Friday, August 27, 2010

Magnum Research BFR


I have been thinking about big caliber handguns as of late.  Recently, I was given the opportunity to fire the Taurus Raging Bull, chambered in .454 casull, and it was thrilling.  Recoil was manageable with medium sized loads.  I adopted a snub nose .357 magnum for concealed carry purposes.  While I have no doubt that it will do just fine defending me against smaller critters and human offenders, it leaves much to be desired for defense against larger critters, like bears. 

I checked prices and availability of a lot of different ammo for a lot of different big game pistols.  Part of the list included the usual suspects: .357 magnum, .44 magnum, .454 Casull, .45 Long Colt, 45/70, and on and on.  Of course, when you reach into .44 magnum territory, the prices go up considerably; so does the power.  The .454 screams out of a 2.5" barrel with 50% more energy than a .44 magnum from a 6" barrel.  The penalty, however, is that the .454 builds internal pressures of 50,000 PSI or more.  More pressure = more wear on the weapon and a lot more recoil.  The 45/70, on the other hand, gets to the energy levels of the .454 casull at only 25,000 PSI, which results in less felt recoil, given the weight of the gun.  In fact, the 45/70 can be loaded to surpass the velocity of .454 casull and still be under 30,000 PSI - not bad.  In my reading, I also discovered that traditional 45/70 loads may actually have less felt recoil, from a 7.5" or 10" barrel than a .44 magnum with a 5" barrel.  This makes the 45/70 a viable cartridge to employ for defense from larger game.

It has come down to 3 cartridge sizes: .44 magnum, .454 Casull, and 45/70 govt.  The .44 magnum is what I would consider the absolute minimum size for the intended purpose.  The load is considerably lighter than the two mentioned after it.  The penalty is, however, offset by availability of ammunition and gun selection.  The .454 Casull is a big contender and I've experienced it recently.  Out of a big enough gun, this could be a viable choice.  The penalty is cost of ammo.  It is very expensive to run a gun like this.  Finally, the 45/70 comes onto the radar.  Why 45/70?  Why not?  Consider that the recoil is reportedly more manageable than even the .44 magnum!  The 45/70 can reach out and hit with about 1450 ft lbs of energy... FROM A PISTOL!  Add to this the fact that 45/70 is about the cheapest ammo of the three.  I'm not joking when I say I've seen .44 magnum for more than 45/70 in a few places.  It defies logic, but it's true.  Don't get me wrong.  45/70 is some expensive ammo to buy, but of the three, it's definitely the cartridge that hurts the least at the register. 

So what of this?  Which cartridge do I get?  Well, consider this.  I have a rifle chambered in 45/70 already.  It really makes a lot of sense to buy a pistol that can shoot the same ammo as the rifle, right?  Cowboys back in the late 1800's did this for a reason.  When ammo is scarce, or you don't want to carry two types, having one cartridge for two guns makes better sense.  It helps with logistics.  Should I find myself needing to hunt elk, I could easily carry the same ammo in a pistol should I find myself in a self defense situation.

To this end, I'm leaning on the Magnum Research BFR (Biggest Finest Revolver).  This gun is no joke.  It is a revolver built specifically for the 45/70 cartridge.  Magnum Research is methodical in how they manufacture and hand build this gun.  Each barrel is lapped by hand to ensure proper fit.  The cylinders are precision-honed for perfect operation.  The frame is milled on a CNC from really hard stainless alloys.  The entire weapon was built from the floor up around the 45/70 govt cartridge.  It is not some gun that was modified to shoot this round.  The BFR is a 5-shot, single action revolver.  The single action simply means that every time you want to shoot, you must first cock back the hammer.  There are some other big offerings in double action, but for the sake of safety, perhaps single action is the way to go.  God forbid you shoot this cannon and accidentally pull the trigger again while the gun is recoiling in your hand; I've seen this happen on youtube.  Trust me, you would not want this to accidentally go off without your knowledge.  It would be one helluva surprise if it did.

Two barrel size options are available for this Big F'ing Revolver.  You can order it with a 10" barrel or a 7.5" barrel.  The weight penalty for the 10" barrel is nominal at .4 lb more than the 7.5" barrel.  The main penalty for the 10" barrel is the additional length.  Of course, it seems that 2.5" isn't a lot, but on a pistol, it is; especially when that pistol is 15" long to begin with.  The penalty, however, for a shorter barrel is lower muzzle energy.  Oddly enough, Magnum Research claims the recoil for the shorter barreled version is a bit less than the 10".  For field purposes, the 7.5" barrel seems to make more sense, as it would be easier to carry, and weigh about half a pound less.  Plus, if you need to unholster quickly, you would not have to draw up as high to get the muzzle clear.  That can save a life in a pinch.

Clearly, this decision has not yet been made.  I've written about the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan before, and still have my eyes on the Super Redhawk .454 Casull.  Ultimately, this decision will come down to what I need, cost, and practicality.

-James

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