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Thread: Best big bore "FACTORY" hunting revolver for Alaska - Some random thoughts

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    Smile Best big bore "FACTORY" hunting revolver for Alaska - Some random thoughts

    This forum seems to get some traffic from other forums such as the Cast Boolit and Single Action forums where big bore revolvers can be the main focus of discussion. Thought this might make an interesting topic if we can keep it to guns we actually owned or have owned in the past. My personal experiences range from a Superblackhawk 44 mag purchased in the mid 70's up to a couple of S&W 500's then recently a switch back to Freedom Arms and finally a new addition which is the BFR 500 JRH. Along the way tried the Redhawks in 454 as well. I have not killed a lot of animals with a handgun but have killed mule deer, plenty of Sitka blacktails, and my share of moose. I will only post on handguns I've actually owned.

    Ruger single actions - fantastic revolver for the money. Buy a 44 or 45 Colt and add a trigger job and maybe some nice grips and sights and you are good to go. Good choice, but I prefer more hp for Alaska. Great starting platform for a custom. These are about as big as you want to go with a regular plow handle style grip but prefer the Bisley models.

    Ruger Redhawks - big and clunky. Worse recoiling 454 Casull I ever owned and shot. Not for me. Would of liked to have owned a 480 but never got around to picking one up. These just don't fit my hands and I was disappointed in how gritty the action was and the creepy trigger.

    S&W X frames - Pretty much tried them all, 4-8 inches, 460 and 500. Many +'s to these, smooth action, great trigger, very accurate. Never had a problem with any of them but their weight and concussion got to me after awhile. Sold them all off except the 4 inch model which is modified with a aftermarket comp which blocks the ports and makes it more "pleasant" to shoot. The 4 inch is still my all time favorite choice to carry while fishing in bear country or to keep in the tent. VERY HEAVY to carry all day long. Still, pretty good choice for the dedicated handgun hunter when moose or the big bears are on the menu.

    S&W N frames - sort of limited in this area as I only own a 629 and a Stealth Hunter, both in 44 mag. Superb actions and triggers and they make a good dedicated deer, caribou, or sheep hunting revolver. Planned on using my Stealth Hunter with a scope on it for dall sheep this past August but a torn ACL changed all that. Some shooters claim these can't handle a steady diet of stiff loads but I've yet to experience any problems with either of these.

    Freedom Arms - The best factory production revolver EVER built in my opinion. Superb accuracy and an action that feels like a swiss watch. Grip shape is very nice and handles recoil very well. Three complaints are the tolerances are perhaps to tight, cost, and the length of the cylinder. I've only owned two of these, one in 454 and my current one in 475 Linebaugh. To bad they don't stretch the frame a little and make the cylinder a tad longer. They should also work out a deal to chamber it in 500 JRH or 500 Linebaugh with a longer cylinder.

    Magnum Research BFR - I am new to these revolvers and picked up a 500 JRH last year. It came with the wrong barrel length (7.5) but MR picked up the tab for shipping both ways and shortened it what it should of been (5.5) and slicked up the trigger for free. Great customer service. These come in two models, one with a "short" cylinder (44 mag, 475 Linebaugh, 500 JRH) and one with a long cylinder for stuff like the 45-70, S&W 500 etc. First trip to the range left me bruised and battered. Sent the revolver to Jack Huntington for him to change the grip shape, smooth the inside of the trigger guard, and added custom wood grips. Best $300 I ever spent on a revolver. These revolvers are built on a frame similar to the Ruger but beefier and bigger. Tolerances are much tighter than a Ruger but not as tight as a Freedom arms. If FA is a 10, BFR is an 8, and the Rugers are about a 5. The biggest plus to the BFR is the longer cylinder than the FA which gives you more lee way in seating out bigger (heavier) bullets. I also like the fact the tolerances are not quite as tight as the FA. Why? They are a hunting revolver and will be carried in a holster and be subjected to dirt and grit. The slightly reduced tolerances means there is less chance of anything jamming up the works. I dislike the allen head screws they use - should be changed to torx.

    As hunters and shooters we should evolve and not be stuck on one thing for ever. I started out liking long barrels but now consider anything longer than 6 inches as to long. Try different calibers, brands of revolvers, types of bullets, etc. If we don't experiment we miss out on finding new things than can give us better choices. Even though I have not yet hunted with my BFR I give it the nod for being my best choice for a big bore revolver for Alaska. $900-$950 for the gun and add $300 for the grip mod and you are in business. The 500 JRH is most likely enough power, but I still wish they chambered in 500 Linebaugh.

