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Big-Bore Wheelguns: S&Ws Model 625 Is A Classy Choice

It seemssome of the really nice stuff in firearms doesnt last long enough for all good men and women to hear about it, spread the word, and go out and buy it. How many times have we all said, "If only such and such company would make this or that," only to have it pointed out to us that they used to make this or that, no one bought it, so it was dropped from the lineup. Weve encountered several Taurus firearms on the company website and in local gun stores that looked like really good ideas, only to find out theyd been recently discontinued. The same could probably be said of many gun makers who had a product that fit a niche market, failed to promote it sufficiently, and had to stop production. Such is apparently the case with two of the three guns in this report, though one of those two is still available in a specialized form.The concept of a revolver chambered for 45 ACP goes back to WWI, when Colt and Smith & Wesson brought out their Model 1917s to fire the semiautomatic-pistol cartridge through the use of half-moon clips. With the more recent introduction of full-moon clips, these six-shot revolvers can be reloaded very quickly as long as you have a supply of loaded clips. The original S&W Model 1917 had a detent to hold the cylinder fully open, which helped expedite the reloading process. Recently, revolver maestro Jerry Miculek proved just how fast a 45 revolver can be reloaded. He fired six shots from his gun, dumped the empties, reloaded, and fired six more-all in less than three seconds.We acquired three 45 ACP revolvers, an early S&W Model 625 (Model of 1989) with 4-inch barrel (about $900), a new S&W Model 325 Night Guard with nominal 2.5-inch tube (MSRP $1082), and a Taurus Tracker Model 455 SS4 with 4-inch barrel and integral muzzle brake (about $500). The S&W Model 625 is apparently only available today as a Jerry Miculek Special version at $1011, or as a Performance Center gun with 5.2-inch barrel at a higher but unspecified price. You might also find a 3-inch version of the blued Model 25 as a Dealer Special. Still another S&W 45 ACP revolver is the Thunder Ranch Special, with 4-inch tube and flashlight, for $1335. These last two still appear on the company website. Be aware it might not be easy finding a 4-inch or 5-inch S&W 625 like our test gun. A search of 350 S&W revolvers at the Guns International website (gunsinternational.com) found not one Model 625. The neat, efficient five-shot Taurus was recently discontinued, but you can still find samples here and there.Both the Taurus and S&W 625 had excellent adjustable sights. The Night Guard comes with fixed sights with a tritium insert in the front post. All these revolvers supposedly could be fired with 45 ACP cartridges dropped individually into the chambers, or with full-moon clips, or with 45 Auto Rim cartridges. The two Smiths could also accept the older three-shot, half-moon clips. We tested with Black Hills 230-grain ball, Federal Hi-Shok 185-grain JHP, and Cor-Bon 185-grain JHP. We also tried a few Auto Rim cases handloaded with 260-grain Keith cast bullets, but didnt include them in the formal results. Heres what we found.

