Magnum Caliber Semi-Auto Handguns

(Comparative Reviews By Tony Rumore)





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Desert Eagle

I owned one of the very first production 44 Magnums and fired approximately 5,000 rounds through the pistol. I know others who own the guns and have never had any problems, but my personal gun was not that way. Out of the box, the gun shot WAY high at 25 yards and at 100 yards it was even higher and still going up! With the fixed rear sight, I had to machine it down quite a bit and recut the notch. After that was done, the gun shot dead-on. The trigger was a bit heavy for my taste and crept back significantly. I had trouble shooting long accurate shots off-hand with the factory trigger, however accuracy off the bench was downright awesome. Groups at 25 yards were simple ragged holes and with a scope in place, the ragged hole simply got smaller. Of all the big bore auto's, the DE smokes 'em with accuracy off the bench. My gun was not very reliable however and after trying numerous different load configurations with everything imaginable, the gun would still fail to eject about 1 of every 40 or so rounds. The grip also does not fit my hand very well. It is much nicer than the Wildey or AutoMag V, but worse than the 44 AutoMag or Grizzly in my opinion. The safety lever was very stiff to operate and could not be snapped off with the thumb. This design has since been changed on later models, increasing the size of the lever.



   

AMT AutoMag V

Though I never personally owned this gun, I have shot nearly 500 rounds through a friends gun, and here's the story. The overall finish is very rough and has a real coarse pebbly finish to it. The trigger is odd in that it is very light, but creeps back smoothly before let off. It takes a bit to get used to it, but it can be shot fairly accurately off-hand right out of the box. Accuracy is fairly good and sub 2" groups at 25 yards are common. Recoil is moderate, but then this is quite subjective. If you only shoot 45 ACP's then you'll think it is fierce. If you shoot a 454 Casull everyday, then it is quite moderate. This particular gun had some problems however. The firing pin broke after about 200 rounds, and the hammer spring lightened up to the point that the gun experienced light primer strikes. Also, the slide would routinely lock back with rounds remaining in the magazine, until the last one, then it would close. Exactly backward of how it should work. The grip on the gun is rather short and my hand tended to overflow under the rear corner of the frame. After shooting a bunch of rounds it started to gouge into my flesh a bit. Reliability other than the slide locking back was very good and I cannot remember ever having a feeding or ejection failure.



   

44 AutoMag

This pistol has very small grip for a magnum autoloader and in fact is smaller in circumference than a Glock 17 9mm. It is very well made and caliber conversions require only a barrel swap to go between the 44AMP, 41 JMP, 357 AMP, 30 LMP, etc. This gun has the best design to facilitate caliber swaps since the sights remain on the barrels, hence there is no need to resight the gun after going to a different barrel. Sights are very nice, as is the trigger and overall handling characteristics of the pistol. This is the easiest of the magnum autos to hit long range targets off-hand. Though the DE is more accurate off the bench, the AutoMag is more accurate when the operator must hand hold the piece. This is mostly due to the superb trigger and better grip ergonomics than the DE. Drawbacks to the AutoMag are that it is not easily scoped and since the barrel moves back and forth during cycling it tends to break scopes in the heavier calibers. Obviously, ammunition is a problem if you do not reload, but if you are a reloader, 44 AMP brass is now available from Starline. Also, all of the necked down calibers use a thick neck, so there is no need to inside neck ream when forming the cases, even down to the 30 LMP. Reliability of the AutoMag is good, but not perfect. Mine tends to have an ejection failure approximately 1 in 150 rounds or so. I have shot a couple of hogs with this gun, one at 55 yards with a 6.5" 41 JMP barrel and one at 85 yards with a 8.5" 41 AMP barrel, both iron sighted off-hand. This is a very nice gun and if you are an experimenter, hand loader, and basic gun nut, this is the magnum pistol for you. If you want to buy off the shelf ammo and shoot your gun all day every day, this is not a good choice since the gun does require more maintenance than others.



   

Connan 357

I have shot a friend's pistol approximately 1000 rounds and this is a neat small package. The grip is slightly longer front to back than a 1911 but works identical. The magazine appears kind of cheesy, but works fine, and the gun is extremely reliable. I have heard others say they are not, but this particular sample runs fine. Accuracy is fair and 5 shot groups at 25 yards run about 3". Not great for long range shooting, but OK for playing around. If you just want to shoot 357's I would go with the Coonan rather than an oversized Desert Eagle or LAR Grizzly, provided recoil doesn't bother you. Since the Coonan is much lighter than the DE or LAR, it recoils quite a bit more as well. In exchange for more recoil you get a gun than can be easily carried comfortably all day.



   

