Dirty Harry wouldn’t have known what had hit him if he pulled his old pea-shooter out in the modern age.
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 of the most powerful handguns. 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.
Most Powerful Handguns 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 most powerful handguns in the world and feel free to buy one!
1. S&W 500
- Price: $1149.99
- Caliber: .500 S&W Magnum
- Barrel Length: 8.38″
- 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 most powerful gun for the mass market and it’s pretty much the biggest thing you probably want to shoot on the regular.
It comes with a range of barrel sizes, with a manageable 4 inch barrel looking pretty damned cool, while the longer barrel 8.75″ barrel you see here 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.
Life Saving Pocket Pistol in Bear Country
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, you want the most powerful handgun in the world and this S&W would look like a sweet deal. You can speedload it, you can group the shots and this is just about the most powerful handgun you could rapid fire if you really focus.
Of course, I’m looking at valid reasons for using a hand cannon, like practical applications. There really aren’t that many when it comes down to it.
If he were still going strong today, the S&W Model 500 is the gun that Dirty Harry would carry. And it would be a frightening double act.
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
You might just want the most powerful, slightly practical handgun that money can buy, though. That is this one and you can find more info here.
Right now, ignoring the much less practical 45-70 Magnum Research offering that really is a unique thing, that’s this one.
This is the most powerful mass market handgun, that you should 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 and it’s $1000 well-spent. 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.
I suspect you might not say that about the BFR.
The longer barrel is going to generate more energy, that’s just the way it works, and you can count on 2600lb/ft of muzzle energy with this long gun. So the smaller gun is way more practical, but you’ll get the most power with the longer versions.
There is a S&W Performance Center hunter with an even longer balanced barrel shroud and it really is something…
Snub Nose Pocket Pistol to Sniper on a Tripod
There is basically a form package for you, from the
With the high-grade 500gr
A Sort of Practical Hand Cannon
You can speedload it, so it has a massive tick in the plus column there, and the stainless steel S&W X-frame is big, but the ergonomics all work. This is a practical gun that doesn’t need any special treatment. It’s just a big damned revolver.
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.
2. Thompson Center Contender G2
- Price: $669.99
- Caliber: Multi-Caliber – Up to 45/70 Government
- Barrel: 12 inch
- Weight: 3.5lb
The single-shot Thompson/Center Contender G2 pistol looks like a novelty, until you delve beneath the surface.
This is a legend that has been with us since 1967 and it’s pretty much every single hunting pistol you want.
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.
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.
So it’s hugely versatile, quick to load and this single-shot pistol feels sumptuous in the hand. Really, it does.
3. Magnum Research BFR 45-70 Government
- Price: $1,129.99
- Caliber: 45-70 Government
- Muzzle Velocity: 2050fps
- 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 it might be able to take out a bear, too.
It’s 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 325gr bullet with 2,050fps muzzle velocity. Even body armor couldn’t do that much, let’s be real.
Magnum Research 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.
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 this 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.
Most Powerful Handgun on Sale in 2020
This is the most powerful handgun for sale in 2020, but its a specialist tool for hunting and you certainly wouldn’t want to go waving this round in the real world.
It’s a big old Colonial gun, a Blunderbuss of a handgun, that would only really look right on the African Savannah. It’s machined from shiny stainless steel and it’s a weapon before you even load it.
Here it’s a novelty. It has also proved a popular deer hunting gun where the regs that normally only permit shotguns didn’t think to include handguns. So, there’s a legit reason to own one.
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. Probably…
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.
- Brownells – Great selection of big bore ammunition, including 45-70.
- Sportsman’s Warehouse – Awesome prices, stocks 405gr HSM Cowboy Action.
4. Taurus 454 Raging Hunter
- Price: $749.99
- Caliber: 454
- Barrel Length: 8.375″
- Total Length: 14″
- Weight: 3.94lb
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Another good old-fashioned wheelgun, but this one can handle the infamous 454 Casull rounds. It’s a good-looking, well proportioned, big-bore production revolver with an accurate 8.375-inch barrel.
The Taurus Raging Hunter is also last year’s hunting handgun of the year, for us and a whole lot of other, probably more important people.
