|GUNS Magazine, March 1999|
These Awesome Wheelguns From Magnum Research Laugh at Puny .357s and .44 Magnums.
By Holt Bodinson
| Magnum Research
has a reputation of offering shooters something just a little bit different
and a little more powerful in the way of handguns — just take a look at
their brawny Desert Eagle and Lone Eagle models. Last year, President
and CEO Doug Evans unveiled what could be the hottest and most sought
after revolvers of the 1999 season. Move over Desert Eagle and Lone Eagle,
here comes Little Max and Maxine, Magnum's "Biggest Finest Revolvers!"
Little Max, chambered in .454 Casull, .45 Colt, .50 A.E. and .22 Hornet, and Maxine, chambered in .45 Colt/.410, .444 Marlin and .45/.70, remind one ever-so-much of all-stainless, Ruger Super Blackhawks. Indeed they should. The manufacturer actually buys Super Blackhawk grip frames from Ruger. What's more, Little Max and Maxine incorporate Ruger's transfer bar safety system, frame-mounted firing pin, loading gate, cylinder release and rotation system. Even the hammer spur looks "Super Blackhawk-ish", but there the similarity ends. These are truly custom, hand-fitted and hand-tuned handguns.
From Hornet to Buffalo
I was particularly intrigued with the .22 Hornet and .45/.70 chamberings. Here the two cartridges at opposite ends of the spectrum with excellent field records that simply begged to be put into a quality hunting revolver. Not that it hasn't been done before.
Both the Magnum Research .22 Hornet and .45/.70 sport 10" bull barrels, Millett adjustable rear sights and ramped front sights with very visible red inserts. The six-shot .22 Hornet measured 17" in overall length and weighed 4 lbs., 6 oz. The five-shot .45/.70 model was 1/2" longer and weighed 4 lbs., 4 oz. unloaded, while taking on another 6 ozs. when stuffed full of those finger-thick 300 gr. factory loads from Winchester and Federal.
What's notable about the .45/.70 is how svelte it looks and feels in comparison with some of the huge .45/.70 revolvers we have some of the huge .45/.70 revolvers we have seen in the past. Upon closer examination, the sleek lines of the .45/.70 are made possible by using a cylinder with the same diameter as that used in the .22 Hornet, measuring approximately 1.740" in diameter in both models, and by maintaining similar frame dimensions elsewhere.
Notable, too, are the close tolerance evidenced in these new revolvers. When firing high intensity rifle cartridges like the .22 Hornet and .45/.70 in a revolver, it is desirable to keep the cylinder-to-barrel gap as tight as possible to minimize the loss of gas at that point, thereby maximizing ballistic efficiency.
The gaps in both revolvers were so tight that light was just barely visible at that juncture. Using a set of feeler gauges, I measured the gap in the .22 Hornet at .0015" and at .0025" in the .45/.70. That's tight.
You Little Creep
The triggers in both the Little Max and the Maxine broke cleanly at 4 1/4 lbs. with just a hint of creep that is normal in transfer bar systems. The actions were smooth and crisp, and overall metal finishing was good. Offhand, Little Max and Maxine balanced nicely. Their 10" bull barrels just seem to "hang" there.
Magnum Research offers Leupold scope mounts for the new models. Gunsmithing is required, but the addition of a scope is certainly advantageous for hunting use. Nevertheless, a 10" barrel provides ample sight radius so that excellent shooting can be done with open sights in the field.
Make My Day
I must say the Maxine .45/.70 really intrigued me. It's human to wonder whether or not touching off a .45/.70 revolver is an act of insanity or simple machismo. Your first encounter may be intimidating, but the results are not bad at all. In fact, touching off a .45/.70 feels closer to shooting a Mag. than one might expect.
Consider that factory 300 gr. .44 Mag. ammunition is loaded to about 1,250 fps at 40,000 CUP. Winchester 300 gr. .45/.70 loads fired in the Maxine averaged 1,450 fps at a maximum average pressure of 28,000 CUP. Of course, you can shoot heavier bullets in the .45/.70 than you can in the .44 Magnum. And faster. The .45/.70 is a more potent cartridge from any perspective, but it's not as intimidating a caliber as it might at first seem ? except if you?re at the other end of the barrel. Dirty Harry would have loved it.
