I'm looking to buy one handgun for defense both in the woods and in my home. 90% of my woods trips are in black bear country. There are coyotes and feral dogs, but no grizzly or brown bear, no mountain lions (though a few are rumored in some of the areas I hike), no hogs.
I want the gun to be a double action revolver, and I'm biased toward Ruger.
Since it's going to be used in the woods, I naturally want it to be smaller and lighter, but for black bear it needs to develop a good velocity to penetrate deeply, so I'm looking at a 4" barrel (4 3/4" is a GO!). I'm in Maryland, so there is little to no chance of me getting a concealed carry permit. I'm not looking for EDC.
Now, while I need that big, heavy, penetrating bullet for bear, I will be using the gun for home defense as well. The difficulty here is that my house is a single story, and bedrooms are dispersed all over the house, so almost any shot I take indoors will have a bedroom behind it.
I can't decide between .357 and .44. The .357 is better for stopping humans and the .44 is better for black bear. I can't say which shooting situation I'm more likely to be in. I'm in Baltimore and my neigborhood seems to be going downhill fast. We now see the police helicopter over our neighborhood almost nightly, certainly several times a week. When I am outdoors I'm usually in VA and WV. I try to get into the woods every weekend, and probably make it two times (one overnight and one dayhike) a month. I would estimate I have a bear encounter 50% of the time, so I see a black bear once a month. I haven't really been threatened by any bears yet, but I've had a few that acted aggressively for a bit before I or they left.
If I chose a .44 magnum and loaded .44 Special +P for home, would that round over-penetrate a human and put my family at risk?
If I chose a .357 would 180gr FMJ or JSP ammo from a 4" barrel be enough penetration against a charging black bear?
I know what most will say - get both! But I really only have room in my budget and in my wife's tolerance for one.