Thursday, March 12, 2015

An Interesting "What If"

Of course the Internet is full of "what if" gun scenarios, up to and including a EMP that triggers a zombie outbreak in the middle of an economic collapse during the worst snow storm in history. Over at the All For Guns blog, the guys spun up an off-grid living in Alaska battery:
Consider what the Alaskan DNR says about it: "Select a gun that will stop a bear (12-gauge shotgun or .300 mag rifle) and practice firing it at a rifle range." When the people who don't want you to shoot a brown bear tell you to bring a big gun, you'd better listen. Let's not forget that the Coastal Brown Bears of Alaska are the four legged apex predator of North America. Ranging 800-1,400 pounds for grown males, which is bigger than a Rocky Mountain (inland) Grizzly by a good bit. They can and will kill anything they find appropriate in the moment. And they are meat eaters. People are made of meat. You don't want to find yourself looking eye level at a brown bear that's standing on all fours and then wish you had brought a bigger gun. That's like swimming in the ocean and then wishing you had a boat when a Great White swims past you.

Interesting "what if" story…since I own or have owned most of the firearms mentioned (except the Mosin, which IMHO make excellent lamp stands), have spent some time in Alaska and presently live 100% off-grid in Colorado, I thought I'd throw in my own $0.02-worth!

My current "hiking gun" is a 2.75-inch Redhawk .44 magnum (44 ounces, rather than the 47 ounce 4-inch). It is generally loaded with hot Buffalo Bore .44 Specials. In the spring and late fall, when our local bears are either hungry or grumpy (probably the same thing), I switch to a Ruger Alaskan in .454 Casull and Corbon hunting loads. If/when I go back to Alaska for a visit, I'll be taking the Alaskan. While I love the looks of the S&W 69 (and own several 29/629 revolvers), it is a BEAR to shoot, even with 240-gr JHPs, the baseline .44 Magnum loads. I shutter to think how the little L-Frame would handle with heavy bullet heavy loads.

As you guys already nowI used the Ruger Guide Gun in .300 Win Mag in Africa on plains game, and it worked great on an eland the size of a Prius (call it 1500 lb) and various zebra. It is my number 1 go-to rifle. I took it to FTW Ranch in Texas and spent 3 days and 300 rounds at distances from 300-800 yards. I like the .300 Win Mag over the .338 for ammo availability and versatility. My producer John Carter used a .338 Guide Gun in Africa, and he ended up severely limited in bullet choice (for example, I was using Hornady GMX bullets, which performed spectacularly; he was limited to Hornady SSTs, which proved to have not as much penetration). If I was specifically hunting brown bear (I wish!) I would go with something heavier…I've shot the Guide Gun in .416 Ruger, and given my familiarity with that platform I'd probably go that way.

Within the Lower 48, I'll always default to my .308 GUNSITE Scout…lighter, crazy accurate, incredible ammo versatility/availability, including the spectacular Hornady TAP anti-personnel ammo and the various A-Max match ammo.

Shotgun-wise, I wouldn't ever argue the 870 12-gauge. My 870 is one of the old Remington Police models, which had almost no plastic parts, rebuilt by Hans Vang, the greatest shotgun mechanic on earth. The modern selection of 12-gauge rounds pretty much negates the advantages of the Vang Comp system. My personal 870 is loaded with Hornady TAP #00 buckshot backed up with Remington Reduced Recoil Slugs, which shoot really well in that gun.

If I was going to a semi auto shotgun, I think I'd probably default to a Benelli M4. i shoot a Rem VersaMax in 3-Gun (and a Benelli Nova pump for the Heavy Metal division), but I have spent a lot of time at Benelli in Italy going through the design parameters of the M4, and it's impressive. The gun was designed from the grind up for the Marines, which pretty much says it all!

Your thoughts?


_DonWorsham_ said...

Since the 300 Mag did so well in Africa, why consider anything else for Brown Bear? Use the money (by not getting the Guide gun in .416) on another venture.

I'm still hoping to shoot hogs one day with my Ruger American .308 w/Redfield scope when a certain family member gets off his duff and puts a hunt together.

Anonymous said...

Bears of any kind scare the hell out of me. If I were hiking in Alaska Id carry at least a 375 H&H
Gerard in CT

Anonymous said...

Parts of Alaska get pretty thick- even up on the North Slope there can be close thickets along the river valleys. Something short and easy to carry is my preference. With a big bore- usually a 12 ga with Brenneke slugs. An encounter is likely to be swift and close. A slung rifle or holstered handgun may be late to the job.
And situational awareness goes a long way- think about the wind.

nj larry said...

Thoughts??? ....hmmm....I just keep thinking Hugh Glass.....

Bruce in alaska said...

