A Rifle Related Question For American Bear Hunters

Major Khan

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Dear African Hunting Forums Members ,
As most of you gentlemen know .... I regularly write articles for these forums and it so happens that I shall be writing another very soon. However , I would like to collect a little bit of data from you gentlemen to use in my next article . As many of you may know , I have always been fascinated about hunting the Great Bears of America and I try reading about as much on this interesting subject , as I can .
It is an universally accepted fact that double barreled rifles are extremely popular for dangerous game in Africa ( and rightfully so ! ) . During my career as a professional shikaree in Nagpur , India from 1961 to 1970 ... I observed that numerous of my clients preferred double barreled rifles for hunting dangerous game , including Asian Sloth Bears . My question is this :
How is it that the double barreled rifle never quite caught on as a concept , with hunters of the American bear species ( such as Black Bears , Grizzly Bears, Alaskan Bears and the like . ) ?
I understand that American bears can be extremely dangerous and a large calibre double barreled rifle , chambered in at least 9.3 x 74 mm Rimmed would ( I presume ) not do too poorly against an American Grizzly Bear .
To the best of my knowledge , there are now quite a few makers of excellent double barreled rifles in America ( Such as Mr. Bailey Bradshaw or Mr. Butch Searcy , to name a few ) .Ammunition ( In both factory loaded form and hand loading components) for double barreled rifle calibres are widely available in America . I should think that a double barreled rifle would be quite an excellent tool for the guides of American Grizzly Bear hunts to carry for backing up their clients .
Yet , I do not often read about double barreled rifles being used on hunts for American Bears
Thus , all of your excellent insight would greatly be appreciated on this subject .Why do each of you think that the double barreled rifle never achieved any popularity for hunting American Bears ?
Yours sincerely,
Major Poton Khan ( Retired )
 

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I am not American, but I will offer my point of view. There are two basics reasons of double rifle not being wide spread in American continent:

1. Tradition
First came Hawken, then came Sharps, then came Winchester, and then came Springfield and mauser 98 (and similar bolt actions). Wild west was already flooded by older rifles up to winchesters in number of models, all of them proven in buffalo hunting, plus wild west conquering, and all of them were useful. Tradition was made.

2. Price.
Good, reliable double rifle is expensive, I dont think there is any way around it. Not everybody can afford it. Then, as well - now.
 

USMA84DAB

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Sir - A few musings -


Availability - No arms makers manufactured them - if you can't walk into the general store and buy one, it would be tough to use one

Availability - Henry & Winchester & Savage made lever guns to take us past falling blocks and muskets - then came bolt guns

Cost & Practicality - When one can only afford one rifle, a double is not what is sought - tough on rabbits and squirrels - look at the development of the .35 Whelen - avoidance of magnum Mauser actions due to cost - a double would have cost even more

Availability - The US military never developed/adopted them, so there was no imitation/adoption by the civilian market

No need for a dangerous game double rifle - The mountain men cleared the majority of the bears out with their .54 caliber Hawkins, etc. (circa 1830?) - by the time they were a sport/trophy animal the bolt gun reigned supreme

From today's point of view/my point of view -
- I "could" save and scrape and sacrifice and get a double - the other five to ten rifles I would not be able to afford are not worth the dedicated specificity of a double to me
- I have muscle memory that is based on a bolt gun, so do not want to change that when pursuing things that could eat me
- my .375 Ruger can hunt in many more situations/is much more flexible than a double - it takes weather better, it reaches out farther, is scoped much more easily, has x2 the capacity (and granted, is slower to the 2nd shot - but faster on #s 3 & 4)
- The Ruger Alaskan cost $750 vs., say, even $5,000 for a modern mass produced double (if that developed/existed) - that is 5 additional rifles I could buy for the same money.
- Reload cost for the .375 Ruger is $1.53/round - a more esoteric cartridge (rimmed for a double) would drive that cost even higher - the only rimmed cartridge we have here is .30-30 Winchester, surplus 7.62x54R for the Soviet lovers, and VERY remotely some .303 Brit - a $5/round chambered gun means ALOT less shooting
- Given the paucity of bears and the cost to go on a hunt here (same as a safari, but you are only pursuing one animal), I will hunt 99 times+ deer to possibly 1 time for bear - that leads me to play with bolt guns, or now even ARs in .308, and the size of my cartridge used tops out at .35 Whelen because there is nothing else practical from a cost or need standpoint. Of course, one CAN stalk wabbits with a .495 A-Square just because...

