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Dual Wielding: The Best Same Caliber Rifle-Handgun Combos

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  February 4th, 2014 35

These classic Winchester 1873 and Colt Single Action Army reproduction guns both share the .44-40 Win. cartridge, known years ago as the .44 Winchester Center Fire (.44 WCF).

As the cowboys of the Old West proved, having a rifle and handgun that chambered the same cartridge was a mighty convenient thing, but they didn’t invent the concept.

Back in the golden age of blackpowder firearms, folks would oftentimes carry a single-shot belt pistol or horse pistol that took the same diameter round ball as their flintlock rifle.

Having a long gun and a handgun that shoot the same cartridge enables shooters to carry one type of ammunition, and load both guns from one box or cartridge belt. Running short on one type of ammo doesn’t happen; both guns stay in the game—or fight—until the last cartridge is gone.

If there’s a disadvantage to the concept, it’s that high-performance rifle cartridges aren’t suitable for handguns. Put another way, handgun and rifle combos are almost universally chambered for handgun cartridges. The result? Reduced range from your rifle.

Pistol-caliber carbines are most useful inside 200 yards, and even that’s stretching it. However, in urban environments or situations where the need for long-range precision isn’t anticipated, it’s not an issue. In fact, pistol-caliber carbines have very real advantages: typically they recoil very politely, hold a lot of ammo and are far quieter than high-power rifles.

When choosing any firearm, characteristics of reliability, ergonomics and accuracy are of prime value. In most cases, the handgun portion of the combo isn’t an issue—after all, the cartridge was designed for it. Rifles can be more finicky, but as long as you choose quality they tend to function just fine.

Here’s a look at several great rifle and handgun combinations, and let us know if you prefer another pairing not listed.

  • Lukas

    I’m kind of surprised you picked the Ruger 10 .22 over the Smith & Wesson 15 .22 for the .22 dual wield Not that the Ruger is a bad rifle, it’s just why not go AR 15 design, is there a reason why the Ruger was the choice example?

    • DustyG223

      Lukas,

      The 10/22 is less expensive, has a massive aftermarket part availability and has been trusted for decades. The S&W 15-22 is a great choice, but the 10/22 takes the upper hand in terms of overall popularity.

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Dusty Gibson
      Online Shooting Editor

      • david H

        I have a 45 long colt rifle and two single action 45 long colt…just saying.

  • the_puppy

    I would go all Ruger but in .44 Magnum or .38/.357 or even 9MM – there are all kinds of pistol calibre carbines worth owning. I like .44 because I can go hunting with it too and the ammo is relatively inexpensive.

  • mrthillMrthill100

    Definitely can’t see myself luging 2 AR’s around. The benefits of having a rifle, pistol combo that shoot the same round seems limited to me. It makes sense in very close quarter situations that law enforcement encounter, where over penetration may be an issue. But in military, survival or post-zombie apocolypse worlds I don’t see the benefits. Militarily you have an underpowered rifle or an overweight pistol in most cases and both are major issues. In a survival situation you are limited to one type of ammo performance, as given in the 500s&w if I only have a 500 and can’t find any large game but an abundace of small game, I’d be better served with one 500 and one .22 to increase my options. In a post-apocolypse I’d be better served having more than one cartridge to choose from. If I’m carrying two guns chambered in two different calibers my chances of scavenging something I can use increase. Just my 2 cents

  • M.B.

    How about the option of changing barrels/bolts, that way in a apocolypse situation you could adapt with what ammo you come across while sticking with the same gun.

  • Bud Tugley

    My first two gun purchases were a Browning Buckmark and a Ruger 10/22. Still my favorite two guns to shoot. So, it was great to see them paired as one of your combos!

  • AlphaOmega357

    Love my trio of .357 Magnums: Smith & Wesson Model 27-2 8-3/8″ revolver, Winchester Model 94 Saddle Ring Carbine lever-action rifle, and Coonan Classic %” stainless seni-auto pistol!

  • Greg

    .45 acp combo: 1911 (any good design) and a Just Right Carbine (.45acp)

  • Mazryonh

    In fact, pistol-caliber carbines have very real advantages: typically
    they recoil very politely, hold a lot of ammo and are far quieter than
    high-power rifles.

    The author forgot a few more advantages of pistol-cartridge-using firearms, which is the fact that pistol cartridges (with the exception of the biggest magnums) generally use less smokeless powder than the ones that use higher-power rifle cartridges (such as 5.56mm NATO and up). Smokeless powder can’t be recycled once fired, unlike bullets and casings, so using pistol cartridges instead of high-power rifle cartridges can help conserve it. Another advantage is that longer-barrelled Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCCs) swallow up almost all of the muzzle flash due to their longer length, making flash hiders less necessary. Finally, the right PCC design can use the same magazines as the backup handgun.

