The 10 Most Powerful Handguns

The 10 Most Powerful Handguns

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Mathew R Reed
August 19, 2021
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The average handgun has a reputation for being minimal power but maximum convenience, and when you’re thinking of the most powerful weapons out there, they rarely make the cut.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some out there capable of blasting the competition and being the exception to the rule.

What are the most powerful handguns? Some of the better-known powerful handguns include the Magnum Research Desert Eagle, Smith and Wesson Model 29, and the Ruger Super Redhawk.

The cartridge used with the gun will also impact its power so it’s not all about the firearm when figuring out a firearm’s worth.

If you want the portability of a handgun with the performance of an assault rifle, there are some names you need to learn.

We’re here to look at the most powerful handguns, where they’re commonly used, and their top features, so you can see what they have to offer.

How Is A Handgun’s Power Measured?

How Is A Handgun’s Power Measured?

Before we can dive into our list of powerful weapons, we need to know what exactly determines a handgun’s strength.

Although most assume that the muzzle velocity and energy is the only factor, it’s best to look at the pounds per square inch of pressure that the barrel’s chamber creates.

The cartridge used with a handgun can determine how much pressure is generated as well, and compared to the guns of yesteryear, today’s weapons are even more impressive.

With that in mind, we’ve looked at the power potential of handguns and the cartridges they utilize, to get an all-around look at their capabilities.

The Most Powerful Handguns on The Planet

A handgun is a pretty commanding little device given how compact it is, and gone are the days when these weapons were only used for concealed carry.

If you want to know which handguns are the most serious at providing power and performance, we’ve counted down the top contenders that made our list.

#1 Ruger Super Redhawk

#1 Ruger Super Redhawk

The Super Redhawk was created in 2003 and originally chambered for the .480 Ruger, which was a more compact alternative to the .475 Linebaugh.

The goal for this wheelgun was to be somewhere between a powerful .454 Casull and .44 Mag, but with a lot less recoil and better accuracy, and that’s exactly what it achieved.

The Super Redhawk comes with a 7.5-inch barrel and overall weight of 53oz so it’s one of the lightest and smallest on our list, without sacrificing power. 

What’s most impressive about it though is that Hornady’s .480 cartridges can fly out of it at a speed of 1,350 feet per second and produce 1,315 feet per pound of muzzle energy.

This Ruger is capable of stopping just about anything you put in front of it, and all the while you barely feel a thing.

#2 Taurus Raging Bull

#2 Taurus Raging Bull

The Taurus 454 Raging Bull is a gun that needs no introduction, but if you’ve never heard of it, get ready to be impressed.

This double action revolved is made from stainless steel, it has a 6.- inch barrel, and 53oz weight, and is so powerful that it’s suitable for taking down the largest game you could imagine.

This is one of the only guns out there that can fire the .454 Casull as it’s meant to be fired, and it does so with an impressive 1,900 feet per second speed.

Better still, it delivers 1,923-foot pounds of muzzle energy with as little as 240 grains of weight.

#3 Smith & Wesson Model 29

#3 Smith & Wesson Model 29

The gun made famous by Dirty Harry is a striking beast when chambered in .44 Magnum, and although it’s not the most powerful on our list, its reputation is that it’s most efficient in how much energy it generates in relation to pressure.

The .44 Magnum is capable of firing a 300-grain bullet as fast a 1,325 feet per second and creating 1,118-foot pounds of energy from the muzzle, and with only 36,000 psi.

Although they can be a little hard to handle, their recoil is impressive for what they’re capable of, and the Model 29 in a .44 Magnum has earned itself a place on our list.

#4 Smith & Wesson 500

#4 Smith & Wesson 500

Smith and Wesson are no strangers to lists of most powerful handguns, and it’s because of creations like their 500 double action, an ultra-magnum revolver that they’re always on top.

Chambered for the .500 S&W Mag. Cartridge and with weights from just 300 grains, you can fire at around 2,075 feet per second.

One of the standout features of this gun is its price, and because it’s been made with an internal barrel sleeve that’s placed between the frame and barrel shroud, it’s cheaper to manufacture but also more accurate to fire.

You’ll get five rounds, recoil absorbing grip, and adjustable sights as well, making it a smart investment if you’re after a powerful pistol.

The muzzle energy of this handgun is even more impressive, rated around 2,868-foot-pounds, making it some of the most forceful on our list for something in this price range.

The main purpose of the Smith & Wesson 500 is to hunt large and dangerous game, so it’s a tad too powerful to be a concealed carry self-defense weapon.

#5 Smith & Wesson 460XVR

#5 Smith & Wesson 460XVR

The 460XVR, or Extreme Veolicty Revolver, is another double-action revolver with a lot of speed and power, and it towers over the competition in size.

With an 8.38 inch ported barrel and 72.2oz weight, as well as adjustable sights and rubber grip, it’s no surprise that people use it to hunt dangerous game species and have no issue taking them down with expert accuracy.

The best cartridge for the 460XVR is the .460 S&W, designed by Smith & Wesson and Hornday for this very purpose.

