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Recently, I've taken an interest in Magnum Handguns, namely Semiautomatic Pistols which are far less common than Revolvers because Magnum Cartridges being what they are by definition a powerful cartridge, are often more difficult to build an autoloader around, especially in a size/weight which makes them convenient to carry.

Anyway, while reading a series of articles on the subject, I was somewhat surprised to discover that when it comes to the subject many firearms/cartridges which I consider to be Magnum Handgun Cartridges/Pistols are notably absence.
For example, I've always considered the 10mm Auto cartridge to fall under the umbrella of Magnum Cartridges due to the fact that full-power loads are roughly equivalent to .357 Magnum, but whenever the subject of Magnum Pistols comes up, 10mm Auto is mentioned as a footnote at best. Granted that the commercial market is awash with underpowered 10mm Auto FBI Loads which launch a 180 Grain bullet at 1000 Feet Per Second, thus making them roughly equivalent to .40 S&W, but to count out a cartridge just because ammo manufacturers choose not to load it to full specifications is hardly fair, and that doesn't seem to be the reason for its exclusion, ergo I can only conclude that for whatever reason, 10mm Auto is excluded because it just isn't powerful enough even in full-power loads to be considered a Magnum Cartridge by whatever arbitrary definition or specifications the authors of these articles are going by.

So that has left me wondering; "What makes a Magnum Handgun Cartridge a Magnum Cartridge?" or more specifically; "What is the threshold for a Magnum Cartridge in terms of Ballistics Performance?"

Personally, I would consider the bare minimum for a cartridge to be considered a Magnum Handgun Cartridge to be a modest 600+ft-lbs of energy or higher, delivered by a .30cal+ bullet weighing 124 Grains or more, simply because that's roughly the lower end of the sort of energy that one would expect from the .357 Magnum cartridge, which is essentially the premier Magnum Handgun Cartridge.
Granted that's just one method of measurement and not a particularly meaningful one in the greater scheme of things, but all things considered, I think it's a better grouping of statistics with far less variables than say Energy, Operating Pressure, Velocity, Bullet Weight or Caliber alone. Besides, this discussion isn't for the sake of reaching any definitive conclusion or establishing an official standard for Magnum Handguns to be measured by, I'm just curious what others opinions are on the matter.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What makes a Magnum Handgun Cartridge, what stats do you measure them by, (Pressure? Velocity? Energy? Caliber?) and what's your threshold for a Magnum Handgun Cartridge?
 

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Loading for magnum's is all over the place. How about anything that exceeds +P, that would cover most of the handgun cartridges.
 

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Recently, I've taken an interest in Magnum Handguns, namely Semiautomatic Pistols which are far less common than Revolvers because Magnum Cartridges being what they are by definition a powerful cartridge, are often more difficult to build an autoloader around, especially in a size/weight which makes them convenient to carry.

Anyway, while reading a series of articles on the subject, I was somewhat surprised to discover that when it comes to the subject many firearms/cartridges which I consider to be Magnum Handgun Cartridges/Pistols are notably absence.
For example, I've always considered the 10mm Auto cartridge to fall under the umbrella of Magnum Cartridges due to the fact that full-power loads are roughly equivalent to .357 Magnum, but whenever the subject of Magnum Pistols comes up, 10mm Auto is mentioned as a footnote at best. Granted that the commercial market is awash with underpowered 10mm Auto FBI Loads which launch a 180 Grain bullet at 1000 Feet Per Second, thus making them roughly equivalent to .40 S&W, but to count out a cartridge just because ammo manufacturers choose not to load it to full specifications is hardly fair, and that doesn't seem to be the reason for its exclusion, ergo I can only conclude that for whatever reason, 10mm Auto is excluded because it just isn't powerful enough even in full-power loads to be considered a Magnum Cartridge by whatever arbitrary definition or specifications the authors of these articles are going by.

So that has left me wondering; "What makes a Magnum Handgun Cartridge a Magnum Cartridge?" or more specifically; "What is the threshold for a Magnum Cartridge in terms of Ballistics Performance?"

Personally, I would consider the bare minimum for a cartridge to be considered a Magnum Handgun Cartridge to be a modest 600+ft-lbs of energy or higher, delivered by a .30cal+ bullet weighing 124 Grains or more, simply because that's roughly the lower end of the sort of energy that one would expect from the .357 Magnum cartridge, which is essentially the premier Magnum Handgun Cartridge.
Granted that's just one method of measurement and not a particularly meaningful one in the greater scheme of things, but all things considered, I think it's a better grouping of statistics with far less variables than say Energy, Operating Pressure, Velocity, Bullet Weight or Caliber alone. Besides, this discussion isn't for the sake of reaching any definitive conclusion or establishing an official standard for Magnum Handguns to be measured by, I'm just curious what others opinions are on the matter.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What makes a Magnum Handgun Cartridge, what stats do you measure them by, (Pressure? Velocity? Energy? Caliber?) and what's your threshold for a Magnum Handgun Cartridge?
Check with SAAMI.
 

