|Todd Orr Relied on Bear Spray instead of the Pistol he had with him|
While discussing the effectiveness of pistols to defend against bear attacks, a consistent theme is the claim that pistols are not effective, are difficult to use, and that many more people who use handguns are badly mauled than use pistols successfully. I tried to recall an incident where someone used a pistol in defense against a bear, where it did not work. I could not remember one, so I posted this request in response to the claim. From freerepublic.com:
“Actually, there are legions of people who have been badly mauled after using a handgun on a bear. Even some of the vaunted magnums.”I never received a response. I believe the claim was made in good faith. There has been an enormous amount of propaganda, fantasy, and electrons sprayed out there to spread the claim. There does not seem to be much substance to it.
OK, give us a few examples. As you claim “legions”, it should not be too hard.
I engaged in an Internet search for instances where use of a pistol in defense against bears did not work. I found one discredited urban legend about someone finding six .38 bullets in a bear skull. I was not successful in finding instances of failure. That does not mean there has never been a failure. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But it indicates that failures of a pistol defense against bears are rare.
In contrast, there have been a number of successful uses of pistols as a defense against bear attacks in the last few years. Here are nine from the last three years.
AZ: Bow Hunter Uses Handgun to Stop Unprovoked Bear Attack In Sept, 2016
PAYSON, AZ - Authorities found two bear cubs after an archery deer hunter fatally shot an adult female bear with a handgun when it charged him in the Payson area.
AK: Successful Bear Attack Defense with .44 Magnum (Aug 7, 2016)
“We immediately found ourselves in a confrontation,” Kluting said. “She ended up turning around and for a split second we thought she would leave – but then she turned back and came at us full charge.”
Kluting fired off a warning shot into the creek. At that point the sow was 15 yards away.
“She ran through that without even flinching,” he said.
So Kluting aimed in the middle of the brown blur, now about 3 yards away.
“I barely had time to get the hammer back for another shot before she reached me,” he said.
She collapsed in the river about 5 feet – two steps – away from them.
On 29 July, 2016, about 4 p.m. Kim Woodman used a 10 mm in an effective defense
Kim had a Glock model 20 10 mm pistol with him. He was able to stop the attack by shooting the bear as it charged at him. While backing away from the charging bear, Kim tripped and fell backward. He instinctively attempted to fend off the bear with his foot, while he concentrated on firing the shots that saved his life. The last shot was just short of contact. It probably hit the bear in the chest, but also took off the tip of one of Kim's toes.
AK: Guide Kills Attacking Grizzly with 9mm
In the last week in July, 2016, Phil Shoemaker had use a 9mm pistol to kill a grizzly that was threatening his clients and himself. It worked.
ID: Bear Attack on Sleeping Man Stopped with a .45 Pistol (Oct 2015)
Steven Vouch reached for his gun when he realized he was being attacked, but it wasn't there. That is when his friend shot the bear with a .45. Vouch is on the left in the Cowboy hat.
AK: Details on Charging Kodiak stopped with a .44 Mag Revolver (July 2015)
The bear was roughly 9 feet tall and started its charge at about 20 yards away. The man shot the bear by the time it moved half that distance, Svoboda said.
"It all happened in really tight quarters," he said. "He shot at it five times before it finally stopped and then once it was on the ground, it was still moving. So he shot it one more time and then it died."
MA:Handgun Defense against Black Bear (Nov 2014)
WEST SPRINGFIELD - A Sikes Avenue man shot and killed a black bear with single pistol-shot to the head Friday night after it started to go after his small dog, police said.
Glacier National Park: Bear first sprayed, then shot with a .357 (July 2014)
Murphy first sprayed bear spray at the bear when it was 15 to 25 feet away, firing one shot from his .357 revolver when the bear had approached to within 7-10 feet. The bear was charging uphill at the time. He only fired one round at the bear, which fell back and stopped moving when shot. Many have suggested that he should have continued firing, but it is hard to argue with success.
AK: .45 vs 9-Foot Brown Bear (July, 2014)
Many people claim that handguns are useless for protection against bears. Numerous examples have shown that this is a false notion. Handguns may not be ideal as defensive weapons for bears, but they can be effective. In a defensive situation, you have to use what is available. In this case, a homeowner in Alaska used a .45 against a brown bear that was trying to get into his house on July 7th of this year. He and his son were in the home. He had scared off the animal with some warning shots just three hours before.
I could have missed some instances of bear defenses with a handgun. Several instances of bear defenses do not identify the firearm used.
I contacted Dave Smith, prominent author and bear attack expert. Dave was not able to recall an incident where a pistol defense against bears had failed. We talked about the study Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska.
In that study, the authors report they included 37 instances of a handgun being present when a bear attacked a human. The instances were collected over a period from 1883 to 2009. They recorded 6 failures to stop the attack out of the 37 instances. That would be an 84% success rate.
Dave Smith said that data from the voluminous Defense of Life and Property reports in Alaska were part of what was searched for the 269 incidents used in the study. There were over a thousand DLP reports from 1986 to 1996, with over 100 reports a year being added at that time.
Unfortunately, exactly what criteria was used to include some reports and exclude others was not stated in the paper. Dave Smith told me that attempts to obtain the data set used for the Efficacy paper have been rebuffed. A red flag against the validity of a study is when the authors will not release their data. It appears that Todd Orr's case (top picture), where he chose bear spray instead of his pistol, would have been counted as a pistol failure. The pistol was there when he was attacked, and he did not successfully use it to stop the attack.
Where are the instances of pistol defense failures against bears? According to the mythology, there should be numerous instances available.
Please help us find these cases.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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