Dirty Harry wouldn’t have known what had hit him if he pulled his old pea-shooter out in the modern age of the world’s most powerful handguns.
The most powerful handgun on sale is a different ballgame now and handgun calibers just keep getting bigger as the technology emerges to contain them.
That 357 Magnum wouldn’t even register on this list. It’s still a great gun, but it is lost among these handgun calibers.
These are big-bore handguns designed for big game hunting and survival in big bear country, which is about the toughest test the American population is ever going face. They have the stopping power of a cannon and they are the baddest kind of personal defense.
Powerful Pistols for Hunting and Self Defense
These high caliber handguns sit on the hip and in the jeeps of guides all across Africa, who know what it takes to dissuade a charging wild animal from taking bite-sized chunks out the tourists. They’re increasingly popular as hunting handguns too.
So, there is a real world reason for these guns. But then some people simply want to have them, shoot them and enjoy them for the engineering works of art that they are. More than a few of these guns are out on display on desks and stores around the country.
Enjoy the world’s most powerful handguns and feel free to buy one if you’re in the United States of America, while you still can!
1. Magnum Research BFR 45-70 Government
- Price: $1,277.99
- Caliber: 45-70 Government
- Muzzle Velocity: 2050fps
- Muzzle energy: 2,931 foot pounds.
- Barrel Length: 10″
- Total Length: 17.5″
- Weight: 4.7lb
- Capacity: 5 Rounds
This massive, five chamber revolver comes from Minnesota and it’s a game-hunting handgun that’s essentially firing rifle ammo. It’s a gun for the African plains and can take out a bear.
You can argue the legitimacy of it, and others on this list will, but these are the most powerful handguns in the world you can just buy right now together with the ammo you need.
The Magnum Research BFR is a brutal, two-handed gun that does come with some recoil, but then you kind of know that when handgun calibers get this intense. This is a 325 grain bullet with 2,050fps muzzle velocity. Even body armor couldn’t do much, let’s be real.
Now the firm has seemingly bowed to common sense and created chambers for the S&W 500 round, the 454 Casull and right down to the 45 Long Colt caliber bullet. Which are still total hand cannons.
Smaller Calibers Are Easier to Control
These are more sensible calibers that might give your arms a fighting chance and the 45-70 Government seems to be slowly fading out. If you want a pistol that fires a rifle cartridge, buy it now…
It’s slow to load, so you might want to think twice about packing the Magnum Research BFR as a last line of defense against wild animals.
Truthfully it’s a terrible personal defense gun and it really needs to be laid out on sandbags, or on a bipod, to get the best from it. Then it can drop deer, or even Elk if you’re good. But this is no concealed carry quick shooter.
Sometimes you just don’t need a legit reason, though, to put a hunting rifle round in a pistol. You might just want to own the most powerful handgun in the world. And that’s fine too.
So get your Magnum Research BFR now and just know that Clint Eastwood approves.
Where to buy 45-70 Government Ammo
This is specialist ammunition, but it’s fairly easy to find. The pricing, though, can be all over the place. But we’ve found some great options, including the Black Hills Honeybadger ammunition that should stop just about anything, if you want to pay.
Here are our top tips for the best places to buy ammo, and direct links to save you time looking for the right handgun cartridge.
2. S&W 500 Performance Center
- Price: $1,852.99
- Caliber: .500 S&W Magnum
- Barrel Length: 7.5″
- Total Length: 15″
- Weight: 4.53lb
- Capacity: 5 Rounds
This has become the most famous high-power handgun in recent years, even though technically it does get outgunned by a few rare souls.
Still, this is probably the world’s most powerful handguns for the mass market and it’s pretty much the biggest thing you want to shoot on the regular.
Now this double action revolver comes in a range of barrel sizes. You can opt for the snubnose 2.5 inch and a 4″ barrel that both almost work as carry pistols. The longer barrel 8.75″ barrel turns this into a legit hunting gun if you can tame it. That might take a lot of practise, or even a bi-pod, but you can do these things.
Then there is this Performance Center version with the 7.5″ barrel. It is tuned, has an integrated compensator, there’s a proper rail up top for optics, scopes or red dot sights and a slew of competition parts. You can read more about them here on our S&W500 post.
