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Thread: Bear Defender Load for 38 Special

  1. #1
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    Default Bear Defender Load for 38 Special

    Yentlemen:
    Should I use a Hard Cast, 158 grain, or will the 180 grain go fast enough?

    Yes, this a serious question. This 38 Special has a 4" barrel.

    I yam also wunderin, if a "Colt, Police Positive MK V" Revolver is safe for +P loads.

    Thanks
    Smitty of the North
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    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    Smitty Get yourself about 4 feet of 1 inch diameter surgical tubing, a leather pouch and a big “Y” shaped stick so you can make a jumbo sling shot to huck your 38 at the bear! Sorry man, I just couldn’t help myself. I guess I would try and find or cast some rather hard lead flat nose bullets in the heaviest weight mold you can find. Even at low velocity those hard lead bullets should penetrate quite a ways. I suppose a heavy for caliber full metal jacket would also work good. I sure wouldn’t mess with any expanding bullets cause I just don’t think you will get enough penetration with them.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

  3. #3

    Default Good God!

    Load it up with 125gr Gold Dots. When the bear comes at you, shoot yourself in the head with one of them.

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    In my experience unless it says +p on the barrel don't shoot +p ammo out of the gun. I split the barrel of an old detective special that way. I have also heard that with a 38 you shoot the bear with five shots and save the sixth for yourself.
    Goodluck

  5. #5
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    Default 38 for Bear!

    Smitty,

    The Colt Police Positive is an all steel D frame that can be used with a limited diet of +P ammo. The Trooper Mk V is a larger Colt J frame designed for .357 Mag. I guess I am a bit confused as to which one you have. I read a story about a Griz called Ole Growler or Groaner (Can't recall for sure) that made an odd sound when disturbed. When he was killed with a 38-72 they found a 38 Spcl bullet loged in his jaw. Don't know what happened to the guy with the 38 but could make a good guess. I would give this choice a lot of thought and do some penetration testing. I would use more gun even for Black Bear.

  6. #6
    Member alaska bush man's Avatar
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    Thumbs down 38 Spc

    Suggest leaving the 38 Spc for home protection not bush protection!

    Good Joke!

  7. #7

    Exclamation That bear will never know the .38 hit him.

    Smitty,

    Thanks for the comedy relief! By the way, I would not shoot +P in the D-frame .38 special gun. If it is marked .357 magnum, then of course you can use .38 special +P. That brown bear will never know what hit him. Literally, he will never know because he will barely feel it.

  8. #8

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    If it's all I had, I'd pack it rather than stay home. But it wouldn't be my first choice. If I was picking a pardner to back me up in a tight spot however, I'd sure take one who shot a 38 fast and accurate over a nimrod with a single action superboomer who could do nothing but wound, even if he managed to cut a hair. Darn tootin!

    Before deciding between your 158 and 180 hard cast, I'd want to see how the gun shot with each. In lightweight 38's a heavy bullet pushed near max can really blow your double action shooting.

    And that's what it's all about in my mind. Fast, accurate double action. It probably would require and action job, and would cetainly require practice and skill.

    I've whacked several deer with 38 special as a part of a long series of tests with a wide variety of calibers and bullets, kind of to get an idea what to expect in choosing a carry gun. I can tell you that traditional 158 grain RN loads in a 38 will penetrate completely on lung shots at 30-35 yards and the deer can still make 100 yards running. Make the same shot with a hard cast flat nose, and the deer isn't likely to go ten feet.

    The bonus points for the 180 is likely to be in it's ability to break through bone and reach the CNS of a bear. Based on the one time I used one on flesh, I think it would do it. And I don't care what you're shooting in a defensive situation, the only thing that going to reliably stop an animal in its tracks is a hit to the CNS.

    So if the bullet will break into the CNS (based on experience I'd bet on the 180 FNHC doing that at defensive ranges) and you can put your shots there fast and accurate, I'd sure rather have you standing at my side instead of a hero with a 500 S&W he can't shoot double action accurately and fast. When it takes a hit to the CNS to do the job, I'll take my backup from someone who can actually hit it rather than someone who shoots once and hopes that bigger really is better.

    It's all speculation because to my knowledge no one has ever stopped a bear charge with either. But whoever you are and whatever you shoot, you can count on doing a shooting demo before I'd ever rely on you for my backup.

