Bear defense rifle for AK trip

justinspicher

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Dec 27, 2012
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Colorado
After my first trip to Alaska we had a grizz encounter. I got home and bought a custom 45-70 just for Alaska.
I dont hunt up there as a shooter, I go to help put so having a rifle is my choice. A pistol is handy, but they need to be closer than I’d like for effectiveness. I’m also not a good pistol shot. My 45-70 can shoot single shot .410 and 457 mag rounds as well so its pretty handy. At 6.5lbs its easy to tote around.
 

Tod osier

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Sep 11, 2015
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I'd try the improved cylinder and I'd start with Brenneke black magics, those are the standard for a 3" dangerous game slug. I carry the Classic Magnums, because I can't get the sights to the point of impact on the Black Magics (they hit to surprisingly different points).

also for a true summer trip, a light doesn’t get you much more than extra weight.
 

SaltySailor

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Aug 21, 2018
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Palmer, Alaska
Bring the shotgun. If you've made the decision to squeeze the trigger on a charging bear, its because it is close - no scope required. Either way, its gonna ruin your trip. My old man had to DLP a moose once, the paperwork and bull crap he had to go through afterwards, uhg!
 

Salmonchaser

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Mar 25, 2019
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Pendleton, Or
This occurred July 10, Bristol Bay region. It’s certainly dark enough to warrant a light, about 0200 hours. Grizz broke out the window and tried to get in. First time in 20 years anything like this has happened. Clients did get a couple of hits on the bear with a variety of handguns. They were asleep inside. I tracked the bear for 1/4 mile or so but then he went into the heavy alders. Not doing that in the dark. Month later I followed the ravens in there, found what was left. Pretty stinky so a necropsy will have to wait until next spring.
 

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Wapiti1

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I'm of a different opinion. Slugs are designed to kill deer and are pretty soft lead. Brenneke makes the best I've seen and those are still pretty soft.

If you choose a shotgun slug, choose wisely. A saboted hardcast bullet would be fine. Or maybe a solid copper or brass bullet like Lehigh makes. Otherwise, it's not going to get it done. Agree or disagree, that is my take based on watching them fail. You have to make a CNS hit. Have to.

I'd take a lever 45-70, or .450 Marlin loaded with hard cast or solids. A Remington 7600 in 30-06 or .35 Whelen would be another great choice. Shoot Barnes or solids. I would not take a shotgun.

Jeremy
 

AKBorn

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Maryland
In twenty years of guiding fishing I’m up to three DLP shootings. Two with a shot gun, one was started with handgun and finished with a rifle. Also sprayed three bears last summer.
Average 100 close encounters a summer, no two have ever been the same. I always carry a gun and spray. Ive read enough of your stuff to know you’re Skookum you’ll have this squared away.
my favorites to carry in order 454 .45/70 M4 450 bushmaster, 870
Most of my guides like the 10mm and the “bushy”
Don’t recall ever carrying both rifle and handgun. 90% of the time it’s a handgun.
I run my dogs every morning and every night, about 3 miles. Rare we don’t jump at least one bear. I carry the 45/70 for that work.
I no longer care to debate the effectiveness of buckshot followed by slugs as my data set is small at 2 but arguing with people who Have never seen a bear gets old. Fact remains it’s been used a long time rather effectively.
As you are I’m very comfortable with a rifle and will always be my preferred choice.
Question about the 3 DLP's - was there a moment in time where their behavior indicated that trouble was coming, or were they just like other encounters until they charged?
 

Salmonchaser

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Pendleton, Or
One came into the tent, one stood up from behind a log 6feet away as we approached singing “hey bear”he spun towards us Wind behind us as well. Third showed all the danger signals popping jaws foaming mouth, swinging his head, huffing that sort of thing. We had backed up quite sways actually couldn’t see him any more when he came through the Alders.
 

Salmonchaser

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In retrospect I think #3 may have been bluff charging, knew where we went but when he came through the alders he was way too close.
there have been a lot of other bears that were very displeased we were on their river. I don’t screw around getting pictures always try to get some distance.
 

