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Can You Kill a Bear With a Shotgun? | What You Need To Know

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You can kill a bear with a shotgun with proper aim. However, this is most likely to be effective only at close distances of less than 10 yards. Bears have thick fur, skin, and tough layers of fat and muscle, making a shotgun’s medium velocity ideal only if it’s close and accurate.

What Are the Best Shells for Protection From Bears?

Open Shotgun Shells With Birdshot and Buckshot Spilling Out

Slugs are the most efficient shells for bear protection. Specifically, full-bore slugs are less likely to disappoint you. A 12 gauge slug could be your best option when firing at a bear with a shotgun.

With bear protection, getting in an accurate and powerful hit is crucial since you’ll not always have multiple clear shots. This is why you must have powerful cartridges that shoot out at speeds that are fast enough to cause lethal damage to the animal.

Here are other favorites when it comes to fending off bears:

The .45-70 Rifle Cartridge

Invented in the post-American Civil War era, this cartridge is popular among big-game hunters. The 45-70 government cartridge can also get the job done. It releases at 2,000 fps and 3,600 ft.-lbs from the muzzle, making the shell effective for a shot that will go in and out of the bear’s body. Pair this with a fast-handling lever gun and you’ve got yourself a formidable bear stopper.

The .30/30 Winchester

The .30/30 Winchester came out in 1895 and became an instant success. It’s a popular cartridge for black bear protection. It fits in lightweight rifles like the Winchester Model 94, making it perfect for defending yourself against bears during long hunting sessions.

The .307 Winchester

Although the .307 Winchester is compatible with older rifles, it’s still a top choice for black bear protection. This hard hitter is one of the best choices for those who have traditional lever-style rifles. For the more massive grizzly bears, however, the .307 Winchester may not provide you with enough muzzle energy if you’re too far away.

Can You Kill a Bear With Buckshot?

Buckshot isn’t effective when it comes to killing a bear. It might do damage within a range of 30 yards, but it won’t be enough to kill the bear. A bear shot with buckshot is most likely to experience a slow death which could have grim consequences for the shooter.

In any case, it’s not a wise choice of ammunition because if the bear is that close, you’re already in significant amounts of trouble. When it comes to bear protection, it’s much better to have a few accurate and powerful shots other than firing multiple rounds in quick succession.

Similarly, birdshot won’t come close to killing a bear. While they can cause some injury to the bear, expect them only to scare off the bear more than anything.

Can a Shotgun One-Shot a Bear?

One shot with a shotgun can take down a bear if it hits the right area. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to kill the bear completely. Unless it’s a headshot, a 12 gauge shotgun would have to fire out multiple shots to actually inflict damage on a bear’s body.

This is because, in reality, it’s uncommon to hit a vital organ with one shot. Of course, if you fire the gun right at the temple of the bear, it’d be lights out. But it’s rare to get that kind of shot at the first attempt.

Besides, a charging bear will also have adrenaline shooting through its veins, giving it extra bits of strength and endurance even when already shot at.

What Is the Best Gun for Bear Protection?

Young person aiming a rifle at a charging bear

A big rifle is the best gun for protection against a bear attack. Rifles such as the .375 H&H, .416s, and .458s are pretty effective at stopping an aggressive bear. They can inflict a serious amount of lethal force to deter most bears.

Taking the second position after the big rifles is the shotgun. Shotguns with slugs have popularly been issued to government agencies as a line of protection against bear attacks.

If you really want to go for a shotgun as your bear protection choice of firearm, an 18-inch (45.7 centimeters) barrel shotgun would be the best option. In addition, the shotgun should be a smoothbore, preferably with an Improved Cylinder choke.

Generally speaking, handguns are at the bottom of this list. A handgun just doesn’t have enough velocity to cause any damaging impact that will penetrate a bear’s body and stop it in its tracks.

But if you want an extra handgun to protect you from bears, you’ll need at least a .44 magnum. In addition, the gun’s loud bang will help to keep the bear at a safe distance.

Parting Shot

Bears are massive, powerful creatures with dense fur, thick skin, and heavy layers of both fat and muscle, preventing a shotgun from fatally wounding the bear unless you’re within close range. Technically, of course, you can kill a bear with a shotgun, but you must have precise aim and stand within 10 yards of the bear — which is already an incredibly dangerous situation. 

A large rifle is the best bet for warding off a bear. Look into the .375 H&H, .416s, and .458s for best results.

For more, check out Pump Action vs Semi Auto Shotgun for Hunting | Pros and Cons.

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