Best Bear Hunting Rifles of 2021 – Ultimate Round-up

Jeff
| Last Updated March 11, 2021

So you’ve gathered up the courage to encounter a bear. The largest and one of the most dangerous big game North America has to offer.

Hunting a bear is a daring sport because it is very likely to charge back at you and rip your limbs to pieces. Hence, having the right firearm chambered in the right caliber is essential.

Dive into the details of bear hunting and check out the best rifles suited to hunt these beautiful and formidable creatures. 

Our Top Picks for Bear Hunting Rifles

  • Minimized recoil
  • Adjustable optics
  • All-weather conditions
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  • Ergonomic grip
  • Machined feeding
  • Great precision
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  • Best for the Money
  • Minimized side blast
  • Smooth shooting
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Comparison of the Best Hunting Rifles for Bear

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Removable muzzle mechanism for minimized recoil
  • Adjustable optics for simple target-locking
  • Laminate stock for all weather conditions
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  • Ergonomic grip with grey charcoal finish
  • Machined cartridge lips for simple feeding
  • Great precision with recessed target crown muzzle
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  • Best for the Money
  • Customizable hybrid muzzle for minimized side blast
  • Smooth shooting with 3-lug bolt
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  • Best Black Bear Hunting Rifle
  • Sturdy with glass-fiber reinforced polymer stock
  • Top-notch precision with Bergara barrels
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  • Best 44 Magnum Rifle For Black Bear Hunting
  • Sliding bar safety system
  • Weight-reducing steel frame for simple use
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What Makes a Rifle Great for Bear Hunting? 

Choosing a bear rifle is like choosing a battle rifle. A good one can decide the difference between life and death. Without fizzing too much about the details, let’s evaluate this in a few points.

Tough and Robust Construction

Bear country is among the harshest hunting environments on the planet. From soggy moss to knee deep snow, there’s a lot of inclement terrain and weather to handle. Plus, covering a long distance on such terrain requires a lightweight, compact and easy to handle rifle with a durable construction.

Photo credit: outdoorlife.com

Chambered in the Right Caliber

Bear are tough game to kill and require heavy magnum calibers to be dealt with. .20 caliber bullets are not the best and you should start with .30 caliber. 30-06, 308, 300 Win Mag, 338 Lapua, .375 H&H, .44 Magnum and .45-70 are considered to be the best rounds for hunting bear. 

Additionally, it also depends on the kind of bear you are going to hunt. Black bears are the smallest, grizzlies are bigger, brown bears even more and polar bears the biggest. 

Quick to Cycle

Some encounters with bears can end up in a wounded and charging animal. Or maybe you didn’t penetrate the right spot with one shot. For such situations, you need a rifle that can cycle quickly and also holds enough rounds to decide the situation in your favor. Additionally, the ability to easily mount a good scope is a necessary feature. 

Review of the Best Rifles for Hunting Bear

Bear hunting is not as common as hunting other non-dangerous game. But if you are planning to do so, choose the right and proven rifle for the job. We’ve compiled a list of the best bear hunting rifles that can tackle stationary bears standing at a distance, and also face a charging bear. 

Best Overall:
Ruger Guide Gun

PROS

  • Full length claw extractor and 3-position safety
  • Detachable muzzle brake and compact 20” barrel
  • Stock can be equipped with spacers to adjust LOP
  • The most popular bear hunting/stopping gun of all time
  • Adjustable V-notch rear sight & big white bead front sight

CONS

  • LOP inserts are crude
  • Aesthetics to some extent

What Recent Buyers Report

The Ruger Guide Gun has been the most trusted companion of bear country guides and also African hunters. This gun is compact and very rugged. The muzzle brake helps with recoil and also removable, which all users like. Some users mentioned the rough bolt face, and low bolt-scope clearance as minor issues. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Guide Gun uses the action of the famous Ruger M77 Alaskan. The legendary bear hunting rifle of all time. This gun is chambered in .375 Ruger and not the conventional .375 H&H. The .375 Ruger is a smaller cartridge and can do whatever the .375 H&H can. The benefit being that it allows you to have a more compact gun with a smaller barrel. Further enhancing the handling and maneuverability. 

