10MM For Bear Patrol


After reading about the 1 year old boy that got mauled by a black bear yesterday I got thinking now is a good time to talk about some of the hard cast loads for the 10mm.


Most people think of big bore wheel guns for their anti bear solvent. But the semi auto in 10mm is a good choice for a general woods gun. I have no doubt that right about now some one is about to say “well ackchually, Shawn the 10mm isn’t big enough for the bigger bears in North America. smug chuckle.”

Most people would agree the Cape Buffalo is about as hard to kill as it gets. And no one disputes how mean and dangerous they are.


  1. Cool video.

    But it’s all about shot placement. Dobbs lined up, picked his shot and made a clean kill. It would have been a different story if he’d had to face down an angry, charging buffalo, or grizzly for that matter.

    I’m a big fan of 10mm. I run a Glock 20 for my woods gun. But the physically largest threat in my AO will be black bears, and my statistically largest threat will be tweekers (or similar), so 15+1 of 10mm will do the trick for both.

    If facing down a pissed-off grizzly was a possibility, I’d consider .44 Magnum a minimum and be giving a good hard think to .454 Casull.

    • so you think you will have better shot placement on a charging bear with a 454 or 44 than you would if it was a semi auto 10mm?

      Id personally rather take my chances with 225 grain hard cast 10mm at 15+1 rounds than 5 rounds of 454 with a revolver. since shot placement on one charging you is a pipe dream

      • Given sufficient practice, I expect I could get quite good with a .44 or a .454. The extra muzzle energy on the big-bore wheelgun cartridges give you some extra room for slop when it comes to sub-optimal shot placement. Can a 10 mm solid break grizzly bones? Not as reliably as a .454 solid. Will a 10 mm solid penetrate a grizzly skull? Not as reliably as a .454 solid. Will a well-placed 10 mm solid penetrate multiple feet of fur, skin, muscle, fat and bone to reach a grizzly heart? Not as reliably as a .454 solid.

        I’d sure rather have a 10 mm against a grizzly than a set of jingle bells, and I dearly love the versatility of the 10 mm Auto cartridge—the most versatile handgun round short of .357–but it wouldn’t be my first pick for this application.

  2. John, you forget penetration, there’s a reason African hunters use solids.
    In Bear country I carry a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 LC.
    With Buffalo Bore loads it’s enough gun if I do my part, and no gun is enough gun if you don’t do your part.
    I’d be fine with a 10MM and hard cast bullets but I’ve had the .45 for decades and have no reason to switch.

    • Yeah, fair point, Tom. Given sufficient penetration, it’s all about shot placement. Plenty of people have died after being shot with a .22 LR, but it sure isn’t what I’d pick to defend myself against an angry human determined to hurt me.

      Likewise, 10 mm solids have enough penetration to do in a grizzly with the right shot placement, but it wouldn’t be my first pick for an angry one.

  3. I’ve heard a Glock 20 recommend from a number of places. Best balance of power/capacity/recoil was the gist. There was a list of bear encounters and results by caliber not to long that had some interesting results. Seems when in comes to the behemoths way up north doesn’t matter what caliber it is just ain’t for the face. Ha!

  4. If you’re facing down a charging bear with armed only a pistol, you have made a fundamental error somewhere along the line. That being said, you have two paths to follow for that situation: One, you opt for great big bullets fired out of a revolver, or you choose a lot of bullets fired out of an automatic. Go with “Option 2”, and the Glock 20/28/40 are your friends. Other 10mm pistols lack the capacity, or the requisite availability/reliability/aftermarket support.

    My stepdad was a cook on a fishing boat up in the Gulf of Alaska during the mid-1960s. The captain got tired of fish, fish, and fish for meals, and a volunteer was dropped off on an island near the fishing grounds, along with the boat’s Remington 740 in .30-06. He was supposed to get a deer for the boat. End of the day, dude didn’t come back. They went looking for him, after someone swam ashore to get the dinghy. All they found was a blood trail, and that 740, which had its action bent around the bolt halfway-through reloading. They could tell where the bear started from, some 40 yards away, by the pug marks it left. The bear apparently charged, one shot was gotten off, and that was it. As best they could tell, he’d hit it maybe 30 yards out, because that’s where it looked like the bear had started bleeding.

