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by Jeffrey Locke a.k.a. Jeff460 Last updated: 2018-02-02 17:40:59
Defense Weapon Considerations for Dangerous Game While Using a Handgun
by Jeffrey Locke
In an effort to address the various handgun designs that can be utilized in defense from large and dangerous game, I have come to the conclusion that a revolver is the best action-type to use as the size of the animal increases. You may ask why, and I would add only because pistols do not come in cartridges and calibers in general that have reliably stopped a charging buffalo or enraged brown bear. Not that I would NOT try to do so, if being armed with only a semiautomatic pistol. But there are better choices of handguns of a design to more efficiently deal with such a deadly situation; in my opinion. Of a concern to many, in calibers known sufficient to save one’s bacon, is felt recoil.
A lighter gun will recoil more noticeably than a heavy gun in general. For example, a Smith and Wesson 69 Combat model weighs about 36 ounces loaded and chambered in the .44 magnum cartridge, as well as the .44 Special. That weight would qualify it as an easy to carry defense instrument. But the experience of heavy recoil is not for the faint of heart. The hand will protest in pain with too much of a diet of .44 magnum fodder. In this case, using .44 Special rounds to practice with would be prudent, leaving the heavier .44 Magnum loads to the rare applied need for more perceivable power.
There can be another problem with too much recoil in a lighter weight gun. Without the use of a bullet with a robust cannelure or pronounced beveled edge to hold the bullet in check during violent recoil, a bullet-pull may occur. Adding high-pressure loadings and the concurrent higher recoiling revolver can increase recoil velocity and hasten the likelihood of bullet-pull. A bullet crimped correctly can resist the impulse to make the bullet loosen by recoil and creep ever so slightly forward in the chamber. Some people even keep a small wooden rod on them to use to push the offending bullet back into its case. Doing so will help you clear the rotation tie-up problem and consequently remove the damaged cartridge. But it is a concern not to be taken lightly, as that very condition can tie-up the cylinder so that the gun is no longer workable. A deadly scenario if ever the incidence of a charge looms.
To be sure, the Smith and Wesson Model 69 is a wonderful Packing Pistol, but the threat of bullet-pull from maximum loads could be one strike against it. Its lighter weight could make such an occurrence with maximum loads more likely. It would even be more prevalent in the Smith and Wesson Model 329 scandium-framed .44 magnum. It weighs about 25 ounces and has a titanium cylinder and it also uses just a steel-lined barrel to cut weight.
Prevention of bullet pull by use of boutique ammunition producers like Buffalo Bore and Grizzly Cartridges can help. They both make it an essential point to create ultra-reliable loads with specially designed bullets with robust crimping grooves. Buffalo Bore even uses a square corner crimping grove instead of the standard gradual sloping bullet crimp style, to increase the grip of the cartridge case on the bullet.
Is there another way to deal with potential bullet-pull besides an obsessive concern for your ammunition? Increasing the weight of the firearm and increasing the length of the cylinder are both workable solutions to consider.
Not to be mistaken as an easy Packing Pistol like the Model 69 might be, but still extremely useful, is the .460 Smith and Wesson Magnum V X-frame revolver. At just over 60 ounces in weight with a five-inch muzzle- braked model, it is over 23 ounces heavier than the Model 69. It does balance very well, which helps negate somewhat the extra weight; at least in my estimation. I am 6’5’’ and 265 pounds, so balance is more important to me. The .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum X-frame with a 6.5 inch long, half-lug barrel, also weighs just over 60 ounces.
Buffalo Bore and Grizzly Cartridges both fashion loads for the .460 and .500 S&W magnums ranging from mild to very wild.
By using a relatively mild load with these two X-frame models, the user can begin to get used to the practice of shooting accurately without the disturbance to concentration of heavy recoil. The sheer weight of these two X-frame model’s help make felt recoil a virtual nonissue when using the milder loadings.
The .460 S&W also has the versatile advantage of shooting .45 Long Colt and .454 Casull, as well as the mighty .460 Smith and Wesson magnum. The problem with bullet-pull could still be a possibility using the .460 Smith and Wesson magnum, if a proper bullet crimping design is not reliably applied and utilized. But in order to fully mitigate the result of bullet pull, one could use the .454 Casull instead of the longer .460 S&W magnum. The length of the .454 Casull case in comparison to the mighty .460 Smith and Wesson Magnum creates less of a debilitating consequence from an errant bullet-pull.
The .454 Casull is a high-pressure cartridge of its own proven reputation. Its main problem, due to the high-pressure loadings, is bullet-pull occurring in relatively lighter weight guns. But that is certainly not a problem when it is shot in the .460 Smith and Wesson Model V. With the longer cylinder and more heft, the bullet would not be as liable to move forward to reach the end of the cylinder. And even if the bullet-pulls clear-out of the cartridge, it could not reach the end of the cylinder to tie it up and stop it from rotating.