Amazer

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Jun 22, 2018
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Fairbanks, AK
Most likely you will not need a rifle in Alaska. But if you run into a Grizz you will wish you had the 45-70. The Marlin is a great lever action rifle and perfect for the job. The 45-70 is a great round overall you can just use cowboy action load for smaller game or take anything walking on the planet. It is truly a very flexible round. There is a range limitation for general hunting (200 yds) but that is its only weakness. Get the Marlin in 45-70 and you'll sleep better.
 

Squamch

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Sep 26, 2017
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Republic of Vancouver Island
Whatever you're most comfortable and familiar with.
I've had a few exciting times with bears. With a lever gun, I didn't feel good, I can't make them do what I want in a big hurry.
With my 870, I'm very comfortable, there is zero thought process to operate that firearm.
With my hunting rifle, the same, although I was looking over the scope, not through it.
 

Beendare

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In Traffic
I cut my Mossberg pump down with a cutoff wheel....then finished with a grinder and polish....just enough to keep it legal. Short is better.
 

Voyageur

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Feb 12, 2020
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424
Question for the guys with experience:
I've read that 2 3/4" shells (both slugs and buckshot) are best for close range defense because they are less likely to hang up when ejecting. Your thoughts?
Qualifier:
This question comes from someone who lives most of the year nowhere near bear country. I venture into their domain for a couple weeks each summer and again for 2 or 3 weeks in the fall. I always try to qualify my sources and learn all I can from the guys who are there year round, or at least all season.
 

AKDoc

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May 16, 2015
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Alaska
This is an often discussed topic over the years in various venues. Whether it's a decision to carry bear-spray, a rifle, shotgun, or hand-gun...or combinations of the aforementioned...it always comes down to personal preference, a personal decision, and then actually doing it. I think we all share in common that we'd rather not do a DLP if avoidable. That said, whatever one chooses, your protective choice has to be on you or always within arms reach when you need it. The one thing that most bear attack stories share in common are the first few words of the story, "It all happened so fast..."

When I am in the field up here in non-hunting scenarios, e.g., remote pack-rafting, fishing and hiking, I ALWAYS have a handgun with me and on me at minimum, and I often also add bear-spray when I can. It's never a rifle or shotgun or bear-spray without a pistol in these scenarios. It's very easy to have the pistol on me at all times, whereas slinging a rifle or shotgun for primary defense (without a pistol) when not hunting can get old fast, and then unslung and sat down for a break...and now it's twenty-feet from you when you need it right now. There are some non-hunting scenarios when I also want/take a rifle or shot-gun along. When so, I'll bring one of my hunting rifles or a short barrel extended tube 870, but I always have a pistol on me. I used to carry a Ruger SRH in 454 Casull, which I hand-load 360grn hard-casts...I've driven those loads completely through the trunk of a tree that I could not wrap my arms fully round. More recently I have come to like a G-20 in 10mm...it is so much more comfortable to carry fully loaded all day when on long and multi-day remote pack-raft floats, even though it has nowhere near the punch of that 454.

When I am in the field up here hunting I pretty much always have a pistol with me, but it may be back in the tent when I am actively hunting with my rifle at hand.

I'll close by saying that I've taken my fair share of bears up here when hunting over the years, so I'm really not looking to take another. I have also had many bear encounters in the field when hunting for other animals as well as non-hunting activities, and fortunately they have all ended well for both me and the bear...one was an adolescent grizzly that I heard huffing at first light one morning 15 yards outside my tent. I was camped on a wide and open shore-line spot along a western AK river on a hundred-mile pack-raft fishing float (the fishing was out of this world!). He bluff-charged me when I stood in the tipi door with pistol in hand, stopping at 8 yards and then turning away and running off into the alder. I had my pistol sighted on him and was a half-second away from shooting when he did the quick-stop, turn away, and run off. BTW, my rifle was along for that trip, but it all happened so quick that I didn't have time to get it out of the dry-bag case...my pistol is always in a quick-draw position near me when I sleep.

One last thing that's kind of related. I NEVER camp on Kodiak when fishing or black-tail or mountain goat hunting without bringing my electric fence...once again, a personal choice...and I sleep so much better (perhaps with a false sense of security!).

