Photo Credit: Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model S&W500

For this week on Wheelgun Wednesday, let’s jump down the rabbit hole of the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge. For most gun owners, it is the living personification of a meme. Simply, a huge flippin’ round that most people don’t know what to do with. For the longest time, the .44 Magnum was the greatest round in existence because of one of the most iconic lines ever delivered in cinema:

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?

Why the 500 S&W magnum?…

After Clint Eastwood declared in the “Dirty Harry” movie from 1971 that the .44 Magnum was the biggest, baddest round on the block, the rush was on for cartridge superiority! Everybody wanted to be Dirty Harry and own his Smith & Wesson Model 29, and all ammunition manufacturers wanted to lay claim to the biggest handgun round in the world. This lead to a flurry of new cartridges being invented/created to hunt dinosaurs and other audacious, rad, huge-cartridge stuff.

  • .44 Remington Magnum – 1955
  • .454 Casull – 1957
  • .460 S&W Magnum – 2005
  • .475 Linebaugh – 1987
  • .480 Ruger – 2003
  • .500 S&W Magnum – 2003

Photo Credit: Smith & Wesson

When all the dust finally settled and smoke quitting pouring out of the ears of ballisticians, Smith & Wesson was proudly sitting at the top of the metaphorical hill with the biggest cartridge around. It has been novelized in movies, it invokes thoughts of hunting prehistoric monsters, and we likely have seen videos on the internet of one too many, unsuspecting people getting bonked in the head because they were not ready for the recoil. So, we all know the cool factor is through the roof on this round and the revolvers that Smith & Wesson makes, but where is the practicality? Why genuinely should you buy one as opposed to something significantly smaller in size? Those are valid questions and we’ll offer a couple valid answers.

Hunting with the 500 S&W magnum

For most people, it is really cool if your friend owns a 500 S&W Magnum so you can shoot theirs once in a while, but what reasons are there for you to own one when they cost around $1,000? One niche reason is if you like to hunt with a handgun. Depending on what region of the United States that you live in, you might be in a “handgun zone,” or a “shotgun zone” that equally allows for handguns. If that is the case and because of silly legal requirements you cannot use a rifle, the 500 S&W Magnum cartridge – even in a handgun platform – affords you rifle ballistics. This allows you to reach out further than a shotgun, in some cases, to hunt whitetail deer, wild pigs, and other game animals. Also, it delivers more Foot-Lbs of energy than a lot of rifle cartridges with a larger entry hole. This can all equate to more humane harvests when filling tags and getting food for yourself and your family.

Another reason to potentially reach for a 500 S&W Magnum revolver versus a shotgun or rifle while hunting is the weight savings. Most hunters have a hunting pack they carry with plus oodles of other gear items that weigh them down. They might seem light to individually lift in a retail store, but cumulatively on an all-day hunt, it can become extremely taxing and burdensome. So, if your hunting firearm of choice is several pounds lighter because you opted for and became proficient with a revolver, that is a weight-savings bonus in your favor.


Photo Credit: Smith & Wesson

concealed carry?! … in grizzly country, yes

Our very own James Reeves, the Executive Producer of TFBTV, often goes hiking and checking out national parks with his wife, and they have encountered all sorts of four-legged, dangerous animals including grizzly bears. He has never had a wrestling death match yet (that I know of), but he is always aptly prepared for a bad day by carrying a 10mm or .44 Magnum firearm with him.  It is one of those better to have and not need than need and not have scenarios. To that same token, you could (and it is dealer’s choice) go with a snubby 500 S&W Magnum for protection as well.

We won’t get into the discussion of whether that’s your best choice or not, but if you go that route it is definitely suitable to defend yourself against a grizzly bear, mountain lion, T-Rex, or anything like that. Maybe the concussion of just the revolver popping off a round will reconvince a cougar to find its next meal elsewhere. If not, the Foot-Lbs of energy are definitely present to stop an imminent threat if you hit your target.

When not to choose the 500 S&W magnum

With those two practical applications of the 500 S&W Magnum – hunting and last-ditch defense while hiking – there is a multitude of reasons to not choose a 500 S&W Magnum which basically are centered around you not being a jerk to your fellow range buddies.

  1. Teaching a new gun owner to shoot – Don’t Shoot a 500 S&W Magnum
  2. Bachelor/Bachelorette party with inexperienced shooters – Don’t Shoot a 500 S&W Magnum
  3. Shooting mice in your barn – Don’t Shoot a 500 S&W Magnum 
  4. Borrowing a gun to a younger hunter – Don’t Shoot a 500 S&W Magnum

I am not here to rain on everyone’s parade, but what it basically boils down to is we all should be good stewards of firearms and have safe shooting practices. If you want to shoot squirrels out of your bird feeder from inside your house with a 500 S&W Magnum, don’t let me stop you. By all means, go for it (and please film yourself). As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

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