big black bear with .30/06

The Best Bear Hunting Cartridges Leave a comment

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Discussing the very best bear cartridges might be essentially the most contentious debate on firepower within the outside house. In comparison with different frequent cartridge matters comparable to elk searching, bears deliver a further aspect of hazard to the desk. Bears can certainly be harmful recreation to pursue, and numerous threads have been woven deep within the bowels of the web debating over which cartridges are greatest. Most of those arguments are terribly over-thought; nice bear cartridges are easy and plentiful. 

Choosing a listing of the very best bear cartridges is one thing that the majority seasoned bear hunters roll their eyes at as a result of they know the reality: there are copious quantities of completely appropriate and efficient bear cartridges out there, and your common deer rifle is completely able to killing any bear on this continent. Nonetheless, it’s a query I get requested steadily, and a solution of “choose no matter you need” isn’t particularly useful to anybody who genuinely needs to know what they want. 

The writer with an aggressive black bear he shot at 12 toes with a .375 Ruger. Tom Clum

The Cartridge Will get All of the Credit score; or All of the Blame

When now we have a really optimistic expertise with a cartridge, it tends to be cemented into our reminiscence and future opinions on how effectively that cartridge works for a given animal or scenario. The identical is true when now we have a nasty expertise. The reality is that our success or failure when searching bears relies upon much more on the scenario, our determination making, and the way effectively we execute than on the cartridge. Simply as we’re fast to credit score our massive magnums as common bear stompers after a brief restoration, we’ll throw a cartridge beneath the bus moderately than acknowledge our poor selections or taking pictures to save lots of just a little face. Jack O’Connor stated it effectively when speaking concerning the .270 Winchester:

“Like most hunters, I’ve performed some bum taking pictures with the .270, and a few good. I’ve but to discover a cartridge that might make up for my bum taking pictures, be it .270, .30/06, or .375 Magnum.” 

A few of the greatest bear searching cartridges are higher fitted to sure subspecies and conditions than others, however the keys to success are: 

Utilizing an excellent bullet that can penetrate adequately and develop on the velocities you’re taking pictures

Contemplating the terrain, vegetation, distance, and the way simple the bear might be to get better earlier than you shoot

Capturing the bear by means of each lungs with the primary shot

Maintain taking pictures in case you can

While you shoot a bear by means of each lungs with a half-decent bullet, they die rapidly. At all times. They possible gained’t be anchored proper the place they stand, however they gained’t make it far. The old-timey fable about taking pictures a bear within the entrance shoulders to “break him down” is bullshit. Certain in case you occur to interrupt each entrance leg bones clean-thru, he’ll possible ball up and never run off. However there’s nothing of worth between these shoulders—the lion’s share of the vitals sits decrease and additional again. A bear’s scapulas are fairly excessive. Miss one of many lungs and break a shoulder, that bear will nonetheless run off—and he’ll be pissed when, or if, you discover him. 

brown bear with .308
Shot placement is all the time key. This huge Kodiak brown bear was taken cleanly with a .308 Win. Nikkia Atkins

If you happen to break a shoulder by the way, all the higher, however your aim ought to be a clear cross by means of each lungs first. Sure, the bear will possible run a bit. He’ll be lifeless once you discover him although. If you happen to’re less than exercising just a little woodsmanship and monitoring, or following them into the thick stuff, don’t shoot one. 

Choosing the Greatest Bear Cartridges

Lining somebody out with options for the very best bear cartridges isn’t simple, as a result of there are such a lot of good choices. Tasked with choosing what I believe are a few of the greatest bear cartridges going, I base my picks on just a few components. Having killed sufficient bears to fill a dump truck myself, and being there to look at simply as many extra, I’ve bought a fairly good thought on what it takes to kill bears rapidly and cleanly. My picks symbolize typically good bear cartridges that I’d advocate to anybody, but when your favourite isn’t on the record, don’t fret. It’s most likely a fantastic alternative too. One may make a superb record of all basic cartridges or all modern MCD cartridges, and neither can be mistaken. Many hunters are likely to err on the facet of “greater is all the time higher” for bears, however I don’t actually purchase into it. It’s not that easy. My picks are a combination based mostly on what I’d counsel to a hunter desirous to be steered in the precise route for bears.

The Greatest Bear Looking Cartridges: Black Bears

Most bear hunters goal black bears—an more and more plentiful animal that’s enjoyable to hunt and usually nice to eat. Black bears are usually fairly simple to kill. Even massive black bears aren’t constructed a lot more durable than a deer—and their hides and bones will not be practically as massive or powerful as an elk. Listed here are a few of my prime picks for searching black bears:

.243 Winchester

243 best bear cartridges

I’d usually bypass this delicate deer cartridge for stronger choices, but it surely’s a long-time staple right here in Alaska—and even a superb moose cartridge when used inside correct parameters. The .243 has lengthy been a favourite black bear gun of my uncle and particularly at quick distances, a 100-grain Nosler Partition or 90-grain Accubond is totally devastating on black bears. We’ve killed piles of them with this basic cartridge that edged out the .244 Remington due to its means to deal with heavier bullets. Below 200 yards, a bear gained’t be capable to inform the distinction between this and newer cartridges just like the 6mm Creedmoor, and the .243 is what I’d choose. 

