Ruger Blackhawk & Super Blackhawk
The all-American Super Blackhawk from Ruger is a modernized version of the classic single-action revolver with a frame capable of harnessing bear-thumping cartridges. Unlike early single actions like the Colt 1873, which had firing pins mounted directly on the hammer, the Blackhawk revolvers have a transfer bar design that is far safer. Robust, reliable and easy to carry, the Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk are favorites of those who spend a lot of time messing around grizzlies. The most popular choice is the .44 Magnum, and that’s a good one, but the .41 Magnum Blackhawk is another good option, and the Super Blackhawk is now available in .480 Ruger and .454 Casull. Despite the classic cowboy gun grip design on the Blackhawk, it’s still surprisingly stable in the hand.
While I was hunting elk in the Madison Range of Montana last October, a brief snow storm rushed over the mountains and dropped about an inch of fresh powder. The sudden burst limited visibility and made crossing the boulders on the base of the mountain a slippery challenge, so my hunting partner and I sat out the storm under a clump of trees overlooking a river valley. When the brief storm ebbed and the first streaks of sunlight filtered through the firs and pines of the Madison Forest, we started down into the valley below to pick up the trail of the elk herd. That’s when we came upon the grizzly tracks.
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The prints were unmistakably large, round and very fresh. The bear had crossed the trail no more than 10 minutes before we arrived. Being a born and bred Midwesterner, I was caught totally unawares; no one had mentioned the word “grizzly,” and this late in the season I imagined all the bears would be in dens. The crisp prints on the fresh snow were a clear indicator that I was wrong.
Every close encounter I’ve had with grizzlies has been a hackle-raising experience similar to that one. In Alberta in 2014, I had to abandon a productive black bear bait because a large male grizzly decided to claim the food for himself. While hiking the Russian River in Alaska in 2012, two terrified tourists broke out of the timber ahead of me in a hurry to get back to their rental car because they’d stumbled upon a pair of grizzly cubs at the water’s edge and knew the sow was close by. Thankfully, though, that’s been the extent of my encounters with bears, and even though they were a bit frightening at the time, each of those experiences has made my time in the wilderness richer. Still, if that unlikely moment arrives when I must defend myself from North America’s greatest land predator, I fully understand that my only hope of survival might be resting in my holster or on my shoulder.
The shotguns, rifles and handguns listed here come recommended by people who live alongside bears, from fishing and hunting guides to scientists, hikers and helicopter pilots. Before you head into grizzly country, it’s essential to be prepared; having the right defensive firearm should be a top priority.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2016 Issue of Gun Digest the Magazine