Big-Bore Wheelguns: S&Ws Model 625 Is A Classy Choice

It seemssome of the really nice stuff in firearms doesnt last long enough for all good men and women to hear about it, spread the word, and go out and buy it. How many times have we all said, "If only such and such company would make this or that," only to have it pointed out to us that they used to make this or that, no one bought it, so it was dropped from the lineup. Weve encountered several Taurus firearms on the company website and in local gun stores that looked like really good ideas, only to find out theyd been recently discontinued. The same could probably be said of many gun makers who had a product that fit a niche market, failed to promote it sufficiently, and had to stop production. Such is apparently the case with two of the three guns in this report, though one of those two is still available in a specialized form.The concept of a revolver chambered for 45 ACP goes back to WWI, when Colt and Smith & Wesson brought out their Model 1917s to fire the semiautomatic-pistol cartridge through the use of half-moon clips. With the more recent introduction of full-moon clips, these six-shot revolvers can be reloaded very quickly as long as you have a supply of loaded clips. The original S&W Model 1917 had a detent to hold the cylinder fully open, which helped expedite the reloading process. Recently, revolver maestro Jerry Miculek proved just how fast a 45 revolver can be reloaded. He fired six shots from his gun, dumped the empties, reloaded, and fired six more-all in less than three seconds.We acquired three 45 ACP revolvers, an early S&W Model 625 (Model of 1989) with 4-inch barrel (about $900), a new S&W Model 325 Night Guard with nominal 2.5-inch tube (MSRP $1082), and a Taurus Tracker Model 455 SS4 with 4-inch barrel and integral muzzle brake (about $500). The S&W Model 625 is apparently only available today as a Jerry Miculek Special version at $1011, or as a Performance Center gun with 5.2-inch barrel at a higher but unspecified price. You might also find a 3-inch version of the blued Model 25 as a Dealer Special. Still another S&W 45 ACP revolver is the Thunder Ranch Special, with 4-inch tube and flashlight, for $1335. These last two still appear on the company website. Be aware it might not be easy finding a 4-inch or 5-inch S&W 625 like our test gun. A search of 350 S&W revolvers at the Guns International website (gunsinternational.com) found not one Model 625. The neat, efficient five-shot Taurus was recently discontinued, but you can still find samples here and there.Both the Taurus and S&W 625 had excellent adjustable sights. The Night Guard comes with fixed sights with a tritium insert in the front post. All these revolvers supposedly could be fired with 45 ACP cartridges dropped individually into the chambers, or with full-moon clips, or with 45 Auto Rim cartridges. The two Smiths could also accept the older three-shot, half-moon clips. We tested with Black Hills 230-grain ball, Federal Hi-Shok 185-grain JHP, and Cor-Bon 185-grain JHP. We also tried a few Auto Rim cases handloaded with 260-grain Keith cast bullets, but didnt include them in the formal results. Heres what we found.

Big-Bore Revolvers: For Power, Choose Rugers Super Redhawk

In this article we evaluate three guns that make no excuses for their girth. The Smith & Wesson Model 21-4 is a straightforward, large-frame revolver chambered for .44 Special only. Its .45 Colt brother, the Smith & Wesson Model 25-13, is slightly more modern, adding adjustable sights. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan was fit with a longer cylinder, and together with its heavy frame, it is capable of firing .454 Casull as well as .45 Colt ammunition.

Our focus in this test was personal defense from humans and not bears, so we left the Casull rounds at home, but we did test an extra-heavy .45 Colt load from Atlanta Arms and Ammo formulated specifically for Ruger and Thompson Center firearms (). The intention was to split the difference between .454 Casull and more commonly available .45 Colt ammunition. This round featured a 328-grain lead truncated-cone bullet. Our other .45 Colt test rounds were Federal's 225-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoints, Speer's 250-grain Gold Dot Hollowpoints, and another Atlanta Arms and Ammo product topped with a 275-grain lead truncated cone.

For our .44 Special rounds we chose 165-grain JHP rounds from Cor-Bon, Winchester's 200-grain Silvertip HP rounds, and 240-grain Truncated Cone Jacketed ammunition manufactured by Atlanta Arms and Ammo. Test distance was 25 yards from a sandbag rest. We fired single action only to collect hard data, but fired on steel targets double action only to evaluate rapid-fire capability. Limited to six-round capacity, we wanted to know which guns offered the right mix of power, accuracy, and speed. Here's what we learned:

Budget .45 Colt Cowboy Guns: Heritage Comes Up Shooting

According to a number of online dictionaries, there is no definition listed for the term, "cowboy gun." Nevertheless, the popularity of revolvers descending from the Colt Single Action Army has brought new meaning to these words. Since 1999 we have tested at least 18 different handguns that fit what we define as a cowboy gun, and now there are two more entering the market.

The Taurus Gaucho No. SA45B, $499, and the Heritage Manufacturing Big Bore Rough Rider No. RR45B5, $379, are six-shot single-action revolvers each with 5.5-inch barrels and chambered for 45 Colt. Some refer to this 1.6-inch-long straight-walled case with a 0.454-inch diameter bullet as .45 Long Colt, but in either case this caliber did not actually exist in the 19th Century. What is important is that these guns are for pleasure first, and they do not come with big price tags.

