9mm vs 10mm Which is Best for Bear Defense? ~ Vortex Nation Cartridge Talks

In the wild, adventurous terrains of the West and Alaska, venturing into bear territory is almost inevitable. The critical question of whether to carry a 9mm or a 10mm handgun for bear defense is one that many outdoor enthusiasts and hunters grapple with. A recent episode of “Cartridge Talks” aimed to shed light on this debate with a series of inventive tests, lacking only in actual bears willing to participate.

The hosts, Ryan and Mark, embarked on a journey to determine the adequacy of 9mm and 10mm handguns for bear defense through a range of drills that mimicked potential bear encounters. These included precision shooting at paper bear targets, a scenario with a charging bear, and various moving target tests, all to simulate real-world conditions as closely as possible. Utilizing ballistics gelatin enhanced with anatomically correct bear skulls, they also examined the terminal performance of both calibers.

Despite the inherent differences in power and bullet size—9mm being smaller and less forceful compared to the heftier 10mm—the results were unexpectedly similar.

9mm vs 10mm Best for Bear Defense thumbnail
9mm vs 10mm Best for Bear Defense

Both calibers demonstrated formidable penetration capabilities, with the 9mm and 10mm rounds making their way through extensive lengths of gelatin and even piercing through bear skull simulations. This impressive penetration challenges the common perception that bigger, more powerful rounds are always better for stopping large predators.

The findings suggest that when it comes to bear defense, the choice between 9mm and 10mm may not be as clear-cut as previously thought. Both calibers proved capable of significant damage, particularly with hardcast bullets designed for deep penetration. This revelation poses an essential consideration for bear country adventurers: the importance of familiarity and practice with their chosen firearm.

Ultimately, the decision between carrying a 9mm or a 10mm for bear defense boils down to personal preference, comfort, and proficiency with the firearm. A more powerful cartridge like the 10mm may offer peace of mind with its increased energy and mass. However, if a shooter is more likely to practice and achieve proficiency with a 9mm, this caliber could be just as effective in a critical situation.

This episode underscores the need for outdoor enthusiasts to not only consider the ballistic capabilities of their defense weapons but also to invest time in training and familiarizing themselves with their firearm of choice. In the realm of bear defense, confidence and accuracy in one’s shooting ability are just as vital as the caliber they carry.

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