I apologize mcseal for my long-winded and at times off-topic post...it's my day off and it's winter up here!
 
Last edited:

Marbles

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Joined
May 16, 2020
Messages
688
Location
Anchorage, AK
Question for the guys with experience:
I've read that 2 3/4" shells (both slugs and buckshot) are best for close range defense because they are less likely to hang up when ejecting. Your thoughts?
Qualifier:
This question comes from someone who lives most of the year nowhere near bear country. I venture into their domain for a couple weeks each summer and again for 2 or 3 weeks in the fall. I always try to qualify my sources and learn all I can from the guys who are there year round, or at least all season.

Hopefully someone has practiced enough to personally know what the gun they carry eats reliably. I also would not load buckshot for bear (or a foster slug). But, as bear attacks are rare, most people would survive if they carried a sharp stick. A relative of mine actually beat off a two year old brown with a stick. Still not going to be my strategy. https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/article/woman-fends-aggressive-grizzly-trail/2012/07/14/
 

z987k

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Joined
Sep 9, 2020
Messages
100
Location
Anchorage, AK
This is an often discussed topic over the years in various venues. Whether it's a decision to carry bear-spray, a rifle, shotgun, or hand-gun...or combinations of the aforementioned...it always comes down to personal preference, a personal decision, and then actually doing it. I think we all share in common that we'd rather not do a DLP if avoidable. That said, whatever one chooses, your protective choice has to be on you or always within arms reach when you need it. The one thing that most bear attack stories share in common are the first few words of the story, "It all happened so fast..."

When I am in the field up here in non-hunting scenarios, e.g., remote pack-rafting, fishing and hiking, I ALWAYS have a handgun with me and on me at minimum, and I often also add bear-spray when I can. It's never a rifle or shotgun or bear-spray without a pistol in these scenarios. It's very easy to have the pistol on me at all times, whereas slinging a rifle or shotgun for primary defense (without a pistol) when not hunting can get old fast, and then unslung and sat down for a break...and now it's twenty-feet from you when you need it right now. There are some non-hunting scenarios when I also want/take a rifle or shot-gun along. When so, I'll bring one of my hunting rifles or a short barrel extended tube 870, but I always have a pistol on me. I used to carry a Ruger SRH in 454 Casull, which I hand-load 360grn hard-casts...I've driven those loads completely through the trunk of a tree that I could not wrap my arms fully round. More recently I have come to like a G-20 in 10mm...it is so much more comfortable to carry fully loaded all day when on long and multi-day remote pack-raft floats, even though it has nowhere near the punch of that 454.

When I am in the field up here hunting I pretty much always have a pistol with me, but it may be back in the tent when I am actively hunting with my rifle at hand.

I'll close by saying that I've taken my fair share of bears up here when hunting over the years, so I'm really not looking to take another. I have also had many bear encounters in the field when hunting for other animals as well as non-hunting activities, and fortunately they have all ended well for both me and the bear...one was an adolescent grizzly that I heard huffing at first light one morning 15 yards outside my tent. I was camped on a wide and open shore-line spot along a western AK river on a hundred-mile pack-raft fishing float (the fishing was out of this world!). He bluff-charged me when I stood in the tipi door with pistol in hand, stopping at 8 yards and then turning away and running off into the alder. I had my pistol sighted on him and was a half-second away from shooting when he did the quick-stop, turn away, and run off. BTW, my rifle was along for that trip, but it all happened so quick that I didn't have time to get it out of the dry-bag case...my pistol is always in a quick-draw position near me when I sleep.

One last thing that's kind of related. I NEVER camp on Kodiak when fishing or black-tail or mountain goat hunting without bringing my electric fence...once again, a personal choice...and I sleep so much better (perhaps with a false sense of security!).

I apologize mcseal for my long-winded and at times off-topic post...it's my day off and it's winter up here!
I watched a bear walk into my electric fence last year, we were a significant distance away. Younger brown one. He ran off quickly. Idk if it would have been different if there was meat laying out or some other scenario where we were closer but seemed to work about as well as in the videos.
It's almost always with me camping.
 
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