Originally, handguns were designed to be an easily portable means for self-defense in close-quarters combat – at the time, power wasn’t necessarily a priority. But fast-forward to modern-day handguns, and you can find more than a few high-powered options to choose from.
Although many gun owners still consider the handgun to be the go-to concealed-carry firearm for self-defense purposes, handguns have also become well-known as an exceptional weapon for hunting large game. So, it only makes sense that the world’s top gunmakers are leveling up the amount of power that is possible in a civilian handgun.
How the Power of a Handgun Can Be Measured
Before we introduce our picks for the most powerful civilian handguns on the market, let’s clarify a very important point: what’s the best way to measure how much power a handgun has?
You’ll often see a handgun’s muzzle velocity and energy used as the benchmark for power, but the pressure (pounds per square inch) generated in the barrel chamber is actually one of the most accurate determinants.
That doesn’t mean that energy and muzzle velocity don’t come in handy when you’re shopping for the best handgun to add to your collection. It’s just useful to be aware of the true measure of an exceptionally formidable weapon.
The Most Powerful Handguns Available Today
1. Smith & Wesson Model 500, 500 S&W Magnum
Since its 2003 debut, the Smith & Wesson Model 500 has been among the best handguns for sale today. Equal parts reliable, accurate, and durable, the Model 500 is a single-action/double-action pistol. Thanks to its unparalleled accuracy, it’s an outstanding choice for both hunting and self-defense applications alike, and investment delivers impressive value.
2. Smith & Wesson Model 29, .44 Remington Magnum
Of course, the .44 Magnum is a must on any list of the most powerful handguns. It can drive a 304-grain bullet up to 1325 fps, producing 1188 four-pounds of energy – despite only totaling 36,000 psi. Granted, this is often categorized among the more divisive handgun options, mostly because a fair number of people don’t particularly enjoy shooting a full-power .44 Magnum. But even so, it’s a hard-hitting handgun that can take down a fully-grown African buffalo, so it’s not surprising there are plenty of dedicated fans.
3. Magnum Research BFR, .45/70 Government
Technically, the .45/70 Government isn’t considered a revolver cartridge, and the manufacturer didn’t intend it to be. Instead, it’s really a rifle cartridge in an extremely large revolver. It clocks in around 28,000 psi, so it’s not the most powerful handgun from a sole pressure standpoint. But when you consider that it can take a 500-grain bullet to 1150 fps, not to mention generate 1468 foot-pounds of energy at its muzzle, the Magnum Research BFR definitely deserved a spot on the list.
4. Freedom Arms Model 83, 475 Linebaugh
The 475 Linebaugh is heralded as a highly powerful revolver cartridge, with 50,000 psi. It’s fairly comparable to the .44 Magnum, packing just a slightly more powerful punch. However, since it’s such a large caliber, you do have the advantage of a heavier bullet. A 420-grain projectile can hit 950 fps and produce 841 foot-pounds of energy, making for an ideal weapon for hunting large, dangerous game.
5. Ruger Super Redhawk, 454 Casull
First developed more than six decades ago, the 454 Casull has long been labeled as a bit of a wildcat cartridge – that is, until it was chambered with Ruger’s Super Redhawk in the late 1990s. Now, this dynamic duo is a staple for handgun hunters, specifically those taking aim at big game animals. Its 65,000 psi of chamber pressure pushes a 325-grain (.45-caliber) bullet up to 1525 fps, for 1678 foot-pounds of energy.
Shop Premium Firearms for Sale Online from Matrix Arms
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image Joshua Manore