    Even though this topic is about factory revolvers I can't get the idea of a custom out of my head. One of these days.................

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    Good points! I am myself a Ruger and BFR man. I have the BFR's in 45-70, .475 and JRH. I also will never part with my old SBH.
    I can only make one comment about "tight." It is always wrong to make a revolver too tight and the BFR is perfect. It allows a bullet to pull the cylinder into alignment. Even a super tight cylinder pin can ruin accuracy. You have to let the cylinder move a few thousandths.
    The barrels on the BFR's are precision hand lapped Badger barrels with perfect dimensions, cylinder throats have perfect dimensions and twist rates are right for each caliber.
    I agree about the screws and the front grip frame screw has always been too short so I make my own.
    I love the factory BFR grip and can shoot them all day but that is a personal preference. I also like 6" to 7-1/2" barrels for my primary hunting guns. Less barrel rise from recoil and the blast is out farther.
    I hate the SBH wood panels, my knuckle gets beat so I put Pachmeyer grips on them. A Bisley will make me want to cut my middle finger off because I can't get away from the trigger guard. My knuckle is fully 1-1/8" across from shooting heavy bows, never allowed near a Bisley!
    The N frame is great and can take pressures, just not recoil from heavy boolits. Stay at 265 gr and under.
    I do not like the Redhawk because of the spring system but the SRH is a great gun. Big and heavy but accuracy you can't beat.
    You have made assessments according to your likes and it was good.

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    I owned two handguns in .500S&W, a 4" X frame and a 7.5" BFR.

    I liked everything about the X frame except the weight. With the factory "short" port running 350gr bullets at about 1200fps it was cintrollable for me with plugs and phones, never shot it without hearing protection. Just too dang heavy for a sidearm, and I couldn't shoot it much past 25 yards.

    7.5" BFR in 500 Smith I loved. Just loved it. It the first single action I ever owned, though I had fired a couple others. I guess I just got lucky, but when I fired it it rotated in my hand just enough for me to reach the hammer with my thumb, then let it rotate back down and start again. I miss that gun, but I had a hard time staying on the gong at 50 yards without some kind of rest. Also too long to think of as a "sidearm" for me. I was kinda hoping I could leave my rifle and Xframe at home and just take the BFR as my one gun on a hunting trip, but I couldn't personally draw it fast enough to think of it as backup, and I couldn't shoot it well enough to not take my rifle. Great gun though. If I had a bigger safe my BFR would still be in there. If I was to ever get another one someday I would be looking real hard at one chambered 45-70 with about a 6"barrel on it.

    Ruger Redhawk, what I was making room in my safe for when I let go of the BFR. Light enough, and with a 4" barrel, in my hands, small enough to carry concelaed most of the time and quick enough to think of as a true "backup" sidearm. Not as "pretty" as a Smith and Wesson and certainly not as smooth. Haven't had my Redhawk long enough to comment on the "built like a tank" reputation, but generally a factory new SW lasts about four years on my hip, so I will be able to comment on that when my Redhawk is four years old. I think for me the Redhawk in .45Colt is enough for me as a sidearm anywhere in North America at least. I suspect that when moose season opens in 2013 I'll feel good about taking a moose with the Redhawk out to, well, I'll just have to see; but I am going to take my rifle and be willing to draw my Redhawk instead if I come upon a moose within a range I feel good about. My redhawk has been a little trouble out of the box, but pretty well straightened out now. At this point I figure if it lasts six years I broke even and any extended life beyond that is gravy.

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    I've never found a off the rack gun perfect for me but many would do.Most need little to suit me like different grips or sights. I have found any good to start action will be butter smooth after some use.Consider a action job is only forced wear. Love the old S&W but when I started loading hot I moved to Ruger. Tried a few Contenders but found my Ruger loads stuck in the Contender chambers from over pressure as they is no pressure bleed off except out the bore. The FA's I shot were very nice but did no better than my Rugers for taking game.The S&W 29 did fine with my dear loads for it.When younger no bucks for the high dollar customs except Mag-Na-Porting and now to old to get value out before the he's gone yard sale.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    I've got Redhawks in .44 mag and 45 colt. Both with 4" and 5.5" Barrels, I much prefer the 5.5". Just feels better and lighter (even though it's not).

    I've got Super Redhawks in .44mag and .454. The 44 has a 7.5" barrel. And the 454, one has a 4.25" barrel, the other, 7.5".
    I really like the 454 SRH w/4.25" barrel. Just happens to fit my hand well, and I like the balance.

    Also have a few S&W. 329 & 629, 25. Sure like packing the 329. Sure like shooten the 629 5" classic.

