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Old 09-13-2011, 08:14 PM
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I was trekking the woods around my farm this weekend when I was scared stiff. A younger, but fairly large black bear had happened to wonder into the thicket about 75 yards down hill.
Armed only with my 638 J frame (I was expecting coyotes at worst!) I didn't even ponder shooting the large beast.
As luck would have it, he went along his way without noticing me.
However, should I run into his parents I don't feel certain I would get that lucky again.
The largest caliber I have atm is .357, which I feel a well placed series of shots just might do the trick.
However, I am not a handloader, and don't think hollowpoints have the penetration I would desire.
I was hoping someone with more experience in big game could recommend some factory ammo that could get me out of a tight spot.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:15 PM
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Keep in mind these are low populations of bears in forested hills of Virginia, not the monster bruins you'd see farther north.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:36 PM
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I'm not a hunter, but if you want the most powerful factory loads for your gun Buffalo Bore would probably be a good place to start. I think they have loads specifically designed for big game hunting in addition to their self-defense loads.

If you contact them they might even be able to recommend a good load for your needs.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:39 PM
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Thanks Continental, I'd heard the name associated with large game hunting but was unsure whether or not they dealt with intermediate cartridges like the .357
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VaRecon View Post
I was trekking the woods around my farm this weekend when I was scared stiff. A younger, but fairly large black bear had happened to wonder into the thicket about 75 yards down hill.
Armed only with my 638 J frame (I was expecting coyotes at worst!) I didn't even ponder shooting the large beast.
As luck would have it, he went along his way without noticing me.
However, should I run into his parents I don't feel certain I would get that lucky again.
The largest caliber I have atm is .357, which I feel a well placed series of shots just might do the trick.
However, I am not a handloader, and don't think hollowpoints have the penetration I would desire.
I was hoping someone with more experience in big game could recommend some factI carry and use these loadsory ammo that could get me out of a tight spot.
The absolute best Factory 357 Magnum "Bear Load" ammunition is the HSM® 180gr RNFL Gas Check. Ballistics are 1489fps and 886fpe (#HSM-357-18-N). Second best is Buffalo Bore® 180gr LFN-GC @ 1400fps and 783fpe (#19A/20). I carry and shoot these loads in my 4" 686- No Dash. They are both superb in all respects.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:51 PM
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I would also ask what kind of .357 are we talking? Are we talking about another J-frame, a K-frame, a big N-frame or something from another company? You are going to want a cast bullet, 158-160 grains or better doing about 1,300 or better. Keep in mind that you still want to be able to maintain control. The hottest round in the world means nothing if you can't put the bullet on target. Buffalo Bore is ok, just make sure your gun can handle it and that you can accurately put that bullet on target.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badge 851 View Post
The absolute best Factory 357 Magnum "Bear Load" ammunition is the HSM® 180gr RNFL Gas Check. Ballistics are 1489fps and 886fpe (#HSM-357-18-N). Second best is Buffalo Bore® 180gr LFN-GC @ 1400fps (#19A/20)
The above is very good information. One further thought... do you have a shotgun? A 12ga. loaded with modern high performance slugs will give remarkable on heavy game animals.
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Old 09-13-2011, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David LaPell View Post
I would also ask what kind of .357 are we talking? Are we talking about another J-frame, a K-frame, a big N-frame or something from another company? You are going to want a cast bullet, 158-160 grains or better doing about 1,300 or better. Keep in mind that you still want to be able to maintain control. The hottest round in the world means nothing if you can't put the bullet on target. Buffalo Bore is ok, just make sure your gun can handle it and that you can accurately put that bullet on target.
I agree the type of .357 does make a huge difference. My guess is the Buffalo Bore ammo exceeds spec's for the .357 round. Some of the big bulky guns like Freedom Arms or even the big clunky Rugers can probably handle it OK. So will the N frame guns.

But remember there's always a trade off. The bigger and heavier the gun, the less likely you are to always carry it. If you select ammo that pounds your hand, or you can't shoot accurately, the less effective it will be.

Most authorities suggest you not use hollow points. The reason being bears are big and fat and tough. They also have heavy bones the bullet may need to break to get to vital area's. In the past, ammo makers offered twin loads in most bullet weights, one a hollow point, the twin being a soft point. If you want to defend yourself against a criminal, you selected the hollow point. For a big mean critter, the soft point was your ticket. And equally good round is a full throttle hard cast bullet.

Depending on your individual revolver, hard cast may be OK, or it may lead your bore miserably.

What I'd do is suggest you scout around and buy a box of 50 brand name rounds. I'd pick 158 grain over the 180s if only because they're easier to find. Then you need to go out on your farm and shoot them up. See if you can hit what you aim at (everyone can't.) As a bonus, it may scare or disturb the bear and convince him other places are more hospitable.

