Modern Sporting Rifles as Bear Stoppers? They Worked in Every Recorded Incident

Modern Sporting Rifles as Bear Stoppers? They Worked in Every Recorded Incident
Modern Sporting Rifles as Bear Stoppers? They Worked in Every Recorded Incident

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- Before I graduated from high school, I overheard the older brother of a close friend talking about shooting a bear. The bear had been discovered in a den, during the Wisconsin deer season. As I recall, in 1968, such a harvest would have been legal.

The older brother was a Vietnam veteran. He approached the den with another vet. The brother suggested the other vet poke into the den to see if the bear were still there.

The other veteran said no, he would not do it. The brother said, well, in Vietnam, you went into holes to get Charlie.

Whereupon, the other veteran said: yes, but I had a different rifle then. (speaking of the M16).

He considered the M16 a superior gun for close-range bear defense than the common 30-30, whether Winchester 94 or Marlin 336.

At the time, I thought it strange someone would prefer a .223 semi-automatic rifle to a 30-30 or larger caliber rifle.

50 years and considerable time investigating actual defensive shootings of bears later, my opinion has become less certain.

Of the defensive bear shootings I have found, four of them were with rifles reasonably characterized as semi-automatic civilian versions of popular military rifles.

All four defensive shootings were successful. Modern sporting rifles most commonly are AR15 or AK47 style semi-automatic rifles. They are the most popular rifles in today’s America. It is certain more bears will be shot with them in the future.  Here are the four incidents:

Image courtesy Halona Cadzow, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

From 2008, a polar bear in Alaska, from AmmoLand:

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

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.

In 2013, an Alaskan hiker encountered a 600 lb grizzly who charged him. Several 5.45×39 rounds from an AK74 (a later version of the AK47) were sufficient to stop the attack.

From alaskapublic.org:   28 July 2013 AK74 5.45×39 caliber. Two volleys, 13 shots total.

The incident took place between McHugh Creek and Rainbow along Turnagain Arm.

The man stayed at the scene and had a cellphone so he could report it.

He said he came upon the bear and made noise and the bear responded by charging him.

The weapon was an AK-74, a smaller caliber weapon than the AK-47.

The third incident occurred in Blount County, Tennessee, in October of 2019.

This correspondent was able to contact the game warden who investigated the incident. The warden said the defender used an AR15 style rifle. He believed it was chambered for the .223 cartridge. He said the defender fired several shots to put down the bear. The bear had shown no fear of humans and was threatening the shooter’s dog.

Here is a Youtube video of the bear before it was shot:

The fourth incident happened in Galena, Nevada, a bit south of Reno, in June of 2020. From the AmmoLand story:

On June 19, at about 2:30 a.m., a homeowner in Galena, Nevada, just south of Reno, head noises as if someone were attempting to break into his house. He exited the house with an AR15 style rifle chambered in 6.8 SPC.

A large black bear challenged him and started coming toward him. He shot the bear once, then as the bear appeared to be suffering, shot it again. After an extended investigation, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, NDOW reported no charges would be filed, as the shooting appeared to be self-defense.

It is a small sample. One polar bear, one grizzly bear, two black bears.

The stories illustrate one of the major reasons the M16 was adopted by the US military: the ability to accurately and rapidly place multiple shots on target. A .223 cartridge has about the same energy as a .44 magnum.  The  5.45×39 is very close. The 6.8 SPC is a bit more energetic. Applied rapidly to an aggressive bear, they all can be very effective in stopping an attack.

I would not recommend a .223 as the best choice to hunt bears. There is a large difference between hunting bears and defending against bears.

Defense against bears is going to take place at close range. In that scenario, the modern sporting rifle seems to work well.


