Thursday, December 17, 2009

FLGN Goes Big Bore

With the possibility of a deployment ahead, I've begun budgeting for some "I love me" presents. Near the top of the list is a big bore revolver. Thirty years ago you had one choice: the .44 Remington Magnum of Dirty Harry fame. But today, the .44 mag isn't "the most powerful handgun in the world"--probably not even in the top 5 anymore!

Then one day, the designers and engineers at Smith & Wesson stopped taking their meds. The result was the .500 S&W Magnum and the .460 S&W Magnum, which are ridiculous. My first thought was the .500. Who doesn't want a .50 caliber handgun? But ammo--even reloads--will eventually bankrupt you. Then I considered the .460 S&W Magnum, which is actually a tiny bit more powerful than the .500 mag at some bullet weights. The .460 is actually almost practical because it can fire .454 Casull and .45 Colt also. But to switch rounds, you have to thoroughly clean the cylinder because the shorter .45 Colt and .454 can leave powder and lead deposits which will make extraction nearly impossible for longer rounds. No big deal if you pay attention and maintain your firearms--which you'd better because X-Frame S&W revolvers (the .500 and .460) start at about $1100.

The problem with the X-Frame is that you only get five shots. The cylinder had to give up the sixth round to make it strong enough to withstand the nearly 60,000 PSI created by pulling the trigger. The 5" barreled model, which is the one I'd have, weighs in at 62.5 ounces. That's nearly four pounds, which could get old in a strong-side hip holster. Especially when you consider that .460 S&W can shoot rounds that weigh in at nearly two ounces each (complete rounds--the bullet weight tops out at 395 grains), so loaded weight would be nearer to five pounds. The .460 S&W is an amazing firearm, but a bit too expensive for me, and I have a sinking feeling I wouldn't really want to pack it around that much.

So I took a second look at the .44 magnum, and started to really like what I saw. I found a load from IMR's website that said I could use the same HP-38 and Winchester 231 powder I use in my .38SPL, .45ACP, and .45 Colt. The powder charge was very economical, but still drove a 240gr cast lead bullet to nearly 1400 feet per second, which yields 900ft/lbs of kinetic energy. (Of course, the .460 can generate nearly 2500ft/lbs.) In fact, the .44mag I want is shockingly practical. Behold:
This is a S&W Model 629-4". It retails for about $700 to $750, which is still fairly expensive, but consider that a revolver looks a lot like a Rolex inside and you start to understand why they're so expensive. This one has enough barrel to preserve a lot of the muzzle velocity of the .44mag, but be light and handy enough to carry everywhere, but still hefty enough to soak up some recoil at 41 ounces. It's almost boring in its practicality. Being made of stainless steel, it should be pretty easy to clean up and resistant to rust. It measures just 9 5/8" from end to end, so I might just be able to carry it concealed, though that would be more likely in Iowa's arctic winters than our fairly tropical summers. But I could certainly find space for it while hunting or enjoying a walk in the woods. Reloads would be cheap enough that I could actually go plink with full-house mag loads.

Now to develop a plan to convince my wife to let me get it....


Anonymous said...

I hope Santa treated you well. Saw your entry re: Hand Cannons, and since you are talking about the possibility of carrying one, felt compelled to throw in my unsolicited .50 cents worth.

I've owned a couple of HC over the years, in part for some of the reasons you stated. I've learned that my preferred carry load is in .44 special with .45 LC a close second, but nobody then (or now) makes a six-round, stainless, snub-nosed wheel gun for either round.

S&W got close. They had a Model 29 with a 2.5 inch barrel, and an option on either fluted or uncut cylinder. I had one for quite a while, originally unported. I'd put a box of some sort of magnum/rocket load through it every once in a while, just for the hell of it. The port job took my shooting .44 special up a notch, and made the .44 mag sessions comical, at best.

While S&W still refuses to pull their head out of their ass on the subject of adjustable sites, now you have C&S Speed Sites, a drop-in, fixed rear site for about $120. However, S&W doesn't make the gun anymore.

I don't know how big/tall you are, but, at 6'/190#, I could only conceal the thing under an LAPD issue motorcycle jacket. Otherwise, the weapon would print. Badly. A model 29 w/4 inch barrel? I hope you like shoulder rigs.

Good luck on the quest.

DC Houghton, esq. said...

I went to a gun show a couple of weeks ago and got to handle a 629-4, and yeah, I think my statements regarding concealed carry might have been a bit....optimistic. I'm 6' 160, but can come near hiding my 63-4 K-frame, but an N-frame is a whole different animal.

Charter Arms, in its newest incarnation, is making the Bulldog .44spl again. I almost bought one a while back, but kept reading WILDLY differing reviews on them. Half said it was the best thing they'd ever owned, while the other half said they would never own one again. Very few in between.

It's been a while since I heard anything out of Charter. G&A did a write up on their equivalent of a J-frame about a year ago. Of course they loved them. Weird how gun mags always love the guns they review....

DC Houghton, esq. said...

That's 64-3, not model 63-4. Mine's a DAO police trade-in. Still shoots straight though.

Anonymous said...

I've looked over the current (3.0) production of Charter Arms. In my opinion, they are now up to Just Suck, as opposed to the old days, when they Sucked Camel Schlong.

Build quality is questionable, functionality dicey (the crane on the Bulldog is about as stupidly thought out as the ejector on a Ruger wheelgun). I'm not happy with any of it, from lockup to drift.

I've fired a couple over the years, and always came away relieved that they didn't blow up in my hand. I'm sure I was never in any _real_ danger, but there was nothing about their guns that made me feel at ease.

I've had a couple of Taurus revolvers, and they have been great. Build, fit and finish, materials, and mechanicals are all good. And they price lower than S&W.

Looking at their web site, it seems like they are replacing their Total Titanium line with "Ultralite", which is titanium & alloy. They show a 6-shot, 2-inch barrel .44 mag in all titanium. That tells me the alloy parts are probably magnesium based.

I haven't seen these in person. I guess I'll have to go to the gun show this weekend and look around. Now if they make one in .44 special or .45 LC...

They have a six-shot, 2-inch barrel in stainless steel, in both .44 Mag & .454 Casull (adjustable sights, so, I'll pass).

I recently got a 64-7. It looks a little different than the 64 3" currently pictured: Mine has a heavy barrel like the old 65, with the big, roller stamped font that you see on some of the Performance Center stuff (mine is not). It has "SMITH & WESSON" on one side, and ".38 S&W SPL. +P" on the other. I got it NIB, and it can't be too old: it has the cut down cylinder latch button, and the insert point for the safety key right above it. I replaced the Uncle Mike's that came with it for some Hogue rubber.

Like you, my S&W is about the biggest thing I can get away with on a semi-casual conceal (no way in the summer). Any bigger, and I'd have to wear a jacket all the time. No thanks.