Best Calibers for Hunting Brown Bears
Now before you read further a little disclaimer: WE DO NOT claim to be experts on the best brown bear caliber… I have just compiled this information based on first-hand experience as well as the experience of other brown bear hunters, guides and outfitters.
Now, with that out of the way, here we go. Here are our pics for the best brown bear caliber:
First, let’s look at what kind of an animal we’re hunting. The brown bear’s lineage dates back to its ancestor, the cave bear about 1.2 million years ago. Cavemen hunted them with rocks and spears coming out on the short end of the stick most of the time (pun intended). This is largely due to the fact that pound for pound this is arguably the “baddest” animal on the planet. The largest brown bear ever recorded tipped the scales at 2,000 pounds. That’s equal to the weight of ten average sized men together. The brown bear also owns the 14th most powerful bite in the animal kingdom at 850-930 PSI. It only takes 160 PSI to break a human femur. They can generate 13,000-15,000 pounds of force with one paw strike. No other animal of equal size is as powerful. They can kill a large elk or moose with one swipe and carry it off long distances. There is report of a brown bear taking a thousand pound steer over half a mile up a mountain. The slope was almost vertical and most of the mountain side was full of alder thickets with bases 3-4 inches thick. They can also run over 21 miles an hour uphill or downhill. That’s 30 feet per second. So a 1,200 pound brown bear hitting you moving at that speed carries 19,000 foot pounds of energy.
Now let’s talk about weapon choice because you’re not going to find a guide who wants to follow a wounded bear into the bush.
Rifles for Brown Bear Hunting
A weatherproof rifle is a must on a brown bear hunt. Alaska is hard on rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action should be stainless steel or should have a rust-resistant coating. Another good weatherproofing tip is to put electrical tape over the end of your barrel. You’re rifle will be wet at least 40% of the time. Trust me.
The stock should be synthetic. It rains during brown bear hunts. It rains a lot. A laminate stock will also work, but it will be heavier than synthetic.
Your scope should be waterproof and have a wide field of view with low magnification as shots at brown bears tend to be at fairly close range. A scope cover is a must.
Best Brown Bear Caliber
Most people would agree that while it is still a little bit light, the .30-06 is the minimum caliber that should be used for hunting brown bears. Especially for a hunter unable to handle more recoil. A deep-penetrating 200 to 220 grain bullet travelling at 2,600 to 2,700 fps put in the boiler room will always be effective.
I recommend a 338 for brown bears. The 338 is a perfect rifle for everything in Alaska. Good bonded bullets such as Nozlers, Swift or Barnes are the best.”
Other cartridges to consider for brown bear hunting include the .45-70 with a good bullet weighing around 400 grains; the .338-06; .35 Whelen; and 9.3×62. All that said, the .375 H&H Magnum with a 300-grain bullet at 2,600 fps has long been the classic brown bear cartridge.
Whatever caliber you choose, the bullet and bullet placement must be up to the task.
- 416 Remington Mag (Recoil reducer recommended)
- Winchester Model 70 Alaskan (.375 H&H)
- Remington Model 700 (.375)
- Smith & Wesson 500
- Winchester .338 Magnum
- .404 Jeffery (If you can find one)
- .338 Lapua
It is recommended that you use a bonded bullet without a thin jacket. A frames and partitions are also good. Use a premium controlled expanding bullet. My preference is a 300 grain minimum.
Muzzleloader recommendations should be a minimum of .50 caliber and fire a conical bullet or sabot. Use nipple and muzzle cover because of possible wet conditions.
Bow recommendations – You will need at least a 65 lb pull and arrows with at least a total weight of 450 grains. Fixed blade heads are preferred for these heavy boned animals.
by Casey Jensen
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