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Thread: Bear loads - please explain??

  1. #1

    Default Bear loads - please explain??

    Almost every time the subject of "what's the bullet of choice for a 44 mag" comes up, folks start rattling off some sort of 300 grain hardcast bullet.

    Please, if anyone has ACTUALLY shot a bear in a DLP situation with a hardcast bullet tell me (us) about the results. You know, how fast did the animal go down, penetration, internal damage, etc.

    Why do I ask? I shot a black bear in a DLP situation 2 summers ago. He repeatedly raided my ice chest in a campground and was obviously a problem bear. Anyway, I finally decided to kill him. The distance was 9 ft, I shot him with a 300 grain hardcast bullet from my .44 mag redhawk. I shot him square in the shoulders (broadside) thinking that would put him down on the spot. Wrong. I truly believe I hit my mark (9 ft away!) since I had a dead rest from my closed tailgate (I was camping in the back of the truck) yet he bolted away and after 2 hours of searching - no bear. The blood trail petered out. Yes, I believe he died, but the results were rather dissapointing.

    I believe that a true hardcast bullet is a poor choice. Why? They punch a .44 caliber hole going in, produce minimal internal damage, and leave a .44 cal hole going out. A .44 cal hole through the shoulders didn't put my trouble bear down. There is no joint or knuckle bone to break in the shoulder, just a scapula and muscle tissue, right.

    Bears are not constructed of steel armor like a lot of folks lead you to believe. I guess because they have big scary claws and large canines folks think they are built like a sherman tank! I mean, do we recommend hardcast bullets for moose that are 3 to 4 times larger than interior bears and are constructed of heavier bone, muscle, and hide, NO! I've harvested 3 interior grizzlies so yes, I know how they are put together.

    A bullet that opens up and even sheds some weight would only need to penetrate, what, about 6" inches on a broadside shot and maybe 12" on a frontal shot to reach internal organs and it would do a lot more damage. Now, I haven't performed penetration tests on, say, a 240 jacketed hollowpoint. I suspect they WOULD penetrate the required distance to reach internal organs doing major damage on the way in? I guess I should try it.

    Anyway, I'm not convinced that hardcast bullets are the way to go. Convince me otherwise with some firsthand results rather than spewing what others say.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Default sorry to hear...

    about your experience.

    Have no experience with hand cannons & bears, so can't help you there.

    FWIW - they only get a 225g Nos Partition from my 338 OR a 12 gauge
    2 3/4" Breneke from me.... A little more cumbersome to carry (so say some)

    Not meaning to question your shooting..... but I'll take a SWAG and say you didn't hit BOTH shoulders. Just trying to make sense of an unfortunate situation here, but IMO -- had you broken the major bones of his front legs... I'm betting this would have had a different ending.

    I'm interested to know more info about the situation. You were in your truck bed... did this put you in an elevated position? Again, not questioning your shooting.... honestly, just taking advantage of a learning opportunity......

    hope you get more answers than questions...

    Mike

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    "he bolted away"

    That works for me.

    Smitty of the North
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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    As the bullet blows through the first shoulder the bone exit should be about two inches. The bone fragments and bullet will part ways with the fragments makeing a cone pattern outward tearing up tissue which should now inclued the lungs if the bullet didn't hit them. The bullet will now pass through the off shoulder with a hole starting around .429 inches and blowing out about a two inch area of bone leaveing the shoulder and take a fair bit of hide with it.The offside shoulder muscle should be useless from bone fragments plus bullet hole. Of couse this is for a shoulder blade hit and if the smaller bones were hit they should be both broken in half or close to it leaveing damaged muscle to keep it all together.

  5. #5

    Wink

    As much as I don't want to admit it, I COULD have missed the actual shoulder blade. But remember, it was a distance of 9 ft, I was leveled off on the tailgate, and took my time with the shot. Even so, the bullet still completely passed through in the very near vicinity of the shoulder. Maybe just forward of it because behind should have lunged him? There was a blood trail, even though Smitty thinks I missed (wink).

    Amigo, have you experienced the kind of results you described with a hardcast bullet?

    I double lunged a broadside ram at 300 yards once with a 180 grain failsafe (built like a hardacst). He stood there as if I missed. About 10 seconds later he collapsed. There was a .30 cal hole going in and a .30 cal hole going out (no expansion with that bullet). It looked like a pencil hole through both lungs and the hide on exit. The bullet happened to sneak between the rib bones on entrance and exit so I can't say what the affect on hitting bone would have been. While effective, there was very little internal damage.

