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School me on big bore handguns

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by westernrover, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    I'm relatively new to shooting revolvers but not firearms in general. I started shooting double-action revolvers this spring and quickly got into single-actions as well. I've trained and practiced with a couple-thousand rounds about now. I've mostly been shooting 38 and .357 Magnum. The 38's had low recoil in the lightweight gun I started with. I started shooting .357 but found a heavier steel gun (like Model 60 or SP101) worked better. Lately I've been shooting a heavy (about 45 oz) .357. With the weight and the long barrel, I enjoy it much more. I'm shooting 158 gr. at 1500 fps and it's pleasant.

    I know some people are advocates of "big bore" cartridges and the guns that shoot them. Tell me why I should be interested in them too. It's only fair to have a purpose in mind, but I can only tell you that my handgun is "all purpose." I might hunt with it, but if I get a deer tag (which isn't guaranteed every year), I'd probably use a rifle. My handgun is not really intended for self-defense but I'd use it if I had to. I don't worry about bears. I see them occasionally, but they're scared of me and not even my dog is scared of them. So I might be the only one, but I don't need a "bear gun." I carry it regularly and train or practice at least every week or more often.

    I figure I could get some 180 gr. hard cast bullets and might be able to load them up to just under 1200fps out of a ~6" barrel and they'd penetrate better than any lighter bullet I've got. But what about a bigger bore and a heavier bullet? I suppose the advantage of .44, .45, .475, .50 are the heavier bullets. I'm not sure those are so much about big hollowpoints, but suspect they're more about 340, 360, 410 gr. and so on and deep penetration.

    I know I don't want to go back to the kind of high-velocity recoil I had with the really light .357 guns and that I could do that even with a heavy gun if I loaded for really high-speed in .454. From what I've read, the idea behind the .480 Ruger or the .500 Linebaugh or JRH is more appealing to me that the higher velocity, higher-energy loads. But I might prefer an alternative if it's more down-to-earth. I do reload, but I'm pretty sure .44 components would still be half as much.

    I'm probably going to stick with my .357 because it works, but tell me about the appeal of the big bores. I'm comfortable carrying up to a 3 pound gun. I enjoy low-speed recoil, and one-handed shooting.
     
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  2. jstert

    jstert Member

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    5840EFE4-19A6-4179-852A-9BF1E6F023D5.jpeg 8C8CED92-50EE-4498-90BA-F982E89E75F1.jpeg

    try a ruger blackhawk convertible single action revolver in 45lc/acp or 357/38/9mm, “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”
     
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  3. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

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    Generally speaking, larger-diameter bullets can provide similar performance with less pressure. Less noise, less blast, no supersonic crack, less wear and tear on the gun. When you can use cast bullets, barrel life and accuracy are preserved, and the reloader can dial in the diameter, hardness, and lubrication for the best performance.

    Some (not all) Ruger single actions in .45 Colt can be safely loaded right up to .44 magnum power levels. One of these guns, a selection of cast bullets, and an enjoyment of the fussing-around process can result in a variety of accurate loads with just the right balance of power, recoil, and noise that suits you.

    Smaller bore guns, like the .357, require higher pressures (and jacketed bullets) at the higher power levels, and deliver less power downrange at the lower levels.
     
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  4. Ohen Cepel

    Ohen Cepel Member

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    .357 is a great start point as you know. Then, have to research if .44 or .45LC is your next step up. Could go .454 which I like a lot in a SA. SA's tend to be more pleasant to shoot with heavy recoil due to the grip design.

    I'm not a fan of the 460 nor 500 S&W as those platforms are simply too large for my liking. There is a 500 Special out in limited items which does appeal to me as it gets you back to a more classic SA size platform.

    For me, I simply like having that power option in a packable, classic revolver. 44 or 45LC loaded hot will take almost anything in N. America, 454 gives you more if you need it. For most I suggest the .44 as it is plenty of power and the ammo is easy to find as well as rifles to go with it if you like.
     
  5. Tallball

    Tallball Member

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    Big bores are more fun. Admittedly, I shoot more 22lr than anything, and 38 special is in second place. But when I pull out one of my 44 or 45 caliber revolvers, the REAL fun begins. Those rounds are BIG. They make big holes in things. They tear up pieces of wood, water jugs, old junk refrigerators, etc. My 44 magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk is my favorite handgun. It's a big piece of steel with a 7.5" barrel. It's heavy and solid and it makes things explode. What's not to like?
     
