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Thread: Age old question

  1. #1

    Default Age old question

    Hello all. New to the forum and headed to AK in March. I plan on spending much of my time outside in the woods and on the water. My handgun dilemma is the age old caliber question of whether or not I need a .454. I currently own a GP100 .357 mag, 4" barrel and a 629-2 .44 mag, 7 1/2" barrel. I am a better than average shooter, however I have rarely shot at moving targets. So of course my question revolves around bear protection. My first line of defense will be spray, however I will not go out without a firearms backup. I am considering the SRH Toklat as a new backcountry firearm. In some situations a rifle or shotgun would not be practical/comfortable. I know both .357 and .44 have done it in the past and will do it with proper ammunition, but is the exta ummmmffff of the .454 helpful if a marginal shot is made. Would the extra mass/fpe of the .454 make up for a slightly off shot i.e. a couple inches. I'm not talking about a huge miss, but would the .357/.44 break shoulders and tendons to at least slow down an angry bruin. I have combed forums, but can't really find a good answer. Also, what are your thoughts of wielding/packing a 7 1/2 barrel in the bush? My thinking is that is a bit long. Thanks all.

  2. #2
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    I used to carry a 7.5" Ruger Super Black Hawk for many seasons here is AK. While it is on the 'heavy' side, I was much younger and the weight did not bother me. I have also hunted with the same hand gun and have done well. For the last 10 or so years, I have gotten to where I am carrying my Glock G20sf more then any other of my hand guns. While some will argue that the 10mm round my not be up to the task of taking care of some bear encounters, I am OK with that. As far as the 454 goes, I found that 'most' people who own one do not shoot it enough to really be good with the caliber. The 454 and larger caliber handguns can be a real hand full. One of the best defenses while out in the woods is to be aware of your surroundings and not to let your self get in a situation that you should not be in. In 45+ years of outdoors here in AK, I have been lucky enough not to have any major issues with the wild life. That is not to say that I have not have some close encounters, I was just able to defuse them.
    Bottom line, travel with a hand gun that you are comfortable with and shoot well. Those of us that carry hand guns need and should be practicing all of the time. While a good short barreled shotgun and lever action might be better, it is up to the person.

  3. #3

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    Best thing is to get out with your 44 and shoot some moving targets. If you can't hit with that, you're wasting money on a 454. You'll need lots of practice with both, and you'd probably be miles ahead to put the cost of the 454 into ammo for your 44.

    I've shot with a whole lot of guys and their assorted 454's, 460's, 480's and 500's. Not more than 1 in 100 of them was much more than a typist in their enthusiasm for bigger is better. Kinda makes a guy wonder if they're hoping and praying that they can land just one bullet sorta close to where it belongs, and that their best hope is that something bigger will work better on that one sorta close shot.

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    One of our local firearms instructors here in Fairbanks is Joe Nava. He is a big advocate for the 357 magnum and all four of his daughters cut their teeth on that caliber for bear defense. A Brown bear guide who posts on Accuratereloading.com is of the same mindset. He used to carry a 357 and he gave it to his daughter who also now guides for brown bears.

    I'm no bear whisperer but I have personally put bullets into 6 brown bears with a 338 Win Mag both by myself and while backing up friends. So, I've seen firsthand how bears react to being shot by large caliber rifles. My viewpoint is if you don't disrupt the central nervous system (CNS) which means brain, neck vertebra or spine you may or may not avoid the charge. If you do disrupt the CNS, it's game over. So, you need a caliber and bullets tough enough to penetrate bone. A well placed 357 or 44 magnum load will do the job but you gotta be comfortable and accurate in shooting the gun because you aren't gonna have much time to deploy it.

    IMHO, barrel length is personal preference because if you have to shoot, it ain't gonna be at 50 yards, it's gonna be close and it's gonna be fast. I don't usually carry a sidearm if I'm rifle hunting but this year I'm gonna start pistol hunting. So, I'll be using either one of my 44 Magnums with handloaded hardcast loads or my Glock G40 10mm with 200 grain WFNGC handloads. I'm confident either one will penetrate bone if I'm forced to use it.

