protection with a firearm

matter of probabilities
If I took a trip to a major grizzly area I’d like to learn how to protect myself (gun or other), but most other places (at least out west) the odds are so low (I know of no one that would have been saved by any weapon in all the years I’ve been in the woods) that I’d have to lug around a weapon a lot for little gain and would have a higher chance of an accident, etc. making my gun harm myself or a friend. So you don’t protect yourself against what COULD happen, but what has a reasonable chance of happening.

Actually not good advice
In northern Alaska where polar bears roam people do carry shotguns. But they have a gradated series of shells. The first two are always flares. One flare aimed at a bear of any kind is almost certain to send it on its way unharmed. In the very unlikely event that you need the third shell you may need something more lethal. But my friend who spend a lot of time in Barrow says he has never even come close to that. There is no reason to kill a bear if you don’t have to.

There is firearm education to allow…

– Last Updated: Feb-24-09 8:30 PM EST – to get experienced with firearms if one is so inclined, then you wouldn't have to 'forget about them', I guess.

Bear spray is great stuff. I have a large size spray can myself that I have with me when in Canada kayaking along the coast.

In one 6-day kayaking trip on the west coast of Vancouver Island last year we had 9 black bear encounters and ran accross 5 wolves. The wolves made it obvious they were checking out our camp one night. Had to shoo one away the day before that got within about 40 feet. he was part of a family of 4 and maybe a little emboldened. The single wolves I've run across seem to run the other way when you make your presence known.

The recent article in Sports Illustrated detailing wolf behavior, population increase, their dreadful affect on wildlife populations (recent situation--would've scared me half to death-- ) and the death of a young man by a wolf pack in northern BC make you think twice as well.

In recent years there have been several attacks on kayakers (one in particular mentioned in kayaking guidebooks) by wolves on the west coast of Vancouver Island and elsewhere in BC. Some attacks don't make the papers, yet the Canadian government doesn't think I should be allowed to protect myself with a firearm( ).

In fact, if your can of bear spray isn't clearly labeled as such, it will be confiscated at the border. If it's not labled as bear spray, it's considered that you could hurt someone with it, I guess. I've had friends that had their mace confiscated at the border because of their honesty. Not allowed to protect yourself against 2 legged critters and protection against 4 legged critters in marginal. That's OK. The Mounties will be there in a flash to protect me--even in the big city. I called the appropriate Canadian agencies a couple of years ago to research this as I didn't want my $45 bottle of 'bear go away' spray confiscated at the border.
I would've liked to have had a backup pistol, but Canadian gun laws being what they are, it's quite difficult to get a pistol over the border legally, from what I understand.

I’m a firearms owner and former

– Last Updated: Feb-24-09 8:36 PM EST –

canadian resident. In the mid 90s Canada passed a law reguiring all firearm owners to be investigated and registered with the RCMP or other police agencies--for a sum of money you get a firearms ID card, assuming you pass the investigation--and for each firearm you own, you have to register it--about 60 dollars per gun--you are allowed to own pistols but can only carry them to a gun club or firing range--you are not allowed to carry them in the woods.---in essence forget taking a firearm into our neighbor to the north you will just get in trouble. The firearm id cards are only given to Canadian residents and it took me a year to get it. If you possess a gun without the card, the penalties are rather severe.

In Maine, where I live now, the only license you need to carry a firearm in the woods, either long gun or pistol is a hunting license---you can't carry it concealed however unless you have a concealed weapons permit, which in this state is relativly easy to get---a two day course and a records check are all it takes.

As far as a firearm to carry in bear country, assuming you are not hunting bears, just worried about defending yourself from one, most experts recommend a 12 gauge pump with a short barrel(around 20 inches) loaded with with magnum slugs---something like a remington 870---if you have to ask what this is then you don't know enough to be carrying a firearm---also I would forget a pistol---even the larger more powerful ones might not stop a bear in time unless the shot was well placed and the fact that you are seeking advice on p-net about what gun to carry leads me to believe that you have little or no experience with firearms so you might be better off with bear spray---at least you won't have to worry about shooting yourself in the foot.

Finally the only time I've ever heard of somebody being attacked by thugs or crazies while paddling is in the movie Deliverence---I'm sure it has happened but it is such a rare occurence that most people don't worry much about it, including me.

