Originally Posted by aquadog
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.
When thinking of the speed and power of a bear I just don't think 30 ft is far enough. I believe it's U.S. Geological Survey that has guidelines for it's forest service personnel and if a bear is within or at 50 ft and aggressive then shooting is considered reasonable self deference, notice I said aggressive not charging. A bear at that distance that is facing you is considered aggressive by biologists. Considering a bear could travel 50 yards in about 3 seconds it doesn't seem a crazy distance, tho there was a conviction for illegally killing a bear for someone claiming self deference in shooting a bear at 40 yds in Yellowstone so it's clear there is more than a little gray area. Statistically speaking bear spray is much more effective and has better results than firearms but when looking just at encounters with people who are very capable, like law enforcement and other armed armed govt personnel (fish and game, park service, etc) the numbers are much different. It is true that bear attacks are rare and encompass less than 1 % of the interactions that humans have with bears.
I will say that the idea that it's astronomically rare and you would be hit with lightning more often is a bs for those who fall in certain categories. If you are in bear territory, alone or in a small group (bears normally attack people in groups of 3 or less, in Alaska "4 or more" is a bit of a standard for bear safety, and there has never been a reported attack by a brown bear on a group of 7 or greater before 2011 when a grizzly attacked 7 teenagers) well your risk is a heck of a lot worse than the statistical average for being hit by lightning. How many people are truly at risk? Very few because most people are sitting on their couch where they are reasonably safe from bears so throwing them in the stats is a bit dishonest or stupid.
As to firearms it really is about the individual. A 12 gauge would be high on my list but only with slugs. Even 00 buck has almost no penetration after 15 ft and even the may serve only to blind a bear. Really the min handgun that one should chose to use as a bear defense gun would be a .44 mag (which does have between 1000 to 1200 ft lb in normal loading s depending on barrel length of the pistol) but even a .44 should really only be a backup or emergency gun if carried for the purpose of bear defense. Also when I mentioned pistol caliber carbines I was thinking of almost any non-shouldered cartridge like the 45-70 (yes there are pistols made to fire the 45-70). Historically speaking many of these rounds were quite powerful and use in both handguns and rifles. Also when traveling in bear country one would hope if you are carrying a firearm for bear protection, even if only partially, you would pick the appropriate ammo. The 45-70 is well over 100 years old and designed originally for black powder. Updated rounds with modern propellant and something other than lead for bullets makes a big difference.
Now this is going even further off topic but I do like the multi caliber big bore handguns that have been coming out lately and think they can be great guns for use in survival situations. I'm talking about the "Judge" line of pistols like Taurus has all tho there are several others that are equally good. They fire a large caliber pistol round as well as a shotgun round. I have a Taurus that can fire .454 which has ballistics even a bear would worry about. It can also fire .45 lc and .410 rounds. I can use it for big game, small game, snakes, signaling, bear, you name it. There are any number of specialty shot rounds from flares to bear bangers. Heck you can start fires with it. It is a big chunk of metal and wasn't cheap but we all have our vices. Really tho it is a good signaling device, excellent for self defense, good snake gun, etc. My use is more concern from javelina and wild hogs and snakes than bears but the pistol is able to cover the bases.
That being said I'm not an idiot and would carry bear spray if in bear county. I say that but bear sightings and encounters are on the rise in Texas and I just don't carry spray here. Of course I don't carry a pistol for the local bears either but ......