Bear spray vs Bullets

Wyodog

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In an effort to keep a thread about gear from turning into a debate I am starting this thread. Attached is an article that sums up why so far I have chosen to carry spray instead of a hand gun.

Bear Spray vs. Bullets Which offers better protection?
At first glance, this question may seem like a no-brainer. After all, aren’t guns made to kill, while pepper spray (so-called “bear spray,” when it comes in big cans) does not? Unlike an attack by a human assailant, who may be able to use your own weapon against you, that safety/survival argument for using pepper spray doesn’t apply to a human-bear encounter... or does it?
When it comes to self defense against grizzly bears, the answer is not as obvious as it may seem. In fact, experienced hunters are surprised to find that despite the use of firearms against a charging bear, they were attacked and badly hurt. Evidence of human-bear encounters even suggests that shooting a bear can escalate the seriousness of an attack, while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear. While firearms can kill a bear, can a bullet kill quickly enough -- and can the shooter be accurate enough -- to prevent a dangerous, even fatal, attack?
The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality -- based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used.
Awareness of bear behavior is the key to mitigating potential danger. Detecting signs of a bear and avoiding interaction, or understanding defensive bear behaviors, like bluff charges, are the best ways of escaping injury. The Service supports the pepper spray policy of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which states that bear spray is not a substitute for following proper bear avoidance safety techniques, and that bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.
Like seatbelts, bear spray saves lives. But just as seatbelts don’t make driving off a bridge safe, bear spray is not a shield against deliberately seeking out or attracting a grizzly bear. No deterrent is 100% effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury
 

FEENIX

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I carry a bear spray and a .44 Mag when I am in bear country and never alone.

When hiking, I also have my Karelian Bear Dog with me. :Dgun)
 

HARPERC

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To each their own. I've no problem with folks that prefer spray, but its not my choice.

The "experts" from USFWS have no credibility with me, their agenda is to protect the bears not the people. At the heart of it is their desire to make choices for us, not only about how we defend ourselves, but how they can keep us out of the woods to begin with.

My 2 cents, animals aggressive enough to get in pepper spray range should be taken out of the gene pool.
 

phorwath

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To each their own. I've no problem with folks that prefer spray, but its not my choice.

The "experts" from USFWS have no credibility with me, their agenda is to protect the bears not the people. At the heart of it is their desire to make choices for us, not only about how we defend ourselves, but how they can keep us out of the woods to begin with.

My 2 cents, animals aggressive enough to get in pepper spray range should be taken out of the gene pool.

Tend to agree with this. Do their studies include the fact that the majority of folk only carrying pepper spray aren't hunters? And those people aren't retrieving dead game animals from the wilderness, as hunters commonly do, which is a common cause of serious bear/hunter encounters? Do the pepper sprayers ever try to take a meal away from a hungry bear. Just saying the comparisons are unequal, since the exposure scenarios and circumstances are unequal.

BEWARE pepper sprayers; Last year a co-worker brought a can of bear spray to work in order to demonstrate its use and range to some of the staff. I was interested to see how far his spray would extend so I could evaluate its potential effectiveness in the field. He went to activate the can of bear spray and... and... and... nothing. It was a dud - same as the dud firecrackers we'd come across as kids. He turned a bit white in the face, realizing he'd carried this can of bear spray around in bear country and had bet his life on it performing. This demonstration quickly resolved the matter of which is preferential for me.

So this was the brand of bear spray with the picture of the company owner bloodied from head to toe. Now I know how he got that way. **** bear spray... :D

My co-worker contacted the bloodied company owner and asked him what was up. The company told him to check the expiration date on the container. He checked the expiration date stamped on the can, and yes, the company's expiration date was exceeded. Well, my ammo doesn't come with expiration dates stamped on their casings, and I've never experienced any duds to date that weren't of my own fault or doing. But if I do have a dud shell, there will be more in the cylinders or magazine to follow.

So I told this story to the local Fish & Game employee who trains State of Alaska staff and other public agency staff on bear protection as part of his work duties. He told me had also had a can of bear spray that didn't fire during one of his training courses, and his can was within its expiration date. Told me that his preference for bear protection was a Remington 870 pump action shotgun loaded with Brenneke slugs. Said he'd never had a failure to fire with his equipment.

This Fish & Game employee is also the staff person that responds to all bear complaints in his geographical area for Fish & Game. He's encountered and killed many problem bears over the years in these work duties. I was once stalked by a boar black bear and killed it at a distance of 7yds with a bullet (not pepper spray). This bear followed my scent trail from down wind and continued to approach me, eyes locked on mine for the last 7yds of his life. I was out in the open, broad daylight, no cover whatsoever between the bear and I. This was not a case of mistaken identity. When I turned in that bear's hide in to F&G for sealing to the F&G employee previously mentioned, and when I told him my story he said this: "As far as I'm concerned, bears are nothing more than opportunistic predators". This from a man who's life's experiences place him in a better position than most, to form an opinion on bear character and behavior.

IF you rely on bear spray, you better also carry a firearm so you can shoot a "dud" can of pepper spray to release its contents. gun)
 
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HARPERC

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Do their studies include the fact that the majority of folk only carrying pepper spray aren't hunters? And those people aren't retrieving dead game animals from the wilderness, as hunters commonly do, which is a common cause of serious bear/hunter encounters? Do the pepper sprayers ever try to take a meal away from a hungry bear. Just saying the comparisons are unequal, since the situations are unequal.