    Alaska Fish and Game eventually ran that bear to ground, and determined that it had been hit in the skull, only the bullet deflected and did not penetrate.

    Oh, and by the way… That island had not been known to have bears on it. It appeared that that bear had recently swum over, possibly because it was old and no longer competitive where it had been, further in on that island chain.

    That’s what you’re dealing with when you’re attacked by a brown bear; basically, a freight train with claws, teeth, and a nasty attitude. Handguns ain’t the weapon of choice, no matter what caliber. What you want is more like a Marlin lever-action in .45-70, or something like that.

    Unless, of course, the idea is to have something handy for a less-painful suicide when the bear starts mauling you. If you’re dealing with a serious bear that wants you dead, you’re in the fight of your life. Not many survive that sort of thing, and the ones that do are either near-superhuman in strength/determination, or seriously lucky. Generally, both qualities are required.

    • Hey Kirk, nice to hear from you man. I often think of you polishing your collection of MG42 tripods in preparation for the coming unpleasantness, and I sure do miss hearing your thoughts on everything at the WeaponsMan’s place.

      I concur about 45-70 as good medicine for bears et al. We don’t have them here but that’s what I’d choose if I went where they are.

      I hope you’re doing well, and Cheers from Oz.

      • What do you guys use for the salt-water crocs? 🙂

        And you probably don’t need more than a .410 for them, but those spiders and snakes you guys have are nothing to joke about.

        • An ex mil .303 SMLE is good croc medicine.

          A single barrel shotgun sawed off to about a six inch barrel length and just the pistol grip is known as a “snake charmer”.

          Spiders? I haven’t shot one of them. Yet.

          • I have an irrational love of Lee-Enfields. I wish .303 were a lot cheaper so they’d be reasonable to shoot.

            And Shawn is right. So-called short-barreled shotguns and rifles are a great way to get the US federal government to crawl up your nose and stay there for a long time.

    • When we were on vacation in AK in the mid-90’s, I talked to outfitters and F&G about the bear issue.

      They were amused by suggestions of handguns for dealing with anything other than black bears. They thought that using a handgun or any rifle less than .375 H&H to be a humorous (to spectators) attempt to annoy the bears[*]. They admitted that there are/were cases where a handgun actually killed a grizzly or brown bear, and a few more cases where a high-powered rifle killed a charging bear, but they said that the frequency of such success was low.

      So I asked what did they pack along? This is where they smiled and they said “Very good! Unlike most lower 48-er’s, you’re now asking a smart question!” They offered how “gun nuts” were constantly coming up to Alaska with their wealth of knowledge of firearms – and absolutely no actual, first-hand, field knowledge of bears. Most people have never seen a bear in the wild, never seen how fast they move, how savage the battles between bears are – where both bears walk away from the fight – how bears tear the hell out of cars, campers, cabins, you name it to get to things like bacon or peanut butter, etc.

      Then they showed me what they use. 12 gauge marine pump shotguns, (ie, nickel-plated) eight-round mags, cylinder-choked barrels, loaded with Brenneke slugs. And only Brenneke slugs: “No imitations need apply” was what one F&G ranger said. They also gave me a tip about hunting in AK – “expect any blued steel firearm to rust.” They explained that AK is wet, wet, and more wet, and you will have guns that are constantly wet. In coastal areas you’ll be dealing with salt water. Bring stainless/synthetic or nickel-plated guns with synthetic stocks. To Alaskans, guns are tools. You need a bear gun all the time. There’s no reason to invest in a high-grade gun, only in a reliable one – that way, when (not if) it gets lost in the drink, or bent up falling down a mountain, or what have you, you don’t cry about it. You just go get another one.

