44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

Let me differ from my brethren. 44 Mag with the hottest load that I can hit with.

And yes, carbines beat pistols. However, they also are far more likely to be sitting in my cabinet or cabin, slung on my back while I portage a canoe, or sitting ‘just over there’ when I’m unloading my car when a bear comes to see what I’m doing.

For those of us who want to change the rules, my priority would be

1. Bear Spray

2. A Semi-auto 7.62 carbine

3. 44 mag with a 6-inch barrel.

Bear spray is the most effective deterrent to prevent a bear attack (note that I’m not using a pistol to hunt a bear; this is purely to survive an attack). For any gun, I have to see the bear, wait for the bear to attack, then engage.

With bear spray, the laws are much easier on where I can carry it, and as soon as I see the bear or even hear one, I can put a squirt between me and it. It is highly unlikely that the bear will walk into an area that already has aerosol in the air. If it’s my buddy wandering off to get berries, I can get an early shot off with only a ‘WTF!’

Surviving a bear attack, the odds are better with a spray than a gun.

At ‘close encounter ranges,’ aka, that noise in the bush is now attacking me; I can do a mag dump of 7.62 faster, more accurately, and with more power than any other weapon.

But again, what’s on my hip when I’m fishing for salmon and a big browny decides I smell like fish?

What is the hottest commercially available ammo at the hottest price at a reasonable cost?

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

Can you make super hot loads for a 45? Yes, you can.

Can you buy them? No, you cannot.

If you hand load ammo, you can put as much powder that will fit with the biggest bullet. If you know somebody that hand loads, you can buy it from him.

But when it’s sphincter tightening time, do I want my firing pin landing on something made by my old buddy Norm or by Hornady?

I just did a quick internet search. Bass Sporting Goods has 19 44 mag loads. Most of them are doable for bear. They have 10 for 45 Colt. All of them are much less powerful than the high-end 44. Similar results came from Brownell and Cabella’s.

My 2nd rule of gun… or…bear fighting is to shoot as fast as I can hit. I hit better with bullets I can practice with, both in cost and availability.

Lastly, what do the pros use? I had a shooting buddy who was a professional polar bear hunter. He captured nuisance bears with a dart gun at 20 meters. He carried a 44 mag in a shoulder holster. (Big barrels don’t work with hip carry.)

In case the bear came at him, his partner carried a 375 H&H magnum. Yes, that’s an elephant gun.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

I live in Bear Country, and while I carry a .44 Mag as an absolute last resort, my preferred bear defense weapon is a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 Buckshot and slugs. (alternating)

My hunting partner (who is a pretty big guy) prefers the .45.

45–70, that is…

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

In a handgun, Neither. A bear isn’t likely to go down before it gets you if it has decided to get you. They are faster than you, stronger than you, and more determined than you. 

It would be unlikely to stop a bear with a handgun of any caliber before it could tear you in half. Getting 5–6 shots off at a charging bear with any reasonable accuracy would be from a distance too close to drop it in its tracks unless you miraculously penetrated and severed the spinal cord.

However, in a lever action rifle, things change. You get much better accuracy and higher velocities, meaning you now have the chance to place accurate shots on target from farther away with manageable recoil and more rounds. 

I’d take the 45 Colt, loaded hot to 1400fps with 350gr bullets on top vs. the 44 mags, given they are larger in diameter, heavier, and will do more damage at those velocities. I’d have a new bearskin rug, or the bear would have a new “me” skin rug in our respective dens.

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Is a 45-long colt good for self-defense?

If you don’t mind making a softball-size hole in your attacker’s chest, then a .45-long colt is good for self-defense. In some modern versions, the .45-long colt (+P) can exceed the kinetic energy of a .44 magnum. This is the very definition of “overkill.” But it will get the job done.

Is a .44 Magnum revolver enough to kill a grizzly bear?

Yes, it IS possible to kill a grizzly bear with a .44. Still, I can tell you from personal experience that when I was presented with a bad situation with the grizzly that ultimately charged me, I chose to use the pepper spray I had with me and not the .44 magnum.

When presented with an enraged grizzly handgun that looked so big to me when you were on a gun range practicing, it looks awfully small! I can remember just praying that the pepper spray would work and got a small tree between myself and the bear, thinking that would at least slow it down to let me use the gun that was now in my left (non-dominant) hand as a last resort if the bear did not knock it out of my hand first. 