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    Thanks for ALL responses:

    BrownBear:
    I purchased this 38 Special for my wife. It has a rather small frame, and a 4” barrel. It fits her small hand, and the recoil is manageable. I doubt I would be able to get her to use anything bigger or more powerful at this time.

    I’m not going to send her Bar Huntin with it, but I want to have loads that will give the Max in penetration, even though my plan is to always be with her in Bar Country, and carry something more powerful myself, when we are essentially alone in the wilderness.

    I want her to have something better than the Winchester HP Factory home defense loads, when we’re out there.

    I load HC lead bullets in my revolvers, because I understand that they will penetrate the best. (44, 357, & 38 Special.)

    I will do as you suggest.

    I need to test both bullet weights for Firing, Accuracy, and penetration, as well as chronograph them. If the 180s don’t land at the correct elevation, or cannot be fired easily, or have greatly reduced velocity, I might use them instead of the 158 grain SWCs I have currently loaded.

    I was really wondering if I am on the right track.

    Thanks
    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.

  10. #10

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    You're still likely to hear some hairy chest pounding for big magnums, even for a woman. Let em demonstrate their own skills shooting fast and accurate, then maybe let them come along to stand guard for you. But I sure wouldn't saddle your wife with one!

    I'm guessing her gun is a J-frame (5-shot?). I've got a couple and have tested my limits with them. I'm betting the 180's just won't do. The recoil is going to be objectionable to her with small grips. I could manage it on mine with oversize grips, but took them off and switched to lighter bullets. The big grips kinda defeated my reasons for carrying a J.

    I'd stick with Bullseye or Unique in your loads, or something similar. Slower powders are going to be a lot louder, and they aren't necessary to reach the modest velocities you can manage in a J while keeping it controllable.

    I'd buy her a box of standard 158 grain factory loads, and if she can manage those, then develop similar loads using HC. But I'd let her spend a lot of time shooting midrange wadcutters to build her confidence and skills before running up the recoil scale even a little bit. Even midrange loads will jump pretty good in a light J. I'm not saying it's the most accurate load in your guns, but my standard wadcutter charge is 2.4 grains of Bullseye.

  11. #11

    Default not enough

    The .38 Special is not enough cartridge for bear, even black bear. I am surprised that several guys who I know are knowledgeable on weapons and ammo would suggest it. I will repeat what I posted once before that the "better then nothing, or better then a cartridge that can't be shot well always carries water. It doesn't, just a greater chance for the shooter to be mauled or killed or for someone being attacked by a wounded bear that shouldn't have been. IMHO

  12. #12

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    Well, that being the case, I guess it's better than her fist or a sharp stick, eh? If that's all the gun she can handle, so be it. Go with the best you can get in that caliber. I'd have to to some penetration testing. I suppose it's one of those stick it in his mouth and put it in his brain type of guns. Have you considered pepper spray and an air horn? I gotta admit though, I don't have much faith in pepper spray either.

  13. #13

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    I'm only basing my recommendations on actual game kills with a variety of bullets in a 38. Sorry not to bow and pray to dogma and accepted theory. Pick and choose from my words as you want, but go shoot some game with a 38 before finalizing your opinion and trying to contradict my experience with theory.

    No, a 38 isn't my first choice- as I already said. But in terms of penetration with hard cast on flesh and bone, it certainly could do the job with accurate shooting. You have to hit in the right spot for a stop.

    Hey guess what?

    It's the same thing with a 44 or a 500 S&W!!!! She's got a better chance of hitting with a 38 than a 500, so why defeat her by forcing her to use something she can't handle, when it won't work any better if you don't hit right with it?

    Anyone who thinks they can shoot fast and accurate with a big boomer is going to have to let me watch them do it before I'll believe them. Here's what I can do day in day out with my 1100fps 300 grain hard cast from my 44: Six shots starting from the holster into a 6" target at 15 yards in under 4 seconds. I'm betting I'm more likely to get one of those into a lethal spot than someone who can't hit that target twice in the same time span from a 500 cuzz he hasn't even put a couple of hundred rounds through it, much less the thousands that are needed to learn accurate double action shooting.

    I bet she can learn to beat 6 seconds using 38 HC @ 750fps. She'll never learn to do it with a big boomer. And I'd rather have her at my side popping away accurately and quickly with the 38 than someone missing or wounding slowly with a 44 or a 500.