    Magnum pistol cartridges are also easier to control in a long gun format, given that a long gun has four points of contact as opposed to a handgun’s one-and-a-half. And those same magnum cartridges can also have effective ranges of up to 200 yards or a touch more. Try a Glock 20 with a 10mm PCC from Thureon Defense or Mechtech–both those companies offer PCCs in that caliber that take Glock magazines.

  • chuck

    i was just wondering why the Kriss Vector and the Glock 21, a combination that accepts the same Glock 21 mag was not mentioned.

    • Mazryonh

      Likely because it isn’t commonly available. But there is a disadvantage with using using .45 ACP in long-barrelled carbines; the common heavy (200 grains or more) loads actually slow down in 16-inch barrels (the most common PCC barrel length).

      You can read about this here:

      http://ballisticsbytheinch.com/45auto.html

      You’re better off using the lighter +P loadings if you have to have a .45 ACP PCC, or going with faster calibers in a PCC altogether.

  • Para-man

    On my wishlist – I would like Marlin to come out with a .40 cal. lever action rifle that holds about 18-20 rounds, The .40 cal. bullet that always comes in a flat nose format lends itself to the tubular mag like no other. A nice short stroke lever and you’ve got a fast shootin’ high cap multi-purpose rifle. With that and my Para 16-40 …….Oh yeah!

  • simobros

    I love the “companion gun” concept and have numerous combos in my collection. It makes perfect sense for compact carry with versatility. The cowboys had the right idea. Here’s some of mine:
    * Marlin mod. 39A with Ruger mk II or Colt Diamondback (.22 LR)
    * Savage bolt action .17 HMR with Ruger Single Six
    * Rossi Puma .38/.357 with Ruger Vaquero or Colt Python or Colt Trooper mk III or Colt Army Special .38
    *Winchester mod. 94 .44 mag. with S&W mod. 29-2 or Ruger Alaskan
    I find these cover a lot of possible woods scenarios…

  • Paul White

    I don’t get the AR/AR pistol combo.

    I think these really shine with hot magnum loads in a semi-auto carbine. I’d *love* a semi auto chambered in something like 10mm or 50AE. Put some HOT loads in it and it’d be great for home defense, woods carry, etc.

  • Chris Dotson

    I shoot rifle rounds in a pistol. I do not buy over the counter rounds made for an rifle. The gun powder burn rate is to slow for an short barrel pistol. All the powder will burn outside the barrel and make a huge flash. I use fast burning pistol powder in my .444, 45/70, 50/70, 500 S&W mag, 30 carbine, 30/30. No rifle powder. My barrel length on all my handguns is less than 10 inches. The same holds true with pistol powder in a longer barreled rifle. The powder would be burned up 3/4 up the barrel. You are coasting on tight rifling inside the bore. Like applying the brakes. For every 4 inches of barrel length you need an different burn rate of powder. I do not use the same powder in my hand guns if one has 3 inch barrel and another has an 10 inch. The 3 inch gets the really fast powder. #1 rule: when cleaning your gun. The first time you run the white cloth thru it. It should come out light to med grey. If it is black or white when you first run the cloth. You seriously need to change your powder burn rate. Your just wasting bullets and money. Why run an firearm at 70% when you can get 100% out of it.

    • Vet63

      There you point out one of the drawbacks to the combos, serious shooters end up using different loads for rifle and handgun even though they both chamber the same cartridge. I think the idea mostly appeals to people with not much experience and who don’t handload.

      • Chris Dotson

        Never mix them up for the different weapons. Not so bad with the rifle round in the pistol. But an round intended for the pistol fired in a rifle could be very bad. That must be one reason all over the counter normal loads are Light loads.

  • Ohiogunr

    Hopefully, for the next hunting season, you will be able to use pistol caliber rifles to deer hunt in OHIO!!! Ohio hunters, contact the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources and ask that pistol caliber rifle Deer hunting be allowed!

  • Robert Fulcomer

    I have a Ruger Backhawk w/6″ barrel and Marlin Mod. 62 in 30 Cal Carbine. I load my ammo w/110 gr soft round nose bullets running a@2000 fps. I have hunted White Tails and Mulies in five states and Canada. This combo is ideal for woodland hunting. They never let me down.

  • SamofCR

    My personal outfit is a Ruger 99/44 carbine with a Ruger Vaquero Bisley 5 1/2 in.both in .44 Rem. Mag.

