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World’s Most Powerful Revolver: Meet the Magnum Research BFR .500 Bushwhacker

Debuting in 2001, the BFR comes from the same Magnum Research peeps who gave us the Desert Eagle series of Magnum-powered semiauto pistols.

Magnum Research BFR .500 Bushwhacker

Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callhahan is one of my all-time favorite movie characters, and Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actors. Eastwood last played the role in 1988’s “The Dead Pool” when he was 59 years old, and in 2000 he asserted that he was done playing the role. Now at age 93, Clint is, with all due love and respect, waaaayyyyy too long in the tooth to change his mind about reprising the role. 

So, in order to see Inspector Callahan back on the big-screen, it would require a remake and/or reboot, which is definitely conceivable given Tinseltown’s already-demonstrated penchant for rebooting filmic action heroes from James Bond to Jack Ryan to RoboCop. But such a reboot would also require a re-write of the speech, along these lines: 

“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire five shots or only four?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .500 Bushwhacker, 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?”

That’s right, folks, not even the .500 S&W Magnum can claim to be THE world’s most powerful handgun anymore. That title has been usurped by the Magnum Research BFR .500 Bushwhacker.

.500 Bushwhacker History and Specifications … and Comparison with .500 S&W

In fairness to the .500 S&W, as pointed out a year ago by gun writer William Lawson of GunMag Warehouse, “The .500 Bushwhacker is a lengthened .500 Smith & Wesson. There’s nothing fancy about it. And converting a BFR to .500 Bushwhacker means you can still shoot standard .500 S&W rounds, along with .500 JRH and .500 Special.” It was developed in 2021 by brothers James and Keith Tow.

The Smith round can generate a muzzle velocity of 1,625 feet per second combined with 2,580 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. 

And the Bushwhacker? How about a 620-grain Bengal WFNGC Bullet at 1,895 feet per second and a wrecking ball-like 5,300 ft. lbs. of energy! Yes, more than double that of the .500 S&W!

And oh, by the way, the BFR can also handle the .45-70 Government load, which is a frackin’ RIFLE round, attaining a muzzle velocity of 2,050 fps and a muzzle energy of 2,930 ft. lbs. of a 10-inch barrel! Which makes for a convenient segue to the actual gun itself.

Magnum Research BFR Gun History and Specifics

Debuting in 2001, the BFR comes from the same Magnum Research peeps who gave us the Desert Eagle series of Magnum-powered semiauto pistols. They originally interpreted “BFR” as “Brainerd’s First Revolver,” in homage to Brainerd, Minnesota, from whence the earliest such guns were produced. Kahr Arms briefly rebranded it the “Big Frame Revolver” after they bought out Magnum Research in 2010, but the current online catalog now officially lists it as “Biggest, Finest Revolver, and piggybacks onto that moniker with this proclamation:

“[D]esigned as a magnum from the ground up. The BFR is all stainless steel, with a precision grade barrel that delivers unmatched accuracy using lead or jacketed bullets. The BFR is the most powerful production single action handgun made, with numerous calibers and two frame sizes to choose from. Engineered for the hunt, the BFR can take everything from grouse to grizzly.”

Specifications of this behemoth? Overall length including the 10” bbl. comes to 17.5”, with a a height of 6”, a cylinder width of 1.75”, and a weight of 4.7 pounds. The BFR has a 5-round cylinder, hence the modification to my hypothetical movie dialogue at the beginning of this article.

Range Reports from the Designers Themselves

Alas, none of my local indoor firearm rental ranges have made the BFR available, probably because the rounds – the .500 Bushwhacker and the .45-70 alike – are simply too dadgum powerful for their backstops. So, until I either (A) win the Lotto jackpot and/or (B) write a bestselling book and thus make it affordable to buy my own BFR and ammo and take it to an outdoor range, I’ll have to settle for turning to secondhand reports from fellow gun aficionados lucky enough to get ahold of one, namely, the actual designers of the Bushwhacker cartridge! Mr. Lawson reports that “James and Keith [Tow] found the braked .500 Bushwhacker BFR far more pleasant to shoot than the unbraked .500 S&W versions. ‘They certainly remain lively,’ they say, but no more so than your average .454 Casull.”

But with a gun of this power level, to expand upon the proverb that “A picture is worth 1,000 words,” a video must be worth a million words, so feast your eyeballs and earholes on this video put together by the Tow Brothers themselves. 

Want Your Own?

True Gun Value states that “A MAGNUM RESEARCH BFR pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,197.47 new and $951.17 used. The 12-month average price is $1,207.79 new and $951.17 used.” Guns.Com currently lists four standard edition .45-70 specimens at a price range of $1,274.99 to $1,439.99 and a 20th Anniversary Edition for $8,159.99. As for a genuine .500 Bushwhacker-chambered gun, all I’ve been able to uncover thus far was a recently sold specimen on Gunbroker, which fetched a “Buy Now” price of $3,799.99

And then there’s the ammo for the Bushwhacker. The aforementioned TII Armory lists a 400-Grain CEB Solid – Dangerous Game Load for $129.99 for 20 rounds, averaging out to $6.50 per round. For the basis of comparison and contrast, that same merchant offers a 20-round box of .500 S&W 400-grainers for a mere $79.99. TII doesn’t carry .45-70 Government, so to continue our caliber-to-price comparisons we turn to good ol’ MidwayUSA, who currently has ammo in that caliber available for $45.99 per box of 20.

Boy, and you thought more “mainstream” handgun caliber ammo was expensive enough

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 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. 

The image is an example of a Magnum research BFR revolver. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).