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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Finnky
Finnky
16 days ago

Always take off wedding ring before working on car, either near moving objects or anything electric. 12V DC will melt ring on your finger. Maybe should say what’s left of your finger. Didn’t do anything internal with it, but I was left overnight running experiments on a 6MV system. Sucker would run 2 amps for a fraction of a second, during which it would drop to ~5MV and have to recharge. The tank was filled with sulfur hexaflouride to reduce arcing. Lightning would still blow up stuff inside :). Glad I didn’t have to pay for or perform repairs or… Read more »

TheRevelator
TheRevelator
15 days ago
Reply to  Finnky


Saw several of your posts from yesterday were taken down today… Hope everything is alright.

TheRevelator
TheRevelator
15 days ago
Reply to  TheRevelator

No worries man, you were completely fine.

I just happened to see a few of my own comments no longer showing up and was curious if we had a new censoring issue in operation. Appreciate you replying back.

TheRevelator
TheRevelator
17 days ago

Energy is not what kills…. There is a vast difference in paper ballistics compared to real life performance, and the main objective is either 1. interrupting the processes of vital life sustaining organs, or 2. breaking down muscular and bone structure to prevent mobility. As a comparison since the 44 mag was brought up, lets look at another slow fat bullet. A black powder 45-70 500gr bullet may only have 800 or 900 foot pounds of energy once it reaches its target down range. That low energy bullet though still has enough power to punch through the shoulders of a… Read more »

TheRevelator
TheRevelator
17 days ago
Reply to  TheRevelator

Yes. I wasn’t going to go into archery, although I am very familiar with that very test, as well as the debate between high velocity vs heavy arrows and FOC. For those here who may only understand “Gun Language”, I decided to restrict my analogy to cartridges.

TheRevelator
TheRevelator
16 days ago
Reply to  TheRevelator

Yes. That I was leaving unsaid as well.. Kevlar may work against bullets and slicing, but it is weak to piercing.

musicman44mag
musicman44mag
18 days ago

I know in Oregone we can use 223 to hunt deer but for elk it has to be a larger caliber and I think you can have no more than five bullets in what ever it is you are hunting with.

ARHunters
ARHunters
18 days ago

Randy Luth – Former Co-founder DPMS & Panther Arms, and Founder Luth-AR has killed a couple Bears with AR platforms. Including a Grizzly. There is an Ammoland Article on his accomplishment with MSRs. The wide variety of Chamberings available in AR platforms and the potential quick caliber conversions make them a great choice for all hunting choices. There is not a North American Big Game Animal that can not be taken with an AR platform. A World Record Grizzly Bear was once taken with a single shot .22LR and not long ago a Guide killed a charging Brown Bear on… Read more »

swmft
swmft
19 days ago

i have shot a grizzly that was charging , it is not easy to get off fast with a 44 and the fur almost acts as a vest ,hollow points flatten and dont get to vitals was the most intense thing ,other than an ambush in the jungle, I have ever been through. with out the “wartime” police action experience dont think I would have survived

Last edited 19 days ago by swmft
Matt in Oklahoma
Matt in Oklahoma
19 days ago

BTW Polar Bear, unlike other species, will actively hunt down man. It’s physical shape is of no surprise given that fact

musicman44mag
musicman44mag
18 days ago

LOL, I wonder if we taste like chicken?

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
18 days ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

MM44M,
Those in the know say pork. ‘Course they also say they no longer eat people.

Knute
Knute
18 days ago

They are probably correct though. Bear taste a lot like pork. Like swine, they have a lot of fat. And so do humans.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
18 days ago
Reply to  Knute

BACON!

Oldvet
Oldvet
18 days ago

Hope this is not poor taste . When I was a young lineman in the electrical utility , I had to rescue a man from atop a pole who had been burned by 7240 volts of electricity . It certainly smelled like bacon .

Finnky
Finnky
18 days ago
Reply to  Oldvet

Was that actually a rescue, or was it a recovery?

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
18 days ago
Reply to  Oldvet

OV,
I don’t know about the taste. Ba dum dum.
That kind of voltage at those amps, I’m surprised that you had to go up to get him. I’d have expected the charred remains to come down on their own.