I sell firearms for a living, full time, in a large retail store. My choices would be 12 ga pump loaded with slugs for big bears, or a revolver in .454 Casull if “compactness” were an issue. For black bears I have a nice, compact, 3" barreled .357 magnum stainless revolver. If I were actually hunting bears I would use a much more powerful rifle.

In reality you aren’t likely to ever actually need to shoot a bear but who knows. The shot would mostly be at point blank range and to the head with a revolver or else you probably wouldn’t/shouldn’t need to shoot anyway. A shotgun firing slugs would give you a larger buffer zone but I still wouldn’t shoot until within maybe 20 ft or so. If it’s not close then where is the danger? Thumbs up to the bear spray also.


We never have
carried a hand gun or any kind of weapon for protection when boating… I have been boating my entire life in all sorts of places… camping also… I guess if you are going to Alaska or some place like that, but then you would need a guide…

oh… if you are on meds you probably can’t own a handgun in a lot of states…

hope this helps…

Around here we don’t kayak with guns…

Nigel Foster gave a talk a couple of…

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 2:07 AM EST –

...years ago about his trip with his (now) wife to NE Canada. They had numerous nasty and close run ins with polar bears and feared for their lives on numerous occasions, with good cause.

My skin was crawling listening to the stories. A well placed flare or two did absolutely nothing to dissuade one bear that was about 20' away or less, as I recall. It was as if it didn't even notice the flare. The size of the animals being described was absolutely huge.

They did have a rifle but it was often stowed in the kayaks and often not immediately available for deployment, in part due to its size. A .454 Casull or larger revolver kept close at hand would've been my choice, but the recoil and power of these larger chamberings make Dirty Harry's .44 magnum look like a toy. Some careful training would be in order.

Nigel clocked these bears swimming after them at 6kts. They could not pull away from the bear(s). They were not safe on land. They were not safe at sea. It was nerve wracking just to listen to the stories...

Somehow, I’m not surprised that…

…people who work with you would go crazy.

If you really are planning a Miss. River
Trip, a gun wouldn’t be a bad idea. Read the book Mississipp Solo. That guy found his came in handy down in Arkansas. But it wasn’t bears that threatened him.

the op
didn’t specify any destination. She also excluded bears.

Also, you would be at much greater risk at a parking lot at the grocery store or at a mall parking lot ,etc.

She asked if we carry a firearm when paddling… I answered no.

You should never drive to a place where there are bears. You could get in a car accident. You are much more likely to get into a car accident than be attacked by a bear. You are more likely to drown, for that matter.

The only solution is to stay at home. But you could be attacked there too!!! Keep your guns loaded and stay awake.

Perhaps not for you
But to just say “that’s bad advice”… you have to have pretty healthy ego. In my opinion, each to his own. Stopping a bear with a flare gun… kind of like taking a knife to a gun fight.

I think its great people have different ideas, but outright statements like that are arrogant

I doubt I am ever in an area with polar bears, big grizzlies are more of a concern and I have friends that have had some very scary interactions with bears. I know having a firearm capable of dropping a bear would make me feel more comfortable in those situations whether I needed it or not.

Yes, sometimes you can scare off a bear…sometimes you can not.

My friends son now lives in Montana.

He is constantly out in Grizz country,hikeing ,fishing,hunting and paddling.

One day while trout fishing in the middle of the river the trees started to shake on the far bank.He made his way out of the river and hid behind a log.

Soon a 400-500 (guestimate)pound bear entered the river heading toward him.Three quarters of the way across the bear smelled something and stood up.The bear was at least 6 foot tall and proceeded to go right to where Mark was hideing behind the log. When he got there Mark doesnt think it saw him but definatly smelled him or the fish.When the bear stood up for a better look Mark snapped the shudder on his camera and on his Extra large bear spray.

The Montana wildlife guy said that was the best thing he could do,being the bear had no ear tags, it apperantly was not ever a problem bear befor and now that it got sprayed it will probably just leave next time it smells a human.

Missed the question…
I forgot to add the advice that anything you carry for bear protection will work for 2-legged predators as well. If your only concern is to protect yourself from human predators then a .22 revolver would be OK but bigger is usually better. A .38 or .357mag revolver would be much more effective. I like stainless steel for use around water as it is less prone to rusting.


