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Which Revolver Is Most Powerful? Stopping Power and Caliber

From the Colt single-action Peacemaker of the Old West to the Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 famously used by Clint Eastwood’s character in the Dirty Harry movies, revolvers have long had the reputation for being rugged and reliable handguns. They are also known for packing a powerful punch but with so many notable models through the years which revolver comes out on top?

Pound for pound, the most powerful revolver in production today is the Smith and Wesson Model 500. Specifically engineered to fire the formidable .500 Magnum round, the S&W Model 500 can generate over 3,000 foot-pounds of energy and fire a bullet at over 2,000 feet per second.

For nearly two centuries, the revolver has earned a special place in the hearts of gun enthusiasts, with its classic look and impressive firepower. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the Smith and Wesson Model 500, a revolver so powerful that even Inspector Harry Callahan would surely approve.

Which Revolver Is the Most Powerful?

During the early 1970s, Clint Eastwood’s big screen Dirty Harry character proclaimed Smith and Wesson’s Model 29, affectionately referred to as the 44 Magnum, to be the most powerful handgun in the world. For years, this moniker largely held true and the mystique and legend surrounding this famous revolver grew.

Today, however, the crown of the most powerful revolver in the world is worn by another Smith and Wesson handgun, the Model 500. This revolver was first produced with one singular purpose in mind – to deliver the greatest amount of firepower imaginable in a handgun.

Here are some of the awe-inspiring statistics related to this revolver’s power and performance:

  • The .500 Magnum round fired by the Smith and Wesson Model 500 revolver can range in weight from 275 grains (.62 oz) to 500 grains (1.15 oz) and each cartridge is half an inch thick
  • In terms of raw power, the .500 Magnum Model 500 is capable of producing up to 3,032 foot-pounds of energy giving it twice the firepower as the .44 Magnum and roughly the same amount of force as a .308 rifle bullet (but with twice the mass)
  • In terms of projectile speed, the Model 500 revolver can fire the .500 Magnum round up to 2,075 feet per second

The S&W .500 Magnum Model 500 is hands down the most powerful revolver in production today, but to make it all come to fruition, Smith and Wesson engineers had to re-imagine the traditional Smith and Wesson revolver frame and came up with a new design known as the X frame.

Measuring 15 inches long and weighing approximately 4 ½ pounds unloaded (source), the Model 500 is as imposing as it is powerful. The .500 Magnum cartridges are equally impressive, with each round measuring close to two inches in length. Putting it all together, the Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum Model 500 will not likely be surrendering its title as the world’s most powerful revolver any time soon.

Here’s a cool video highlighting some powerful revolvers, with more info below:

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.

What Is the Highest Caliber Revolver?

As impressive as the Smith and Wesson Model 500’s credentials are in terms of power, there is one title that it concedes to another handgun – the highest caliber revolver.

That distinction belongs to the Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro Express, a 22-inch long behemoth weighing over 13 pounds and designed to chamber .600 Nitro Express rifle rounds that were originally developed for big game hunting.

It should be noted that caliber is not the only jaw-dropping figure associated with this revolver. The Austrian-made Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro Express is a made-to-order handgun with a price tag exceeding $20,000, and the individual rounds cost approximately $40 each.

Is a 44 Magnum Powerful?

Contrary to popular belief, the term 44 Magnum actually refers to the powerful round (also known as a cartridge) that was famously fired by Dirty Harry’s revolver.

When it was first introduced over 70 years ago, the 44 Magnum was the first production round that delivered the elusive combination of speed and energy that firearm aficionados had long sought from a higher caliber bullet.

To pair up with this potent cartridge, Smith and Wesson developed the Model 29, a six-shot revolver that was able to tame the 44 Magnum’s enormous firepower just enough to make it a feasible combination for gun enthusiasts to own.

With a manageable amount of recoil and smooth action, the Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 can produce:

  • 767 foot-pounds of energy
  • Projectile speed up to 1,200 feet per second (which is supersonic – faster than the speed of sound)

The .44 Magnum Model 29 is a timeless classic in the eyes of many gun enthusiasts which is the main reason why after a long hiatus, Smith and Wesson brought this revolver back into production so that a new generation of firearm aficionados can appreciate its craftsmanship and awesome firepower.

What Is the Best Revolver in the World?

When it comes to the question of what the best revolver in the world is, there are multiple correct answers.

Manufacturers design and build their revolvers with distinct purposes and different purchasers in mind. For instance, while some revolvers are marketed for self and home defense, others are geared toward outdoor and hunting enthusiasts.

Here is a look at some of the best revolvers for several different markets:

  • For hunting, one of the most popular revolvers is Smith and Wesson’s Model 19, a .357 revolver with a modified frame that is designed to be carried by hunters and outdoor enthusiasts
  • When it comes to self and home defense, the name of the game is shooting efficiency and comfortable handling and the Colt King Cobra .357 is a top choice
  • For first-time gun owners looking to get their gun collection started with a revolver, the Ruger Wrangler is the smart move with good firing accuracy and a forgiving recoil

Revolvers have been around since the Old West and while they may seem old-fashioned in their design, they are among the most powerful handguns in production today. They are also efficient in their operation and extremely reliable, making them the most trusted firearms around.

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.

Final Thoughts

Throughout the history of firearms, there have been several noteworthy achievements, and when all is said and done, the Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum Model 500 will certainly go down as one of the most powerful revolvers ever produced.