(a slightly odd question, but it's in the news, and I've hiked and camped in areas with black bear attacks) 


Usually you hear about large caliber handguns, but what about a typical AR? 


Would something like 855 be decent to punch some holes? Would my duty ammo (the popular LE 62g Speer 223) because it has intermediate penetration

Original Post

If you shoot a bear with 5.56mm, in most cases if he leaves, it is because he wants to.  If he wants to chew a piece off your ass, he will proceed to do so because now he is sore.  5.56mm will certainly kill a bear, it just won't do it quickly.  That requires big holes.


Here's the thing about bears.  If they don't want any problems, loud noise will drive them off unless they have become acclimated to people and the noises we make.  The ones you find raiding garbage cans and such.  If he won't run from a noise, now things have stepped up a notch to a whole new level of uncertainty.  He may run when shot with anything, but then you have a wounded animal that needs to be dealt with.  On the other hand, if it chooses not to run, he'll get an adrenaline dump that will enable him to do a lot of damage before blood loss causes him to give up.  Bigger holes mean more blood loss.  You also need to consider sufficient penetration to reach the vitals and I wouldn't trust 5.56mm to do it.


Which brings us to handguns.  There have been plenty of bears killed with .357 and .44 mag.  But the ones that were being hunted don't count.  Essentially, the bear was ambushed and they usually flee at first and bears have been killed with a .22LR under those circumstances.  If he is being aggressive and determined, I would be much happier with a .44mag than a .357.  Heavier, bigger bullet and more penetration.  But they still don't come close to 12ga slugs or big-bore rifles.



Swear allegiance to the flag Whatever flag they offer

Never hint at what you really feel

Teach the children quietly For some day sons and daughters

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Joined:  2/24/2003                          Location:  Nevada, USA

There is a reason Alaskan guides typically run 12 ga. shotguns with Brenneke slugs or short .45-70's with deep penetrating loads to protect their clients.  Those or a rifle in .338 or larger would make optimal defense weapons against BIG bears.  Obviously, in a pinch you use what you have.  If you don't have the above weapons, then bonded loads in .30 cal and smaller rifles are the way to go for hunting/defending against larger animals.  5.56 mm would NOT be my first choice for a bear rifle in Alaska and skip handguns as a primary wilderness defensive tool...


Lower 48 state Black bears are a different story.  They are not like BIG Alaskan or Canadian bears.  12 ga is still great, but you could also get by with a bonded .30 cal rifle load or likely even a .44 Mag if necessary. 5.56 mm would still not be my first choice for a black bear, but if it is all I had, I'd want 62 gr TBBC (T3) or 64 gr Nosler bonded (Win RA556B) in the rifle.

If by a typical AR, you mean a 308, then yes, you can find some adequate loads, specifically bonded loads.


Of course, a 12 ga loaded with Brenneke slugs works well. 


Both of these are options when camping or staying in a cabin. Not so sure how well it would work to go hiking with a long gun, without running into legal issues, depending on the area. 




Joined: 4-23-04                                          Location: SW Ohio

Advise from an Alaskan Park Ranger was a 12ga with 00 buck. Of course when I was up there, the local paper had a picture of a woman and a brown she had killed with a .375 H&H



The .45-70 is the only government I trust



Joined: 1/30/06 3:34 PM - Location:MA

Thick fur, hide, dense muscles, and big bones- no not the chick that you pick up at the Enlisted Men's club near 0200....bears!


You should be looking at hard bullets that have controlled expansion to get deep enough to do the right kind of damage. 


Here's a video of a simulated bear charge by UDAP (who sells IMO the best spray).




