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Exploring Six Popular MAgnum Pistol Cartridges

Six Mag Pistol Blog Feature 1

Table of Contents

Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy want to go over six magnum pistol cartridges. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of magnum pistol cartridges by any means. Our goal here is to go over six notable and popular cartridges which fall under this category. In covering these calibers, we will provide an overview of each cartridge while exploring their traits. Without further ado, let’s get into it.


What is a Magnum Pistol Cartridge?

A magnum pistol cartridge is a handgun round which features high pressures and imparts significant kinetic energy transfer. Typically, these types of cartridges have rimmed casings and flat nose projectiles. The presence of the flat nosed projectiles is a common practice which was done to ensure the ammunition was suitable for use in a tubular magazine. The concern at the time was that pointed projectiles could potentially strike the primers of the rounds in front of them under recoil. Flat nosed projectiles completely eliminate this possibility. Ultimately, a magnum pistol cartridge packs a more considerable punch than typical pistol cartridges like 9mm Luger and .45 ACP.


Why Do Some Magnum Pistol Cartridges Have Rimmed Casings?

Some magnum pistol cartridges feature rimmed casings. The presence of a rim is an older practice which essentially was implemented to ensure proper headspacing was achieved. Rimmed casings allow these rounds to seat and extract properly from revolver cylinders. Some magnum pistol cartridges, such as the .460 Rowland and .50 Action Express lack casings with pronounced rims. The omission of protruding rims on these cartridges is to make them work better in semi-automatic pistols. Feeding rimmed ammunition from box type magazines can be particularly problematic as rims can catch and prevent feeding and reliable cycling.

Magtech .357 Magnum
Magtech .357 Magnum
PMC .44 Magnum
PMC .44 Magnum
Magtech 454 Casull
Magtech .454 Casull

.357 Magnum

The .357 Magnum was introduced in 1935 and is one of the most common magnum pistol cartridges on the market. The cartridge is been enjoyed by generations of shooters in multiple use cases since its introduction. The cartridge has commonly been employed by hunters and target shooters alike due to its reliable performance and common nature. While the .357 Magnum can be effectively utilized in both handguns and rifles, it is worth noting that the round is far more potent when used in a rifle. This becomes relevant in the realm of hunting as one can ethically and effectively dispatch larger game when a rifle is used. The cartridge is best suited to medium sized game but can take some larger game when the right loading is paired with the right firearm.

Since its inception, the cartridge has been utilized by revolvers, lever action rifles, and semi-automatic handguns. One will find no shortage of single action and double action revolvers in the caliber from companies such as Ruger and Colt. As far as semi-automatic handguns go, one will find Desert Eagle pistols chambered in the cartridge along with Coonan’s Model A. .357 Magnum ammunition will typically feature projectiles ranging from 110 to 180 grains as far as weight goes. At the end of the day, the .357 Magnum round continues to be one of the most popular and versatile magnum cartridges on the market.


.44 Magnum

The .44 Magnum cartridge was brought to market in 1956 alongside the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. The .44 Magnum was regarded as the king of magnum cartridges when it came to handgun hunting prior to the introduction of newer cartridges. The round’s potency is observable when used in both handgun and rifle form. Like the .357 Magnum, the .44 Magnum becomes even more effective for hunting when used in a rifle due to increased velocity. Depending upon the load and type of firearm utilized, one can expect to ethically take medium to larger-sized game with a .44 Magnum.

The round is one of the most prolific magnum pistol cartridges in the United States with a wide variety of .44 Magnum ammunition offerings available on the market. The 1971 film Dirty Harry helped popularize the round as the titular character wielding a Model 29 in the caliber throughout the movie. With loads optimized for self-defense, hunting, and target shooting, one can find a .44 Magnum load which best fits their needs. While primarily utilized in revolvers and lever action rifles, the cartridge has also been utilized in semi-automatic firearms such as the Desert Eagle and Ruger Model 44. As far as .44 Magnum loadings go, they can be found with weights ranging from 180 to 340 grains. The .44 Magnum has proven itself to be a versatile and effective cartridge which continues to endure in common use even today.


