The term “hand cannon” dates back to some of the oldest small arms, literally when cannons were reduced in size so that a single user could hold and aim one. However, these were far from accurate and not exactly the safest of things to try to shoot when you consider someone was actually holding a cannon.

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Today, the concept of a hand cannon is quite different and often refers to handguns that fire a magnum cartridge, one that is larger than, or derived from, a similar cartridge. The first magnum handgun was introduced in 1934 as the .357 Magnum. Designed by Smith & Wesson and Winchester’s ammunition division as both a law enforcement and sporting cartridge, it remained the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world until the introduction of the .44 Magnum in 1955. Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character gave popularity to the .44 Magnum, noting that it was “the most powerful handgun in the world.”

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While movies may suggest these handguns are ideal for law enforcement, these are more often carried by big game hunters as a backup weapon, one that will offer protection from even the biggest game. Today, there are now a variety of modern hand cannons for those who desire to really call out the big guns.



Magnum Research


Smith & Wesson


This article was published in the 2016 issue of Gun Buyer’s Guide. For information on how to subscribe, please email [email protected] or call 1-800-284-5668

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