The bear had cubs, and the problem was one of the two cubs kept getting in front of her, causing her to react. When she charged me after making two short Bluff charges and stopping only to have the Cubs follow her, and then one gets in front of her again, everything happened extremely fast and fortunately for me.

I think I blinded her with the pepper spray, and she brushed right past me and kept on running. I am keenly aware that pepper spray and firearms do not always work on grizzly bears. 

No honest person can guarantee a perfect hit that will break a bear down Or dissuade it. When I visit an area known to have grizzlies here in Montana, where I live, I carry a handgun and pepper spray. 

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

Some reasonable people might consider this overkill, and I certainly would have when I was much younger because I spent much of my life in these same mountains without carrying a gun! Statistically, human beings do not have that many encounters with bears. For some reason, I do and believe me, I take all the precautions that I can.

I, however, try not to let bears diminish my enjoyment of wilderness. I do have to admit that they have changed me, although. I no longer hunt in areas with a high grizzly population, and I am not as thrilled to see this high-level predator when I inadvertently encounter one in the wild. 

This does not mean that grizzly bears should be eradicated. I take them a lot more seriously now and do my best not to worry about them when I go into areas known to have grizzly bears. My grandfather once wisely said we are a slave to the things we cannot live with or live without. 

Before people start asking questions, I have never returned to the area where I was attacked. Still, if I ever do, I have vowed I will carry only a 12 gauge shotgun with slugs to defend myself with, as this area east of Yellowstone National Park has a very high density of grizzly bears. I was very lucky because I had enough time to prepare for an attack. 

The year before this occurred, I rendered help to a hunter who had been attacked by a sow grizzly bear with cubs. Bram Schaffer was walking VERY alert since he was hunting and had a rifle in his hands and could not shoot an attacking bear before she mauled him Severely. Just his bad luck.

Personal opinion: The best caliber to stop a bear is something very big, Like a .45 Long Colt or .500 Limbaugh, IF you can shoot something that big well using a double action trigger. I don’t recommend carrying a single-action gun for bear protection. The choice of bullet matters and not just caliber selection. Pick something hard cast that has a flat nose on it. 

The more mass, the better, as bullet speed does not matter in a close counter situation. I can tell you from personal experience from hunting bears that they can take a lot of shocks, so one does not want to depend upon an expansion of bullet, loss of blood, or shock to stop a bear as you would on an elk or deer.

One wants penetration and the ability to break the bear down so It does not reach you in the unlikely event you get attacked. You can kill the bear to end its misery humanely AFTER the threat is stopped. Aim toward the shoulder, spine, or neck as headshots often glance off the skull. 

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you're in a bear country?

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

After seeing the distance and speed a bear can run with a fatal shot to the heart, I would not recommend shooting a bear in the chest at center mass unless one can get an angle that the bullet also takes out the shoulder or spine.

One last bit of advice to share… if you have to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense, leave the bear alone and do not disturb or change the scene, such as skinning the bear or gutting it to preserve the meat or hiding. As hunters, we are trained never to kill something and let it go to waste, but this situation is the exception. 

If a wounded bear gets away, notify authorities immediately where this happened so that others do not suffer the wrath of a wounded bear, and authorities can put it down so it doesn’t suffer.

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Wait to give any other information to authorities until your lawyer is present. Speak only the truth about what happened and do not embellish it to make it seem more justifiable than it was because forensics will generally show exactly what happened anyway. 

No matter what, there will be an investigation if you ever have to defend yourself against a grizzly bear because it is a federally protected animal, and authorities will not automatically presume you are telling the truth. Finally, be mentally prepared that some people will not approve of you saving your life. 

Bears evoke emotion in people that I do not always think is reasonable, even though I am a nature lover. They may say they wish the bear would’ve eaten you, whether or not authorities justified your actions. This happened to the young man I helped save because he wound the bear that attacked him while it was mauling him.

Well, folks, this is more information than you bargained for when you decided to read this answer, but it will be worth my time if it helps at least one person out of a prickly situation with a grizzly bear. Good luck.

By revolver standards, how powerful is the 44 Caliber Magnum?

Once hailed as “the most powerful handgun in the world” by a certain fictional detective, the .44 Remington Magnum has long since given up that title… indeed, it lost within just a few years to the .454 Casull.

Since then, there has been a contest to make something bigger to knock whichever cartridge is the current reigning champion off its throne.