    Out of my little selection, for packing and shooten, I like the 4.25" 454 SRH the best.
    Then very close behind, the 5" 629 classic.
    The next favorite, in 3rd place, would be the 7.5" 44mag SRH

    It's amazing how different everyone's hands and arm strength is.
    When shooting with friends we hardly agree on which gun feels the best. Of coarse I'm always right, at least about what "feels" right to me. :-)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowwolfe View Post
    Best big bore "FACTORY" hunting revolver for Alaska - Some random thoughts


    ......Thought this might make an interesting topic if we can keep it to guns we actually owned or have owned in the past....


    Even though this topic is about factory revolvers I can't get the idea of a custom out of my head. One of these days.................



    I'm a latecomer (or newcomer depending on your perspective) to handgun hunting. Been serious about loading, casting, shooting and hunting with them for only about 5 years. Packed around a SBH 44 before that as a backup gun. My only dedicated Hunting Revolver at this point is a SBH Bisley Hunter in 45 Colt with a 2x Weaver and a custom Von Ringler Wyoming Combination Holster. Load is a 355WFN LBT over H110 at 1200fps and shoots 1.5 at 50yds. I like the package. I'm confident enough in the gun and the load to carry it as a primary hunting weapon for moose and black bear and have done just that. I just have not connected yet. If I had a solid shot at an Interior Alaska griz at 50yds or less I'd feel confident in taking the shot and in the ability of the 355 wfn to penetrate sufficiently and make a good sized hole. The gun is a little nose heavy with the scope but I like the way it shoots, recoil is a non-issue between the weight and Bisley grip frame. I've never modifed the trigger and like it just the way it is. It's a keeper. I look at my 4" 454 Customized Redhawk as a backup but could be a dedicated hunting handgun if wanted too. Launches the same 3553er at 1300 in 454 brass.


    I think the best bang for the buck today for a factory BigBore would be the 6" BFR in 500JRH. Or 475 Linebaugh. Take you pick Just something about a half bore though


    I got the itch for a Fifty a couple years ago and started off looking towards a FA in 500WE. Belted case in an 83 it's a 4 shot revolver when on the hip. I just could't get past that. Thought seriously about having Huntington rechamber/rebarreled a FA 83 to 500JRH (non-belted 50 in a FA) but still couldn't get past the 4 shot revolver. I guess I wanted something a little more snazzy than a BFR so that took me to a custom Ruger. This then opened the door to the 500 Linebaugh which I'm intrigued with. A .510 30,000 psi cartridge in a handy 5 shot, Blackhawk package. As many of you know, my custom 500L is being built this year. I'll have an opinion on that in the future. But, the 500L (and 475) Blackhawk have proven themselves worldwide as a deadly combo on game in the right hands. Hopefully I'll have what it takes. I'm sure the gun will.
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and donít have one, youíll probably never need one again

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    Well best would depend a whole lot on where you are hunting and for what.
     
    I hunted many a year with Blackhawks, both 357mag and 45 Colt and donít think there is anything any better out there for your average North American handgun hunter. There are some factory guns as good as a Blackhawk but nothing near as nice as what you get in Rugerís price range.
     
    Now the step up and I think the ultimate off the rack would be S&W 460V, heck of a lot of value, extends range way on out there almost rifle like yet by playing with ammo itís a viable close in heavy hitter. Yup itís big, yea heavy, no not the greatest for fast draw but show me another 300 yard repeating handgun for around a thousand bucks.
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    Default hard to beat...

    The S&W 460V and the .500s have done more than anything to put affordable, powerful, accurate, long range handguns in the hands of hunters. The T/Cs did a lot also for handgun hunting, but most of the calibers don't come close to matching the power of the .460 and .500 and the T/Cs are of course single shots.

    It has been interesting to see the evolution of scopes on pistols over the past 3 or 4 decades. The T/Cs were the first pistols I saw scoped in quantities, but the others have also caught on. I believe all the larger S&Ws revolvers are now drilled and tapped (even my 329 PD). Unfortunately I see no easy way to put a scope on my .45 Redhawk; a 7 1/2 barrel with scope mounts would be neat but they didn't make 'em as far as I know.

    I picked up an old S&W Mdl 27 5 screw 8 3/8" that had been on a boat and got pitted in spots on the outside without hurting the inside. I'm going to try it with a scope; if it shoots well it might become my lower 48 gun for deer and small game.


    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Well best would depend a whole lot on where you are hunting and for what.
     
