U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)-– On 28 August 1990, three Russians were in the Svalbard Archipelago at Agardh, doing research for about a month. Agardh is about 80 miles northeast of Longyearbyen. There had been many visits by polar bears, and bears had stolen food from the food tents. Because the bear problem was so bad, they were allowed to use the cabin “Nye Agardh”.
The incident was found in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by AmmoLand. The names of the people involved were redacted. The text appears to be a translation. Because of spelling and grammatical errors and awkward wording, the account has been edited for readability. Fictitious names have been substituted for the redactions. The incident is number 148 on the FOIA release.
The incident is a rare documentation of the use of a 7.62 mm (.30) caliber handgun in defense against a polar bear. 7.62 mm rifles were also used. Unfortunately, the cartridge designations are not included in the FOIA release, only the caliber.
The two most common 7.62 caliber pistols in use in Russia are the 7.62x38R Nagant revolver cartridge and the 7.62×25 Tokarev pistol cartridge. It is possible a different 7.62 caliber pistol was used. Similarly, the most common 7.62 rifle cartridges in use in Russia are the 7.62x54R and the 7.62×39. Both are common military calibers in Russian service, but a different 7.62 cartridge could have been used. The incident involved a single boar polar bear.
Here is the incident, lightly edited:
Around 1PM Alek and Boris woke up from banging on the door. Alek got up and went to the door and discovered there was a polar bear outside. He had a signal flare in his hand. When he was about to open the door, he heard the bear snorting and thought that the bear’s head was at the same height as his. He didn’t dare to open the door. He didn’t set off the signal flare. When the bear continued to hit the door, the two others got up. Alek accessed a 7.62 mm handgun, and Boris and Igor each took a 7.62 mm rifle.
They had sausages, butter, and other groceries in the hallway. The bear was probably smelling this and trying to reach the food. The people thought if the bear broke through the door and into the cabin, the situation would become life-threatening. There would be very little time to aim and fire. The cabin was already crowded.
Considering the situation, Alek fired one shot through the door with the pistol. He fired upwards so the shot would go through the door at approximately head height and angled upward. The bear continued to hit the door, and Alek now fired a shot with the rifle. He was scared and shaken. He was convinced the bear was standing on two legs and that its head would be at the height of the middle of the door. He thus fired through the door at that height to hit the bear in the head/ neck region. He was scared for his life, and so were the others, this is why he tried to kill the bear.
Boris then opened the window on the other side of the cabin, stood in the window and looked over the roof. He then saw the bear was lying on the ground about 10m from the cabin. The bears eyes were open, and the bear was not dead. He could not see if the bear was injured. Alek then opened the door and fired one shot in the ground besides the bear. It then got up and started walking away. He could see that it was injured, there was blood on the left shoulder. The bear walked towards “Myklagard” and disappeared behind the hill. Alek, Boris and Igor went up on the hill and could then see the bear lying on the ground about 100m from “Myklagard”.
As an official research expedition, it is likely the pistol was a 7.62 Tokarev and the rifle was a 7.62 x 54R Nagant. The Nagant bolt action rifles are common in Russia. They are similar in power to the .30-06 (7.62×63) or the .308 (7.62×51) cartridges and rifles. All three rifle calibers meet the energy requirements imposed by the Svalbard governor for protection against polar bears. The 7.62×25 Tokarev pistol cartridge does not meet the Svalbard energy requirements for pistols, but it is a powerful pistol cartridge known for penetration and breaking bones. The military loading develops about 400 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The 7.62x38R revolver cartridge is fairly common in Russia but is far less powerful. The military loading is said to develop about 250 foot pounds at the muzzle.
A polar bear attempting to break into your dwelling is a deadly threat.
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.