      They explained that a bear encounter was not the time to be realizing you are not Annie Oakley and that you cannot hit a moving target with a rifle – because you’ve never taken shots at moving game before. As far as they were concerned, they wanted mass – and as much of it as they could get – in a weapon you could swing onto a moving target; that meant shotguns. No fancy rifles, no scope, no silly peep sights, nothing. They said 12 gauge marine guns loaded with Brenneke’s generated about as much kinetic energy as a .375 H&H, but in a more rapid-reloading package, and slugs made a larger wound channel. They said “you just don’t have time to screw around with scopes or sights – this is a shotgun’s situation, just like shooting at upland game. The bear is moving, and moving fast – you need to lead them as they come in to you.” This was the reason why they weren’t all that fond of rifles and rifle sights. They hated the idea of scopes on rifles in bear country for this reason.

      As one guy put it “Quit thinking your knowledge of guns means anything. Think of a bear as a moving target that is coming to kill you. Think of it as a huge squirrel coming to rip your head off – they’re that agile, they move that fast.”

      I was told that the only reliable way to end a bear attack was to rip its lungs to shreds, and hopefully the heart as well – and you might still be maimed. Brain shots were “very iffy” due to the propensity for rounds to slide right over the top of the skull, as with the hunter with the 740. They told me they’ve seen .338’s and .300’s glide over a bear’s skull. They took me into one of their displays on bears and showed me a cross-section of an adult male’s skull – and they’re thick. The biologists told me that their skulls have to be this strong to resist attacks from other male bears – so that they cannot penetrate them with their teeth during fights.

      I inquired about 00 or 000 buck. They said shooting buckshot at close range into a bear’s lungs would work and the bear would probably bleed out – but you’d probably be dead before the bear died. They said what made slugs work is that they create huge devastation in the lung tissue as soon as they’re through the skin, fat, flesh over the rib cage. What’s needed is huge tissue disruption. They showed me pictures of slug damage – the slugs’ penetration of tissue was most impressive, and the wound channel was savage. If you use a slug on an elk (eg), you’d probably lose about a quarter of the meat or more, depending on where you hit the elk.

      To my inquiry of “Is there anything better than a shotgun with Brenneke slugs for bears?” they said “Yes! So glad you asked! There is something better than ‘a’ shotgun with Brenneke slugs for bears – and that’s three or four other people with shotguns, also loaded with Brenneke slugs, all shooting the bear at the same time.”

      I’ve checked out Brenneke slugs. They’re spendy, but boy howdy, do they make a mess of whatever you point them at. They also kick like a pissed-off mule, but when you see what they do downrange… there’s some return for the investment.

      [*] one old-timer guide said that if I were carrying a .44 Mag revolver (eg, S&W 629) that I “should file down the front sight.”

      “Why? To make it faster to draw, or so it doesn’t snag?”

      “No, so it doesn’t hurt as bad when the bear shoves it up your ass…”

      • I love the front sight joke. I have heard that grizzly bears are just plain jerks.

        Good report on what’s actually used by folks in the wilds up there.

        Regarding using the shotgun to hit the moving target, I was reading Jack O’Connor this weekend on making shots on running game. It turns out that when he lived in Tucson he often hunted jackrabbits on the run with his .270, I think using down-loaded handloads. His report was that he would hit them about 50/50 under normal hunting conditions (i.e. under 100 yards or so), and that doing that have him a very good feel for how to swing on and lead various types of game with a rifle. I think he said r
        That he shot hundreds of jackrabbits what way. Interesting stuff, and not anything I’m likely to be able to replicate, so I’ll stick to stationary game when I have a rifle.

        Back to the topic at hand, even Brenneke-armed hunters have to step out to cover their ankles, or put the shottie down to tie off the boat. It’s at those times that it’s nice to keep a sidearm handy.

Leave a Reply to John M. Cancel reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here