The most powerful handguns in the world are capable of taking down big game in the same way that high-powered rifles do. Some on the below list are even too much for certain game, such as deer or even pigs. The amount of meat the rounds would decimate makes them overkill.
The Smith & Wesson Model 29 ruled the roost for a very long time. Chambered with .44 Magnum cartridges, the Model 29 is still a hand cannon of the highest caliber (pun very much intended). You’ll notice soon enough, that it’s not even on this list, aside from the introductory paragraph it deserves.
The Model 29 could effectively drop a charging rhino—or, at least that’s what it felt like when fired—and the fact that it didn’t make the cut is not a knock, because it could easily find a spot in here. However, technology has improved, and these rocket launchers masquerading as hand guns are some of the most powerful on earth.
10 Most Powerful Handguns
1. Magnum Research Desert Eagle .50 Action Express
That’s a big name for a big firearm. This one deserves to be at the top of the list because most of the powerful handguns in the world are six-shooters. This one proves the exception with 1,475-foot pounds of force from a 300-grain bullet.
That will put a sizeable hole in something. The barrel chamber pressure is hardly convincing at 35,000psi, but this is still the most powerful semi-automatic handgun on the market today. It’s also a huge weapon and, like most of the guns on this list, is not for smaller and weaker wrists.
2. Smith and Wesson .500
This gun is absurdly, cartoonishly large, like something straight out of the Who Framed Roger Rabbit movie. If you’ve seen it, we’re talking about the scene with the talking bullets. Take the cartoonish aspect of the gun away, and you have the Smith & Wesson .500.
Seemingly designed to carve gaping skull tunnels in Kodiak Grizzly Bears, this .500 produces 3,031lbf with a 350-grain bullet. The speed of the round coming out of this tank-sized barrel is 1,975 fps. If you can handle this massive revolver, that is.
3. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .480 Ruger
The caliber of the bullet is actually .475, and the gun itself generates 48,000psi. With 1,310lbf, this Ruger fires a 410-grain bullet that travels at about 1,200fps. That’s more than you get from a .44 Magnum.
The only disappointing feature is that it comes from a snub-nose rifle, so whatever you’re trying to punch a hole through had better be pretty close as the accuracy is predictably terrible. That means you would need to be disturbingly close to whatever you’re hunting.
4. Freedom Arms Model 83, 473 Linebaugh
Another revolver on the list (most of them are), the 475 Linebaugh, like the .480 Ruger, fires a .475 round. It generates 50,000psi and fires a 420-grain bullet at 950fpd. That may sound pretty slow, but the round achieves pretty deep penetrations and obliterates ballistics gel.
Unlike some of the others, it doesn’t generate enough power to overcome the .44 magnum. What the Linebaugh does manage to achieve is becoming one of the most popular big-game loads on the marketplace today.
5. CVA Optima .50 Caliber Black Powder Pistol
It may be an old-school, black powder gun, but the CVA Optima .50 packs quite a punch. With 260 grains of powder, behind a loaded round, the CVA has a velocity of 2,000fps and will drop a deer like it was hit with a wrecking ball.
While you can hunt whitetail or mule deer with one of these one-shot cannons, it’s not a good idea if you like to retrieve the most meat possible. What doesn’t come out the other side will turn to jelly around the wound.
6. Smith & Wesson Model 3566 TSW
The second Smith & Wesson to make it on the list (Smith & Wesson really likes making hand cannons), this is one of the few semi-autos to compete with revolvers. The Model 3566 TSW is capable of pushing a 124-grain bullet at 1,450fps at 578lbf.
As a competition firearm, they had to tone it down somewhat. It is still plenty capable of putting seriously large holes in things, and it’s not much bigger than a standard 9mm handgun.
7. Magnum Research BFR .45/70 Government
A weird combination of a rifle cartridge in a revolver with 28,000psi pressure, the Magnum Research is a huge revolver. When firing a 500-grain round, it generates a velocity of 1,150fps behind 1,468lbf and a power factor of 575.
It’s chambered in either .45/70 or .30-30 Winchester. Either way, you decide to go, it’s still a gigantic revolver.
8. Ruger Single Seven .327 Federal Magnum
Ruger is fading in popularity as of late, probably because it offers a lot of premium brand copies at a substantially lowered price. Apparently, they make a pretty mean revolver, however. It’s not the largest cartridge on the list, but it generates a mind-blowing amount of power for its size.
With a 130-grain bullet, the Single Seven generates a velocity of 1,300fps with 487lbf of energy. No bad for one of the smaller guns on the list.
9. Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Casull
Back-to-back Ruger revolvers must mean they are doing something right over there. It’s also well over half a century old. The chamber pressure on this bad boy is 65,000psi, and it will send a 325-grain, .45 bullet flying at 1,525fps with 1,678lbf of energy.
It also happens to be a fairly popular cartridge, for those who can handle it.
10. Smith & Wesson Model 460
The Smith & Wesson Model 460 features the same chamber pressure as the above-listed Casull at 65,000psi. According to most, this particular cartridge is the most powerful revolver on the planet.
That’s saying something but, then again, Smith & Wesson made three entries in the top ten. Apparently, they know their business. At 2,885lbf the S&W sends a 260-grain bullet out of the barrel at 1,900fps, with a power factor of 684.
What Makes a Handgun Powerful
There are three main factors that contribute to how powerful a handgun is: caliber, barrel length, and bullet weight. The caliber of a handgun is the diameter of the inside of the barrel and is measured in inches or millimeters. The barrel length is self-explanatory and is usually between 3 and 4 inches (76-102 mm). The bullet weight is measured in grains and usually ranges between 115 and 147 grains.
The most important factor in determining how powerful a handgun is the caliber. A larger caliber means that the gun can fire a bigger bullet, which will obviously do more damage than a smaller one.
The barrel length also plays a role in how powerful a handgun is because it determines how fast the bullet will be moving when it leaves the barrel. A longer barrel means that the bullet will be moving faster and will therefore have more kinetic energy, which makes it more powerful.
Finally, the bullet weight contributes to how much damage the bullet will do when it hits its target because heavier bullets pack more of a punch than lighter ones.
You don’t want to take any of the above ten on if you have weak wrists unless you prefer a mouthful of metal. These are some of the most powerful handguns in the world, and all of them will punch a sizeable hole.
Most of them are revolvers, and that’s fitting, considering the power of the revolver is a part of the mythology of the wild west and American lore. The real reason is that revolvers are more capable of containing the immense explosiveness behind these rounds.
If you’re on the lookout for a handgun that will cave in your eardrums and require you to get reconstructive surgery on your wrists, you’ve come to the right place, and the above ten handguns are a good place to start.
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