Been hunting in some real dense underbrush the past couple years, stuff is so thick you have to crawl under it at times, I hate having to track anything in that mess so I have been running some real stout handloads trying to bang flop everything and while I have been very successful thus far the meat damage has been considerable with the smaller calibers and horrific with the 06, never hunted with any real large calibers before but have been thinking of going to a larger/heavier/SLOWER bullet to try to cut down the damage and keep putting them down on the spot. Several options out there for large caliber slow moving bullets and I was hoping to get some feedback from those who have used them.
The lever option: A 45-70 with 350-405gr bullets moving at reasonable speeds seem to have a solid reputation for anchoring deer even with their tendency to overpenetrate, the 350gr Interlock seems highly praised for exceptional performance and low gunshot meat.
The AR option: The 458 SOCOM can come within inches of the 45-70 with the lighter projectiels just not quite as fast with the 400gr stuff, comes in a very handy semi auto rifle. 450 Bushmaster is an option too but all else being equal I would take .458 cal bullets over .452 for reloading purposes.
The single shot option: there is a .500 S&W Handi-rifle that should provide a healthy dose of caliber/mass/momentum even more so then the 45-70, only problem I have seen is alot of the .50 cal handgun bullets don't hold up as well to 500 S&W speed especially in a carbine length barrel and all that fragmentation could lead to just as much wasted meat as the max load 30-06 if I don't choose the right bullet.
The Pump action option, good old 12 guage 1oz slug, never shot a deer with one before but people have told me they put them down faster then any rifle at close range. I don't know anything about them except the difference between a Foster and a Rifled slug and they kick pretty good in a featherweight 18" tactical.
Bolt action option, I have always wanted a 358 Win carbine, while not as big as the other calibers listed with a 225gr I would imagine it could still make quite an impact even at moderate 2500fps speeds which in my experience are not too hard on meat as long as you are not using a highly frangible bullet.
The Muzzle loader option: Only black powder I have ever shot has been at the range but supposedly a 50 cal muzzle loader can perform almost as well as a 45-70 pushing 300gr .50 caliber bullet to 1,8000fps which I would think would hit awful hard. Again my expertise is in high powered bolt actions I honestly don't know diddly about these things.
Range in that mess is 100 yards max, most shots are around 30-40 yards. Despite the close range I never have been one for headshots, I'll take a neck if they hold still but I cannot count on it considering the small windows between the brush. Recoil is not a real big concern I have been shooting high powered rifles since I was a small child. Any other suggestions are welcome.
It would help know what kind of bear and were you are hunting. One of our hunting camp group has killed 2 bear in floridas fakahatchee swamp just out side of camp with a 357 mag shooting 180gr hardcast. One was a skinny 250lb bear . one was an older 425lber. In that swamp you could hear water drop off them but not see a bear or deer. Learn to pick your shots and about any cartidge you would use on a deer will work on black bear with just a bullet change to a barnes or any other heavy for class bonded bullet. I would feel fine with a 165gr 308. We had bears at camp many nights or watch them walk by while hunting. Now in NC theres more here than down there in florida and still comfy with my 357 or even my 40sw loaded hot and heavy. Guys have killed them with 9mm's when they tried to climb here ladder stands. If a grizzly then a hit 45/70 or 12ga dupo slug or heavier like a 375.
The Browning BLR is available in 358 Win. The 45-70 has been around for a long time and still works. If you go with the shotgun, try the Brenneke slugs.
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The .358 Winchester w/ a 225gr max's out at 2400fps, most are 2300fps. It still is a great option. A .35 Remington would be a tad better as it is even slower at the muzzle w/ a 220gr but is a great 75 yards thumper. I like the 9.3x57 w/ a 270gr pill for Whitetail. MV of 2100fps and hits like a wrecking ball. Speer 270gr are pretty cheap. You can alway upgrade to a 286gr partition for monster boar. Both will hit w/ over 2300fpe at 100 yards. The Bullets also have an excellent BC and SD.
Another great classic caliber is .44-40. In a 24" lever gun it is a 100 yard whitetail machine. There is no recoil and it is fun to hunt with. 200gr sp work great. Untill 1972 when the .30-30 took over the title, it was the #1 White tail cartridge in the U.S. The 1892 action does great w/ 8gr of Unique and a 200 or 205gr bullet. I also use 8gr unique for 160gr CL bullets for vermin.
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9.3s, 35 cals, and 375s have always interested me, but none of them is really popular around here, I would likely have to build one from the ground up on a Savage action. I think any one of those would be capable of some really impressive performance in the 2000-2500 fps range with 200+gr bullets. I also like Speer bullets I have been a fan of Hot-Cores and BTSP for quite some time and am quickly becoming a fan of the new Deep Curl bullet, shame they don't make them for anything larger then a .338" yet.
200gr is too light. 225gr is still too light. 250gr, now you are getting close. A Savage action will not do it justice. You need a glass smooth uber accurate Swede. May as well get a 9.3x62. You could plant a 400lb hog in 1 shot at 100 yards. 2862fpe at 100 yards w/ a 2300fps MV. It is the smallest Dangerous game cartridges legal in Africian countries. That is w/ the 286gr partition.
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I have several Savage actions they have all done well by me, no they are nowhere near as smooth as my Tikka or Winchester but they do have a good feel overall, and I would not feel any rifle handicapped in any way using a Savage platform. I don't know about customizing other actions but I would consider modernizing an old Turkish Mauser or something along those lines. Never seen a factory 9.3xanything in person before only a couple custom rigs.