For a first auto, I'd get a 9mm. Ammo relatively cheap, low recoil and good SD ammo available. As far as black bears go, I worked in the woods including Washington and Oregon for better part of 40 years and never had a problem with them or worried about them. If they hear you first, you'll probably never even see them. Wierd humans caused me much more problems in the woods than wierd bears. If a cougar decides to attack you, odds are you will be attacked before you even know he is around(rare). 9mm with right ammo will handle cougar if you see him first.