Bear defense pistols vs charging target.
The reason I decided to write this article is because I live in an area where bears are a part of life and this year our state has had a startling number of bear attacks. I often see people buy pistols or revolvers for bear defense and then not put any serious time in to training with them. I often hear gun shop or message board experts talk about how you need a 454 or 500 Smith and Wesson to stop a bear. Yes, these calibers have a lot more power to work with but the subject of how well the shooter can use these wrist breakers under stress never comes up. Most people seem to assume they will rise to the occasion if they need to use their new monster mag belly gun. But the truth is we default to our level of training.
I decided to run a simple test on a charging target. Luckily ANPRACS loaned me a target made by MGM that is designed to simulate a person charging 21 feet in 1.5 seconds. I set the target up and brought a shooting buddy to help me. I tested 3 pistols. A Glock 20 in 10mm using 200 grain FMJ reloads going 1150 fps. A Smith and Wesson Mountain Gun in 44 mag using 300 grain bullets at 1100 fps and a Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley in 454 Casull using 360 grain hard cast lead reloads going 1250.
I started each run with the pistol held in low ready. The reason was I did not have a holster for each of the guns and I wanted to have a comparable baseline. So we assumed you heard the bear and were waiting to see if it charged to fire. I did 3 runs with each pistol and counted the hits up at the end. With the single action Black hawk I started with the hammer cocked the idea being if you knew the bear was there you would have cocked the hammer. Finger was off the trigger obviously at the start of all these drills with all the guns. I videoed each run and photographed the target. The results are below. My shooting buddy Greg also fired his 10mm with similar reloads. His injured wrist was not up to using the magnum revolvers today. My wrist was feeling it at the end of the day.
Glock 20 200 grain FMJ reloads going 1150 fps.
Run 1 5 A zone hits (5 hits total)
Run 2 5 A zone hits (5 hits total)
Run 3 5 A zone 1 C zone hit. (6 hits total)
Smith and Wesson 629 Mountain gun 300 grain XTP’s at 1100 fps.
Run 1 2 A zone 1 C 1 D (4 hits total)
Run 2 2 A zone 2 D (4 hits total)
Run 3 2 A zone 3 C (5 hits total)
Ruger Bisley Super Blackhawk .454 (360 grain hard cast lead 1250 fps) Hammer started cocked.
Run 1 2 A zone (2 hits)
Run 2 2 C zone (2 hits)
Run 3 1 A zone 1 C zone (2 hits)
Greg Glock 20
Run 1 1 A 3 C (4 hits)
Run 2 2A 1 C (3 hits)
Run 3 4 A 1 C (5 hits)
As you can see it was far easier for me to hit with the Glock 20 during this drill and the hits were all close to where I was aiming/pointing. With the 44-magnum due to the longer DA trigger and the recoil my first 2 shots were usually the worst one’s going low while the last few were in the A zone. On the last run I was able to get 5 hits on paper.
With the 454 Single action, I could only get 2 hits on paper before the bear got me. If I did not have it cocked for the first round I imagine it would have only been one hasty shot that hit.
Summary for me the Glock 20 is my preferred choice because I shoot it much better under stress as was illustrated in this drill. I know it has enough penetration to make it through a bear skull. I also like the Mountain Gun but it was harder to shoot and I don’t trust it as much due to that fact. In fairness, I shoot Glocks and semi autos in general far more than I shoot my revolvers. If you are a diehard revolver shooter you may disagree. One thing I will say is that I do not recommend a single action revolver for any sort of defensive work. They are fun guns to shoot but not nearly fast enough if a bear charges. Take my opinion for what it’s worth just another guy on the internet. No matter what choice you make in a sidearm make sure you train with it. Having a gun is not nearly enough. You need to be proficient with it. A gun is a liability if you are not proficient with it and willing to use it.
Did a follow up today with long guns.
Run 1 with a 870 Vang Comped shotgun 14 inch barrel (SBS)
4 A zone hits.
Run 2 458 Socom 4 A zone 3 C zone
Gregs 458 socom run
4 A 1 C 2 D
Pat 308 Carbine
7 A zone 4 c zone
Greg 308 carbine
8 A zone 1 C Zone 1 D zone
When I first moved to Alaska someone told me, that to test my ability to hit a charging bear I should;
Tie a 5 gallon bucket to a car bumper with a 100' rope,
Stand by the bumper and have a friend accelerate to 40 mph.
Then see how many times I can hit the bucket before it gets to me...
Looks like you've done something similar. But I think the wild bounces would add a degree of difficulty!
At 100' I'm pretty sure with my ruger it's be 2...max!
But I could probably empty my 1911 into it with some accuracy.
I wonder how it would go with a 10mm mp5
I spent a lot of time and money(ammo) getting good with my 454 the first year I got it, quickly discovered if I didn't shoot it weekly my ability died fast with it...Converted to 10mm over 15 years ago now, the 454 has been a safe queen ever since other then when someone wants to shoot it...G-20 loaded with 200 gr underwood hardcast is normal, but also have some underwood extreme 140 gr penatrators and some 180 XTP's that wouldn't bother me a bit to use on bears either....Good post OP. should move it to GD so more can see it...