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The right handgun for Alaska

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  • Hawken54

    Don't get me wrong; I really like the 10MM. It is an excellent hunting round for small/medium game. But, for the chance I'll bump into one of the big boys, I prefer something bigger. My buddy swears by his 10MM, too. He shot a caribou, a couple of nice black bears, a wolf, and a deer on Kodiak with his. It is a thumper in it's own right with the right bullets. But, when he is in bear country (Coastal), he has his .44 Magnum with 260 grain hardcasts tucked in his shoulder holster.

    When I say "bigger" I mean powerful. A .45ACP is an outstanding man stopper, but I would not carry my Combat Commander hunting or fishing. I take my .45 caliber .454 Casull. Head, shoulders and hairdo's above the .45ACP. If that was all I had, though, I would carry it in a heartbeat. Last resort.

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    i shot a grizz with my 10mm, sheep and mt goat.its the never ending debate............................................ .................................................. .........................................

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  • Hawken54
    Handguns are the last resort

    That's the point. A handgun is a last resort, and even though anything is better than nothing, it is best to carry as large and powerful as you can handle. MOST handgun hunters that go after bear always have a large caliber rifle backing them up. That is very different from carrying protection like the guys in the news article did. I carried a .44 Magnum for years up here, and went to my.454 Casull a few years ago just to have that extra edge.

    I have been charged and had to shoot a large brown bear with a rifle, and believe me, at that moment the last thing you stop and think about is if you have a big enough gun. You use what you have and hope for the best. The bigger you go the better you are.

    I know someone that shoots black bears very sucessfully with a 10MM Glock, but as it is roughly the ballistic equal of a .357 Magnum, I will pass on that small of a gun in griz/brown bear country.

    For the naysayers, this article underscores the reason I carry in the bush up here. I am not afraid of bears, and the chance of being attacked is very small, but it does exist, does happen, and I have seen it up close and personal. I will be prepared, even though I will statistically probably never again have to pull my gun to protect myself from a bear.
    Last edited by Hawken54; 02-12-2007, 23:32.

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  • bgreen
    Originally posted by BRWNBR View Post
    call me crazy and stupid but i've got my 10mm and if i need it that bad it'll be great! i can shoot it with my scalp pulled over my eyes and with blood in my ears, and probably get a couple in him before it gets that far and still have a few to play with while we are wrestling. bottom line is when he wants you theres only two places your gonna put it to change his mind, his head or his neck, if its anything else it probably won't matter what you hit him with. bear protection handguns are to save your life in an emergency situation, not a bear hunting round. if you can turn a charge or get one off you, or ever deter a charge then you bear handgun worked. i don't think of it as dropping a charging bear in its tracks...when my butts in the sling i don't care what the bear does at long as it don't do me!!
    I'm with ya on that! (protection, not hunting, shooting the pistol as a last resort, etc)

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    call me crazy and stupid but i've got my 10mm and if i need it that bad it'll be great! i can shoot it with my scalp pulled over my eyes and with blood in my ears, and probably get a couple in him before it gets that far and still have a few to play with while we are wrestling. bottom line is when he wants you theres only two places your gonna put it to change his mind, his head or his neck, if its anything else it probably won't matter what you hit him with. bear protection handguns are to save your life in an emergency situation, not a bear hunting round. if you can turn a charge or get one off you, or ever deter a charge then you bear handgun worked. i don't think of it as dropping a charging bear in its tracks...when my butts in the sling i don't care what the bear does at long as it don't do me!!

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  • salmonhunter
    Handgun for alaska

    As a long time handgunner it is important to shoot well whatever gun you choose. I have several handguns but I believe that the Ruger Alaskan in .454 Casull is very easy to shoot and carry. It is compact enough to wear across your chest when fishing in those out of the way places. This makes it very convenient to grab if needed. Last summer I was glad I had it on Troublesome Creek. I backed out of a situation and didn't get charged by a bear that popped up next to me while fishing. It was just a good feeling knowing that I had it in hand.

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  • Hawken54
    .44 Magnum

    What I think this pointed out is a good, stiff solid bullet is key if you use a handgun. You've gotta have penetration. A .44 Magnum is o.k. in my eyes, too, but I prefer a .454. This is a case of the last resort and a .44 saved their bacon.

    Whatever you use, make SURE the bullet is up to the task.

