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The Big Horn Armory Model 89 is chambered in .500 S&W Magnum. That round is a beast when it’s fired from a pistol. From a 24″ rifle barrel it hits like Thor’s Hammer, only harder. It dwarfs a .375 Holland & Holland…I’ve never shot anything more powerful . . .

Crank the YouTube resolution up to 720HD, and look for the full review in a week or two. In the meantime, here’s a low-res glimpse of what happens to a 4-pound watermelon when it tries to absorb more than 4000 lb-ft of energy.

Image: Chris Dumm

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  1. hopefully it doesn’t have the old west curved steel butt plate, although a recoil pad would not look right. Can’t wait for the full review and for Chris to send me the gun next to’um, do further eval.

    • Not to mention that the .375 has some reach, delivering approximately the same trajectory to 200 yards as a .30-06, but with 50% more energy at that range than a .30-06.

  2. Is 4000 ft-lbs an educated guess or is that an established figure? More to the point, can you please chrono that thing? That round must have been bookin’. I guess we can put to bed the argument that pistol caliber carbines are under powered.

    Also, at 4000 ft-lbs it still doesn’t dwarf a .375 H&H Mag. That monster can push 4,500 ft-lbs. Regardless, for shooting a pistol cartridge, that carbine is damn impressive.

    Final thought, it makes me laugh to think that gun control advocates believe a .223 is a high-powered cartridge. I think they confuse lethal with high-powered.

    • ~4K ft-lbs is a standard from reloading guides for .375 H&H.

      Ooops. On re-read obviously my sarc detector had a glitch.

    • 1. The watermelon IS the pink mist. Or was. Or the other way around.
      2. Chrono? Done! Double Tap 400-gr lead flat points tear out of this 24″ barrel at 2240fps and 4450 lb-ft.
      3. Nice thick recoil pad, thank you very much. You wouldn’t want to shoot it without one.

      • I’ll trust your chrono is correct. Which would put it in range of .375 H&H. Not dwarfing it, but in the range. Mea Culpa.

        • The chrono readings surprised mee too, and I checked with Big Horn to make sure they were plausible. They were, and this energy number is astounding.

  3. Huh? 500 S&W is a handgun round. Depending on the bullet weight, between 2500 and 3000 ft-lbs energy. A lot for a handgun, entry-level for a rifle. 3000 ft-lbs is .30-06 territory.

    .375 H&H is a large game rifle round, and depending on the projectile is between 4200 and 4600 ft-lbs energy.

    • You trap a pistol cartridge in a rifle length barrel and you have much more time for the working force to accelerate the projectile. You can’t use the numbers of the cartridge out of a pistol for comparison.

      • Not that much. There aren’t many 500 S&W 2 inchers out there.

        Sure there’s big(ish) difference between a .357 mag snubbie and a .357 mag carbine.

        However, once you get into the world of 6-8″ barrels the velocity gap gets rather narrow from there to 18″.

        Look up Ballisticsbytheinch. They did a whole bunch of rounds in a whole bunch of barrels. I’d post the link but, that seems to alert them that I’m making points.

    • People have taken elephant with .500 S&W. The line between a “rifle” and “pistol” cartridge are n.m. when you are taking of a 60,000 psi cartridge that spits 400 grains of lead at 2200fps.

      Sure you could argue the virtues of one over the other, but that would be as stupid as R1 vs. Hyabusa or Mustang vs. Camaro.

      …it more than gets the job done.

      • This is one of the issues of why the S&W 500 can deliver such results.

        The working pressures of the S&W 500 are mind-bogglingly high for a handgun. “High” pressure handgun cartridges used to be those around 40K PSI. Some of John Linebaugh’s cartridges were much higher, but then Linebaugh designs cartridges for use in stout single-action revolvers that are tuned to very tight tolerances in order to handle the pressures (eg, tight cylinder to barrel gaps).

        The .375 H&H, which dates from 1912, was intended to operate at lower pressures – in the 48K to 52K range, which was on-par with the highest pressures of that day. The .375 H&H was designed for a “square bridge” Mauser action, and back then, their metallurgy wasn’t as quantified as it is today.

        This is one of the issues when dealing with classic cartridges of 100+ years ago. Back then, smokeless powder was a new thing, and case failure was all too regular in frequency to disregard. As a result, the gun industry kept pressures conservative by today’s standards. Today, most new “magnums” in rifles are running pressures in the low/mid 60K’s. Without the legacy of any past firearms that could chamber these high max average pressures, designers are able to shave safety margins closer and closer to case failure limits.

        A great example is the .45-70.

        If one loaded a .45-70 to today’s standards and put it into a rifle action that could handle modern 60K+ pressures (eg, a falling block like a Ruger #1), you could achieve .458 WinMag results.

        If you happened to allow such a round to find it’s way into a Winchester 1886, or (worse) a Springfield Trapdoor…. yours will quite likely be a closed-casket service. And that’s why commercial .45-70 ammo is loaded so conservatively. The same sort of thing is going on with the .375 H&H. You could load it hotter… but the commercial ammo makers have to think about “what happens if you put a 62K PSI round into a classic Holland & Holland gun of 100 years ago?”

        Their lawyers will say “How about we not find out?”

  4. How much did that gun kick? And why do I get the impression that the .500 S&W should always have been a rifle round, and they stuck it into a revolver first for giggles a la AR and AK pistols?

  5. While the .500 S&W (out of a rifle-length barrel) can develop muzzle energies on par with a real big game round like the .375 H&H, or a 9.3×62, etc, it could be a rather less than amusing surprise when one finds out that kinetic energy isn’t all there there is to a dangerous game rifle.

    For large/dangerous species of game, what one really likes to see is deep penetration, which is the result of sectional density. Translation: Not only heavy bullets are required, but also long, heavy bullets – with heavy jackets that keep the bullet from deforming and losing mass as it smashes through bone and tissue. This is why some types of dangerous game bullets are “solids.” Have a look at Nosler, Hornady, Woodleigh, “solids” for examples of what I’m on about.

    The reason why that watermelon turned into pink mist was that the bullet dumped so much energy into such a shallow penetration space. Part of this is a function of the flat nose of the bullet, another contributing factor is the lack of a jacket surrounding the bullet. I could have vaporized that melon with very similar results with a varmint bullet that has a very thin jacket around a highly frangible core – eg, something like a Hornady V-Max. A combination like a .270 Winchester, a 110 gr. V-Max produces very satisfying clouds of pink mist from varmints or fruit. It is not, however, a bullet I’d dare to use on big game. Horrible, shallow wounding is what results.

    • Thanks for that one. I had a whole treatise on muzzle energy being only one dimension not the be-all-end-all. How .500S&W and .375H&H are the bare minimum muzzle energies for those countries that regulate such things for big game hunting. And the whole modern pressures in old guns angle, but you went into far more detail than I did.

      It’s growing increasingly apparent I’m no longer allowed to post more than one multi-para a day. They just disappear.


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