If you desire a reliable defense weapon from any dangerous game that could wish to stomp, scratch and claw you to death, the .460 Smith and Wesson Magnum V revolver has the platform necessary to effectively shoot .454 Casull heavy loads. The .460 Smith and Wesson Magnum V platform, using .454 Casull cartridges, can shoot heavy charges of powder behind 360 grain, hard-cast, bullet charge-stoppers; and do so without the fear of a failure causing bullet-pull tie-up. The extra heft contributes to making recoil more pleasant to shoot the .454 Casull in the .460 platform than in lighter guns that, as a result, kick more violently and abruptly housing the .454 Casull.
One more additional advantage, not shared by any other manufacturer, and unique to the .460 Smith and Wesson Model V and other Smith and Wesson .460 models, is the use of gain-twist rifling. Gain-twist rifling eases the bullet, in transition from the cylinder jumping across the cylinder gap, to engage the rifling relatively gradually. By doing so, there is not the hand contortionist twist in the recoil-cycle so often felt when using other manufactured lighter guns, so chambered in the .454 Casull.
An additional design-plus for both the .460 and .500 Smith and Wesson magnum platforms is the use of a K-frame grip on the X-frame sized models. This design protocol allows an over-the-grip-fit with a Hogue model rubber grip that has a recoil-absorbing sorbethane insert near the upper portion of the grip material. It is an appreciated part of the total recoil control system Smith and Wesson has designed into the X-frame. The K-frame over grip is comfortable for my relatively small hands, and I find it easy to reach the trigger to engage it.
Of course, the muzzle-venting brake method on each model adds another recoil-reducing feature that comes standard. Using the .460 Smith and Wesson magnum revolver, I specifically recommend exchanging out the muzzle-brake for use with only jacketed bullets with the one supplied and designed for using with cast bullets. The cast bullet muzzle-brake design works fine with jacketed bullets also, so there is no real practical need to change back and forth. The 6.5 inch .500 Smith and Wesson X-frame has a built–in compensator, so that maneuver would not be a consideration for it.
I focused my comments on the .460 and .500 X-frame platforms that weigh virtually the same, at just over 60 ounces each.
The .500 S&W X-frame can fire .500 JRH aka .500 Smith and Wesson Short magnum cartridges. The shorter case length of 1.4 inches means bullet pull would also be mitigated, as the bullet could pull clear out of the case and still not reach out and tie-up the end of the cylinder in most cases.
If you want a proven stopper, the .500 S&W X-frame may be your best choice of the two. But do not discount the .460 S&W magnum as any less of a charge stopper; utilized with proper bullet design construction and proper placement.
And if ease of portability means something very important to you, just look back to the Smith and Wesson Model 69 Combat .44 magnum /.44 Special. By using a .44 magnum cartridge with moderate-velocity, but still heavy, 300 grain bullets at about 1000 fps; the Model 69 with the 4.25 inch barrel is not as prone to experience bullet-pull failures.
I wish to note yet another reason as to why my focus is on double-action models over purely single action mechanisms. I feel to be ultra-reliable in a situation where one arm could be injured; being able to shoot double-action by simply pulling back on the trigger is a MUST. That situation could end up as the last resort to ignite the primer and send hot lead down the barrel. Being tied to a single-action triggered mechanism alone may end up to your being unable to ignite the primer with the hammer. It could be that you will have to use one hand to hold back a biting or clawing predator. Or the hammer could even be held open by your hand slipping between the hammer and the frame mounted firing pin by accident in the struggle. If that happened, the hammer fall on the primer would not even be able to occur, let alone with enough force to ignite it.
One last consideration is a installed addition, to make any revolver you may yield even more likely to be life-saving and useful. Use an aftermarket attachable or a custom-fashioned lanyard ring stud, and locate it on the bottom grip-frame. Doing so allows you to attach a lanyard through the lanyard-ring. By running an attached lanyard around your wrist, the likelihood that your weapon will be pulled from your hand during a life and death struggle, is greatly reduced.
Now I can already hear the hisses and boos from the single-action crowd. And the semi-automatic pistol aficionado’s are probably foaming at the mouth and clenching their teeth. Can you effectively use a single-action revolver to save your skin? Of course! Is it possible to use a semi-auto pistol to drop a raging bear? Why not? But this treatise was my personal perspective for maximum predictable success in defending one’s life from the largest and most dangerous of game animals. And I framed my argument by the use of double-action revolvers. Even more specifically, by using Smith and Wesson double action revolvers!
The most measurable barometer of success with your choice of handgun is the defense of your life from imminent threat. Success in that arena proves righteousness, so please just take a chill pill and respect the perspective I have related herein. Thank You!
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