6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 creedmoor bear hunting cartridges

The 6.5mm class of cartridges have lengthy been a sensible choice for black bears, and also you’re fooling your self in case you don’t assume that the 6.5 Creedmoor applies. Just like the .243, I’d advocate protecting pictures beneath 300 yards or so, however you’ll have a tough time discovering a extra correct manufacturing unit cartridge. Shoot a bear by means of each lungs with a 143-grain ELDX, and he gained’t go far. If you happen to don’t just like the Creed, shoot a 6.5 Swede or .260 Remington—I don’t care. They’re all good. If you happen to really feel such as you need extra juice, perhaps a 6.5 PRC or 6.5 WBY RPM are best for you. With the precise bullets, each hold on to extra vitality than the typical .300 Win. Magazine. load past 500 yards. If you happen to’re searching extra open nation, the 6.5 PRC is certainly the extra forgiving choice, however I’d nonetheless advocate the 6.5 Creedmoor for the typical black bear hunter who makes use of manufacturing unit ammo and doesn’t shoot past 300 yards.

.270 Winchester

.270 Win. bear cartridges

For black bears, it’s onerous to beat the previous .270 Winchester. There are some metrics by which the previous workhorse has been surpassed, but it surely’s nonetheless completely related. In one in every of many articles discussing the .270, The Controversial .270, Jack O’Connor talked about it as a type of magnum by itself, with about as a lot powder as could be effectively burned behind a .277-inch bullet in a long-action cartridge. With comparable bullets, the .270 doesn’t lag far behind the .30/06 or 7mm Rem. Magazine, and it’s wonderful black bear medication. Cartridges just like the 6.8 Western are nice too—and extra environment friendly—however the .270 holds its personal. Browning is even barreling some X-Bolt fashions with 7.5-inch-twist barrels to deal with heavy-for-caliber bullets just like the 155-grain Barnes LRX and the 175-grain Sierra Tipped Recreation King. For regular searching distances, you don’t want something greater than a .270 Win for black bears.

.308 Winchester

.308 win bear ammo

One other dependable alternative, the .308 Winchester is frequent, correct, has a wide array of ammunition, and may be very efficient on black bears at affordable distances. Though it’s overshadowed by the 6.5mm and 6mm bullets for long-range goal taking pictures, the .308 with an excellent 150-, 168-, or 175-grain bullet is great for black bears, and it’s among the best bear cartridges general. It wouldn’t be my first alternative for brown bears, however I do know of various hunters who cleanly kill big coastal brownies with the .308. One buddy killed a legit 11-foot-squared Kodiak brown bear together with his .308 taking pictures Barnes TSX hundreds. Inside grizzlies? No sweat. I’ve performed loads of accuracy testing with .308 ammo prior to now 12 months, and a pair standouts are Remington’s 150-grain Core Lokt Tipped, and Federal Premium 175-grain Terminal Ascent—each of them can be nice decisions for black bears.

.30/30 Winchester

Browning Max Point is great ammo for bear hunting

This quintessential whitetail cartridge additionally occurs to be a hell of an excellent deepwoods black bear spherical. All of the concentrate on western searching at longer distances may appear to go away the .30/30 in obscurity, however there are scores of black bear hunters who nonetheless depend on it. The .30/30 is mild-recoiling and most rifles are quick-to-point. There are many bullets out there today, however even an ordinary lead-core bullet like Federal’s 170-grain Energy Shok is nice bear medication. It’s an ideal cartridge for searching bait, over hounds, or simply watching a path within the thick timber. What it lacks in energy, the .30/30 makes up for with handiness. 

.35 Remington

remington core-lokt is one of the best bear ammo

The .35 Remington is without doubt one of the classics, and one other thick nation thumper. In a Marlin 336—hopefully one thing that can come again—the .35 Remington is a short-range cartridge that’s powerful to beat. It doesn’t have the facility of the bigger .35 Whelen, however does ship an excellent stability of efficiency, shootability, and nostalgia. The .35 Remington will possible by no means return to its full glory and, due to straight-wall cartridge legal guidelines for deer, cartridges just like the .360 Buckhammer and .350 Legend pull loads of wind out of its sails. For hunters who’re restricted to straight-wall cartridges for deer searching, both of those are nice decisions for black bears. I notably like the flexibility of the .355-inch diameter of the .350 Legend over the .358-inch .360 Buckhammer. I can handload 9mm bullets within the .350 for follow, and have seen nice accuracy and velocity with a few of Lehigh Protection’s Excessive Protection 9mm bullets. For the traditionalist although, there’s no substitute for the .35 Remington. 

