You have it backwards. Wardens carry bear spray because it is more effective than a pistol. The bear spray would be used FIRST. In their general patroling, they do not carry rifle around - that is usually on the horse. A pistol is not very effective against grizzly bears. The pistol is more for self defense, since they are dealing with a public who all are carrying guns. In addition, the Game and Fish are supposed to protect wildlife. It is preferable to deter the bear first with a non-lethal means. Nobody who deals with wildlife management wants to kill a grizzly (federally designated endangered species) unless it is the last resort.

Many areas have a hunting season on black bears. It has been my experience that bears are less of a problem for backpackers in areas where they are regularly hunted.