After viewing that you have to commit to one defense- spray or supreme marksmanship?  There is no magic bullet for a bear.  There is no wonder spray for a bear that works in all conditions.  I give my best chances to bear spray.



~~~ Don't look for conspiracy where incompetence is obvious! ~~~



Old .mil buddy carried a chromed .50AE Desert Eagle in a tanker holster over his waders to protect the folk he guided for his fly fishing charter business in AK. Grizzlies.


Like was said, bears who don't flee upon you yelling & chucking shit at them must immediately be assumed to be an imminent threat.


Only saw three bears over 27 years in my time here in FL. Which brings me to my point: when you see one bear - ask yourself - where are the other two? 

Endeavor to be emulable, not suck, persevere, and, imbue ostrobogulousness. 

So, I'll preface this by saying I grew up in Alaska, and I used to sell guns to people for this express purpose.


There is a world of difference between black and grizzly bears.The way to think about black bears, is, what gun would I want to take down an angry 400 pound guy? The way to think about grizzlies is, what gun would I want to take down an angry dinosaur? As someone already said, 12G slug, 45-70 are the most typical guide guns. 


Bear spray is crazy (stupid). The range at which it works means they are already on top of you, and 1500 point omnivores don't move on a dime. .44 with 300 grain hard cast loads is the most common handgun.


5.56 is also crazy. Even if you could get 20" penetration, that isn't heart or lungs, and you need bone smashing, deep penetration.




UPDATE: Bear Kills Rutgers University Student in West Milford NJ Area
Rutgers confirms the student was killed after running away from the bear; Darsh Patel was the second RU student to die tragically on Sunday.

A Rutgers University student was killed after being attacked by a black bear as he hiked through a nature preserve in North Jersey Sunday, authorities say.

Rutgers student Darsh Patel, 22, was the second university student to die tragically on Sunday. Rutgers University is offering grief counseling following the possible alcohol-related death of a 19-year-old university sophomore from South Brunswick.

Patel, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in information technology and informatics, was killed in the bear attack Sunday while hiking with friends in a wooded area near West Milford.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said Patel’s death in the Apshawa Preserve is the first fatal bear attack recorded in New Jersey in 150 years.

“As we grieve over his tragic passing, please know that our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones and to all his friends and fellow students at Rutgers,” said Richard L. Edwards, chancellor, Rutgers-New Brunswick.

Five friends from Edison were hiking in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford Sunday when they came across a bear, the Associated Pressreported. The friends ran in different directions and after regrouping, they noticed one of their friends was missing.

Patel’s body was found by a search team. Evidence suggested he had been attacked by a bear, AP reported.

A bear at the scene was euthanized. The investigation is still ongoing.

"Experienced cops don't have 'hunches'. They have superior observational and analytical skills which allow them to make the connection between otherwise innocuous facts, and take appropriate action to assess that perception."

~ Doug Mitchell


Life is Good!

Joined: 03/08/2008     Location: Sandy Hook, NJ

I guided in AK for 6 years.  Never killed a bear that I had in a hurry to but I've put a few down.  I carried a Ruger Redhawk .44 for a long time, moved to a Desert Eagle .44 but mostly because I was young and it was cool.  My dad had a 454 for a while and I could never shoot it more than a few times before I was scared shitless it was going to come out of my hands so never carried it and I think he only did one season before going back to a .44.


I prefer a 12 ga (and have used it on 5 of 7 bears I've done) but they are a pain to carry when you're carrying fishing gear and helping someone else. I usually kept an 870 in the boat and for the occasional rowdy bear I'd grab it while guests got back in the boat. On the topic of 12 ga, people talk about 00 or 000 for bear. I wouldn't unless you plan on being really, really, really close and at that range I don't think it would make a difference with slugs or buck you will hit or miss regardless.


