When it comes to protection against bears, prevention is the obvious choice for staying safe when in bear country, but prevention cannot be accomplished 100% of the time. If in bear country long enough, you will run across multiple bears and one of them might end up being grouchy, territorial or overly protective. You need to be proactive in your defense with either deterrents or protection. I believe a good weapon can act as both, and I never journey very far in bear country without a weapon. However, carrying long guns or large handguns is not always practical in public places, but being discreet does not limit your possibilities.
First off, for people that are not comfortable with the responsibility of owning and handling a gun, a good spray deterrent is your best bet. There are several ‘bear sprays’ on the market, but beware. Although popular bear sprays have pepper as their active ingredient, all pepper sprays are not bear spray. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has only certified four manufacturers to produce bear-strength pepper spray. Never mistake law enforcement pepper spray for actual bear-protection quality pepper spray.
Also, never be put off by the large sizes of approved bear spray canisters. They are large for a reason– to hold volume. You will need all the spray you can get if you actually have to throw up a misty wall of protection or score a direct hit. Even with the large size, you can easily wear a canister on your belt or tuck it into your pants and still conceal it with a loose shirt.
For those of you who want to take protection and deterrence up a notch, a weapon is the only logical choice. Revolvers are superior to semi-automatic handguns because they won’t jam, so I won’t be discussing semi-autos. Revolvers are available in shorter barrel lengths and double action, which make for easier handling, shooting and better concealment. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan model is one of the leading choices for Alaskan residents. It fires the .44 Magnum round and only has a 2.5” barrel. You can hide it easily and kill a monster mound of flesh with it.
If you are only worried about black bears, you can purchase other snubbed-nose, double action revolvers in lesser calibers. There is nothing shabby about a .45 ACP. Taurus and Smith & Wesson make some very reliable revolvers with short barrels. There are other less expensive models out there too, but be careful in your selection. Reliability is what it’s all about and the larger manufacturers are popular for a reason.
Finally, make sure you are legal and are following local, state and federal laws when taking measures to protect yourself against bears, and stay safe.