Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Time to get ready for Dove season

Big Iron
Powerful revolvers are good crossover guns

Many discussions of handguns focus on “tactical” semi-autos and easily concealable revolvers. That’s fine. But there is more. There are full-size, powerful revolvers that can be used for virtually anything involving handguns. They come to the fore where tactical/concealable arms are less than the best choices.

Hunting is one such application. For mid-size or larger game (hogs, deer, etc.), “magnum” revolvers are the best handgun picks.

CROSSOVER REVOLVERS INCLUDE the .44 Mag (upper left) and .41 Mag (upper right). They compare with the 1911 in .45 ACP.

Big revolvers can be pressed into defensive service, as well. When concealed carry is not a requirement, a big, powerful revolver has many things going for it.

I am not suggesting that anyone should abandon the tactical/concealable arms if those types serve the shooters’ purposes. Rather, I suggest that shooters consider expanding their effectiveness.

What is a big, powerful revolver? For some, that type of handgun begins with .357 Magnum. For me, big/powerful begins at .41 Magnum. The .357 Magnum is a superb cartridge. But it is a bit light as a primary hunting cartridge for medium to larger game.

I consider the .41 and .44 Magnums to be performance equals. The next step up in power is the .454 Casull/.460 S&W. Both are significantly more effective than the .41/.44 Mags. The .45/70 revolvers also fall into the mid-size biggies. For me, a true big, powerful revolver shoots the .500 S&W Magnum. The .500 S&W is primarily a hunting handgun.

Those considering a hunting/defense crossover revolver, the .41/.44 Magnum size makes most sense. Enough power for hunting, yet not overwhelming in other applications.

SERIOUSLY BIG REVOLVERS include the .500 S&W (top) and .454 Casull.

Big revolvers can shoot ammunition that is less than full power. For example, the .454 Casull/.460 S&W revolvers can shoot ammo that replicates the performance of the .45 Colt. There is the .500 Special ammo that is loaded to less power than the .500 S&W Mag.

Let’s look at the relative performance of cartridges. For comparison, the classic.45 ACP load used in handguns like the 1911 sends a 230-grain .451 bullet out of the barrel at a nominal 855 feet per second for a muzzle energy of 405 foot/pounds.

The .44 Magnum sends a 240-grain .429 bullet out at 1,350 fps for a ME of 971. A .41 Magnum sends a 210-grain .410 bullet out at 1,300 fps for a ME of 788.

The .454 Casull sends a 300-grain bullet out at 1,350 to 1,600+ fps for ME ranging from 1,220 to 1,750. The .460 S&W sends a 250-grain bullet out at 2,000 fps for ME of 2,309. Or, the .500 S&W sends a 300-grain bullet out at 2,000 fps for ME of 2,800 or so.

All of the cartridges above are available in a number of different loadings, but the ones listed show how they compare to each other when it comes to power. They all dwarf the performance of the normal “tactical” cartridges like the 9mmP, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Big, powerful revolvers are not for everyone. But for those who can handle them, these handguns expand opportunities and increase the fun factor in the process.

* * *

Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

MAGNUM REVOLVER CARTRIDGES compare here with the .45 ACP at far left. From right, the revolver cartridges are .500 S&W, .454 Casull, .44 Mag, .41 Mag and .357 Mag.

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