Re: Recommended 44 mag ammo
I'll throw in my experience and advice but the final decision is up to you, of course. I worked in Alaska all of my adult life and until fairly recently spent 3 to 5 months a year in remote areas where I generally had to rely on myself and rarely others for my well being. I also gave firearms and bear protection classes most years to resource types. The classes consisted primarily of bear behavior and how to peacefully coexist. When working alone I always carried a S&W .44 in a shoulder holster under a surveyor's vest. I carried handloads that consisted of full house magnums with hard cast Keith style semi-wadcutters. There are lots of newer factory loads that are probably just as good or better but that's what I carried. I practised drawing the revolver with either hand and shooting it with one or both strong and weak hands. A friend once suggested that reaching a level of expertise required shooting some 2,000 service loads, magnums in this case, over a period of 2 or 3 months. This practise consisted of slow and rapid fire, reloading drills and coming from the leather with full gear on. This rule of thumb seemed to work fairly well. The real trick was having ammo and keeping up the practise while remaining in the woods for months. Not shooting for even a few weeks seriously reduces your effectiveness. This sounds like a lot of trouble but if you really think you're going protect yourself with a revolver, you need to have a high level of expertise. I guess you have to be somewhat of a gun nut and have enough rubles to play.
If I was really concerned about bear problems, I carried a .375 H&H rifle with heavy bullets in addition to the .44. I tried having assistants carry the rifle but we generally wound up with the bear on one side, the assistant (read that somewhat lacking experience) on the other and me in the middle. This situation made me more nervous than just dealing with the bear. It would be nice to have an experienced hand holding a rifle and watching over you.
I know everyone likes the idea of an inexpensive and relatively lightweight shotgun. I'm not very fond of these guns for a number of reasons. We use to make burn barrels in our main camps to incinerate garbage. This required making holes in 55 gallon barrels. The youngsters would line up with buckshot and let loose at the barrel. The shot would make dents but no holes. My .44 made a hole going in and another coming out. This was child's play and a waste of ammo for a .375. I never tried hard slugs. Maybe they do better. Lastly, pump shotguns are difficult guns to handle and require practise which means lots of ammo - again. I took a shotgun class with the local PD and shot 3 cases of ammo in 3 days. While I was a bit sore, I felt like I knew how to handle my shotgun. You still have to practise to maintain your skills.
I always carried bear spray. Make sure you get a few cans of the stuff to spray off for practise. Try to imagine being close enough to a bear to be able to spray it in the eyes - the only place it works. It's scarey close. Make sure you try spraying the stuff up wind and side wind. I've never found spray to be a confidence builder. I carried it with a gun for backup.
Everyone likes to talk about stopping a charging bear. A real predatory charge from an adult bear would be tough to stop with anything. Same with an enraged sow protecting her cubs. With any luck at all your confrontations will be with a smaller/younger bears who are somewhat unsure of themselves. Your best weapon is your brain and maybe your buddies, assuming there are some around. Staying alert and cautious is everything. Going for your gun is like hiring a lawyer - you've already lost on some level.
Sorry for the long post but it's a complex subject. This is only my humble opinion and I don't mean to argue with any other post.
Last edited by akruss; 11-12-2012 at 12:30 AM.