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Dual Wielding: The Best Same Caliber Rifle-Handgun Combos

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  February 4th, 2014 48

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.

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