.45/70 Authorities

.45/70 bear cartridges

The .45/70 may be the oldest cartridge that’s nonetheless fashionable and used for searching. In actual fact, the cartridge that started off utilizing black powder has seen an amazing resurgence prior to now couple a long time. It had gone out of favor, and was hardly ever talked about by mid-Twentieth century writers. Nevertheless it’s again in full drive. The .45/70 is hottest in lever weapons, and the brand new Marlin fashions are of wonderful high quality. Though restricted to comparatively quick ranges, the .45/70 is particularly versatile as a bear rifle. Regular deer-type hundreds like Federal Premium’s 300-grain Hammerdown are fantastic for black bears at shut vary. Gentle-pointed jacketed bullets develop effectively at low velocity and penetrate effectively. Black Hills Ammo’s manufacturing unit 325-grain Honey Badger with strong Lehigh Protection Bullets penetrate bone effectively and the fluting produces a big wound cavity. When souped up, the .45/70 is a superb searching or backup rifle for brown or grizzly bears. My private favourite heavy loading is a Speer 400-grain jacketed soft-point shifting at 1,900 toes per second.

.45/70 bear hunting cartridge
A pleasant black bear taken with 325-grain Black Hills Ammo Honey Badger in .45/70 Gov’t. Tyler Freel

.338 Lapua Magnum

.338 Lapua bear hunting cartridges

A few of the greatest bear searching cartridges are solely very best for sure conditions, and if the terrain you hunt dictates lengthy pictures, you may as effectively go massive. In these conditions, I can validate the priority for touring cross-canyon to try to find a bear you’ve shot—although this ought to be thought of fastidiously earlier than ever pulling the set off. There’s a lot of cartridges which might be nice choices for taking pictures black bears at longer distances; the 6.8 Western, 7mm PRC, and 300 PRC are additionally prime candidates. Which one in every of these is the very best? That’s debatable.  There are variables that may be manipulated, however I do love my .338 Lapua. It’s a cartridge that’s extreme for black bears beneath most circumstances, however at lengthy distances, it shines.

Manufacturing facility 7mm PRC and 300PRC Precision Hunter hundreds can’t hold with my 285-grain Hornady ELDM handloads, and if I needed to choose a long-range hammer for black bears, that’s it. I usually wouldn’t advocate match bullets for recreation in any respect, however black bears are smooth, and contemplating that our household has shot over a dozen moose with the load from 200-700 yards, I can say that I’m assured within the bullet’s means to develop however maintain collectively; they’ve bought the mass to do it. If that bothers you, shoot a Barnes 280-grain LRX or 270-grain Hornady ELD-X.

Greatest Bear Cartridges: Grizzlies and Brown Bears

If people lose their minds over-analyzing cartridge picks for black bears, it’s magnified tenfold in terms of “Outdated Lengthy Claw.” Grizzlies and brown bears have a popularity for being extra harmful and aggressive than black bears. Typically it’s true, however with an excellent first shot, they aren’t any harder to kill. If you happen to screw up with a poor shot and let that bear get spun up, then all bets are off and also you merely should throw all the pieces you’ve bought at them. Make an excellent first shot by means of each lungs they usually die rapidly. 

muzzleloader grizzly bear
Even a 175-grain patched roundball will kill massive bears cleanly in case you shoot them by means of the lungs. Tyler Freel

I’ve been an assistant information on a pair Afognak Island brown bear hunts, hunted them for myself on the Alaska Peninsula, and brought a brace of huge inside Alaska grizzly bears with all the pieces from a pointy rock tied on the top of a stick—actually—to massive magnum rifles. A 175-grain .490 patched roundball fired out of a Kentucky rifle is a smooth, anemic projectile at greatest; however slam it by means of the lungs of a giant scarred-up grizzly bear at shut vary and he’s lifeless in seconds. 

There’s some vital overlap in terms of nice cartridges for black, grizzly, and brown bears. I’d be completely snug taking pictures a grizzly and even brown bear with any of the earlier cartridges beneath the precise circumstances—however there are additionally instances when it’s applicable to go greater. As an example, a brown bear information will possible pack a a lot bigger rifle than he’d want to hunt with himself. If he has to make use of his rifle, it’s to repair another person’s mistake. There are various normal-sized and magnum cartridges that I believe are nice decisions for grizzlies and brown bears, however these can be my first suggestions.

