Oy, here we go again with an article written with no clear purpose in mind. Entitled “8 Best Charge-Stopping Bear Cartridges “, it represents unclear thought and worse, unclear direction. Really, it should be two articles: best long gun cartridges and best handgun cartridges, but they’re lumped together, with hilarious results. Here are his top 8:
- .45-70 Government
- .454 Casull
- .44 Remington Magnum
- .375 H&H Magnum
- .50 Alaskan
- 12-Gauge Slug
- .338 Winchester Magnum
- .357 S&W Magnum
Let me do the low-hanging fruit first: as much as I love the thing, forget the .357 Mag as a bear-stopper. Seriously. Considering that the .454 Casull has been included, there’s no reason to ignore the .500 S&W or for that matter the .460 either. And I may be out of touch — it’s been known to happen — but I’ve never heard of the .50 Alaskan.
I’ve never hunted bear, but having hunted in Africa I know a little about dangerous game. Understand one thing: there’s a difference between hunting dangerous game — where your shot hits a body which isn’t expecting it — and stopping dangerous game, where you have to stop something weighing at least half a ton running at you with a quart of adrenaline pumping through its veins and homicide in its heart. If you want to stop that beast, there needs to be a “.4” in the cartridge nomenclature, and “.5” is better, but not many people can handle the recoil of the latter, me included. Also, a quick follow-up shot is more difficult when your rifle barrel is pointing at 12 o’clock after the first one. Don’t as me how I know this (hello, .505 Gibbs and .500 Nitro). Bullet weight should be in the 400gr-500gr range. Dave Petzal has the truth of it, here.)
Here are the cartridges I would consider as bear-stoppers, divided into rifle and handgun (and handgun only because you can’t always carry a rifle). I’ve left off the Nitro Express and exotic cartridges from Dakota, STW and Lazzeroni simply because you’re less likely to find them at Bubba’s Bait ‘N Bullets out in Nowhere WY
- .458 Win Mag
- .460 Weatherby Mag
- .416 Rem Mag
- Honorable mentions for the .460 Dakota, .404 Jeffrey and .458 Lott, which are excellent, but not freely available.
And now the marginal stoppers:
- .375 H&H Mag (see here, on a black bear)
- .338 Win Mag (not many African PHs use this — “too much kick, too much noise, not enough stopping”, as one once said to me)
- .45-70 Gov (Buffalo Bore loads only, none of that Cowboy Action stuff)
- And an honorable mention for the 12ga slug, of suitable mass and velocity, at close ranges only.
Now for the handgun cartridges (the list is much shorter):
- .500 S&W Mag
- .454 Casull
- .460 S&W Mag (XVR)
- Honorable mention for the .480 Ruger.
…and the marginal choices:
- .44 Rem Mag
- .41 Rem Mag
Don’t even think about the Magnum Research BFR in .45-70 Govt, because shooting the heavy and fast Buffalo Bore loads will end in wrist reconstruction surgery.
Speaking of the XVR:
I would respectfully suggest that if you’re going to carry that beast around, you may as well carry a rifle.