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10 Life-Saving Bear Defense Guns

For many of our readers, backpacking and outdoor adventuring are regular parts of life. When you go out into the wilderness like this, though, it’s important to realize that you are no longer the dominant species (where food chains are concerned, anyway). Bear attacks are rare, yes, but it’s always better to be over-prepared when wandering into the backcountry. A reliable, full-powered bear defense gun is a key piece of this preparedness.

What to Do If You See a Bear

No one wants to be on the receiving end of a bear attack. By using common sense and a few precautions on your adventures, you can drastically reduce the risk of being attacked by a bear.

First, if you see a bear, give it plenty of space. If a sow has cubs with her, this is going to be doubly true. If a mother bear sees anything as a threat to her cubs, she won’t hesitate to charge.

When a bear is charging, only a shot on the bear’s central nervous system is guaranteed to stop the animal immediately. Unfortunately, the central nervous system is not a large target and is even harder to hit on a moving animal. With this said, we suggest that gun owners regularly practice shooting their weapons. Familiarizing yourself with the firing process will aid immeasurably if a high-stress situation does occur.

Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan

Ruger Super Redhawk Revolver

This weapon was designed with predators in mind. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan was engineered to be a practical, easy-to-use firearm for self-defense against animal threats. The weapon is available in .44 Magnum, .454 Casull, and .480 Ruger calibers, all of which boast plenty of stopping power.

The revolver-style handgun features a 2.5” barrel which is compact and portable. This shorter barrel does increase recoil and muzzle blast, but the gun is still an effective bear defense solution.

Smith & Wesson Model 629

Smith & Wesson Model 629 Revolver

For years, outdoorsmen have used this weapon as a defense against large animals, and it’s become one of the most popular options for dealing with bear attacks.

The Model 629 is a versatile handgun that is available with 2-5/8”, 3”, 4”, 5”, 6”, 6-1/2” and 7-1/2” barrel lengths. This allows users to find their own balance of portability and ease-of-use, without compromising on stopping power. The Smith & Wesson Model 629 is an ideal solution for defense against bears.

Ruger GP100

Ruger Super GP100 Competition 357 Magnum

Many people look to the larger .44 Magnum for defense against grizzlies, and rightfully so. The GP100 is a .357 Magnum, which means it’s ideal for defense against black bears as opposed to much larger brown or grizzly bears.

However, the Ruger GP100 is a fantastic firearm with a smaller caliber that allows people to shoot faster and more accurately than a .44. In the right situation, the GP100 is a great option for bear defense.

Taurus Raging Bull

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The Taurus Raging Bull is a fantastic bear defense weapon, especially when chambered in .454 Casull with a 2-¼” barrel. This gun in this caliber presents a perfect blend of portability and power.

In the .454 Casull caliber, the Raging Bull can also fire .45 Long Colt cartridges, making it a versatile option for bear defense. The gun also features the red “Raging Bull” backstrap, which works to drastically reduce the gun’s recoil. For predator and bear defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective weapon.

Glock 20

Glock 20 Gen4 Pistol

Inexperienced users may not find the Glock 20 to be an effective handgun for bear defense, as it is chambered in 10mm Auto. But, the 10mm Auto definitely will get the job done (and then some) if you are practiced enough to place a shot properly.

The Glock 20 is an extremely accurate gun as well, making it easy for the shooter to take rapid follow-up shots. It features a large magazine and is incredibly reliable as well. All of this combined with the Glock 20’s portability and ease of use make it an ideal bear defense gun. We recommend the Glock 20 for those who live in black bear country, given its smaller caliber.

Smith & Wesson 460V

Smith & Wesson Model 460v Revolver

With its high velocity .460 S&W magnum cartridge, the Smith & Wesson 460V is equal parts power and versatility. The .460 S&W caliber can also safely and effectively fire .454 Casull and .45 Long Colt rounds. This means that the shooter has a large variety of ammo options, and can fine-tune their firearm to their own needs and capabilities.

The gun also features a compensated barrel that reduces recoil. The 460V also is perfectly balanced between being lightweight enough to carry, while being heavy enough to shoot with accuracy. For the most versatile bear-defense gun on the market, the Smith & Wesson 460V is an ideal option.

Smith & Wesson 500

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Another fantastic option for bear defense from Smith & Wesson, the 500 model packs a serious punch and will certainly stop any living threat. According to Smith & Wesson, this gun is the most powerful production revolver in the world.

This weapon was originally designed for hunting, but has since been made with shorter 4” and 6.5” barrels that make it an ideal bear defense gun. The S&W 500 features a compensated muzzle as well, taming some of the otherwise hefty recoil.

In fact, the only negative about this weapon is the immense power it packs -- because of this, it can be difficult to shoot accurately. For novice or inexperienced shooters, make sure you regularly practice with this weapon.

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 590 Shotgun

Shotguns and long guns aren’t as easy to carry as handguns, but there is something to be said for the power and ease of use that a 12-gauge shotgun brings.

It’s generally easier to accurately shoot a long gun than a handgun, too, which makes a pump-action shotgun like the Mossberg 500 an ideal choice for bear defense. The Mossberg 500 can also effectively serve double-duty as a home defense weapon.

If you decide on a shotgun for a bear-defense weapon, be sure you use the right ammo. That’s going to be either buckshot or a slug. Ammo like birdshot is not going to do anything but wound and enrage a bear.

00 or 000 buckshot will be particularly effective, while also giving you some room for error. This is going to be helpful when shooting a moving target like a charging bear. If you instead want something more penetrative with longer range, that’s where a slug is going to come in handy. Remember that if you’re using a smoothbore shotgun, you’ll want to use rifled slugs, and if you’re using a rifled shotgun barrel, you’ll want to use sabot slugs. That might seem backwards, but this is to get the proper spin on the projectile as it leaves the barrel.

Marlin Model 1895 Guide Gun

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The Marlin 1895 is a particular favorite of hunting guides in North America, specifically in bear-heavy areas like Alaska and Canada.

The Marlin 1895 is chambered in .45-70 Government cartridge, and is available with an 18” or 22” barrel. This large gun surprisingly only weighs 8 lbs., making it very portable for its size. The Model 1895 doesn’t excel at long range, but it’s designed for up-close encounters, making it an ideal bear defense gun.

Ruger Guide Gun

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Despite being one of the newer guns on the market, the Ruger Guide Gun is an ideal long gun for bear defense. Available in .30-06 Springfield, .300 Win. Mag., .338 Winchester Magnum, .375 Ruger, and .416 Ruger, this weapon is a versatile and powerful rifle. The .375 and .416 variants are the most ideal options for stopping large, dangerous animals. These two cartridges are designed to offer the power of chambers like the .416 Rigby, while still fitting in a standard-length action.

To tame the recoil of its powerful shot, the Ruger Guide Gun comes equipped with a removable muzzle brake and a thick recoil pad. At just 8 lbs., the Ruger Guide Gun is also very easy to carry.

For added reliability, the Ruger Guide Gun also features a claw extractor, which ensures that each bullet is loaded and extracted without fail. When looking for a weapon that could save your life, this is a particularly important feature. All in all, the Ruger Guide Gun is a great bear defense weapon.