I was about 19 when I bought my first .44 Magnum, a second-hand Ruger Super Blackhawk. It was the first .44 Magnum I had ever seen in the flesh but its reputation preceded it and gave me considerable trepidation as I prepared to fire the first round. I had heard stories all my life about the awesome power and recoil of the "most powerful handgun in the world," mostly from people who had never fired one. There was expert testimony as well and one gun scribe of the time warned not to fire a Smith & Wesson Model 29 without gloves as the recoil would cause the checkering to rip the flesh from your hand.
When I touched off, or to be more precise, when I jerked off that first shot with the Super Blackhawk, I decided the stories were not far-fetched. The most powerful handgun I had fired prior to that had been a .45 Colt in a Peacemaker clone and most of my handgun shooting had been with the .22 rimfire. So the .44 Magnum was quite a leap for me. Plus, the Super Blackhawk was not a good choice for me, then or now. I have large hands and still cannot shoot a Super Blackhawk without that squared trigger guard ponding my knuckles mercilessly. I kept that first .44 Magnum about a week, as I recall, before trading it and most of the ammo I had acquired with it for a Colt Detective Special.
Today, the .44 Magnum is no longer the world's most powerful handgun, not even close to it, and I am no longer a wimp when it comes to handgun recoil. The progression has not just been a personal one, of course. The shooting public in general is more accustomed to recoil and handguns that were once considered wrist breakers are now viewed as pedestrian. It makes one wonder how far we can go in the quest for bigger and more powerful handguns before we reach the true limit of human endurance.
Will we someday see a more powerful commercial revolver than the .500 S&W Magnum? The weight of this handgun combined with the excellent muzzle brake and well-designed grip tame this beast considerably but it is still a handful for even the most seasoned shooter. It is hard to imagine a more powerful revolver being introduced but that is what was thought when the .44 Magnum came on the scene. Time will tell.
Felt recoil is largely subjective and some can deal with it better than others. The .500 S&W Magnum is more than most shooters care to deal with and many still feel the .44 Magnum is too much, which brings us to the question of the day. Where you do you draw the line? Which handgun and/or cartridge is at your upper limit and which produce more recoil than you are willing to deal with?