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The original Magnum-the .357- got the moniker due to its' length, not power. A magnum was the biggest wine bottle at the time and the .357 was the biggest cartridge of its' line (.38Colt, .38LC, .38Special, .357Magnum) at the time of its' introduction. Smith and Wesson lengthened it by 1/10th of an inch so it couldn't be shot from a .38Special due to the increased pressures of the new cartridge.

When Smith and Wesson developed the .44 Mag, they followed the same naming convention because there had developed some semblance of order in the way new cartridges were named by that time.

The .41 is the red-headed stepchild of the bunch since there's no predecessor that it was based on. The .41LC shares nothing- including bore diameter- with it. The name got hung on it due to the level of performance rather than physical size. There is a wildcat .41Special that some reloaders have introduced as an ex post facto attempt to fill the "Special " niche for the .41 but it isn't a factory cartridge.

The .32Mag follows the naming convention in that it is derived from an established cartridge and has been lengthened so it won't fit in the older .32Long guns. The .327 Mag is even longer and brings a "magnum"level of performance to the .32 Smith and Wesson line.
 

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The original Magnum-the .357- got the moniker due to its' length, not power. A magnum was the biggest wine bottle at the time and the .357 was the biggest cartridge of its' line (.38Colt, .38LC, .38Special, .357Magnum) at the time of its' introduction. Smith and Wesson lengthened it by 1/10th of an inch so it couldn't be shot from a .38Special due to the increased pressures of the new cartridge.

When Smith and Wesson developed the .44 Mag, they followed the same naming convention because there had developed some semblance of order in the way new cartridges were named by that time.

The .41 is the red-headed stepchild of the bunch since there's no predecessor that it was based on. The .41LC shares nothing- including bore diameter- with it. The name got hung on it due to the level of performance rather than physical size. There is a wildcat .41Special that some reloaders have introduced as an ex post facto attempt to fill the "Special " niche for the .41 but it isn't a factory cartridge.

The .32Mag follows the naming convention in that it is derived from an established cartridge and has been lengthened so it won't fit in the older .32Long guns. The .327 Mag is even longer and brings a "magnum"level of performance to the .32 Smith and Wesson line.
^^^^This^^^^
Magnum cartridges are named for size and shape of the cartridge. Recall that H&R developed the 32 H&R Magnum then Ruger and Federal came along and stretched the case length and - voila - the 327 Federal Magnum! It was an "over magnum" if you will. The longer case length allows for more powder which juices the bang resulting in faster muzzle velocities.

As an aside, from what I've read, the fully loaded 10mm generates power equivalent to a 41 Magnum.

Due to the rims, most standard handgun caliber loads - 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum, et al, cannot shoot in a standard autopistol. Desert Eagle and Coonan were the first autopistols that I knew of that were designed specifically for the commercially available rimmed magnums. There is also a company which builds "44 Automag" pistols but they do so by cutting down the length of a rifle cartridge (I think) to build the round rather than using commercial 44 Mag rounds.

The 357 Sig was an attempt to get 357 Mag ballistic performance out of an autopistol by necking down a .40" case down to 9mm and it delivered on that promise.

We get questions here occasionally about are there 357 Mag +p rounds available. Answer is no. There are no SAAMI standards for the power beyond what is commonly accepted as "magnum" loads for the calibers. A lot of people experiment with different powder loads and different weight and shape of bullets . . . and a lot of people blow up guns and lose fingers and hands doing so. But every now and then a wildcat load will catch on become a commercial success - eg, 327 Federal Mag and 357 Sig.
 

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I think that you would have to look at what the caliber is capable of, not necessarily how much power it has....I don't think that there is a fps mark that is non-magnum, and everything above that is magnum. I think if it's capable of magnum velocities - say, 1,400 fps or so and above, it might be considered a magnum. I'd also say that the minimum caliber for magnum consideration would probably be the 357 magnum.

Having said that, I think that there are some good magnum loads in, say, 357 magnum, that don't break any records in fps, they are loaded hotter than a 38 special could be loaded but maybe marginally. I guess the more I think about it, the more factors might arise that could cause debate.
 

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The .44 automag is based on a .308 Winchester case, if memory serves. That's the same rim as the .45ACP.