    Again, why do folks recommend hardcast bullets for bears and not moose which are about 4 times larger and built accordingly? I don't buy it.

    I have since went to 180 grain Gamekings for my 300 wsm. They shed some weight, resulting in good internal damage, and most shots still pass through.

    I'm just not impressed with hardcast bullets and don't believe they are the answer for bear protection. Anyone with real world results from hardcast bullets and bears (or moose)?

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    In your situation a hunting bullet would have been the optimal choice no doubt. The hard cast bullets are for when that the bear is being aggressive rather than nuisance. The theory is that in an attack situation you would be shooting at a bear head on with the skull as the main target. The hard cast will be much more effective at breaking the skull and continuing into the chest cavity of the bear. Head on it is all about penetration where as with a lung shot you want both beep penetration and expansion to damage the lung tissue a much as possible.

  7. #7

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    Lujon, your explanation makes sense. So the vitals of a charging bear would be the head, maybe some backbone, kneck, and chest. I suppose the shot distance would be around 25 ft (or closer). I would be interested in comparing the results of shooting such a bear with a hardcast bullet vs. jacketed - BUT not that interested! Hopefully, I will never find out!

    There must be some folks on here that have killed a charging bear with a handgun......

    Thanks.

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    Thankfully, I don't have any experience with a DLP bear as of yet so I cannot comment on that aspect. But, the hardcast gives insurance. If you are hunting then you have the luxury (and obligation) of shot placement. If it's an "OH SH!!" moment you don't have that luxury. A hardcast will give you the edge no matter where or at what angle the bullet hits the critter. What would have happened if you would have hit that bear with a 240gr JHP at 1800fps at that range in the shoulder or skull? I'm thinking shattered bullet and mad bear. He may have ended up in the back of the pickup since critters turn towards the pain. If you would have broken both shoulders with that hardcast, I don't see how that bear (or any animal) could have run away. Also, I have not heard of anyone who did NOT recommend hardcast for hunting moose. In fact in the world of handgun hunting for big and or dangerous game and hogs, hardcasts are the standard. I doubt the bullet was the problem in your situation unless the bullet happened to be TOO hard and brittle and shattered. I'll stick with hardcasts and leave the JHP's for the whitetail hunters.

    Here's a good articleAfrican hunters with hardcast

  9. #9

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    With softpoints in the 44mag you hope it will penatrate to the vitals, and with solids you hope it will hit something vital. The problem with slow moving projectiles is if they mushroom the frontal resistance slows them quickly and if they don't the wound channel (and temporary wound channel) is small. To solve this problem the bullet manufacturers have made stronger and heavier expanding bullets and larger metplats on solids. (a balance of penetration and destruction.) The ram you shot had massive internal damage done to it, you just didn't see it, microscopic. (velocity = larger temporary wound channels, everything else being equal.) Temporary wound channels don't affect muscle much but are devastating on vitals. Over stretch your vastus lateralis muscle and it hurts but you can still walk. Over stretch your heart to the same degree and you are dead or heading that way soon. Worse yet is organs like the liver, kidneys, etc. No stretch there. A bullet striking an animal has many effects not seen by the naked eye but in general the greater area you disrubt (in the vitals.) the better off you are.
    A friend of mine works in a emergency rooms of a hospital and has worked on many a gunshot victim. He said people shot with 38s mostly lived and those shot with .357s rarely did. Those shot with 45 autos rarely did and those with 44 mags never did (to date.). When It came to rifles they would all wonder what are we even going to do with this or didn't have to worry about it.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    Yes I have,thats how I know as I've seen it and also with shotgun slugs. Hardcast is best for distroying bone and breaking down the target

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    For standing broadside shot on a bear from 9 foot with hard cast in a handgun I would have head shot so I would know he would go down. To each his own but I am sticking with my hard cast.
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    I've got a friend who had to finish a moose on the roadside after a vehicle strike. The first shot out of the 44 was a 240gr Hydroshok to the skull right behind the ear. It splattered all over the place and made a big mess of the hide, but didn't penetrate bone. The second shot was a CorBon 305gr Penetrator and it entered, but didn't exit the skull. Range from muzzle to animal was less than 2'. I'm sure a hardcast would have found it's way into the pavement beneath the poor animal, and that's why I'll be carrying big, flat, heavy, hardcast bullets in whatever I take into the field.

