Many people underestimate the .22 Long Rifle (LR) cartridge. It is the most common cartridge in the world. It is capable of killing men and large animals. Three years ago, AmmoLand documented 20 incidents where .22 rimfire was used to kill all three types of bears in North America. Black bears are the most common, followed by grizzly/brown bears and, occasionally, polar bears.
Since the 2020 article, four more incidents have been found where bears were shot and killed or so badly wounded they were euthanized as an act of mercy. Of the four bears in this update, one was a grizzly/brown bear, and the other three were black bears. The events are listed in sequence.
The first event was with a .22 caliber pistol. It was included in the AmmoLand series on defense against bears with handguns. The event happened in the summer of 1962 in Montana. The incident was recounted by Allan Schallenberger, who was Chuck Jonkel’s partner the next year.
The grizzly charged and Chuck stood still waiting for his helper to shoot. He looked around and the helper was running off with the shotgun. Chuck turned to run and tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground. The 500-pound male grizzly ran up to Chuck and stood up on his hind legs over him with the trap on a front paw. Chuck pulled out his .22 revolver and fired all nine shots in it. Some missed, some glanced off the grizzly’s skull and one went into an eye socket, killing the bear.
The next event concerns a Florida couple who endured the attention of a persistent black bear. The bear kept trying to enter their home. Juanita Brown used a .22 rifle to good effect on October 1, 2006. She fired 10 shots, and the 332 lb bear collapsed within six feet of the sliding glass door it had been pressing against. From emeraldcoast.com, October 26, 2006:
“Mrs. Brown then grabbed a 22-caliber rifle from the corner to the right side of the sliding glass door, the bear turned away from the door quartering to the right, she cracked the door open and started firing at the bear,” wrote Wood in his report.The woman then closed the door and ran to the bedroom to help her husband. The two later called the sheriff’s office.
Wood noted in his report that there was a smudge on the sliding glass door 17 inches down from the top, indicating where the bear had been standing on its hind legs, and multiple smudges on the lower two feet of the door apparently made by the bear. It was determined by the officers that Juanita Brown fired 10 times at the bear and hit it six times. Three wounds were on the right side of the spine, from the front shoulder along the neck, and the other three were on the left side of the head and neck, at the jaw and ear and about five inches below the ear.
The third event also happened in Florida on June 24, 2020. The Shooter was trying to scare away the bear with a “warning shot.” The warning shot from the .22 broke the bear’s spine. From clockorlando.com: June 24, 2020, Daytona Beach, Florida
Castellano grabbed his .22 caliber rifle and fired what was meant to be a warning shot but accidentally struck the bear, according to the report.
Records show the bear collapsed to the ground, unable to stand, and dragged itself into the wood line.
Officers said they went into the woods with an FWC biologist and found the bear but determined that its back was broken and it wouldn’t be able to recover, so it was euthanized.
The .22 caliber bullet was found lodged inside the bear’s lungs, according to the affidavit. A single shell casing was found on Castellano’s porch.
The last addition is a black bear, which was shot in South Carolina as it was attempting to get into a chicken coop. After being shot with a .22, the bear climbed a tree, was tranquilized, fell out of the tree, and was put down. From dillonheraldonline.com: June 16, 2023
According to reports, the bear was trying to get into a chicken coop and the resident told officials that he felt he had no choice but to shoot the bear.
After being shot with a .22, the bear climbed a tree. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) was called to tranquilize and remove the bear.
Due to being shot and injuries sustained from the 35 ft. fall from the tree, the bear had to be put down.
It is common for bears to be shot with bird shot to sting them as a harassment technique. As we’ve discussed on AmmoLand, if the bear is too close, birdshot can be fatal.
In northern Wisconsin, a taxidermist says almost all big bears he works on have a collection of birdshot and even .22 bullets in them. If the bear has enough fat to prevent a .22 from penetrating the body cavity because of the angle of the shot, if the bullet is stopped by heavy bone, or if the bullet lodges in muscle, the wound is often survivable. If a .22 bullet penetrates the abdominal or thoracic cavities, death is common. It may take from several seconds to several days. Central nervous system hits to the brain or upper spine tends to cause near instantaneous death. With a .22, central nervous system hits must be at a good angle, hitting the right spot, or they can “glance off” or miss the brain or upper spine.
A single .22 LR bullet is roughly equivalent to a #1 buckshot, with better penetration.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.