Taurus's latest $406 .17 HMR revolvers shoot accurately but cannot overcome cartridge-related problems.
Smith & Wesson's $833 Model 610 10mm/.40 S&W is a slick shooter, but the $1000 Colt Anaconda in .44 Special/.44 Magnum is better than ever, in our estimation.
Last month's test of double-action revolvers showed two guns that suffered cylinder bind. This round, we encountered no problems whatsoever with the simpler models.
Many companies have shown they can chamber revolvers with nearly any length of cartridge, but there can still be problems — in particular, maintaining headspace, the distance between the head of the cartridge and the breechface. The cause: Narrow chambers fill with debris, making complete chambering difficult. This can hamper rotation and present a safety hazard. This is especially true of rimfires, unlike a centerfire round whose primer is recessed and protected by the case. With a rimfire, there has always been concern that hitting the case edge on the breech while closing the cylinder could ignite the cartridge.
We noted function (but not safety) problems when we recently tested two double-action guns chambered for the .17 Hornady Magnum Rifle cartridge: the Smith & Wesson Model 647, $677; and the Taurus International M17 Tracker, $438. Next month, we look at two single-action revolvers chambered for the increasingly popular round.
The .17 HMR has been described as a Winchester Magnum Rifle (WMR) case necked down in the final 0.2 inches of its length to secure a boattail rifle bullet measuring approximately 0.17 inch in diameter. Given the higher velocity of this round compared to the .22 WMR, we wanted to know if accuracy would be effected pro or con. Also, would the unique profile of this rimfire round solve headspacing problems or create new ones? We began shooting to find out:
We hate to admit it, but we've been had. All this time we thought that the revolvers from Magnum Research in the May issue were in fact the true BFRs — Biggest Finest Revolvers. These guns weighed in at 76 ounces and measured nearly 16 inches in length. But along comes two BFRs that are more than 2 inches longer and weigh almost a full pound more. Now we suppose that when it comes to the .45-70 and .450 Marlin guns reviewed last month, the "B" in BFR merely stands for bigger, not biggest.
But this month we step up to two rifle cartridges chambered in our test guns, the .30-30 Winchester and .444 Marlin. Besides being a well-known rifle cartridge, .30-30 ammunition is cheap and plentiful. If we numb our hands and wrists while shooting, at least we won't stun our wallets. In the .444 Marlin revolver, we wondered how gun, and shooter, would stand up to this big, straight-walled cartridge.
We got our guns from the Magnum Research Custom Shop, so there were variations in what we tested and what's available in factory production. The .444 Marlin BFR offered by Magnum research has a round, non-fluted cylinder. Our test .444 had fluting, but was otherwise a production model. The .30-30 Win. BFR (available from Magnum Research Custom Shop, Contract Mfg. Inc., 1594 College Rd., Baxter, MN 56425, telephone  824-0080) is a custom chambering which costs $1,400. The Custom Shop has developed a number of custom calibers that are not available in production revolvers, such as the .218 Bee, .45/90 Win., .38-55 Win., and .375 Win. They are all $1,400. The guns are built to order with special caliber engraving on the frame. "Magnum's Custom Shop is newly created and seeks to fill a niche for shooters who want something other than the standard BFRs," said Jim Tertin of Contract Mfg. Inc.
The market for big revolvers is actually rather small. The biggest-selling revolvers are smaller models that offer concealment or portability as well as simplicity. For hunting, a revolver or any other handgun should be of the largest caliber one can shoot for the sake of a quick kill. Then again, some very big revolvers are for the hunted. Super calibers like the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger can function as a more portable alternative to a rifle or shotgun in places like Alaska, where being surprised by a bear in your driveway isn't out of the question. Revolvers that shoot a rifle caliber are another way to go because rifle ammunition may indeed be cheaper and more plentiful than a specialty round like the .454 Casull or 480 Ruger. When Magnum Research expanded its line of BFR (biggest, finest revolvers) products to include models that chamber the .45-70 Government and .450 Marlin we decided to test them. First, we wanted to know if the guns themselves could stand up to these cartridges. We also wanted to see how much accuracy could be achieved when these rounds were placed in a revolver instead of a rifle. Here's what we found.
The Taurus Raging Thirty, $898, could be the "Great Light Hunter," but Ruger's .30 Carbine is a bargain at $415. The Taurus $898 Raging Bee is pricey, but it's also a kick.
With so many new compact and subcompact semi-automatic pistols on the scene, we are not hearing as much about the snub-nosed revolver as we used to. A snubbie is generally defined as a revolver with a barrel length of 3 inches or less, and, traditionally, this term is applied to smaller-framed guns.
In 1908 Smith & Wesson came out with a new cartridge and a new handgun, the combination of which was to set a new standard for finely built, high-performance handguns for at least the next half-century. The gun was officially called the New Century Hand Ejector, but was commonly referred to as the "Triple Lock," because of a third lockup at the swing-out crane which augmented two other latches, one at the front of the ejector rod and the other at the rear of the cylinder.
We were caught in an alloy quandary trying to pick from Colt's classic Agent, the high-dollar S&W 342PD, and S&W's newly slimmed-down Bodyguard. Now we know which one to buy.
For 2001, Sturm, Ruger & Co. has introduced its new proprietary .480 Ruger handgun round in the firm's double-action Super Redhawk revolver, available with 7.5- or 9.5-inch barrels. Recent testing we performed on the gun head to head against two other monster revolver rounds, the .475 Linebaugh and the .500 Linebaugh, call the company's introduction of the round into question. Though we are well aware of Ruger's proven ability to make and market world-beating firearms when everyone else thinks they're nuts (the No. 1 single shot and the 10-22 rimfire rifles come to mind), we can only say we were underwhelmed with the .480 Ruger. Here's why.
The .45-caliber S&W Model 625 Mountain Gun and 10mm Model 610 proved accurate and versatile. The titanium Taurus M415Ti .41 Magnum was a handful.