Loaded for bear

Black bear

The phrase “loaded for bear” appears in the novel I’m reading at the moment and is used in the following context: “I know next to nothing about computers but clearly Dommie is loaded for bear.” I take this to mean that Dommie is a computer wizard who’s ready for any challange, and if he were to go hunting, he would have appropriate ammunition for bears.

According to the Free Dictionary, loaded for bear means, “ready and eager to deal with something that is going to be difficult”.

What does this mean? defines this expression as, “To be full of energy. To be prepared for any eventuallity; to be over-prepared.”

The Urban Dictionary defines it as, “Carrying more equipment than necessary. Overloaded.”

I haven’t heard this phrase before and suspect it might be used mainly in American English. Is it familiar to you?

This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

20 Responses to Loaded for bear

  1. pennifer says:

    I’ve never heard this phrase before, and I live in California.

    But maybe I’m just not hip enough to newfangled lingo.

  2. dveej says:

    Pennifer, you’re probably not old enough to have heard it, or else you haven’t hung out around gun folks. I’m from California and this expression is mostly these days found in books or writings by American “book” people, although if you were to use the phrase around a group of hunters there would probably be several who would get the allusion to using a large-caliber shot in order to kill a bear as quickly as possible.

  3. doviende says:

    I’ve never heard this phrase ever, although I don’t know any gun people. It must be quite rare on North American TV, otherwise i would have heard it before. I’m in Vancouver, Canada (with plenty of bears in the area).

  4. Esteban says:

    This certainly is an American idiom, but it is not in common use now. I suspect I’m a bit older than some of you, so that may explain why I am familiar with the phrase. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and I do remember hearing this phrase growing up. I was not exposed to any hunters or gun-owners.

  5. Sam Jones says:

    I live(d) in the Midwest, and always heard this phrase used with the Urban Dictionary definition.

  6. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I’m from California originally and am familiar with the phrase. It seems like I’ve mainly heard it from older people or sources (books, radio programs), though.

  7. formiko says:

    I’m from NY, and I’ve never heard it, and I’m in my late 30’s.

  8. Declan says:

    Never heard of the phrase in Ireland.

  9. dmh says:

    I’m 26, from North Carolina originally, and I’ve never heard this one…

  10. Nash says:

    I’m in my mid-30s, from Alberta, Canada and I’ve never heard the expression, but I asked my mom, who’s in her mid-50s and was raised in rural, Northern Alberta, and she’s familiar with it.

  11. emculturate says:

    I was born and raised in Virginia, outside of DC. Not sure when I first heard it, or who said it. Never been around hunters, really, so it has transitioned to my local milieu in a less direct fashion, somehow. Possibly it has been used to describe how a politician is facing down the opposition (which would explain why I’ve heard it here in the Washington, DC area).

    I’ve used it as well. I use it (and have heard it used by others in similar situations) when something has gone wrong and I’m going to go try to force someone to resolve the problem. I’m expecting that I will have to fight someone (the “bear”), the outcome of which is uncertain and possibly negative to me personally (bears are dangerous).

    When I use it in reference to myself, what I mean is that I am prepared, angry, will not negotiate (how do you negotiate with a bear?) and ready to shoot to kill if I have to with the biggest “gun” I have available. When I use it about someone else, I may be commenting on their behavior after the fact, after I’ve witnessed that they handled a problem in an angry, combative manner.

    Re-read that section of your novel, and you may realize that what it is suggesting about Dommie is not really his computer competence, but rather his negative, angry attitude and combative demeanor toward the situation, in particular his attitude toward the narrator (who would be the “bear” in Dommie’s POV). Can I guess that this section of the book is about an encounter between a computer user and a service technician (Help Desk)?

  12. Tommy says:

    born, raised, and (somewhat) educated in South Carolina and I’ve never heard it, though a Google search makes me wonder if some hard core Ted Nugent fans know this…

  13. Alan Gunn says:

    A once-familiar phrase, but one I haven’t heard for maybe 20 years. It’s probably been about that long since my old high school had a rifle club.

  14. Ed says:

    I recognized and understood what this meant without hesitation. I grew up in a part of rural central Pennsylvania with a very heavy gun and hunting culture. I am almost certain that the genesis of this phrase would be in the hunting context, as dveej said.

    Those who hunt or otherwise participate in gun sports may choose to reload their own ammo–in other words, they save the spent cartridges and refill them with primer, powder, and a bullet at the end. This is cheaper (and more self-sufficient and therefore more admirable in a country sort of way) than just buying box after box of ammo. Also, it provides you more flexibility in that you can use different bullets or charges of powder for different shooting applications. In this sense, you would be “loaded for bear” if you went with a particularly powerful charge designed for taking down larger and more dangerous game.

  15. renato figueiredo says:

    Maybe the sentence can also mean “to put all eggs in one basket”, which also means to do the best you can during an event.

  16. GeoffB says:

    I grew up in Northern Michigan – lots of deer hunters. We had the expression, but the usage in your book seems a bit odd to me. Being loaded for bear doesn’t just mean that you’re ready for a nasty fight; it means you’ve deliberately prepared yourself for one – there’s a situation you’re reacting to.

    Try this out for size:

    Last week, Fred found out that the new highway was going to run right through the middle of his apple orchard. Well, as you can imagine, he was loaded for bear when he showed up at the zoning board meeting. By the time he said his piece, the commissioner was ready to site the highway in another state.

  17. ChrisW says:

    I’m 41, from Madison, Wisconsin and not a hunter. Nonetheless, “loaded for bear” was a relatively common expression while growing up. It would pop up occasionally in conversation and everyone in my peer group would understand it. I completely agree with GeoffB (above) about the definition – someone who is not just ready for a fight, but has prepared themselves well for said fight.

  18. jn says:

    A friend of mine who is a native of Oklahoma city uses it a lot.

  19. MC says:

    I’m from New York State and I know it as either ready to take on trouble, or fully-equipped. And even though I’ve read every Carl Hiassen book, I’m sure I know it from conversation.

  20. Polly says:

    I’m from California and I’ve heard this phrase several times, probably on TV, but never in a hunting context. I’ve never used it, myself but I knew what it meant.

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