In the revolver world, there are plenty of options, but when it comes to works of art in quality and accuracy, few would argue that the Model 83 from Freedom Arms is second to none. The Model 83 is available in a variety of calibers, barrel lengths and levels of customization from Freedom Arms. The Model 83 Field Grade, for example, is available in .500 Wyoming Express, .475 Linebaugh, .454 Casull, .44 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .357 Magnum and .22 LR. Would-be Freedom Arms Model 83 owners should be patient, though, as these Wyoming-born revolvers are made one at a time. The Model 83 is currently available in Premier Grade, Field Grade, Rimfire Grade, Silhouette and Competition versions.
Magnum Research of Minnesota makes what is officially known as the BFR, or Biggest Finest Revolver. It lives up to its name—and a few more colorful nicknames as well. Resembling the Ruger Super Blackhawk on steroids, the stainless steel revolver is a simple yet highly functional design. The revolver can use a barrel as short as 5.5 inches or as long as 17.5 inches for its more robust calibers. This single-action revolver’s claim to fame is its superb built quality, and its remarkable list of available long- and short-cylinder calibers, including the .30-30 Winchester, .45-70 Government, .460 S&W Magnum, .44 Magnum and .454 Casull. There are several other calibers available either in production or Precision Center custom calibers, but you get the point.
Ruger’s lineup begins with the versatile and affordable GP100. This rock-solid revolver can be had in .357 Magnum with a long-enough-to-hunt 6-inch barrel, making it powerful enough to take light- to medium-sized game when used by an accurate, ethical and patient hunter. Ruger’s strong frame works well with a triple-locking cylinder, and the grip design welcomes a wide variety of hand sizes, making the GP100 a good choice for a lot of first-time and veteran shooters alike. It’s available in a variety of barrel lengths with both blued and stainless finishes.
Ruger’s next wheelgun is a single- action masterpiece known as the New Model Blackhawk, and it’s one of the simplest, most reliable and affordable handguns around. It has been chambered in. 30 Carbine, .357 Magnum, .41 Remington Magnum, .44 Special, .45 Colt and .327 Federal Magnum. Blackhawk owners can get a wide variety of barrel lengths and even a Bisley model that sports a Bisley-style grip, hammer spur and trigger.
Ruger even offers a slightly more robust version known, of course, as the New Model Super Blackhawk. It’s built on the same frame as the New Blackhawk, but with a few differences like a steel versus an aluminum grip frame, a larger grip for longer-barreled versions and an unfluted cylinder to help tame the .44 Magnum’s temper. Super Blackhawk owners who want to use an optic can also choose versions with robust built-in scope mounts.
Next up is the Redhawk, Ruger’s first large-bore, double-action revolver. Made of stainless steel with no side plates, this gun is designed specifically to handle powerful magnum loads by having extra metal in the topstrap, sidewalls and barrel mounting areas. It’s a much larger handgun than the Super Blackhawk and provides a different grip angle, which may or may not please magnum handgun shooters. It’s available in a variety of calibers, including the 38 Special, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and a nifty .45 ACP/.45 Colt combination. Barrel lengths go from a svelte 4 inches to a hunt-ready 7.5 inches. The Redhawk also comes in a scope-friendly ribbed-barrel version.
In 1987, Ruger added an even larger double-action revolver to its “big or go home” lineup called the Super Redhawk, and along with the larger design came the availability of superb hunting calibers like the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger in addition to the .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum. All Super Redhawks have integral scope mounts and are large, heavy and capable revolvers well designed to shoot big-game calibers well within reasonable handgun-hunting distances. Ruger employs a lot of recoil-reducing technology in this handgun with a Hogue Tamer Monogrip, and the peg-style grip frame allows you to easily install custom grips. Ruger Super Redhawk owners can find revolvers chambered in .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .454 Casull/.45 Colt and .480 Ruger.
The S&W Model 29 is as good a place to start because it helps tell the story of the remarkable impact Smith & Wesson had and continues to have in the handgun community. S&W used the Model 29 to introduce the Elmer-Keith-inspired .44 Magnum to the world, and Clint Eastwood cemented the gun and its robust chambering in badass history in the Dirty Harry movies. This double action has been made in barrel lengths from 4 inches all the way to 10 inches and has always been chambered in the .44 Magnum/.44 Special, and the basic Model 29 has inspired a long list of variants, including the stainless steel Model 629, which has a full-length underlug.