.30/06 Springfield

.30/06 bear cartridges

The uninteresting and soiled 30. The .30/06 has nothing left to show—it’s performed it. Most hunters can shoot the .30/06 effectively, and it’s bought loads of energy to get the job performed on any brown bear. Alaskan legend, market hunter, and predator-control specialist Frank Glaser got here to want the .30/06 with 220-grain bullets for stopping inside grizzly bears round 80 years in the past, and it’s nonetheless a stellar choice at the moment. It doesn’t supply fairly the forgiveness of some bigger cartridges—however one ought to by no means rely upon forgiveness or extra energy in lieu of fine shot decisions. This previous fall, I loaded some 212-grain Hornady ELD-X bullets into .30/06 circumstances for my 16-year-old cousin to take to Kodiak with my uncle. She killed a 9.5-foot brown bear with a 27-inch cranium. 

16-year-old hunter and brown bear
The writer’s 16-year-old cousin and her 9.5-foot bear—taken with a .30/06.

.338 Winchester Magnum

.338 Winchester Magnum

The .338 Win. Magazine. is a heavy-hitting and mainstream magnum that’s among the best bear cartridges you will get. It’s authoritative on black bears, and by no means a nasty alternative for grizzlies or brown bears. The .338 Win. Magazine. is a cartridge that’s affordable for different recreation like elk and moose, and isn’t a single-purpose howitzer. It’s bought an excellent trajectory for many searching conditions, and usually makes use of bullets from 200- to 250-grains. As one in every of my bear baiting backup rifles, I had my .338 loaded to the max with 250-grain Hornady Interlock bullets, and shot a giant sow grizzly that got here working in the direction of me this previous season at 15 yards. It didn’t knock her flat, however actually re-routed her route of journey. After doing a little intensive brush deflection testing, I’m switching to 225-grain Hornady CX bullets in that rifle. For a rifle you may use in thick brush, it’s price noting that in my testing I noticed that mono-metal bullets all the time deflected lower than lead-core. 

338 win mag bear hunting cartridge
This inside grizzly was stopped at 15 yards with a .338 Win. Magazine. Tyler Freel

.375 Ruger

.375 Bear cartridges

A information who needs an absolute showstopper may choose one of many .416’s or .458’s, however the .375 Ruger is without doubt one of the most balanced and greatest bear searching cartridges on the planet. The .375 H&H and .375 H&H Ackley Improved are each very related and primarily interchangeable on this dialog. It boils down to non-public desire. I favor the .375 Ruger as a result of it delivers H&H efficiency out of a 20-inch barrel, and it’s neck-and-neck with the .375 Ackley out of the 22.75-inch barrel of my Ruger. It’s bought a .30/06-like trajectory, and is efficient at any regular searching distance. If you happen to can shoot it effectively, it will be like Thor’s hammer on elk too. 

Brown bear information Luke Randall stopping a charging bear together with his .375 Ackley Improved.

The benefit of a manufacturing unit chambering just like the .375 Ruger over the opposite two is that it matches in an ordinary lengthy motion. I’ve shot plenty of black and brown bears with each the .375 Ruger and .375 Ackley, and my buddy Luke Randall used a .375 Ackley to cease an enormous charging brown bear on video at just some toes. With a 300-grain Hornady DGX Bonded, it can cross end-to-end by means of a giant brown bear, however mono-metal bullets are an excellent choice too. 

My .375 Ruger at the moment will get most of its use whereas going into bear baits and monitoring wounded bears. It’s greater than what’s obligatory more often than not, however in these conditions it’s all the time good to have just a little additional. It’ll typically flatten black bears at shut vary, and barely requires a second shot to cease the present. That’s not all the time the case with grizzlies and brown bears, but it surely hits onerous sufficient to normally give you a chance to shoot once more. If you happen to don’t thoughts massive, hard-kicking cartridges, the .375’s are a few of the greatest bear searching cartridges on the planet.

.375 Brown bear
The .375 Ruger, .375 H&H, and .375 Ackley Improved are a few of the greatest bear searching cartridges you will get. Tyler Freel



What cartridge is sweet for bears?

Plenty of cartridges are good for bears, however what’s greatest for you’ll rely upon how and the place you’re searching. For many black bear hunters, an excellent deer rifle cartridge with high quality bullets is completely appropriate.


What’s the greatest cartridge for grizzly bear?

I believe that among the best cartridges for grizzly bear is the .375 Ruger, however smaller cartridges just like the .30/06 are completely succesful too. An important factor is selecting a cartridge that you would be able to shoot effectively, and selecting your pictures fastidiously within the subject. 


What’s the greatest bear caliber?

Typically talking, it’s onerous to beat the flexibility of .30-caliber cartridges for bear searching. Many are nice decisions for black bears and completely satisfactory for brown bears too. 


What are the very best handgun cartridges for bear protection?

Energy helps, however with bear protection handguns, the most important components are how handy a pistol or revolver is to hold, and the way effectively you may shoot it. I personally favor and carry a 10mm Auto loaded with high quality bear protection ammo. 

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