Taurus Has a History of Big 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 muzzle energy isn’t a bad idea ya know…
Raging Hunter is Really a Precision Sniper
The Taurus Raging Bull was the kind of weapon you have strapped to your thigh if you work in bear country or the African bush. Or a 7-11 in a rough neighbourhood. This would still work for that kind of dangerous game, but look close and you’ll see this handgun has evolved.
The Picatinny Rail runs the full length and finishes up in some pretty impressive adjustable rear sights. Inevitably you can fit a handgun scope or red dot up there, depending on your preference.
Nice Smooth Trigger Pull and Crisp Single Action
It has the long double action, or the crisp single action with the hammer thumbed back. Taurus is on a roll of late with the spectacular polymer Taurus G2C and Taurus G3, but the revolvers were always the stuff of legend.
This one is just better and it has put Taurus right in the mix with the likes of S&W. If you’re going hunting with big bore handguns and you’re just starting out, there’s no reason to spend more than this.
Ultimate Home Defense Nuclear Option
This is also what real stopping power feels like and you might just be able to wield one of these as personal defense. But honestly the Taurus Raging Bull is the gun for that.
It’s the wrong gun, but you could so do the line: “Do you feel Lucky?” It could be a bonding moment…
454 Casull isn’t quite a rifle round. It’s a much longer and stronger 45 Colt round, in essence. And it sure does pack a punch through a long barrel revolver like this.
There’s an intimidation factor with a revolver designed to blow holes in things. We all know it. There’s no flesh wound here.
Hunting More Than Home Defense
Are these supremely powerful handguns a good idea as a home defense gun in the typical United States home?
No, for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that you have to be a certain size to handle the gun at all. And you could knock a wall down, not just penetrate through it.
This is no self-defense handgun. It is something else entirely. This gun is for blowing small shit apart and taking big shit down. But that basic recipe sure sounds like fun.
It is a semi popular range gun, too, and is taking off as a competitive sport shooting revolver. It’s a challenge and it won’t be your first choice every day, but just sometimes you’ll want to wrestle the beast and send some Casull rounds down range.
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.
Long Barrel Adds Power, Speed and Accuracy
The longer barrel also means it should be more accurate and more powerful. If you don’t want to take on big game, maybe you can opt for the six-inch barrel instead. You’ll lose some top end power, but not much.
It’s absolute gunporn in its own way and if you just want one, big, powerful handgun, then I’d say it’s between this and the S&W 500. They are guns you can shoot up your backyard with and have fun doing it.
And if your friend owns a Smith & Wesson, get one of these just to spite them. Your gun will be more powerful, so you will win…
Here the NRA’s Youtube channel gets up close and personal with the 44 Mag version. It’s still worth watching to see the engineering up close.
5. Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan
- Price: $1049.99
- Caliber: 454 Casull
- Barrel Length: 2.5″
- Total Length: 7.62″
- Weight: 2.75lb
- Capacity: 5 rounds
The Ruger Super Redhawk 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 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.
My gut feeling is that the Taurus line-up works better right now, and they are much better looking guns. But there are old men in the wild country that trust their Ruger with their life and won’t use anything else.
Who are we to argue with hard-won wisdom like that?
6. Desert Eagle Mk
XIX .50 AE
- Price: $1,781.99
- Caliber: .50 Action Express
- Barrel Length: 6″
- Total Length: 10.75″
- Weight: 4.5lb
- Capacity: 7+1
Now it’s so easy to forget the semi-automatic Desert Eagle, but it is still one of the most powerful weapons we have. 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 50 AE still does a roaring trade as a rental gun at ranges round the country because there is just nothing like it. It’s still the most powerful semi-automatic handgun in the world by a long way and that must be for good reason.
Others would like the record, but the engineering challenges involved in a 50 Cal semi-auto are immense.
So we should always hold a little love for one of the best handguns in this rarefied sector. And maybe consider owning one again, one day….
It’s the easiest here to reload, too, thanks to a simple magazine system. So drop one clip, load another and you’ve got another sever
The Desert Eagle, 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 the Smith & Wesson 500 and those heavyweight bullets. That’s one thing we can’t
7. S&W 460XVR
- Price: $1,419.90
- Caliber: 460 S&W
- Barrel Length: 14″
- Total Length: 21.5″
- Weight: 5.4lb
- Capacity: 5 Rounds
We know, another S&W 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 S&W Model 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.
