The key syllable in “wilderness” is “wild,” and it’s no surprise hikers and fishermen want to join their hunter brethren in carrying a gun when they go afield — far from civilization and help. This situation brings essentially two types of customers you’re likely to encounter in your store.
There will be the customer who’s going camping and doesn’t want to buy a new handgun, or has a local wild animal problem and doesn’t want to buy a new rifle to cope with it. Their question will simply be, “What load can you sell me for my (insert gun and caliber here)?”
The other type of customer will consist of the person who is going to be in close proximity to dangerous critters for a while, and is genuinely serious about protection. Their question will be, “What gun should I buy for (black bear/grizzly bear/rattlesnakes/mountain lion/T. rex)?” Let’s answer these questions in order.
If the customer is not at all interested in buying a new gun to deal with a problem — and wants to simply get ammo for something he or she already owns — use your business instinct to see whether you can “up-sell” a gun that’s really more suitable to their needs. Or, simply meet their need and be done with it. If they have a handgun or rifle that’s capable of taking care of the problem, you already know the best hunting loads and don’t need advice from me. The problem will come when they have an inadequate firearm.
The durable Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan is available in
.44 Rem. Magnum, .454 Casull and .480 Ruger. Visit www.ruger.com.
A common question on gun forums is, “What load should I use for bear in 9mm, .40 or .45?” This, of course, is best answered with, “None of the above!” It’s like asking, “Which variation of the Volkswagen Bug should I use to win the Indy 500?” Cartridges designed for personal-defense are clearly unsuitable for heavy-skulled, charging quadrupeds that have bigger bones and a denser muscle structure compared to the average man.
Penetration trumps expansion here, but ricochet potential is a valid concern. A large, charging mammal presents a steep ricochet-prone angle of very heavy cranial bone and roundnose full metal jacket bullets are infamously vulnerable to ricochet. Jacketed, truncated cone bullets, like the Winchester 147-grain 9mm FMJ, might be the least likely to glance off. In .40 S&W, 180-grain full metal jacket practice loads might be “the best of a bad lot.”
One of my daughters living in rural New Hampshire called to tell me about black bears near her home and she was worried about her pets. She had a modern sporting rifle in .223, an SKS and a 12-gauge pump. I recommended Brenneke rifled slugs for the latter. She hated the recoil, so we settled on Federal 123-grain 7.62×39 softpoint for the SKS. This roughly duplicated a .30-30 hunting rifle — more than adequate for small black bears. The .223 just wasn’t going to cut it.
Winchester Super-X in .44 Rem. Mag. features hard-hitting 240-grain soft
hollow points to maximize penetration while minimizing ricochet.
The Revolver Advantage
Big bears are a genuine concern when outdoors in Alaska. My friends who live there tell me the .44 Magnum is sort of the official Alaskan handgun. Them folks sure are practical up there! Buffalo Bore, COR-BON, Garrett and DoubleTap offer special hunting loads that offer lots of penetration in large mammals. I’d recommend a revolver with a 4-inch barrel, like the Smith & Wesson 629 or Ruger Redhawk. More portable than larger models, they’ll always be holstered and accessible when the animal attacks. They’re also easier to get out and into action when the animal is on top of the user.
A revolver won’t go out of battery like a semiauto and will fire “six for six” if jammed against an attacking animal. If a reload is necessary, it’ll be faster than a single action .44 Mag revolver. The single action will also be slower to fire rapidly one-handed. The DA .41 Magnum is only one short step down, but fewer guns and load options are available for it.
There are also .500, .460 and .454 revolvers with even more power. In the latter caliber, the aptly named Ruger Alaskan has already saved the life of at least one grizzly attack victim. However, they tend to be bigger, heavier and have stronger recoil — they demand more practice and skill than .44 Magnums.
Your Generation X customers tend to see revolvers as museum pieces and want semiautos. Today, the best pistol round for large animals is probably the 10mm, although you would still want deep-driving loads designed specifically for big game. Once again, Buffalo Bore, CORBON, etc. are obvious choices.
SABRE Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent has been field-tested to
effectively deter charging bears. Visit www.sabrered.com.
If I were salmon fishing in Alaska and competing with larger, fiercer brown bears, I would have a short-barrel 12-gauge shotgun loaded with the deep-piercing Brenneke slugs I mentioned earlier. Another alternative would be a short lever-action in .444 or .45/70, customized by Taylor’s & Co.
I would also carry a big-bore revolver, if only in case the critter was on me before I could get the long gun into firing position. This is something that has happened repeatedly in bear attacks against hunters — with a long gun pinned uselessly between them and the bear’s body.
You should also remind any hiker they’re more likely to encounter threatening two-legged creatures. Criminals like to prey on victims in remote places far removed from law enforcement.
With this in mind, a 16-shot 10mm Glock 20 looks a bit more attractive than a 6-shot .44 revolver. As a customer, I wouldn’t be opposed to a salesperson placing a few spare magazines on the counter before I pulled out my credit card.
By Massad Ayoob
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