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What Is The Best Caliber For Mountain Lion Defense?

I read a story once that was given by a Park Ranger and he said that if you spend a large amount of time in the mountains then at some point you’ve been watched by a mountain lion. Now I’m not sure how true that is but out of all of the animals you can come across in the woods the mountain lion is what scares me the most. They’re very quiet and elusive and fantastic hunters. If you spend time in the backcountry hunting or fishing then you too may have been concerned with crossing paths with a lion. I can’t tell you how many times I am miles into the backcountry and walking my way through a small canyon fly fishing or searching for elk and I think to myself “This would be a great place for a mountain lion to hunt”. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

One of the best ways to defend yourself against a mountain lion is to have a firearm with you. There are many choices available to you but which caliber of gun is best? I did some research to find out what would keep me the safest while in the mountains.

The clear winner when it comes to the best caliber for mountain lion defense is a .357 magnum. Although there are many other options a .357 gives you everything you need to protect yourself from a mountain lion. If you continue reading you’ll find out the best bullet for mountain lion defense and if the rifle you already have will suffice as good defense.

Best bullet for mountain lion defense?

So you now know the best caliber to use to protect yourself from a mountain lion but what is the best bullet to use in the .357? Female mountain lions can weigh between 64-140 lbs. and a male can weigh between 120-220 lbs.. I would consider them a medium-sized game. Their skin though is somewhat thin and that’s why bullet choice is so important.

Lets first talk about a full metal jacket bullet. A full metal jacket bullet is a bullet that has the lead encased by a harder metal. These bullets do not mushroom as much upon impact due to being fully encased in the hard metal. That is the exact reason this bullet is not ideal for defending yourself against a mountain lion. When this bullet is shot at an object or animal the hard metal casing does not mushroom and thus travels right through the target and on to whatever is behind it. If your bullet simply travels through the mountain lion without causing any significant damage then the mountain lion may very well still advance towards you. It will most likely die from this shot eventually but you do not want to have to wait for a lion to die as he makes his way towards you. You need instant stopping power. These bullets are often used for target practice for these very reasons.

A hollow-point bullet is as it states hollow in the tip or point of the bullet. What this enables the bullet to do is fragment and mushroom upon impact causing more damage to the target. When you’re in a survival situation you need as much stopping power as possible because you don’t typically know you’re being followed by a mountain lion until its very close. A hollow-point bullet will create a large entry wound and will certainly stop a mountain lion. That’s why a hollow point bullet is the best type of bullet for mountain lion defense. Most people like to use a 158-grain weight for this bullet as well.

Does a rifle work?

Maybe you don’t want to carry a handgun and already own a rifle. Will that protect you against a mountain lion? Yes, it can definitely take down a mountain lion but there are some things to think about when it comes to using a rifle over a handgun.

First of all, think of the situations you use a rifle in. Maybe you varmint hunt and chase prairie dogs or even coyotes. Or perhaps you hunt elk or deer. For either application, you usually spot an animal and have time to set your shot up. You take time to either set up your tripod or find a tree to rest your gun on. Unfortunately, if a mountain lion is going to attack you you’re not going to have much time to think about shot placement. If you’re fortunate enough to spot the lion before it’s on top of you you’re not going to have much time to react to the situation. Pulling a rifle off of your back and then chambering a round is often takes too long to protect yourself from anything.

Another thing to think about is the sights on your rifle. Most rifles are scoped and used for longer range shots. Have you ever tried finding something on your scope or binoculars that is close to you? It’s often impossible to do with any sort of speed.

These exact reasons are why a .357 is such a great caliber for protecting yourself against mountain lions. You can keep it right on your hip so you always have easy access to it. The sights you are using are designed for closer range shooting. It can also be used at point-blank range if needed.

Why the .357 is the best caliber for mountain lion defense.

Unlike a rifle, you can keep a .357 right on your hip and have easy access to it whenever you need it. The sights you are using are designed for closer range shooting. It can also be used at point-blank range. The .357 magnum is chosen over a semi-automatic gun due to semi-automatics jamming easier. You do not want a jam to occur when you’re faced with a potential life and death situation. This caliber gives you plenty of stopping power when paired with a hollow point bullet as well.

best caliber for mountain lion defense


Most mountain lions are scared of people and tend to stay away if they hear you. However, if you spend a lot of time in the mountains there’s a higher chance that you will come across a mountain lion. If you will be carrying a firearm with you it’s important to have the best option. A rifle can be productive however the time it takes for you to chamber a round, shoulder the rifle and aim can mean the difference between protecting yourself and ending up on the ground wrestling a mountain lion. A .357 magnum with a hollow point bullet is the ideal protection against a mountain lion. It is quick to draw, easy to aim, and has enough power to stop the lion. It is also a better choice than a semi-automatic due to the chances of the semi-automatic jamming more often. Be aware of your surroundings in the mountains and make sure you get some practice in with the firearm you choose to make sure you’re prepared if the situation presents itself.