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Wednesday, June 18, 2014 • Posted June 19, 2014

The Big Texan steakhouse in Amarillo, Texas is famous for its 72oz. steak. Anyone who can eat one in an hour gets it free. Don’t eat it all and you have to pay for it. Which seems fair.

Smith & Wesson has a similar deal. They have a 72oz. revolver. I don’t have any idea what you get if you eat one in an hour, but every time I pick one of them up I think, boy, I’d better be careful not to drop this thing on my foot. I don’t know how many pounds 72oz. is, but I know it’s enough to make you hop around and limp for a while.

The S&W 500, chambered for the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum cartridge, is currently the largest caliber production handgun in the world. It’s a fifty caliber beast that, at close range, would probably do more emotional damage to a crook before it was shot than physical damage afterward. And that’s saying a lot, since the 500 has the power of five .357 Magnum rounds. Five. It’s like someone at Smith said, “You know how, in the movies, when someone gets shot they fly backwards? Isn’t that silly? Why don’t we make a gun that will really do that?” And they did.

The .357 offers about 500 foot pounds of energy. The .44 Magnum about 900, the .454 Casull around 1900. And no one except people who walk around with their arms sticking out to show off their muscles pretends to enjoy shooting the Casull. And they’re lying. But the .500 S&W Magnum tips off 2600 foot pounds of energy. It’s like grabbing an Angus bull by the nose and pulling the trigger. Well, if a bull had a trigger. You know.

When Kevin Jarnagin had talked me into shooting just about everything Smith makes at the gun range down near McAllen a few weeks ago, he handed me the 500. Actually, since I’ve shot the beast before, I wasn’t really looking to shoot it again. But I looked at Kevin, and he was grinning at me hopefully, so I couldn’t say no. Besides, if I asked for more .45s to feed to the beautiful Smith 1911s I’d already shot, I was afraid Kevin would cut me off. I have a hard time putting down 1911s, espeically when I’m shooting someone else’s ammo.

The first time I shot the 500 was at a Texas Outdoor Writers Assn. conference several years ago. As I aimed the beast downrange and planted my right foot behind me, holding the monster up with both hands, I thought, “I’m gonna wake up in ICU in three weeks and learn that someone else is using my birthday because they didn’t think I’d need it anymore.”

But the 500 honestly doesn’t kick as bad as I expected. Oh, it kicks, but it doesn’t seem to kick anywhere near five times as much as a .357. It doesn’t even kick as bad as the .44 Magnum, which has less than half the energy. But it’s still not what you’d call gentle.

One thing that makes the 500 easier to handle, I think, is its weight. The heavier the gun, the more recoil is absorbed by the frame itself. If the 500 weighed a ton it wouldn’t move when shot. Of course, it wouldn’t move when it wasn’t shot, either. So there’s a limit, but the 500 is a pretty heavy gun, and looks about the size of a Christmas ham.

Another thing that lessens recoil is a muzzle brake, and the 500 I shot in McAllen had one. It redirects some of the blast backward, which pushes the gun forward, and softens the kick. But a muzzle brake also redirects noise backward, toward where the shooter’s ears are located, assuming he or she is a normal human. So it’s louder. And it’s already real loud.

But I had to shoot the 500 in McAllen, again, even though I’d shot it before, because I’d found out that my wife had shot it that morning. Smith had offered a Ladies Only range session, and Jocelynn rarely passes up a chance to shoot guns, especially with someone else’s ammo. She’s had some training at Delta Red in San Saba, and now she takes every opportunity to get more familiar with more guns. So when she got a chance to shoot the ‘Big Un’ she took it.

When I asked her what she thought, Jocelynn said, “It wasn’t that bad. It didn’t kick as much as I expected.” I asked her if she’d like to have one to carry around, but she demurred. “No, I don’t think I can find a purse with wheels on it.”

So I shot the 500 again, and immediately realized that my left earplug wasn’t in good. So my bad ear is now my good ear. I’m thinking of putting a 72oz. steak on it, and see if that helps.

Jocelynn is pretty put out with me, since she tells me all the time not to pull bonehead stuff like that. Now she’s not talking to me at all. At least, not that I’m aware . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who believes the ATF should require a permit to own a firearm WITHOUT a suppressor. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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