In an email, an old friend asked me “What handgun should I take with me to Alaska?  I’ll be in bear country.”

I wrote a brief response: “Handgun? HANDGUN? I hope you are asking what sort of handgun you should take to Alaska, in addition to your rifle. Please tell me that’s what you are really asking.”

He was only planning to take a handgun. Wow.  Being that handguns are not known for their ability to reliably stop bad guys (humans), could we expect better results against a charging bear?  The firearm and its projectile, it is reasoned,  involves a quantum leap in power.  Or does it? This article contains an interesting series of anecdotes, told by people who had to use a handgun in self defense against a charging bear. There are some surprising results.

Defense against bears with pistols

All that is well and good, but I would STILL carry a rifle (300 Win Mag or other bruiser caliber) with me in bear country.

PS. So what did I tell suggest to him for a handgun? A .44 mag (or higher power) revolver or a 10mm semi-auto, both loaded with the heaviest,  fastest moving bullets available.  Spend some money and put some rounds down range beforehand and familiarize yourself with its handling and recoil characteristics. You don’t want to learn about the firearm’s “personality” in an emergency.


At Semper Firearms Training we encourage you to buy a good firearm, get trained in how to use it, get a Nevada CCW permit, and continue your firearms training as part of a defensive lifestyle.