Folks on this site inquire fairly often about the temperature sensitivity of powder. Apply that to aerosol cans.

As with the other factors mentioned, hunters are more likely to be afield in the fall, when temperatures are colder. All the labels I've read caution against storing below freezing.

Like I said use what you wish, but some pre-use experiments/training out in the elements would seem prudent.
 

Wyodog

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Why isn't my can of bear spay and my rifle good enough? why do I also need to carry a 4-5lb hand gun? I think I'm pretty handy with a rifle. I haven't heard about spay cans not working. That does concern me a lot.
 

HARPERC

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Why isn't my can of bear spay and my rifle good enough?
Personally, with proper loads, a rifle trumps either spray or a handgun. Some like suspenders with their belt, but it would be rare for me to carry both. If not hunting specifically, I prefer one of the smaller .44 magnum carbines over the larger revolvers.

The question was originally posed as spray vs bullets, and did not specify handguns.
 

rooster740

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Not all bears come in from down wind! And I have never been blinded , and unable to breathe from shooting a firearm! I have played extensively with aerosol cans full of incapacitating contents. I would not carry the crap! If a bear gets near me I will kill it! I see a grizzly bear almost every day while hunting alone until mid November! Time will tell but I am not in jail, or eaten by a bear, but several times I have almost made the headlines.
My life is more important then any bear! Bear bites are full of infection and very nasty! A bear that is within 50 yards and not running away is a bad situation in my neck of the woods!
Being aware of your environment and surroundings will typically keep you safe, but your favorite hand cannon is good insurance.
 

Speedo

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Firearms and bear spray are in 2 different categories as far as bear encounters are concerned. Hunters (firearms users) tend to be quiet, so as to not spook animals, bear spray users tend to make bears aware that they are present in order to not have confrontations. Encounters by people carrying firearms tend to be closer than those carrying bear spray, this in and of itself makes it more likely that the person carrying the firearm is likely to have serious consequences.

Twice I have had to go into heavy brush after wounded grizzlies, nobody in their right mind would think of doing this with a can of bear spray. So now I've set myself up to be in a situation where I could be added to the list against using a firearm vs. bear spray. I think the comparisons are apples (firearms) to oranges (bear spray). At least that is the way I see it.

Gus
 

Wyodog

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The question was originally posed as spray vs bullets, and did not specify handguns.

Sorry for the confusion... bear spray vs bullets was the title of the article I posted.

However my point was that I don't carry a hand gun when backpack hunting. That being said some of the post on here about bear spray failing to spray may lead to reconsideration on my part to rely on bear spray.

I am not convinced that a hand gun stop a bear before it gets to you, but I have not tried shot a charging grizz so I don't know. Nor have I used spray on one either so I, like you have to make a choice on what to use. You have made your choice and I make a choice each time I go in field. Unless you have faced down and shot a charging grizzly you are basing your opinion and choice on someone else's experience or just assuming you are right. That's OK because that's exactly what I am doing. This thread is an opportunity to discuss and debate the topic and that's what we are doing. I find it interesting that some people however, decide to state their opinion by being insulting to those that do not agree with them. There is a lot of evidence on the web that suggests that spray is more effective. Ive read similar articles in hunting magazines. I have not found a single written article or any evidence for that matter, other than in forums, that recommends a 44 mag over bear spray. There might be evidence I just haven't seen it. Going forward I will research for failure of bear spray. Maybe
 

bigngreen

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A lot of the evidence that bullets are better than spray is not going to make it online, killing a grizzly bear around here will likely involve an anal probing by federal officials and you'd better hope there is good evidence that you had to kill them so guys who have experience with grizzly messes don't really wave the flag of experience!!
The guys I know who have to deal with bears every year are of the opinion that if a grizzly has made up his mind to kill you, not just scare you or roll you, you'll have to resolve it with a bullet. Not a single one of them pack bear spray!
I have not had a bear charge yet, I've walked into them a couple times and did not see them till they lifted their heads up and look at me, got lucky they didn't startle and they let me back out. All I know is the guys I know who have had to kill bears in true self defensive situations to the man would not have traded their rifle or pistol for a can of spray!!
 

rooster740

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I personally know several people who have been bitten and mauled by bears. Several of the Bears were killed. I will not publish names but all situations were highly public. 3/4 of the situations were started by the humans knowing the bear was present. A few people hit the bear with a loaded gun because they just wanted it away and it really hurt during the initial mauling.

Grizzly Attack Caught on Camera | Field & Stream
Ask this guy if he would have rather been armed with bear spray.

When the bear hits you, you may have no idea what it is. This is the worst case senerio! If that bear plans on eating you, which is real rare in my parts, I Believe that you are going to die if hit unexpectedly! If it is an unexpected hit from a sow with Cubs or a bear protecting a kill site, and you live through the initial mauling and are coherent enough to gather your means of protection you will be better off then doing or having nothing. Most maulings involve the animal returning multiple times to make sure that you are no longer a threat to them.
I am no expert on getting bit by bears, but will say that I have been in many situations while hunting that could have ended up real bad, but did not, which I will say is 75 percent luck 25 percent awareness.
My father worked for a government agency and I was around wild black and grizzly bears very often from childhood through age 30. He trapped snared and shot lots of bears, so I can say I know what I am talking about a tiny bit. I know undoubtedly that a pistol is very effective on bears.
I will also say that a large portion of day hikers carrying bear spray do not own firearms, and or would not want to kill a bear.
I would say pick what suits you best!
It is natural for me to draw my pistol and hang on to it very tightly when threatened.
 

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