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  • Alaska Gray
    One that won't miss

    No I like the 44. mag. Good all around gun

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  • Hawken54
    ADN news article

    Lucky to be alive

    Incredible shot from pistol kills charging bear inches away from hunter
    Anchorage Daily News
    Published: February 11, 2007
    Last Modified: February 11, 2007 at 05:50 AM

    The grizzly bear that fell dead, almost miraculously, inches from the feet of Doug White last fall changed his life, possibly forever.

    Near-death experiences have a way of doing that.
    When the bear came seemingly out of nowhere near Dillingham and the shooting started, White thought he and moose-hunting partner Reed Thompson were dead.
    In the blink of an eye, they found themselves in the center of a chaotic reality that seemed more like some crazy dream. There was the dead moose they had shot on the ground, a grizzly bear that wanted the moose almost on top of them, and only a .44-caliber Magnum handgun with which to defend themselves.
    Long ago, a young Clint Eastwood playing detective Harry Callahan in the "Dirty Harry'' movies declared the .44-Mag "the most powerful handgun in the world,'' but that was long ago. Compared to the .454-caliber Casull and some even more powerful cartridges available today, the .44-caliber is a popgun.
    But then the .44-caliber Magnum never has had a great reputation as an Alaska grizzly killer. Jokes about its inadequacy against big bears have been made for years.
    White and Thompson, experienced Alaska hunters, would never have considered going bear hunting with a .44 Magnum. But when the trouble began, they were done hunting.
    They had already killed a moose, returned to their riverboat to retrieve their backpacks and mentally shifted from being hunters to packers.
    As they headed back to their moose kill, it was mainly out of habit that the two Dillingham men grabbed Thompson's pistol along with the knives they would need for butchering, game bags and backpacks for hauling 600 or 700 pounds of food.
    Adding heavy rifles to the burden seemed like a lot of unnecessary effort. But the .44-Mag was light enough and compact enough they grabbed it as a precaution: Better to be safe than sorry.
    After all. stories about Alaska hunters being confronted by bears over wildlife kills are more the stuff of fantasy than fact. Every year across Alaska, people kill thousands of caribou, Sitka blacktail deer, moose, Dall sheep and mountain goats.
    Rarely does a bear try to swipe a fresh kill.
    Even on Kodiak Island -- where the state's densest population of coastal brown bears cleans up the gut piles from dead deer quicker than professional gorgers go through the wieners at a hot-dog eating contest -- bears rarely confront people.
    And on the rare occasion that happens, it's usually a bluff by the bear.
    The bear charges. The people hold their ground. The bear stops, swaps ends and beats it out of there.
    So it was hard for White and Thompson to envision any real danger when they headed back to their moose carcass.
    They don't think that way anymore. The bear changed everything.
    "I think my life's kind of different than it was before,'' Smith said. "More cautious. You don't think (bad) things can happen. Now I know. These things can just happen.''


    Days after the early-September bear attack, White penned a detailed account of what happened to the two Dillingham dentists and friends. Pouring the story out, he said, was cathartic.
    Here is some of what he wrote:
    "I am going to tell you about 'The Longest Minute' of my life.
    "Reed Thompson and I had been hunting hard for five days. The day was Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006. The weather had turned from beautiful sunny skies to gale-force winds and the blasting rain that comes with fall storms.
    "Late in the evening, we were walking down a raised half mile long finger of ground that was full of grass and alders. This turf was slightly higher than the swampy tundra on either side of it. We had slogged across the swamp as quickly as possible, during a sudden deluge, to get to the downwind point.
    "Our hope was that our passage would not be observed with the ... wind and rain.
    "Halfway down the finger, Reed turned to me and said, 'I think there is a moose up ahead. It looks like two white sticks in the grass.'
    "I zeroed in on the two white sticks and watched them for several minutes. With the slightest movement, the two sticks transformed into a white paddle and then back to the two sticks.
    "The bull had moved his head ever so slightly.
    "Reed began moving toward our quarry as I watched for movement through (my rifle scope.) When Reed had taken a few steps, I saw the horns rock to the right and then back to the left. The big boy then stood up and was looking directly our way. Even with the 40 mph hour winds blowing directly at us, he sensed our presence.
    "I squeezed off a round from my Browning .338 (caliber Winchester Magnum rifle) and felt good about the shot, but the bull took two or three steps to my right and disappeared out of sight behind some alders.
    "I heard (Reed shoot) as I was scrambling forward to get a better look. After a 30-yard hustle, I was able to see the huge fellow still standing. I put another shot into him and watched him drop.
    "We both hesitantly, but with great excitement, approached this giant and realized that he was dead. This was a mature bull with a beautiful rack and the biggest body mass I had ever seen.
    "The real work was to begin. After consulting the GPS, we noted we were a half mile from the slough and boat.
    "It was decided that both of us should return to the boat to discard unnecessary items and return with the gear needed to prepare and pack out the meat.
    "At the boat, we left our heavy rifles. Upon returning to the moose, we were hot, sweaty and wet. The rain had abated, so we removed our rain gear and hung it in a small tree. Reed removed his revolver, hung (the holster) on a branch opposite his jacket, and brought to my attention that it was hanging there.
    "With darkness approaching, we decided to remove the top front and rear quarters (of the moose), tie them to our pack frames, gut the moose out, and then roll the behemoth over to cool through the night. We would return in the morning to finish up.
    "After removing the two quarters, it was time to remove the internal organs. After cutting, tearing, and ripping, I had removed all but the heart and part of the esophagus. Reed said that he would (finish.) I scooted to the rear leg area and watched Reed crawl up inside the gut cavity. After a couple of cuts the ordeal was over.