.454 Casull

The .454 Casull round was derived from the .45 Colt and made its commercial debut in 1997. The cartridge is regarded as one of the most powerful handgun cartridges in existence. The round is most commonly chambered by revolvers in both single action and double action form. Ruger producers .454 Casull  chambered revolvers in their Blackhawk and Redhawk lines. While not as prolific as the .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum, the cartridge is certainly popular among the users who swear by its performance. The .454 Casull is often carried into the field for bear protection as well as for hunting medium to large-sized game. The .454 Casull is typically available in weights ranging from 240 to 360 grains. Ultimately, the .454 Casull is an effective magnum round, especially for those who intend to either hunt with the round or keep it handy for backup.


.460 Rowland

The .460 Rowland was introduced in 1997 and was designed to improve the performance of the .45 ACP. The cartridge is rimless in nature due to the round being developed specifically for use in semi-automatic handguns. Case dimensions are nearly identical between the .460 Rowland and .45 ACP with projectiles being interchangeable. The magnum cartridge cannot be used in a firearm chambered in .45 ACP, but the inverse is possible. One can safely chamber and fire .45 ACP ammunition in a firearm chambered in .460 Rowland.

The cartridge was designed with the intent of providing power comparable to .44 Magnum from a semi-automatic handgun. Because of this, one will be able to dispatch similar game to what one can reasonably hunt with a handgun in .44 Magnum. If one wishes to shoot this cartridge, one can acquire complete firearms in the chambering or convert an existing handgun to accommodate the round. .460 Rowland loadings can range from 185 to 255 grains as far as bullet weight goes. The .460 Rowland is ultimately a potent and versatile semi-automatic magnum cartridge which can serve a wide variety of end users well.


.50 Action Express

The .50 Action Express, of .50 AE was developed by Action Arms in 1988 for use in the iconic Desert Eagle handgun. While not the original caliber the Desert Eagle was designed for, the cartridge has become the go-to caliber when people think of the pistol. While originally designed for use in the Desert Eagle pistol, the cartridge has also been utilized in revolvers. A notable revolver chambered in .50 AE is the Magnum Research Biggest Finest Revolver (BFR).

Like the .460 Rowland, the .50 AE lacks the protruding rim commonly seen on magnum pistol cartridge as it was designed for use in semi-automatic handguns.  The .50 AE is typically used for target shooting and hunting applications due to its magnum nature. The as far as hunting goes, the cartridge is suitable for dispatching medium to big game. Bullet weights for the caliber will typically range from 230 to 350 grains. All in all, the .50 AE is a highly potent .50 caliber magnum handgun cartridge which packs a significant punch.


.500 Smith & Wesson

The .500 Smith & Wesson was introduced in 2003 as a result of a collaboration between Cor-Bon and Smith & Wesson. The development of the cartridge was driven by the mission to produce the most powerful handgun cartridge. While newer rounds have surpassed the performance of the .500 Smith & Wesson, these cartridges rely on custom firearms and are not commonly available. This makes the .500 Smith & Wesson the most powerful cartridge which is reliably and commercially available.

The power of the .500 Smith & Wesson is particularly evident when it comes to dispatching game and defending oneself in the field. The cartridge is a suitable round for dispatching large game and defending oneself against dangerous game. The .500 Smith & Wesson is available in a wide range of bullet weights ranging from 275 to 700 grains. Ultimately, the .500 Smith & Wesson is a versatile and potent load which happens to be the most powerful standardized magnum cartridge on the market.

Precision One .50 AE
Precision One .50 AE
Corbon .500 S&W
Corbon .500 S&W

Who Makes Magnum Pistol Cartridges?

One can acquire magnum ammunition offerings from a wide variety of manufacturers. These loadings can be had with a variety of different projectile types while also being optimized for specific use cases. Companies such as PMC, Federal, and Sellier & Bellot manufacture a wide variety of general-purpose ammunition which is great for practice and plinking. These loadings will often feature full metal jacket (FMJ) or exposed lead projectiles. Companies such as Hornady, Underwood Ammo, and Cor-Bon are among the manufacturers of specialty magnum pistol loadings which are optimized for uses such as hunting and self-defense. At the end of the day, one will be able to browse a wide variety of loadings when stocking up on their chosen magnum pistol caliber.



All in all, these six magnum pistol cartridges will serve end users well. These calibers have solidified themselves as prolific and effective magnum rounds which have endured in use since their inception. We here at True Shot offer these calibers in addition to the wide variety of ammunition we carry. Whether you are after one of these calibers or something else, we have you covered. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


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