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  6. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    I'm shooting what are basically maximum loads in the .357, but with a 45 oz gun it seems pretty tame. I don't want to ruin that. I'd be ok with more of a slow shove, but I want to keep shooting one-handed. I suppose the .357 is loud, but the longer barrel seems to direct it downrange and I double-up with plugs and muffs.

    I'm starting to like the idea of a slower, subsonic bullet with more mass. At the lower speeds, I don't suppose hollowpoint expansion is dependable but I would probably shoot cast bullets like those from Cast Performance. I don't cast my own.

    I like the Blackhawk, Super Blackhawk, or maybe a Super Redhawk (never tried one). Some of the Blackhawks are a little light on the models where the grip and ejector housing are Aluminum. If I was going up in power factor, I'd want some weight. The SBH Bisleys look like they come with the mass. The way I carry it, I think I could go to a 6.5" barrel max.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2018
  7. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    A .44 or heavily loaded .45 seems the way to go. I have the .44 a friend prefers the .45.
    The Ruger "Bisley"* is said to manage recoil well, I can't say for sure, I am DA.

    *Ruger's idea of a Bisley grip does not agree with Colt's. More like an enlarged Keith No 5.
     
  8. Tradmark

    Tradmark Member

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    So i diverge heavily from conventional wisdom as far as big bores go. My absolute favorite is the 454 casull. Before you demoan that choice due to recoil keep in mind my daughter that is 96lbs shoots it well! It can loaded from mild to wild and with bullets like the swift aframe itll create bigger wound channels than all the others not names sw 500 or sw 460. I have used it on large bovines bears and elk with swift aframes and it handily outperforms
    My 475 caliber bores as well as the smaller bores. I currently have in my arsenal 357, 41mag 10mm, 44 mag, 45 colt, 454, 480, 475 linebaugh, 500 jrh, 460sw and 500sw and had a 500 linebaugh as well. Now back to the point of more terminal effectiveness without the recoil. Go for a 41 mag! Ive used it with 210 grain aframes to take elk and bison handily. In side by side wound channel testing with a 480 ruger and 475 linebaugh with 400+ grain wfn bullets that aframe makes a significantly larger wound channel as does its 41 mag barnes. It is a hot ruger/fa only load but if i could post pics i would post one w my 10 year old and his deer he took with it so that should tell you all you need to know about the recoil. Side note, if u want the most, most of everything, get a 500 jrh bfr and run 325 gr aframes at 1700 fps and hold on for the ride. Just awesome!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2018
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  9. Bones741

    Bones741 Member

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    Check out @MaxP 's books. Maybe he will chime in. I've read his hunting revolver book .Have yet to read his big bore revolver book, but its sitting on my nightstand next in line. It's really cool having access to his knowledge via books and from direct contact on this forum. @CraigC even had a hand in part of Max's book, in regards to the .44 mag. I found it so cool seeing info put into a book that I was reading come from fellow forum members that you interact with on a normal basis. This forum is full of folks with lots of good things to share. I too am new to big bores , but after alot of reading and listening to peoples stories , they make sense to me now.

    Just because it's a big bore, don't mean you need to hot rod it and turn it into a hand cannon. I'll take a big fat bullet in 44 or 45 cal cal weighing 255 gr + moving at 1000 fps any day over a meduim bore 180 gr going 1300 fps. Way more pleasant to shoot and with the right bullet construction it will indeed get the job done . I love the way hotter 44 specials shoot in my flattop bisley. I also enjoy my gp100 and model 60-15 , but when in the woods hunting or just scouting I feel much more confident with the .44 to the .357.

    Here's some links Max's books, definitely worth a look.

    https://www.amazon.com/Big-Bore-Revolvers-Max-Prasac/dp/1440228566

    https://www.amazon.com/Gun-Digest-B...volver+max&dpPl=1&dpID=61RyWDK0DfL&ref=plSrch
     
  10. Tradmark

    Tradmark Member

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    Great books and its awesome to be able to hunt with him!!!! He knows his business!
     
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  11. WrongHanded
    • Contributing Member

    WrongHanded Contributing Member

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    Well I'm ordering a copy right now!
     
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  12. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Fire up the printing press max, I just bought the last copy on amazon! This is a hot topic, and I love big bores. I guess I just like having rifle power i can wear on my hip.
     
