Using Enough Gun

Sometimes the questions are enough to get you thinking – this time it was “What caliber pistol is best for bear country.  It got me thinking – we’ve seen a lot of changes in what constitutes enough gun since Lewis and Clark came through Montana almost 220 years ago.

The phrase, “Use Enough Gun” comes from Robert Ruark, who did a lot of his hunting in Kenya.  By his standards, William Clark probably used barely enough gun.  His personal rifle for the first trip crossing North America was a 36 caliber flintlock.  If memory serves, it was re-rifled when the expedition spent the winter in Oregon – which suggests it got a lot of use.  Still, I’d figure it was about as powerful as a hot 38 special. 

The other expedition members were using refurbished 1792 contract rifles and muskets – the rifles were 49 caliber, probably using a 48 caliber round ball – probably somewhere around 750 foot pounds of muzzle energy . . . a little less than that paragon of power, the M1 carbine.  It seems a little strange to realize that, in terms of muzzle energy, the whole Lewis and Clark expedition couldn’t match an M1 carbine with a 30 round magazine.

It gets easier to understand how they could put 10 bullets into a Grizzly, then run into the Missouri River to get away.  Lewis and Clark may have been using enough gun when they left Ohio.  By the time they reached the Great Falls of the Missouri, they definitely weren’t using enough gun. 

Glancing at Cartridges of the World, I see that the Sharps “Big Fifty” had a muzzle energy of 1630 foot pounds with a 335 grain bullet, and 1920 foot pounds with a 473 grain bullet.  This cartridge fed the buffalo gun into the 1870’s – and it seems only fair to contrast it against the thirty-thirty’s muzzle energy of 1902 foot pounds with a 150 grain bullet.

I suspect the folks in the Lewis and Clark expedition would have enjoyed having the choices we have today as to what to carry in bear country – whether it’s spray or a sidearm.

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