Tanner Allen, Bear Defense in NW Wyoming, .41 Magnum Single Action

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- While researching pistol uses in self-defense from bears, I noticed the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) bear mortality database listed a self-defense killing on 8 August of 2009.  The database did not indicate what kind of firearm might have been used.

Years later, Bridger Petrini gave me a lead to the person who had been attacked and had defended himself with a .41 magnum single-action revolver.

Tanner Allen, who lives in Wyoming, is an accomplished hunting dog trainer and dog breeder. His hounds are sought after by big game hunters to improve their packs. They are noted for their ability to trail and hold mountain lions and bears.

In August of 2009, Tanner was not seeking bears or mountain lions. He had drawn a coveted permit to hunt mountain sheep. It was a lifelong dream to harvest a trophy ram.

He took one dog with him, a bitch named Ovada, who was a great mountain lion dog, and a favored pet.  Tanner took his mules and gear to the Shoshone National Forest, to Ishawooa Mesa, on 7 August, 2009, to scout the mountains for the trophy ram he sought.

It was a five-hour muleback ride into the mountains to where he set up a base camp.

Early the next morning, Tanner woke, and before breakfast, accompanied by his dog, Ovada, he prepared to glass for sheep. He had seen signs of bears digging for roots on the mesa. Almost as an afterthought, he strapped on his Ruger Blackhawk .41 mag in its holster and pistol belt. The pistol was loaded with five rounds of factory ammunition. Loops on the belt held six more rounds.  To Tanner, the pistol and rounds were another piece of gear. He wasn’t known for babying himself or his gear. His friends had kidded him about his old and abused ammunition.

There wasn’t much wind at sunrise. As he gained elevation to the top of the mesa where he would be glassing for sheep, the wind picked up. The visibility was excellent. He did not see any sheep.  By 8 o’clock, he was thinking about heading back to base camp, a thousand yards away, looking forward to coffee and something to eat.  A sound caught his attention. He looked toward the sound.  There was Ovada, a sow grizzly bear and two cubs, charging full tilt at him from a hundred yards out.

Tanner drew the Blackhawk .41. He does not consider himself a pistolero, but the big revolver was comforting in his hands. He fired a warning shot over the sow’s head. It made no impression.

He fired again. A miss.  The bears and dog were close, now. The sights lined up. A pause, perfect sight picture… click and misfire!  He fired again. Another miss, but now the bears and dog ran off, out of sight.

One round was left in the Blackhawk. Tanner had six rounds in his gun belt loops. He reloaded. He decided to leave the area, in case the bear came back.

50 yards away, a narrow chute gave a less than vertical way done the mesa. He started into it. He had only descended 20 feet when he heard and saw the sow again.  It had circled around the bottom of the mesa and was now coming up the chute, directly at him! He reversed course, climbed up, and scrambled onto a rocky outcrop.  Sow, dog, and cubs all moved as fast as they could up the steep slope of the chute.

Tanner cocked the pistol and held it steady. As the sow’s head came to within two feet of his position, he fired directly into her forehead. Instant death. The sow tumbled backward and rolled over and over down the chute, with Ovada in pursuit. She came to rest 150 feet away.

Tanner stayed at base camp overnight. He took his mules back to the trailhead the next day. Then he reported the shooting to Wyoming  Game and Fish.

He and the investigating officer went back to the mesa. Oveda ran off as they rode into the wilderness. They could hear her baying.  They continued to the defensive shooting site and recorded the incident. Pictures and measurements were taken.

On the way out, they located Ovada. She had treed a mountain lion, and held it, by herself.

Tanner says bear spray would not have worked, because of the wind. He says the wind is almost always strong at the higher elevations.

Once, he says, he was riding a small mule, and both he and the mule were blown off the trail. He says the hunters, who were on large horses, laughed at the incident.

The self-defense shooting of the grizzly bear was never reported in the media. Only the brief mention of the shooting was recorded in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem database of bear mortality.

If Bridger Petrini had not recalled hearing of the incident from Tanner Allen and put me in touch with him, it would remain one of many, unrecorded and unknown, to those who were not intimately involved.

About 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 retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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WI Patriot

There is a lot to be said about the .41 Magnum…

Dave Workman

Well, at least he used the right caliber in a great sixgun. Interesting story.
The .41 Magnum is sometimes under-rated. Especially by bears.


The .41 magnum is a virtual equal to the .44 mag. The .44 is actually a 43, miking out at .429 inch bullet diameter. The 41 is truly 41caliber at .410. So it’s a bit less bullet mass (standard 210gr vs 240), in return for a bit higher velocity and sectional density. A virtual toss up. Both will do the same job, in about the same fashion. A bit more penetration with the .41 and a bit more ‘knockdown power’ with the .44. Depending upon the load used, OFC.


My buddy Cosby has relied on the .41 out West for years and years. He never parted with that youthful choice and he has never regretted it. In fact, for all his walking in the Bob and elsewhere in Montana and Wyoming that gun has kept him safe. He just shoots, shovels, and shuts up.


The SSS is probably BS. I spent decades working in the Bob, Scapegoat, Missions, AB, and Teton Wildernesses. Including the Ishawooa area (gorgeous). SSS is a lot of bravado and most folks who work there are savvy enough to work around the bears by being smart. Occasionally an incident happens. I personally believe in hunting griz, and wolves.

Ricardo Pacetti

I don’t comment much by it appears Roy D is a troll, just sayin.


Pepper spray wouldn’t have been totally useless in this case; it could always be used to season the meat after he shot the bear.

Dave in Fairfax

I thought it was for seasoning the victim before being eaten.


I thought the idea was for the spray to blow back on you and make you too spicy for the bears delicate palate. 🙂


Tanner is a friend of mine. Pretty much how I remember him telling me about it back then


Glock 20, AKA 10mm same Ballistics as .41 mag with 15 +1 in da stick.