The rifle is very well built and allows you to adjust the LOP with spacers. The iron sights are well-made and very useful. The three position safety is reassuring and the removable brake caters to individual preference. 

Bottom Line

The Ruger Guide Gun is a proven and reliable bear hunting rifle that’s trusted by bear country guides. It is chambered in a new .375 caliber that allows for a better handling rifle. The gun is versatile and can also be used for African game hunting. 

PROS

  • All-weather trim composite stock
  • Short action and overall lightweight design
  • Pre-64 style claw extractor & 3-position safety
  • Free floating fluted barrel with recessed crown
  • Very accurate and chambered in a balanced caliber (.325 WSM)

CONS

  • Doesn’t have a detachable magazine

What Recent Buyers Report

The Winchester Model 70 isn’t a very popular rifle in .325 WSM. However, it is a renowned and widely used rifle when chambered in .30-06. Keeping that aside, the rifle offers all-weather ruggedness, exceptional accuracy for a magnum gun and a military grade barrel & action. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The .325 WSM is a caliber chosen by people that don’t want to handle the obnoxious recoil and heavyweight rifles of the .338. The Model 70 is a reliable and proven design that has been shifted into a durable and ergonomic stock for this model. The fluted match-grade barrel, pre-64 claw extractor, anti-glare matte finish, three position safety and match grade trigger are factors worth spending money for.

The best part is that the .325 WSM is amazingly accurate and features a short cycling round. Plus, the rifle weighs only 7 lbs unloaded and adding a scope and ammo will only take that up to 7.5. The recoil is very manageable, and when used with 200gr TSX bullets, the rifle will bring down any bear. 

Bottom Line

This rifle isn’t an inexpensive buy. But if you’re going for the .325 WSM, it’s better to rely upon a proven design. 

Best for the Money:
Ruger Precision .308

PROS

  • Multi-magazine interface
  • Modular and very adjustable AR style design
  • Reversible safety selection and adjustable trigger
  • Pre-installed muzzle brake, 20 MOA rail and M-Lok handguard

CONS

  • Slightly heavy to carry (9.8 lbs)
  • A tad expensive and feature loaded for some buyers

What Recent Buyers Report

The Ruger Precision is a popular long range rifle that’s exceptionally accurate. Chambered in the versatile .308 caliber, this rifle can serve hunting as well as tactical uses. Buyers who like advanced customisable weapons and sporting rifles like the AR were very impressed by the design. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a precision rifle and is more suited for competitions due to its accuracy and design. There are many other rifles out there chambered in the .308 Win that are lighter in weight and simpler. But the Ruger Precision was included in this for one good reason - it’s versatile. 

Sure the rifle costs close to $1,400, but the features you’ll get justify the price tag. It’s the kind of rifle you can use for matches, hunting, range use, plinking and even tactical applications if the need arises. 

The effectiveness of .308 in killing bears can be slightly debatable. But a 168 grain Nosler partition bullet shot within a range of 200 yards with the right placement will certainly do justice to most bears. 

Bottom Line

The Ruger Precision is a value for money rifle that can be your go-to choice for matches, hunting or even SHTF when long range accuracy is required. .308 is capable of taking down every game that walks across North America. 

