The Walker Police department said the pistol at that time was most likely a .40 caliber, but might have been a 9 mm.

4. Wyoming: September 2010, Elk Hunters at Bruin Creek, Thorofare Country .44 magnums, .45-70 rifle

Ten minutes later another grizzly approached.

“The grizzly bear appeared to be heading towards the elk carcass and them, but they did not shoot at the time, instead they watched it in the hope it would go by the three of them,” the investigation said.

But the second grizzly, also a boar, didn’t veer away, the hunters reported. When it got within 10 feet of one of the men the entire party opened fire, letting loose nine rounds from two .44 magnum revolvers and the .45-70 rifle.

Only two of the shots connected, a necropsy would later determine.

5. Wyoming: Thorofare Country south of Yellowstone, Grizzly at 10 feet, .44 magnum and .357 magnum, September, 2013 (report from 2015)

Then at about 2:45 p.m., a collared boar grizzly identified as bear No. 764 came uncomfortably close. The group’s canister of bear spray was in a backpack by their horses. A warning shot went off, but the big grizzly didn’t turn back. “The bear stood up and growled, like something you would see in a movie,” an eyewitness later told investigators. From less than 10 feet away, the guide and camp worker drew their .44 and .357 magnum revolvers and together fired four times, ending the 17-year-old bear’s life.

6. Oregon, May 22, 2016 Shane Thomas, 30-06 Rifle, and semi-automatic pistol.

Finally, Thomas said he was able to kick the bear hard enough to knock him back and grab the pistol. Just as the bear went for his leg again, he fired two shots: the first did nothing, but the second pierced the animal’s gut and forced it to retreat.

Battered and bloodied, Thomas got to his feet and scrambled back to the top of the ridge where he could use his cellphone, which still worked despite being damaged.

To summarize, we have found 63 verified cases where pistols were used to defend against bear attacks. In addition, for complete data reporting, are four cases where bears were shot at with both rifles and pistols, and one case where the bear was hit by a vehicle, making it difficult to determine the efficacy of pistols alone.

Of the 63 strictly pistol defense cases, three classify as failures. There was the use of a .22 handgun against a polar bear in 1995, in Svalbard, Norway. There  the use of a .357 against an Alaskan grizzly by a geologist on 20 June, 2010. It is likely the bear was not hit in that incident. The third was the 6 September, 2015, New Mexico incident with a black bear sow and cubs, where the defender climbed a tree and used a .38 revolver. An official reported the defender said he shot in the air and at the bear. The bear backed off twice, but did not immediately leave.

  • There were four successful defenses with .22 rimfire. Three black bears were killed. One ran off and was later killed by officials. One defense with a .22 rimfire against a polar bear was unsuccessful.
  • There was one successful defense with a .380 pistol. The black bear ran off.
  • There were five successful defenses with 9 mm pistols. The four grizzly bears were killed, the black bear was wounded and ran off.
  • There was one successful  defense with a 9.3X18 Makarov. The grizzly was killed.
  • There was one failure and one successful defense with a .38 revolver. One black bear was killed, the other was not captured or recovered.
  • Two of the three uses of the .357 were successful. One was against a grizzly that was stopped with one shot, but then escaped. The other grizzly was killed with six shots fired.
  • There were three uses of .40 caliber pistols, all against black bears, all successful, all of the bears were killed.
  • There were two uses of a 10 mm pistol, one  against a grizzly, one against a black bear (cinnamon color phase). They were successful and the bears were killed.
  • There were two uses of .41 magnum revolvers. Both were against grizzly bears, both were successful and the bears were killed.
  • There were nineteen uses of .44 magnum revolvers. All were successful. Three were against  black bears, one was mortally wounded but finished off with shotgun slugs, another was killed, the third ran off, superficially wounded. Fifteen were against grizzly bears.  Nine were killed without assistance. Two were driven of with “warning shots”. One was driven off, without evidence of being wounded.  Two were wounded and not recovered.  One was wounded and finished off at the scene with a shotgun slug.  One was against a polar bear. It was wounded and driven off, then euthanized by local authorities (most likely with a rifle).
  • There were six uses of .45 caliber semi-auto pistols against bears. All were successful. Two were against a black bears. One was killed, one was killed later,  with additional shots, by responding authorities.  Four were against grizzly bears. Three were killed with multiple hits from the .45 caliber pistols. One was driven off at night and not recovered.
  • There was one successful use of a .45 Colt/.410 revolver, the Taurus Judge.  The black bear was driven off, fled up a tree, and was finished off with a rifle (the pistol was a Taurus Judge).
  • There was one use of a .45 Super pistol. It was successful. The grizzly bear was killed.
  • There were two uses of a .454 Casull revolver.  One grizzly was killed while biting the victims leg. Another grizzly was shot while charging. It was finished off at the scene with a rifle brought by the defender's wife.
  • There was one successful defense with a .460 Smith & Wesson magnum revolver, against a grizzly. The bear was killed.
  • There were eight cases of pistol defenses against bears where the pistol caliber was not identified.  All were successful. Five were against black bears. Four of those were killed, one ran off and was not recovered. Two were  grizzly bears, which ran off and were not recovered. It was not determined if they were wounded or not. The last was against a grizzly sow and two year old juvenile. The Sow was killed, the two year old was wounded and later euthanized.
  • There was one case where both .357 magnum and .44 magnum revolvers were used. The grizzly bear was killed.
  • Including the combined arms cases, there were 26 defenses against black bears, 40 defenses against grizzly bears, and 2 defenses against polar bears.
  • Three failures out of 63 pistol cases where pistols (not pistols and rifles) were used to defend against bears translates to a 95% success rate for the use of handguns against bears.