As one who lives in Bush Alaska, I enjoyed your sentiments... There is NO handgun big enough to be considered "Bear Protection" in Alaska, PERIOD... Anyone who thinks so is deluded, or just uneducated. 12 Ga Pump Shotgun, or at minimum, 45:70 Guide Gun will do. When will the FlatLanders, finally figure this out? Not until the Writers start writing the "Truth" about Bush Alaska, and the animals that live here.....

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

@Bruce in Alaska; Bruce, if a short barreled .45-70 is _minimum_, what easily portable rifle would you consider adequate? 75MM recoilless rifles are getting scarce......not trying to start a war, but since you live in that AO, what are your opinions, other than mine, which is "stay the hell out of Yogi's way!"

Overload in Colorado said...

Is the 'new' ?300 Winchester Short Magnum a worthy replacement for a .300 Win Mag? Any advantages to WSM other than fitting into a short action gun? Is it woth any tradeoffs?

Matthew said...

Speaking as a lifelong Alaskan, the idea of a "one shot stop" on a bear is as idiotic as on a human, too many personality and other variables involved.

So, like with people, you find a balance between portability, shootability, and penetration.

No one would make a pistol their first choice for bear protection, given a choice, but you seldom get that choice. If you have time to get to the preferred weapon the bear in question probably doesn't need shooting.

Unlike any rifle or shotgun, you can put a .44 Mag, etc in a chest holster and forget about it while doing any Alaskan outdoor activity, including doing what bears do in the woods. It is also out of the way in the alders and brush.

Every year the cheechakos come up and buy .458's and 8" .454's cause they're scared of bears. They then go on sale with one cylinder/mag shot at the end of the summer. Just too much gun to shoot enough to get skilled with and too much of a pain in the ass to actually carry or have within arms reach 24/7 in the woods.

The gun is for when being smart fails, which, again, just like defense against people, will always be at close range and almost never in a situation of your choosing (or tough guy fantasies).

Given the dearth of attacks, I'd be willing to bet that statistically handguns have stopped, and failed to stop, as many attacking bears as have shotguns and rifles.

The key is a load with sufficient penetration (hardcast loads, I'd say .44 caliber over 1,000 FPS minimum, I carry a .460 Rowland with the 255 Buffalo Bore or equivalent handloads, but I'd use a heavy .357 if it was all I had).

These aren't creatures out of Tolkein, they're bears, be bear smart, have spray as a primary defense against the curious, and know that you are only going to have bare seconds to react to a real dangerous bear.

Beyond that, enjoy the damn woods. There is no place more beautiful in so many different ways.

Michael Bane said...

Overload, I guess I'm more conservative than I think I am. While the .300 WSM has that big advantage for size, look what you give up on versatility. The .300 Win Mag is as common as dirt, which is a plus when we have a year like we did last year...or you're traveling and your ammo doesn't make it. I know you're a 30-06 guy for the same reason.

I have what I think of as the "nuclear family" of .30 cals — the .308, the .300 Win Mag and for days when I just feel stupid, the .300 Ultra Mag. I'm trying to plan a NZ red stag hunting trip for this year, and I suspect the Ultra Mag will get the nod for its ability to reach out a bit farther than the .300 Win Mag.

As for bears, we only have little ones here in CO...if you recall, my only bear encounter in the last few years was when a big one pissed on the porch of the old Secret Hidden Bunker. Bear piss really stinks! But my general policy to to err on the side of bigger. I'm much more likely to stumble into a mountain lion here, so you could easily argue that a .357 is all good for lion or coyotes (speaking of which, I saw a HUGE one a couple of days ago...of course he was in full coat, and had he been on my property I think he would now be on his way to becoming a hat. But my thinking is that if I'm going to carry the weight of a revolver on my belt, I'd like to have the caliber begin with a ".4." My Redhawk .44 is about 4 ounces heavier than a 4-inch GP-100 (although a full half pound heavier than a Wiley lapp 3-inch).

And BTW Anon, on being in the thick, that is a very good point. Today I walked Newt on some of our less appealing land here at the Bunker's rocky broken ground, steep and heavy in underbrush. I was thinking about your point while bushwhacking with the beagle. The .44 was on my hip, but I was thinking that in the heavy underbrush a chest holster would be about a thousand times more convenient if I actually had to pull the thing. Secondly, I was reminded of how much a hip holster hangs up in the brush.


Michael Bane said...

Matthew...great comment!


PS: Yes the .454 SUCKS BALLS to shoot (and I have a little over 100 rounds sitting by my desk for an upcoming test), but in the end it's all repetition...and the carpel tunnel syndrome will eventually heal! LOL!

Overload in Colorado said...

Matthew's comment reminded me of something: wasn't there going to be a pistol hunting TV show?

I'm more of a .308 guy, actually. However, I've barely dipped my foot into medium caliber rifle waters. That's why I asked about WSM. I don't have anything more powerful than .308 and am sort of looking for something longer range.