    I know of only one instance of a brown bear being killed in defense with a handgun. It was done long ago with witnesses by old Joe Zentner, the long-dead rancher from over at Pasagshak on Kodiak. I talked to him about it, handled and shot the gun, and saw pictures and the bullet hole in the skull. He did it from about 15 feet. He shot once. He came from the holster and shot from the hip just like Earp. And when we went out in his back yard to shoot, he could do the same thing shot after shot all day long. He whacked coke cans from the hip at 25 feet so consistently that it wasn't even interesting after a while.

    He could do it because he bought that gun new just before the depression. He had carried and shot it every day since. He had carried it and abused it so long it din't have a front sight, and the groves of the rear sight were worn almost flat.

    Oh, which gun was it? It was a 4" Colt Woodsman in 22 long rifle.

  14. #14

    Default Oh well,

    And here I thought I was using common sense. Silly me. I never suggested she or anyone else use something they can't handle, only that the .38 Special is undergunned, especially for a relative novice. I don't doubt in a rare or very lucky circumstance, like with Mr. Zentner, even a .22 would work. but for regular folk, who aren't lightning fast with a .44 mag, it just isn't something I'd suggest and never will. Besides, shooting a small to medium prey animal is not the same as a startled or pissed off bruin. Bow down to dogma, sheesh!

  15. #15

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    Yup, but the question was about her, her needs, her skills, and finding the best tool to bring it all together.

    I'll stand by my recommendation and base it on as much experience as I have been able to accumulate. One bullet from a 22 by an expert marksman is pretty thin soup for any of us to draw conclusions from, but we can size up what actually happens in a charge, and what abilities are required to hit the CNS in order to make the stop.

    We can also measure our own shooting skills against those requirements. No room for ego here, and if all you can do the job with reliably is a 38, suck up and carry the 38 rather than carrying a big boomer and hoping for the best. If anyone can't shoot their boomer well enough to do the job, they're whistling in the dark when they carry it.

    Here are other factors in the "fast and accurate" approach I advocate. Charges happen really, really fast and usually with virtually no warning. I've got half a dozen of those to draw experience from, the most recent last year. Though that one didn't stop till it was about 20 feet away, it was apparent to me that it was going to stop, so I didn't have to shoot.

    But due to terrain, that bear was all over the place coming in. Odds of missing the CNS for a sure stop in one shot with ANYTHING were high.

    Every charge I've experienced came at odd angles in rough terrain and it was over almost before I could react. No flat and smooth ground for easy aiming. I've never been whacked, not because I'm so smart about identifying false charges, but frankly because the bear had usually decided to quit before I had time to get my act together and shoot it.

    The bears also come in low, well below waist level and feeling like they're down about knee high.

    So you've got a very fast small target (CNS) moving all over the place and coming at your knees. If you are going to hit it, you have to get on target fast, shoot well, and be capable of firing several aimed shots to up the odds of connecting on a supremely difficult target.

    My pick of a 6" target at 15 yards is more or less arbitrary, but that's about the range I'd start shooting if there was no hope the bear was going to stop. And 6 seconds is really arbitrary, cuzz a bear can cross that 15 yards a whole lot faster, probably under 2 seconds based on the speeds I've experienced. But starting at 15, I bet I can get off at least two and maybe three shots. That gives me more margin for error to hit the CNS. If one of my previous shots slows the bear even a little, I can finish the cylinder and start fumbling with a speedloader.

    I'll go for several very fast aimed shots with a less substantial round any time over a single hope shot with something bigger. And I was dead serious that I'd feel more comfortable with a companion who could shoot like me with a 38 special and HC than with one using something bigger who couldn't put the first shot on target double action, much less get off a second one.

    Hey, don't get me wrong. I love my 44, my 454 and my 500! But factoring shooting skills into bear stopping potential, I still can't shoot well enough with any of them using factory loads to do the job I think needs to be done. My limit is down around 1100 fps with the 44 and 454, and frankly 950 to 1000 is even better. I'm betting that by the time I've put another couple of thousand rounds through my 500, I'm going to settle in on a load between 850 and 900 fps as optimum before I find the right crossover between shooting ability and power. And a hit with one that slow is still a whole bunch better than a miss with a hot factory loads.

