When it comes to the topic of powerful handguns, it is hard not to think of the classic .44 Mag. Smith & Wesson Model 29 wielded by Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry.” And, while his famous line, “… This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world … “ may have been debatable, the current crop of magnum and big-bore handgun cartridges available today has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for those who want as much power as possible from their handguns. In addition, some innovative companies have taken handgun designs and adapted them to harness the power of traditional rifle cartridges.
Following is a roundup of some of today’s top “mega” handguns that combine portability with amazing power. The listing is limited to firearms that are exclusively designed from the ground up as handguns (and not cut down rifle designs, except for one uniquely modular example), and it only covers firearms that are offered from major manufacturers (and not some “Frankenstein” design from a custom gunsmith or a garage workshop table).
So, if you are heading into dangerous bear country and need some backup, are going hog hunting with a handgun, or simply just want the bragging rights of owning one of these interesting and eye-catching guns, read on to find out what options are out there today.
Magnum Research BFR .45-70 Politely dubbed the “Big Frame Revolver,” the Magnum Research BFR long-cylinder models chamber a range of rifle cartridges that give you an amazing amount of power in a reasonably portable package. With calibers ranging from .450 Marlin to .45-70 to .444 Marlin to .30/30 Win., the five-shot stainless steel revolver features a simple and rugged single-action trigger and is made right here in the United States. Barrel lengths on the long-cylinder models range from 7.5" out to 10 “, and the revolver weighs from 4.3 to 5.3 lbs. If you are looking for one that packs the most power into the smallest package, then take a look at the 7.5” .45-70 variant. For more information, visit magnumresearch.com.
Magnum Research Desert Eagle .50 AE Made here in the United States, the iconic Mark XIX Desert Eagle in .50 AE (Action Express) from Magnum Research is the symbol of massive semi-automatic power. Capable of hurling a roughly 300-grain projectile around 1,400 feet per second (fps), the .50 AE cartridge is no slouch in the power department. The gas-operated Mark XIX in this caliber carries a 7+1 capacity and sports a 6” barrel (topped off with an integral rail for mounting optics). However, the gun is no lightweight, weighing in at 70 ozs.. New for 2016 is a Cerakote Tungsten model with an eye-catching Finish. For more information, visit magnumresearch.com.
Magnum Research Desert Eagle L6 .50 AE For those looking for something a little easier on the back when carrying it but without giving up an ounce of power, the new L6 Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50 AE pistol from Magnum Research is definitely worth a look. Featuring a lightweight aluminum frame, the L6 weighs in at 55 ozs. (still no featherweight, but still an improvement over the steel-framed version) while still packing in a 7+1 capacity and featuring a 6” barrel. The two-tone pistol features a matte-black anodized Finish on the frame against the stainless steel slide and barrel. For more information, visit magnumresearch.com.
Specifications Caliber: .50 AE Barrel: 6” OA Length: 10.75” Weight: 55 ozs. Grips: Synthetic Sights: Notch rear, blade front Action: Gas-operated Finish: Two-tone; black anodized and stainless steel Capacity: 7+1 MSRP: $2,054
Ruger New Model Blackhawk .30 Carbine Ruger has a long tradition of taking classic designs, modernizing them and bringing them to the masses at very reasonable price points. It was from this mindset that something as unique as the .30 Carbine Blackhawk was able to spring forth. Taking a classic single-action design and caliber for the .30 Carbine cartridge offers users a unique handgun with an appealing identity crisis. While not a “magnum” in the traditional sense, the caliber of this classic six-shooter makes for a very interesting option for the revolver shooter looking for something a little different. For more information, visit Ruger.com.
Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Taking the rugged durability for which Ruger’s large revolvers are known into the realm of double-Action operation, the Ruger Super Redhawk is a brute of a wheelgun that is available in calibers as powerful as the .454 Casull. The massive six shooter weighs in at 52 ozs., holds six rounds in its triple-locking cylinder and is constructed from stainless steel. Adjustable Sights sit atop the 7.5”-barreled revolver, and a Hogue Tamer Monogrip helps subdue recoil. Integral mounts are machined directly into the barrel to allow the mounting of optics. For more information, visit Ruger.com.
Smith & Wesson Model S&W500 Intended to help Smith & Wesson recapture the mantle of producing the “most powerful handgun in the world” from the Dirty Harry era, the Model S&W500 takes the magnum wheelgun into true big-bore territory with the .500 S&W Mag. cartridge. The five-shot, stainless steel revolver is definitely no compact (even when fitted with a relatively short 4” barrel), weighing in at 56 ozs. and measuring 10.25“ in overall length while providing 2,600 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. An integral muzzle compensator and synthetic grip help manage perceived recoil from this portable powerhouse. For more information, visit smith-wesson.com.
Smith & Wesson Model 460XVR While the .500 S&W Mag. cartridge filled a unique niche, Smith & Wesson decided there was still room for another new and exciting magnum cartridge—the .460 S&W Mag. Basically a lengthened and more powerful .454 Casull, the .460 offers roughly 2,900 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. One of the most interesting and unique Smith & Wesson revolvers chambered to fire it is the Model 460XVR with a 14” barrel and bipod. Yep, you read that right. Basically a portable rifle based on a revolver, the five-shot wheelgun is topped off with a recoil-reducing muzzle brake and is designed for long-range handgun hunting. For more information, visit smith-wesson.com.
Taurus Raging Bull .454 One of the most distinctively named guns in this round up, the TaurusRaging Bull definitely gets points for its eye-catching branding. And, it has the chops to back that moniker up with the .454 Casull version. With its heavy-duty stainless steel construction, dual-locking cylinder, cushioned insert synthetic grip and factory porting on the barrel to reduce perceived recoil, the five-shot .454 Raging Bull is definitely worthy of being included in this list. And, in its 5” barreled guise, the double-action wheelgun can also flirt with being reasonably portable considering its impressive power output. For more information, visit taurususa.com.
Taurus Raging Judge .454 Following the concept that more is better is the Taurus Raging Judge. Building upon the strengths of the Raging Bull, this behemoth packs in a six-round cylinder and the ability to fire not only .454 Casull and .45 Colt ammo but also 3” .410 bore shotshells. The revolver features the same cushioned insert grip as the Raging Bull for recoil management and dual-locking cylinder system as well as stainless steel construction. The beast sports a 6.5” barrel and an overall length of 13.6 “, and it weighs in at a beefy 73 ozs. A red fiber optic front sight rounds out the package. For more information, visit taurususa.com.
Specifications Caliber: .454 Casull/3” .410 Barrel: 6.5” OA Length: 13.6” Weight: 73 ozs. Grips: Synthetic Sights: Red fiber optic front Action: Double-Action Finish: Stainless steel Capacity: 6 MSRP: $1,038
Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter Pistol Available in rifle and (of particular significance to this piece) handgun variants, the Encore Pro Hunter from Thompson/Center is a rugged single-shot, break-open design. Although I avoided rifle-based handguns in this piece, I felt that the Encore was appropriate due to the fact that its modular design means it can as easily be a handgun as a rifle. Constructed from stainless steel and synthetic materials, the Encore is resistant to the elements and ready for a hunt in the field. The pistol version features a 15-” barrel and is offered in either .223 Rem. or .308 Win. It weighs in at 72 ozs. and features an adjustable rear sight. For more information, visit tcarms.com.