But their budget prices don't mean we're going to let them off the hook should they prove wanting in one area or another. Physically, the Gaucho and the Rough Rider could not be closer. Indeed, since they are replica guns, any variation from form, whether a positive innovation or not, would more than likely spoil their appeal. Both guns are dark-blued steel. Both guns have a tall front sight and a rear sighting notch exposed when the hammer is pulled back. Sight radius was equal. Each gun cylinder rotated clockwise, and with the loading gate open, the cylinders clicked with the indexing of each chamber. Ejector-rod movement was approximately 2.7 inches for each gun. The hammers on each gun lacked firing pins, using instead a transfer-bar system for greater safety. The Gaucho featured a plastic grip, but the grip on the Rough Rider was wood. The shape of the bell-shaped grips each started with a wide base that tapered to a 4.1-inch neck. Their weight, size, front strap and back strap height were nearly identical.

With so little to distinguish the two guns, our main concerns in this test were accuracy, fit, and function. Our test distance was 25 yards from a sandbag rest with four different choices of ammunition, two modern and two others sold in boxes decorated with Old West graphics. The modern rounds were Winchester's 225-grain Silvertip hollowpoints and Remington's 225-grain lead semi-wadcutters. The remaining ammunition brands, likely being marketed to Cowboy Action shooters, were 250-grain lead flat-point rounds from PMC and Black Hills Ammunition. We also looked back at other .45 Colt cowboy guns we have tested to see how these two newcomers stacked up within the category overall.

Convertible .45 Revolvers: Ruger and Cimarron Face Off

Ruger's Convertible may be worth the money, but we would pass on the fine Cimarron, whose ACP setup didn't work.

Three Cowboy Action Revolvers: Ruger, Beretta, and Cabelas

We thought Ruger's New Vaquero had teething problems, but we liked Beretta's Stampede. In our estimation, Cabela's Millennium still sets the value standard for .45 LC handguns.

.45 Single-Action Colts and Clones: USFAs Rodeo Is Our Pick

One hundred and thirty years ago Colt's brought out its Model P, also known as the Single Action Army revolver. (For those who wonder, Sam Colt never saw the Model P. He died in 1862.) The company is still making the old thumb-buster, and a host of companies are producing clones of it in what seems to be ever-increasing numbers. The game of Cowboy Action Shooting must surely be one of the main driving forces behind the continued onslaught of fine and finer single actions, but the fact remains that these revolvers are viable sporting, hunting, and even self-defense firearms, and serve their owners in as many capacities as they did in the 1870s.

Magnum Research BFR Revolvers

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.

Big-Bore Snubbies: Taurus and Smith & Wesson Compete

We pit Taurus's small but weighty .45 ACP against S&W's bigger but lighter .44 Special and find two carryable revolvers with plenty of stopping power but surprisingly mild manners.

.45 ACP Wheelguns: We Evaluate Smith & Wesson, Taurus Big Bores

There was a time when a self-defense handgun meant nothing less than a big-bore double-action revolver. While many favored the friendlier .44 Special over its rowdy big brother, the .44 Magnum, popularity of another wide-body cartridge, the .41 Magnum, never quite took off. It was just about this same time that the semi-automatic pistol began making a dent in the self-defense market, and the search for the ultimate revolver cartridge for police use was nearly called off. Although .45 ACP is rarely thought of when considering the purchase of a wheelgun, this venerable round has been filling the chambers of revolvers for longer than most people think. In fact there are characteristics of today's .45 ACP revolvers that in one regard make them a throwback to the 19th century.

Cowboy .45 LC Revolvers: We Dub Cabelas A Best Buy

Picking a .45 hogleg just got easier because Cabela's Millennium is an inexpensive but excellent product, where Colt's and Ruger guns both have drawbacks.

Ruger Vaquero Stomped EMF .45 LC Single Action Revolvers

Not counting variations in barrel length, centerfire calibers or Mason conversions, we added up the number of single actionrevolver models our readers could purchase. The total is 45. Since the gun most models are patterned after, Samuel Colts Single Action Army (S.A.A.), was a .45, that number seems appropriate, if oddly coincidental. Perhaps we missed one or two.

You could mosey in to a Cowboy Action shootout toting any one of those revolvers. Of course, youd also have to participate under an alias and wear appropriate clothing. Getting yourself suitably decked out in the latter could cost more than the shooting iron. But even that hasnt seemed to stunt the growth of these nostalgia...

Hard to Argue

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) said recently that if state agencies and officials around the country who are responsible for issuing concealed-carry licenses or...