They buck, and they roar, and they twist your hands like fire breathing dragons. You can feel the recoil all the way up to your shoulders.
Big bore handguns are probably the greatest challenge in all the shooting sports. But today's generation of handgun hunters have not just tamed those fire breathing dragons, but brought them to heel. Much of the development of big bore handguns revolves around the legendary hunter and shooter, Elmer Keith. It was Keith's early experiments with heavy loads in the .45 Colt and the .44 Special, that led to the creation of the .44 Magnum in 1956: the father of the big boomer.
As hunters pushed the .44 Magnum to its limits, ammunition experimenters were looking for the next step up. In 1957, gunsmith, Dick Casull, who had been in regular contact with Elmer Keith, decided to create a powerful magnum cartridge, based on the venerable .45 Colt. That round, the .454 Casull, quickly displaced the .44 Magnum as the most powerful handgun cartridge on Earth. Of course, in shooting, as in life, no one leaves well enough alone. The .500 Linebaugh, created in 1986, was a revelation; a cartridge with roughly twice the knockdown power of a standard .44 Magnum. As John Taffin, author of Big Bore Handguns, wrote in his first review of the .500 Linebaugh, "Shooting the big single action blaster was stimulating, to say the least."
Even when Dirty Harry spoke the words, the .44 Magnum had been supplanted as the most powerful handgun in the world. But Smith and Wesson wanted that crown back, and by 2003, they had the cartridge to do it: the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum. Big bore handguns, like this new Ruger Super Black Hawk in .454, have one other thing in common with their double rifle counterparts: They are works of art, in their own right. And if you can handle them, they are indeed, a blast.