“But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”
Since Clint Eastwood uttered those iconic lines in the original “Dirty Harry” back in 1971, multiple handgun calibers have come along that have dethroned the .44 Remington Magnum as the world’s most powerful handgun cartridge.
Nonetheless, the .44 Magnum still remains plenty powerful. Unlike those handgun calibers that overpower it, it’s still considered a mainstream caliber, which means guns and ammo for .44 “Maggie” are still more readily available and more affordable, relatively speaking.
Smith & Wesson Model 29/629
It was the gun that launched the caliber in the first place, the Smith & Wesson Model 29/629. The launch year was 1955 preceding the movie by 16 years. This famous double-action revolver has been written about numerous times. I owned mine – with a 6.5” barrel – from 2011 to 2020, and while it beat my hand up more than the next gun on this list, there was no denying her beauty, reliability, or accuracy.
The Smith Model 629 is essentially the same gun as the M29, only with a stainless steel finish, which is less aesthetically appealing to old-school traditionalists than the rich deep blue finish of the Model 29, but definitely more maintenance-friendly in terms of resistance to rust and corrosion.
Ruger Redhawk/Super Redhawk
The Ruger Redhawk stands up to use and even abuse. The standard Redhawk and the Super Redhawk are not one and the exact same gun, but are close enough to include them here together; the latter is an even tougher and stronger version of the former, which is saying a lot. When you see reloading manuals with sections that state “For Ruger Guns Only,” that oughta tell you something about just how damn tough these guns are.
The Super ‘hawk is more comfortable to shoot out of the box as it comes from the factory with a rubber grip – specifically the Hogue Tamer Monogrip – whilst the original ‘hawk comes with wood grips that look prettier but do a crappy job of absorbing recoil.
I’ve fired both the standard Redhawk and Super Redhawk, although I’ve only owned the standard one, a 7.5-incher that has been a proud possession of mine since August 2019; I’ve fired roughly 900 rounds through her in that timeframe. Both have always impressed me with their accuracy and (relative) shooting comfort.
I hold a sentimental soft spot for this one, as it was the first revolver of any caliber that I ever owned, acquiring mine in the summer of 2000 back when I was a mere lowly humble Airman 1st Class (pay grade E-3) stationed at Minot AFB, North Dakota. She had an 8 3/8” bbl, and at a mere $400.00 was an absolute steal.
The trigger wasn’t as smooth as the Smith or the Ruger, but more than adequate to make a 7-yard headshot accurately and 25-yard center-torso a breeze, further bolstered by the factory rubber grips that put comfort on a par with the Super Redhawk.
The only downside was long-term durability; the original gun broke twice during the 9-year span, but to their credit, the manufacturer was true to its Lifetime Repair Warranty in spite of the fact that I’d purchased the handgun secondhand; they simply fixed the gun the first time and sent me a brand new replacement gun the second time around. I ended up selling the replacement Taurus just before my first Iraq deployment in 2011.
Magnum Research/IMI Desert Eagle
Gotta include at least one semiautomatic pistol on this list, right? My previous personal experience firing the single-action Desert Eagle was not a positive one in terms of reliability. That said, a good number of personal friends have had positive experiences with this cinematic superstar – it’s been in even more movies than the Smith M29 – and the fact that the gun has remained in production since 1986 indicates that the manufacturer must be doing something right.
What’s more, multiple well-respected gun writers from Massad F. Ayoob to Hal Swiggett have praised the gun’s accuracy and reliability. Mas included the caveat that the DE was remarkably reliable as long as one kept the gun stoked with jacketed ammo – lead bullets are not an option in a gas-operated autopistol – whilst Minister Swiggett told a tale of a friend with a 14” DE who “consistently clobbered jackrabbits at 200 yards.”
Dan Wesson Model 44
I haven’t fired this one yet, but one of my old friends from both North Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California (USC) alike, used to own one. Here’s what my colleague had to say:
“The Dan Wesson was reported to have improved upon other revolver designs: interchangeable barrels and the cylinder lock is on the swing arm instead of the frame. It did result in adaptability and incredible accuracy … It is a fine-looking gun with many useful improvements over other manufacturers but overall great ideas with poor implementation.”
What About the Colt Anaconda?
Though I’ve read some good things about this “Snake Gun,” I haven’t yet had the chance to fire it, nor do I know anybody within my personal circle of shooting buddies who has, so I’m not in a position to give it a fair evaluation one way or another.
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.