Saturday, July 24, 2010

The .45 ACP Big Bear Medicine ?

We often associate hysteria and hype with the hoplophobes, but if we are honest we know full well it exists in the shooting community as well. Perhaps nowhere more predominately than in the mystical world of "stopping power".

My good friend
Lead Chucker and I were weighing the merits of handgun stopping power against the big Bruins prior to his family's vacation out west earlier this summer. If there is or at least was good justification for buying a new gun it was to prevent death-by-bear. Ultimately he settled on just packing his XD in .45 ACP and has safely returned back across the plains to suffer the summer heat here in the mid-west.

Without a doubt most in the gun culture would quickly enter into a discourse that the illustrious .45 automatic is less than formidable against
Ursus arctos horribilis of the lower 48, and down right suicidal against the Coastal Browns of Alaska. Myself included, but now I have to reconsider such a position in light of evidence that has been proving otherwise.

In late May of this year an
incident report surfaced of a backpacker in Denali National Park being forced to shoot and kill a female Grizzly when she emerged from brush near the trail and charged the man's female companion. He drew his .45 ACP and fired about nine rounds into the bear. The Sow then retreated into the brush and park officials later found it located about a hundred feet away, irrevocably dead.

Now any arm chair commando worth his salt will quickly point out that the bear was still able to travel a hundred feet prior to dying. And that had she chose to she could have had ample time to kill them both.
That the bear collapsed and died in such close proximity bodes to the fact that severe internal trauma took any potential fight from it.

So the fact are this; We know the bear suffered significant and fatal trauma in a respected short distance, that it was killed by several, albeit well placed rounds of .45 ACP.

What we do not know from the reports was how long it took the bear to expire and what type of .45 ammo was used.

Case #2

This was not the first report I am aware of where a Coastal Grizzly was killed by the .45 automatic. A friend of mine and hunting companion has a brother who resides in Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough year round. Five or six years ago he told me that his brother had killed a large Grizzly on a Caribou hunt, to the extent it was up for consideration for a state record (it did not qualify despite it's size for a few reasons). Since Grizzly bears are not common these days in my area of operation the interest was peaked immediately. I asked what he shot it with. My friend said "I think a Glock .45 or something. A .45 handgun".

While my friend is an avid hunter he is not a handgun shooter by any stretch of the means, so I thought perhaps the story had gotten a little bigger on the road.

A year or so later the Brother had come home for a visit, and my buddy asked if I would mind taking them to the range to do some shooting. I jumped at the chance, as this would allow me to investigate this "bear" story further.

And it turned out to be true. The brother and some friends of his who are part of an Indian tribe were out hunting Caribou. "Carl" was using a .243 for the Caribou and had a Glock 21 on the front of his pack on a snowmobile. The Bear was an unexpected arrival/opportunity and realizing that the .243 would not provide sufficient penetration to the Bear's vitals he opted for the .45.

At that point I wanted details, and in a basic context this is what I was told.

That the Glock had been loaded with hard cast lead +P rounds from Buffalo Bore and that he had shot the Bear from a distance of about 6o yards. When I inquired as to how many rounds he fired in order to anchor the bear, he said a full magazine and that he reloaded a new magazine but did not have to shoot it. Given that this was a few years back and the Glock 21 came into prominence during the '94 Assault Weapons Ban I do not know if a full magazine meant ten rounds +1 or 13 rounds + 1.

Granted there can be an argument made that the Bear was shot under hunting conditions and not from aggressive and attacking self-defense stand point. Hence the reason for the two comparisons.

So what does it all mean?

Is the .45 ACP the new kid on the block for big bear stopping?


However, we all must begin realizing is that new developments in this modern age of ammunition are changing previous held beliefs and results. And that the magical one-shot-stop mindset has to die out. Multiple well placed rounds on target against an aggressor, two or four legged, is ultimately the real solution to the problem.


Anonymous said...

Sufficient penetration, shot placement...the end.

Firehand said...

What you can shoot well under attack-level stress, whatever cartridge.

Well, 'whatever' within reason(argument begins).

Anonymous said...

I'm still not entirely sure that my current carry load in that particular pistol would have been enough in a bad situation, perhaps it would have Next time, I will spring for the Buffalo Bore 230 grain hard cast lead +P rounds, or roll my own.

Ultimately I had to approach it just like any other situation and that was to use the tools I had. Not all of us can have a workshop sponsored by Delta tools, or a gun safe filled by Springfield and Federal Cartridge. And where the tools are lacking, you have to make up for it in your awareness and creativity, and hope for the best

Jason Cato said...

Here is AK I carry a 444 Marlin lever action. The wildlife refuge issues 12 Ga Remington 870s with a mix of cracker shells and reduced recoil slugs.
IMHO a pistol is inferior to a can of bear spray for purely self defense purposed.
Many bears will "bluff charge" as a way of showing their territory and if you shoot and wound them, they will go into fight or flight mode.

Buddy said...

How ironic. This morning a bear rampaged through a campground at Yellowstone Nat'l Park.

"Tents were smashed in the 4 a.m. attack that left a male dead at the Soda Butte campground. A female suffered severe lacerations from bites on her arms, while another male was bitten on his calf and taken to a hospital in Cody."

A pistol may be opinion wise deemed inferior, but obviously there are people who have killed Grizzly's and black bears just fine.