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  13. Drail

    Drail Member

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    I carry a 3 inch S&W L frame .44 Spl. My hand loads are normally a 200 gr. slug @ 900 fps. I also love 240 - 250 gr. slugs @ 800 fps. It is pleasant to shoot all day with loads like that. They don't blind you or deafen you or make your wrists ache for days. I can easily see why Elmer Keith and so many others liked this cartridge for so many years. It works on steel poppers and bowling pins and two legged varmints awfully well. Unfortunately it has become pretty much a handloader's cartridge like the .41 Mag only because not many dealers believe they will sell enough to bother with it. But all the components are out there if you want to load your own.
     
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  14. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    Right. The comments about 255 gr going 1000 fps, that's what I'm attracted to, not super hot rodding (I want to shoot a lot not just brag). I wouldn't want to be limited to SAAMI specification .44 Special or low-pressure .45LC, but almost any other option seems to offer plenty of versatility to find where I'm comfortable. The .454 Casull looks good to me because I could load it to "Ruger .45LC" levels but the SBH Bisely's are a little nicer than the BH's in .45 LC and they're still affordable. I thought about the .41 too. It seems like it would be a big upgrade from .357 without the excess of the .454 that I would hardly ever want to use other than a couple shots for gee-whiz.
     
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  15. Tradmark

    Tradmark Member

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    Back to the “why” is margin for error. Put anything that remotely holds together thru the hot zone of the vitals and what ever it is will bleed out. Pull the shot a hair or the animal moves at the shot and what seemed like a gimme turns into a long tracking job or a lost animal. Fire off the big boys with the right bullet and you plain and simply have a much much larger room for error. I once put a 400+ gr cast from a 475 linebaugh at over 1400 fps thru the back of the lungs of an oryx and tracked it 7 miles so i emphasize, right bullet. With a 357 my cousin used to put down a whitetail buck, went well over 100 yards, shot was thru the point of the shoulder and the heart. The deer went over 100 yards and took a right into the clearing on my property, if it had gone left its over the fence and its a lost deer. That same shot with a 454 casull has been shown many times to put the animal down immediately. This is why the biggies are worth it.
     
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  16. dvnv

    dvnv Member

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    My handgun career began with a 357, 3 screw blackhawk, and I shot it one handed as well. At some point I read an article by Shaw (that dates a guy) that detailed a two handed, thumb over thumb grip for the 1911 in 45 acp. I tried it and found an immediate improvement in accuracy, so changed.

    Shortly after I was hunting pigs with my beloved (and only) handgun, the afore mentioned 357, using a case full of H110 over a 125 gr bullet...it was loud and shot like a laser to 100 yds...I thought I really had something. There were no pigs so I shot at the end of a broken limb of an oak tree. Upon inspection, I had hit it but the bullet had not made it through...it was less than 2 inches thick. That began a foray into larger bores, first a 44, then a 454, then a 475 and lastly a 41. I like them all, and have more examples of 357 than anything else, but if I had to keep just one, the 41 would get the nod.

    Your 180 gr load will punch a hole through plenty of meat, and it will kill just about anything, but it doesn't do it as well as the larger bores. Call it margin of error, larger wound channel, thwack factor, whatever...bigger bores work better.

    For the shooting you describe, a 41 or a 44 would be enough of a step up. You might try two hands, it sure helped me.
     
  17. MaxP

    MaxP Member

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    Thanks for the kind words fellas! Amazon may be out, but the Gun Digest Store isn’t. Big-bores do provide a much larger margin of error but do not make up for poor shot placement. I think where the big-bore shines is in big-game hunting...

    Happy Thanksgiving!
     
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  18. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Member

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    The appeal for me is that I want to start hunting with a handgun.
    At handgun velocities, big bores and cast bullets with a flat wide meplat is where its at.
    They don't need to rely on expansion because they're cutting darn near a half inch hole to begin with. And a hard cast bullet will nearly always give you complete penetration.

    I currently shoot .45 Colt and .44 magnum, both out of Ruger single actions.
    I'm looking into adding a .480 Ruger to the stable. If I do, it will likely be in the Super Redhawk configuration and will end up with an optic of some sort on it.
     
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  19. IlikeSA

    IlikeSA Member

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    I too am a lover of the .357 bore, but in my reading of Taffin? Seyfried? the author give's an anecdote of some correspondence with Elmer Keith regarding the .357, and Keith tells him to get rid of the .357 and get a .44. Why?