Speaking of high performance wildcats for bottomfeeders, don't forget the .400CorBon. A .45ACP necked down to take a .400" bullet.

From a fully supported chamber, it's a blast to shoot.
 

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I think we are over thinking this question. The difference between a non magnum and a magnum in basically just physical size. According to Wikipedia this is the definition of a magnum round...

."A Magnum cartridge is a firearms cartridge with a larger case size than, or derived from, a similar cartridge of the same bullet caliber and case shoulder shape. The term derives from the .357 Magnum, the original such cartridge."

Hence, even the lowly. 22 caliber provides a magnum round.

Don
 

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If it says "Magnum" in the name, it's a Magnum, otherwise no. a 10mm shooting a 200 gr bullet at 1150 fps is not a magnum, a 357 Magnum shooting a 180 gr. bullet at 1200 fps is a "magnum". A a 44 Magnum shooting a 250 bullet at 1300 fps is a magnum, a 45 Colt shooting a 250 gr bullet at 1300 fps is not a "magnum", . It is all in the name.
 

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It's pretty arbitrary, really. Historically, development by increasing the velocity of an existing round is a big part of it, but as noted above the .41 magnum breaks that mold. And the .454 Casull is not formally a magnum round. So the actual term includes everything from the rimfire .22 Magnum to the considerably more powerful/expensive/paininthewrist .44 Magnum.

So it's honestly pretty arbitrary, like a lot of terminology. There are "mountains" in many parts of the world that top out thousands of feet below the altitude of my house.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm well aware of the origins of the term "Magnum" in relation to bottled sprits, I was merely asking for opinions of what folks consider to be Magnum level performance.

It's funny how whenever I ask a question seeking facts all I get are opinions, and when I ask a question seeking an opinion all I get are facts. 😝
 
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The term "magnum" was simply a trademark, Smith and Wesson's trademark to sell handguns....and the strategy has certainly worked. Having "Dirty Harry" carry a M29 did more for sales, though. 🤩

If you want a semi auto "magnum" there are choices..Magnum Research (desert eagle) being a favorite. However, except for the coonan, few can be carried IWB or in any way concealed. If you consider they can be under a coat, fine. But, try that in a long south Texas summer. Carrying my 22 ounce 605 Poly is easy. Suggest to me a semi auto equivalent. You cannot...one doesn't exist. However, for my money, 9x19 and .45ACP (the two SAs I've standardized on) are far from ineffective.

Take a look at the .45 OR the 9x19 in Marshall/Sanow stats and tell me you think either is worthless or in fact, ineffective vs .357. Sure, they're numerically less effective, but not by much. Shot placement is a far more important concern. If you can't control a .357, a 9mm will work well for you and be far easier to handle in a lightweight handgun.
 

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Years ago there was a 357 Remington maximum, a super magnum
Which was great if you thought you needed it and didn't mind changing for new barrels as you burned out forcing cones. Of course, it takes a new gun to repair the flame cutting of the frame. You know, if you need more power, you can always move up to .41 or .44 mag. The reason the maximum was developed was competition, IHMSA. And, I doubt it'd work very well in a 2" barrel. It was never intended for that.
 
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had a dan wesson 8`` barrel ,357 maximum i used to shoot silhouettes with . at 200 yards it was flatter shooting
and as powerful as a .44 magnum-----------------
 

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My first CF pistol, after owning only .22lr, was a 357 Magnum. That was an eye-opening jump in performance to say the least. Now that I own both 44 and 500 Magnums, that same 357 seems like a 9mm by comparison. So to answer the Op question, I'd say any handgun cartridge that exceeds 1000 foot pounds of energy is what I consider true "Magnum" power.
 

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My first CF pistol, after owning only .22lr, was a 357 Magnum. That was an eye-opening jump in performance to say the least. Now that I own both 44 and 500 Magnums, that same 357 seems like a 9mm by comparison. So to answer the Op question, I'd say any handgun cartridge that exceeds 1000 foot pounds of energy is what I consider true "Magnum" power.
That excludes the first magnum, unless fired in my Rossi carbine (1200 fps). Again, the "magnum" is a trademark intended to promote sales. It's NOT a performance standard.
 
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Magnum rifles were originally called express rifles for the same reasons, marketing by Holland and Holland. Just thought I'd toss that in FYI if you didn't know, And, there IS a revolver built to take the .600 Nitro Express. Now THERE'S your top dog. :D

 

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I think the OP may want to drop the "magnum" moniker, and look at the term "big bore" instead. It seems to me that's more of what they're exploring.
 
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