My $.02 worth - YMMV - hope this helps
 

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Money, pure and simple.

In the Old World, hunting was the sport of kings and other landed gentry. In the US and Canada, hunting was long a requirement for survival, so it became a more egalitarian endeavor. Our roots are deep in military calibers and rifles. The most popular rifles and cartridges are military, or wildcats based on them:
30-06
308 Win
243 Win
358 Win
7mm-08
300 WM
35W
270 Win
25-06
45-70
 

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All good stuff gents.

Another truth is that these hunters were not "sport" hunting. They were meat hunting or hunting for the hides. So, shoot the animal at 100-200 yards and track them down.

It's a business...and generally speaking the business is not to get dead or put oneself in harms way. In the West, trees are a bit sparser, there are larger shooting lanes, distances are greater...it's not walking through elephant grass or jungles where the distances would mandate such a rifle as a double gun.
 

Major Khan

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I am not American, but I will offer my point of view. There are two basics reasons of double rifle not being wide spread in American continent:

1. Tradition
First came Hawken, then came Sharps, then came Winchester, and then came Springfield and mauser 98 (and similar bolt actions). Wild west was already flooded by older rifles up to winchesters in number of models, all of them proven in buffalo hunting, plus wild west conquering, and all of them were useful. Tradition was made.

2. Price.
Good, reliable double rifle is expensive, I dont think there is any way around it. Not everybody can afford it. Then, as well - now.
Thank you so much for your thorough analysis , Mark Hunter . Your assessment is quite accurate about the prohibitive costs of a good quality double barreled rifle. A budget bolt rifle is infinitely superior to a cheap double barreled rifle any day , as the short comings of inferior quality are far less apparent than the double barreled rifle.
A British client once told me that if the purchase of a double barreled rifle does not hurt your wallet ... then chances are that it is not going to be a good 1 .
 

chashardy

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I have not hunted bears, but having watched a bunch of the bear hunt videos on outdoor channels I would offer a couple of comments:
1. Black bear hunting is often done from a blind over a bait (a barrel with something bears like) and the bears come to a distance that is close enough for bow hunters. A double could be effective in that situation, but I agree with the posters above that bolt or lever guns have a long, established history in the U.S. for all kinds of hunting.
2. Grizzly and Kodiak and other big brown bears often require shots at distances that would make a double less reliable, so bolt rifles with scopes are preferred.
Just my observation.
I would add that watching videos of elk hunting during the rut when the bulls can be called to within 60 or 70 yards has made me want to give that a try with my double.
 

Major Khan

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Sir - A few musings -


Availability - No arms makers manufactured them - if you can't walk into the general store and buy one, it would be tough to use one

Availability - Henry & Winchester & Savage made lever guns to take us past falling blocks and muskets - then came bolt guns

Cost & Practicality - When one can only afford one rifle, a double is not what is sought - tough on rabbits and squirrels - look at the development of the .35 Whelen - avoidance of magnum Mauser actions due to cost - a double would have cost even more

Availability - The US military never developed/adopted them, so there was no imitation/adoption by the civilian market

No need for a dangerous game double rifle - The mountain men cleared the majority of the bears out with their .54 caliber Hawkins, etc. (circa 1830?) - by the time they were a sport/trophy animal the bolt gun reigned supreme

From today's point of view/my point of view -
- I "could" save and scrape and sacrifice and get a double - the other five to ten rifles I would not be able to afford are not worth the dedicated specificity of a double to me
- I have muscle memory that is based on a bolt gun, so do not want to change that when pursuing things that could eat me
- my .375 Ruger can hunt in many more situations/is much more flexible than a double - it takes weather better, it reaches out farther, is scoped much more easily, has x2 the capacity (and granted, is slower to the 2nd shot - but faster on #s 3 & 4)
- The Ruger Alaskan cost $750 vs., say, even $5,000 for a modern mass produced double (if that developed/existed) - that is 5 additional rifles I could buy for the same money.
- Reload cost for the .375 Ruger is $1.53/round - a more esoteric cartridge (rimmed for a double) would drive that cost even higher - the only rimmed cartridge we have here is .30-30 Winchester, surplus 7.62x54R for the Soviet lovers, and VERY remotely some .303 Brit - a $5/round chambered gun means ALOT less shooting
- Given the paucity of bears and the cost to go on a hunt here (same as a safari, but you are only pursuing one animal), I will hunt 99 times+ deer to possibly 1 time for bear - that leads me to play with bolt guns, or now even ARs in .308, and the size of my cartridge used tops out at .35 Whelen because there is nothing else practical from a cost or need standpoint. Of course, one CAN stalk wabbits with a .495 A-Square just because...