    "As Reed pulled the heart out and tossed it behind us, a loud 'HUFF' snapped us to our feet.
    "Turning around, we saw standing before us, on hind legs, a large, chocolate-brown grizzly bear. The next minute seemed to last an eternity. The term surreal is so over used, but the next minute was dreamlike, bizarre, fantastic and unreal.
    "The bear was standing next to the tree where the pistol was hanging. We both started shouting and waving our arms back and forth as we moved somewhat to our right toward the tail end of the moose. The bear came down off his back legs, onto all fours and started circling to his right -- toward the head of the bull. My only thought was to get to the gun so that we could scare him off.
    "I sensed that he charged from the head of the moose as I broke for the gun.
    "Reed commented later that the bear vaulted over the moose and went straight for him. Halfway to the tree, I tripped on a fallen log and went down on all fours.
    "From my peripheral, I saw the bear going after Reed, who had moved into the tall grass. It appeared that the bear had knocked Reed down and was standing over him. My worst fear was that my friend was being mauled. I did not know how I would get him back to the boat.
    "I grabbed the holster but was unable to remove the revolver regardless of how hard I tugged. As I looked up, I saw the bear charging toward me.
    "I started backing up as I continued screaming and hollering at the bear. I was frustrated the pistol would not break free from the holster. With the bear almost on top of me, I fell over another log. I did a back drop and felt him grab my left leg. His huge head was above my lap, just out of reach of my holstered club.
    "I tried to hit him with the pistol but a crazy thought entered my mind -- that I could scare him into thinking I was going to shoot by waving it back and forth. Unable to remove the pistol from the holster, I tried to shoot through it, but the strap held the hammer down.
    "Just when I thought all was lost, the bear rose up, pivoted 90 degrees to his left and was gone. The grizzly had charged back in the direction of Reed as he had jumped up and yelled once again.


    "Reed had seen the bear knock me down and thought it was mauling me. He was alone in the grass with no weapon. I was down, and I had the gun.
    "When the bear started moving toward him, Reed dropped back down into the low wallow area where he had fallen during the initial charge. Reed saw the bear's face about a foot from his own. He could hear the bear trying to sniff him out. At that point, the bear stood up, pivoted to his right, and charged back to me.
    "When Reed distracted the bear from its attack on me, I had time to concentrate on the holster. I saw a buckle with a strap running through it. I grabbed the buckle and attempted to rip it off. To my surprise, the buckle was actually a snap and the strap peeled away.
    "As I pulled the revolver out, a sudden calm came over me, and I knew everything would be fine. I looked in the direction of Reed only to see the bear charging at me. He was about 10 feet away coming over the log that I had tripped over.
    "I pointed the revolver and fired at center mass. The .44 magnum boomed in the night and the boar fell straight down, his head three feet away from where I stood. As he fell, he bit at the ground and ended up with a mouthful of sod.
    "I stood in a dumbfounded stupor. I had no expectation that the pistol would kill the bear. My hope was that the shot would sting the bear and help scare him. As his head sagged to the ground, I shot him three more times in quick succession out of fear and anger.
    "My next sensation was hearing Reed's voice ask if the bear was dead. I answered, 'Yes.' He then yelled at me to save the rest of the rounds because we still had to walk out, and he did not have any more bullets. The minute was over."
    The night, however, was just beginning.