With modern firearms I really think the breaks they have make the .460 and 500's a cool option and I'd look hard at those if you have the money and it is going to be a dedicated bear gun.


I've shot black and brown's and some have gone down easy some hard, one black I shot took seven 12 ga sabots before it went down first one to the vitals with a total of three to vitals, final was a spinal shot (it was fluke just saw moving black fur and shot it) in thick brush as I was trying to locate him over the course of about 2 hours.  Never underestimate a determined bear, black or brown my $0.02.

"Shoot him twice here, once there, put the bodies in there, repeat as necessary." Marvin

Something I always like to remind folks of is that NA bear species can have tissues 2x as dense as a human...


...so 16-20" performance in the standard gel might be 8-10" in Br'er Bear. I think I'd rather have a .44M wheelgun with good loads than a 5.56 regardless of load used, even on a lower-48 black bear.


I'll try to find the book this weekend, but I have an older 'bear tales' hardcover that shows a grizzly skull dressed out with 2 or 3 standard .30-30 JSPs that either deflected or didn't penetrate adequately.


Condition Yellow: For a Longer, Happier Life

Jeff Hall, Alaska Trooper (ret) killed a polar bear using an M16A1 and M193 ball.
He took his rifle rather then a Native's bolt gun as he knew his gun worked.

Jeff, as some may recall, killed a serial killer, from a helo, after the perp shot Jeff's partner in the head, and splashing brains all over him.
I believe it was 18for 20.

In the early 70's, a NYPD cop in the Bronx Zoo shot and killed a polar bear with one round of .38 Special 158gr RNL.

The bear decided to put a stop to being tormented by a sub humanoid.

Me? I would have let the bear do what bears do.

Am I advocating .38 or 5.56 got killing bear? Nope, but never say never.

Wait- a college student killed by a bear in NJ??? The 1st in 150 years??
Sux to be that guy

The only way I'd have any faith at all, and very, very little at that would be M995AP fired from an M231 Port Firing Weapon. 1100 rounds per minute of AP ammo to the head might stop it in time.


I'm thinking I'd put more faith into a can of bear repellent though. 

My wife's cousin, Ron, was employed by AK Fish and Game and headed up the hatchery program. On an egg taking job on Admiralty Island, he was forced to shoot a brown bear with his .338 Win Mag. He hit it in the head at something like 25 yards. The thing went down in a heap.  Five minutes later it woke up and resumed its attack.  Apparently a shot in-between the shoulder blades put it down for good. When they skinned the bear they found the .338 slug had not penetrated the skull but rode the curve of the skull just under the skin and exited.  They are tougher critters. Don’t shoot them in the head.

I worked out of Kaktovic, Ak  for a summer with the Army Corps of Engineers on a White Alice cleanup doing polar bear security.  We used Remington 870s with Brenneke slugs on high base shells. The kicked like a SOB.  The firearms trainer said the slugs were a very hard alloy designed not to expand but penetrate. Luckily I never had to try them out.

A week before I left, I decided to take a walk after dinner. Being fully light and a clear day/night, I strolled by myself along the gravel of the Beufort Sea.  I sat down to watch the char and the sea ice.  I sat there for a half an hour then got up, retracing my steps back to the Waldo Arms Hotel.  As I began to walk back, I see my foot steps in the shore gravel.  Then, not thirty feet from where I was sitting, I see the huge tracks of a polar bear, on top of my tracks!  That bear had crept within thirty feet of me as I daydreamed on the shore!  Talking about crapping my pants!  I still get chills when I think about it. And no, I was not working so I didn't have the 870. The local natives talked about how crafty and sneaky polar bears were.  Absolutely true.  I have more stories but that’s enough.


Southern Oregon, the redneck part...

Joined 2/28/11

Bear Kills Rutgers University Student in West Milford NJ Area

I've camped and hiked in that area for years and run across bears on many occasions.Every single time they ran or kept their distance.


