It’s usually a good idea to be armed when in bear country. Here are our picks for the best bear-defense guns currently on the market.
When you head into bear country, you must accept that you are no longer at the top of the food chain. Luckily, most bears usually do not want any trouble and will leave the area as soon as they detect you. However, this is not always the case and you should be prepared to defend yourself if you get in a tight situation. A good bear gun should be a part of your defense plan.
That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. By using your brain and taking a few basic precautions out in the woods, you can dramatically reduce your odds of being attacked by a bear.
Firearms should only be used as a last resort to defend yourself from a bear.
A charging bear can move extremely fast and only a hit on the bear’s central nervous system (brain or spine) is guaranteed to stop a bear in its tracks. Even on the biggest bears, the central nervous system is not a large target, so stopping a determined charging bear with a gun makes for some very challenging shooting.
Because of this, you must practice drawing and shooting your chosen gun extensively. Remember: even the biggest and most powerful bear defense guns are not guaranteed to stop a charging bear if you don’t make a good shot.
Keep reading to learn all about the 10 best bear defense guns available on the market today.
Designed to be a practical and easy-to-carry gun for self-defense against large predators, the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan is a great choice as a bear defense gun. Available in .44 Magnum, .454 Casull, and .480 Ruger, the Super Redhawk Alaskan packs a lot of power into a small package.
The revolver is available with a 2.5-inch barrel which makes it very compact and easy to carry. However, the short barrel comes with a price of increased recoil, muzzle blast, and slightly reduced power. Even so, the gun still packs quite a punch and has been successfully used by many people to defend themselves against bears. As long as you practice with it extensively, it is a great choice.
The Smith & Wesson Model 629 has been successfully used for protection from bears for decades.
Chambered in .44 Magnum, the stainless steel 629 is a potent and versatile handgun. With 2 5/8-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch, 6-inch, 6 1/2-inch, and 7 1/2-inch barrel lengths available, there are plenty of choices for those who want to balance portability with the advantages of a longer barrel. If you’re looking for a good bear defense gun, you could do a whole lot worse than the venerable Smith & Wesson Model 629.
Though .44 Magnum is often considered the minimum cartridge for a bear defense gun, that is not necessarily always the case. This is particularly true if you’re most concerned about defending yourself from a black (instead of grizzly or brown) bear. Especially when shooting hard cast or other non-expanding bullets, the .357 Magnum can be relied upon for deep penetration and is more than capable of stopping a charging bear with good shot placement.
Many shooters are also able to shoot both faster and more accurately with a .357 Magnum than a .44 Magnum or other larger cartridge. With this in mind, a high quality handgun chambered in .357 Magnum, like the Ruger GP100, can be a very effective bear defense gun.
While the Taurus Raging Bull is available in a wide variety of barrel lengths and chambered in .44 Magnum or .454 Casull, the .454 Casull version with a 2 1/4-inch barrel is a nasty blend of power, versatility and portability.
Since the .454 Casull is a longer and more powerful version of the venerable .45 Colt cartridge, the Raging Bull may also safely and accurately fire .45 Colt cartridges, adding to its versatility. Additionally, the revolver features the famous red “Raging Bull” backstrap on the grip, which considerably tames the gun’s recoil, making it another good choice for bear defense.
Some people consider it almost sacrilegious to recommend a semi-automatic handgun chambered in 10mm Auto as a bear defense gun. However, the 10mm Auto is no slouch and if you place your shots properly, it will do the trick.
The Glock 20 has several big advantages that make it a great bear defense gun: it’s accurate, it gives the shooter the ability to take rapid follow-up shots, it has a large magazine, it’s incredibly reliable, it’s easy to shoot, and it’s easy to carry.
That being said, there are better choices for those who live in areas with lots of grizzly or brown bears. However, the Glock 20 is a very underrated black bear defense gun.
Chambered in the high velocity .460 S&W magnum cartridge, the Smith & Wesson 460V is both powerful and versatile. Since the .460 S&W cartridge is a longer and more powerful variant of the popular .454 Casull cartridge, the Smith & Wesson 460V may also safely and accurately fire .454 Casull and .45 Colt, giving the shooter a wide range of options depending on the size and skill of the shooter, as well as the bear threat.
The handgun comes with a 5-inch compensated barrel to reduce recoil. It is also of an appropriate size and weight to be a good compromise between being light and compact enough to comfortably carry, while being heavy enough to be able to accurately shoot. If you’re looking for a versatile, yet potent bear defense gun, the Smith & Wesson 460V just might fit the bill.
Advertised as the most powerful production revolver in the world, the Smith & Wesson Model 500 packs an incredible punch and is capable of quickly taking down any living creature.
Originally designed as a hunting handgun, it is also available with shorter 4-inch and 6.5-inch barrels to make it a more practical bear defense gun. The S&W 500 also incorporates a muzzle compensator in order to tame the recoil of the powerful .500 S&W cartridge. It is more than powerful enough to stop any bear in its tracks with proper shot placement.
That being said, the sheer amount of power in this handgun can make it difficult for an inexperienced shooter to handle, making practice even more paramount with the S&W Model 500.
Mossberg 500 (or Remington 870)
The biggest drawback of a shotgun (or a rifle), is the fact that it is larger, heavier, and more difficult to carry than a handgun. However, at close range, nothing can compare with the power and ease of use of a shotgun.
Additionally, it is generally much easier to accurately shoot a long gun than a handgun. A good pump action 12-gauge shotgun like the Mossberg 500 (or the Remington 870) with a short (24-inch) barrel, is an outstanding choice for a bear defense gun.
At the extreme close ranges that are common when shooting at charging bears, 00 or 000 buckshot is absolutely devastating and gives you a little bit of room for error, which can really come in handy when shooting at a rapidly moving target. If you want something that will penetrate better and give you a slightly longer range, use a slug which will also do a number on a bear.
True to the name, the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun is a favorite of hunting guides in North America, particularly those in Canada and Alaska, who operate in areas where there is a good chance of encounters with ill-tempered predators.
A cousin to the Marlin 336, the Marlin 1895 is chambered in the venerable .45-70 Government cartridge. With an 18 or 22-inch barrel, the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun only weights around eight pounds, making it a powerful, yet handy, accurate, and easy-to-carry rifle.
It’s not a great long range gun, but that’s not what it is designed for. Mount a ghost ring rear sight, a red dot sight, or a low magnification scope on it and you’ve got an ideal bear defense gun.
A relative newcomer to the game, the Ruger Guide Gun is still a great choice for a bear defense gun. Though it is available chambered for seven different cartridges, the .375 Ruger and .416 Ruger variants are very compelling choices for those who may be encountering big, dangerous animals (like bears) at close range.
The cartridges are designed to mirror the performance of the .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Rigby cartridges, yet still be able to fit in a standard length action. The rifle has a thick recoil pad and comes with a removable muzzle brake to tame the recoil of these powerful cartridges. All versions of the rifle have a 20-inch barrel and weigh around eight pounds, making it very easy to carry and handy to shoot.
Finally, the rifle uses a claw extractor (just like the Ruger Hawkeye series of rifles) to ensure each bullet is loaded and extracted reliably, which is essential for a rifle that might save your life. The Ruger Guide Gun is a serious rifle built to withstand and dish out significant punishment and is another outstanding choice as a bear defense gun.