Hunting is a personal challenge. It’s hunter versus hunted, and when dangerous game is on the docket, sometimes the roles reverse. When we decided to take a big-bore handgun on safari, Magnum Research’s biggest, finest revolver – the BFR – in the throwback .45-70 Gov’t chambering was the choice. 

Here’s why we made that choice and what you need to know about the ultimate handgun-hunting challenge. 

Video: Hunt Summary



About the BFR in .45-70 Gov’t

If you’re not familiar with the BFR, pay attention now. The BFR is touted by the company as “the most powerful production single action made” with over a dozen production calibers and even more custom chamberings and two frame sizes. If you want to hunt, there’s one that will scratch the itch. 

Magnum Research BFR
I've spent some time with other BFRs in the past, and let's just say the guns and the history are quite interesting and unique. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

This is one of the most well-built wheelguns on the market. From the company of Desert Eagle fame comes this full line of hardcore single-action revolvers. BFR’s are manufactured entirely in the USA, with the barrel marked Pillager, Minnesota. These solid stainless wheelguns are created for hunters in some of the hardest-hitting handgun and rifle rounds. 

RELATED: History of the Magnum Research BFR

While Magnum Research builds handguns for almost any shooter, living up to the “biggest, finest” moniker means going large. Thus, the focus falls upon the company’s “long cylinder” models, which culminate at the big-daddy of them all – our chosen .45-70 Gov’t. Other factory-production long-cylinder calibers include .30-30 Win, .444 Marlin, .460, and .500 S&W. 

BFR Revolver
When I say custom BFRs, I do mean some very, very well-made guns. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Magnum Research .45-70 Gov’t BFR Revolver
But even the tolerances on your standard-production BFR are exceptional. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Meanwhile, the custom shop adds plenty of selections, like .300 AAC Blackout, .307 Win, .375x444 Marlin, .375 Win, .38-55 Win, .445 Super Mag, .450 Bushmaster, .450 Marlin, .458 SOCOM, .45-90 Win, and .499 LWR. 

These five-shot wheelguns tout an unfluted 1.75-inch cylinder. A transfer-bar safety comes standard.  Barrel lengths are available in either 7.5- or 10-inch variants with cut rifling. The finish is a clean, brushed stainless. A black fixed front blade and fully adjustable rear come standard, though the guns ship with a silver Weaver-style scope base. Further, Magnum Research offers an array of fiber-optic front-sight upgrades from the online store.

Why We Chose the BFR for Dangerous Game


Magnum Research .45-70 Gov’t BFR Revolver
A Cape buffalo is hardly an easy animal to hunt. When hunting dangerous game, you need to pick the right firearm. The BFR was that gun for me. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

This is not our first rodeo with a BFR. In fact, over the past years, we’ve owned and shot the gun in .30-30 Winchester as well as a lovely custom shop .375 Winchester/.38-55 Win combination. Thus, when a last-minute opportunity arose for a chance to hunt Cape buffalo with a handgun, packing a BFR was a no-brainer. They’re all-American, built like tanks, stainless steel, smooth, and optics-ready. 

But what chambering would be best? While the aforementioned .375 Win would surely do the job, we were hoping for greater factory ammunition and load availability given the short time to prepare. The venerable, old-school, thumping .45-70 Gov’t would be perfect. 

Magnum Research .45-70 Gov’t BFR Revolver
Yep, it also had no issues with this large, beautiful nyala. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/
Magnum Research .45-70 Gov’t BFR Revolver
And also with this nice springbok. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

We considered alternate options like the S&W Performance Center in .460 S&W – which another camp hunter was packing – but preferred the build of the BFR and the .45-70 option. The wide range of chamberings on a T/C Contender was also appealing, especially in some of the hard-hitting and unique rounds like a .375 JDJ, but the BFR and its five-round capacity won out again. There are Freedom Arms, Taurus, and others that also pack capable rounds, but when you’re comfortable with a gun and the hunt of a lifetime is on the line, don’t change. 

Real-World Field Impressions


Magnum Research .45-70 Gov’t BFR Revolver
Despite harsh conditions and some rough handling at baggage for various flights, the BFR performed flawlessly. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Spoiler alert. There wasn’t a single problem with the BFR on its African adventure. It was smooth, accurate, and practical. It proved more than capable on everything from plains game like nyala and springbok to the major goal of Cape buffalo. We prepared with and packed a mix of ammunition, including Federal Premium Hammer Down – which would be shared with our Henry All-Weather rifle – as well as some heavier lead. 

The BFR ships with a scope base that is mounted by removing the rear iron sight, so it was a snap to add our chosen Leupold M8 straight 2x scope. The gun and chosen ammo were checked for zero after each bush flight or camp move and nothing changed despite what seemed the airline's best efforts. Whether you order a standard factory-production BFR or one of the super-sweet customs from their specialty shop, the action is slick, tolerances tight, and accuracy on point. 

Federal Hammer Down Ammo
There's a reason we went with the hard-hitting Federal Hammer Down .45-70. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

We didn’t shoot and measure multiple groups to split hairs over quarter inches. It didn’t take long to get confident with our chosen loads at the distances we were comfortable – 70-yard max from a solid rest, 40 yards or less from a quick rest on the sticks. To be clear, both gun and ammunition are capable of much greater, but that’s our personal limit. 

We knew the vast majority – if not all – of the shots would come from shooting sticks, so we practiced that way extensively. The gun could be shot offhand in a pinch, but that longer barrel is difficult to steady for any length of time, especially when the adrenaline is rushing. Storing such a hulky handgun can be a trick, but when going on foot after buffalo, we found the Triple K Big Thunder Torso Rig to work well, dissipating the weight and allowing hands-free hiking and glassing. Every other question we’ve been asked about the rig comes down to recoil. 

The Recoil Question


Hunter shooting Henry All-Weather lever action rifle
Sure, the .45-70 is a beefy round even in a Henry All-Weather lever-action rifle – like this one that also joined us on the hunt. But with reasonable expectations and practices, plus the fact our BFR was nearly 7 pounds, it's a fine hunting companion. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/

Yes, the .45-70 Gov’t has some “kick” even in a rifle, and it’s a legitimate handful in a revolver. However, partner expectations with some serious range time, and it can be surprisingly manageable for most. Remember, this is not a light gun. With our scope mounted and a full five-round cylinder, the scale needle nearly hits 7 pounds. That weight certainly helps mitigate recoil. 

Buyers have a choice of either white polymer or black rubberized grips, and we definitely recommend the latter for controlling harder-hitting calibers. Then again, we’ll always advocate for only shooting as much gun as you are confident with and can place shots repeatedly. No matter the size or power of the round, there’s no replacement for correct shot placement. At the end of the day, though, the BFR turns heads and does the job in whatever chambering chosen. We could – and will – take it out for whitetails just as readily as we did Cape buffalo. 

The Key to Handgun Hunting

If you’re a hunter of any kind, we applaud you. But as we’re quickly learning, hardcore handgun hunters are a rare breed, and the increased challenge can and will test the mettle of any hunter, no matter how experienced. That’s especially true when big and dangerous game roam. 

Not once did we question our choice of handgun, its function, or the capability of the chambering. Get a rig that makes you feel confident and allows you to focus 100 percent on the hunt at hand, and the sweet success of a handgun pursuit is literally at your fingertips. 

RELATED: Magnum Research Factory Tour With Select Fire

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