Monday, September 3, 2012


The current Guns and Ammo magazine has an inset with a Jeff Cooper-ism about close range bear fighting.

As any regular reader knows, I'm a big trout fisherman and am very interested in relocating to are area slightly north of Texas (I know, I thought I would never utter those words) with relatively mild winters, MUCH MILDER SUMMERS and lots of smallmount and trout fishing. Trout also generally mean bear and various types of lions and lynx and cats, with bears being   either black bear or grizzlys.

I have no desire to hunt a bear, but believe in being prepared if fishing in bear territory. And I do strongly desire the temperate changes that we'd accomplish if we moved to a more mountainous area.

We were actually in bear country a couple of weeks ago, but one person I spoke with said black bears in that part of Arizona were rare but not totally unusual when fishing in creeks or mountain lakes in the forested areas of the wonderful National Forest we were at. My source said that cats were more prevalent.

I'm no scholar on Cooper and his writings, but I was surprised that he was recommending a .357 snubbie in 2002 at a Gunsite seminar on bear defense. Going for the brain shot to the bear or lion, he said, at contact range, with solid projectiles.

Apparently it was quoted in Guns and Ammo in 2002 as well, and this link provides basically the same quote I read today:

Jeff Cooper and in Sept. 2002 issue of Guns & Ammo he says:

(beginning of comments)

"A "bear defense" course was recently held at Gunsite and turned up a couple of interesting points. One is that sheer power will not do. If you are in real danger from a bear, he will be on top of you, and what you need is penetration. Once a bear has got you down-or a lion, for that matter-you have to brain him, and you must do that at contact distance. A .357 snubby, using a very hard, sharp-pointed bullet, would seem to be the answer. I have a friend who went this route while attempting to photograph a lion. He used a Super .38 auto, and while he survived, he will never again have full use of his left hand."

You can find the thread that quote appears in on this Glock Talk thread.

The interesting aspect of Cooper's opinion is that he's not recommending his extra-favorite pistol of all times, the 1911, for this down and dirty kind of work. He's recommending the .357 and a snubbie at that over all other guns available at the time of his comment, which was attributed to 2002. That means some great heavy duty firearms had already come and gone, as with the Automag and the Wildey.

Back in 2002, I guess you had stalwarts like the Blackhawk and the Model 29 in .44 Magnum and the Desert Eagle in .50 caliber. Some of the Freedom Arms single action guns in the Casull caliber or perhaps the behemoth Ruger and Smith and Wesson large snubbies in some "bigger than .44 Magnum" caliber. Likewise, you had the Glock Model 20 in 10mm, which is sort of well seen on the hips of many hunting guides I hear tell.

All of the above guns, plus guns like the 1911 in .45 ACP were in existence back then when Cooper uttered those words about preferring a .357 snubbie when dealing with dangerous game up close and personal.

He could have easily chosen a 3" barreled Model 29, with just a bit more weight and a lot more bullet than the 357, but he didn't. I guess he thought that the .357 was a better up close bone penetrator for a brain shot than the .44 magnum. I certainly can see where the .357 would be the choice over a much slower caliber like the .45 Colt or .45 ACP, but I admit I'd like to have heard more of that conversation and the wherefores and whatalls that were discussed in making this choice.

None the works I consulted indicated what the late great Elmer Keith would have recommended for bears and lions, although the betting money would be on something like a 4" Model 29.

For months now I've been contemplating the advice of gun sage Massad Ayoob, about various handguns and rifles for being deep in the woods. Here, in this Backwoods Home Magazine article, Ayoob talks in 2008 about assembling an economical battery of guns for the backwoods home and in particular, a bear gun:

"If you're in big, bad bear country, you might want to ratchet the power level up a notch. A .338 Winchester Magnum or 7mm Remington Magnum is more in line here. If I needed to ruin a really big bruin, I'd pony up $1,122 suggested retail for the semiautomatic BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) in caliber .338 Winchester Magnum and consider every penny well spent. The bear attacks I've studied have happened very, very fast, and the big guys have soaked up a lot of firepower and kept fanging and clawing. Follow-up rounds of the hefty .338 persuasion as fast as you can pull the trigger would make huge sense here."