Life Saving Pocket Pistol in Bear Country? Maybe?
The snubnose version could actually be a life-saver in bear country, or polar bear country, or a few other countries with big animals that can eat you. Right then, this Smith & Wesson Model 500 would look like a sweet deal.
You can speedload it, you can group the shots and this is just about the most powerful handgun in the world you could rapid fire if you really focus. You could also knock yourself out with the recoil and give the bear an easy meal. So do you feel lucky?
Modern Day Dirty Harry
Of course, I’m looking at valid reasons for using these hand cannons, like practical applications. There really aren’t that many when it comes down to it.
Do you really need a reason, though, to buy the Smith & Wesson Model 500 double action revolver and live out your Dirty Harry 2.0 fantasies.
Law Enforcement sometimes carries one of these oversize revolvers in movies, too. But only in movies.
Why Not Shoot Some Meat?
This guy shot a big piece of pork with his Smith & Wesson Model 500, because, well, why not? It does show the bullet weight, though, and the massive amount of damage you can do to flesh with this monster handgun.
Most Powerful Revolver in the Real World
Right now, ignoring the much less practical 45-70 Magnum Research offering that really is a unique thing, that’s this one.
These are the world’s most powerful handguns that you should actually buy. It’s a production revolver chambered in 50 Cal, what more do you want exactly?
You’ll never regret owning a S&W 500. It’s just too much fun. As a last line of personal defense in a gun safe by your bed, it could be an awesome surprise for a home invader. Even lighting up the range and reducing the other members to amused spectators can be fun.
The longer barrel is going to generate more energy, that’s just the way powerful pistols work, and you can count on 2600lb/ft of muzzle energy with this long gun.
With the high-grade 500gr
If you haven’t scratched the itch yet, get the best price for the S&W 500 online now.
Stick with this video for the slow-motion gel, watermelon and soda pop destruction. It’s pretty cool.
3. Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mk
XIX .50 AE
- Price: $1,995.99
- Caliber: .50 Action Express
- Barrel: 6″
- Total length: 10.75″
- Weight: 4.5lb
- Capacity: 7+1
Ready for the most powerful semi-automatic pistol in the world? You already know it’s the Magnum Research Desert Eagle MKXIX 50 Action Express, because it is a legend.
This is a movie icon that starred in Deadpool, for instance, and The Matrix. But we just love Deadpool so that’s the one you get here.
Rent One at the Range, You Might Like It
Magnum Research’s distinctive gas operated 50 AE still does a roaring trade as a rental gun at ranges round the country because there is just nothing like it. People love single action hand cannons, it’s really that simple.
It’s still the most powerful semi-automatic handgun by a long way and that must be for good reason.
It’s the easiest here to reload, too, thanks to a simple magazine system. So drop one mag, load another and you’ve got another seve
The Desert Eagle MKXIX, the Practical Option. Wait. What?
When capacity becomes a factor, this might actually be the better weapon. I never thought I’d be describing Magnum Research’s madness as the practical alternative, but here we are…
It is still down on power compared to Smith & Wesson’s 500 and those heavyweight bullets. That’s one thing we can’t
4. Taurus 454 Raging Hunter
- Price: $886.99
- Caliber: 454
- Barrel: 5.1″
- Total: 10.5″
- Weight: 3.8lb
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Another good old-fashioned wheelgun, but this one can handle the infamous 454 Casull caliber bullet. It’s a good-looking, well proportioned, revolver in a range of barrel lengths. This is the all-round 5.1 inch version that could easily sit in an open carry holster in the wild.
The Taurus Raging Hunter also won a number of hunting handgun of the year awards with the longer barrel.
Taurus Has a History of Powerful Revolvers
The Taurus Raging Hunter builds on the almighty reputation of the slightly gangster Taurus Raging Bull. You can still get the Taurus Raging Bull and it’s essentially this gun without the trick muzzle rise tech and rail.
For this fun, Taurus seems to have taken some inspiration from the folks at S&W with an aftermarket look balanced barrel.