    In my own study, it boils down to pressure and meplat size. There's a series of good articles on the beartooth bullet website but the one I want to draw your attention to is here: https://beartoothbullets.com/tech_notes/archive_tech_notes.htm/61

    There are measurements of meplat and velocity with predicted wound track sizes. Basically, a .357 Keith style bullet is making the same wound track at 1100 fps as a .45 caliber Keith style at 800 fps. Less pressure and lower velocity to do the same work. At the same 1100 fps, there is around a 1/4 inch increase in wound track diameter. Reloading a larger caliber handgun is more expensive, as it uses more powder and lead, but you save a lot of wear and tear on your ears and handgun.

    I also recommend reading both of MaxP's books, but also go to the library and read Elmer Keith, John Taffin, Linebaugh, and some of the other writers. Look at Linebaugh's website and read the articles there. Read the Beartooth Bullet articles. There's a lot of good information out there. It can easily be a year long hobby just in the reading.
     
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  20. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    According to models currently listed on their site, you would have to settle for 41 Magnum to get a 6.5" barrel. Not a bad choice with bullets in the 210-215 grain range. None with a 6.5" barrel are available in 44 Magnum, although I own one from 1997 with a Bisley grip. Choices would be 5.5 or 7.5 inches.
     
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  21. dickydalton

    dickydalton Member

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    Amazon isn't out either I just ordered both.
     
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  22. k4swb

    k4swb Member

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    The first handgun I bought that I was actually able to keep and learn to shoot well was a Dan Wesson .44mag with a 6" vent heavy bbl. The reason I bought it was to learn to reload and be able to go from mild to wild at will. It was also intended for use when hunting anything. I still have it with a couple of more bbls and if I need to sell off everything some day, it will be the absolute last.

    I shot/shoot that gun a lot! I have squirrel, rabbit, deer and dove hunted with it. I only ever bought one center fire rifle to hunt with but still carried the DW the most. With the right load I could hunt/kill game and with careful shot placement not do too much damage on the smaller game. Squirrel, rabbit, dove and deer seasons are all in together during part of the fall/winter here and carrying my DW for just a stroll through the woods just works for me. The only thing that comes even remotely close is hunting with my TC Contender in 7-30 Waters. It too can fill my "all game season."

    With handloads I could probably have done all the hunting with the rifle but it would not have been as fun. I did try it somewhat so I know I'm right.

    Big bore handguns are just plain fun.!!!
     
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  23. Tradmark

    Tradmark Member

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    So the beartooth wound channel calculator mirrors what we see in the field and when u calculate the expanded diameter with the velocity you get wound channels that are several measures of magnitude larger than even the largest bore’s wound channel with a wfn! Use your 357 with aframes and go get em, or just get a big fast round like a 454 and get ya a 6” wound channel and watch the largest of game drop like crazy. The cast will penetrate deep as long as they hold shape but really the biggest misconception in handgun hunting is that we lack penetration. We dont. We need more damage, or just chase game around hoping itll go down and hopefully you dont see your 12k trophy fee walk away never to be found again like a buddy of mine did in africa. Perfect shot verified on video. Less than perfect results. If you dont need more penetration on cape buff you certainly dont need it on anything on this continent. Heck, i met a lady at the NRA show that used aframes in a 454 to cleanly take an elephant!
     
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  24. Ratshooter

    Ratshooter Member

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    I like the 357 and shoot it and 38 specials the most of my centerfire handguns. But the 32 mag is just as fun if not even more fun for light recoiling gun. If you limit your hunting to whitetails and mule deer a 158-180gr bullet will serve you well. Be mindful of the range and keep it to 75 yards of less and the 357 will work.

    I have owned several 41 and 44 mag revolvers and still have a SBH in 44 mag. I don't shoot it much and when I do I mostly shoot pop gun loads like a 240gr lead bullets pushed by 5grs of bullseye powder. Its probably going no more than 750fps and its a blast to shoot. I know why people like the 44 special round.

    And I have full power, burn down the target loads. If I were going after bigger game those are what I would carry. I don't target shoot with those because the bullets are expensive. Just a few to check the sights. I don't worry about bullet cost with the 357. I have so many jacketed bullets and thousands of lead bullets I have cast so shooting the 357 is painless.

    But there is nothing wrong with wanting a new gun. I may not shoot my 44 mag a lot but its not for sale either. And its a companion to my Marlin 44 mag rifle.
     
  25. dickydalton

    dickydalton Member

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