For all-around big game use, 300 to 350 grain bullets for the .45/.70 revolver are ideal ? a perfect balance between bullet weight, velocity and performance. (Having said that, tomorrow someone will stuff Maxine with 500 grain solids and slay a pachyderm.) I might add that bullets in the .45/.70 revolver must be crimped and overall cartridge length is the limiting factor in bullet selection.
Maxine was tested at 50 yards for sheer accuracy and at 100 yards for field practicality with open sights. Both Federal and Winchester 300 grain factory loads were fired. The Federal loads averaged 1,348 fps while the Winchester ammunition averaged 1,450 fps. Maxine liked the Winchester ammo and produced five-shot 1 1/2" groups at 50 yards. Federal wasn?t far behind with an average group size of 2". Empties just fell out of the cylinder.
Recoil, even off the bench, proved moderate, however, when firing the .45/.70 from a bench or in the field, shooting glasses are essential.
Upon firing Maxine, I felt some stinging particles hitting my face. At first, I thought the revolver was out-of-time, that the chamber simply didn't mine up with the barrel, and the gun was shaving jacket materials as a result. Then I noticed unburned powder grains on the hairs of my arm. In short, the rifle powders normally loaded by the factory in .45/.70 ammunition were not being totally consumed in the 10" barrel and were being blown back by the muzzle blast.
Off-hand at 100 yards, I lined up on a 12"x12" steel gong using the 50 yard zero. Stoked with Winchester 300 grain ammo, Maxine just kept that gong ringing shot after shot after shot. Maxine proved to be an endearing lady.
Who You Callin' Little
Little Max proved to be an attractive chap himself. With Max in tow, I headed for the range with several favorite .22 Hornet handloads and a box of factory Winchester 46 gr. HP ammunition.
I must admit some prejudice here. The Hornet is one of my all time favorite cartridges. Over the years, it has been maligned as not being particularly accurate, hard to handload and rather anemic. Don't believe it.
I've loaded literally thousands of rounds of hunting Hornets using Sierra's exceptional 45 gr. Hornet SP ahead of IMR 4227, H4227 and AA1680. At 100 yards, all of the six Hornets I've owned would group in less than an inch, and I can't remember how many coyotes have succumbed to Sierra's 45 grinders.
The Hornet is simply a great varmint cartridge — accurate, economical, quiet and available throughout the world — truly a cosmopolitan cartridge. It's also interesting to note that when the U.S. military went looking for an ideal survival cartridge they ended up selecting the Hornet. It's nice to see the leading firearm manufacturers are once again recognizing its assets.
Have A Seat And Don't Stay Long
Factory Hornet ammunition is held to an overall length of approximately 1.7" and that's maximum in the cylinder of the Little Max — a factor that limits bullet selection for handloading purposes to those light jacketed, round nose bullets specifically designed for the Hornet.
Spitzer and semi-spitzer forms of .224 caliber bullets even as light as 40 grains may prove too long without seating them so deeply that vital powder capacity in this diminutive case is compromised. One nice aspect about the .22 Hornet revolver is that recoil is so moderate, crimping is not required.
At 50 yards, none of my handloads equaled the accuracy of the Winchester 46 gr. HP factory ammunition that produced 1 1/2" six-shot groups at an average velocity of 1,790 fps. Extraction was so easy that most cases simply fell out of the chambers.
A 40 grain handload pushed velocities up to 2,134 fps, but wasn't particularly accurate. There's no room to play with handloads, however. Needless to say, the Hornet/revolver combination is exceedingly flat shooting, accurate and truthfully requires a scope sight to bring out its inherent qualities.
One final note is that like other high-speed, small-caliber cartridges fired in revolvers — for example the .30 Carbine — the Hornet is loud, and requires substantial hearing protection even when fired afield.
Maxine and Little Max in these interesting calibers are opening up a whole new world of handgunning enjoyment and shooting and hunting possibilities. Demand for these quality handguns will be high and production limited at first, so shooters be advised to put their orders in early.
|Reprinted by permission from the March, 1999 issue of GUNS Magazine. Copyright 1999, Publishers' Development Corporation. All rights reserved.||GUNS Magazine is not responsible for mishaps of any kind which may occur from use of published loading data or from recommendations by staff writers. Any prices given were the suggested list prices at presstime for the printed issue and are subject to change.|