Hunting & Fishing

Alaska Outfitter Defends Fishermen from Raging Grizzly with 9mm Pistol

I have been guiding brown bear hunters and fishermen and bear photographers from our homestead within Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for 33 years and have had numerous close encounters with bears. Until now, I have never had to shoot an unwounded bear to protect either myself or clients, but the other week an event occurred and my good fortune changed.

When it happened, I was fully aware of what was going on and how big the bear was. I also managed to stay aware of where my clients were, even when the bear was directly between us. The woman I was guiding said that while she did not remember smelling the bear’s breath, it was close enough to her face that it could have bitten her!

I have killed enough bears to know how important shot placement can be, even with large-bore rifles. I was well aware of the limitations of my 9mm pistol, even with Buffalo Bore ammo. I was aiming for a vital area with each shot; because it all took place between 6 and 8 feet, they were not far off. But hitting the head and brain of a highly animated and agitated animal is a difficult shot.

Alaska Outfitter Defends Fishermen from Raging Grizzly with 9mm Pistol

The two photos shown here tell a pretty good story by themselves. The secondary photo (embedded at the bottom of this story) was taken from the point where the charging bear first erupted from the brush. I am on the left and Larry, my fishing client, is on the right. The bear was within 2 feet or less of Larry and his wife when I shot it. You can see the dead bear to the left of Larry. The main photo (embedded to the right) shows Larry and me with the dead bear and shows its size.

Larry and his wife were fishing with me, and because we were going to a small stream I had fished before, which had numerous large male brown bears, I decided to take my Smith & Wesson 3953 DAO 9mm, rather than the S&W 629 .44 Mag. Mountain Gun I have carried for the past 25 years, as the larger boars are usually less of a problem than sows with cubs.

Before we reached the stream, while we were walking through dense brush and tall grass, we heard a growl and deep “woof” of a bear approximately 6 feet to our right (behind me in the secondary photo). We had been talking loudly but must have startled a sleeping bear. It sounded like it made a movement toward us, and I shouted loudly and the bear ran back through the brush to the right in the photo. Within 15 seconds, we could hear it growling and charging through the dense brush from the opposite side.

I had my pistol out by then, and the bear first appeared from where the photographer in photo No. 2 was standing. It went straight for my clients; Larry and his wife fell backwards in the deep grass. She said the bear’s face was close enough to hers that it could have bitten her!

The bear was highly agitated and standing within 3 feet of my clients when I decided I could take a shot without endangering them.

My first shot was at its neck, and then it began growling and spinning toward the impact. I wanted to hit the head but the bear was moving so fast I simply began shooting each time I could hit a vital area. I hit it six times before it turned to run off, and my seventh shot was into its pelvis area as it ran. When it dropped within 6 feet of the last shot, I checked my pistol and found I had only a single round left in the chamber so decided against walking in and finishing it.

My pistol was loaded with Buffalo Bore 9mm +P Outdoorsman 147-grain FN hard-cast loads that have a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps. I had previously tested, compared and proven such loads with my .357 and .44 mags., and I was convinced they would work.




The video of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a public gun range has hit the internet this week. While graphic and upsetting, this tragedy teaches a lesson about the reality of unpredictable behavior on a public range.

While working with an instructor, the shooter deliberately turns the gun on themselves and pulls the trigger. The bullet passes through their abdomen at a downward angle, and hits the instructor in the leg. The shooter clearly arches their body while pulling the trigger, but poor video quality makes it difficult to determine the exact angle of their shot. Viewers speculate that the shot may have traveled at a lateral angle and exited the shooter’s left side below the armpit. Afterwards the shooter drops the weapon and slumps in a chair while the instructor struggles on the ground.

Some people argue that the shooter was trying to holster the weapon and that the shot was a negligent discharge. One problem with this assessment, where’s the holster? Even if there was a shoulder rig, which there is not, the weapon was turned and placed against the center of the chest.

If you choose to watch the video below, try to think about these things:

  • There was no warning — The shooter displays no signs of disturbed behavior. They fire one shot down range, then casually turn the weapon on themselves.
  • FMJ rounds penetrate — Self defense instructors recommend hollow-points instead of FMJ target rounds for this very reason. If you are defending yourself with target rounds, your likelihood of hitting whatever lies beyond the threat increases dramatically. If the gunshot is considered intentional, the shooter could be charged with second-degree murder instead of involuntary manslaughter. Even if she didn’t know the penetration capabilities of her ammunition, “killing caused by dangerous conduct” is considered murder. That’s something to consider before loading your daily carry with FMJs.
  • A shot to the chest didn’t drop them — In the movies, 9mm rounds send bad guys flying through doors and windows. In reality, a single gunshot wound from a handgun isn’t always going to stop the threat. This shooter took a point blank shot to the chest and barely stepped backward.
  • Death was not instant — Soldiers and peace-keepers are trained to aim for center of mass. They’re also trained to keep firing until the threat stops. A point blank shot to the chest will likely result in death, but it’s not necessarily instantaneous. The shooter has plenty of time to assess their wound and address the injured instructor. The surveillance video shows them drop the weapon, hold their wound, and walk over to a nearby chair.
  • Panic is overwhelming — The instructor was probably armed, but chose flight over fight. Adrenaline and fear can cripple you faster than a bullet.

Gun range suicides don’t happen every day, but they are more common than most people realize. It’s not easy to spot warning signs in the minutes before someone attempts to harm themselves. The instructor was wounded, but it’s doubtful that was the shooter’s intention. Even after taking a round to the chest, they could have easily shot the instructor multiple times as he lay on the ground suffering. The instructor’s injury was essentially collateral damage from the shooter’s desire to take their own life.

Always maintain situational awareness, especially when entering a public range.