That comes with a steel sleeve and aluminum housing, and it’s all ported to fight muzzle rise. Essentially you have a muzzle brake built into the barrel shroud. Helping you out with all that energy at the muzzle isn’t a bad idea ya know…
Affordable Handgun Hunting With Taurus Revolver
You can, of course, hunt with it. That’s kind of the point. In which case this round will take down deer with ease and, if you can get close, it could take bigger North American game. Inevitably you can order small calibers too, next time…
It’s a serious handgun cartridge and that turns a gun like this into an easy investment. It’s versatile, it’s fun and it’s probably as much gun as any reasonable person wants or needs.
Where to Buy 454 Casull Ammo
This specialist hunting round isn’t the easiest to find, but we do have some powerful loads for you here from about $2/round fgor a 250 grain bullet. The 360 grain bullet costs a little more.
5. Christensen Arms Modern Precision Pistol
- Price: $2,215.99
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Barrel: 12″
- Total length: 21.5″
- Weight: 6.2lb
- Capacity: 5+1
Bolt-action pistols are a new phenomena produced in response to hunting regulations that seemed to rule out rifles. But this new breed of pistol is finding favor with outdoorsy types that want a gun that can fit in a backpack, for whatever reason.
It’s a Remington 700 action, refined of course with extensive use of carbon-fiber. The barrel is also V-block bedded for better accuracy.
A short barrel 6.5 Creedmoor is quite the thing and there’s absolutely no denying the brute force here. The company says the pistol only gives up about 15-30% of the rifle’s power, so you are getting a hell of a punch.
Does it belong on this list? Well we weren’t sure, and we got space. Soooo, yeah?
6. Smith & Wesson 460XVR
- Price: $1,845.99
- Caliber: 460 S&W
- Barrel: 14″
- Total length: 21.5″
- Weight: 5.4lb
- Capacity: 5
We know, another S&W production revolver, but just look at it. This is a sniper rifle of a revolver, designed to be used with a bi-pod and scope. Welcome to the Smith & Wesson 460XVR.
Why hasn’t this featured in an awesome film yet? Actually, It probably has. I don’t watch too much TV.
But anyway, if you hunt, you want something different and you want to get up close and personal, then the Model 460XVR could be an awesome handgun for you. It’s another Smith Wesson model that you just might not have thought about, but it is a fun handgun.
7. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan
- Price: $1,559.99
- Caliber: 454 Casull
- Barrel: 2.5″
- Total: 7.62″
- Weight: 2.75lb
- Capacity: 5
The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan 454 Casull with a 2.5 inch barrel is basically the pocket pistol from Hell. It is the definition of a hand cannon and it has saved more Alaskan lives than we know.
That’s where this lump of stainless steel comes into its own. It slips into a coat pocket and can be retrieved in an instant to deal with the bears and wolves that famously get too close up North.
The ‘little’ Ruger Super Redhawk is life insurance, in small revolver form, and the 454 Casull round is not something to be toyed with. It’s more or less a rifle round through a 2.5 inch barrel. Really digest that thought.
Nightstand Pistol Like You Have Never Seen
As a last line of defense in your home, it’s also got a certain perverse appeal. Pull one of these out of a hidden gun safe and the game just changed.
This is a very big gun in a very small package. That doesn’t make it the best gun, but it does make it interesting.
It’s 2.6lb, so it’s not a perfect CCW unless you have a big winter coat and need to feel that weight. But it is a beast of a gun that you might want to have in your home. It will take care of everything, from a grizzly bear to a zombie.
If that version is a little much, you can get the this compact revolver chambered in 44 Magnum, too, which turns it into a surprisingly versatile weapon.
8. Thompson Center Contender/Encore Hunter
- Price: $669.99
- Caliber: Multi-Caliber – Up to 45/70 Government
- Muzzle Energy: 2,280 foot pounds
- Barrel: 12 inch
- Weight: 3.5lb
- Capacity: 1
The Thompson Center single shot pistol looks like a novelty movie gun, and it does feature in John Wick 4 and Hard to Kill 2…
This is a legend that has been with us since 1967 and it’s pretty much every single hunting pistol you want. Without follow-up shots, natch…
With a new barrel, this break action pistol can accommodate everything from 22LR to the 45/70 Government rifle cartridge.
