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Camping & Hiking Ammunition


38 special Hollow PointsWhen camping or hiking, selecting a carry load is a totally different animal (pun intended) than when selecting a home defense round. Outdoors we have many different possible threats and four legged creatures. They come in all sizes, shapes and strengths. We also have lots of open space to absorb a missed shot. When it comes to four leggers, penetration is key. While a rifle would be the best selection, they are hard to carry and not practical while hiking. For this hiking or camping I would use an entirely different strategy than that used for personal defense.

Large cats and feral dogs can be surprisingly resilient. Many feral dogs also travel in packs. When defending yourself against an animal threat, you want to drop it with as few shots as possible, conserving more ammunition to worry about the rest of the pack if need be. If we are to achieve this, penetration is crucial. Make sure you have a good penetrating round such as, full metal jacket rounds, lead semi wad cutter, standard target shooting wad cutters, soft point etc. These rounds fly straight and penetrate deep giving you a better chance of survival and escape to safety. Hollow points are not typically recommended for larger wild animals as they may not penetrate deep enough to hit a vital organ. Knock them down? Sure. Piss them off? You bet. This could be very bad. (Although there are some special hollow points such as Hornady XTP that are made for hunting as well as personal defense.) Remember placement is key, so practice with these rounds as well as your defensive loads when you have some trigger time.

When in bear country, magnum is the key word. While a 10 or 12 gauge slug would be great as would many rifles, they are not always practical to carry. For bear country you would want a deep penetration round in a minimum of 357 Magnum, 10mm, 41 Magnum, but preferably 44 Magnum, 454 Casull, 460, 480 Ruger, 500SW. We also want the heaviest and fastest hard cast round we can find for penetration. This will give the best odds should a defense be needed. Something to consider, even in these larger calibers. Tests will show that less than 60% of Brown bears are stopped with handguns, and when successful it took at least four shots to stop the charging bear. I would consider it quite a feat to deliver four well placed shots into a charging bear with fear, adrenaline and flashbacks of your existence throbbing thru your veins. Perhaps there is a more viable solution for defending yourself from such a such a formidable opponent?

Smith & wesson 357 magnumAlternatively, 97% of bears are stopped with a 9oz. can of bear spray. Yep I said it, bear spray. Comparing the percentages, a firearm should actually be carried as a second line of defense should the bear spray prove ineffective. Funny thing about this fact is that people act really strange when they hear this. Some will swear up and down that this can not be true, as any handgun is far better than pepper spray. These Bear Jedi's watch far to much television and think that a handgun is a death ray. If you shoot anything you will be victorious. Do not fall for these Jedi mind tricks, the statistics do not lie. Also, if someone makes a statement that starts with, "I think"... do yourself a favor and dismiss the claim immediately. "I think" is a huge gamble when your life is on the pass line. There is no need to "think" when the answers can be found with a simple google search. I am a believer in math, so "I know" that statistically the odds or survival will favor me should I choose the Bear Spray.

Why? Remember, pepper spray will be a hell of a lot more effective on a bear than a human, for one simple reason. Because their nose is wet. If you think a mere 20 or even 100 feet distance is far to great for the bear spray to effect the bear, you are mistaken. Smell is the bears sharpest sense. Scientists believe a bear can easily smell a carcass over 18 miles away. Shooting Bear Spray at a bear is the equivalent of you shooting it up your nose and into your sinuses. Moreover, it is a free country and people can use whatever stick, hand grenade or advice they choose, but heed this advice that was given to me by a friend who lived in Alaska. "If you are not going to carry Bear Spray along with your handgun, be sure you file down your front sights as smooth as possible. This way it won't hurt as much when the bear takes it from you and shoves it up your ass."

To make a good story, let's assume the "Anti Bear Rape Spray" does not work and I fall in the 3 percentile that was unsuccessful because I shot it into my own face. My available tools would be an empty can in one hand and a Glock 20sf 10mm loaded with Buffalo Bore 220 grain hard cast in the other. Sure there might be a few rocks or pointy sticks around, but lets disregard those for now.

Plan A - The 2 step program
This would be the easiest and most succesfull strategy. I could simply shoot my buddy in the knee and RUN FOREST RUN! However, if I was alone I would need a Plan B. (obvious humor)

Plan B - The 4 step program
1. I would not attempt a head shot (some bears have skulls as thick as 4 inches), but rather shoot it in the front two shoulders. This could greatly slow the animal and give me a better chance of survival. The heart and vital are also near the front shoulder so there is a chance one could be hit.
2. If the bear continues to engage or stands up, the chest/heart and other two limbs would be next.
3. Empty the rest of the magazine into the beast anywhere I could hit it, again aiming about front shoulders center of mass.
4. Finish pissing myself and run like hell.

Below are a few diagrams to help you understand exactly where the vital organs of a bear are. I would recommend you take a good look at it if you spend any time in bear country. It will definitely increase your chances of survival should you ever find yourself waltzing with Smokey.

Download the Bear shot placement PDF

Hands down best knowledge and safety tip anyone can give is this... "Knowing where you are going and what type of animal threat there could be, and preparing for such is by far the best defense." Once you know that, choose the appropriate firearm, bear spray or other defensive tool for the trip. A high power rifle or shotgun will be vastly more effective where the wild things are. When a rifle is not practical, choose wisely. A firearm is not a miracle tool or a death ray Han Solo! It will not roast a marsh mellow, and certainly will not change a flat tire. Of course in a bind a 380ACP just might prove to be better than nothing, but when it comes to large formidable animals, if you don't have the tools, don't attempt the repair.

And beware, NEVER forget the chocolate and gram crackers. In my experience that could prove far more dangerous than a run in with Smokey the Bear.

- Jeff | balllistics101


epilogue | camping and hunting ammo

Hard Cast, Full Metal Jacket, Lead Round Nose, Jacketed Soft Point, Flat Point - These rounds are designed to penetrate deep and will be best suited to protect yourself against a four legger. Shooting a bear with a hollow point is not going to be effective. What we need to stop an animal this size and strong is deep penetration. We need to cause remote damage or hydrostatic shock. Hydrostatic shock is when the pressure and energy of the bullet effects a remote area other than the area penetrated by the bullet. For example a bear is shot in the shoulder, but the pressure and energy from the bullet is so great it renders damage to the brain of the animal. That is hydrostatic shock. When an animal is shot with such a round, they can die from hydrostatic shock even before they bleed out. Sometimes within 10-15 seconds. 9mm, 357 Magnum, 357 SIG, 10mm, 41 Magnum, 44 Magnum, 454 Casull, 460 SW, 480 Ruger and 500 SW rounds are very fast bullets and all capable of causing hydrostatic shock. These would be good protection weapons against smaller four leggers. While camping we should load rounds that penetrate deeper and are more likely to strike a vital organ. Or better a magnum round that is capable of inflicting hydrostatic shock. If in bear country, a 12 gauge loaded with slugs would prove much more effective than any handgun. While it is not as convenient or portable as a pistol, it's effectiveness is far superior for larger animals.


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