For those of us with a little giddy-up, the Performance Center version of the 629 Hunter is an impressive handgun built to maximize the shootability, huntability and general coolness of the legendary 629 line of revolvers. It comes with a red/green-dot optical sight, a chrome hammer, a chrome trigger with a trigger stop, a muzzle brake and, of course, a Performance-Center-tuned Action. Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center handguns are, quite simply, the hot rods of handguns.
When gun experts pushed for a cross between the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum, Smith & Wesson obliged with the .41 Magnum, which offered big-bore power with a flatter and faster trajectory over the .44 Magnum. It resulted in the double-action Model 57, which comes in anything from 3-inch barrels all the way up to an 8.38-inch barrel. The .41 Magnum has a cult-like following of ballistics savvy handgun hunters. However, the Model 57 and its .41 Magnum diet are harder to come by than the immensely popular .44 Magnum.
Before we get into to truly gigantic revolvers from Smith & Wesson, let’s not overlook the smaller but superbly designed L-Frame 586 and 686 lines in .357 Magnum. The Models 585 (pictured) and 686 (next photo) can be had in barrel lengths from 2.5 inches all the way up to an 8.38-inch length with a Classic Hunter version for those of us who want a simple, reliable double-action revolver for medium game.
Built on the X-Frame, the Model 460 XVR (Xtreme Velocity Revolver) is a monster designed to stop other monsters. The Performance Center versions of this hand cannon enable hunters and enthusiasts to go as big as they want, with a 14-inch-barreled variant sporting a muzzle brake, sling swivels, top and bottom rails, and a bipod. The Model 460 XVR has one of the highest muzzle velocities of any production revolver on earth, pushing a 200-grain CorBon DPX bullet at 2,300 fps. And this gun is huge, weighing more than 5 pounds, which is heavier than some of today’s lightest bolt-action rifles.
If the Performance Center Model 460 XVR isn’t big enough for you, don’t worry. Smith & Wesson makes something just a wee bit larger. According to the company, the Model S&W500 is the most powerful production revolver in the world. For example, a Hornady 300-grain FTX bullet factory-loaded at 2,075 fps generates 2,868 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. It’s available from the Performance Center with a 7.5- or 10.5-inch barrel and offers all of the power one could probably want.
Taurus Raging Bull revolvers are excellent guns within the reach and affordability of most Americans today. In fact, when I went on my first archery elk hunt in the heart of grizzly bear country in Wyoming, I trusted my life and my partner’s life to a Taurus Raging Bull in .44 Magnum. Raging Bull revolvers are available in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull in a variety of barrel lengths, and they all come ported. I had no problem using this gun and shooting it well quickly with full-powered loads.
Hunters like challenges. For those select few who like the challenge of getting as close to their prey as possible, hunting with a handgun might be just the thing. Like rifles and shotguns, handguns come in a variety of styles, sizes and capabilities to fit any hunter’s needs or tastes, whether they prefer single-shots, revolvers or pistols. When it comes to hunting revolvers, there’s a lot to choose from, as several manufacturers make a number of revolvers well suited for hunting any creature that walks, crawls or slithers across this planet.
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Here we’ll take a look at some of the best hunting revolvers out there right now. But before we get into different brands of handguns, new and experienced handgunners should consider the action type, frame size, barrel length, accuracy and available chamberings. These days, the term “handgun” may not mean small or even hip portable. Some revolvers are massive fire-belching hand cannons that work amazingly well at rifle distances, but if portability and stealth are what lured you to handgun hunting, then you have some choices.
For more information about the hunting revolvers featured in the gallery above, go to the following sites.
Freedom Arms Model 83
Magnum Research BFR
Ruger New Model Blackhawk
Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk
Ruger Super Redhawk
Smith & Wesson Model 29
Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629
Smith & Wesson Model 57
Smith & Wesson Model 586
Smith & Wesson Model 686
Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 460 XVR
Smith & Wesson Model S&W500
Taurus Raging Bull
This article was originally published in “The Complete Book of Revolvers” 2017 #199. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
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