Successful bear defenses with a pistol are probably under reported, much like successful firearm defenses against criminals. If a predatory black bear is shot and runs off, there are strong incentives for the shooter to avoid reporting the incident.  Incidents where no human is injured are seldom considered news. This creates a selection bias against successful pistol defenses against bears. There are numerous anecdotal accounts of successful pistol defenses against bears, which cannot be verified.

Predatory black bear attacks are the most common fatal black bear attacks in North America.  22 of the pistol defenses listed above are defenses against black bears, or 36%. It is reasonable to expect the actual number to be 30 or more.  Black bear predatory attacks often give potential victims good opportunities to use a pistol effectively. There is considerable incentive not to report such incidents.

I have two reported instances of successful bear defenses with a .38 special revolver. One against a black bear, and one against a grizzly. I have not been able to verify either. I have found two more reported cases of the successful use of the 10 mm pistol, and one more for the .357 magnum, but have not been able to verify them.

Even in the age of the Internet, reports can become difficult to find after a few years. I recall an incident where an Alaskan State Trooper killed a grizzly bear with his duty pistol, while an associate with a 12 gauge shotgun did not fire. I have not been able to find that report. It may have been the 2013 incident where unarmed Thomas Puerta was killed and eaten. I am not certain.

The often cited Efficacy of firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska by Tom S. Smith, Stephen Herrero, and others, included 37 instances with handguns.

The study includes incidents when handgun use was attempted, even if the gun were not fired, when a bear attacked a human.  The instances collected were from 1883 to 2009.  They recorded 6 failures to stop the attack out of the 37 instances. That is an 84% success rate.  The different selection criteria (pistol fired v. pistol attempted to be used) can explain some of the difference. The Efficacy authors limited their data to cases in Alaska. Our study looks at all cases that can be reasonably verified in print or video. Pistol and ammunition technology have greatly improved since 1883.

The authors of the Efficacy of firearms have not released their data.  There could be as many as twelve instances of overlap between the Efficacy of firearms data set and our collection.  A combination of the data is not useful unless the Effficacy of firearms data set is released. We cannot know how many of the six failures of the efficacy study were because the handgun was not fired, for any of numerous possible reasons.

Because the problems of accessing long guns, handguns, or bear spray apply to all of the defensive methods, the most reasonable comparison is to only consider those cases in which the firearm was fired or the bear spray sprayed.

All of the instances cited in this article can be verified independently.

Here are three famous cases which were not included in this study. Two were not included because no shots were fired. The third case (Sommers) was not included because it cannot reasonably be determined if it was a successful defense with a pistol.

The Todd Orr case was not included. It is likely Todd would have avoided injury if he had prioritized using his pistol instead of bear spray. He did not fire his Rock Island 10 mm or attempt to do so.

 Tom Sommers attempted to use bear spray but was unable to make it work. The bear attacked him and he was unable to fire his pistol.  His friend used bears spray and the bear stopped the attack. Tom fired a shot, and the bear did not come back. Not classified as either a pistol failure or a success.

The Mark Uptain case was not included. Mark Uptain's Glock 10mm was never fired because Cory Chubon did not know how to operate it. It was holstered without a round in the chamber.

The Orr, Uptain, and Sommers cases might have been considered pistol failures if they had been considered in the Efficacy study. The were not in the Efficacy study, because they did not happen in Alaska.

Here are two examples of cases that sound authentic, but were not able to be documented. No date or location was included, or name of person involved. Several others have been found. Numerous other examples exist.

from S&W forum, includes a picture:

Originally Posted by grasshopper

It was many, many years ago, but a chance encounter I'll never forget, and meeting a bear was the last thing on my mind at the time. No way out so I had to pull the trigger.

.45 Colt Single Action loaded with 255 gr. lead SWC and 8.5 grains of dirty old Unique powder.

One lucky shot between the running lights & it was all over. And yes, I was scared shi*less.