My $.02 worth - YMMV - hope this helps
Thank you so much for your thorough explanation , USMA84DAB . It helped me understand a great deal about the place ( or lack thereof ) of double barreled rifles in American hunting applications.
 

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Poton, great info on here. My personal experiences include two Kodiak hunts. Ranges were typically 100-250 yards. I was with a total of 5 guides with other clients. The guides all carried 375 H&H, 340 Weatherby, 338 Winchester and 416 Remington Magnum bolt guns. Ideal distance for brown bear I was told was 75-100 yards. Far enough you could get multiple shots with a bolt gun if charged.
I had one 8’+ bear walking right to left at less than 30 yards. My guide wouldn’t let me shoot it because it was too close and hadn’t winded us.

Ive hunted black bear in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska. 30 caliber is my caliber and 30-06 in particular. Where I hunt you either have to spot and stalk to within range (typically less than 200 yards), or call them in to any distance.

I just don’t see the practical use for a double rifle for most of my bear hunting. Admittedly sitting alone in the woods calling a hungry predatory beast 3-4 times my size and wanting to eat something can be a bit nerve intense.:eek:
 

Major Khan

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Money, pure and simple.

In the Old World, hunting was the sport of kings and other landed gentry. In the US and Canada, hunting was long a requirement for survival, so it became a more egalitarian endeavor. Our roots are deep in military calibers and rifles. The most popular rifles and cartridges are military, or wildcats based on them:
30-06
308 Win
243 Win
358 Win
7mm-08
300 WM
35W
270 Win
25-06
45-70
Thank you so much for explaining this to me so simply , Sgt_Zim . This philosophy is also ( I believe) why hunting remains strong in America , but is demonized by people in Great Britain . In America , hunting has always been considered a God given right of every common man ( and rightfully so ) . However , in Great Britain hunting was always considered an “ Upper Class Elitist “ affair . This proved to be counter productive in modern times , as the vile Labour Party , often tries to paint hunting as some sort of “ Aristocrat’s cruel hobby “ .
 

Major Khan

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All good stuff gents.

Another truth is that these hunters were not "sport" hunting. They were meat hunting or hunting for the hides. So, shoot the animal at 100-200 yards and track them down.

It's a business...and generally speaking the business is not to get dead or put oneself in harms way. In the West, trees are a bit sparser, there are larger shooting lanes, distances are greater...it's not walking through elephant grass or jungles where the distances would mandate such a rifle as a double gun.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this to me , Rnovi . It greatly helps me to understand exactly how hunting the Great Bears of America is different from hunting Asian Sloth Bears in India and Bangladesh.
 

Major Khan

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I have not hunted bears, but having watched a bunch of the bear hunt videos on outdoor channels I would offer a couple of comments:
1. Black bear hunting is often done from a blind over a bait (a barrel with something bears like) and the bears come to a distance that is close enough for bow hunters. A double could be effective in that situation, but I agree with the posters above that bolt or lever guns have a long, established history in the U.S. for all kinds of hunting.
2. Grizzly and Kodiak and other big brown bears often require shots at distances that would make a double less reliable, so bolt rifles with scopes are preferred.
Just my observation.
I would add that watching videos of elk hunting during the rut when the bulls can be called to within 60 or 70 yards has made me want to give that a try with my double.
Thank you so much for sharing your own personal experiences on this subject , Chashardy . It is helping me to get a far more clear picture about how the Great Bears of America are hunted .
 

Major Khan

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Poton, great info on here. My personal experiences include two Kodiak hunts. Ranges were typically 100-250 yards. I was with a total of 5 guides with other clients. The guides all carried 375 H&H, 340 Weatherby, 338 Winchester and 416 Remington Magnum bolt guns. Ideal distance for brown bear I was told was 75-100 yards. Far enough you could get multiple shots with a bolt gun if charged.
I had one 8’+ bear walking right to left at less than 30 yards. My guide wouldn’t let me shoot it because it was too close and hadn’t winded us.

Ive hunted black bear in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska. 30 caliber is my caliber and 30-06 in particular. Where I hunt you either have to spot and stalk to within range (typically less than 200 yards), or call them in to any distance.

I just don’t see the practical use for a double rifle for most of my bear hunting. Admittedly sitting alone in the woods calling a hungry predatory beast 3-4 times my size and wanting to eat something can be a bit nerve intense.:eek:
Thank you so much for sharing your excellent insight and personal experiences with us , Ridgewalker . It is helping me get a far more clear 3 dimensional picture about the rifles typically used by American bear hunters, and the reason why some designs of rifles are far more popular than the others in the context of hunting the Bear species in America.
 

