The new kid on the block is the .50 Magnum by legendary gun makers Smith & Wesson. 


It was in February 2003 that Smith & Wesson introduced this exciting new revolver, it was intended to put the company back on top and recapture its now infamous title of Most powerful handgun in the world.

The Smith & Wesson Model 500 .50 Magnum was designed around an entirely new cartridge, developed and designed by leading U.S.A ammunition manufacturers Cor-Bon.




This firearm is now indeed the worlds most powerful production handgun. It is actually three times more powerful than the devastating .44 Magnum as made famous in the 1971 movie Dirty Harry  by Clint Eastwood.

The images below show a Smith & Wesson 50th Anniversary Model 29 .44 Magnum and Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry  with his Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum.

Incidentally, just because of the advent of the .50 caliber Magnum, the legendary .44 Magnum, (50th Anniversary model shown below) should never be underestimated, it is still one hell of a powerful handgun!



Magnum revolvers have actually been around since 1935 when Smith and Wesson produced a .357 Magnum revolver to replace the police's relatively underpowered .38 Special.

Then in 1955-6 the .44 Magnum was developed and in 1961 the .41 Magnum appeared.

Of course it wasn't until Dirty Harry  came along that the .44 Magnum received world wide recognition and came out of the closet, so to speak.

The image below depicts a .50 Magnum with a shorter four inch barrel with recoil compensator vent at the guns muzzle.

These vents or ports allow some of the fired and expanding gases to exit from the side of the barrel at the muzzle to reduce back pressure, consequently keeping the amount of recoil down.


SM163504 - Smith and Wesson 500 500 S&W Magnum


There have been other gun manufacturers since producing big caliber handguns especially the .454 Casull Magnum, .475 Linebaugh Magnum, .480 Ruger Magnum and Desert Eagle .44AE along with the very powerful .50AE.  AE stands for Auto Express, designating a Magnum cartridge for a semi-automatic pistol.

All of these large caliber handguns did not have the name Smith & Wesson attached to them, so Smith & Wesson, who were not very happy, stated that it was time to put their name back on the top of the list.

Below is an image of the much revered Desert Eagle 50AE, finished in the new, rather fetching, gold tiger cammo pattern.




The .50 caliber Desert Eagle is a very heavy and cumbersome pistol to fire and operate. It has appreciated recoil and muzzle blast.

An image of its muzzle blast is shown below...the bullet can also be seen travelling through the air...on the far right.



Below is the powerful, all singing all dancing Ruger Super RedHawk chambered in .454 Casull Magnum or it can be chambered for the even more awesome .480 Ruger Magnum cartridge.  It depends on how many brick walls you want to knock down!



The Ruger Super RedHawk Alaskan .454 Casull Magnum snub-nose 2½ inch barrel as pictured below is about as much fire power you can fit into your pocket these days too, until the .50 Magnum beats it.




Smith & Wesson introduced the new .50 Magnum revolver to supersede the .44 Magnum and all other makes, to make it the most powerful production handgun in the world with a new " X " size frame. 

The image below depicts the new " X " frame .50 Magnum sitting above a Model 629  " N " frame .44 Magnum.  In comparison the .50 makes the big .44 look quite small.



Smith & Wesson have always named the size of a gun with letters of the alphabet, " J " being the smallest and now " X " as the biggest. Below is a comparison of the different frame sizes, the guns are in scale to each other.


J frame



K frame



L frame



N frame



X frame



It must be noted they that haven't called the .50 the 'Z' frame, does that mean that the may produce two more models in the future, by keeping 'Y' and 'Z' in reserve?





In the National Rifle Associations magazine American Rifleman  they stated that this new .50 Magnum is more powerful than some rifle rounds and that the .50 Magnum combines the convenience of a handgun but with the power of a rifle.

.50 Smith and Wesson Magnum 440gr cast bullet delivers 2,580 ft.lbs of energy.

7.62mm (.308) NATO rifle  148gr FMJ bullet delivers 2,486 ft.lbs of energy.

Ammunition manufacturer Cor-Bon developed the new cartridge for this gun and is also the factory that provides the ammunition for it as well, presently with six factory loads available which are:




275 gr Barnes X - Muzzle Velocity 1665 f.p.s @ energy 1688 ft.lbs

325 gr Barnes XPB- Muzzle Velocity 1800 f.p.s @ energy 2338 ft.lbs

350 gr Jacket hollow-point - Muzzle velocity 1600 f.p.s @ energy 1989 ft.lbs

385 gr Core Spitzer - Muzzle velocity 1725 f.p.s @ energy 2544 ft.lbs

400 gr Jacketed Soft-Point - Muzzle velocity 1675 f.p.s @ energy 2500ft.lbs

440 gr hard cast flat point - Muzzle velocity of 1625 f.p.s @ energy of 2580 ft.lbs 

Note: Even the lightest bullet is still twice as powerful as the .44 Magnum bullet.

It can be noted too that the 440 gr bullet has a muzzle energy of 1.25 tons! This bullet is not designed to expand or deform upon impact but to keep as much energy as possible for the deepest penetration of whatever object is unlucky enough to be its target.

Below, a young lady realizes that there is perhaps just a little bit of recoil when firing the big .50 Magnum...