Last edited 1 year ago by SEMPAI

Two schools of thought:

  • Semi-automatic with lots of 10mm
  • Revolver with heavy, hard-cast bullets that have a large meplat. These tend to travel straighter through flesh and bone.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. I carry a .44 mag with cartridges loaded with the above described bullets. I can appreciate why people choose the Glock 20 however.


I have ran 220 buff bore without issue but prefer the 200 in the full size However in my sub compact 10mm glock 29 I carry the old 180 grains and just hang on LOL my 5in 629 smitty .44 just to heavy to carry all day. But I ain’t getting rid of it , love that caliber


Like I said, both have advantages and disadvantages. I prefer the wider meplat that just won’t feed in a semi-auto.

The 329PD works for me.


my Super Red Hawk in .44 Mag fits my hand. A Glock does not.

Easy decision


Yet another good choice.


You consider the 10mms 180 gr. bullet at 1,300 ft/s for 708 ft⋅lb of energy to be the equal of the .41 mags 210 gr. at1,560 ft/s for 1,135 ft⋅lb? By the math that I learned 1135 is greater than 60% more than 708. That is a LOT more. Almost double. And before you bring up the extra capacity in an attempt to save face, I don’t regard more than 4 or 5 rounds as any advantage at all in a hunting firearm. Its not even much advantage in a defensive handgun. Seldom indeed does any self-defense shooting involve more than 5 rounds, and the ones… Read more »


@Knute Knute – I consider 10mm to be similar enough to 357. I’ve trained more with pistol than revolver and they just seem to work better in my hands. Taking my time I can aim a revolver, but for me pistol is far faster and provides more intuitive aiming. So a revolver would work for me for hunting but I’d prefer pistol for self defense. I can pretty easily get a controlled pair or threesome in time it takes me to get off an aimed revolver shot. Extra capacity is just a nice additional feature unless one has royally screwed… Read more »


I also consider the 10mm to be similar to the .357. But that is not the comparison under discussion here. It was said that the 10mm is the ballistic equal of the .41 magnum, and that is blatantly not so. All of the rest is a matter of personal choice, and as always, everybody pays their own prices, and makes their own choices, for themselves. This is the way it must be, as everyone has differing skills and experiences and so prefers different things. The 10mm will probably work fine against a bear, just as the .357 does, but to… Read more »


I have carried a .357 for many years and never had to use it, thankfully. But lately I have been experimenting with a .350 Legend as a carry for scouting . In the AR platform and using the LeHigh Extreme defense round with solid copper I think it will be devastating to a bear if I ever have to use it. A 120 grain in .357 at 2725 FPS creates 1978 ft. pounds of energy at the muzzle. It is very accurate out to 300 yards and with the 16 inch barrel it is light and has a usable sling… Read more »


Single action for bear defense??


An excellent choice. The fastest first shot of any type of handgun. And plenty of capacity. You may have noticed that even with the misfire, this gentleman still had rounds left, plus time to reload. And he had only 5 loaded, either because it was a Ruger 3 screw (also called the old model), or just from old habit. Perhaps he prefers the old model, as I do. The cylinders line up better with the gate than the new model does, and the loss of that one round is irrelevant, at least for me. They also feel better and cock… Read more »


I am going to call bullshit on this “story.” I read it twice just to make sure that I did not miss anything the first time around. In all the detailed telling of this story there is not even a passing reference to the gun he was going to use to get a mountain sheep. Oh well, if nothing else it is a passable yarn to entertain the rubes.

AZ Jon

If you read the story twice as claimed you would find that Tanner was scouting, not hunting.


If you read the article a 3rd time, you might see the part where he said he was out scouting for an upcoming hunt. When I scout for a hunt in advance, I don’t carry a rifle with me.

“Tanner took his mules and gear to the Shoshone National Forest, to Ishawooa Mesa, on 7 August, 2009, to scout the mountains for the trophy ram he sought.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Doug

Stop it, you are just embarrassing yourself. Like I said, a good yarn for rubes but some of us aren’t rubes. But it is your story, tell it like you want. LOL!


Actually, heading off uphill with just some glass and a handgun, is common here in the west. I often do the same here in Montana. Head off up a ridge to get some elevation with my Nikon 20-60X spotting scope and a pistol. It’s too difficult to climb with a rifle, esp. since any game you see will be miles and miles away anyhow. All you need is a handgun for emergency use, and enough glass to rate antlers from the distance. The one difference I noticed is; I always take a thermos of hot coffee (or tea) with me,… Read more »


We have bears (black) and lions around here in the high country, I carry a 357 with hot loads. I used to carry a .44 mag. but the recoil was gittin harder on my wrist. The .357 will do and doesn’t have the recoil the .44 had.


What a mouth for a guy who can’t read. It clearly states he was scouting for an upcoming hunt. I don’t know anyone who hauls a rifle around when scouting an area in advance of an actual hunt. Talk about embarrassing yourself…


I might say the same for someone who can’t comprehend that which was written. It doesn’t matter to me because you rubes are easily misled and you are, entertaining. LOL!


Here’s the quote directly from the article, Einstein:

Tanner took his mules and gear to the Shoshone National Forest, to Ishawooa Mesa, on 7 August, 2009, to scout the mountains for the trophy ram he sought.”

It appears your reading and comprehension is sorely lacking. Either that or you just enjoy hauling an extra 8-10 pound rifle around for nothing. Speaking of rubes…. Why would anyone take a rifle out when it’s not even in the legal season to shoot anything yet?


Roy should shut his trap. Not a hunting trip, just scouting


Roy D . . . Grow up, boy!


Let’s see how long a list of rubes we can get. Keep it coming.