  13. #13

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    Boy I'll tell you what jpost you nailed it. Back when I was a "kid" well younger than I am now, we (my father and I) used to hunt whitetails with roundballs from our T/C Hawken 45 cal. I remember so many times trying to locate the projectile while dressing the deer. I made a mental note of the path and deformation of the little ball each time. More times than not, the ball was found in the hide on the opposite side of entry. In the early 90's, I purchased a Knight muzzleloader. It liked 44 cal. 240 gr.Hornady XTP's. Early one November morning, a buck came about my way chasing a doe and made the fatal mistake of stepping out of the mountain laurel. I can remember exactly how the buck acted as the bullet struck him. He dropped his head and staggered instantly. I had never seen a roundball do that to a deer that I'd shot through the lungs. This deer lasted about 30 yards and the blood loss was unbelieveable. Penetration was exactly like the others, I found the bullet in the hide on the opposite side, but the wound channel was unbelieveable too. My point is, solid lead hardcast projectiles may penetrate good, but for almost all game in North America, the bullet needs to be capable of expansion at the given velocity. Too many times before the XTP's we tracked deer for hours and sometimes we didn't find the animal at all. More expansion = bigger wound channel = more blood loss = less game lost in the field. Do your homework, shoot your firearm until it feels like the hammer in your hand while you are driving nails and be patient, don't rush a shot off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stormvet View Post
    .....It liked 44 cal. 240 gr.Hornady XTP's....Too many times before the XTP's we tracked deer for hours and sometimes we didn't find the animal at all. More expansion = bigger wound channel = more blood loss = less game lost in the field. Do your homework, shoot your firearm until it feels like the hammer in your hand while you are driving nails and be patient, don't rush a shot off.
    That's the point I was making. When hunting one CAN take time for shot placement, not so when it's a "do or die" situation. A 240gr JHP is a great deer bullet. I would'nt trust it with my life. Not when I can shoot a 360gr Wide Flat Nose 45 caliber hardcast.

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    I have some signifcant experience with handguns and many different animals and have used many types of bullets and your experience with the hard cast and the bear is quite typical of handgun hunting. (Hand gun hunting defined as big bore revolver/pistol at magnum handgun velocities, 1100 to 1500 fps.)

    Handguns cannot muster the high velocity of even a modest rifle cartridge and must rely on other factors to to destroy a lot of vital tissue. A problem with the soft point or hollow point, soft lead, jacket bullet is that there is enough energy to cause expasion or at least deformation and this almost always reduces or stops penetration or cause the bullet to veer off it's aimed course and not reach the vitals. Often these bullets do a lot of damage but usually only a shallow wound. There is no doubt an expanding bullet will do more wounding than a solid, be it rifle or pistol, but it is absolutely essential that it penetrate. Expanding bullets that deform, expand, mushroom, rivet or bulge do not, cannot penetrate as deeply as the same size solid. A hard cast is a solid. The LBT style hard cast bullets further the design with a large flat nose which gives great wounding capability yet still give deep straight line penetration. This is as good as it can get with a handgun. Therefore there is really no need to use any other bullet for hunting. There are some premium designs such as partition, A-frame and bonded JSP bullets that make them more effective than the standard JSP/JHP but they are more costly and still do not penetrate with the hard cast blunt nosed solids.

    As for your hapless bear, he may not have been shot in the right place, not that you didn't hit where you wanted but that the heart and shoulder weren't hit. A double lung shot is lethal but will take a while. Not a stopping shot. I've shot several blackies with a handgun, hunted them in a half dozen states. I've taken them with 357 mags, 41, mag, 44 mag, 44 AutoMag, 45 Win Mag, 45 Colt and the 454 Casull. I don't consider them hard to kill, about with the big whitetail or muley but my biggest was only about 400 pounds. I also don't consider them particularly dangerous, actually quite placid and sloth like for the most part. They are also very easy to stalk and get within 30 yards of them if the wind is right. They can rough a fellow up if irritated but so can a whitetail. I wouldn't doze off with one in my kitchen so you did the right thing, they can be a nuisance. I dropped a 150 pound, young boar off a dumpster with a 357 and a 170 grain Keith style form my 4" Ruger one evening in Michigan some years ago because it was undaunted by the screams and squalling a few kids and women about ten yards away. It was hit in the left ear hole and the bullet did exit.

    Most of these animals were taken with various hand cast bullets some with JSP's and some with LBT style hard cast bullets. The hardcast will allow you to shoot from any angle and rely fully on your marksmanship to hit the vitals. Soft points will require that you pick only the best broad side or frontal shots and even then some will not travel in a straight line.
    Also some think that higher velocity associated with lighter for caliber bullets are better because they produce more energy, this has the opposite effect, expanding quicker, penetrating less. I'll always choose a hard cast for heavy animals and when hunting bears, black or brown, because I want to take the shot on my terms. They are just the best compromise bullet for the big bore handgun.
    Last edited by Murphy; 05-18-2009 at 07:21.
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  16. #16

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    Murphy,

    Good explanation Murphy.