Best Black Bear Hunting Rifle:
Bergara B-14 Ridge .300 Win Mag

PROS

  • Crisp and clean trigger set at 3 pounds
  • All-weather synthetic stock with camo finish
  • Soft touch coating on the stock for comfy feel
  • Renowned military grade Bergara threaded barrel
  • Coned bolt nose and breech for smooth extraction

CONS

  • Limited aftermarket mod/parts availability

What Recent Buyers Report

The Bergara B-14 is an accurate rifle right out of the box. This specific model feels and performs exactly as advertised. The rifle is capable of delivering sub-MOA accuracy at 200 yards and the action is butter smooth and reliable. The trigger’s also great. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Bergara B-14 series of rifles is well known for its accuracy and use in hunting and matches. This Ridge model has been specially designed as a mountain hunting rifle and is chambered in a caliber that’ll allow you to hunt not only black bears but other big game as well. 

The .300 Win Mag is a balanced magnum caliber and is known for its flat shooting trajectory. The damage it causes is just enough to bring down any black bear. The action glides and the soft touch stock adds to the hunting experience. 

Bottom Line

Bergara rifles are made in Spain and renowned for their barrels and match grade accuracy. This B-14 ridge will be a great rifle for black bears, and also remain quite versatile and balanced for other games as well. 

Best 44 Magnum Rifle For Black Bear Hunting:
Henry Big Boy Steel Carbine

PROS

  • Weighs only 6.6 pounds
  • Fast loading lever action with 7 rounds
  • Beautiful American walnut checkered stock
  • Compact & maneuverable with a 16.5” barrel
  • Fully adjustable rear and brass bead front sight

CONS

  • Not for long range shots
  • Only suitable for black bears

What Recent Buyers Report

The Henry Big Boy is a tough and reliable rifle. Chambered in .44 mag, this rifle is a great black bear deterrent and better than carrying a revolver chambered in the same caliber. The adjustable sights work really well and the rifle is a lovely piece for gun enthusiasts. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

.44 magnum is the least powerful caliber most black bear hunters prefer. This rifle was included on this list because it offers a great rate of fire and is very easy and compact to handle. The rifle isn’t meant to tackle big brown bears. But will handle black bears very well. You use it for stalk and hunt situations, or to tackle a charging black bear. 

The magazine holds 7 rounds which are enough to decide the situation in your favor (unless the bear gets you first). The iron sights work very well and are adjustable for maximum effect. 

Bottom Line

A .44 magnum rifle with a lever action mechanism, the Henry Big Boy is a rifle that can be carried with ease on tough terrain. It carries ample ammunition and delivers a good rate of fire. The aesthetics are great and the rifle will last for years to come. 

Best Grizzly Bear Hunting Rifle:
MARLIN 1895

PROS

  • Great pair of iron sights
  • Receiver tapped for scope mount
  • Ambidextrous offset hammer spur
  • Fast cycling lever action with 6 rounds
  • Short 18.5” barrel and very easy to maneuver

CONS

  • Not for long range shots
  • Nasty recoil. Requires practice

What Recent Buyers Report

The Marlin 1895 has seen more hunting than many rifles present today. It is a versatile, fast shooting and very accurate rifle if you can handle the kick. This is more like a guide gun for stopping a charging bear or hunting within 150 yards. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Marlin 1985 is a powerful rifle chambered in the .45-70 Govt. caliber. Your first choice for hunting a grizzly should be the Ruger Guide positioned on the top of this list. But the 1895 is a more versatile gun. It allows you to shoot the bear from a good distance and also keeps enough power and rate of fire to stop a charging bear. 

If you are wandering around in bear country and entangle in an unexpected encounter. This rifle will be a life saver. The 6 round capacity is more than enough and the rifle dispenses bullets at a fast speed. The iron sights are great and it allows you to mount a scope as well. 

Bottom Line

Choose the Marlin 1895 as your go-to gun for bears. Especially if you live in bear country or are very fond of hunting big game often. The rifle is compact, rugged, accurate at short range and humongously powerful. Even for a charging grizzly. 

Bear Hunting Laws 

As with all other animals hunted across the U.S. Bear hunting also has legal implications. These laws differ from state to state. Bear hunting is legal in most states across the country, and hunters have to obtain permits and adhere to the state guidelines. It is always better to confirm with the state’s laws even before you obtain a permit. 

