A BIG Carry Gun?

posted on June 6, 2011

It’s quite common for Alaska bear-hunting guides to carry revolvers for backup, but outfitter Greg Jannen from Valdez, Alaska, told me he’s interested in getting a semi-auto pistol for that purpose. He likes self-loaders, only he wants one more powerful than a .45 ACP when he has to face down angry brown bears or other dangerous critters.

Greg asked me for a recommendation and I had to think on that one a bit. For practical reasons, the M1911 .45s occupy the upper end of carry gun power and size because most shooters just can’t handle more recoil and don’t want to tote a heavier gun.

The one obvious answer for Greg is the Desert Eagle in .50 AE (stands for Action Express). This slugger delivers 1,400 to 1,500 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, more than twice what you can expect from the ever-popular .45. The Desert Eagle weighs 4 1/2 pounds and recoil is equally stout, but in getting to know Greg, I could see that the customary reasons folks shun bigger carry guns don’t necessarily apply. He’s the epitome of the iconic hard-as-nails, north-country outdoorsman, and so if there is a guy who could lug the hefty Desert Eagle through the mountains and then shoot it well in a tight spot, he’s it. One additional criterion, however, is the ammo must be easy to find, and while that might be a problem outside of really well-stocked gun stores, .50 AE factory loads are available from Hornady, Speer, Cor-Bon and Magnum Research, and can be had from online sources like Midway USA.

Another viable caliber for Greg is the .45 Win. Mag. Introduced in 1979, this round comes close to .50 AE performance—muzzle energy with a 260-grain bullet is around 1,300 ft.-lbs. However, today one must search the used gun market for discontinued models like the LAR Grizzly, Wildey Auto Pistol and AMT Automag. Ammo may be just as tough to find; now that Winchester has quit loading this proprietary number, owners will have to search the web for a custom loader.

Lack of availability is decidedly not the case, however, with a new offering from Wilson Combat in .460 Rowland. This auto-pistol cartridge rivals .44 Rem. Mag. ballistics, says Wilson— 230-grain loads, for example, pump out about 800 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. The company features its finely crafted 1911-type Hunter model in this caliber, and loaded ammo is readily obtainable from both Wilson and Cor-Bon.

Most folks who carry wouldn’t think of holstering one of these behemoths, but Greg Jennen is a far cry from your ordinary shooter. The thought of him carrying a BIG backup pistol on his rounds for bears and other game is pretty cool, I think. Should he really consider it, or stick with a revolver? Are there other guns that might fit the bill?


right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless
right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless

NRA Gun of the Week: Kimber 84M Pro Varmint

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, watch as American Rifleman staff take a short-action Kimber 84M rifle to the range for discussion.

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 15, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Rifleman Q&A: M1 Garand Vs. M1 Carbine Rebarrels

It seems to me that few World War II-vintage M1 Garand rifles retain their original barrels today, whereas most M1 Carbines of the same era I have seen still have the original barrels?

Record Setting Participation In USA Clay Target League Fall Season

This fall season of the USA Clay Target League has reached new heights, with a record breaking 651 high school and college teams, equating to 11,783 of the young enthusiasts, participating.

NRA Museums: 85 Years Of Preserving The Past For The Future

In June 1923, the Official Journal of the National Rifle Association became The American Rifleman, a bi-monthly publication with a staff that included Maj. Julian S. Hatcher, Lt. Col. Townsend Whelen, Capt. Charles Askins, Sr. and a host of others whose names read like a who’s who of legendary gun writers and experts.

Savage A17: The Semi-Automatic .17 HMR Rifle

Introduced in 2015, the Savage A17 rifle line was one of the first semi-automatics to be chambered for the tiny but hot .17 HMR cartridge. 


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.