From clipsoon.com:

I GUARANTEE you the trigger pull & recoil will be the LAST thing on your mind in an actual Griz attack! I lived AK bush for 27 yers & was bear attacked 4 times. When the SHTF your adrenalyn levels spike & your attention is on the BEAR, not the gun! You'll never feel the recoil nor hear the report. TOTAL focus is ON the BEAR!! BTW, my backup handgun was a 44 mag redhawk w full length bbl (7 1/4 inch) shooting 320 grain WFN Hard Cast @ 1200 FPS & THAT WAS MARGINAL!! Only shot one small 6 ft black bear directly in the chest w the muzzle pushing it back when the gun went off. Flipped it out of my video stand w the sternam, heart & backbone blown out its back. Hit the ground dead w the entire muzzle blast INSIDE the bear. Her jaws were 2 inches from my nose when the gun went boom. NOT a fun experience. When bears attack its FAST!

We are continually working to increase the data set of pistol defenses against bears. If you have information about an incident outside of those shown, with locations and dates, please send it to us. There are obvious gaps in our data. One is between 1936 to the 1960's. Another is from about 1972 to 1992, with only one incident in the middle. There are likely many cases documented in books or local sources that are not easily available on the Internet. If you know of such a case, or one that can be supported with witnesses and/or pictures, but was not published, please submit it.

I urge people to send in all documented cases of pistol defense against bears, including all failures.  If you have additional details about cases in this article, please contact us.

All cases we have been able to document, since 1936, where a pistol was fired in defense against a bear, have been included in this article.

Three  failures out of 63 incidents is  a 95% success rate for pistol defenses against bears.  Using a pistol to defend against bear attacks is a viable option.


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.

  • 8
    Leave a Reply

    Please Login to comment
    8 Comment threads
    0 Thread replies
    0 Followers
     
    Most reacted comment
    Hottest comment thread
    8 Comment authors
    MichLarry JantzDave SmithTS the DeplorableOldDude Recent comment authors
      Subscribe  
    Notify of
    Mich
    Member
    Mich

    FABULOUS research, Mr. Weingarten! Thank you. Your time in the Army R&D really shows in this article. My sister is a retired police officer and carries when hiking in the west. She shared your article with me and, after reading the entire thing, I’m encouraging her to carry a larger pistol. Thanks again. Great work and great analysis

    Larry Jantz
    Guest
    Larry Jantz

    I LMJ am one of the many contributors to Larry Knuits work in progress SAFE WITH BEARS BOOK.. My Chapter Pistols N Bears was limited since I was not writing a book. I wish to commend Ammoland and Dean Weingarten for producing very good information and a real stimulus to feedback and stories.related to pistol effectiveness. What I list is off memory but was printed in articles and magazines which one tends to remember after the 13 Yard adrenaline rush. My hunting started 55 years ago. Last wounded warthog attack 2014 stopped at 8 feet. Now by the number. 1.… Read more »

    Dave Smith
    Guest
    Dave Smith

    There’s a world of difference between this candid, transparent, informal review of handguns vs bears, and the peer-reviewed “scientific” study on the Efficacy of Firearms For Bear Deterrence in Alaska (2012).The purpose of Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska was to denigrate firearms. Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska and Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska were 2 halves of a straw man argument designed to prove bear spray was more effective than a gun. The bear spray study only included incidents when people sprayed bears; in 27% of the gun incidents, people did not… Read more »

    TS the Deplorable
    Guest
    TS the Deplorable

    I have noticed that there is a propaganda campaign by the parks services AGAINST using firearms against bears, saying that bear spray and noise makers are more effective or just as effective. When you look at the “evidence” they cite, they include cases of pistols in backpacks that could not be retrieved as cases where a pistol “did not stop the bear.” Like most anti-gun statistical “evidence” it is horribly and purposely flawed. I truly believe these people, whose job is to promote the propagation of wildlife, have been so captured by their mission that they consider a bear death… Read more »

    OldDude
    Guest
    OldDude

    Around 1973, a good friend of mine was working over the winter at a remote 3-man research station on the artic ice. They lived in a small shed on skis that they moved position frequently to prevent the shed from sinking into the snow. They saw polar bears on occasion. Once when all three were inside the shed, a polar bear unexpectedly thrust its front paw threw the closed door. Two of the three men carried .44 magnum revolvers and fired them through the door until empty (12 shots total). The bear died at the scene, and the men suffered… Read more »

    James m
    Guest
    James m

    I have never commented on the necessity of deterring a bear. Fortunately those I have encountered have left on their own accord. I still carry everyday. Being that we are more likely to be defending against man than animal. Either way, I pray that I have prepared myself to be the victor. And will not go easy.

    Whoopie
    Guest
    Whoopie

    Double Tap makes an excellent 9mm bear round, 147 gr. brass jacketed truncated come +P+

    Duane
    Guest
    Duane

    Having killed several black bears with handguns one over 500lbs.
    I can tell you handgun are very useful for protecting oneself from bears or other predators.