Barrel Deserves a Proper Shooting Technique
That’s barrel is 14 inches, and so you need to do this gun justice with proper technique and your own particular brand of hunting prowess. If you’re going out into the North American wilderness then one of these and a Creedmoor rifle could cover you for just about all eventualities.
That would be a two-gun kit to hunt and stay safe in the American countryside.
If you’re in big bear country, add a snubnose back-up from Taurus, and you are as prepared as you reasonably can be.
If you’re curious about handgun hunting, then check out the best hunting handguns here, with revolvers and long slide semi autos aplenty.
8. Remington 700-CP
- Price: $874.99
- Caliber: .308 Win
- Barrel: 12.5 inch
- Weight: 5.95lb
Is the Remington 700-CP even a pistol? Well, in much the same way as an AR pistol, yes. So, ummm, yeah you decide. It’s here if you want it…
Remington designed this bolt action chassis pistol to get round some interesting handgun hunting regulations. That’s why it’s here.
You can also order a version in 6.5 Creedmoor, .223 Remington, AAC 300 Blackout and possibly more.
The Remington 700-CP is about the oddest pistol on this list. But it is a pistol, so it’s one of the most powerful.
This is the kind of gun that gets wheeled out at SHOT Show and then never happens, but it’s here and you can buy it. So get one now!
9. Ruger Blackhawk Convertible
- Price: $659.50
- Caliber: 45 Long Colt
- Barrel Length: 7.5″
- Total Length: 13.3″
- Weight: 2.5lb
- Capacity: 6 Rounds
This is a classic Blackhawk chambered for 45 Long Colt, if that’s what tickles your fancy. You can also order another cylinder, chambered for another caliber, and shoot 357 Magnum or 40S&W.
This big handgun cartridge dates back to 1873. It was a blackpowder round and it went on to become a staple of the cowboy world. Now it’s actually popular with the cowboy recreationists and the Blackhawk is as close to an old-school six shooter in this caliber as you’re like to find.
Surprising Velocity From Black Powder
Even in the old weapons, it made a more than respectable 1050fps with a shove from the black powder. Now? It’s more. Lots more.
Others offer the full black powder experience, but this is a modern-day, old-school six shooter with all the mod cons and the reliability that this Ruger revolver has become famous for. It’s over-engineered, it’s tough as old boots and it keeps people safe in the wilderness every day.
Wolves, bears, lions, tigers and even elephants have tasted the wrath of this personal defense cartridge flying from this Long Colt pistol. It’s a serious handgun caliber that you might even think about using for home defense, because this thing takes care of animals wherever they crop up.
I love this video, mainly for the proper cowboy accent.
10. Smith & Wesson 329PD
- Price: $1,039.99
- Caliber: 44 Magnum Revolver
- Barrel Length: 4″
- Total Length: 9.5″
- Weight: 1.56lb
- Capacity: 6 Rounds
We always knew there would be a lot of Smith & Wesson love in this list. The company cornered the market in big bore revolvers for a while and this one is actually a detuned compromise. It’s the mass-market gun to emerge from thousands of hours of field testing.
It’s probably the one you want for home defense, unless you spend serious time in the great American wilderness. Even then, it’s maybe the best compromise between outright power and shot placement.
Essentially this is a lightweight, six-round wheelgun. It’s the lightest it could be while maintaining the structural integrity required to pummel 44 Magnum loads out all day long.
It’s an elegant looking gun and you can see the police service revolver influence. I like the matte black, you might want a nickel finish, but there’s a S&W for everyone.
It isn’t cheap, but if you just love a
11. Glock G40
- Price: $699.99
- Caliber: 10mm Auto
- Barrel Length: 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 ammo, though, is widely considered to deliver the same powerful impact as a 357 Magnum revolver round.
Precision Beats Power, Sometimes.