The latest Smith & Wesson 50. Magnum, seen below, has a more rounded and uniform muzzle than the slanted one of the first series. The gas port compensator is situated above the muzzle, as opposed to being an actual part of the barrel as on the earlier editions.



The image below depicts the Smith & Wesson .50 Magnum Hunting handgun with shoulder straps, recoil and blast compensator along with a scope rail for the attachment of telescopic or red-dot sights.




The normal operating pressure of the .50 Magnum revolvers cylinder is 50,000 psi (pounds per square inch) but to prove how safe the gun is for the potential shooter, the cylinder is 'proofed' at the factory.

The gun is fired on a special bench with a mechanical device to pull the trigger. The .50 Magnum's cylinder chambers are all proofed to 71,000 psi.

Smith & Wesson metallurgy engineers actually attempted to deliberately blow one up and they seriously overloaded the charge in the cartridge, then bench fired it expecting the cylinder to explode or at least shatter. 

The super pressure cartridge (above) designed to do this, produced a staggering 90,000 psi! which is 40 tons of pressure per square inch and the cylinder only deformed and bulged out slightly in the test. This proves how safe the gun is to fire.

The image below illustrates what the normal muzzle blast looks like when the gun is firing its normal  ammunition.



As you can see, not only does the blast extend from the muzzle but it also emits out of the side where the cylinder face meets the breech of the barrel.

Even though it looks extreme, it is reported that the recoil of the gun only raises the muzzle up 45 degrees, the .44 Magnum could go as high as 90 degrees.



The image below depicts five different super powerful rounds, at slightly larger than actual size for clearer definition.  The .50 Magnum is still head and shoulders above the competition and it will probably remain the worlds most powerful production cartridge for a long time to come.

Well lets face it, you don't need any more power from a handgun, the .50 Magnum will kill just about anything on the planet as it is.



The below image shows the 275 grain Barnes solid copper hollow-point HEX bullet on the left that is designed to split open on impact and on the right the 400 grain Jacketed soft-point bullet that is designed to mushroom and deform upon impact.



The bullets incidentally were fired into ballistic gelatin which is a big block of stiff jelly like substance that is supposed to simulate flesh!

A commercial ammunition company in the U.S.A called Ballistic Supply  have made one of the worlds  heaviest revolver bullets, purposely designed for the .50 Magnum. Its a 700 grain, yes, that's a 700gr bullet! And one that delivers a clean one ton of impact energy.

Below is an actual size photo of this 700 grain bullet. It actually looks like two bullets fused together.



The .50 Magnum is a double action revolver, meaning that the gun can be fired by pulling the trigger to both cock and fire in one go, or the hammer can be pulled back into a " locked " position until the trigger is pulled to fire it.

As the image below illustrates it only has a five round capacity as opposed to six in a .44 Magnum but as the guys who fire this gun state..." You only need five rounds, the target is obliterated after one ! "



The standard .50 Magnum weighs 4.53 lbs, is 15 inches long with the 8.38 inch barrel taking up most of the length. Also incorporated is an integral self engaging hammer block with a hammer key-lock safety system.

The guns sights have adjustable rear with interchangeable front post. The sight radius is 10.75 inches.

The barrel is rifled with six left hand twist grooves and along with the rest of the gun is finished in a brushed stainless steel. Hogue rubber recoil absorbing monogrips are fitted as standard.

Of course it is always up to the shooter what type of grips they want fitted to their revolver, below are some rather nice checkered walnut grips.  That is one sexy looking gun too.



Has the venerable Magnum handgun now reached its finale with the advent of the .50 caliber?  I would think that it has, because to go to any further extremes would surpass a handguns premise of a relatively small, compact and portable weapon.

The caliber of a full run production handgun it is thought will never now go beyond .50 especially with the capability of the .50 Magnum to kill anything on the planet, the necessity isn't there.

Before the .50 Magnum went into development it was reported that a .75 Magnum had been contemplated by Smith & Wesson engineers but never got past the drawing board.

There are also U.S.A Federal boundary  laws that state that the .50 caliber is the maximum allowed for handgun development. Below are shown two cool Magnum revolvers, with the top one sporting a Raging Bull  match grade barrel. The one below is a Colt .44 Magnum Anaconda.



However, the .75 Magnum may be still be produced by Smith & Wesson as there was talk of a " Z " frame gun being developed.  The gun would probably be made just to showcase the potential and never reach full production...but of course you never can tell!

It is with this .50 caliber gun then that Smith & Wesson go into the 21st century. Their name established again as the true king of handgun manufacturers.


By way of contrast, below is a Colt pin fire, five shot revolver which fired a 2mm pin fire bullet.  This was the worlds smallest production revolver and cartridge.

  Enlarged image of the cartridge

The above image is approx actual size of the revolver along with the ammunition. Many of these little 2mm caliber guns were made in the late 1800's.

I cannot really envisage why such a small revolver as this was ever developed by Colt, as the bullets penetration, impact and overall damage to the intended victim would be at most...negligible.

I said Smith & Wesson  have the worlds most powerful production  handgun which is true, but the stand alone worlds most powerful handgun ever is a title that belongs to another....the .600 Nitro Express Magnum, click here to see this awesome revolver.




Page created February 10th 2006.   Updated January 3rd 2013