As a practical matter, the .44 magnum should be sufficient to take out any game animal smaller than a moose and less deadly than a raging elephant. Yes, even the mighty Grizzly Bear can be dissuaded from chewing on you with a well-placed hardcast bullet from a .44 magnum. It is too many guns for a few, plenty for many, and not enough for only the insane.

I have a mare leg in 45 long Colt and plan to put 45 ACP. Is there anything I need to know?

You may plan on buying a mare leg in .45 LC but forget about putting .45 ACP in it. It won’t work, and trying to get the .45 ACP out of the chamber could be dangerous once it gets stuck. Please stick with the proper ammo and have fun!

Why should the 44 Magnum be considered more powerful than the Colt 45?

First-generation Colt 45 Peacemakers were made to shoot black powder cartridges and were low-pressure rounds compared to today’s smokeless powder. Second-generation Peacemakers in 45 were made to withstand modern smokeless powder pressures, but ammo makers won’t load them near max pressures because of liability. 

If someone uses one in a first gen gun, it might explode, causing injury or death. One can reload Colt 45 rounds and get higher velocities out of them, but only for modern guns designed to handle the brute force of the rounds. Colt’s just aren’t that strong. 

Rugers would handle the pressure, but handloading the rounds can be tiresome. On the other hand, all 44 Mag’s are designed to be shot with high-pressure rounds and can easily outperform any Colt 45. 

That said, if you are referring to the Colt 1911 45 ACP, it’s a different story with a similar outcome. The 45 ACP is a short, fat little cartridge that is low pressure and, even when loaded to max pressure, can come nowhere near the 44 mag.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

Which is bigger, 44 mag or 45 long colt?

In terms of bullet diameter, it’s the 45-long Colt, but about .03 inches or so.

If you mean the length of the whole cartridge, then the 44 mag is a bit longer by about 0.01 inches.

In terms of calibers, the higher the number, the bigger it is. But that doesn’t always mean more power.

These schematics show a better representation of the dimensions.

How do you handle a Colt .45 pistol effectively?

In South Africa, I carried (only for a couple of years) an Old Webley Express revolver.

It accepted 45 Colt cartridges and fired them without problems BUT…..

Being an old gun with a fluted cylinder, I never did and never would put a modern factory round through it. I bought casings and loaded my rounds for mild-medium power performance using a combination of 255-grain “Keith-style” SWC projectiles and (I can’t remember the powder throw now). Still, it was perhaps in single figures of a South African make of shotgun flake powder known as “Somchem MS200” and primed with CCI large pistol primers.

It had a snappy but manageable recoil for the first 2 or 3 shots (rapid fire), after which The bird’s head grip would slide in your grip (Even double-handed) to the point that the web of your hand between thumb and trigger finger would find itself far up the back-strap and onto the metalwork behind the hammer. With practice, the pistol was entirely manageable and a pleasure to shoot.

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It was similar to the Colt revolver in that it was loaded through a “gate” at the rear of the cylinder, but unlike the Colt, it was double-action and surprisingly smooth.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

For safety, I would carry it with the hammer resting on an empty chamber but modified my habit of releasing it to rest between chambers to carry it with all six loaded.

Alas, having been pestered by a collector for months after he had spotted it with me on the range firing point, I let it go and replaced it with a compact 1911.

The finest pistol I have ever owned and which enabled me to resurrect my old mantra: NEVER to load my carry gun with home loads. Always factory loads for carry (Speer Gold Dots were my preferred choice) with home loads strictly for the range.

That 1911 got me out of the dwang on four occasions, and on the one occasion that I had to open fire, It did the business more than adequately.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you're in a bear country?

Is it possible to fire a .44 Magnum cartridge from a .45 LC revolver?

There is no definitive answer, as both firearms are designed to chamber and fire different rounds.

However, some users have reported that it is possible to fire a .44 Magnum cartridge from a .45 LC revolver using a special adapter.

This should only be attempted by experienced shooters familiar with properly handling both firearms.

Which caliber is bigger, a .44 Magnum or a .45 Colt?

Let’s define “bigger”. If you’re asking about bullet diameter, the 45 Colt, at .454″ is “bigger” than the .44 Remington Magnum at .429″. The mass of the bullets for each caliber is roughly the same, in the range of about 200–300 grains. 

The overall length of a loaded 45 Colt cartridge is 1.600″ (40.6mm), whereas a .44 Magnum is only about ten-thousandths of an inch longer at 1.61″ (41mm). So, in terms of diameter, the .45 Colt is “bigger,” and in overall length, the .44 Magnum is “bigger.”

