Joined: Feb 2007
Bones, generally agree with most of what you've said. We're getting off the OP topic, which is safe camping in bear country, however I think that's been pretty well covered in the posts above. Before we move to ballistics, I think bear spray is still the best bet for most people in most circumstances. Handy, not a crucial aim, tests show it pretty much will get the bear to turn and leave, whereas with a gun, a grizzly may react badly. Bears are enormously vital and can travel a long ways when they "should be dead". People equate shooting a bear to shooting a fragile human. Very different things.
Another poster commented that, in the dark, he'd rather spray down an area than try to shoot something. I have a good friend and two acquaintances who have been mauled (work in the woods, your odds go up). One is a hunting outfitter who was trailing some horses down a bushy path, bear nailed him. No time to react, no matter what you use. With spray, you could spray both bear and victim, bear 99% leaves, tend to the victim. With a gun, shooting into that mess might not be a good idea.
Agree about shot placement, etc. However our definition of defensive is different. You're talking 50 yards, I'm talking 50 feet at most, maybe 30 feet. Muzzle energy is essentially what you get. The 4,000 lb.ft. comes from a study in Alaska, that's what they concluded was a 'one shot stop' most of the time. A 12 gauge with slugs at 30' is pretty effective, and remember you're not shooting once and hoping for the best. The quick cycle time with a shot gun, while keeping the sight picture, is a bonus. I have a folding stock on mine for travel, but if there is any expectation of need, the stock is out so I can shoulder the gun and be more accurate. Frankly, it's also what I've practised and am comfortable with.
A lever action 45-70 sounds like a good choice, but I don't have one...while I know there are cases of lighter calibre handguns killing a bear, what they hand out to game officers, mining inspectors and the like, is at least a .44 Magnum, which I recall having about 1,000 lb.ft. (I know there are hot loads out there, but standard factory ammo is likely for most people). Skill level just went up dramatically though, a disadvantage. These days, fish and game guys have .40 or the like, as the biggest danger isn't bears, it's armed poachers. Think about that...
It's the old saying, "if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail". I recommend to people taking the appropriate tool for the situation. For me, that's mostly bear spray, the cabin was different. Most bears will not actually attack, my concern being that the guy with the handgun is going to pop off, piss off, and create a situation that may not have happened otherwise.
I've also read far too many posts on this site, where people think it's OK to use an inefficient calibre, as they feel they can wound the bear and it will run away. They don't think of night time, close quarters, do they have enough experience...Depends on the bear which way it runs, they're probably shooting from too far away, and the ethics of casually wounding an animal, while not thinking this through, offend me. I bet you understand that, due to the sensible comments you made.