Currently, the only bigger than .30 I have are REPR, Ishapore SMLE .308, and M1A.(all in .308)
(I'm not counting .30 carbine or 7.62x39 as medium caliber)

Anonymous said...

Years ago I saw a summer job ad for building fish ladders for the Park Service in some remote part of Alaska. One of the requirements for the job was 'must carry a .375 H&H rifle at all times'.

Those jobs were advertised all the way down to Texas.

Alien said...

If one had to depend on a handgun in Alaska I think I'd lean toward an S&W 500 Magnum, probably the 6.5" barrel (a 5 to 5 1/2 inch would be optimum for carrying), accompanied by a 18-20 inch barreled lever rifle in the same caliber. IIRC, Jim West mentioned a while back that WWG was making, or could, make such a rifle (I don't see it on their web site, though).

Cor-Bon makes a 440 grain hard cast hunting round for the 500 that I chronographed out of a friend's 4 inch 500 (really, a 3 inch with a comp) at nearly 1550 fps. That's velocity and mass equal to a full power one ounce 12 gauge slug. (And even though 12 were in the package, one of those off the bench was more than enough....)

Sheepdog1968 said...

If I were going to bring a defensive rifle to Alaska it will be my Marlin 1895 in 47-70 with some Garret cartridges. Since it was a 2011 model I immediately sent it to Grizzly Custom to fix all of the screw ups that Remington did to it . Since then it went to Wild West Guns to get a 16.5" barrel. I had a local gun smith give it a 12.75" lop. The trigger is stock. I like it a lot.

For a hand gun it'd bring a 44 magnum either from S&W or Ruger.

In the lower 48 my Marlin 336 in 30-30 is my go to rifle for hunting with Hornady. It has a 2.5x scope and XS iron sights. It went to Jim Brockman for a slightly enlarged lever loop and a 16.75" barrel. I shoot it a lot and it has been to quite a few rifle classes with me.

Typically my backup handgun is a full sized polymer striker fired pistol which carries buffalo bore 45 ACP hard casts. If I got really ambitious I'd switch to a Glock 10 mm with some hard cast ammo.

I'm happy with my choices but I think I had an abnormal fondness for lever actions. I would love to add a BLR and Taylor take down to the mix but it would be frowned upon by the spousal unit.

For a shotgun it would be a Mossberg 500 with Breneke deep penetrating slugs (I forget what they are called). As for a semi auto, ummm, it would still be my Mossberg 500. I'm not so wild about semi autos but the Beneli M4s seem to be robust.

Publicola said...

I started handloading for two reasons; one was to have full power FMJ's in .40S&W (The other was Garand food). A .40 was all I had at the time, and I reasoned a full strength FMJ might be adequate for bear around here (see the "all I had" part), & I could find no factory loaded FMJ's that weren't the economy stuff at 900 fps or thereabouts.

Since then I've went 10mm & carry a spare mag with hot FMJ handloads for those times when Yogi wanders into the suburbs. (Insert old lament about Ruger not making their Police Carbine in 10mm...)

For bruins around these parts I think a 10mm loaded hot is as good as I can get in a semi-auto without going all exotic (those Automags & Desert Eagles are pricey, ya know). There are better choices for bear (.44's, .454's, etc) but a 10 is a good all around 2 & 4 legged predator deterrent. Around here. For Alaska I'd prefer something that fired by puling a long string.

Which brings me to an old rant that lands me firmly in the "crazy old uncle" camp: the bayonet.

When out & about in places where you can find yourself up close & personal with a half ton of fur & fury, having a knife on the end of your long gun doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Sure, with a 10" blade you'll negate some of the compactness that makes brush crawling easier (& a 5" blade is proof that commies infiltrated out Dept. of War...), but if you run out of ammo or time having an awkward spear seems a better last ditch defense than having an awkward club.

All that being said, Garand. You can argue that the '06 ain't enough for big brown bears (though I think 8 rounds of AP would find the vitals) but the late McCann made 'em in .338 Win Mag & .458 Win MaG, and Shuffin is currently making them in .35 Whelen, in both full sized & carbine (16" bbl) versions.

I'm not a revolver guy but for Alaska I'd lean towards a Redhawk in .45 Colt loaded heavy, maybe even a .454 Casull. An 870 would be fine (especially with bayonet lug) unless I convince myself that I really need a 10 gauge (& can find a shoulder surgeon who'll finance). & of course, a Garand or two. One full length, the other a Mini-G (Shuffin's carbine version). I'm still thinking '06 may be cool enough, but if I really had doubts I'd move to the .35 Whelen & not lose any sleep over it.

Bill Lester said...

With respect to the Mosin-Nagant, as an owner of one I must disagree.

They don't even make a good lamp stand.

Unknown said...

Here is a story of being under-gunned for bear.