When talking about guns to use in the grizzly bear country, you will hear .45, .357, or other large caliber roundss, but I doubt many people mention the humble 9mm. But that does not mean it cannot save your life. An Alaskan outfitter shows us that shot placement is way more important than what round you use.
Phil Shoemaker tells his story in the NRA’s American Hunter.
Larry and his wife were fishing with me, and because we were going to a small stream I had fished before, which had numerous large male brown bears, I decided to take my Smith & Wesson 3953 DAO 9mm, rather than the S&W 629 .44 Mag. Mountain Gun I have carried for the past 25 years, as the larger boars are usually less of a problem than sows with cubs.
Before we reached the stream, while we were walking through dense brush and tall grass, we heard a growl and deep “woof” of a bear approximately 6 feet to our right. We had been talking loudly but must have startled a sleeping bear. It sounded like it made a movement toward us, and I shouted loudly and the bear ran back through the brush to the right in the photo. Within 15 seconds, we could hear it growling and charging through the dense brush from the opposite side.
I had my pistol out by then, and the bear first appeared from where the photographer in photo No. 2 was standing. It went straight for my clients; Larry and his wife fell backwards in the deep grass. She said the bear’s face was close enough to hers that it could have bitten her!
The bear was highly agitated and standing within 3 feet of my clients when I decided I could take a shot without endangering them.
My first shot was at its neck, and then it began growling and spinning toward the impact. I wanted to hit the head but the bear was moving so fast I simply began shooting each time I could hit a vital area. I hit it six times before it turned to run off, and my seventh shot was into its pelvis area as it ran. When it dropped within 6 feet of the last shot, I checked my pistol and found I had only a single round left in the chamber so decided against walking in and finishing it.
My pistol was loaded with Buffalo Bore 9mm +P Outdoorsman 147-grain FN hard-cast loads that have a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps. I had previously tested, compared and proven such loads with my .357 and .44 mags., and I was convinced they would work.
I guess that goes to show that shot placement and a high quality round are a deadly combination. I am glad that these people were alright and their guide was able to act fast and shoot straight.