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Emergency survival - polar bear with a 38
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by James Swidryk a.k.a. jamesfromjersey     Last updated: 2015-02-22 14:14:12

I am sure you guys know that I like collecting early 20th century

gun advertisements so when going through the March 1929 issue of National Sportsmen Magazine I came across an ad showing a injured man shooting at a polar bear with his Colt 38 revolver. I was impressed..... The ad states this scene was an incident during the Nobile Artic Expedition. After some research, I purchased three books on subject to find out what really happened. They were "Disaster at the Pole" by W. Cross, "Ice Crash" by A. McNee and "The Arctic Rescue" by E. Lundborg. Upon opening my first book "Ice Crash", the name Finn Malmgren came up in a list of expedition members which is the name of the shooter in the Colt ad. I was on the right track.... This 1928 Arctic airship expedition was led by a Colonel Umberto Nobile with Malmgren, a Swede, being the meteorologist. As part of their survival equipment Nobile decided to take three magazine rifles, a Vickers of 8.1mm (.303)

bore and two Krag Jorgensens of 6.5mm (0.25), as used by seal hunters; and three 9.7mm Colt (.38) revolvers. When the airship went down on the ice pack, the front of the gondola was smashed open depositing eight of the crew and numerous supplies before being carried off in the wind with five more of the crew never to be seen again. The survivors were able to find much of the supplies but could only locate one of the Colt .38 revolvers along with 100 rounds of ammunition. Of all the members Malmgren was the most able to survive the Arctic and did much to improve the conditions the men had to endure, the first of which was to set up a four man tent that, despite its small size, helped to keep everyone out of the severe cold. On the third day two of the members stepped outside and after a minute or so one of them poked his head into the tent and speaking in a very low tone said: "There`s a bear".....I will now quote from the book what happened next; "Malmgren said to Nobile "Give me the pistol. I`am going to hunt it." The Swede `broke` the Colt revolver and carefully slipped the fat brass cases into the chambers. The barrel came back into place with a click.

He crept outside, followed by everyone else. It was bitter cold outside, and the bear was 20 to 30 yards away. "Hush! Don`t move" whispered Malmgren as he moved forward trying not to alarm the bear and get within effective range. The others were armed with what they had including a knife, an axe, a file, a nail and a piece of tubing........ The bear stared back placidly while Malmgren stalked cautiously forward because it was partly concealed by an ice mound.

A single shot rang out. Malmgren ran forward. Two more shots followed on the first, Malmgren shooting as he ran. "He`s hit" cried someone with the survivors hard on Malmgrens heels. The bear scrambled away from the humans, and then feel dead.

The first shot had been enough. At 15 yards the Swede put a slug into its heart. It was a remarkable performance from a weapon the Malmgren previously stated would be useless for bears."

There you have it.... a verified account of what a man can do with a handgun when faced with the unthinkable. I am sure Finn Malmgren had knowledge of the polar bears anatomy being an outdoorsmen himself. That along with a tremendous amount of luck and Divine Intervention and a iron sight Colt .38 revolver....

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Recent Comments:

Poster: billa    Date: 2015-02-22    Top

James, Thanks so much for the interesting article. A great piece of handgun history. Very fascinating. Think of the combination of bravery & crazy that it took to go on this expedition and to stalk a Polar Bear with a little 38! An amazing "hunt". It supports my point that a pipsqueak gun in hand is better than any non firearm as a weapon and much better than the big gun you left at home.




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