Two Successful Defensive uses of .22 Mag Against Bears

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Campsite image courtesy Chris Larsen

U.S.A.-(– On Tuesday, August 30, at about 6:50 p.m., James Little settled into campsite 674 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). His youngest child was a few feet away.  His youngest cried out, and James grabbed the child and took a couple of steps, uncertain of what had happened.

Then his oldest yelled, “Bear!” and James turned around. The bear was about six feet from him. It had been within 3-4 feet of his back when the child was startled. This was the start of the remarkable incident. In James’ words:

Just finished a trip to Horseshoe that should have been three nights, but turn to one. (Campsite 674) Had a bear walk right into camp and within four feet of my youngest! Nothing would discourage him till I fired a couple of rounds.  We packed up and bolted to an open site (campsite 677) a half mile away on the other side of the lake. Weren’t there five minutes and was pulling up the food bag and my wife screamed. There was another bear fifteen feet away heading to our canoe with our kids in it. I had to fire another round before he would be deterred.  Left that site and unexpected member Ausable and his crew took my family and me in for the night. (Campsite 672) Early the next morning, we broke came and headed out. My family had had too much. Across from the portage from Caribou to Lizz, (campsite 645) the campers there had their breakfast intruded upon by a bear who would not be deterred till he had taken their food bag.

This correspondent talked to James, who reported the incident to the BWCA authorities.

James used a North American Arms mini revolver, the Wasp model in .22 magnum, with a 1 5/8 inch barrel. The revolver was loaded with Speer Gold Dot defensive ammunition.

James was certain there were two bears, not one. To reach campsite 677 in time, the first bear would have had to swim across a lake. The second bear was not wet.  Both bears were adults, weighing over 200 lbs. In James’ estimation, the bears were in the 300 lb range.

Both bears were persistent and would not leave. They would retreat a few feet, then come back.

With the first bear, when James fired the warning shot, the bear ran off about 100 yards, then stopped and looked back. James fired a second warning shot, and the bear ran out of sight.
The .22 magnum mini-revolvers are quite loud.

At campsite 677, the second bear came within six feet, retreated, came back, and moved toward the canoe where the children were. That is when James fired a warning shot in the second encounter. At the warning shot, the bear retreated to the surrounding forest.

Acknowledged bear expert Stephen Herrero considered just such a possibility when musing about the utility of firearms as a defense against bears.  The advice has remained the same since 1981. From “Bear Attacks” third edition, 2018, p. 243:

A firearm is also useful when a very aggressive bear shows up around camp and cannot be persuaded to leave. Such bears normally have a history of feeding on people’s food or garbage, and may have to be killed.

In James’ case, the bears were sufficiently startled by the warning shots to run off. Whether the bears would have returned is uncertain.

James’ wife questioned the utility of a firearm on a camping trip. Now she is glad James was armed.

In about 10% of documented cases where a pistol was fired in defense against bears, warning shots were sufficient. Some cases are uncertain because people aimed at the bear but it could not be determined if it had been hit.

It is likely one of the two bears scared off by James’ pistol shots stole the food supply of the campers at campsite 645.

This correspondent believes most cases of successful warning shots are not recorded. No person was injured, and no bear was wounded or killed, so the event was not newsworthy.

One of this correspondent’s colleague’s related an incident that happened 30+ years ago, in which warning shots from a .41 magnum worked to dissuade a grizzly bear. Because there was no precise date or location (other than central Alaska), the incident is not considered documented and is not included in the database.

In many cases, using a firearm as a noisemaker is sufficient to deter problem bears.

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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Being armed without need beats being in need and unarmed.


In a way, it’s like believing in God. I’d much rather be wrong believing there is a God than being wrong about believing there isn’t.

Last edited 1 month ago by TGP389

If the US ever builds up its infantry forces maybe the nations camper community will answer the call. Because anybody with enough backbone to calmly to go to sleep with a bunch of bears goofing off around them has got potential!


Camping in bear country with tasty little children and a .22 noise maker. You might want to rethink that!


Kids are appetizers with chocolate and jelly coatings; adults the main course.


If I’m not mistaken, it is illegal to carry firearms in the BWCA. I pack a .357 snubby with me in the boundary waters. To me it’s like not being able to carry concealed in certain public places. I carry wherever they aren’t searching. I’d rather be illegal than defenseless!

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill

I agree. It might not be on my hip, but it’s in my pack and easily reached if needed. I’d rather be alive and facing a fine for defending myself, than mauled by a bear. Screw their stupid laws.


it very unusual for the author to omit the location of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, so wondering where it was I looked it up. They post on the first page of the USDA Forestry Page for Boundary Waters Canoe Area a notice and a link to a Bear Warning for the area. Don’t most people use the interweb today when heading out into the government run “Good Sam Club’s” (I know GSC are private, they tend to be located on lakes an rivers, hence my reference), or other National Parks camping areas? I’m glad the author included the part… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Bigfootbob
Captain Sloog

Last night there was a video on YouTube of a backyard security camera. A bear was on the wall of the property about five feet up, the owners dogs were going crazy and the bear was swatting at them as they jumped up. Then a lady appeared in her bathrobe and ran at the bear PUSHING IT BACKWARDS OFF THE WALL WITH HER OUTSTRETCHED HANDS!!! It wasn’t a huge bear but then she wasn’t a huge woman with protective clothing. I will try to find it again and send a link.


