Brown bear hunting on Kodiak Island in Alaska

Best Calibers for Brown Bear or Polar Bear

While there’s a lot of debate when in comes to the question of the best calibers for brown bear, one thing’s for certain: Use enough gun when you hunt brown bears! Brown bears are extremely powerful animals, choosing the correct caliber is critical.

Brown bears are truly dangerous game. Polar bears are even more dangerous!

The lineage of the brown bear dates back to its ancestor, the cave bear about 1.2 million years ago. Cavemen hunted bears 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.

Not only are they huge, brown bears are extremely powerful animals.

The Alaskan brown bear also owns the 14th most powerful bite in the animal kingdom at 850-930 PSI… even more than an African lion, crocodile or any other dangerous game animal. 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 pulling a 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.

Brown Bear Hunting in Alaska

Best Calibers for Brown Bears and polar bears

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.

Disclaimer: WE DO NOT claim to be experts on the best caliber for brown bear hunting… We have just compiled this information based on first-hand experience as well as the experience of other brown bear hunters, guides and outfitters.

  • Craig Boddington with a big polar bear
    Craig Boddington with a big polar bear

    Weatherproof your rifle as much as possible. 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.
  • .30-06 is the bare minimum caliber that you should consider for brown bear hunting. Most people would agree that while it is still a little bit light. 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.
  • Other cartridges to consider for brown bear hunting include:
    • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Outdoors International

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My hunt was absolutely top notch.

The outfitter is a fantastic man and incredibly hard working and knowledgeable, there is no doubt he will do everything within his power to make peoples hunts successful and enjoyable. I plan to do it again with him next year for sure.

Wade Zuver

Our hunt was excellent.

We saw bucks every day along with all other sorts of wildlife. Mountain goats, bears, and foxes were common sights. Fishing and crabbing was special bonus. The food was excellent, the crew was amazing. Outdoors International did a great job of finding exactly what we were looking for.

Jesse Neveau

What an amazing experience!

The hunting lodge was out of this world!, Rooms, food and the scenery were all A+. Our guide was exceptional and had us on Shiras moose all five days. We saw over 30 total with at least 10 bulls. They had a plan for everything including taxidermy and game processing.

Kayla Redmon