There is often debate over what’s the best gun to carry in the backcountry. If there was any doubt that a 9 mm pistol could protect you against a grizzly bear, a long-time fishing and hunting guide has a shocking story to tell. 

After 33 years guiding in the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, Phil Shoemaker shot and killed a grizzly just feet from his two clients. Shoemaker was leading a man and a woman to fish at a nearby creek when they heard the bear growling in the brush.

Then suddenly it leaped out of the woods and charged. Shoemaker pulled the 9mm pistol he had with him. Since they were on a fishing trip where he expected to encounter less aggressive male grizzlies opposed to sows with cubs, he decided against bringing the .44 but still confident the 9 mm could put down a bear if tested.  

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“I have killed enough bears to know how important shot placement can be, even with large-bore rifles,” Shoemaker wrote in the NRA’s American Hunter magazine. “I was well aware of the limitations of my 9 mm pistol, even with Buffalo Bore ammo. I was aiming for a vital area with each shot.”

Shoemaker has been guiding brown bear hunters, fishermen and photographers for 33 years, so he’s dealt with his share of grizzly bears, but nothing as harrowing as this.

“I was fully aware of what was going on and how big the bear was,” he wrote. “I also managed to stay aware of where my clients were, even when the bear was directly between us.”

The bear charged at his clients and they fell to the ground to protect themselves. Judging that it was safe, he took the first shot to the bear’s neck. It then growled and spun wildly.

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“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,” he wrote. “I hit it six times before it turned to run off, and my seventh shot was into its pelvis area as it ran.”

The bear ended up dying a few moments later, but Shoemaker only had one more round left in the chamber. 

To read the full story visit American Hunter.

Photo credit: American Hunter