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I’m looking forward to the article Major. A lot of the reading I have done indicates that a lot of large bore leaver action rifles were used at the beginning of the 20th century.
Of course in 1937 the Winchester the model 70 was introduced in the 375 H&H. The perfect large bear rifle.
 

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Thank you so much for explaining this to me so simply , Sgt_Zim . This philosophy is also ( I believe) why hunting remains strong in America , but is demonized by people in Great Britain . In America , hunting has always been considered a God given right of every common man ( and rightfully so ) . However , in Great Britain hunting was always considered an “ Upper Class Elitist “ affair . This proved to be counter productive in modern times , as the vile Labour Party , often tries to paint hunting as some sort of “ Aristocrat’s cruel hobby “ .

Almost a shame the 30-06 came along when it did - I think 7x57 would have gained a huge following here otherwise.
 

Major Khan

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I’m looking forward to the article Major. A lot of the reading I have done indicates that a lot of large bore leaver action rifles were used at the beginning of the 20th century.
Of course in 1937 the Winchester the model 70 was introduced in the 375 H&H. The perfect large bear rifle.
It shall be my privilege to have such an eager young gentleman such as yourself read it , Master Smith .
And yes . A .375 Holland & Holland magnum calibre pre 64 Winchester Model 70 is the gold standard of all round hunting rifles.
 

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DSC_0703A.jpg
DSC_0704A.jpg



Above are two examples of American gunworks. top is a 1937 Winchester M70 375H&H. bottom is a 1916 Parker DHE 12 ga.

To add to the previous comments I submit:
1. Each of these requires a different method of shooting. the rifle is aimed, that is, the shooters focus is on the aiming mechanism, front sight/scope reticle. The shotgun is pointed, that is it is fitted to the shooters body then the shooter is focused on the target and similarly to pointing his/her finger at the target, he/she is unaware of the gun/finger then when things "look right" he/she fires.

It is my thought that hunters using double rifles utilize the latter method of shooting- that is, they are focused on the game rather than the gun. As such their training would be more as a shotgun shooter than a rifle shooter. Since American big game hunters are more involved with shooting rifles, it would follow that they are more inclined toward a gun that is shot as a rifle than as a shotgun.

2. In the game fields of Alaska and areas where large bears are encountered there is also a plethora of other game. as such a bolt action rifle has much more versatility.
 
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I am doing a, do it yourself, black bear hunt on Prince of Wales, Alaska in late May and early June. I will be carrying my .375 H&H mag Winchester Model 70. I will be using 300gr A Frame bullets. The rifle has a Zeis 3x9 scope. This is the same rifle system my lovely wife used to take her black bear on Vancouver Island in 2016. It is the same rifle I have used in Africa. Until a year ago this rifle was the go to rifle because it made financial sense.

Now after several years on this forum I no longer think in financial sensibilities. I do own a VC .470 NE. This is the same rifle I used on my Cape buffalo last July. Yes, the .470 will make it to Alaska on the bear hunt. It will give me options.:whistle:(y)
 

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View attachment 336528 View attachment 336529


Above are two examples of American gunworks. top is a 1937 Winchester M70 375H&H. bottom is a 1916 Parker DHE 12 ga.

To add to the previous comments I submit:
1. Each of these requires a different method of shooting. the rifle is aimed, that is, the shooters focus is on the aiming mechanism, front sight/scope reticle. The shotgun is pointed, that is it is fitted to the shooters body then the shooter is focused on the target and similarly to pointing his/her finger at the target, he/she is unaware of the gun/finger then when things "look right" he/she fires.

It is my thought that hunters using double rifles utilize the latter method of shooting- that is, they are focused on the game rather than the gun. As such their training would be more as a shotgun shooter than a rifle shooter. Since American big game hunters are more involved with shooting rifles, it would follow that they are more inclined toward a gun that is shot as a rifle than as a shotgun.

2. In the game fields of Alaska and areas where large bears are encountered there is also a plethora of other game. as such a bolt action rifle has much more versatility.
Thank you so much for explaining this to me so eloquently , sir . Both of those are excellent looking pieces . Does your shot gun have 2.75 inch or 3 inch chambers ? And what level of chokes does it have ? I understand that several American shot guns built prior to World War 1 have 2 5/8 inch chambers .
 

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