Thursday, March 14, 2019

Outdoor Writer Re-Thinks Pistols as a Defense Against Bears

Many people have a difficult time changing their minds once they have formulated an opinion, especially once they have committed to the opinion on the record. I am happy to say fellow writer Wes Siler is of better material than that. 

In a June, 2017 article, Wes was of the opinion that firearms, all firearms, were worthless as a defense against bears. He opined that, statistically speaking, a person, when attacked by a bear, was as well off without a firearm as with one. He depended on research which had some problems with selection bias. Wes, quite generously, quoted me correctly.  From
Like most tragedies, this one has become a canvas onto which various crackpots and special interests are painting their opinions. My favorite hot take has to be this one on the Truth About Guns, arguing that teenagers should pack heat while going on fun runs. “The runner was able and willing to carry a cellphone,” writes Dean Weingarten. “He could easily have carried a Ruger LCP II, which weighs about as much. Whether or not that would have been ‘enough gun’ for a black bear is not entirely germane. It would have given him a chance.”

Would carrying a small .380-caliber pistol have made a difference? A study of 269 bear encounters conducted in 2012 found that relying on a firearm (any firearm) as your primary line of defense gives you the same odds as carrying no defense whatsoever. Statistically speaking, Cooper was just as safe from bears running without a pistol as he would have been with one.
With a year and a half more experience available to Wes, as well as the salubrious effect of moving into grizzly bear territory in Bozeman, Montana, Wes has considered the evidence, and changed his mind. Good for him.  From
Having said all that, after completing Tactic’s training program (and others), I now carry a handgun in addition to bear spray each and every time I go somewhere there might be grizzly bears. And having completed the course, I know that gun might be the only tool I have capable of stopping a determined attack.

One of Tactic’s instructors actually survived a grizzly attack while elk hunting last year. A bear charged his hunting partner, who immediately deployed his bear spray. Unfortunately, the direction the bear was coming from was upwind, and the spray had no effect on the grizzly. Seeing that, the instructor drew his handgun and shot the bear dead. An investigation the next day ruled that shooting justifiable. The man saved his friend’s life.
The gun? A nine-millimeter Glock. It might be common to read on the internet that you need a huge revolver chambered in an impossibly powerful caliber to stop a bear, but based on real-world experience with bear attacks, Tactic teaches that it’s modern firearms and the modern shooting techniques they make possible that are most effective. 
Tactic sounds like an excellent course. It is only two days long and involves direct experience with a live, 850 lb trained grizzly.  Todd Orr is involved in the course. Having met Todd at the shot show, and interviewed him, I am sure he is an welcome addition.

I sent Wes a link to my research on how effective pistols are in defending against bears. Of the 37 instances I and associates were able to find at that time, only one was a failure.  That translated into a 97% success rate. Since then, we have found an additional 26 instances. The updated research will be published soon.

Unlike other researchers on the efficacy of firearms, my research includes a link to every incident, or a verifiable source. All the incidents have been verified as published in print or video. You can read about each incident and make up your own mind. The incidents are few enough in number that a purely statistical approach is not called for.

We have found bears can usually be stopped with ordinary pistol calibers. It is very likely that Patrick Cooper, the teen runner who was killed by a predatory black bear near Anchorage, Alaska, in 2016, would have been successful in defending himself against the bear, if he had a Ruger LCP. Patrick had time to get out his cell phone and text his parents he was being chased by a bear. He would have had plenty of time to draw a pistol and shoot the bear. The bear ran from his body as soon as it had been shot at and wounded.

Predatory black bears are easier to stop during an attack than grizzly bears, although black bears seem more resistant to bear spray.  There are several incidents where black bears have been sprayed and persist in their predatory behavior.

We have plenty of black bears. Every black bear who shows predatory interest in a human should be shot and killed. Bear spray is unlikely to stop the bear's next attack on a human victim. One of the great advantages of a pistol for bear defense is the high probability the bear will be killed.

Most bears, especially black bears that attack people are killed anyway, by governmental authorities. Better the bear be killed the first time it attacks someone.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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Anonymous said...

If you cant hit something where you want to hit it, I suggest practice until you can. Every gun has a different feel to it. carry the gun you feel best with. they put sights on a gun for a reason, use them. A smooth trigger pull keeps you on target. refine your technique and you will be able to put one bullet on top of the other, like I do.

Anonymous said...

Bears are of similar dimensions as humans.

Calibers that are sufficient for defense against humans should be similarly effective against bears. Larger calibers will be more effective, just as they are more effective against humans.

While wounded animals are dangerous to pursue, shooting an animal may be sufficient to cause it to slow or retreat.

Anonymous said...

I take it some people know very little about hunting, weapons or ammo.