Bullet selection for close range black bear


Well-known member
Sep 2, 2011
Jacksonville, Alabama
Got a bear hunt booked in N Ontario for spring of 2023. Booked a small outfitter that only hunts 1 week in spring and fall. They average 225lb boars but take a 350-400lb bear each week. So theres a decent chance at getting a shot at a big bear. Avg boreal thick cover, where shots will be close.

Before everyone starts with the "I use my .22 rimfire every year to shoot black bears".... I know bears aren't particularly hard to kill, but looking at going into this with the same mentality we do hunting hogs in thick swamps: 2 holes are better than 1, big holes leave better trails, and the shorter the trail the better. I already have a rifle that is ideal for big game in thick cover. The scope is ideal for low light shooting as well.

Looking at taking my rifle I use for hogs over bait. Light, handy, 9.3x57 mauser with 1-4 illuminated scope and german #4 reticle. Should be a perfect setup for bear over bait too.

I've been shooting 250 gr nosler accubonds @2350 fps. They've been great, but I've recovered a couple from some heavy quartering shots on big boars ( 200lb plus, quartering away, bullets under skin on far side of shield). A friend used this rifle on December hunt and shot a big boar that was trotting at 100 yards. Hit him quartering away, right in front of the ham. It stopped somewhere before the diaphram, but we didnt recover it. Boar dropped at the shot. When he got to him, the boar stood up and charged. Hit him again at 10 feet and dropped him in his tracks. I was really impressed the 1st shot stopped him where he was with its poor placement, even if he had to hit him again.

I have some PPU 285 gr round nose standard cup and core bullets I can load to 2150 fps or so. I tested 1 of these on hogs last week. Had to finish a 150lb boar someone else shot that was laying down. Bullet entered the bottom of the jaw and drove into the brain cavity. Completely came apart and didnt exit top of skull. It was alot of bone at full muzzle velocity, but apparently these bullets are soft even at this slow speed.

I also took some 285 gr nosler partitions. I am concerned about partitions expanding and size of the wound channel at this slower speed. I shot 2 small hogs and the bullets expanded. But I hit solid bone on both, so I'm not sure it was a good test. Penetration should definitely be the highest with the partitions, but his bullet is made for BIG game and I'm concerned with performance on 250lb animals.

So to recap, I know there is no wrong answer here. All 3 will do the job. Just looking for some input from guys that shoot bears in thick cover regularly. Always been a good shot on game and know shot placement is critical, but I want to be prepared to take a quartering shot on a big boar if that's all that's presented and be confident the bullet will shatter bone to reach the vitals if it needs to.

Which bullet would you guys recommend?

Photos are 9.3x57 285 PPU and 250 Nosler Accubond next to 30-06. My 9.3 husqvarna. And typical blood I've seen from this round. Yet to have to track anything I've shot with this rifle.


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Well-known member
Jun 8, 2020
Western Oregon
My reflex response to this question is that you need a 350 gr Hornady Interlock flat point at about 1900 fps from a Marlin lever gun, but then I looked at the gun you're using, and I don't think we're so far apart philosophically. In my non-expert opinion, either of the Nosler bullets would work fine. You seem to be worried that a 250 lb. bear is not big enough for the Partition, but if they regularly encounter 400 pounders, I would load up some Partitions and bring home some bear meat.



Well-known member
Mar 26, 2012
Almost Arkansas…..
I’d go with the 250. Large diameter bullets like that seem like they would really struggle to consistently exit. I recovered way more bullets from my .338-06 than I did other rifles of similar MV.

Always on the far side under the hide.

Cool rifle.


Well-known member
Sep 11, 2020
Even cup and core 250 gr would be plenty I would think. You're not going to be shooting a hundred yards so the bullet won't be losing much gas from muzzle velocity. Over bait you should be able to place your shot perfectly, not like hogs on the run.

Has anyone on here ever maintained that black bears are easy to kill? I can't recall reading anything like that.
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Well-known member
Aug 2, 2017
Twin Cities
My son and I both got 350+lb black bears in Northern Ontario this fall. Both with 30-30Win TSX-FN 150gn going 2300fps. One dropped where it stood and the second ran about 50 ft and dropped. Any of your choices are more than enough to do the job.

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