If you’re a woman, a smaller guy or you just want to have control of the gun you’re firing, then a Glock 10mm could be the one you actually need in your arsenal. If you can pump in two or three shots from the Glock, in 90% of cases you’ll be doing better than one shot with a big revolver.
With the real big guns on this list you’ll need to reset after each shot unless you’re built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. With the Glock, you could pump a whole magazine into a tight group in seconds. That could be a lifesaver.
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.
10mm ammo was basically Unobtanium. Not anymore.
The range-topping stuff that makes the gun worthwhile can be well over a dollar a round. There are cheaper options all the time, though, which make the Glock G40 10mm an increasingly sexy handgun. It’s a great hunter and one of our favorite 10mm handguns too.
12. Ruger SR1911 Target
- Price: $849.99
- Caliber: 10mm
- Barrel Length: 5″
- Total Length: 8.67″
- Weight: 2.52lb
- Capacity: 8+1 Rounds
If you’re not quite ready for the Desert Eagle, but you do want a hand cannon you can control and identify with, then you might be happy to know there’s a 10mm version of the 1911 we generally think is the best in the world in terms of value.
The SR1911 is an icon, there’s no two ways about it, and it offers the 10mm version on the quiet, so you really could have an old-school monster on your hip.
10mm vs 45 ACP: Not Even Close
10mm will go head-to-head with 45 ACP or more or less any pistol caliber you care to mention. It largely comes out on top and only the price of the ammo will kerb your shooting. It’s a fun gun, get one and you’re pretty much covered for big bore protection.
Technically, this gun could take out angry animals. Don’t test that theory if you can avoid it, though.
Now For the Novelty Acts, the Shotgun Pistols…
These guns really don’t belong in this company, but they’re powerful in their own special way and we like the effort. So here are a few technically powerful looking guns that are just in another world for the most part…
13. Pedersoli Howdah Hunter
- Price: $754.99
- Caliber: 20 Gauge
In the 1800s, people went into the African planes armed with just one of these side-by-side pistols. Madness, Twin barrels madness…
Now the Pedersoli Howdah Hunter pays tributes to those outlandish pistols of times gone by. Load it up with 20 gauge buckshot and pay tribute to the brave buck and ball hunters of years gone by.
The Pedersoli is more of a novelty item than a hunting tool these days. But it’s fun, it comes with two separate triggers, too, so don’t stress about the rules man. It’s cool.
So now you can own an 1800s hunting pistol then the only question that remains is do you want to? Yes, quite possibly, in which case have all the fun in the world. You probably will, just don’t get too carried away with the shotgun pistol thing…
14 Taurus Public Defender Polymer
- Price: $410
- Caliber: .410 Bore/45 Long Colt
- Barrel Length: 2″
- Total Length: 7.65″
- Weight: 1.69lb
- Capacity: 5 rounds.
This is a real practical addition to your personal arsenal and if you’re thinking about just one gun for self-defense, this is one of the most sensible options here. It’s small, it’s a viable concealed carry and it offers something different to a standard handgun.
You can chamber the Taurus in 410 Cartridges or 45 Long Colt. A lot of people that live and work in rattlesnake country have one for a yard gun and if you chose to carry one of these on your ankle, or even as your main EDC, I would struggle to argue with your life choices.
Does the Taurus Judge Work?
The general feeling is that buckshot in a Judge is LESS effective than a small 45 ACP, but watch the video below and you’ll see that you can get buckshot tightly grouped at about 10 feet, which is typically the
But, if you use slugs, then it’s a totally different proposition and you get range, as well as power. The only problem is that nagging question: are those slugs more effective than straight bullets.
No is the answer most of us come up with. So the polymer Judge works, but could also be written off as a gimmick. It depends how forgiving you are.
We like the gun within very specific parameters. But they don’t come up that often…
A Lightweight Shotgun in Every Sense
The whole gun weighs 1.69lb, it’s just over seven inches long and it will work as an EDC. With a speedloader, or a high-capacity 9mm as a completely separate option, this little gun can easily form part of a self-defense system.
It effectively gives you a small shotgun on your hip, which can be a very big deal. But then so is the 357 Magnum that could take its place…
This is a different kind of power. It’s all close-up and it’s all about personal defense, but there’s a place in this world for a gun like that. Just…