Finnky
Finnky
18 days ago

Dave – It’s not the voltage, it’s the amperage that gets you. Of course voltage drives amperage and can make current jump impossible gaps. In air roughly one mega volt per meter will arc through dry air.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
18 days ago
Reply to  Finnky

Finnky,

If you take another look at my comment I mentioned both volts and amps. Trust me, I do know what tickles you and what cooks you. I grew up with a Ham and made a living playing with electricity. When I was a kid we rigged a 1 tube amp’d system through the sewers so we could talk to each other at night while listening to our crystal radios. My BS troop’s mission was communication in time of invasion. %-)

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago

OV, My Dad was a Scout Leader, ex Signal Corps. This was back when each Troop had a mission rather than just a badge for hunting Girl Scouts and playing on the computer. Although swimming the lake to meet up was always fun. %-) We had survival hikes where you went out with the rest of your troop and what you carried (before we called them EDCs) is what you had. Sort of Pre Bear Grylls stuff. It was the Adirondacks, so the weather wasn’t TOO deadly, but there were rattlers and bears and you could be in a world… Read more »

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

I envy you . Our Scout Master was a firefighter , We got a lot of first aid and camping etc. But what you describe sounds like what we called Explorer Scouts . boys older that 18.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  Oldvet

OV,

It was a different world, and I suspect that a lot of what each troop was like came from the top down. It may not have been sanctioned from the head shed. Don’t knock 1st Aid, it’s come in useful waaay too often. I remember, VIVIDLY, having a black bear push its head into my lean-to one night. I busted an Eveready flashlight on its nose and we all chased it out of the camp. Later, I cleaned my shorts. %-) Not a lot of sleep that night for anyone.

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

Dave …No not knocking 1st Aid I was a Red Cross First Responder (card carrying) for all the years I worked in the utility indestry , and taught 1st Aid in young hunter safety classes for 25 years .

Last edited 17 days ago by Oldvet
Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago

OV, The eastern Mountain Range, whatever the local name is for it, is great. It’s got to be some of the prettiest land in the country and it’s great for hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping and hunting. As for the ocean there ARE things that consider you part of the entrees. I’ve got a scar across the bottom of one foot from kinking something that was disputing whether I was dinner. It’s the reason my Mom quit leaving the beach in ’63. I walked out of the surf leaving red footprints behind me and everybody started screaming. I walked up to… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago

OV,

If I was 40 or 50 years younger I’d love to too. These days, everything hurts and I want my own bed at night.

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

Dave I can resemble that .

Knute
Knute
17 days ago

I, also. Welcome to old age! I used to roam all over the Missouri Breaks hunting Deer and Elk. Now I’m too stove up to go climbing through the coulees in the badlands anymore. It’s all I can do to climb over a sagebrush now!

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  Finnky

Both,

Yeah, all that salty gooey stuff inside makes you a pretty good solid core wire. No multi-strand there.

RoyD
RoyD
18 days ago

Back about 42 years ago during my days working on oil well servicing rigs we had rigged up on a well and after a little bit heard over the company radio that another service rig needed an ambulance on site. Unknown to us the other rig was just about a mile and a half north of where we were out west of Enid, Ok. Turned out that the rig was rigging up on this well that had power lines from the line running along the section road. I want to say it was like 7200 volts or something close to… Read more »

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

RoyD,

Yeah, that’s not a voltage you want to slap on the back of your hand to test. Bet his Dad felt horrible.

RoyD
RoyD
17 days ago

His dad was a strange bird, he knew his shit, but strange. I think the dad, like the son, just knew the power was off because someone told him so. And since he would not misstate something to someone he assumed that he had been told the truth. I kind of go by the old “trust but verify” school of life.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

RoyD,

Me too. That’s why God made lockouts. Droviea ne proviea.