    On the day White and Thompson were attacked, the winds were howling in across Bristol Bay to pound the Alaska coastline. Wet, tired and shivering with adrenaline, the two hunters were in a place that required them to take care of themselves.
    "They were calling it a typhoon in this area,'' White said by telephone from Dillingham earlier this month. "The winds were 60-70 (mph). The reeds were knocking down flat. People were worried about us because of the weather.''
    Fortunately the two men knew how to deal with that. They got a tent set up, threw sleeping pads and bags inside, dived in behind them, and started stripping out of their wet clothes.
    "That night we were a little shook up,'' White added. "We just couldn't believe it happened. We just sat there and talked that whole night. We didn't sleep the whole night, wondering 'Why?' and 'How?' "
    When the men finally made it back to Dillingham a couple days later to report killing the bear in defense of life and property, an act permitted by law, Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jim Woolington was struck by their appearance.
    "Two days after, their eyes were still as big as coffee cups,'' he said.
    Woolington knew White well. White is the biologist's usual moose-hunting partner. Now White wanted a wildlife expert to tell him what had gone wrong.
    Woolington admits he doesn't know, but thinks the wind played a role.
    "It was blowing really hard,'' he said.
    In the swirling winds, scents could have been confused. The bear could have approached the carcass smelling only dead moose and the remnants of human scent, not realizing the men were still there.
    White said he found out recently that apparently the same bear he shot had raided a nearby moose-hunting camp earlier and stolen a hindquarter. So the animal might have been conditioned to believe it could steal easy meals from humans.
    Whatever the case, Woolington said he believes the two hunters are lucky to be alive.


    "The amazing thing is, one shot in the chest and (the bear) dropped dead,'' he said "The other shots didn't do anything.''
    White doesn't know for sure what the bullet might have struck to stop the bear so quickly. The animal, he said, was hit in the chest just a little to the right of center. A .44-caliber bullet angling up through heart and lungs would provide a killing shot, but not one that would stop a bear almost on the spot.
    White suspects the bullet kept going and smashed into the spine. That would immediately immobilize the bear.
    Thompson said the .44 was loaded with heavy, bonded CorBon bullets known for their ability to blow through flesh and hold together to still smash bone. More common softpoint .44 bullets flatten on impact and seldom penetrate deep.
    Either way, White still isn't recommending the .44-caliber Magnum as a bear gun. He is also getting rid of his own, even less powerful .357-caliber Magnum handgun.
    "I definitely want something bigger,'' he said.
    White still finds himself rehashing the events regularly.
    "I haven't had any nightmares,'' he said. But the memory remains vivid.
    "My senses were crazy,'' he said. "I didn't hear any sounds. I didn't smell anything. I had a kind of tunnel vision.
    "The photo of the entire attack area, it's like maybe 15 feet across. But it seemed like the bear was way out there, and Reed was far away. Your senses all go crazy.''

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  • kingfisherktn
    ADN Article

    Will someone post the article for those who don't have a ADN available.



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  • Hawken54
    Handgun choices for Alaska

    Check out the story in todays Anchorage Daily Newspaper about the bear attack on the hunters in Dillingham. It answers this question rather well................................

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  • WinMag_300
    Originally posted by Hawken54 View Post
    The hunter was an airman from Eielson in Fairbanks and shot the bear on Hinchinbrook Island. Nobody was eaten and it is an internet hoax. The bear is real, but not the story...........
    Too bad some people use their creative energies for hoaxes.

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  • mooseeker
    I like the Ruger Redhawk 44 mag. 320 Gr. My brother has the 500 it is a nice gun does not kick bad but is a lot of gun to carry. One buddy of mine has the 480 nice gun is to shoot not to much bigger then the 44. I was going to buy the 480 but I am looking at the 460 but not just for defence but a pistol I want to hunt with it as well.

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  • SoldotnaDave
    Whoops my bad then.

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  • Hawken54
    Killer bear hoax

    The hunter was an airman from Eielson in Fairbanks and shot the bear on Hinchinbrook Island. Nobody was eaten and it is an internet hoax. The bear is real, but not the story...........

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