Pistol, Bear Spray, Or Both? Find Out The Answer With MeatEater’s Clay Newcomb

Recent events in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, like the fatal grizzly attack at a campsite, the idiot tourist who was bluff charged by a mother grizzly, and the park ranger who fended off a charging bear with rubber bullets have all highlighted the real threat that grizzly bear conflicts can pose to people who spend time in bear country.

Let these situations be a lesson on the imperativeness of being prepared for grizzly encounters while enjoying the great outdoors in bear country. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiking, hunting, fishing, or camping, the potential for a bear encounter is real when you trek into their world.

While tactics like playing dead can help you avoid being killed by grizzly, the best bets for protecting yourself from a bear attack are either bear spray or a pistol.

But which one is a better option?

Clay Newcomb recently sought out to answer that question, and he put both of those bear defense mechanisms to the test in order to find out.

His answer is, well both. Or either. It just depends on what you’re comfortable with and capable of utilizing.

Few folks are better suited to explore the nuances of the bear spray vs. pistol debate than Newcomb. An experienced bear hunter who has spent ample time in grizzly country, he’s not only the host of the Bear Grease podcast on the MeatEater network, but he’s been running the show at Bear Hunting Magazine for years as well.

The video opens with Newcomb visiting with Todd Orr, who made national headlines in 2016 when he was gruesomely attacked by a grizzly bear. Not many people have first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be mauled by a grizzly bear and survive, but Orr does.

Orr owes his life to bear spray, which he was able to use to stop the bears first violent onslaught.

However, a subsequent run in with the same bear nearly ended his life. Having lost both his bear spray and his pistol in the initial attack, playing dead during the second encounter kept the bear from taking his life. He broke his arm and got shredded pretty good, but he survived and was ultimately able to walk out of the Montana wilderness alive.

After visiting with Orr, Newcomb also spends some time at the gun range to get a taste of what it’s like to pull a pistol on a charging bear and he details the challenges of making an accurate shot in the heat of the moment. He explores a variety of popular calibers for bear defense, and goes through a series of drills with a shooting expert that replicate a variety of potential real life bear attack scenarios.

To round out the video, Newcomb visits with Jeremiah Smith, a grizzly bear expert with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, to discuss situational awareness around grizzly bear encounters.

Smith has found himself in a variety of precarious situations involving wild grizzly bears, and he has deployed bear spray in self defense of a grizzly before. While mountain goat hunting, Smith once discharged an entire can of bear spray and was able to stop the charging grizzly within just 5 or 6 feet of where he was standing.

To end the video, Newcomb puts his skills to the test against a charging cardboard cutout grizzly bear on wheels, and it showcases just how quick the big bears can close the distance on a charge.

The footage is both insightful and educational, a must watch for anyone who spends time in the wild places where grizzly bears are present.

Newcomb also recently explained the premise of his podcast and the unique and fascinating meaning behind the Bear Grease name on a the Joe Rogan podcast.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock