21 December 2015

The 10mm Bear Gun?

 The 10mm as a woods gun

Hunting with a handgun is one thing. Self-defense against toothy things is a different critter all together. When most everything is in your favor and you are calling the shots, so to speak, things are MUCH different than when you are being attacked. Those that are shooting 4" groups at 10 or 15 yards and think they shooting pretty well do not need to be trying to hunt with a handgun. I'm sure everyone here knows accuracy that may be considered adequate for defensive purposes may be woefully inadequate for quick, humane kills while hunting. As far as bears are concerned, are you talking black bears or one of the big bears? If it's black bear, the 10mm will do fine if you choose the right ammo and place your shots carefully. I wouldn't hesitate to hunt blackies with my G20. Big bears, OTOH, are a different story. For HUNTING big bears I would use a minimum of a hot-loaded .44 mag with at least 300 grain hard cast WFN bullets. Preferably, I would have .454, .480 Ruger or a .460 S&W. For DEFENSE against big bears, if I were not planning to have anything to do with them and they just happened along at an inopportune time, I would still use my G20 loaded with hot 200 grain FP-FMJ's or, if I had an after-market bbl (which I do), I might use a hard-cast 200 grain WFN or something along those lines that fed reliably in my gun.

Here's why I say that. I carry a Glock of some sort every day, every waking minute. It's safe to say that I am intimately familiar with it. It's also safe to say that under extreme duress, a man does funny things. I read an account of a man that had been close enough to an angry griz to hit him with a pistol and was carrying a large caliber SA revolver. Because he was used to a DA revolvers, he repeatedly pulled the trigger on the SA and it never fired. Fortunately, the bear must have had other dinner plans and left. Another account had a man empty his DA revolver and continue to pull the trigger, clicking on empty chambers, until his compadre took the gun away from him after the bear had left. Being that close to something that has a mouth that you can put your head in, teeth nearly as long as your fingers and breath that will drop your socks in cotton puddles around your ankles is probably the most stress that a guy might ever experience.

Expecting to perform as you THINK you should be able to when in the safety of your living room is not going to be a happening thing. When you have little to no control over your fine motor skills, you will only do what you have practiced, good or bad. Having committed the operation of your weapon to muscle memory is a good thing. I can shoot a revolver pretty damn well and pretty damn fast but I am certain that I could dump 15 rounds of hot 10mm's (weighing a total of 3000 grains) into Bruno and reload a HELL of a lot faster than I could shoot 5 rounds (weighing a total of 1500 grains) out of a very big, heavy single or DA revolver and reload. Yes, I know the .44/.454/.480/ hot loaded .45 Colt has a lot more energy than the 10mm does. Just about any CF rifle caliber over .25 has more than all of those and is the clear winner of this discussion. However, I am certain that multiple 180-200 grain, .40 caliber bullets at 12-1300 fps has more collective energy than multiple loads of 00 buck but there are a great many guides and experienced hunters up north that recommend the 12 gauge with alternating 00 and slugs as a camp gun. The slugs, of course, are a different story but buckshot is usually made of very soft lead and to think that you get even a fraction of the required penetration with it is ludicrous.

As far as the likelihood of being attacked is concerned, I don't think it is quite as remote as some might think although I have spent a large amount of my 59 years in the woods and a good bit of it in ID, WY and MT and I have never been attacked. However, in some parts of the country, it is more likely that you will be attacked by a critter than a human but we all still feel the need to CCW everywhere we go. In the 4 years that I spent in Cody, WY, there were 2 attacks by grizzlies on people that we knew. The bear came back for seconds in one of those instances and mauled the man that had already been mauled the first time and lightly mauled another guy. They claim to have shot 2-3 .338's into him and 6 .44 mags but, (they claim) they never found him. The wounds were very real and life-threatening after the 2nd go-round.

We’ve watched a medium sized grizzly rip the top off of a little Ford Ranger like a sardine can sitting at a trailhead one morning. Had someone walked up on him at that time, they probably would have been in a fix.

So I think the potential is there and is more likely if you don't conduct yourself properly. I'm fairly certain that many folks having never been attacked is at least partially due to knowing how to act and keeping a clean camp. Folks that don't do that are actually somewhat likely to be attacked.

