When somebody says they bought a .30-30 or .45-70, the first question is “what kind of rifle did ya get?” Magnum Research offers a different and much more intriguing answer to that question with their hardcore line of Big Frame Revolvers.
From the company of Desert Eagle fame comes this full line of over-built, serious single action revolvers. These solid stainless wheelguns are intended for hard use in any kind of conditions. While there are versions for all types of shooters, the bread-and-butter of the line centers around what the company calls the “long cylinder” models, and those babies are made for hunters. Best of all, the BFR’s are manufactured entirely in the USA.
Though the BFR’s are not new, there are some recent re-design changes, including an upgraded rear sight, as well as slight changes to both the hammer shape and grip. Long cylinder calibers include .30-30 Win, .45-70, .444 Marlin, .460, and .500 S&W.
Barrel lengths are available in either 7.5- or 10-inch variants with cut rifling, with overall lengths at 15- and 17.5-inches respectively. Finish is a clean, brushed stainless, with solid stainless steel construction. A black fixed front blade and fully adjustable rear come standard, though factory BFR’s come with a matched-silver Weaver style scope base.
This five-shooter’s rounds fill a stout, unfluted 1.75 inch cylinder. A transfer bar safety comes standard. Choices abound, though, with standard or Bisley grip frames, and a plethora of custom options from Magnum Research. The massive revolvers are built at the company’s Pillager, MN factory, so marked on the barrel.
The BFR is touted by the company as “the most powerful production single action made” with a dozen calibers in total and two frame sizes. With our focus on the biggest of the big, however, the BFR long cylinders retail for $1,302.
Our test BFR is the long cylinder, ten-inch barreled wheelgun in the .30-30 chambering. We opted for the rubberized grips over the faux ivory, for greater grip and controllability on a hunting handgun. The BFR balances surprisingly well and just plain feels like a well-built machine. Trigger pull is incredibly crisp for a single action hunting revolver, with our test gun’s trigger breaking with regularity just over three pounds on our Lyman digital pull gauge. Twist rate on our .30-30 is 1-in-10-inch twist. Tolerances on this thing are tight, evidenced by both fit-and-finish, lockup, and close examination of the parts. Function is incredibly smooth, from cylinder rotation to hammer cocking, and trigger pull.
One interesting feature on the BFR is the ability of the cylinder to rotate in either direction with the loading gate open. Though we didn’t experience any, should there be a malfunction, reversing the direction of the cylinder could easily clear it up. Another big plus on these newer BFR’s is the factory drilled and tapped top strap, whereas earlier versions came without holes. All of the pluses, as sweet as they are, need to be backed up with reliability and accuracy, and that’s where the BFR shines even brighter.
We fired a nice mix of factory ammunition, including Hornady LeveRevolution 140-grain Monoflex, Winchester Super-X 150-grain PowerPoint, Hornady 160-grain FTX, and our first rounds, the Hornady Custom Lite Reduced Recoil 150-grain RN. Because we didn’t know what to expect in terms of recoil and controllability on the BFR, we started out the session with Hornady’s Custom Lite. The results were surprising in an incredibly pleasing way. Not only was the BFR right on target, but the single action was a treat to shoot.
It sounds crazy to say, but recoil from a .30-30 handgun was significantly less than the single action army-style .44 Mag we worked up just prior. In fact, the hottest hunting loads through the BFR were no concern at all, in either bark or bite. Even better, all were on target, and that’s with iron sights. Being well-built and a meaty 5.3 pounds doesn’t hurt, of course. The BFR handles lead or jacketed bullets just the same.
We “sighted-in” and adjusted our irons at 50 yards. We averaged 1.5-inch five shot groups in a stiff crossing wind. That’s also accounting for the occasional flyers caused by operator error. Groups opened up considerably at 100 yards to almost 3-inch groups, but we account that much more to shooter limitations with the iron sights than the gun.
With a scope mount, we have no doubt those groups would tighten up considerably, likely inside of 2 inches. Shooting offhand is a chore given the guns weight, but it is right at home on shooting sticks, where we made use of our Primos Monopod Trigger Stick.
Hits and wishes
The only thing we’d like to see is a touch of color on the front sight. Lining up the black ramp front with the un-outlined black rear is not a rapid acquisition in the field. That’s an easy enough home fix for those so inclined to add a touch of sight paint. Furthermore, the majority of hunters will be using a scope instead. There’s not another point of contention on the BFR. The big frame, biggest finest, big effin’ revolver is a homerun.
Though even our longer-barreled BFR has an obviously shorter barrel than rifles and carbines, and there may be some unburned powder or a drop-off in velocity from a rifle-length barrel, the BFR is still capable of reaching out to take game at distances of 100-yards and beyond in the .30-30 chambering. Surprisingly, even after significant firing, our BFR remained quite clean. Shooters needn’t expect a break-in time on the BFR from Magnum Research. No sirree. This beast comes out of the box smooth, tight, and with the buttery feel of a wheelgun you’ve worked for years.
One heckuva of a revolver
Whether you pull the BFR out of the box or hand it to someone on the range, there’s one smile. Then, when they pull the trigger on those long cylinder hunting rounds, the grin grows wider still. Bottom line, Magnum Research has planted themselves firmly at the heart of the hunting revolver market with single actions like our .30-30 and larger sibling .45-70.
Not only do these guns make one heckuva statement, but they back it up with performance and quality. Hunters will love the company’s tagline that the BFR’s can “take anything from grouse to grizzly.” Of that I have no doubt, but with our .30-30, I think we’ll stick to game a little on the larger size, and the BFR will put them in the freezer.