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Bear Hunting Rifle: Calibers and Models to Consider

Black Bear Hunting Rifles
Getty Images: mirceax

These are some classic hunting rifle pairings for black and brown bears

Bear hunters have similar needs to most big game hunters, to take down their quarry with a single shot. To do this, they need a reliable rifle and a cartridge that will pack enough power to do what needs to be done.

For a close range defensive bear gun, handguns in big magnum calibers work great, but for a bear hunt, these rifles and ammo combinations make for solid bear rifles and dangerous game animal guns.

Black Bears

Black bears run pretty small for bears and are relatively easy to kill. That being said, with black bear hunting, you still do not want to deal with a wounded bear. They clock in at about 250 pounds and shots are usually taken close. In most circumstances and locations, a deer rifle with deer-hunting ammunition makes a pretty solid bruin hunting rifle. But, black bears are still bears, so it doesn't hurt to err a bit on the overpowered side when making an ammunition choice. Shot placement is also key, especially when shooting out of a treestand. Make sure to study up on bear vitals before venturing into bear country.

Henry X Model in .30-30 Winchester

Bear Hunting Rifle
Henry

If hunting black bears with hounds, the classic .30-30 Win is hard to beat, and a Henry All Weather rifle is fairly easy to carry on a tough, long trail. The gun is exceptionally rugged for this kind of thing. You can stick with the open buckhorn sights, since shot distances will be short, or you can upgrade to a different set of fixed sights or even a rail and a red-dot. Select ammunition with a bullet that expands quickly.

Henry All Weather Side Gate in .44 Remington Magnum

Bear Hunting Rifle
Henry

This classic and powerful revolver cartridge is taken to a new level when run through a carbine. The rifles that fire them, like the X Model or the Henry All Weather, are compact and light, but a solid .44 Magnum load with a tough bullet will drop a black bear right quick. Additionally, a bear defense revolver can be carried in the same hard-hitting caliber so you only have to haul one type of ammo.

Ruger American Range Rifle in .450 Bushmaster

Bear Hunting Rifle
Ruger

This hard hitting straight-walled cartridges makes a fantastic bear gun inside 150 yards, so it's great for hunting black bears over bait. If you live in a straight-wall cartridge state like Michigan, you can also use it as a fantastic deer hunting gun. In the Ruger American bolt action rifle, the whole package weighs in at just 5.5 pounds without an optic, making it a pleasure to carry into the woods. In .450 BM, the rifle has a 3+1 capacity and the cold hammer-forged and threaded barrel offers supreme accuracy in a compact brush gun.

Springfield Armory SAINT Victor AR-10 - .308 Winchester

Bear Hunting Rifle
Springfield Armory

It's undeniable that the ever versatile .308 Win is the best all-around black bear cartridge, just as it is for most quarry in North American. Rifles chambered for .308 are still compact and there are plenty of AR-10s out there for fans of semi-autos. In normal times, ammunition is widely available and its ballistics are about the same as the .30-06. Expect muzzle velocities of 2,400 to 3,000 fps. The nice thing about .308 over .30-06 is the reduced recoil.  Paired with the affordable, lightweight, and endlessly customizable Springfield SAINT AR-10 rifle, it's a perfect bruin killing combination.

Brown Bear Guns

When you start talking about brown bears and grizzly bears, you have to ratchet things up a notch. Especially when talking about the bears of Alaska, some of the largest in North America. These are dangerous animals, and for reliable kills, you need a powerful cartridge and a dependable rifle.

Generally what you're looking for in a brown bear cartridge is something powerful and launches something close to a 250-grain bullet. The .35 Whelen, .375 H&H, .338 Win Mag, .300 Win Mag, .416 Rigby, .416 Remington Magnum, 458 Winchester Magnum, and .458 Lott are all popular brown-bear chamberings. When it comes to bullets, you want a premium softpoint like the Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame, Barnes TSX, Hornady DGX Bonded, or the Federal Trophy Bonded.

Though some hunters don't like the idea of lever guns or the old school cartridge, a lever-action rifle in .45-70 Government makes a sound brown bear gun that's compact and easy to use.

Ruger Hawkeye Alaskan in .375 Ruger

Bear Hunting Rifle
Ruger

Ruger's rifles are known for their reliability and dependability, and the company's controlled-feed Hawkeye Alaskan bolt gun in the powerful .375 Ruger is just about a perfect brown bear hunting rifle. The chambering packs a lot of power into a standard-length action, keeping the rifle fairly compact and light. The Alaskan comes with iron express sights on board, which is essential for any bear gun.

Winchester Model 70 Alaskan in .375 H&H

Bear Hunting Rifle
Winchester

When it comes to bolt guns, it's harder to find a gun with a better reputation than the Winchester Model 70. The Alaskan model comes chambered in hard-hitting calibers, including the .30-06, .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag, and .375 H&H Magnum.

The controlled-feed action won't bind up when it counts, and the beastly .375 H&H will put down a big bear quick. The .338 Winchester Magnum is also a very popular brown bear cartridge choice for large bruins, especially among Alaskan guides.

This model comes with open sights and a black walnut stock, making for a handsome hunting rifle.

Marlin 1895 in .450 Marlin

There's nothing like a classic Marlin lever gun. The .450 Marlin is an exception cartridge for close shots inside 100 yards, just as the older .45-70 Government is. Many brown bear hunters have relied on both cartridges and the 1895 for dependability and speed. Plus, the rifles is easy to carry and comfortable to use, as well as being a fast repeater.

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Bear Hunting Rifle: Calibers and Models to Consider