Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Semi-automatic, Double-action revolver or Single-action revolver for a "woods gun"

There is an excellent thread on this topic over at 24hourcampfire.

If you only read one comment, read the comment by Mackay Sagebrush. Mackay is a Law Enforcement Officer in Idaho. Unlike most internet commandos, Mackay drilled on some of the scenarios that are frequently discussed.

Bear Charges

There are Grizzly Bears in Idaho.

Images copyright Mackay Sagebrush and/or 24hourcampfire. If you look closely you can see a knock-down, steel target centered behind the bear.


The drill involves targets at approximately 15 yards, 10 yards and then three yards.

The closest target has a clay bird or a bathroom tile aligned with the bear's brain. To stay alive, you must knock down the steels behind the two targets that are farthest away and the closest target must be hit in the "brain".

This is a humbling drill. "Par" is to clear the course in 3.5 seconds even though EVERYBODY knows a bear can cover that distance in less than half that time.

If you think this is too easy, then start with your back to the course and your handgun secured in your holster. Start when the timer beeps.

Mr Sagebrush then goes on to discuss the interaction between recoil and the ability to make rapid, repeat shots. It is his studied opinion that if you insist on carrying a handgun for bear protection then 

"Something along the lines of a 250/270/300 grain bullet at 1000 to 1100 FPS gets it done and is still controllable with practice." (emphasis mine)

Furthermore, he goes on to say that while single-action revolvers are better than no firearm, they don't have the rate-of-fire to be the best choice for DEFENSE against bears. 

If all you had was a Colt Model 1873 clone in .45 Colt then according to the Hodgdon's reloading site a max load of CFE Pistol and a 250 grain, cast lead bullet would have you at the bottom end of that territory AND still be within the .45 Colt SAAMI pressure standards. But be aware that the pressures are so low that you will probably need a soft lead bullet to get good obduration and that might limit penetration. YMWV.

Other commenters then go on to make the distinction between "hunting" and "defense".


  1. One year we vacationed in the Smokey Mts. We had ordered a pizza delivered and the empty box went in the trash. That night, there was some noise outside. We didn't check things out until morning because I'm just not quite that stupid. It was a bear and it ripped up that garbage can pretty well. years later we again rented a place in the same general area but this time I arraigned to have a 9mm PCC.I gave strict instructions to my family that if we were invaded by a bear and I started shooting that they were to haul butt to the vehicle and drive away before calling for help. Under no circumstances were they to come and check on me and the bear. They didn't ask why and I'm sure they didn't understand that the chances that I walked away from that type of encounter were somewhat less than the chances of me winning one of the big lotteries.

  2. Living on a farm in the UP I've had a lot of black bear encounters. I have Never had any interaction with a Grizzly so I cannot speak to that. When I had a lot of animals and the feed for them and my crops the bears were around a lot particularly in the spring and being a problem so I carried a S&W .357. Several times I would have one rush me and if you stand your ground and talk to it, not shout, they will circle you once or twice and then walk away grumbling and moaning and clicking their teeth. I never had to shoot one and hope I never do. I always liked bears and found that being assertive solved the problem. There is a family story about my great grandfather getting trapped in a barn with an aggressive one and killing it with an axe but I always tried to avoid that kind of situation. ---ken

  3. Maybe Paw PAW WHO is into cowboy fast draw would do ok with a single action. I carry a .44 mag in the woods loaded with 265gr Hornady FP and a .357mag around the homestead loaded with 180 gr hard led. Never had to shoot bear and have had both kinds on the pour here! One thing: if you are using hand loads make sure you use a firm crimp. Years ago the outdoor editor for the Anchorage daily news got his foot chewed on by a grizzly when he couldn’t get a second shot with his 454 casull because the cilinder locked up because of bullet creep from recoil. Fortunately the bear backed off after chewing on his foot!

  4. Just some more data points;


    There have been several studies like these over the years. I finally had sort of an epiphany. My "How I learned to stop worrying and love the gun I have with me" moment.

    - Regardless of caliber, carry something small enough you'll actually carry it, but big enough you're effective. That 44 Magnum won't do you any good if you left it at home. Ounces feel like pounds after 7 hours of scrambling up cliff faces and hiking over glacial beds.

    - Practice. You need to be proficient enough to put your rounds into a 3" circle on a moving target in very short order.

    - While all handguns are anemic, there isn't much that will shrug off a hardened Dixie slug, Brenneke slug, or the venerable 45/70. There is nothing wrong with carrying a handgun and a long gun. This is more of a "camp" thing though.

    - Think like a hunter. When dealing with apex predators it will behoove you to study their body structure and know where you should be aiming ahead of time.

    I've not gone to areas where big brownies are located. I'm sure it's pretty, but I'm getting too old. Now places where black bear are located. I've wandered the SW mesas on reservation territory with my wife's family. We've run into bear, and generally speaking they aren't a huge concern. I've most often carried 357 Mag, but would feel just as comfortable with a 9mm at this point. Usually there is a 30-30, 12 gauge or 270 or two floating around the sheep camp somewhere.

    Cougar concerns me more. Those cats are so dang quiet. It's the devil you don't see coming that you really have to worry about.

  5. Ya, cougars are pretty scary. Especially when they slide onto the bar stool next to you and start winking and purring.---ken