If I found myself being dragged from my tent I would rather have a mag full of pistol rounds that a can full of hot sauce.

Jason Cato said...

Or carry both. Spray first and then go to a firearm for failure to stop. A handgun is also better for defending against dangerous people too. Now it is legal to carry in Yellowstone.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Once worked in SE Alaska. My first goal would be to stop the attack, My first choice would be a 12 gauge. Accuracy under stress is a question not answered until experienced. The idea of a Hellfire being the first round in the magazine interests me. The only thing I've seen that scares all bears is fire.

Anonymous said...

I concur with tgrace...
WellSeasoned- Have you shot those hellfire rounds? Did they actually work-FLAMES/Flaming whatever?? I inquire as at a better funded point in my life(10+ years ago), I twice, wasted good money on a 3pack of those vaunted items. Out of a 21" barrel I saw a couple sparks(literally--5 or 6...) and that was it. Total gimmick/rip off as were the rest of the 'wonder shells' they offered that I tried.(flechettes-sad/primer tip slug-lame) Stick with real slugs or 00 if using shotgun...
Cheers, JO:)

Matthew said...

I think pepper spray has its place, I've seen it work very effectively on humans in mild aggressive situations. I also once used a can of "Bear" spray with little to no effect on a drugged up weirdo whose eyes were wide open and his response to being sprayed was a psychotic "Noo! Nooo! Nooo! Nooo! Nooo! Noo!"

The concept to pepper spray is to "turn" a bear who is in a charge. And that is really it.

I've talked with people in the "spray" industry over the years and they have said to use Pepper Spray on an attacking bear i.e. actively eating you is about as effective as trying to hold onto the dirt as he drags you.

This has to do with how the mental demeanor and chemical (adrenaline I am guessing)composition changes in an attack.

Tgace is precisely right. Penetration and placement.

In a Big Bear attack there are only two very clear solutions and this is not my opinion but rather based on every bear attack encounter I have read since I was a kid.

Kill the bear with a large deliver of bullets or play dead.

It might also aid Not to be Canadian, but I'm not for certain on that.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

When I say Hellfire rounds interest me, I won't bet my life on them until I've personally tested several. Having had only one dangerous situation with a brown bear, I'm not sure how good a shot under stress I would be. My one close encounter came when I was armed with a running chain saw. The bear backed off without getting close - more of a bluff charge.

Lame-R said...

Not many would deny that the .357 Magnum is perfectly suitable for bear (at least in the lower 48.) The .45 is definitely a few notches down from the .357, but it doesn't seem too far fetched that it might be just barely adequate, especially with a little luck.

Regarding the fellow who went for the .45 over the .243 for teh Grizzly, he must've had a LOT of luck. 60 yards with a Glock 21? That's within minute-of-bear, but even a Grizzly's vitals are not so outsized that you can't miss 'em, especially at that range with that gun. Not to forget that he had a .243 on a Caribou hunt, so he likely wasn't using very fragile bullets; I seriously doubt the rifle would've actually been out-penetrated by the handgun in that case, but w/e.

We've all heard of the AK guides who tell you to shave the front sight off your .44 so it won't hurt when the bear shoves it up your rear, and we're also all aware of the hunters who let the dogs tree a bear before shooting it in the back of the head with some small caliber. Meanwhile Lewis and Clark told of encountering bears who seemed impervious to their big-bore muzzleloaders.

Bottom line: who really knows??

tony said...

I normally carry an XD-45, but I've thought that if I were going to need a bear gun, I'd consider a .460 Rowland conversion kit for the XD. Like this one:

Mike W. said...

Good post!

Basically all handgun rounds suck.

Brian said...

I think with a proper shot placement the .45acp could work for defense against bears, but not suitable for hunting reasons.

justinb said...

lame-r is correct. the .243 still have more than double the energy at 200yds than the .45acp has at the muzzle.

K. Dawson said...

The point is to kill the bear and to do this you need a handgun you can shoot well. Caliber is largely secondary. Handguns are piss poor for bear defense and, in my opinion, a brain shot is the only way to stop one before it gets to you. A fellow at Buffalo Bore told me that the area to hit on a charging grizzly is about two by two inches centered around between the eyes. I would think you would need a handgun with enough penetration to get through the skull and into the brain which seems to suggest that higher velocity rounds might be better even if the slug is smaller. By this measure the 10mm or .357 mag might be good choices. Again what you need is a gun you can shoot well regardless of caliber. It is better to make hits on target than to make loud noises in its general direction.

Unknown said...

Corbon 185 grain (+p) gives me a consistent 540 to 550 foot pounds of energy and 1180 to 1190 feet per second in my glock 30SF. Thats getting up there with the average 357mag and 10mm boys as far as energy. It also penetrates empty steel 55 gallon drums and 6x6 treated wood. 230 grain standard loads wont do this. You got to have penetration and energy on a bear and the corbons consistently pass all test I have put them through. This will change the under powered 45acp over to minimum bear stopper.

eric said...

I agree. I'm planning a hunting trip to Alaska and will be bringing along my trusty FNH FNX 45 Tactical pistol. I trust my FNX 45 and rely on it as my backup if my 30-06 doesn't stop the threat, or can't be deployed due to close quarters. If my FNX 45 doesn't stop the threat then my KaBar is all I've got left. I'm not one to play dead.

eric said...

I carry both.


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