There aren't all that many black bear attacks on humans. When they view a person as a meal, there's very little you can do. He'll be on you like stink on.... never mind. You'll never get the gun out to use it. Bears are big, strong, and fast. I read all I can find on them.

The last one I know about was down in the Smokies. It was a woman who was taken while her husband or companion was fishing down over a hillside. Then when he came back, the bear didn't want to give up his supper. The rangers killed the bear while it was still on the body. Apparently multiple rounds does a good job (just like on humans.)

The folks who classify such things separate bear attacks into predatory attacks, where you're the meal, and protective attacks, where the bear is just protecting its young or an earlier kill. Most of us would be thrilled to see an animal like the one you saw. But I agree with your sense of insecurity and decision to arm yourself with a bigger gun. I think it was in the movie Jaws where the guy said "we're going to need a bigger boat."
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:52 AM
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When hiking in Bear Country I carry my 3" M65 loaded with Buffalo Bore 180 Grain SWCL .357 Magnum, (HEAVY). That's about the best you will find in .357 "bear loads".

I would not set out on a Bear Hunt with a .357, but I do feel that the BB 180 will do what I need it to to against Black Bear (which is what I encounter) should the SHTF. 1,302 fps out of a 3" bbl is really hot for a 180 grain bullet. I WOULD NOT recommend shooting it out of a J-Frame........that's for sure! A K-frame is a minimum IMHO.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:04 AM
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I live in black bear country and have spoken to Fish and Game officers who also hunt. They all recommend not to shoot a bear with a handgun but carrying a shotgun may not be possible. They recommended a minimum of a hot-loaded hard cast SWC in .44 Magnum. If limited to a .357 Magnum (they now carry Glock 22's) they would use the same type platform, i.e. heavy hard cast SWC at the highest velocity you can find. Buffalo Bore ammo comes instantly to mind; Federal also makes similar hunting loads. Shoot for the face since the orbits (eye sockets), the nose, and the mouth are relatively soft targets. Shooting the chest/torso is a waste of time since bears have a built-in bulletproof vest on. A moving bear makes a challenging target. Practice-practice-practice! Good luck.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VaRecon View Post
I was trekking the woods around my farm this weekend when I was scared stiff. A younger, but fairly large black bear had happened to wonder into the thicket about 75 yards down hill...
It doesn't take much to trigger a BEAR THREAD!

I am not a bear hunter and don't know too much about them, but I wouldn't worry with a good, modern .357 factory load with a 158-grain or heavier bullet. I have the Federal Hydra-shoks sitting around. I can't recall the actual chronograph figures, but they seemed pretty sturdy to me. (Maybe around 1200 FPS in my 4-inch Model 66... ?) If a bear is coming straight at you, your target should be fairly clear and not require a lot of penetration, like a shot to the side, or a ranging shot from slightly behind the animal, would. But it would be a tough target to hit!

One thing I do know about bears, if all I had was a .357 revolver, I wouldn't be too anxious to use it - unless I felt there was no other choice.
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:37 AM
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Congrats on getting to see a wild black bear even up that close while hiking!! I spend a lot of time, and have for decades, on foot in areas black bears frequent. Now and then I get to watch them BEFORE they sense that I am nearby -- much more often I only hear/see them dashing away. A few times I have watched them for maybe 15 minutes, before they got close enough that a wind eddy took my scent to them -- then they made a max speed dash away. A bear's furry, bouncing-ball butt is a comical sight!! These rare times have all been in fall, when bears were feeding on wild berries.

Mamma black bears with cubs I have only seen from roadside. I don't worry much about bears, unless on horse back -- then you end up with a very agitated horse and plenty to do to keep horse under control and get it away from bear scent.

That "150-lb" black bear is hardly a cub, more like a cub from last year or earlier, and I would not expect mamma bear to even be nearby, much less attack. I have never heard of papa bears being protective of cubs, more like to attack and eat them.

Black bears getting into camp are a very different matter. If you have properly kept food odors and actual food from enticing bears, it is very unlikely you will have a bear problem of any kind. Bears visiting camping sites where they have previously found food can be a serious concern.

In past decades I have often kept a shotgun with large buckshot or slugs at hand in camps where there was a really potential for visiting bears. Other times the gun has been a heavily loaded Ruger SA 45 Colt or 44-40 at hand. Currently, the gun would be a 357 Mag with 180 grain Nosler Partition bullets at about 1000-1100 fps. Sometimes this is a Ruger Blackhawk with 4 5/8 inch barrel, sometimes a S&W M60 with 5 inch barrel. I can shoot either accurately one-handed, either hand, with fairly rapid follow up shots. At point-blank range, that 180 grain Nosler will penetrate deeply and expand. I prefer the M60 because of its DA capability, essential in close range, extreme situations. If bear is not actually at very close range, why are you shooting?

Niklas
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357 magnum, 44 magnum, 686, chronograph, colt, glock, j frame, k-frame, m60, m65, model 60, model 65, model 66, n-frame, nosler, ruger

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