LAR Grizzly

I owned a very early model which had a red tinted frame and I shot several thousand rounds through it in both 45 Win Mag and 357 magnum. I also put about 500 rounds through a friends 50AE Grizzly and about 200 rounds through another friends 10" long slide 357/45 Win Mag. The trigger pull on these guns all need a little tuning to get the slight creep out, but being a 1911 it is no problem and well tuned, the trigger is exceptional. The guns all function very reliably and work just like a very well tuned crispy 1911 45 ACP. The grip is rather large and feels longer and narrower than the Desert Eagle. Accuracy is very good, but not quite like a Desert Eagle or 44 AutoMag. Recoil is probably the heaviest of all of the big bore autos and in my opinion the 6.5" 45 Win Mag configuration recoils the most, even more than the 50AE. Keep in mind, the 50AE is a larger and heavier gun than its 45 WinMag brother and seems to produce lower recoil velocity despite firing the larger cartridge. When shooting very hot loads through the 45 Win Mag, the gun has a tendency to twist up and left in your hand. If you do not have a good grip on it, or have rather small hands it can get away from you and rotate nearly perpendicular to your target after firing. I kind of like shooting a big nasty recoiling gun myself, it just seems so much more invigorating than shooting a little popgun. The 10 inch long slide Grizzly has no where near the tendency to spin sideways in your hand and makes the gun very mild to shoot especially in 357/45 WinMag caliber. These guns do tend to pound the recoil spring guide to pieces. This part must be replaced about every 1000 rounds due to it mushrooming out where it is slammed between the slide and the frame. The 357/45 Win Mag is basically a 357 AutoMag, but LAR runs a thinner neck wall, so the 357 AMP round won't chamber. This causes the reloader to inside neck ream the cases whereas in the 357 AMP, you just buy Starline 44 AMP brass and neck it down as-is. All in all, a very nice gun, and one worth having around. Unfortunately, LAR stopped production recently, so those spare parts which are not common to the standard 1911 will be very difficult to find. Caliber swaps are very easily accomplished, however they do require resighting the gun for each one, since each barrel locks up in the slide a bit differently.



   

Schutzen Pistol Works 40 Super

This is a fairly new creation which I have been shooting since April of 1998. I have both a 5" and a 6" gun. It is basically a custom 1911 45 with a 40 Super barrel installed. The cartridge is basically a 45 Win Mag, shortened to 10mm and necked to .40 caliber and factory ammo is now available from Triton Cartridge. The first prototype cases were made with large primer pockets and were head stamped 45 Colt" and the second lot was head stamped 45 Win Mag" despite them both being dimensionally similar to a 45 Win Mag cut to 10mm length. The third run of cases were then completed with the small rifle primer pocket and were necked down to .40 caliber as well has having the Triton 40 Super head stamp affixed. It will heave a 135gr bullet at 1700fps, a 165gr at 1600fps, and a 200gr at 1400fps from a 5" barrel. If you run the numbers on this, the 165gr puts out over 900 foot pounds of energy, all from a 1911 size gun. Whether or not the pistol will survive this punishment for thousands of rounds is unknown since I have only fired about 2,000 rounds through my two pistols. The five inch gun is S/N 400CB-0002, ie the second production 400 CorBon gun and the 6" is S/N 40SUPER-01. Accuracy is outstanding and I have shot several groups under 1.5" at 50 yards. That's 50, not 25! Last year I shot a small 100- pound hog using the 6" gun with a 200gr XTP moving at 1425fps and it dropped immediately.



   

Wildey

After firing approximately 2,000 rounds through my 8" barreled 45 Win Mag pistol S/N 1109, here are my conclusions. The grip is very wide and square and it makes you feel like you are hanging on to a 2x4. After firing 100 or so rounds, the gun would actually open up a wound on my hand where the corner of the grip repeatedly pounded the web of my hand. The trigger pull was also very poor. The double action loaded up terribly and produced light primer strikes most of the time. The single action trigger pull weight was fine, but the overtravel was substantial. This extreme overtravel condition made it very difficult to shoot the gun accurately off-hand. Accuracy was decent, not as good as a Desert Eagle or 44 AutoMag, but much better than your typical 1911 pistol. The gas system must be tuned exactly to the correct "click" or the gun will jam. The gas port must be adjusted so the slide gets blasted all the way back, but too hard, too fast, and the gun will jam. This is one gun where you pick a single load to shoot and leave it at that. Also, as different people hold the gun differently, you will need to make slight gas adjustments for each person. Also, though it never occurred when I shot the gun, others who did, experienced the heel type magazine release dropping the magazine on the ground with every shot they fired. The gun also tended to eject the brass straight into my forehead unless I shot the gun left-handed. This is a one man, one load, type of gun. In order to scope the weapon, you must drill and tap the aluminum barrel rib and screw on the mount. The instructions and drawings that come from Wildey are incorrect and you are basically on your own to figure out where exactly to punch the holes. You will also need to go to a specialty hardware/fastener shop to get the correct screws, since the ones that come with the mount are incorrect. Also, the rib on the gun is not exactly parallel to the barrel bore, so if you place the scope mount "centered up" on the rib, the scope will be cocked to the point you are unable to sight it in without running out of adjustment on the scope. With the scope in place, the gun does tend to function a bit more reliably and it looks rather cool. The external quality of the machine work on the Wildey is very nice and the gun looks outstanding, but down inside, the machine work is rather poor. In 1995 I spanked a 250-pound hog with the gun using the 260-grain Speer bullet backed by a large dose of H110. Hit slightly behind the shoulder at about 65 yards the hog ran about 40 yards and fell over.



   

Overall Assessment

As is with everything else, each particular gun is different, and everyone will have a different opinion. The proceeding is simply my own experience not intended to be god's gift of wisdom to mankind by any means. If you are an advanced gun and reloading enthusiast the original 44 AutoMag is top gun. It is the only magnum gun that can be caliber swapped without having to adjust the sights. Granted, you can get lucky if two barrels are exactly the same in the other guns, but there is no luck required in the AutoMag design. If you are an enthusiast who wishes not to spend countless hours screwing around with your guns and ammunition, the Desert Eagle is probably your best choice, given the spare parts problems now created with the Grizzly production stoppage. Prior to this, I would have given the nod to the LAR Grizzly. If you plan to scope your magnum auto, then there is only one choice and that is the Desert Eagle. The others can be done, but no where near as easily. The Schuetzen 40 Super is a superb pistol, but I have not shot it enough to tell you whether it will stay in one piece taking the pounding of thousands of rounds of hot ammo. The recoil spring is a twin 30 pound affair, but this may not be all that is required to keep the gun running through thousands of rounds. Only time will tell.