However, it also takes .45 Long Colt and .454 Casull if you want to mix things up a bit, and while they do a fine job, the speed and power won’t be as impressive as the original.

This double action gun holds the record for firing the fastest bullet in the world on a commercially available handgun.

With just a 200 grain it reaches speeds of 2,300 feet per second, with 2,350-foot-pounds of energy from the muzzle.

#6 Triple Action Thunder

#6 Triple Action Thunder

Although technically not in production or available for commercial buyers, the Triple Action Thunder was first revealed in 2004 by the manufacturer, who was proud to show off their powerful single-shot pistol.

With a large 13.2 inch barrel and hefty weight of 12lbs, it’s no surprise that the Thunder has already earned the reputation that it has, even if nobody can get their hands on one.

Preliminary testing showed that the Triple Action Thunder can fire a .50 caliber full metal jacket projectile at around 3,044 feet per second.

Not only is the speed impressive though, because its muzzle energy rates at up to 14,895-foot-pounds, which is far more than anything on our list is capable of where energy is concerned.

#7 Freedom Arms 83

#7 Freedom Arms 83

Although this handgun won’t have the name recognition of some of our other powerful picks, it’s got the goods to be on the list.

Model 83 is a semi-custom stainless-steel handgun created by Freedom Arms, and it comes chambered in .454 Casull, .465 Linebaugh, and .500 Wyoming Express, as well as a range of barrel sizes.

The Freedom Arms 83 can fire a .475 caliber round and pick up speeds of 1,400 feet per second and achieve muzzle energy of 1,741-foot-pounds.

This makes it one of the most powerful guns not just on the planet, but on our list as well.

#8 Magnum Research BFR

#8 Magnum Research BFR

The Biggest Finest Revolver (BFR) is one of the only single-action revolvers on our list but just as powerful as the rest, and chambered for .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, and .500 S&W, just to name a few.

Originally designed for hunting large game and military use, the stainless steel handgun is a work of art.

The BFR by Magnum Research comes in varying barrels lengths and weights to suit every user.

To get the most out of it, firing a .458 caliber bullet weighing just 300 grains from this gun will reach a muzzle velocity of 2,069 feet per second, and 2,852lbs of muzzle energy.

#9 Encore Pro Hunter

#9 Encore Pro Hunter

One look at this gun and you’ll see an exciting combination between a single-shot pistol and a single-shot rifle, although it’s technically classed as the former.

The Encore Pro Hunter was designed by Thompson Center and can be chambered in a number of cartridges like the .223 Remington and .458 Win. Mag, giving you a little bit of everything.

The Encore Pro Hunter was designed with the standard Encore frame from Thompson Center, which is where it gest the half pistol half rifle look.

Extras on the gun include a rubber recoil grip and adjustable sights, with accuracy that is second to none.

The Encore Pro Hunter works best with the .458 Win Mag., originally used for hunting dangerous game.

With this bullet, you’ll be able to reach speeds of 2,605 feet per second with a 300-grain version and generate around 5,446 foot-pounds of energy.

Seeing these statistics and it’s no wonder it’s used to take down the size game that it does.

#10 Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mark XIX

#10 Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mark XIX

The Desert Eagle Mark XIX was first developed in 1988 and it features a seven-round magazine and gas-operated piston that gives it a lot of its power but also reduces the potential recoil that might be felt by the shooter.

As well as being powerful, the Desert Eagle Mark XIX also holds the title of the firer of the largest centerfire cartridge in any magazine-fed semi, also known as the .50AE.

This semi-automatic handgun has a six-inch barrel and holds seven rounds and it uses four locking lugs and a rotating bolt to fire its larger rounds.

This handgun fires a .452 caliber bullet that can travel speeds of 1,475 feet per second and with 1,517-foot-pounds of energy, which is amazing for its size.

With a weight of 72 ounces and a barrel length of six inches, the Desert Eagle Mark XIX is one of the largest semi-automatics out there, and extremely powerful when you need it.

Related Questions

Handguns come in all shapes, sizes, and specifications, so there’s really no limit to what these firearms can achieve.

To find out more about the versatile handgun and see if it’s worthy enough for your arsenal, check out these commonly asked questions and our expert answers to get the basics.

Is Concealed Carry Legal in the US?

Concealed carry is legal in all 50 states of the United States, but there are some restrictions in place.

Some states require that a permit must be held to conceal carry and others restrict the type of firearm that can be carried, so you need to familiarize yourself with the legislation in your area.

How Many Rounds Can a Handgun Hold?

The round capacity of a handgun depends entirely on the type and the design and placement of the magazine, with everything ranging from a single shot to 17 rounds.

Most modern pistols hold up to the higher end of the scale however revolvers only hold around six or seven shots.

What is The Oldest Handgun?

The Heilongjiang hand cannon is regarded as the oldest handgun, with researchers believing it dates back to 1288.

This firearm was discovered in the Acheng District of Northern China and was supposedly used during the battles that were fought in that area in the thirteenth century.

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Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of ArmorHoldings.com and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.