In search of the ultimate hunting revolver

While I really like all the avenues of hunting and the different hunting weapons used, I must admit that hunting with a handgun has really become my favorite passion. That’s why a dozen years ago, I decided to finally take the plunge and invest in a dream that I had been harboring for some time. Some hunters, when they reach a certain stage in their life (such as when the last of three children is finally in college) may decide to finally buy that long thought-out (and probably expensive) bow, rifle, or shotgun. ).

For me, of course, this desired item should be what I personally consider to be the ultimate hunting revolver.


The person who most influenced my deep affection for handgun hunting was the late Larry Kelly, founder of Mag-Na-Port International, a Michigan-based company in Harrison Township near Mount Clemens. Larry (deceased December 2010) developed the process of carrying gun muzzle to tame recoil and created many customization features to further improve performance and handling characteristics. (For example, the magnum snub nose revolvers made today, and designed for the ultimate protection of a fisherman or hiker from big bears, were originally created and customized by Mag-Na-Port. )

Larry Kelly began hunting handguns shortly after his marriage. His passion at the time was to pursue local rabbits with beagles, and he had already switched from a shotgun to a .22 rifle to add more challenge to the hunt when his wife gave him a gift, a nine-shot .22 H&R revolver. From that point on, there was no turning back for Larry.

When Ruger pulled out his .44 Magnum Black Hawk (single action) revolver, Larry bought one right away, although at the time he had to do so on the layaway plan because the money was running out. . The first big game he caught with a handgun was a four-pointed deer caught near Pinconning using the Ruger revolver. This Ruger revolver would also play a major role in Mag-Na-Port’s legacy, as it was the first firearm to be carried after Larry experienced the special EDM process on some surplus military rifle barrels. .

To promote his new business, Larry began to use his passion for pistol hunting to hunt big game all over the world. I remember seeing Mag-Na-Port ads (as well as articles by Larry) in outdoor posts that had pictures of him posing next to everything from big bears to elephants, holding only a handgun. .

Over 35 years ago, I reached out to Larry to interview him for my weekly column. It was then that I was able to hold and admire a newly developed hunting revolver that he had recently successfully used on some African safaris to shoot not only Cape buffalo but also lions and even elephants. . (Larry killed a male lion charging at point blank range, hitting the lion in the chest while it was in the air and not only stopping its forward momentum, but knocking it back.)

This revolver was the Freedom Arms .454 Casull revolver (first manufactured in 1983), which at the time was the only firearm manufactured for this particular (new) cartridge, making it the most powerful revolver in the world. world, for a while, anyway. Constructed of stainless steel, it is a Colt-style single-action design and has a five-shot cylinder, instead of the typical six-shot cylinder, to help its rugged nature handle heavy loads designed for hunting.

Larry Kelly considered the Freedom Arms .454 Casull to be the best revolver ever made (he literally put his life on the line), and I have to agree.

However, at this time our house was under continual construction, and my wife Ginny and I had three young sons for whom we had already started saving funds for college, so the Freedom Arms revolver was a bit out of my reach. even on the layaway plane.

So I left with what I had: a new model Ruger Black Hawk revolver in the venerable .45 Colt (which I bought in 1974 – we’ve been together for a while).

Mag-Na-Port has two custom designs for hunting revolvers: the “Predator”, which is a shorter barrel version (typically just under five inches) with open sights, and the “Stalker,” which features a longer barrel (usually over eight inches) and is topped with a handgun scope. Custom features include a trigger with a three-pound pull (no creep), crowned muzzle (to improve accuracy when the bullet comes out), and a port to control recoil.

I chose the Predator customization for my Ruger revolver, but left the barrel at its original 7 ½ inches because I’ve always liked its balance and feel, and I think it’s a good length of barrel to get the most out of my hand .45 Colt -charges.

The person who did the work on the handgun was Larry Kelly’s son, Ken, who now runs the company and has also been the Pistolsmith of the Year 2007. When it comes to customizing guns handgun (and all other guns), Ken is a true artist. (In fact, he started helping his father at the age of 12 and certainly earned his acclaim by working from the ground up.)

I’ve never regretted customizing my Ruger Mag-Na-Port revolver, took my share of local whitetails with it, and it will always be my favorite handgun. But I have to admit that I never got over being wowed by Larry Kelly’s Freedom Arms .454 Casull which he customized into a Mag-Na-Port “Stalker”. I just had to get one, that’s all I can say. The key would be to convince my wife that this was all a “business expense”.

When making decisions like this, you need to start early and not wait a few weeks until the day the deer season opens. I’ve always said that all guns require a dating period, so to speak, before marriage in order to get to know them well. It’s good that I took my own advice as I discovered that Freedom Arms revolvers don’t grow on trees, even at the plant in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. I had to wait nine weeks for mine to be built.

Then it was up to Ken Kelly to get the Mag-Na-Port Stalker conversion. I had also ordered a 2X Leupold handgun scope (which Larry Kelly had sworn by) and had it ready and waiting when work started.

I stuck with the original 10 inch barrel not only for peak performance but also because it felt perfectly good in my hand. I also ordered the revolver with the smooth black micarta grips, not only because it looks good with the stainless steel, but also because the single-action revolvers are designed to literally rock in the palm of your hand for hindsight, which is a distinct asset, in my opinion.

Needless to say, I was like a kid on Christmas morning when I went to the Mag-Na-Port facility to look for my “ultimate hunting revolver”. talk, until the next local deer season arrives.

My ultimate hunting revolver continually serves me very well for local white tails, and it’s a favorite gun for Michigan black bear hunting. The Casull .454 cartridge is also available in a wide variety of bullet selections for any hunting application you can think of, and it truly is a powerhouse.

The worldwide hunting exploits and adventures achieved by Larry Kelly using his trusty Mag-Na-Port “Stalker” revolver to catch an incredible variety of big game animals (including dangerous game) certainly say all.

Email Tom Lounsbury at [email protected]

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