We were of course smart about food, garbage, time of year etc. And we respected what they could do.


So something doesn't smell right about this "attack".


We mostly carried 12 gauge w/slugs or old Marlin's with 45/70's


"Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset"         


"Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem"


Joined: 9/5/2011 Location: The Former Empire State, now The State of Anarchy



Not trying to play devil's advocate, but seriously curious as to how much of a difference 6.8 with something like 110gr TSX might be over 5.56 if one happened to encounter bears. Obviously it's still poor planning and less than optimal if in bear country without something bigger.

LGOP: a small group of "pissed-off American paratroopers" who are well trained, armed to the teeth, and lack serious supervision. They collectively remember the commander's intent as, "March to the sound of guns, and kill anyone who isn't dressed like you ..."

Along those same lines, what about an AR platform in .50 Beowulf?  Would that round be a decent choice or is it more of a novelty caliber?

"These are the rules. Everybody fights, nobody quits. If you don't do your job I'll kill you myself."


Joined: 04/01/2004     Location:  Twin Cities, MN

In the mid-late 70s and early 80s if you were TDYing to Alaska on exercise (at least in my limited experience) in a standard H-series MTOE airborne infantry company each squad would have two guys turn in their M16A1s and draw M14s loaded with standard ball.


My nephew works a fish hatchery in Alaska.  My choice when visiting is a Ruger Red Hawk in 45 Colt loaded with at least solid hard-cast 300-grainers, while the youngster has a 10mm Glock 20.

Originally Posted by LightScout:

Along those same lines, what about an AR platform in .50 Beowulf?  Would that round be a decent choice or is it more of a novelty caliber?

Big bores in AR's are no novelty.  I just used one chambered in 458 SOCOM on a recent black bear hunt.  It's pretty much a 45-70 packed into an AR platform, but with 10 fast shots.  The 300gr Barnes TTSX at 1900fps are hammers.  At 45yds the bullet passed thru exiting the off side shoulder.  Bullet was recovered in the rocks just beyond.




Aut Pax Aut Bellum

Fish and Game had to take a 200 lb black bear on Ft. Rich (pre JBear) that had many .45 acp rounds, .38 spl, 5.56 and 7.62 in it, they stopped counting at 30+.

US Fish and Wildlife issues 12 ga with slugs (usually Brenneke), 45/70 and for those in Polar Bear or coastal Brown Bear country a .375 H&H if they can shoot it.

When I was with Dept of Interior we were allowed to carry .44 Mag, or .41 Mag handguns, 12 ga shotguns with slugs and 30/06 or above, most guys carried a handgun and long gun, being fairly young and in shape.

.338 Win Mag was popular because gun were cheaper than the .375 H&H and so was ammo.

300 grn .338 Win Mag, later used the 250 grn Nosler which left a large wound channel and penetrated well.

Fauna is getting more aggressive, moose, wolves and bear so situational awareness is really necessary.

If you don't know they are there you will be reacting to an attack, usually you loose.

Big bullets that penetrate are preferred but marksmanship is the number one requirement.

Take a truck tire, paint four inch white squares on the tread, roll it down a hill at twenty yards and see how many you can hit in 1.5 seconds...that is an actual bear attack not a bluff charge.

Bears, wolves and moose operate in thousands and hundreds of seconds, we humans work in tenths.




Well.........while a 6.8 mm is likely better than a 5.56 mm for bears, especially lower 48 black bears, it would definitely not be my first choice for larger bear defense.  Likewise a .458/.50 AR15 is going to be better than a smaller caliber.


Nonetheless, I'll stick with my original comments above, that 12 ga. shotguns with Brenneke slugs, short .45-70's with deep penetrating loads, or handy rifles in .338 or larger make the optimal defense weapons against BIG bears. Again, in a pinch you use what you have......



I agree Doc, almost anything beats bare hands, but an effective caliber certainly gives an edge.

I don't do bear for the job anymore, thank G-d, but the Brenneke's and .338 stood me well when I did.

I finished off a largish black bear with a .44 Mag, shot to the head, Remington 240 gr soft point.

Worked well.

