What an interesting discussion! OK, I am aware that there are instances where some of the larger bears have been brought down by handgun fire; but there are, also, other instances where rifles in calibers like 308 have failed to stop an angry bear, too.
I'm, probably, one of the few on this board who is troubled by bears on the property. We've got a big old fellow (around 500#'s) who shows up several times a year. He's a garbage raider; and, once, he trapped my wife inside the house and made her miss an appointment because he wouldn't leave the yard.
My wife used to work in Milford, PA. On too many occasions they couldn't leave work, on time, at the end of the day because, 'Old Ben' (Who weighed in at over 700#'s when he was finally killed.) was out in the driveway and wouldn't stop prowling the parking lot.
Me? Over the years I've seen plenty of Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey black bears that could, probably, have been taken at close range by a 44 magnum revolver; but, I can think of better ways to spend my time.
(I've, also, seen plenty of black bears around here that I would have hesitated to attempt with one of my 30-06's!) According to reports I've read it is NOT the big browns nor the grizzlies who hold the record for mauling and eating people. (Are you ready?) Instead it is the eastern black bear!
The only good that I'll say for the enormous 12 and 15 hundred pound buffaloes that wander around the side pastures next to our home is the fact that since the buffaloes have been here, (Guess what?) we haven't seen any bears!
But, don't get me started on buffaloes. Suffice it to say that all the neighbors who seem to love these animals are, also, people who don't live anywhere in the immediate vicinity. I AM super impressed with the buffaloes' intelligence; they are very smart, and very alert animals. (I'd even describe them as cunning!)
I've heard them snort to each other in recognition after they picked me up at 150 yards distance on dark and moonless nights. (And I was moving quietly!) They are highly territorial, mutually protective, and can be exceptionally mean-tempered.
Buffaloes are, also, completely unpredictable: You never really know if they're going to charge and crush you; or, if they're just walking over to look for a few free apples? We herd the cows by walking up on them; but, the buffaloes have to be herded from pickup trucks and all-terrain vehicles. They're brilliant escape artists, too. If there's a weakness, anywhere, along the fence they're always the first to know it's there!
Whenever I go out on the property at night the first thing I'll do is try to figure out where they are; and, I will never forget that early morning when my Dachshund went nuts; and, an escaped big female responded by butting her head into the wall of our house. The whole place shook!
I've warned many a neighbor not to stop and goof around by feeding apples to the buffaloes; but, Hell, nobody listens. These dizzy people who stop out on the road simply refuse to recognize the danger they (and their kids) are in. Cows they ain't!
'Why' am I telling you these things? Because if you really need, 'emergency protection' in the woods then make sure you're carrying the right weapon. A 357 magnum revolver is good for people and small critter problems; but, it will only seriously piss off that big bear who's pulling your screaming carcass out of the tent.
A 45-70 short carbine (or 450 Marlin) loaded with big solids WILL change that bear's mind; but, a 357 magnum revolver is just going to make him more determined to get even with you!