    I hunted many a year with Blackhawks, both 357mag and 45 Colt and donít think there is anything any better out there for your average North American handgun hunter. There are some factory guns as good as a Blackhawk but nothing near as nice as what you get in Rugerís price range.
     
    Now the step up and I think the ultimate off the rack would be S&W 460V, heck of a lot of value, extends range way on out there almost rifle like yet by playing with ammo itís a viable close in heavy hitter. Yup itís big, yea heavy, no not the greatest for fast draw but show me another 300 yard repeating handgun for around a thousand bucks.
    Living the urban lifestyle so I can pay my way and for my family's needs, and support my country. And you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    It has been interesting to see the evolution of scopes on pistols over the past 3 or 4 decades. The T/Cs were the first pistols I saw scoped in quantities, but the others have also caught on. I believe all the larger S&Ws revolvers are now drilled and tapped (even my 329 PD). Unfortunately I see no easy way to put a scope on my .45 Redhawk; a 7 1/2 barrel with scope mounts would be neat but they didn't make 'em as far as I know.
    Here's your scope mount for the 5.5 or 7.5 Redhawk. They did make a 7.5 Redhawk Hunter with scope rings like the SBH Hunter in 44mag but I'm not sure about 45 Colt.

    http://www.jackweigand.com/Ruger-Red...-No-Drill.html

    A pic off the net somewhere...

    Last edited by Snyd; 12-12-2012 at 07:30.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ADfields View Post
    Now the step up and I think the ultimate off the rack would be S&W 460V, heck of a lot of value, extends range way on out there almost rifle like yet by playing with ammo itís a viable close in heavy hitter. Yup itís big, yea heavy, no not the greatest for fast draw but show me another 300 yard repeating handgun for around a thousand bucks.
    At this point for me, I can't see the point of a 300yd Hunting Handgun, revolver or TC in a rifle caliber. I thought the point of Handgun hunting was to get close. My Kimber 325wsm works great at 300yds and with a 2.5-8x36 scope it only weighs 7lbs. I want to shoot something big and hairy at less than 50 with my revolver.

    Here's a fun video of this guy shooting his 5.5" 500L at 300yds with open sights. I love the sound of this gun and the clang of the steel. It cracks me up everytime I watch it. It's video 4 in a 5 video series.

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    For me the point is hunting, close, far, up-side down, whatever I want to hunt. For me handgun hunting started out that I could get into early season hunts and have game that wasnít running like escaping a wild fire. Then I learned I could do so much more with a handgun than I ever thought possible. Then the only reason to pack a rifle was the long shots, sense I seldom took long shots why take a rifle at all unless a long shot was likely. Then along came that 460 and I have no use at all for a hunting rifle anymore, now my tools are all tied right to me and my hands are free to get around. I donít have something in my hand, no muzzle sticking up hooking on everything, no rifle flopping every time I bend over, no figuring out how to get over a fence or up/down a slope safely with a rifle, no leaning it on a bush or bumper just right so it wonít fall while I eat my Grape Nuts.


    For about a grand I bypass the rifle all together and loose nothing but shots I wouldnĎt try with a rifle ether. Iím a single action guy, I was saving up for a Freedom Arms 454 when someone put a 460V in my hand. I reacted about like I did 30 years ago when someone handed me a Leatherman tool, my lips started crinkling up in disgust at the huge he-man toy. I didnít like it much, big bulky double action and all but it did look like a fun toy I could play with when nobody was lookin then sell or trade later. Well, itís still here, I admit it, I was wrong about it just like I was about the Leatherman.

    You can shoot something big and hairy at bad breath range with it or a boo at 300, up to you how near or far you get . . . itís less than 5 pounds and fits in a holster just real dandy.
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    Hunting game and shooting game is different for everyone.I won't take a animal over a hundred yards away but thats the way I was taught.Others were brought up taking game at long range and thats their idea of hunting and its fine. Skill sets are different and time spent on task to take game is different.Most any handgun with pratice will hit a gong all day at three hundred yards and a wounding shot stills rings.In real life wounding at 300 gives a second shot at 350 and a third at 400 then the work begins
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amigo Will View Post
    In real life wounding at 300 gives a second shot at 350 and a third at 400 then the work begins
    Yup very true but also true of a rifle. I also like to stay inside 100 and it doesnít matter if I holding a rifle or a handgun. But there are times when game is out there at 250 maybe even 300 and thatís the best shot the good lord is granting you that day so you calculate all the factors involved and make whatever choice you are willing to live with.
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    Yep and for me anyway picking up a running target at three hundred yards or better with my SRH and 2X Leupold would be imposable.I would do better if I could kick the scope off real fast and start lobbing
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Trying to stay more or less on topic, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can take a revolver into the field as a primary hunting firearm. I spent I think two summers with my BFR burning large amounts of powder and I just didn't have a reasonable combination of group size at distance versus stalking ability to plan on putting meat in my freezer with my BFR.