Talking about permits, these are granted in limited numbers for the hunting season and will specify what kind of bear (and its gender) can you hunt. Going sideways will attract a heavy penalty and even jail time. 

The five best states to go for a bear hunt are Alaska, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and Idaho. Alaska is the bear hunting heaven which allows you to hunt up to three bears per year. Many states in the U.S have banned baiting as a hunting practice for bears and some don’t allow dogs for hunting. 

Some states also require non-resident hunters to necessarily have a guide. Also remember that it is legal to kill a bear in self defense if it infiltrates your property and causes damage. 

Black Bear Hunting Tips and Tricks

Check out some good hunting tips and tricks for black bears that’ll give you a slight edge and will save your time and effort:

  1. Choose the right time for black bear hunting. While different states have different seasons. The best time to hunt these beautiful beasts is fall when they are foraging for food.

  2. Bears have a very strong sense of smell and hearing. Choose the right bait (if the state allows) with a strong pungent smell to attract your game. Fish, and smelly meat work the best. But make sure to be ethical. Also try to mask your human odour as it may create unexpected situations.

  3. Right shot placement is the key to hunting a bear. Aim for the area behind the front shoulder and take a broadside shot when the bear steps forward. Exposing the vital organs. Never attempt to hit a bear on the skull, since the chances of penetration are low. Non-fatal shots can annoy the bear and cause it to charge.

  4. Using bear calls can be a very effective strategy. Especially in the western states. 

  5. Boating through rivers is a productive method to track black bears in the western states and Canada. 

  6. Get a guide if you are not sure about tracking, baiting or even hunting a bear. Newbies must hire a guide.

Always remember, that no matter what caliber you are using. Proper shot placement is the most important factor. Even a .45-70 shot on a bear's butt will not kill it, and a .223 shot in the eye will drop it dead in its tracks. 

Photo credit: sportsafield.com

Conclusion 

A bear hunting rifle should be chambered in a powerful enough caliber to ensure deep penetration and damage. The .375, .338, .300 and .45-70 calibers are considered best hunt bears. The selection depends upon the size of the bear you are planning to hunt. Either way, make sure to practice enough for right shot placement and choose an accurate rifle. 

Quick Recap | Best Bear Hunting Rifles

Once more, here are the three best bear hunting rifles:

  1. RUGER GUIDE GUN
  2. Winchester 70 Extreme Weather
  3. Ruger Precision .6.5 Creedmoor

People Also Ask

Bear hunting is an interesting topic and involves a lot of skill and knowledge for a successful harvest. Check out this FAQ section for some useful info on the topic. 

Can a 223 Kill a Bear?

No. The .223 doesn’t have enough punch to bring down a bear and you shouldn’t take a chance too. With absolutely perfect shot placement and a spot of luck, you can kill a small black bear. But never try that. Plus, if you do, make sure you have at least 20 rounds in your magazine. 

Where Do You Shoot a Bear When Attacked?

A good and effective alternative to tackle a charging bear is using bear spray. It works 98% of the time. As far as shot placement is concerned, the best bet is to aim for the triangular area between the eyes and the nose. Since the skull of a bear is thick. This kind of action requires a good amount of practice. 

When is Bear Hunting Season?

The bear season depends from state to state. Some have spring as the hunting season and most have fall as the hunting season. Bear hunting seasons are spread throughout the year from state to state. 

Is Bear Hunting Legal?

Bear hunting is legal across most states in the U.S. There are a few exceptions like Rhode Island and Connecticut. Hunting for bears requires the hunter to acquire a permit from the respective state. Which specifies the species, gender and bag limits. 

What Caliber Can Kill a Bear?

The least effective caliber that can kill a bear is .270 Winchester. That too in perfect conditions. Mostly .30 caliber bullets are preferred for bear hunting. The most popular being .300 WM, .30-30, .308, .375 H&H and .45-70 Govt.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.