Last edited 17 days ago by Dave in Fairfax
RoyD
RoyD
17 days ago

Later in life there was a person killed by electrocution where I worked. That resulted in “lock out tag out” being implemented.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

RoyD,

I got tagged by some 477v at work because a guy opened the box and flipped the breaker after I’d tagged it out. When I woke up we had a long talk and everybody got their own locks. It hurt like hell for days.

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

Dave …Yes more than one person has been hurt taking someone else’s word . As well as jumping up just because the boss came on the job site . That is what happened with the journeyman who stuck his shoulder into 4KV . They were stretching their lunch break a little . He saw the boss jumped up and climbed up on the circuit breaker next to the one they had under clearance . We instituted a policy of a yellow rope strung around cleared equipment because of that .

RoyD
RoyD
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

My Dad was a radar tech in the Air Force so then and after he retired he always had something electrical he was messing with. We children got schooled on what you should and shouldn’t be doing with things electrical. I mostly errored on the safe side of things after having listened to Dad tell stories of people who were foolish or less than careful when dealing with electricity. The one mistake I made was reaching around the back of my younger brother’s B&W tv set to adjust the vertical lines and not knowing he had taken off the back… Read more »

RoyD
RoyD
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

I don’t know why my post a minute ago is awaiting approval.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  RoyD

RoyD,
Neither do I, and now it’s not.

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

His hooks were in the wood pole , his elbow brushed the conductor . Must not have been much current flow . He survived .

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  Oldvet

OV,

Boy is he lucky.
I had a boss ask me one day why everybody else jumped when they saw him coming and i didn’t. I told him, I wasn’t screwing off so I didn’t feel guilty.
I prefer to hurry slowly, it’s way safer. I took a lot of flack for sitting and thinking until I had a plan and at least one back-up, but the only times I got hurt, it was because someone else did something stupid. Nobody got hurt because of something I did.

Oldvet
Oldvet
17 days ago

Dave Yes the best boss I ever had once told me if I didn’t jump and run when he came in told him I was caught up and as you say not screwing off . My best place to figure things turned out to be in bed when I couldn’t sleep . I always told my people that if you learned to listen that equipment would talk to you . Everything preformed a function because of something else . I was fortunate to have learned from the old timers not from books . They would ask me why I did… Read more »

Knute
Knute
17 days ago

Nikola Tesla did the same thing:
“I am credited with being one of the hardest workers and perhaps I am, if thought is the equivalent of labor, for I have devoted to it almost all of my waking hours. But if work is interpreted to be a definite performance in a specified time according to a rigid rule, then I may be the worst of idlers.”
-from Chapter 1 of “My Inventions”, Nikola Tesla’s autobiography,

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago

OV,
I expect it’s one of those things that we learn over and over again.

This has been a hoot talking over wire pulling and stuff, but we are way in the weeds and should prolly try to get back to the subject matter. Looks like a bunch of us went to different schools together.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
16 days ago

OV,

That’s something to be both proud of and thankful for.

Matt in Oklahoma
Matt in Oklahoma
19 days ago

I note that there is a difference in a humane one shot kill that is the goal of a hunt at distance as opposed to just killing at short range. Why is it that everyone believes the American Indians killed bear with a 200fps bow and very very small broadhead but doesn’t think a 55gr bullet at 2800fps won’t? I find often the tales of old and “need” of a certain size are completely wrong. They are ego driven. I suppose next week we should do a story on African poachers using the AK platform to kill elephants and rhinos… Read more »

Oldvet
Oldvet
18 days ago

You remind me of a story in a magazine many years ago . Concerning a rogue elephant . The writer only had a .243 win. He turned the bullet around in the brass there by shooting a jacketed blunt to kill the beast . Like I said it was a story in a magazine …..

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
17 days ago
Reply to  Oldvet

OV,

That’s referenced, as I remember, in Unintended Consequences.