So, you think you would like a hand canon? A real manly, kick-like-a-mule, big-bore revolver? A big-bore caliber that once fired would literally wake up the dead and take the head off of a combative grizzly? I know I would, so here is my pick of the big-bore revolver calibers from the bottom, .41 Remington Magnum, to the top of the food chain—the .500 S&W Magnum.
8 Big-Bore Revolver Calibers
.41 Remington Mag
The .41 Remington Magnum, co-developed by Elmer Keith and Bill Jordan, was first made by Remington Arms Company. The .41 Mag. is a centerfire cartridge primarily for use in large-frame revolvers. For this reason, Remington introduced it in 1964 for hunting and law enforcement purposes.
At one time the .41 Mag. in the S&W Model 58 revolver was issued to police officers by the Amarillo Police Department. Currently, Ruger and S&W are making .41 Mag. revolvers in single and double action.
.44 Remington Mag
The .44 Remington Magnum was developed based on its older relative, the .44 Special. Many revolver shooters who experimented with more powerful .44-caliber loads used the .44 Special cases. Elmer Keith was a famous Idaho rancher, firearms enthusiast, and author who was the father of the .357 Mag., .41 Mag. and .44 Mag. Likewise, he used the .44 Special case to push the limits of the .44 bullet.
Keith petitioned Remington to develop and produce a commercial .44 Magnum round. Remington did, and in 1956 Smith & Wesson quickly developed the N-Frame Model 29. Ruger was the next firearms company to offer a revolver in this caliber. Both companies still make revolvers chambered for the .44 Magnum.
Dick Casull developed the .454 Casull in 1957. The first commercially produced revolver chambered in .454 Casull came from Freedom Arms, who in 1983 produced a five-shot, single-action model 83. The Freedom Arms Model 83 is still in production in the .454 Casull with barrel lengths of 4.75, 6.0, 7.50, and 10 inches.
In 1997, Ruger came out with the Super Blackhawk chambered for the .454 Casull. Ruger still offers double- and single-action firearms in this caliber.
The .454 Casull is one of the top three or four most powerful commercially produced handgun rounds. Breach pressures reach 60,000 CUO (copper units of pressure), meaning when you touch off one of these bad boys you will experience some serious recoil.
Introduced in 2003 by Ruger with ammo produced by Hornady, the .480 Ruger at that time was the largest-diameter bullet made. Ruger started by looking into the .475 Linebaugh but decided to develop this new round instead. Currently, Ruger is the only major firearm company that makes a revolver chambered for the .480 Ruger.
This round is available in both double- and single-action handguns. The .480 Ruger is my pick for a big-bore round. In my professional opinion, the .480 Ruger is an unappreciated round.
In 2005 Smith & Wesson developed and introduced the .460 S&W Magnum. This round is basically a lengthened .454 Casull. This caliber was introduced for long-range handgun hunting. In many ways the .460 S&W Magnum round outperforms its bigger brother, the .500 S&W Magnum. Smith & Wesson is where you go to get the bad-boy Model 460.
The .460 S&W Magnum is a high-recoil, double/single action five-shot revolver. For this reason, if you are going into big bear country or taking those pesky feral hogs on, check out this firearm. Keep in mind that breech pressure may reach 65,000 psi. What does this mean to me, you ask? It means heavy recoil.
A few Ammo companies that produce the .460 S&W Magnum include CorBon, Federal Premium, Underwood Ammo, and Buffalo Bore Ammunition.
.500 Wyoming Express
Freedom Arms introduced the .500 Wyoming Express in 2005 in their Model 83 single-action five-shot revolver. This round was designed for hunting in the great state of Wyoming, where hunting can lead to being hunted. The .500 Wyoming Express is capable of taking large, dangerous game.
This cartridge is one of the most powerful commercially produced handgun cartridges on the planet. It is capable of taking any large game animal in North America. For this less-accessible round, I recommend checking with Midway USA.
John Linebaugh designed the .500 Linebaugh in 1986. He experimented with high-pressure rounds in the .45 Long Colt case. In order to do this, he custom-made a five-shot cylinder to take the much higher pressures. The first revolvers produced to shoot this round were a converted Seville single-action revolver and Ruger Bisley.
Currently, no firearm manufacturing company produces a revolver in this caliber. However, several gunsmiths do convert the Ruger Blackhawk and Bisley to the .500 Linebaugh. The ammo company that produces this round is Buffalo Bore Ammunition.
.500 S&W Magnum
The Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum X Frame five-shot, double-action revolver is capable of taking any North American game. This round is the bad boy of the bad boys, the big-bore of all of the big-bore commercially produced firearms. The .500 S&W Magnum round has taken elephants, cape buffalo, and lions, so I would say in the hands of an experienced pistolero this round can take any land animal on this planet.
The .500 S&W Magnum has a breach pressure of 60,000 psi. A few ammo companies who produce this round include CorBon, Federal Premium, Underwood Ammo, and Buffalo Bore Ammunition.
Technical Shooting Details
* Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps), and energy in foot-pounds with shots through a 7.5-inch test barrel.
This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns January/February 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email [email protected]