  16. #16

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    Smitty, I should apologize for my earlier light hearted comments because I honestly thought you were joking in your first post. In a subsequent post you mentioned that the .38 revolver was for your wife. I can certainly understand a woman wanting to carry a .38 special rather than deal with the trauma of carrying and shooting a magnum handgun. The .38 is an excellent cartridge for smaller frame shooters. Speaking as a man who weighs more than I should, I also like it as a personal defense and plinking gun but I would not attempt to hunt anything other than small game with it.

    Sounds like your wife will not necessarily be hunting, but she will use it for personal defense against 2 or 4 legged predators of all sizes. That being the case, I think you should have her carry the hardest, best performing bullet you can find in a standard .38 special loading. Personally, I don't know what that load is but I would use 158 grain bullets because the Colt D-frame revolver had its sights regulated for the 158 grain bullet at the factory if it has fixed sights. I would check for some hard lead round nose or semi-wadcutter bullets in 158 grain. These might be hard to find. I don't believe the D-frame Colt was designed for +P and I would not want to take the chance of damaging a perfectly good gun to find out. Some people say practice with standard .38s and carry +P. The problem with that is you never know when the +P load will cause the gun to loosen or rupture. It could happen in the moment of truth and render the gun useless for the rest of that cylinder full of ammo. I know an old friend who shot +P out of his Taurus model 85 and he didn't fire more than a few shots before the side plate loosened up and caused the hammer to strike lightly on the subsequent rounds, resulting in misfire. After tightenting up the frame screws and securing them with Loctite, he went back to normal .38 specials and never shot the +P again.

    If your wife plans to spend much time in the wilderness, you might want to buy her a lightweight lever action carbine in .357 mag./.38 spl. to go with the revolver. The main thing is to have her practice with the revolver until her draw and aim become second nature. Also, buy her a couple of speedloaders and a carry pouch for the speedloaders.

    Not being able to shoot a larger handgun should not be a reason to stay home. Heck, I spent a lot of time in the wilderness before I owned any handgun. The only weapons I carried were a survival knife, a hiking staff and my brain.

    Have her take the .38 out for some hunting so she can shoot some critters. That will get her in the mood for killing bigger animals in case it ever became necessary. I suspect that if you can get her within appropriate range, she could end up with some dead deer to her credit and that will build her confidence.

    Considering all of this, stick by her and don't let her get a false sense of security about what any handgun can do to a bear. The brownie is pretty much at the top of the food chain because he is the toughest, baddest thing out there. Survival starts with respecting that fact.

  17. #17
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    I know of only one instance of a brown bear being killed in defense with a handgun.
    Here is a story about a 44 mag taking down a bear in self defense while cleaning a moose in 2006. It was also discussed in a thread here, but for some reason the pictures are no longer working in that thread.

  18. #18

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    Brian,

    I remember reading that story before. It is interesting that the hunter got a one-shot stop on a grizzly using a .44 magnum single action revolver. That's good news for those of us who carry that caliber and I count myself in that number.

    I have read other stories where point blank hits from a .300 magnum rifle failed to stop the beast and one story where a .475 Linebaugh failed to stop. There are so many variables in bear attacks that no two will be the same.

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    BRWNBR:
    Her revolver is a Colt, and it holds six rounds. It is larger than the S&W J frame, and quite a bit heavier. Fortunately, the grips, work well for both of us. They are from Colt, but look something like Pachmayr. She fired it today, and I started her off with the 110 grain HP Winchester Factory loads that will serve for home defense, so the recoil was negligible. She wants to try it again tomorrow, and I’ll let her use 158 grain handloads next.

    I know what you mean about the S&W J frame. I have one, and it is like you say. Thanks Again for you advice, and comments, regarding loads. That's the kind of info I was looking for.
    Smitty of the North
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    Mauserboy:
    I understand, and I’m not saying a 38 Special is a Bar Gun, but with the proper bullets, I would think it to be much better than “nothing”. My 357 with Hard Cast 158 grain bullets will penetrate well, and MY 38 Special will penetrate a bit less.

    Nowadays, I have a 44 Magnum that I carry for Bear Protection, when I can’t carry my rifle. I don’t use hot loads, either. The velocity is around 1100 fps. My wife has nothing but her Ruger Bearcat to carry when she isn’t hunting and packing her 7x57, so I want her to have something more better.

    You can create any number of scenarios, of course.

    Neither one of us is trigger happy, and we’re not gonna go around looking for a Bar to shoot.
    Thanks
    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.
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