No joke. You can fit 40 different barrels to this thing and the simple engineering means it can accommodate any round you can think of. Then, when you’re bored, you can turn it into a rifle…
Every Gun in One Bag of Parts?
It’s the Swiss Army Knife of the firearms world and can be everything from a backyard plinker to a big game hunter.
You have to watch the video to really get your head round this pistol and just what it’s capable of. You can literally switch out calibers in the field in seconds and turn it into a single shot rifle with new furniture.
We prefer the Encore Hunter Pro, but you can get the simpler Thompson Center Contender for less money.
9. Glock G40
- Price: $723.99
- Caliber: 10mm Auto
- Barrel: 6.02″
- Total Length: 9.49″
- Weight: 2.15lb
- Capacity: 15+1 Rounds
Now things get interesting. The truth is that the difference in penetration between the Glock and the larger calibers will come down to shot placement more often than not. There’s more in you than the gun.
So, if you’re honest with yourself, would you rather be aiming one of these hand cannons at a charging bear or the familiar form of a Glock? It might not be the most dramatic, but it could be the best handgun here by a long way.
Make no mistake, the 10mm semi-automatic handgun comes with a bigger kick than the 9mm, but then it’s nowhere near the savage feedback and three-feet fireballs you’ll get from the big hitters on this list. The effective range, though, might just be better.
The ammo, though, is widely considered to deliver the same powerful impact as a 357 Magnum revolver round.
Glock: Built For a Nuclear Winter, and the Outdoors
It’s cheap, too, comparatively, and it’s a Glock so it should survive a nuclear winter. There are debates raging on the forums about the difference between this and the 44 Magnum, which means it’s close enough for this to be an option and it is proven bear defense.
I don’t think it is on a par with the 44 Magnum in terms of power, incidentally. It’s not even close, but the Glock comes with a lot of benefits that are hard to ignore.
10. Pfeifer Zeliska 600 Nitron Express
- Price: $20,000
- Caliber: 600 Nitro Express
- Barrel: 22 inch
- Weight: 13.23lb
These are generally considered the world’s most powerful handguns, but also it’s a custom gun that isn’t really out there on the open market.
The Pfeifer Zeliska is well known enough to make the is as an honorable mention, but it’s no production gun and those cartridges are so expensive, and the revolver costs so much, that we can’t put this up top.
But just for a sense of completeness, you can buy a 30k revolver that fires 600 Nitron Express rounds that can cost $40 a pop, but it does produce 4,592 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.
Now that is the kind of stopping power that can turn dangerous game into pink mist.
These are monsters, but they also show the diminishing returns and the price you pay in terms of weight and size to chamber these larger cartridges. Especially in he United States, where anything more than 50 BMG can attract the gaze of the ATF.
Just so you know, the 10mm was designed to be much more powerful than the ammo you get these days. There is ammo out there that brings it to life, like it was intended. Basically the specs are the same as a 41 mag. At 100 yards the bullet is as powerful as a 45 is at the muzzle. With 15 rounds, I would have to say that it contains more fire power than ANY other handgun. Just sayin …
My carry is a glock 29
There’s a lot to be said for 10mm, especially now with the State laws going towards limited mags. I think we might see a lot more people following in your footsteps and packing a little hand cannon!
I did this list of the best 10mm handguns and yours is on there: https://usa-gun-shop.com/best-10mm-handguns-pistols-for-sale-2018/
Gotta say this is a poor article.
1) you left off 45-70 bfr revolver. .45 colt revolver instead loll.
2) raging bull in .454 instead of raging judge that shoots .454 as well as .410 shotgun ?
3) you refer to the desert eagle magazine as a clip ??
Wow – you’re way off on the capacity of the DE .50AE.
Dirty Harry carried a S&W model 29. It’s a .44 mag. Not a.357. Come on, man.
I used the .50 desert eagle as back up sidearm in Africa and can recommend it.
Please note that in this caliber the magazine holds 7 rounds, and not 8.
It will hold 8 rounds in 44 magnum caliber.
When used a lot, the pistol tends to wear, and feeding becomes less reliable, this is a drawback for a gun used for self defense.