Whether you are a handgun hunter or just like to carry some peace of mind, revolvers are a great—and some say, only—choice for a handgun in the woods. Compared to single-shot or semiautomatic pistols, revolvers offer a versatility and reliability second to none, but which one do you choose?
There are plenty of revolvers designed for hunting, and many more that can be easily utilized in harvesting game. Depending on what animal you are hunting and where you are in the world, your choices and preferences can vary widely.
However, these nine revolvers are considered by many to be among the very best. To keep it fair, we’ve decided to limit the entries on this list to just “production” revolvers, and not expensive custom pieces that cost more than your first and second cars. Also, they must be able to kill (or at least protect against) large animals as well. If you’ve ever tried your hand at hunting with a revolver, then most of these will already be familiar to you.
Interested in purchasing one of these revolvers? Just click on the handgun title.
You already knew these two favorites would be on the list, so there’s no point in shooting around the bush. These two revolvers—like another pair of ‘hawks by Ruger, remain very popular among hunters and trappers as both a main hunting firearm, and also as a defensive weapon against big game. The first-ever, large-bore, double-action revolver made by Sturm, Ruger & Co., the Redhawk is a powerhouse revolver made from high-grade steel that can handle the hottest of magnum loads without difficulty. This, coupled with its legendary reliability, has made it the favored firearm of many reloaders.
Ruger first released the Redhawk in 1979 and then 8 years later announced the Super Redhawk, which was supposed to replace its predecessors. Customers, however, loved the original aesthetics of the Redhawk so much that Ruger kept it in production. The Super Redhawk can be chambered for larger cartridges though, such as .454 Casull and .480 Ruger. It can also accommodate a scope more easily.
Notably, famed explorer sir Ranulph Fiennes reportedly brought a Redhawk with him during his Transglobe Expedition and used it to fight off a polar bear. That’s flat out impressive.
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center is no slouch when it comes to high-grade, highly-tuned firearms. The Model 629 is perhaps one of the best examples. Chambered in .44 Magnum, the 629 PC Hunter carries an impressive amount of power, and comes with a recoil-dampening muzzle brake to make follow-up shots faster and more accurate—if you need them. Not all other revolvers come with an integral Picatinny rail either, so that’s a great bonus for shooters who want to add the scope of their choosing.
Magnum Research’s Big Frame Revolvers are meant to tackle the biggest of game, or to protect hunters from the most dangerous of critters. Sure, Magnum Research’s iconic Desert Eagle may get more than its fair share of the fame, but it’s these revolvers that do most of the work. The gun maker offers revolvers chambered in .30/30 Win, .44 Mag, .45 Long Colt/.410, .450 Martin, .454 Casull, .460 S&W, .480 Ruger/.475 Linebaugh, .500 S&W, and even the monstrous .500 JPH.
“Everything from grouse to grizzly” indeed!
What, another revolver that is built on the foundation of the iconic Model 29? It just goes to show that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Doesn’t mean you can’t make it better, however, or bigger. Chambered in .460 S&W, .45 Colt, and .454 Casull, the Model 460 is insanely powerful while still being relatively easy to control. The Model 460XVR (X-treme Velocity Revolver) also boasts the honor of producing the highest muzzle velocity of any production revolver in the world. This handgun is capable of shooting a 200-grain bullet at 2,330 fps.
That means that the 10-pointer you’ve had your eye on all season won’t even know what hit him.
Much like the Redhawk and its bigger brother, the Super Redhawk, the Blackhawk line is a perennial favorite of handgun hunters. Introduced in 1955, the first Blackhawks were simple and robust guns chambered for .357 Magnum. When S&W developed the .44 Magnum just a year later, Ruger quickly adapted the Blackhawk to take advantage of the new cartridge, managing to undercut S&W’s own profits from the Model 29, which at the time was more expensive and less widely available. Legend has it that a Ruger employee first discovered that the cartridge was under development when they discovered spent shell casings at a scrapyard.
Whatever the case, the Blackhawk and its variants still enjoy popularity today.
The Raging Bull, as its name suggests, is one the bigger, badder revolvers out there. Available in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull, the Raging Bull is perfect for hog hunting and predator defense—or just about anything in between. This massive revolver was actually originally marketed to hunters, as its powerful .454 Casull cartridge is capable hunting even the largest of game. The Raging Bull eventually gained popularity in popular media—such as films and video games—due to its pleasing aesthetics and imposing shape.
Like the Taurus Raging Bull, this revolver earned its entry on this list not just because of its use in hunting game—even though it’s entirely plausible—but its popularity as a defensive weapon in the woods. Plenty of bowhunters and rifle hunters alike pack this meaty revolver in brown bear country as a lethal, and some say more reliable, alternative to bear spray. Despite being released many years ago, the Smith & Wesson Model 500 still reigns supreme today as the most powerful production revolver, bar none. Chambered in the monstrous .500 S&W Magnum, this handgun is considered effective on even the largest African game at up to 200 yards. In North America, the Model 500 is a preferred choice for handgunners targeting bison, large wild boar, and other big animals.
It should be telling that Smith & Wesson’s unofficial motto for the revolver is “A Hunting Handgun for Any Game Animal Walking.”
Did we miss any? If you’re not satisfied with our list, you can check out a wide selection of hunting revolvers on Cabela’s website here.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Featured image is public domain. All other images from Cabela's.