Always be prepared for a second, third, fourth or fifth shot.

Again, situational awareness is the key.


Originally Posted by LightScout:

Along those same lines, what about an AR platform in .50 Beowulf?  Would that round be a decent choice or is it more of a novelty caliber?


Have you found one that is actually reliable for more than one shot?


I have not seen a .50 Beowulf yet that was reliable. I am not saying they do not exist, but I have not seen it yet.

Originally Posted by LightScout:


Along those same lines, what about an AR platform in .50 Beowulf?  Would that round be a decent choice or is it more of a novelty caliber?


Buddy of mine from work just got back from a bear hunt up north. He used an AR in .450 Bushmaster to take a good sized black bear with one shot at ~75 yards. He says his sample of one runs fine, and the terminal effects impressed the hunting guide while examining the carcass.

"Experienced cops don't have 'hunches'. They have superior observational and analytical skills which allow them to make the connection between otherwise innocuous facts, and take appropriate action to assess that perception."

~ Doug Mitchell


Life is Good!

Joined: 03/08/2008     Location: Sandy Hook, NJ

Just an FYI, usually a charge will occur fairly close in versus a bluff charge so you would be better off with 2 3/4" Brennekes, lower recoil impulse would give you a chance to get a second shot off, won't happen with the 3" Brenneke because of the short time frame.

The 3" Brenneke is a real bruiser, it gives you extra range for deer, etc. but the recoil impulse may prevent you from getting another shot off...sometimes (very rarely thank G-d) more than one bear may charge, a gun still in recoil is useless.

Something to think about.

I have used the normal power 2 3/4" and have always had awesome penetration, even used the 2 5/8" and have had great penetration.


Good point! I'm not recoil sensitive (I top out at .458WM) but it does take a while to bring the gun back down out of recoil.


My uncle used to shoot them with a 10ga double. He'd put rotten salmon he got for free in a cave (my other uncle called it a cave, the one with the 10ga called it a blind) and blast them up close. But he's hardcore like that.

I found that 147gr ball from an 18" .308 toppled a 400 pound black bear. I'm sure you would be fine.


I will say however that if I hunted in the woods with a 30-06 I would load a 200gr bullet at 2500-2700fps and happily shoot that at every sort of big game until I died.

IMHO, it is shot placement that counts, them bullet construction and weight.

The Federal 30/06 and .308 ammo with the 165 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw is lethal, so is the following with that bullet weight: Remington Core LoKt Ultra, Barnes TSX, Swift Sirocco, Swift bonded partition style, Nosler Partition or Bonded, Honady GMX , etc.

Use a 180 grain in cup and core style, a 165 grain or 180 grain in the above premium ammo.

Our guys and gals took a moose, caribou, black bear and interior grizzly's with the above loads with no problems (used properly placed shots).

Several of our people used the Remington Core LoKt in 180 grain in both 30/06 and .308 and it worked just as it should, less costly than the premiums.

The 165 grain premium loads seem to have a little less recoil and some are up to 125+ fps faster so they get there a little quicker.

Shot placement is the key and the closer you get the better your chances.

Hunting the 1000 lbs plus coastal brown bears is a different story entirely.

For a while I was the designated bear shooter and trained a few of our folks (who luckily were already good hunters with solid backround) so I have pretty good idea of what works.

Natives in the interior consider a .243 Win a large gun for bear, of course the get mauled pretty regularly to.


Just a note, shooting a bear that hasn't been riled up does not take a lot of gun with proper shot placement.

Get one that is wounded, defending a kill or cubs and you have a problem.

We issue Marlin 95's in 45/70 or 12 gauge shotguns with Brenneke's for close defense against a charge, I used a either an H&K 91 in .308 with 180 grain Remington Core LKts or a .338 Win Mag heavy loads.

Never shot a bear with the H&K, it was more for people problems, .338 Win Mag worked as advertised.

30/06 and .308 work fine with proper ammo as above.