The primary difference between the two calibers is that the .44 Magnum contains more propellent and is loaded to significantly higher pressures. A typical .44 Magnum cartridge is loaded to 36,000 psi, compared to 14,000 psi of a .45 Colt (though a .45 Colt +P can be loaded to as high as 20,000 psi). 

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

The result is that .44 Magnum is a “more powerful” round. A typical 250-grain .45 Colt round leaves the barrel at 900 ft/sec with 450 lbft of energy. A 240-grain .44 Magnum round leaves the barrel at about 1200 ft/sec and 750 lbft of energy. So, in terms of power, the .44 Magnum is “bigger.”

It’s worth pointing out that the caliber we’re talking about when we say “45 Colt” is the “45 Long Colt” rather than the .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). These days, .45ACP is a more popular caliber than the older (1872) .45 Colt, due primarily to it being the caliber the ubiquitous Colt 1911 is chambered in. 

A 230-grain .45 ACP round leaves the barrel at 835 ft/sec with 356 lbft of energy. The bullet diameter is .451″. The overall cartridge length is 1.275″ (32.4mm).

Do you like a .45-long colt? Why or why not?

.45 Colt is one of the most uncomfortable cartridges I’ve ever had the opportunity to fire. I couldn’t hit a thing, and the recoil was so great that I didn’t want to shoot anymore after about three shots. Of course, I was also shooting a lightweight pistol, which was never designed to use the cartridge.

The Heckler & Koch P2A1 is a single-shot 26.5 mm signal pistol designed to shoot flares, smoke, rockets, and other large payloads. The pistol only weighs 18.8 ounces (0.53 kilograms) due to the extensive use of polymer in components, which are subject to relatively little firing stress. That’s less than half the weight of most pistols using .45 Colt ammunition.

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The diameter of a 26.5 mm signal pistol’s bore is so huge that a second barrel with a smaller diameter rifled bore designed for conventional pistol ammunition can fit inside the barrel, much like a flare cartridge.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

I have one such rifled barrel insert designed for .45 Colt, and .410 bore ammunition. The barrel insert weighs 6 ounces (170 grams), so it adds an extra third to the P2A1’s weight, but it still isn’t enough to make firing .45 Colt ammunition comfortable.

Though I haven’t liked .45 Colt ammunition any of the times I’ve fired it, it should be obvious by now that my experience should be taken with an entire shaker full of salt due to the unique nature of the platform I was using. 

More traditional .45 Colt revolvers are well-made firearms, which many have been satisfied with for over a century. If your name isn’t Elmer Keith, the .45 Colt is a fairly easy cartridge to handle safely.

Conclusion: 44 Mag or 45 Colt

The most important factor in successful self-defense with a firearm is hitting the target. People who hit the target have a good chance at survival, and those who miss have a poor chance. Granted, there are cases of people making good, center-mass shots that don’t stop an attacker. (This is true for both two-legged and four-legged attackers.) 

There are cases of people who miss center mass but hit a nerve center by luck and do stop an attacker (two- or four-legged). These cases are exceptions. Making at least two or three center-mass hits on an attacker correlates well with effective self-defense.

From an energy point of view, standard pressure .44 Magnum loads typically have much more energy than “similar” .45 Colt loads. Because these calibers have developed to be and do different things, matching loads between the two calibers is difficult.

Companies must make cartridges for both calibers using bullets of the same weight and style. Even so, both calibers are available in some heavy, wide cartridges that would seriously damage a bear.

Keeping in mind that hitting center mass quickly and repeatedly is the best indicator of success, the most important factor is which gun an individual can shoot more accurately and quickly. 

44 Mag or 45 Colt

For most of us who haven’t trained with a .44 Magnum, the .45 Colt will be easier to shoot quickly and accurately. Most of us would put three center-mass shots on a bear more quickly using the .45 Colt than the .44 Magnum.

On the other hand, people who spend time in Bear Country can learn to control the .44 Magnum with some training. That training can reduce the difference between these calibers from the perspective of hitting the target, and if a person has time for only one shot that hits, firing that shot through a .44 Magnum is more likely to lead to success.

If I were going to spend much time outside in Bear Country, I would get a .44 Magnum with a five or six-inch barrel and some compensation. I would practice until I was proficient with the .44 Magnum. I’d carry a heavy load with a solid bullet.

44 Mag or 45 Colt: Which would you choose if you’re in a bear country?

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