    There is no way I would step up to a short barreled 454 as I would not be able to shoot it well enough to be comfortable with it. I have no doubt there are some folks on this forum who are more than capable of using the 454 but I'm not one of them.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for all the great advice folks. I feel very confident with my .357 and I like the feel vs the S&W.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by UK_CATS_FAN View Post
    Hello all. New to the forum and headed to AK in March. I plan on spending much of my time outside in the woods and on the water. My handgun dilemma is the age old caliber question of whether or not I need a .454. I currently own a GP100 .357 mag, 4" barrel and a 629-2 .44 mag, 7 1/2" barrel. I am a better than average shooter, however I have rarely shot at moving targets. So of course my question revolves around bear protection. My first line of defense will be spray, however I will not go out without a firearms backup. I am considering the SRH Toklat as a new backcountry firearm. In some situations a rifle or shotgun would not be practical/comfortable. I know both .357 and .44 have done it in the past and will do it with proper ammunition, but is the exta ummmmffff of the .454 helpful if a marginal shot is made. Would the extra mass/fpe of the .454 make up for a slightly off shot i.e. a couple inches. I'm not talking about a huge miss, but would the .357/.44 break shoulders and tendons to at least slow down an angry bruin. I have combed forums, but can't really find a good answer. Also, what are your thoughts of wielding/packing a 7 1/2 barrel in the bush? My thinking is that is a bit long. Thanks all.
    First off welcome to the forums.

    Regarding Bear Protection...

    Your first line of defense is your brain. There is a lot of great info published on being Bear Aware. Read it and learn how to avoid a bear encounter in the first place.

    Bears are not angry bruins waiting in the woods eat us. There has been way too much "bearphobia" propaganda published through out the years. Bear attack books sell very well.

    Fact is, most bear encounters can be avoided. Again, this comes back to reading facts about bears. Yes, they are unpredictable but we can do certain things to lessen the chances of having an encounter.


    Guns....

    If you are looking for a reason to buy a Toklat just go buy one! It's a great gun, that's a good enough reason! Shooting a 350gr 454 at 1300fps is not a lot different than shoot a 300+ gr 44mag. At least in my opinion. Especially in the SRH platform. And, all other things being equal, the heavy 454 with a hardcast flat nose boolit will make a longer, bigger hole than a 357. Plus it'd make a good Moose and Bear hunting gun as so your 44 mag.
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and donít have one, youíll probably never need one again

  7. #7
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    Always remember this one thing. A handgun is a poor substitute for a big rifle.
    "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind."

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    If new to bear country, the golden standard video for AK backcountry worker training is "Staying Safe in Bear Country." If you follow the advice in the video, you'll likely have no bear issues.

    As for a firearm, your 44 mag is fine. It is the most carried handgun for bear protection. No need to upsize.

    I also carry bear spray, which is a great deterrent for pesky curious bears. Handgun is first defense for
    a charging bear.

    Practice fast shooting closer than 10 yds. Especially drawing fast.

    The most important thing to do is travel and camp with bear awareness techniques.

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    If you hit the bear at ten yards with pepper spray and it don't work it won't matter what pistol you have. Almost hitting the brain or spine with the 454 is not as good as hitting with the guns you have. Hunting for bear with a handgun is different the instant bear protection. Many more bears will see you than you seeing them.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

  10. #10
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    I can't address brown bear from personal experience because I live in the lower 48. Having said that, I've read everything I can get my hands on about bear behavior and have listened to Dr. Stephen Herrero presentations on the subject matter. Avoidance seems to be the key.

    All that aside, I own a Toklat and love it. It is my favorite firearm to shoot. I handload and shoot 100 rounds a week of .45 Colt through it. Every time I shoot I also shoot a half dozen rounds of 454 Casull to make sure I stay in touch handling that round and its recoil. It's not bad at all and the Toklat absorbs a lot of it.

    A handgun is like a shoe. What is comfortable for one may be very uncomfortable for the next. I handled the 7.5" SRH and it felt nose heavy to me. I also handled the SRH Alaskan which felt OK but not great. I ordered the Toklat without handling it and, thankfully, found it to be perfectly weighted for me. I put a FO front sight on it and it is a tack driver.

    I don't think you can go wrong with the Toklat. I certainly don't need the 454 Casull down here but carrying hot handloads of 300 gr bullets .45 Colt keeps me confident in my backpacking travels. I always have a few 454 rounds with me just in case I encounter the proverbial black bear or moose from hell.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKChester View Post
    ...The golden standard video for AK backcountry worker training is "Staying Safe in Bear Country." If you follow the advice in the video, you'll likely have no bear issues.
    That's a great video to watch. Especially for newcomers to Alaska.

  12. #12

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    In March, I doubt you'll see even much sign of bear. Even if they're out at that time they're more interested in foraging on plants to take care of some constipation. You'll be fine with what you have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sep View Post
    One of our local firearms instructors here in Fairbanks is Joe Nava. He is a big advocate for the 357 magnum and all four of his daughters cut their teeth on that caliber for bear defense. A Brown bear guide who posts on Accuratereloading.com is of the same mindset. He used to carry a 357 and he gave it to his daughter who also now guides for brown bears.

