When you live in the desert of Tempe, Arizona, getting out of the city and into the beauty of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest is every camper’s dream with plenty of trees and fresh air.
Around Father’s Day, Peter B. decided the Tonto Forest was the perfect spot to take the first camping trip of his life along with his girlfriend and young son.
Once the family arrived at the Ponderosa Campground, they set up their tent, but what they and dozens of other campers nearby didn’t know was that the night before, just a few miles away, a man sleeping in a cabin was mauled by a bear.
The group also didn’t know that in the same campsite where they were camping, three weeks earlier, that same bear attacked a woman sleeping in her tent.
As night fell, the family settled in their tent below the tall pines, not realizing they were in for a fight for their lives. According to Peter, “I see a dark figure at first, but I know I feel pain, but then I look down at my arm and I see, basically mangled flesh hanging from my arm.”
A black bear coming through a window in their tent took a large chunk of Baca’s forearm and was tearing its way up his arm.
Black bears, the only bear found in Arizona, can weigh up to 500 lbs and have razor sharp claws making them great tree climbers. As the bear was tearing at Peter the tent was collapsing, and thankfully, his girlfriend grabbed their baby and ran out of the tent while the bear continued to tear at Peter.
Peter stated, “I started to feel claws tearing and there’s even bites as I’m trying to fight it. I could see fang marks and scratches.” Essentially, a huge chunk of his arm was gone.
Peter continued, “As soon as I had the initial bite, I felt no pain. It was all shock. I was screaming out for help, but feeling very tired right away. I was losing a lot of blood.
It stood up and I stood up with it. I was swollen, so swollen you couldn’t recognize me. My eyes were swollen. I had mangled flesh hanging about parts of my body. I could barely even see.”
The nightmare came to an end when shots were fired. A nearby camper had a .22 caliber handgun. While it wouldn’t do much to harm a black bear, it was enough to save Peter’s life. It distracted the bear enough to get its attention to release Peter from its grasp.
Nearby campers with an advanced first aid kit started an IV on Peter while they waited 30 minutes for a helicopter to arrive. A massive chunk of his left arm was gone and he had claw marks sliced across his back and side, bite marks on his head and face, and an ear that needed to be reattached. Peter made a complete recovery, but will no doubt deal with scars and the emotional impact of his ordeal forever.
Now, when I go camping I always carry a firearm. However, I wouldn’t recommend carrying a .22 caliber since it lacks stopping power. If you’re going to be in the woods and might come face to face with a bear, consider these 3 guns…
Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .44 Rem Mag. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan is a small but impressive revolver with tremendous stopping power. Any gun with “Alaskan” in its name deserves some thought for an animal self-defense firearm, since Alaska leads the nation in the number of bear encounters.
The Redhawk is built with a corrosion-resistant stainless steel frame with extra metal in the top strap and barrel mounting areas. Despite having a barrel length of just 2.5″, the barrel is cold hammer-forged with precision rifling for incredible accuracy.
The Alaskan weighs 45.oz and you can expect some significant recoil and muzzle flash. This revolver is compact and easy-to-carry and when loaded with .44 magnum, it’s got some serious stopping power.
Taurus Raging Bull. The Taurus Raging Bull is available in a wide variety of barrel lengths chambered in either .44 Magnum or .454 Casull. The .454 Casull version with a 2-1/4-inch barrel is a strong blend of power and versatility.
The .454 Casull cartridges have been used to hunt animals as large as buffalo. When chambered in .454 Casull, the revolver holds 5 shots and comes with a fixed front sight along with an adjustable rear sight.
Smith & Wesson 500. Known as the most powerful production revolver in the world, the Smith & Wesson Model 500 is capable of taking down most animals. Designed as a hunting handgun, the 500 is available with 4-inch or 6.5-inch barrels to make it a more practical bear-defense gun.
The S&W 500 incorporates a muzzle compensator in order to tame the recoil of the .500 cartridges. It is more than powerful enough to stop a bear in its tracks with proper shot placement.
That being said, the sheer amount of power in this handgun can make it difficult for an inexperienced shooter to handle, making practice a critical aspect of owning this gun.
The reality is, your pleasant day in the woods can quickly turn ugly when you have to deal with deadly animals, packs of dogs or dangerous people.
When you stumble across someone guarding their weed grow, or that mama black bear who thinks you are a threat to her cubs, there is no doubt you will want to be armed with a reliable and powerful handgun.