The hard, cold facts are that you may not have time to use either so it's probably a moot point so you might want to save the last round for yourself. That's my opinion and you're welcome to it.

It's pretty tough to beat the 10mm for a woods gun. I don't particularly care for as it an SD gun but it's dynamite in a rural environment. It's accurate, hard-hitting and the capacity is quite appealing in areas where things with teeth live. The recoil on the 10mm is a little offensive to some, especially in steel-framed guns but it's quite comfortable in the full-sized Glock. My ex 5'2" and weighed about 110 and she absolutely adores my G20 and has no issues with shooting it at all.

Some compare it to the .41 magnum and rightfully so. However, factory loads are not THAT much horsier than the .40 S&W unless you buy ammo from Buffalo Bore or Double Tap or you reload your own. I reload and I can easily get over 1200 fps out of 200 grain bullets without any signs of high pressure. I can get a little over 1300 fps out of 180's. THAT is very much encroaching into .41 mag territory. With that being said, I can say, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I would rather have a Glock 20 loaded with my 200 grain handloads for protection in big bear country than any other handgun or load in existence. Is it more powerful than a .454 or .460? Hell no, but I'll bet you I can put 15-200 grain bullets at near .41 mag performance in Bruno a whole lot faster than the average guy can ACCURATELY put 5-300 grain .45's in him. I can also get 15 more in place and ready to unload into him in a hair over a second if need be, which I doubt. Muscle memory plays a big part in my decision also. Since I carry a Glock daily and train regularly, the speed and unconscious operation of the gun would be much to my benefit. The 10mm would NOT be my first choice for HUNTING big bears but only for defense against them.

The accuracy and velocity claims of the 6" "hunting" barrel are grossly over-rated and for the most part are pretty much a non-issue. The assumption that the longer barrel is inherently more accurate is a common one but not generally factual. If you do not have the corresponding sight radius, it wouldn't make any difference if the barrel was a foot longer than the slide, much less 1" longer. So you'll increase your velocity slightly by putting the longer barrel on but if you want to possibly increase your accuracy, you'll need a longer slide and accompanying sight radius too. Just as a point of interest, I killed a nice mule deer with my G20 at 112 yards a few years ago with a stock barrel.

The CLAIMED increase in velocity is BS. You're only talking 1.4" difference. On the average, ANY firearm gains or loses between 35 and 50 fps per inch of barrel length added or subtracted. Yes, there are exceptions but the 10mm is not one of them. Even if you give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're going to get the larger number, you're only talking about 70 fps difference. That's hardly worth the expense of a new barrel that's not going to increase your accuracy also. Now if you went with a longer barrel AND a longer slide for the sight radius, it may be worth it to some folks. Not me.
Just to take away some of the guess work, here are some actual chronograph readings from 3 different 10mm bbls. The numbers listed are an average of 5 shots with 180 grain Remington UMC ammo. My handloads are considerably faster but I didn't have a chance to try them in all 3 barrels.

The first was a stock Glock barrel at 1043 fps.

The next was a KKM .45/10mm conversion barrel, at 1037 fps. I actually lost 6 fps but that was to be expected due to the better gas seal provided by Glocks rifling and the additional drag of the conventional rifling in the KKM bbl.

The last was a 6" KKM "hunting" barrel at 1063. Notice that the 6" bbl was only 20 feet faster than the stock barrel. We only expected 50-70 fps increase in the first place assuming the barrels were the same except for length. Considering stock Glock barrels are usually faster then cut-rifled barrels anyway, that 50-70 foot difference doesn't hold true. Now if you put a GLOCK 6" bbl with the same rifling as the stock bbl, you'd see a little bigger difference. So, with all that being said, you don't gain enough by going to a 6" to justify the expense of it by my way of thinking.

So, in a nutshell, if you're a hard-core revolver aficionado and you feel confident with it, by all means that;s what you should carry. But at least consider what has been said here. For me, I am exceedingly pleased with G20 in the woods pretty much anywhere in North America and beyond!

In Liberty,
Cope Reynolds (Desertscout)
Southwest Shooting Authority of Arizona

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