There is no shortage of black bears killing a few that cause problems would be a good thing.

MN allows for killing bears destroying property along with defending ones life.

I have been to been BWC many times over the past 5 decades.

Had bears in camp twice one was shot and killed as I had a MN bear tag at that time.

The other left after being pelted with rocks. It came close to being killed also.
But made the decision to leave before it crossed the imaginary line I had drawn.

Wild Bill

Let me get this straight, you were camping in the BWC when two bears came into your camp. You shot one of them.

Which bear zone is the BWC area in?

Jim March

I have a warning shot case for you – never officially recorded. 1975, my dad took the family on a dream vacation in Alaska, dropped off by floatplane at a remote cabin on a lake. There was mom, dad, my brother age 5 and myself, age 9. Coming back to the cabin we found two adorable baby grizzly cubs playing right out past the front porch. He hustled all of us inside, and with the door cracked open he fired three rounds of 30-06 from a Springfield bolt action milsurp into the lake. He then slammed and bolted the door,… Read more »


When you feed a bear, you’ve sentenced him to death. The bear can’t tell if it’s intentional or unintentional – a picnic basket is the same as a garbage can to Yogi. Bears can seldom be relocated because any location that can support a bear probably already HAS a bear, and zoos are full of “nuisance” bears. I live in an area of NE Georgia that has LOTS of Black Bears, and I see them or evidence of them daily on my property. They will occasionally come on to my deck and look in the windows, but they leave and… Read more »


I’ve talked about this before, but you expanded why it’s not only stupid but deadly to the Bear when you feed it. The Washington State Fish and Wildlife agents favorite saying every time they hold a seminar…”Stop feeding the wildlife, you are loving them to death!” Yet, there ALWAYS is some blue haired biddy that stand up a proudly profess, the agents can go to Hell, “the Deers bring me their babies and the others depend on my feeding station.”

It’s a damn good thing for people like that I’m not a Ranger…


Old adage rings true….fed bear is a dead bear.


I know where the BWCA is but it annoys me not to see references to the state.


One of the more popular winter areas in central Washington, a Bavarian themed city in the Cascades, Leavenworth, saw a Bear attack yesterday, 10/21/22. Apparently a woman in her 60’s was walking her dog when a Black Bear Sow jumped out of some underbrush and started mauling the woman. In the city/suburban area of town. The press article doesn’t say how she was able to make the Bear stop, but it did and the woman was able to walk home. She was transported to the hospital with serious but non life ending injuries. The Washington State Wildlife Agents tracked the… Read more »


I could care less about how to use bear spray here in Washington. I am more comfortable with .40 S&W. We have several bears in our little area north of Seattle that have been around all summer. One with three cubs that I have personally seen, has not been tracked because it outgrew it’s collar and IS a danger to our suburban area.


I just saw a report about two college wrestlers who were mauled by a grizzly bear near Cody, Wyoming on Saturday (Oct 14, 2022). No mention of whether they had bear spray. They were not carrying firearms. Both were chewed up with broken bones and lacerations. They, and other members of their wrestling team were looking for shed antlers. Both survived. The bear attacked one, then attacked his pal who attempted to divert the bear. The bear left, then returned and worked over the pal in a second attack. See:


I learned last night from a friend with LEO connections in Wyoming that one of the mauled wrestlers (above) did carry bear spray… But the brush was too thick for him to see the charging bear in time to deploy his deterrent ‘weapon’. That’s another very good lesson: If I carry a pistol, long gun, bear spray or whatever… it MUST BE READILY ACCESSIBLE to be an effective defense against either a bear or a big cat. A friend learned it for himself about 25 years ago when he was target shooting on his property. After emptying his pistols and… Read more »


I’m sure glad none of those young men got killed. The broken bones will mend and the scars will heal, ..but their alive.


In the late 80’s, while we were on a backpacking trip along the Rainbow Trail in the Sangre de Cristos, we had a Black Bear encounter with a persistent boar. A couple of quick shots from my old High Standard Model B .22 into the dirt at his front paws drove the fella away from our campsite (which we packed up and moved on). In hindsight, I was lucky the noise moved him on. The next year, I carried a .357 loaded with 165gr JSPs. Haven’t had another bear encounter since then, and we hiked the Rainbow every year until… Read more »

Captain Sloog

Girl pushes bear off wall!!


That young girl got really lucky.


LaLaLand STUPID!!!! Mama bear with two cubs……deadly situation.


But the young woman says she didn’t know it was a bear. What the hell did she think it was? Those two cubs with the sow would have made her even more protective and aggressive. That young woman is very lucky to still have her pretty face.


Do you think she’s invested in a slingshot or a noise maker? Lol


Sounds like that area needs an additional bear season. I’ve always wondered what role bears play in our ecosystem. The best I can figure is like they say, the forests garbage men eating the dead stuff. Go figure…