Here's one for sale at Cheaper than Dirt for $1,208.03.

His advice about bear and woods handguns, back in 2007, in part, from this Backwoodshome magazine/website article is this about the .44 Magnum handgun:

"In the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum line, I found the super-light Model 329 very, um, interesting to shoot with full power-ammo, but just no fun at all. In the Smith & Wesson catalog, however, I head instead to the page that shows the Mountain Gun.

It has been produced in stainless as the Model 629 Mountain and in blue steel for Lew Horton Distributors as the Model 29 Mountain, and in either configuration features a tapered four-inch barrel, and radiused front edges of the cylinder. Weight is reduced noticeably over that of a standard Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum with heavy straight barrel, and the gun still weighs less than a pound more than the lightest .44 Magnum in the S&W catalog, but once again, we have an all-steel gun that is dramatically more shootable and therefore more practical overall.

Yet, unlike a long-barrel hunting revolver, it is the size of some police service revolvers and something you can keep on your hip all day in a backwoods or working cattle ranch environment.

I've killed game at as far as 117 yards with a 4'' barrel Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and find it more than adequate for my own outdoor needs. But let me refer you to far more experienced outdoorsmen than myself. Elmer Keith was perhaps the most famous hunter/gun expert of the 20th Century. He once humanely killed a deer, which had been wounded by a client he was guiding, at a range of 600 yards with his S&W .44 Magnum.

His daily-carry gun was that Model 29 .44, with a 4'' barrel. Keith's protégé, Ross Seyfried, wore an identical Smith .44 on his hip in his first career as a working cattleman, day in and day out. Seyfried went on to become a national pistol champion and a famous big game hunter and guide on two continents. Both stand as proof that a 4'' barrel .44 Magnum revolver will "get you through the night" in the 24/7 world of the backwoods.

Now, your needs may not indicate a handgun as powerful as the .44 Magnum. You may see bears only in the zoo, and have no large livestock that might occasionally run rampant and have to be euthanized, right now, with a powerful sidearm. Rural citizens, like city dwellers, mostly keep handguns for personal defense against threats that tend to arrive on two legs instead of four. An anti-personnel sidearm doesn't need the level of "Magnum Force" that Elmer Keith needed on the day he had to shoot, from back to front, a maddened horse that was dragging him to death.
Let's say that we're looking at a .38 Special through .357 Magnum revolver, or a semiautomatic pistol in calibers ranging from 9mm Luger through .40 Smith & Wesson, .357 SIG, and up to .45 ACP. With modern ammunition, designed for the bullets to perform even at reduced velocity from short barrels, a compact sidearm doesn't handicap you with power reduction as much as it would have 20 years ago."
Talo has a very nice 3 inch barreled Model 29 with, I believe, a round butt. It too would be a nice snubbie of last resort in bear country, although a bit larger than a .357 snubbie, it has a bit more of a whallop. It's all academic, I suppose, unless one was in that situation. Still, I find it interesting what some of the experts say about these things.
One thing is for sure. Corbon or Buffalo Bore or several other brands of custom ammo would be the ticket for arming any of these weapons. Armed for bear.
Here's a thread where a fellow talks about his new gun, shown above.

For whatever reason, I've had a hankering for one of these Talo 3" Model 29's. The fact that it has a round butt and a 3" barrel doesn't make it all that much easier to carry in the field, but on a nice thick leather belt or in the right shoulder holster it'd be a great gun to have with.
In this article, also in Backwoods Home, Ayoob again talks about the Model 29 and bears:

If attack by a maddened steer or an angry horse is part of the handgun's mission profile, you do indeed want a "horse pistol," and I'd choose a powerful sidearm with a deep-driving bullet. Not for nothing did cowboys, who risked exactly this situation every day, always prefer large caliber guns. A compact .44 Magnum revolver would serve well here, or as a daily carry gun for anyone whose homestead was in large bear country.

If I were needing to outfit for some trout fishing in bear or cat country, for reliability, I'd have to go with a revolver or a Glock as a gun of last resort. When reliability really matters. Perhaps a .357 Python snubbie is the right gun after all for trout fishing. Who knew?


No comments:

Post a Comment