Quote of the day–Greg Hamilton

The US forest service has done extensive study on bear behavior, OC for bears, and guns against bears. I have been involved in all aspects of that from the beginning.

Almost everything you hear or read is personal opinion based on either no or very limited data points.

Looking at all the data for 100 years presents a very different story.

For bear defense it cannot be shown that the type or caliber matters, people that shoot back with anything win, people that don’t shoot back many times lose. All calibers and action types have been used. Handguns are almost always used at mauling distance. Longarms at 25 yards to dead at your feet.

There is no evidence to support 44 over 357, revolvers are more reliable at contact distance but people have won with semi-autos (but the data pool is very small, as it grows we would at some point start to see malfunctions).

A good revolver in 357 or 44 with powerful solids made to go deep and not deflect is probably the best answer for carry. The pump shotgun still has more kills of grizzly than anything in defense, believe it or not with OO buck, though common wisdom nowadays is use brenneke slugs. Pre WWII 90%+ of the kills were OO.

Greg Hamilton
June 04, 2009 5:15 PM
Handguns for Bear?
Email to the Insights Training List.
[Very interesting! Data is always better than speculation. But I have to wonder how many “lost” data points there are. Cases where someone shot the bear and still ended up as snack food might not be represented in the data set.–Joe]


9 thoughts on “Quote of the day–Greg Hamilton

  1. And for those in the “Oh, I would never carry a gun!” crowd – don’t forget your OC pepper spray.

    Bears like spicy food as much as anybody.

  2. I personally know one member of that data set.

    He was mauled by a 600 pound black bear.

    His weapon that eventually killed the bear was a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle, and he had to go part way into a second magazine while the bear was doing such nice things as breaking his hand, tearing his scalp off, and chewing on his leg.

    Which is proof enough for me that in bear country you want a long gun, not a handgun.

  3. The missing data that I was referring to, but didn’t make clear, would be composed of people that just went missing and no evidence of them actually firing a gun, or perhaps of even having an encounter with a bear, was found.

  4. I carry the biggest handgun I have, which at the moment is 10 mm auto, but more would be better if you needed it.

    That said, I’ve spent some time in the mountains of Northeast Washington and North Idaho, Alberta, BC, and YT, plus a few weeks in the Alaska wilds. The cumulative time I’ve never thought about, but I expect it would run into several months of backpacking and snowshoe backpacking since the 1960s. I’ve seen plenty of black bear up close, and a ton of griz sign. The blacks always just lumbered off, and I’ve never once seen a griz in the wild. Never looked for them, never saw one. Lots of other big game– elk, deer, moose, sheep, but no griz (no big cats either, by the way). In Alaska the few people we met on the river system we traveled (the Yentna, Squentna, and the Susitna if you must know, though I doubt I’m spelling them right) told us we were crazy for not being sufficiently armed. Clearly the griz were around as it was during salmon run and we could see sign everywhere we stopped. They just kept their distance I guess, or we got lucky. For some reason we weren’t worried, but probably we were just dumb.

    I understand there are plenty of anecdotes, but we’re talking very large numbers of people unmolested for each one attacked. I know one guy who had a griz wander into his camp while he was in his tent. He sat there, he says, for about an hour with his .44 trained on the bear, before the bear just left the scene. Ten minutes would seem like an hour I guess. By comparison, your chances of being attacked in some way by two-legged predators in town are probably much higher. Bears make for good stories and all, but Homo Sapiens is statistically the bigger danger.

    Good to have a little data though, Joe. Thanks. And sure; when you go missing we never find out that you were eaten after hitting a bear with a stick, or a 9 mm pistol, or missing one with a .454, etc. Mysterious disappearance is a difficult statistic to put to any real use, as I’ve always said, mostly with regard to politicians.

  5. I went looking for it but couldn’t find it. I sent Greg and email asking if he could point me to a source for it. I’ll post something if I get a response.

  6. From Greg:

    No, not a report, just from years of working with them and reading ALL the books, not just ones by one author. The opinion of the guys up there is EVERY grizzly expert has an agenda, so only taken as a whole can you get a good picture of what is really going on.

    Almost 100% of the pre-WWII newspaper stories say the guy used OO buck. But 1000’s have been killed with slugs.

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