As big game hunting with handguns gained in popularity, several gunsmiths made larger and more powerful handguns for this sport using a variety of specialized calibers. Arguably the most powerful handgun ever made is the Austrian Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro Express Mag single-action revolver. Weighing more than 13 pounds at a cost of about $20,000, this custom gun fires Holland & Holland rounds (second only to the .700 Nitro Express!) developed in 1903 for African safaris. The most powerful widely available commercial round is the .454 Casull, with muzzle energy of about 1,900 fpe in single-action handguns.
In 2003, however, Smith & Wesson once again took the unambiguous lead in production handgun power with the introduction of its X-Frame Model 500 double-action revolver for the .500 S&W Mag round. Clearly aimed at the big game handgun hunting market, this revolver takes sidearm shooting into the stratosphere. Addressing my initial skepticism about range and accuracy, a spokesperson for Smith & Wesson said, “The S&W 500 can be quite a handful when using full-house magnum loads, but I would be a little hesitant calling it close-range gun.” He added, “I know several people who have taken animals out to 200 yards with the revolver and, while it isn’t something that any shooter can instantly do, it sure is possible.”
Recently, S&W pushed the Model 500 even further with the introduction of the S&W 500 Bone Collector model. Developed in collaboration with Georgia-born professional hunter and television host Michael Waddell and named for Waddell’s popular TV hunting program on the Outdoor Channel, the Bone Collector is a limited edition revolver for just 1,000 hunters and collectors.