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The Best New Bear Defense Guns of 2024

When you're deep in the backcountry with big predators, a reliable firearm is the best way to stop a bear attack. Here are six great new bear-stopping firearms available this year.

The Best New Bear Defense Guns of 2024
If you're in the market for a new bear-defense weapon, our list of six — including this Girsan Witness2311 Hunter from EAA — features some of the best new options for hunters.

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The news regarding bear attacks in the Lower 48 is sobering. 2021 was a record year for fatal bear attacks, and on August of last year there were three separate bear attacks in different locations on a single day. It’s not surprising that these attacks are on the rise considering that bear populations are higher than they have been in more than a century in many areas. As humans spend more time in the wilderness, deadly encounters are becoming more common.

Thankfully, bear attacks are still rare, but that fact doesn’t offer any peace of mind when you’re sharing the trail with a bruin bent on attacking you. Hunters are particularly vulnerable to bear attacks for several reasons. We spend more time in the woods, and harvesting a big-game animal in the backcountry is like ringing a dinner bell for bears.

When we’re alone deep in the wilderness our survival hinges on how effectively we can prevent serious injury, so it makes sense to carry a backup gun in bear country. If you’re looking for a new bear-defense weapon, we have a list of six of the best new options for hunters.

Back In The Lever Gun Business: Smith & Wesson 1854

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Smith & Wesson 1854

Chambering: .44 Magnum/.44 Special

Horace Smith and Dan Wesson invented the Volcanic lever-action in 1854, hence the name of Smith & Wesson’s new .44 Magnum lever gun. The .44 Magnum has proven capable of stopping the biggest bears, and the added barrel length of a lever-action rifle increases the muzzle velocity of a .44 Magnum and, in turn, energy. The longer sight radius also helps you place shots more precisely (not that you’ll have much time to do so with an irate grizzly—ahem—bearing down on you), and the tubular magazine of this lever action holds nine rounds of ammunition. The magazine tube itself is removable which makes unloading the rifle easier and the aperture sights are functional and rugged. There’s also an optic rail on the rifle if you’d prefer to add a red dot or low power variable scope to this rifle. The 1854’s rugged stainless steel construction stand up well to elements in the wilderness, as does the polymer stock. The forearm includes M-LOK slots that allow you to mount a sling or other accessories. A bright tactical light is always a good choice in bear country, especially if you’re packing meat out in the dark.

$1,279 | smith-wesson.com

A 1911 Double-Stack Bear Stopper: European American Arms’ Girsan Witness2311 Hunter

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European American Arms’ Girsan Witness2311 Hunter

Chambering: 10mm Auto

If you’re a 1911 fan, the EAA Girsan Witness2311 Hunter is a great backup gun in bear country. It comes with a double-stack magazine that holds 15 rounds of 10mm Auto ammunition, and adjustable target sights come standard on these pistols. The safety is ambidextrous, and these pistols come with accessory rails that allow the owner to mount a tactical light for those uneasy times you find yourself traipsing around the woods in the dark. Front and rear slide serrations make it easy to operate this pistol under duress, and the polymer grip panels and durable finish make this a gun that stands up well to the elements. The 1911 offers the option to carry the pistol cocked-and-locked, which is comforting when you know you likely won’t have time to chamber a round. Full-house 10mm bear loads produce substantial recoil (though nothing like the next gun on our list) and the steel construction of this pistol adds enough weight that you can keep that muzzle level and continue delivering shots on a rapidly approaching predator. On my last Alaskan hunt every backup gun I saw in bear country was a 10mm, which isn’t surprising considering the blend of stopping power and capacity that guns like the Girsan offer when chambered in this cartridge. If you’d prefer a more compact option the Witness2311 10mm is available in 4.25 and 5-inch barrel configurations as well, and there are 9mm and .45 ACP versions available, too.

