Now before you read further a little disclaimer: WE DO NOT claim to be experts on the best rifles and cartridges for brown bears… I have just compiled this information based on first-hand experience as well as the experience of other brown bear hunters, guides and outfitters.
Now, with that out of the way, here we go:
Rifles for Brown Bear Hunting
A weatherproof rifle is a must on a brown bear hunt. Alaska is hard on rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action should be stainless steel or should have a rust-resistant coating. Another good weatherproofing tip is to put electrical tape over the end of your barrel. You’re rifle will be wet at least 40% of the time. Trust me.
The stock should be synthetic. It rains during brown bear hunts. It rains a lot. A laminate stock will also work, but it will be heavier than synthetic.
Your scope should be waterproof and have a wide field of view with low magnification as shots at brown bears tend to be at fairly close range. A scope cover is a must.
Calibers and Cartridges for Brown Bear Hunting
Most people would agree that while it is still a little bit light, the .30-06 is the minimum caliber that should be used for hunting brown bears. Especially for a hunter unable to handle more recoil. A deep-penetrating 200 to 220 grain bullet travelling at 2,600 to 2,700 fps put in the boiler room will always be effective.
I recommend a 338 for brown bears. The 338 is a perfect rifle for everything in Alaska. Good bonded bullets such as Nozlers, Swift or Barnes are the best.”
~Phil Byrd, Alaska Outfitter
Other cartridges to consider for brown bear hunting include the .45-70 with a good bullet weighing around 400 grains; the .338-06; .35 Whelen; and 9.3×62. All that said, the .375 H&H Magnum with a 300-grain bullet at 2,600 fps has long been the classic brown bear cartridge.
Whatever caliber you choose, the bullet and bullet placement must be up to the task.