Art, thanks. That's what I like about this place. Someone always has first hand knowledge in anything important, if you get my drift. And, in other good news, I have about 200 rounds of Federal ammo with 180 grain Nosler partition. So I guess that's a good start. 

By the way, the concept of shot placement is deeply embedded, and helps as a bowhunter. It's all about the ethical shot.

Thanks guys. Ryan, do you have any pics?



"Life is Good!"

gulf1263 gave some good advice above.


Hunting black bear in the lower 48 states does not take much bullet--people have been successful with .357 mag and .44 mag handguns, let alone higher power rifles.  The problem occurs when you get an angry bear.  In such cases, something like a .308 or .30-06 firing non-fragmenting loads makes a whole lot more sense for lower 48 black bears.  Any barrier blind bullets appropriate for LE use work well, including the Federal TBBC/T-TBBC, Speer Gold Dot (and identical Federal Fusion), Rem Core Lokt Ultrabond, Nosler Accubond or Partition, Swift Scirocco II or A-Frame, as well as the all copper Barnes TSX/TTSX and Hornady GMX.


Defending against larger bears vs. hunting is a different proposition as discussed earlier in the thread--for that job, the best options are a 12 ga. with 2 3/4" Brenneke slugs, a .45-70 Guide Gun, or a heavy bolt action like a .338 or .375 assuming one can work the bolt fast enough...



Man injured, 2 bears killed after mauling near Kodiak

Tegan Hanlon



Swear allegiance to the flag Whatever flag they offer

Never hint at what you really feel

Teach the children quietly For some day sons and daughters

Will rise up and fight while we stood still


Joined:  2/24/2003                          Location:  Nevada, USA

Another article.  Ostrin mentions being advised to change out his ammunition after getting a deer and loading up with "heavy" bullets.



A man from Camas, WA, went to Alaska to hunt deer but ended up being hunted by a bear.

Jeff Ostrin, 38, shot and killed a bear Tuesday that was mauling his father-in-law, Mike Snowden, 68, of Sitka, Alaska.

Ostrin said they had just shot a deer on Sally Island, off of Kodiak Island, and they were making their way down a hill through thick brush when they heard rustling.

"We knew what direction it was coming from, but it came out so fast. It was a blink of an eye and Mike was down and the bear was on top of him, throwing him around. It was that fast," said Ostrin, by phone from Kodiak, where his father-in-law is recovering in the hospital. "The bear just really was chewing on him and got a big bite of his leg and was shaking his head back and forth and just kind of ripping into the flesh."

Ostrin said Snowden suffered significant muscle damage on one of his legs. Ostrin said Snowden had worked to free his pistol from its holster, but Ostrin was able to shoot the bear first with his rifle.

"It took me a couple of seconds before I could take a shot because I had to move a little bit so I could get a nice side shot and initially the bear was moving Mike around like a doll," Ostrin said.

Ostrin called their hunting companions on a boat in Uganik Bay and they called the Coast Guard, which sent a helicopter to airlift Snowden out of the wilderness for treatment.

While waiting for the rescue, another bear following the scent of the dead deer approached and Ostrin shot and killed that one too, thanks in part to the lessons learned from his father-in-law.

"What my father-in-law taught me was to have different types of bullets, and as soon as you kill a deer, you take out your deer bullets and you put in your heavy-weight bullets," said Ostrin, about being prepared in case of a bear attack.

He said it was an annual hunting trip, and they had never been threatened like this before. He said in the future, they would probably avoid areas with dense brush because they couldn't see the bear coming and that limited their ability to defend themselves.

Ostrin is scheduled to return to Camas on Friday but may come home sooner.

Read more: http://www.wfsb.com/story/2730...y-bear#ixzz3IJRtKBJd



Swear allegiance to the flag Whatever flag they offer

Never hint at what you really feel

Teach the children quietly For some day sons and daughters

Will rise up and fight while we stood still


Joined:  2/24/2003                          Location:  Nevada, USA

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