The Best Hunting and Field Revolvers Ever

By Chuck Hawks

Ruger Super Blackhawk
Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter. Illustration courtesy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

By "hunting and field" I mean hunting Class 2 or Class 3 game animals. In addition, these revolvers are suitable for protection in the field against predators, both human and animal.

The revolvers listed below are all production guns chambered for the common magnum revolver cartridges suitable for hunting deer or larger game: .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .454 Casull. They are supplied with adjustable sights and can be carried in normal belt holsters. (Guns fitted with optical sights will usually require special holsters.) Custom revolvers and giant revolvers chambered for rifle cartridges and exotics such as the .475 Linebaugh, .460 and .500 S&W Magnums are excluded.

Hunting and field revolvers can be either double action (DA) or single action (SA). In either case, the shooter will normally cock the hammer to take advantage of the superior SA trigger pull. Note that many of the models listed below have been offered in special "hunter" models, which are generally supplied with heavy barrels and are ready for mounting optical sights.

Although various barrel lengths are offered, hunting revolvers are generally preferred with barrels between six and eight inches long, to take full advantage of the potential ballistics of magnum cartridges and to provide a sufficiently long sight radius for the precise bullet placement required for hunting or protection in the field. Here are the best hunting revolvers ever made, in alphabetical order.

Colt Anaconda - DA; .44 Magnum

Colt King Cobra - DA; .357 Magnum

Colt New Frontier SAA - SA; .357 Magnum

Colt Python - DA; .357 Magnum

Freedom Arms Model 83 - SA; .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .454 Casull

Korth National Standard - DA; .357 Magnum

Magnum Research BFR (Short Cylinder) - SA; .44 Magnum, .454 Casull

Ruger Blackhawk - SA; .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum

Ruger GP100 - DA; .357 Magnum

Ruger Redhawk - DA; .44 Magnum

Ruger Super Blackhawk - SA; .44 Magnum

Ruger Super Redhawk - DA; .44 Magnum, .454 Casull

Smith & Wesson Model 27 / 627 - DA; .357 Magnum (N-frame)

Smith & Wesson Model 57 / 657 - DA; .41 Magnum (N-frame)

Smith and Wesson Model 29 / 629 - DA; .44 Magnum (N-frame)

The Colt Python and Korth .357 revolvers are generally regarded as the finest revolvers ever made. They are hand fitted and tuned, as well as being finished to the highest standard.

The Ruger revolvers listed above are all very strong, durable, well made and well designed. Many hunters improve/lighten their trigger pulls by a little home gunsmithing, or simply swapping out the stock trigger and hammer springs for a set of Wolff springs

All of these revolvers are built on frame sizes adequate for extensive use with the most powerful cartridges for which they are chambered, except for the N-frame S&W Models 29 and 629. (The difference is the 29 is made of blued steel, while the 629 is stainless steel.) The N-frame revolvers are the long time flagships of the S&W line and good examples are capable of excellent performance.

However, the N-frame, ideal in size for the .41 Magnum, is barely adequate for the .44 Magnum. Extensive use with full power loads will tend to shake these revolvers apart over time. It is recommended to practice with reduced power (medium velocity) loads, reserving full power loads for use only when needed.

Actually, practicing with reduced power loads is good advice with any magnum revolver. No matter how strong the gun, full power magnum cartridges will erode the forcing cone and wear the bore more rapidly than medium velocity loads. The recoil is also hard on the shooter, particularly the wrist joint. Cartridges loaded to a muzzle velocity of 1000-1100 fps with medium weight bullets for the caliber (for example, 140 grains in .357 Mag. and 225 grain in .44 Mag.) still shoot flat enough for use out to 100 yards, retain sufficient killing power for many purposes and are substantially easier on the revolver (not to mention the shooter) than maximum loads.

Most handgun hunters are also reloaders, so this advice is easy to follow. For those who rely entirely on factory loaded ammunition, remember than .357 Magnum revolvers can also shoot all .38 Special cartridges, .44 Magnum revolvers can use .44 Special cartridges and .454 Casull revolvers can shoot .45 Colt cartridges.

Note: Reviews of most of these revolvers can be found on the Guns and Shooting Online Product Reviews and/or Handgun information - Reviews index pages.

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Copyright 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.