  • Gregory Jay Chandler Jr

    What? no mention of the .357 magnum lever action? I never had a sweeter shooting rifle and wish i had never gotten rid of it

    • roadking2000

      Yes! I owned a Rossi .357 lever, and it was fun to shoot, but it was troublesome. I could have sent it away for a $300+ “hot-rod job”, but instead I sold it & bought the Henry Big Boy .44 Mag lever rifle. The Henry is also a sweet piece & never malfunctions. Like the Rossi, it should be fed blunt-nosed bullets, as they are stacked nose-to-tail.

  • roadking2000

    Two combo’s I like: A Henry Big Boy .44 Mag/.44 Special & S&W Stainless 629 Classic.
    Or how about a I.O. Hellhound AK-47 & a Serbian M92 PAP Pistol, both in .762×39 They can share clips and/or drums

    • all da drops

      Sure, but the I.o. is about the worst ak on earth.

      • roadking2000

        What’s your reasoning?

  • roadking2000

    Here’s another one: A Hot-Rodded Rossi M92 Stainless carbine in.357/.38 & a S&W 686 7-Shot Stainless revolver. Both are a lot of fun to shoot! With any tube-fed carbine, use hollow-point bullets to avoid the possible discharge of bullets in the magazine when the tip of a bullet bangs into the primer of the one in front of it during recoil.

  • EDNOND KOWALSKI

    Winchester Trapper Ruger Vaquero 45 LC. Both of mine will shoot 300 gr bullets and out thump 44Mag.

  • Steve

    How about a Masterpiece Arms Mac .45 ACP carbine (dressed up) and a Glock 21 .45 ACP and if you are on a budget any Hi-Point carbine and pistol would do.

  • Vet63

    It’s a bit of an overstatement to say “that’s the way the old timers did it”. Yes they could have done it since Colt revolvers chambered the same rounds as the Winchester ’73 but by far the most popular round it the revolver was .45 Colt, which could not be made to work in a repeating rifle and many popular rifle rounds, such as the .45/70 were too big for handguns . Mr. von Benedikt is correct in pointing out the limitations of the idea. To me, the only reason to carry both a rifle and a handgun is expressly because they fire very different cartridges to serve different purposes. I might carry a .22 pistol for small game while hunting big game with a powerful rifle, or I might carry my 357 revolver while hunting birds and bunnies with a shotgun just in case I get a chance at a coyote. In the past I have owned lever carbines in .357 & .44 mag along with revolvers of the same calibers but I ended up using different loads for rifle and handgun so while there was interchangeability of brass it was more of a bother to keep the different loads separated so I ended up using .38 special and.44 special brass for the revolvers and magnum brass for the carbines so it really wasn’t interchangeable after all.

  • Jimbo

    Someone should come up with a revolver that you can add a long barrel / forearm to, and attach a stock.

  • m444ss

    .44 Mag: I’d take a Marlin 1894 over the Winchester any day of the week, and the Ruger revolver (Redhawk or Super Redhawk) is certainly a better choice than the S&W.

    • BaconLovingInfidel

      as long as it’s a classic Marlin from the old factory, not one of the newer ones…which are low quality junk.

  • TrueGrit

    How could you not include a Ruger Single Six or Blackhawk convertible? With the extra cylinder, your get 22lr or magnum in the SS, and 38/357 and 9mm in the Blackhawk. That gives you an extra option for ammo.

  • SnakePlissken

    I like the .22 mag combo, same as No.2 above, but also, a 3rd in AR style.
    Carrying weight of 100 rounds of .22wmr ammo is 1.0 lbs.
    Carrying weight of 100 rounds of .556 ammo is 2.4-2.7 lbs.
    Carrying weight of 100 rounds of .357 ammo is 3.2-3.5 lbs
    Carrying weight of 100 rounds of .44 ammo is 4.5-5.0 lbs.
    Most of us will max out at 400 rounds of .44 (20 lbs).
    That is 570 rounds of .357, and 800 rounds of .556.
    But in .22wmr, 2,000 rounds is just 20 lbs to carry.
    Self/Community defense will occur within 100 yards.
    Learn to shoot – hit’m in the head – .22wmr will stop them.
    They aint gonna like getting hit anywhere else either.
    Also, you can equip, train, and rely on almost everyone in the hood.
    Cost of 2,000 per man, 1,000 per woman/child, is under $2000 and $1000.
    Other than that, get the ammo the weapon is made for.
    You are not likely to know they are coming and engage +100 yrds.
    Once they have intruded, you need everyone on your team on the same page.
    Get ready – it is coming.

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