    So, handgun velocities at 1100-1500 fps MIGHT NOT be enough to drive a JHP or "soft" bullet home to the vitals. With non-hardcast bullets, a broadside, frontal, or "soft tissue" target is a must. Gotcha.

    I guess I have been over estimating the knock down power of a hot loaded 44 mag!

    Thanks.

  17. #17

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    Murphy,

    One more thing, if you shot a bear with a non-hardcast bullet, please describe where you hit it, amount of penetration, and how fast it died.

    Thanks

  18. #18
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    Generally any black bear shot with a big bore handgun will take some time even with good follow-up shots. There are exceptions but body shots even through the heart, will take several minutes to get down to stay. It always seemed odd to me how they react to the shot. Sometimes they will jump like a bee stung them then just stand around or maybe wonder off or maybe run. Sometimes they will show no sign of being hit at all. I shot one three times thinking I had some how missed at about 50 yards for the first shot. It never did anything until it got weak and its rear end collapsed, then rolled over. It was shot twice through the heart and once through both lungs. I took no notes in those days and most I cannot match to any particular bullet but a few I remember. One in particular I took in Maine many years back was a pretty good sized fellow. He was hit with a 250 grain (more or less) Keith style from a 6 1/2" 44 mag, Blackhawk. He pitched a fit instantly gnawing and biting at himself then stopped and rolled over then ran my way and I center punched him in the chest. He stopped and threw another fit chomping and chewing at fur and shaking his head and snapping then ran at me again. I don't know that it was a charge but he was coming my way pretty fast. The next shot was just under the chin, I didn't want to bust the head, and this one caused him to skid on his chin to a stop, roll and thrash around then get to his feet and stagger off the other direction. He went about 30 feet and went down quietly. He was shot to pieces and a mess to autopsy. I recovered the first broadside shot from under the hide on the far side, both lungs, I don't think any of them exited. I still have the one bullet and the flat nose is cracked or crumbled away some but it did not expand. The bullets were cast very hard. I have shot through slightly smaller blackies end to end with heavier 300 grain 44 hard cast, since then.

    My biggest blackie was with a 45 Colt and a H&G mold bullet of about 285 grains. He was hit at thirty yards through both shoulders and he ran like a scalded dog and I hit him four more times on the run, shot the old Ruger dry, didn't make a particularly good shot but twice through the lungs. I found him in the woods, down the hill from where he was feeding when I ambushed him, in the bottom of a dry creek bed, stone dead, some thirty minutes later. At least a half mile away. There was not one drop of blood anywhere on the ground but about a bucketful in the creek bed. The first shot clipped the top of the heart.

    I shot a fat sow in North Carolina with a 44 mag with a bobbed 5" barrel Super Blackhawk and 240 grain Speer JSP's, handloaded hot. This old gal took all five and still wanted to fight. No exits and one of the bullets (first shot) skidded under the hide from the shoulder to the hip with a very slightly quartering to shot. The last shot lodged against the spine behind the shoulders and this put her down. I reloaded and walked up to within 15 feet and she stood on all fours and came my way. I shot down into the neck behind the head. Nighty-night! I shot a wild hog on this same hunt in the same area with those bullets and had to shoot through the ears with the fifth shot to get him to stop, no exits.

    I want my bullets to make exit holes, air comes in blood comes out. I rely on my marksmanship, if that's good, and I have penetration, I will be successful. If my shot is spot on and the bullet fails to reach the vitals, that will be a disappointing situation and shoud be avoided. Solid, hard cast, big, flat meplat, bullets that are heavy for caliber (high sectional density) give me the best chance for a sure kill. I want nothing else in my revolvers for hunting unless it is for smaller ungulates such as white tail, black tail, coos deer or pronghorn, then I would consider a good soft point but would always be happy with the performace of the hard cast solid.
    Last edited by Murphy; 05-18-2009 at 07:29.
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  19. #19

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    Thanks, that was the type of info I was seeking. It sounds like bears can take a licking and keep on ticking when shot with handguns.

    I guess I should put my 300 grain hardcast loads back in my 44 mag.

    Thank you all for the fedback.

  20. #20

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    As a backpacker and new .44 mag owner, would 270 grain j.f.n. be acceptable??

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