When it comes to North American game, grizzly bears are undoubtedly one of the toughest trophies to claim. While contenders like the Coues Deer and Roosevelt Elk are known for being frustratingly elusive, Grizzlies increase the stakes by being aggressive. Where a deer will run, a grizzly will charge; so you want to make sure you’ve loaded your firearm with the right cartridge to ensure it doesn’t get that chance.
An ideal cartridge for hunting Grizzly Bears has exceptional precision, penetration/ knock-down power, and decent range. The top 4 rounds for hunting Grizzly bear are the .30-06 Springfield, .338 Winchester Magnum, .375 H&H, and the .35 Whelen
In this article, we are going to discuss these four cartridges in more detail to explain why they should be your go-to choices. We’ve also provided some honorable mentions that might better suit your weapon of choice or hunting preferences, as well as other relevant information, such as the best caliber that will help guarantee a safe and ethical hunt.
Defending Our Top Four Cartridges for Hunting Grizzly
The Grizzly Bear is a subspecies of brown bear that is predominantly found in Alaska, Western Canada, and the Northwestern corner of the United States.
- .30-06 Springfield
- .338 Winchester Magnum
- .375 H&H
- .35 Whelen
Size and weight of these big-boned beast can vary significantly from the Alaskan brown bear weighing in at as much as 1500 pounds (source) versus the inland or non-Alaskan Grizzly bears often peaking at 800 pounds.
Regardless of which foe you’re facing, the sheer size, strength, and territorial nature of these animals means that you want to be confident that you have the right cartridge equipped. You need premium, controlled expansion bullets capable of penetrating thick muscle and bone.
The four cartridges listed previously were chosen based on their accuracy, power, and ability to take down a Grizzly bear quickly and efficiently.
The .338 Winchester Magnum and .375 H&H are particularly favored amongst Grizzly bear hunters, but we’ll defend why these, in addition to the .30-06 Springfield and .35 Whelen, should be at the top of your list despite the countless alternatives.
Here’s a good caliber selection video, with a lot more info below:
We’re fairly confident that hunters of nearly every skill and experience level have at least heard of the .30-06 Springfield, and there’s a reason for this.
Since its release in 1906, this cartridge has reliably kept food on hunter’s table and trophies on their walls thanks to its exceptional ballistic performance. A 165 caliber is capable of producing a muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps and muzzle energy: 2,872 ft.-lbs whereas a 220 caliber increases to 2,500ft/s with 2,981 ft-lbf.
Many hunters like to have that one cartridge that is versatile enough to practically be “all-purpose” for big game, and the .30-06 Springfield can do just that.
Considering you can bring a black bear down with this cartridge at a 165 caliber, 180 grain is going to be the absolute minimum for a grizzly bear, with the ideal recommendation being 200grain for the average male and 220 for larger targets.
.338 Winchester Magnum
According to surveys (source), the .338 Winchester Magnum is the most used cartridge by Alaskan professional hunters and guides.
Also renowned as a highly versatile round, the .338 Winchester Magnum can take down anything from elk to moose to grizzlies and beyond.
Factory loads will most commonly use 225 to 250 grain premium bullets providing an ME of about 3860-4046. When it comes to hunting grizzlies, 180 to 210 grain is usually sufficient, but some hunters recommend you bump the power up to 225 to 250 grain to be safe.
In addition to these specs, this cartridge is a little more forgiving when it comes to shot placement. However, its important to be aware of its significant recoil, which runs about 34 ft. lbs. in an 8.5-pound rifle. If this is too much for you, the .30-60 Springfield might be a better choice.
Another forgiving, powerful, and favored cartridge for grizzly hunting is the .375 H&H. Any big-game hunter who isn’t loading their rifle with a .338 Winchester Magnum probably has a .375 H&H in there instead.
You’ll have absolutely no problems taking down a grizzly using this cartridge with 270 to 300 grain. The 300-grain, .375-inche diameter bullet has an SD of .305, with an average muzzle velocity of 2,400 fps, making them exceptional for thick-skinned, high-stakes game.
As far as power and penetration is concerned, this is probably the maximum you want to use, as anything higher would reduce accuracy and bullet placement.
It might not be the most common choice, but the .35 Whelen is great for any grizzly hunter looking for a cartridge that isn’t going to have them flinching at every recoil.
Despite its modest velocity and medium caliber, these strong, heavy bullets can get the job done. Common loads fire a 225-grain bullet (source) at around 2,600fps (3,380 foot pounds of energy) and a 250-grain bullet at approximately 2,500fps (3,470 foot pounds of energy). Both of which are suitable for grizzlies.
Similarly to the .30-06 Springfield (this cartridge’s parent case), the .35 Whelen has been a reliable choice for bringing down big North American game since 1922, and will continue to do so for centuries to come.
Although we firmly stand by our top four cartridges discussed previously, we’re aware that they are far from the only options suitable for bringing down a grizzly bear.
Other common recommendations you might prefer include:
- .300 Winchester Magnum (and Short Magnum)
- 7mm Remington Magnum
- .338 Remington Ultra Magnum
- .416 Remington Magnum
Those of you who are fans of the .357 Magnum might be wondering if it packs enough punch and precision to at least defend you from a grizzly bear. While it can, it isn’t ideal. There are countless other cartridges that will be much more efficient and ethical.
Ultimately, choosing the right one out of all our listed options comes down to the typical size of your target, your preferred hunting range, and what firearm you are most confident using.
Taking down the next grizzly bear you see should be quick and easy if you use any of the cartridges and their recommended calibers listed here.
If you aren’t familiar with any of these options, it might be time to pick one and start practicing, as most alternatives will require you to sacrifice shot placement and other essentials that can put people at risk and increase the grizzly’s suffering.