Monday, November 12, 2012

10 MM Auto and Bears

Americans are constantly searching for the "do it all" tool.  We don't want a copier, we want a copier/FAX/scanner in one machine.  We don't want a spoon for camping, we want a SPORK.  We don't want a station wagon for the family, we want a pickup that we can proudly drive to the opera and the next morning drive in the Indy 500.  One of the  blessings of living in the 21st Century is that we are getting closer and closer to having "one does it all" tools in all of these categories.  Heck, for 2.5 million dollars (very cheap) you can buy a NEW  six-passenger jet that will cruise at 370 knots and land at 67 knots in less than 2000 feet of runway!  The Eclipse 500 twin-engine jet... that has only been a dream for 80 years... fills the bill as a nice family plane, that is great for some Touch-N-Go work at the local field or cross-country flights from coast to coast (4.97 hours from San Francisco to Atlanta).  Yes, it is rated for single-pilot operation (Hi-Tech flight panel and sophisticated autopilot).
     Here in Alaska, the search has been ongoing for the perfect "do it all" handgun.  But because of our unique seasons (people dressed in parkas), large game animals and predators and unique transportation problems, it has been very difficult to find a simple sidearm that will do a 'good' job no matter what situation you find yourself in.  Such a firearm would have to provide good field protection (against bears, cow moose, criminals and vicious dogs), do a good job for serious Social Work, provide decent performance as a survival tool and serve well as a hunting handgun.  These are admittedly very stiff specifications to meet and is the reason the solutions have been so long in appearing.
     The critical elements that have allowed us to arrive at today's "do it all" handguns are primarily the advancements in cartridge development and advances in firearm design (higher pressures).  Today it is possible to buy any kind of ammo you want.  No one can complain that commercial or commercial custom ammo is weak, uses bad bullets or is inaccurate.  If you want maximum velocity at the maximum safe pressures in a cartridge that uses your notion of the perfect bullet, there is a manufacturer out there that will supply your ammo and deliver it to your front door.  For those of us in Alaska that actually need tough bullets at maximum velocity from our handguns, Buffalo Bore (T) has been a breath of fresh air.  I have handloaded for almost fifty years and sometimes I find that I cannot duplicate the performance of these commercial loads.  Take their 357 Magnum, 180-grain, HSWC  load from a 3" barrel.  Buffalo Bore claims you can get 1300FPS from a 3" barreled Smith and Wesson revolver with this load and I have chronographed this load at a consistent 10-shot string average of 1302FPS ...but the best I can do with reloads, without pressure signs, is about 1220FPS with the same kind of bullet.  This is the cartridge that I rely on for travel in autos, bush planes, canoes and riverboats!  I have it with me always, whether in bear camp or riding a horse.  A revolver full of these little cruise missiles is easy to carry because I can get that performance from a Ruger SP-101 that weighs 26 OZ, has a 3" barrel and is a pleasure to pack everywhere in the field.  After hiking 2-hours, you don't even feel it in a shoulder holster.  Being constructed of stainless steel and produced with fixed sights, there is very little to go wrong with this compact package.
     I carried a Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 7.5" barrel in 44 Mag for 30-years in Alaska but eventually I became very tired of packing that 50 OZ hunk of steel in waist high brush,  soupy muskeg and devil claws and I began to search for a better solution.  Originally, I was fascinated with the idea that the power and accuracy of a buffalo gun (see the specs for a Sharps 40-70 black powder rifle) could be duplicated in reasonable handguns, not that I ever intended to shoot a 2,000 lb. buffalo at 600-yards with a handgun but ballistically, as Mike Venturino has said; "The bullet doesn't care whether it comes from the barrel of a rifle or a handgun, will perform the same, at the target, if the velocities are the same."
     About 10-years ago, I perfected my analytic equations for 'practical ballistics' (as Bob Hagel referred to the discipline) and I began to compare the performance of hundreds of cartridges to find a better "do it all" handgun for use in Alaskan conditions.  The results were amazing in many ways.  I did not just have one light bulb come on for me but several at the same time.  Suddenly, all the thousands of field reports that I had read, no longer were a 'confusing chaos' but they all swam into focus.  Among the things I realized were:

**   Phil Shoemaker and his daughter Tia (both professional Brown Bear guides) are not crazy because they do, or have, carried 4" barreled 357 Magnum revolvers for field protection.  (Norma 180-grain FMJ with longer sold) (see: 

**   The Danish Royal Navy Special Forces on Long Range Patrol (Slaedepatruljen Sirius) in Greenland are not crazy to carry Glock Model 20s in 10MM Auto for Field Protection from Polar Bears. (Many reports of successful stops on record.  See: or the National Geographic Special "The Cold Patrol")

**   John Taffin has not lost his senses in recommending Garrett's 44 Mag Defender load for Bear Defense and Field Protection in Alaska.  (4" Ruger revolver 'Packin' Pistol') (see: for Field Reports and accounts of stopping grizzly bears plus useful essays on using handguns for Bear Protection.)

**   No matter what you think of Ted Nugent and his politics,  I have no doubt that a Glock Model 20 in 10MM Auto is adequate for a One-Shot Stop on a charging 1200 lb. Cape Buffalo, as related on his hunting video about a bow-hunt in Africa. ( (

**   Brian Pearce's recommendation of the Garrett Cartridges (T) 'Defender' load (310-grain @ 1050fps @ WFLBT hardcast bullet) when launched by a Smith and Wesson Model 329 PD lightweight revolver makes perfect sense for Brown Bear protection on Alaska's salmon streams.  This is his personal choice when on his fishing trips to Alaska. (see: Pearce's article in February 2008 #251, "Handloader Magazine" and also #241)

**   Paco Kelly was not a crazy man to take on feral cattle on the Texas border with a Ruger single-action revolver chambered in 357 Magnum with 215-grain hardcast bullets.  He achieved complete penetration of large bulls on broadside shots.  ( (also: ( ( to see the feral cattle story) 

**   I don't doubt for a moment that Elgin Gates shot a large Cape Buffalo, that was attacking him, in the head and killed it with one shot using an old FBI armor piercing round (158-grain?).