$1,028 | eaacorp.com

The Hand Cannon: Taurus Raging Hunter 500 S&W Magnum

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Taurus Raging Hunter 500 S&W Magnum

Chambering: .500 S&W Magnum

The .500 S&W Magnum cartridge is capable of delivering almost 3,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and it’s a substantial step up in power over the .44 Magnum. It’s a potent cartridge requiring a durable revolver, and the new Raging Hunter is up to the task. The Taurus double locking cylinder helps ensure reliability and the custom ports in the barrel help tame the .500’s substantial recoil. A cushioned grip allows for a firm and comfortable hold on the gun, and the Raging Hunter comes with iron sights as well as a top rail for mounting optics. Three barrel lengths are available (5.12-inches, 6.75-inches, and 8.37-inches) and all feature unfluted cylinders which add a bit of weight to this gun. The 6.75-inch model shown here weighs in at almost 64 ounces, and there’s little doubt that the most effective way to carry this revolver is on a chest rig. However, a quality chest rig actually makes heavy revolvers comfortable to carry and keeps them off your belt so they don’t interfere when wearing waders or reaching in your pocket. The Raging Hunter .500 S&W holds five rounds of ammo, which equates to something in the neighborhood of seven tons of total muzzle energy.

Recommended


$1,106.99 | taurususa.com

A Beauty of a Bear-Defense Revolver: Colt Python Blued

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Colt Python Blued

Chambering: .357 Magnum/.38 Special

Everyone was excited to see Colt’s “snake guns” return to the lineup, and this year the new Python Blued models arrived in both 6 and 4.25-inch barrel models. The first generation of Colt Pythons were real beauties, known for their elegant bluing and excellent fit and finish. The new gun is a worthy successor that’s every bit as eye-catching as the originals. However, there are some improvements to this gun over Pythons past. It features a new lock system with fewer parts, and perhaps most importantly the new Python comes with 30 percent more steel in the top strap. That’s particularly important if you’re shooting full-power .357 Magnum loads. The latest generation of Pythons are more robust than their predecessor, and reliability is key in bear country. The .357 magnum is considered on the light side for grizzly defense, but it’s perfect when you’re in black bear country. The 4.25-inch model is nice and compact and weighs around 40 ounces, and it has a capacity of 6 rounds. The 6-inch version is a bit heavier, but the added barrel lengths help reduce muzzle rise for fast follow-ups.

$1,599 | colt.com

A Scattergun for More Than Gobblers: Stoeger M3500 Predator/Turkey Shotgun

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Stoeger M3500 Predator/Turkey Shotgun

Chambering: 12-gauge, 3 ½-inch

The M3500 Predator/Turkey comes with a 24-inch barrel and pistol grip stock. It’s protected by a durable Mossy Oak Overwatch camo finish and the folks at Stoeger were kind enough to include a paracord sling with each of these guns that allows for easier transport. With 3 ½-inch, 1 3/8-ounce slugs this gun generates over 4,700 foot-pounds at the muzzle, which falls between a .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Rigby on the power scale. When you need to put big bears down quickly nothing else on the list matches its prowess. Additionally, it’s one of the most versatile guns on the list. Bear defense guns are often highly specialized tools, but the Stoeger is versatile enough to drop spring gobblers, stop coyotes cold in their tracks, and protect you from much, much larger predators in the backcountry. The recoil from 3 ½-inch slugs is definitely stiff, but with a capacity of four rounds this gun is a formidable defense tool. If you’re firing slugs, you’ll likely want to use a more open choke than the ones provided, but those can be had for less than $20. That’s a small price to pay to make the most of this level of stopping power.

$929 | stoegerindustries.com

Double-Action Defense Against Predators: Taurus TH10

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Taurus TH10

Chambering: 10mm Auto

There’s yet another gun from Taurus on the list, but this one is much milder than the previously mentioned .500 Raging Hunter and is a better solution for anyone who can’t handle the .500’s abundant recoil and ferocious muzzle blast. The hammer-fired TH10 offers the advantages of a double-action design; there’s no need to cock the hammer before firing, and after the initial shot single-action firing reduces trigger pull weight. Capacity is an impressive 15 rounds of 10mm, and this pistol weighs just 28.5 ounces. That makes it comfortable for carrying in a belt holster, and it’s suitable for defense against black bears as well as their larger cousins of the brown and grizzly variety. With light 10mm defense loads it makes a fun range gun and it’s also a good choice for home defense. The durable construction means it will hold up well to years of use and abuse and the manual safety doubles as a decocker that allows you to safely lower the hammer. With an MSRP of $530 and a street price that’ll likely be closer to $500 this is a solid option for stopping bears.

$530 | taurususa.com




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