Get hands on instruction before getting any kind of firearm. A 12 gauge pump shotgun with an 18"-20" barrel is probably the safest and easiest to to use. Also cheaper and less hassle than a handgun. The handguns that are big enough to do the job are almost as heavy as a shotgun. Plan on burning at least 100 rounds in practice before you try going afield with it or any gun. More would be better. It is useless if you cant hit anything. The shotgun also makes an excellent survival gun if you carry some additional shot loads.

I stand corrected…
…Impossible to get a pistol over the border legally. Thanks for the clarification.

Long guns can be transported over the border with the proper paperwork, last I knew. I’ve had family that’s gone on guided hunts in Canada that had little if any trouble getting longguns over the border with the proper paperwork in hand. Maybe a shotgun with slugs would be in order?

this stuff about “crazies” LMAO
"Crazies" are everywhere. I’ve heard they can even detect your fear, like a dog.

Arm yourself to the teeth and always stay inside.

Too bad you can’t carry Flash Bang
grenades to use on a “ATTACKING” bear. Seems like it would be a good choice as the large flash and bang will really rock his world with out physically hurting him and it will also help answer the age old question of whether a bear poops in the woods. :wink:

Bears are safer than some people …
Laugh all you want, but the backcountry can sometimes be dangerous place.

Just ask this little family of campers in the BWCA:

“Campers who testified at the trial said they feared for their lives. Two campers from Illinois told the court the group came ashore, into their camp, and threatened to rape and kill the three of them - a 64-year-old man and his son (age 11) and daughter (age 27). The two men were the leaders of a group of five men and a youth who terrorized about 80 campers on Basswood, which straddles the Quetico-BWCA border. The group, the Ely Six, entered the BWCA illegally in motorboats, shot off guns and fireworks, and threatened campers, many of who fled into the bush to hide. The attack lasted several hours.”

Or the nine hikers who’ve been murdered along the Appalachian Trail since 1974:

You and I may see the wilderness as a haven of solitude and natural beauty, but some people see it as a place where the usual rules of society are suspended and unenforceable.

Statistically, you are perhaps more ‘likely’ to be the victim of a violent crime in a WalMart parking lot, because you are in contact with infinitely more people than you are in the backcountry. But with all those witnesses, lighting, and proximity to law enforcement and other aid, those people are less likely to make you their victim.

By contrast, backcountry travelers are much more vulnerable to violence. Although we’re statistically less likely to encounter other (potentially dangerous) people, the lack of witnesses and cell-phone coverage, and the remoteness from police and other help–our sheer physical vulnerability–makes us easy pickings.

Any ranger will tell you, for the same reasons, that your unsupervised car is at greater risk while parked at a remote trailhead than it is parked for a week at Wal

So don’t be needlessly paranoid in the backcountry, but be smart. Park in well-lit places when possible, carry bear/pepper-spray (or other protection) if needed, and keep your wits about you.

Some other info from places I’ve hiked and paddled:

“This is about serious criminal organizations,” Walters said. “They’re willing to kill anybody who gets in their way. They’re taking money back to those who kill prosecutors, judges and law enforcement. … Authorities have arrested 38 people and seized 29 automatic weapons, high-powered rifles and other guns, Boudreaux said.

“They come into our own national parks and risk the lives of sheriffs and others,” Walters said.”

“In 2007, Kentucky ranked second in total domestic marijuana production. National Forest lands covering more than 690,000 acres of eastern Kentucky are remote, sparsely populated, very accessible, and possess ideal soil and climate conditions for cannabis cultivation. … Marijuana growers also perceive the rural areas of National Forest land as too spacious for law enforcement officials to detect their activities.”

“Wisconsin’s large national forests and wilderness areas are ideal for clandestine methamphetamine laboratory operations. … Limited law enforcement presence makes these areas ideally suited for operating methamphetamine laboratories and disposing of the resulting toxic waste.”

Not a flare gun

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 12:21 PM EST –

Please read what said. I did not recommend a flare gun. I recommended a 12 gauge shotgun with the first two shells flare shells. The next shells are slugs.