One of the great things about handguns is how fun they are. The fun factor that counts for major cool points even when certain pistols and revolvers are less than practical for regular use. As John C. Branch of The Revivaler writes in his review of one of the firearms I’ll be discussing herein, “Heavy calibre hunting handguns are, in my humble opinion at least, enormously enjoyable to shoot. It can help to have arms like Popeye the Sailorman, and to have consumed your can of Spinach before lining her up and pressing the trigger, but it’s not essential.” (Yes, plenty of handguns and associated cartridges can be used for hunting.)
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five handguns that are totally impractical for home defense and CCW work, but could come in handy for hunting our action-hero cinematic exploits. Or maybe they just belong in the movies?
LAR Grizzly .45 Winchester Magnum (“Win Mag”)
Take your classic M1911 single-action autopistol and accompanying .45 ACP cartridge, then hop ‘em both up on steroids, human growth hormone, and creatine, and your end result will be the LAR Grizzly .45 Win Mag. The gun and cartridge date back to 1983 and 1977 respectively. The .45 Win Mag cartridge takes your .45 ACP cartridge case, lengthens it from 0.898 inches to 1.198 inches, then marries it with your standard .45 ACP 230-grain “hardball” round, kicking up the muzzle velocity to 1,600 feet per second and boosting the muzzle energy up to 1,200 foot-pounds. (The standard .45 ACP generates roughly 835 feet per second and 356 foot-pounds.)
Regarding my personal shooting experience with the Grizzly, I’ll quote from my own standalone article on the gun I wrote back in August: “Do y’all remember the range scene from the original 1987 RoboCop film? You know, wherein after a’ few blasts from Robo’s gun, every other shooter on the line stops shooting to gawk with a big “WTF?’ look on their face…Yeah, well, my real-life scene bore a strong resemblance.”
Desert Eagle .357 Magnum/.41 Magnum/.44 Magnum/.50 Action Express (AE)
Though the DE was already well-known even without the benefit of Hollywood hokum, the pistol’s use in roughly 40 different action adventures – the Arnold Schwarzenegger films Commando (1985) and Red Heat (1988) being just two examples – have definitely boosted its notoriety.
Dating back to 1984, this behemoth single-action autopistol was “invented, patented and marketed” by Minnesota-based Magnum Research and “manufactured and developed’ by Israel Military Industries.” Initially released in .357 Magnum, the .41 and .44 Magnum calibers soon followed. This was kind of a big deal, because shooters could now choose a semiautomatic weapon that could safely chamber and fire calibers that had previously been the near-exclusive realm of revolvers. Then in the early 1990s, the .50 Action Express (AE) version came out. Here we’re talking about a 300-grain bullet that leaves at 1,550 feet per second and delivers 1,600 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
As I noted in my standalone article on the .44 Magnum variant of the Desert Eagle, though accurate, it was a woefully unreliable jamamatic. The on-duty range safety officer at Los Angeles Gun Club informed me and my shooting buddy that these were common problems for all three of their Desert Eagle rental guns.
In fairness, back on my 18th birthday in August 1993, I fired the .50 AE version of the DE without any reliability issues. The only issue at that time was that the gun ejected the brass directly at my forehead. Getting pinged by 9mm Parabellum or .45 ACP brass is one thing, but getting nailed by .50 caliber brass is quite another.
Taurus Raging Bull .454 Casull
The .454 Casull cartridge actually dates back to 1959, a mere four years after the legendary Elmer Keith developed the equally legendary .44 Magnum cartridge. But it wasn’t until 1983 that a factory production model gun became available for the Casull, that being the Freedom Arms single-action revolver, which got its own boost of Hollywood fame thanks to the late great James Caan in the 1988 sci-fi/cop buddy flick Alien Nation. Fast-forward to 1997, and Brazilian-based manufacturer Taurus provided handgunners with a double-action wheelgun option, the Raging Bull.
To cite my earlier review of this gun, “The muzzle flash and report silenced everybody else on the range as they stopped to gawk with a big “WTF?” look on their faces. This brought back highly amusing flashbacks of firing the LAR Grizzly .45 Win Mag at that same facility 13 years earlier. But all five of those rounds found their intended mark at the 7-yard line, and that aforementioned rubber grip and barrel porting did a lot to tame the felt recoil.”
Harry Sanford’s invention predated the Desert Eagle in the realm of semiautomatic Magnum caliber pistols by 13 years, and it was made famous by the Mack Bolan/The Executioner action-adventure novel series and the 1983 Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact alike. Yet the gun was a commercial failure thanks to production costs and marketing mismanagement, not to mention the fact that it used non-mainstream .44 AMP cartridge as opposed to the standard .44 Mag round. Thankfully, the gun is now making a comeback, and time will tell if it can be more successful now.
Survivor .475 Wildey Magnum
Here we have yet another 1980s action film start that’s attempting a comeback. The movie in question this time was 1985’s Death Wish 3 starring Charles Bronson. The real-life cartridge and gun date back to 1977 and 1984 respectively, and are named for inventor Wildey J. Moore. Bearing a token cosmetic resemblance to the AutoMag, The Wildey pistol is a gas-operated semi-automatic pistol that uses either wildcat cartridges based on the 284 Winchester rifle round necked down to accept handgun bullets, or factory hunting rounds. The .475 Wildey Magnum round has the same velocity at 100 yards that the .44 Magnum generates at the muzzle!
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.