    Having said that, I am very curious to know if anyone has ever fooled with anything from Hamilton Bowen. I am kinda starting to watch for an Anaconda in .45 Colt, I figure once I wear out the action I might could send it in for something like this. Third picture down behind link:

    http://www.bowenclassicarms.com/work...ABarrelInstall

    As of today Brownell's has jack-doodle Anaconda barrels in stock.

    It's an Anaconda barrel on a Redhawk frame. This summer I'll be the guy at the Cushman range on the rifle side blasting away at an orange five gallon bucket from Home Depot with my 4" redhawk. I suspect fall 2013 I'll be taking my Sako with me on opening day, but I am by Goshen gonna try. ADFields' comments are very similar to the ones I would like to make. Fooling with a rifle is also a challenge when mounted on an ATV, and drawing a stowed rifle while driving an outboard powered canoe is a major pain in the south end.

    If I can get my Redhawk/Colthawk to group at any serious range, then I will look at what size critter I can think about taking with it. I know a dude in Fbx who hunts with an 8" 460, and the ballistics are there even with factory loads; but I am just not a good enough shot to leave my rifle at home and do that. For now I have an IDPA target in my truck bed and am staying inside 25 yards until all the water liquefies.

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    I was fortunate enough to take my first head of game with a handgun this year using my 4 5/8" Bisley Blackhawk in 45 Colt. I had practiced enough to know my personal limit with my open sights was 50 yds and I was getting consistent 4" groups at that range and felt it pretty easy to do so.

    When a whitetail presented me with a 30ish yd. shot I finally had my opportunity to try my hand. I made the shot and all went well, but I tell you it was somewhat eye opening to put that front sight on the shoulder of an animal and realize just how much of the deer's body that blade covered and how much concentration it took in the moment to maintain a good sight picture and break the shot. Much harder than making a bow shot at the same range in my opinion.

    I am in awe of guys who would be able to make hunting kills at 200-300 yds with any open sighted revolver. I can't imagine the amount of rounds it would take for me to feel comfortable doing that.

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    Good thoughts, perspectives and info. I don't foresee myself flinging lead at game at 300yds from any revolver. It would be cool to hit some steel though!

    evandailey Congrats on the first handgun kill! 30yds, open sights... sounds perfect. Tell us about the load and wound channel etc.
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    I know my thoughts are not in line with most on this topic but please hear me out. After hunting white tails and hogs in Texas with hand guns, I realized that shooting single action would frequently spook the game while cocking the revolver if I didn't see them early enough to do so at farther range. I ended up with a super slicked up action on a SRH with a 2x scope on it and shot double action from then on. With the action slicked- it was extremely accurate and I was able to just concentrate on squeezing the trigger. With a solid rest I was able to shoot groups at 25 yards that could be covered by a quarter. I shot a number of animals with that gun, including a nice black bear in Idaho.

    While ceertainly not as nice as most of the guns being mentioned in this thread- the SRH is a great hiunting gun. I love my 4" 500 but if I were to take up hand gun hunting in Alaska (which I am inclined to do) I would get a 460.
    Just my .02
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snyd View Post
    Good thoughts, perspectives and info. I don't foresee myself flinging lead at game at 300yds from any revolver. It would be cool to hit some steel though!

    evandailey Congrats on the first handgun kill! 30yds, open sights... sounds perfect. Tell us about the load and wound channel etc.

    Load was a 255 gr. Keith Hard Cast going about 1250 fps. In the moment, I didn't perceive him as being quartered away as much as he was so I hit him a bit further forward than I would have preferred. Broke the on-side leg bone and exited just in front of the leg on the off-side. He went maybe 10 yds. and went down. He was still trying to breathe when I got to him so I put a finisher in the base of the skull. On side lung was totally jelly and off side lung front half was blown out. Exit hole was perhaps a bit bigger than caliber but not much. Maybe 5/8". I'm glad he didn't get out of my sight, because he wasn't losing much blood at all. It was all in the chest cavity when I opened him up. Here's a pic of my "trophy". Not much to look at but it was a trophy for me with the handgun. You can see the exit in the picture.

    Pistol Deer 2012.jpg

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    Excellent! Complete passthrough .45 hole. The story and pic needs to go in the Meat Bull Thread I started last fall... http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...at+bull+thread
    A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and donít have one, youíll probably never need one again

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