It’s almost that time of year again; the air gets cooler, the mists rise off the rivers and lakes at dawn and dusk, and all of a sudden the early bear season is upon you. Bears, both black and grizzly, require a certain level of gear to get the job done right. All the best camouflage, riflescopes and accoutrement pale in comparison to a bullet that will settle the score between you and a mammal equipped with claws, jaws and brawn. When I’m heading out specifically for bears, I have certain expectations from my projectile. I definitely want good expansion, but require good penetration as well, to break the big, tough shoulder bones and reach the vitals with authority. Let’s take a look at what I consider to be the top choices.
There’s an issue with the Partition: it works for just about anything, including bears. You’ll see this bullet on many of these lists, with good reason. While it may not be the most accurate bullet ever developed, the terminal performance of the Partition warrants its position here. The dual lead cores, separated by a wall of copper gilding metal, give both good up-front expansion and deep penetration, perfect for the anatomy of a bear. It will smash tough bone, yet offer plenty of expanded diameter to shred vital tissue. With us for nearly 70 years, the Partition will make a good bear bullet another 70 years from now.
I had poor results with the original Barnes X design, but I cannot say the same for the TSX. They’ve been extremely accurate in my rifles, and they have the qualities required to hunt bears, whether black or grizzly. Being a monometal design, which will retain upward of 90 percent of its original weight, bear hunters can rely on the TSX to get the job done. I like them in the ‘deer’ calibers, say from 6.5mm up to .30 caliber, but they do an equally good job in the bigger bore diameters associated with grizzlies.
Among the standard cup-and-core bullets, I have always had a soft spot for the InterLock. The cannelure helps to keep the jacket adhered to the core, and Hornady has displayed the wisdom of offering their round-nosed bullets in the traditional heavy-for-caliber weights, like the 160-grain 6.5mm, the 220-grain .30 caliber and the 250-grain .338 caliber. I’ve used that 220-grain to take a black bear in the Catskill Mountains of my native New York, and would use it on grizzly—well, interior grizzly, anyway. There’s no denying the fact that a cup-and-core bullet will kill a big bear (especially in larger calibers like .375”), and in my experience the InterLock, when of appropriate weight, is among the best.
I like the A-Frame as much as I like the Partition; though it is a bit stiffer. That aside, when you need bone-smashing power to sort out an animal like a grizzly bear, I’m really okay with the tougher bullet. The A-Frame is accurate, gives consistent expansion and absolutely will not come apart, even on the biggest, meanest bear God ever made. I’ve used them in my 6.5-284 Norma and .300 Winchester, with no issues coming from higher impact velocities, and I’ve used them in my .375 H&H and .416 Remington Magnum with equally good results. Based on my field experiences with this bullet, on a very wide and diverse selection of species, I can tell you that you won’t go wrong choosing an A-Frame for your bear hunt. They’re even available for many of the handgun calibers if that tickles your fancy.
Trophy Bonded Bear Claw
No brainer here, it’s in the name, right? Jack Carter’s original design was a sound one, as is the Federal version loaded today. Using a lead core toward the front of the bullet, but a monometal rearward portion, the TBBC is a serious big game bullet, and works perfectly for any bruin. Federal Premium offers this bullet in many bear-worthy calibers, and I’d feel very comfortable heading into the thick woods with them in my rifle. If I had one complaint—and perhaps Federal will remedy this soon—it’s that they’re not currently available in component form, so it’s factory ammo or nothing. However, the Federal stuff shoots very well, so I suppose I can deal with it.
Bear hunting is wonderful sport, giving a different feeling than deer or elk hunting; knowing that the game animal you're pursuing has teeth and claws, and the horsepower to back them up, changes my outlook. Head to the bear woods with the proper tool for the job, and you’ll be a satisfied hunter.