    I'm no bear whisperer but I have personally put bullets into 6 brown bears with a 338 Win Mag both by myself and while backing up friends. So, I've seen firsthand how bears react to being shot by large caliber rifles. My viewpoint is if you don't disrupt the central nervous system (CNS) which means brain, neck vertebra or spine you may or may not avoid the charge. If you do disrupt the CNS, it's game over. So, you need a caliber and bullets tough enough to penetrate bone. A well placed 357 or 44 magnum load will do the job but you gotta be comfortable and accurate in shooting the gun because you aren't gonna have much time to deploy it.

    IMHO, barrel length is personal preference because if you have to shoot, it ain't gonna be at 50 yards, it's gonna be close and it's gonna be fast. I don't usually carry a sidearm if I'm rifle hunting but this year I'm gonna start pistol hunting. So, I'll be using either one of my 44 Magnums with handloaded hardcast loads or my Glock G40 10mm with 200 grain WFNGC handloads. I'm confident either one will penetrate bone if I'm forced to use it.

    There is no way I would step up to a short barreled 454 as I would not be able to shoot it well enough to be comfortable with it. I have no doubt there are some folks on this forum who are more than capable of using the 454 but I'm not one of them.
    DITTO.

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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by UK_CATS_FAN View Post
    Hello all. New to the forum and headed to AK in March. I plan on spending much of my time outside in the woods and on the water. My handgun dilemma is the age old caliber question of whether or not I need a .454. I currently own a GP100 .357 mag, 4" barrel and a 629-2 .44 mag, 7 1/2" barrel. I am a better than average shooter, however I have rarely shot at moving targets. So of course my question revolves around bear protection. My first line of defense will be spray, however I will not go out without a firearms backup. I am considering the SRH Toklat as a new backcountry firearm. In some situations a rifle or shotgun would not be practical/comfortable. I know both .357 and .44 have done it in the past and will do it with proper ammunition, but is the exta ummmmffff of the .454 helpful if a marginal shot is made. Would the extra mass/fpe of the .454 make up for a slightly off shot i.e. a couple inches. I'm not talking about a huge miss, but would the .357/.44 break shoulders and tendons to at least slow down an angry bruin. I have combed forums, but can't really find a good answer. Also, what are your thoughts of wielding/packing a 7 1/2 barrel in the bush? My thinking is that is a bit long. Thanks all.
    sorry if this comes across as ignorant, but am honestly curious. for those that don't think a .44 is enough of a bear gun and that a 454 is needed, why stop at that caliber? there are bigger bores out there, why not give them more attention?

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    Here's how you beat a grizzly bear (that's the title anyway).
    http://peninsulaclarion.com/news/201...a-grizzly-bear

  16. #16

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    ak-fang,

    It's a huge and subjective topic. But I'll try to answer your question as plainly as I can. When strictly approaching the idea of a 'bear gun', bigger will always be more effective if all else is equal. But all else isn't usually equal. Bigger means heavier recoil and demands higher skill to shoot accurately. Bigger also usually has limiting effect on practice. Folks tend to shoot more rounds of 357 or even 44 mags in practice than 454's and bigger. Bigger is also a bigger pain in the butt to carry along. The ratio of time carrying to expected need to shoot a bear is probably in the tens of thousands of hours plus. Is the difference worth it when 357's or 44's can do the job? It's all up to the individual, their comfort level, expertise, and of course risk exposure.

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    I wondered about this myself.
    Got out the .44's and shot them. Split times were longer and accuracy wasn't what I wanted when compared to the .357 Magnum.
    So I ended up splitting the difference and went with a 4" .41 Magnum. I'm accurate with it and I can tailor my loads, by handloading, for bears or man. It's now my go to handgun.
    Be it man, or beast, shoot the largest caliber you can effectively control. For me, in a combat situation, one handed, that's the .41 Magnum.

    Sent from my SGH-M919 using Tapatalk

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    The 41mag is one of my favorite rounds. I have a Blackhawk in 41 and would really like a 4" N frame S&W in 41.

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    I hafta agree that shootability trumps raw power.

    Smitty of the North
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    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak-fang View Post
    sorry if this comes across as ignorant, but am honestly curious. for those that don't think a .44 is enough of a bear gun and that a 454 is needed, why stop at that caliber? there are bigger bores out there, why not give them more attention?
    If bigger, always the goal, it's like wipin your butt with a hoop. There's no end to it.


    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

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