      All of these cases have something in common.  All of the bullets in these examples are 'solids' or in the case of Ted Nugent, a controlled expansion hollow-point that is very tough, retains 90% of it's original weight and only opens up to twice its original diameter or less.  Careful examination of the chart below will show you something very interesting about the practical terminal ballistics for all these cases.  The chief thing to learn from the chart is that these cartridges which seem to vary so much in caliber and internal ballistics have very similar terminal ballistics.  The explanation for this counter-intuitive performance is found in the relation of three elements that determine the terminal performance of hardcast slugs, armor-piercing bullets and premium controlled-expansion  bullets.  The meplat of the bullet (the working front face of the bullet) for most of all of these bullets is the same, at 0.280".  The two exceptions are the .44 Mag Garrett load that has a meplat diameter of 0.320" and the Cor-Bon HP bullet after expanding which would have about a 0.440" meplat in a "Taffin load" (180-grain @ 1500fps).  You will also notice that the heavier slugs have slower velocities and lighter bullets are traveling faster so the Relative Performance Potential of all of them are approximately the same and are adequate for animals in the 600-900 lb. range.  The "proof is in the pudding", of course, when we're talking about field performance and the experiences of the Danish Royal Navy Special Forces that do long range patrols on the sea ice around Greenland are the "proof in the pudding" that we are looking for.  This group of highly trained professional soldiers adopted the Glock Model 20 as soon as it hit the market.  This Danish SPEC OP group realized immediately that this was the perfect handgun for SWAT operations, battlefield use, self-defense use and Field Protection from large and dangerous animals.  Hundreds of encounters with Polar Bears have been concluded with this handgun, chambered for 10MM Auto, and all these encounters have been reported in Patrol Dispatches over a period of several years.

Comparisons of Heavy Handgun Loads

10MM Auto - Buffalo Bore Ammo in Glock Model 20 (meplat = 0.280") (4.5" barrel)
220 grains @ 1200 fps @ 0.400" = 26.4 RPP
PEN = 49"  PWC = 0.84" 
GWT = 836/586/410 lbs.

44 Mag - Garrett Cartridge (T) Defender Load (4" barrel) (meplat = 0.320")
310 grains @1020 fps @ 0.429" = 31.6 RPP
PEN = 51"  PWC = 0.82" 
GWT = 1198/839/587 lbs.

357 Magnum - Buffalo Bore in Ruger SP-101 (3" barrel) (meplat = 0.280")
180 grains @ 1300 fps @.358" = 23.4 RPP
PEN = 43.4"  PWC = 0.91"
GWT = 657/460/322 lbs.

357 Magnum - John Taffin/Paco Kelly load (6" barrel) (meplat = 0.280") (Hardcast)
210 grains @ 1500 fps @ 0.358" = 31.5 R
PEN = 58.5"  PWC = 1.05"
GWT = 1191/834/583 lbs. 

     Given this evidence, it is easy to understand why well-known Big Game Guide Larry Rivers carries a Glock Model 20 in 10MM Auto as his personal carry firearm.  When guiding, he also carries a 375 H-H Magnum and while hunting for himself, he uses a Ruger Super Blackhawk in 44 Magnum (to increase the sporting difficulty and to perfect his professional skills) but for Field Protection, Self-Defense and as a Survival Firearm while flying and driving in the wilderness, he depends on a 10MM Auto.
     All of this research has convinced me that the 10MM Auto in the Glock platform anyway, is "on all fours" with heavy 357 Magnum loads, factory 41 Magnum loads and the Garrett Cartridges (T) 44 Magnum Defender loads for Field Protection and Self-Defense in Alaska. In addition, the Glock's reputation for reliability and extreme toughness in the worst operating conditions, and even under water, brings the 10MM Auto near the "head of the class" in terms of Field Protection.  In later blog sessions, we will explore the other very positive qualities of this Glock Model 20 handgun and the 10MM Auto cartridge.  Meanwhile, it is time to take the Ruger SP-101 to the Indoor Range for some fast recovery shot training for that dreaded, but inevitable, survival encounter with large animals in the wilderness of Alaska. 

Parting Shot ..........

     "One of the ordinary modes by which Tyrants accomplish their purpose without resistance is by disarming the people and making it an offense to keep arms."
Aristotle (384-322 BC)

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  1. Well I'm convinced. Sounds like I'll need to put a model 20 on my shopping list. Thanks for a well written and detailed report. I had no idea how well the 10 mm stood up to the 44 mag. Yet some how I don't think Dirty Harry would have been the same pulling a Glock and modifying his signature line did I fire 14 shots or 15? (gen 4 model 20sf), just doesn't seem to have the same ring to it. Thanks again. I look forward to your next update!

  2. I'm in the market for a solid camp/hunting knife and I've narrowed my choices down to two knives from cold steel. The Recon 1 tanto partially serrated folding knife. or the partially serrated tanto gunsite knife. I've been reading reviews and watching their official videos and I can't decide which is better for long term hard use. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

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  3. Heading to the Alaska Arctic Circle coastal area on a 8 day, two-person kayaking trip in July. We BOTH decided on the Glock 20 as good insurance with chest holsters. Bought AFTERMARKET barrels to shoot the LEAD bullets. (Don't shoot lead with a GLOCK barrel!!) Now glad to read this article to know we did the right thing! THANX! Really hope we DO NOT need them !!!! (but no Polar Bear will get my beer!)