bear defense guns

It’s usually a good idea to be armed when in bear country.

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 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.

Give any bear that you encounter—especially a sow with cubs—plenty of space. Make lots of noise so that any bears in the area know that you are there and carry bear spray.

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 should practice drawing and shooting your chosen gun extensively. Remember, even the biggest and most powerful bear-defense guns aren’t 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.

Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan

best bear defense guns ruger super redhawk alaskan

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, as many people have used it to defend themselves against bears. As long as you practice, this is a great gun.

Smith & Wesson Model 629

best bear defense guns smith and wesson 629
Smith & Wesson

Hunters have successfully used Smith & Wesson Model 629 for bear defense for years.

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.

Ruger GP100

best bear defense guns ruger gp100

Though .44 Magnum is often considered the minimum cartridge for a bear-defense gun, that isn’t necessarily the case. This is particularly true if you’re most concerned about defending yourself from a black bear. Especially when shooting hard cast or other non-expanding bullets, hunters can rely on a .357 Magnum. This cartridge’s deep penetration is more than capable of stopping a charging bear with good shot placement.

Many shooters are also able to shoot 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.

Taurus Raging Bull

best bear defense guns taurus raging bull

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, 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.

Glock 20

best bear defense guns glock 20

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’ll 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 self-defense gun in black bear country.

Smith & Wesson 460V

best bear defense guns smith and wesson 460v
Smith & Wesson

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.

Smith & Wesson 500

best bear defense guns smith and wesson 500
Smith & Wesson

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)

best bear defense guns mossberg 500
Bass Pro

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.

Marlin Model 1895 Guide Gun

best bear defense guns marlin 1895

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 8 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 have an ideal bear-defense gun.

Ruger Guide Gun

best bear defense guns ruger guide gun

A relative newcomer to the game, the Ruger Guide Gun is still a great choice for a bear-defense gun. Though it’s 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 8 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.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by John McAdams on his hunting blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt or check out one of his Alberta bear hunts



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