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.
Known far and wide as the ultimate cartridge for small game and plinking, it’s hard to doubt the .22 Long Rifle is a great multi-purpose round.
The semi-auto Ruger 10/22 comes in many configurations to fit the objectives of hunters and plinkers alike. Its aftermarket part availability is astounding, allowing you to customize your rifle from the ground up.
What better pistol to pair with a 10/22 than the Browning Buck Mark. One of the best rimfire pistols ever made, the Buck Mark deserves its place in nearly any gun collection.
As opposed in looks as a stagecoach and a flying saucer, the Golden Boy lever gun and the Kel-Tec PMR-30 nonetheless go together like milk and cookies. Chambered in .22 Magnum, they make a prime pair for everything from small game hunting to close-and-personal predator shooting.
With the 30-round capacity of the PMR-30 pistol, you’ll have to work to empty it. The Golden Boy rifle compliments it with western looks, smooth reliable functioning, and precision. How can you go wrong?
Combine it’s military & law enforcement experience with availability and standardized parts, and the .223 Remington is a great cartridge to fit many applications. With this combo, the rifle-length gun can reach out to several hundred yards, while the pistol makes for a great truck gun.
The Colt LE6940 is one of the most well-known AR-15 pattern rifle platforms. Its flat-top upper receiver and quad-rail forend allow operators to quickly attach optics and accessories as they please.
Though they don't have the looks or size of a traditional handgun, AR-15 pistols such as the Bushmaster Patrolman's Pistol are trending, especially when paired with the ergonomics of a SIG Sauer SB15 pistol stabilizing brace. You get all the functionality of the AR-15 platform in a small package with a short barrel that doesn’t require ATF registration.
For pure cool factor, no rifle-handgun combo can beat these two from FN-USA. Chambered in the zippy, ultra-performance 5.7x28 cartridge, both guns are lightweight and uber-ergonomic—in a modern sense. Recoil is almost nil and trajectory is laser-like courtesy of the very small diameter, fast-paced projectile. Capacity of the Five-SeveN handgun is 20 rounds; that of the PS90 carbine is an astonishing 50 rounds.
Since the Kel-Tec SUB-2000 is available in a version that uses Glock 17 magazines, you can feed both your carbine and your polymer high-cap pistol from the same mag pouch. While this compact, concealable combo doesn’t give you tons of rifle-like reach, it does increase the effective range of the 9mm to 100 yards or so and enhances fast and accurate shooting up close.
This is without doubt the most archetypical rifle/handgun same-caliber combo—originally chambered in .44-40—known 140 years ago as .44 WCF—westerners and sportsmen alike loved the fact they could carry one type of ammo to serve both guns.
Known variously as “the rifle that won the West” and “the rifle you load on Sunday and shoot all week,” the Model 1873 was the AR-15 of the 19th century. Characterized by it’s reliability, ergonomics and firepower, it’s still much loved by serious lever-action shooters, especially the cowboy action competitive crowd.
Likewise, the Single Action Army revolver—epitomized here by this "Cattleman" reproduction model by Uberti—was the first hugely successful cartridge handgun. Even today it is the six-shooter; the revolver that all cowboys worth their salt carried. Together the two—now chambered in the versatile .357 Magnum, which also accepts and safely shoots the mild .38 Special—still serves as a classic, capable example of the same-caliber rifle/handgun combo.
Who could forget the cartridge originally developed by the FBI as the 10mm, and then shortened into the 40 S&W.
The Beretta Cx4 Storm carbine and Px4 Storm pistol both fire the zippy .40 S&W cartridge from the same 17-round magazines. The Px4 Storm pistol is small enough to conceal, while maintaining enough size to fit the bill as a primary sidearm.
Nothing could have more panache than a combination of John Wayne’s favorite Winchester and Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” Model 29 Smith & Wesson—both chambered in the powerful, popular .44 Magnum.
The Winchester '92 is considered by many to be both the strongest and the smoothest-operating of all Winchester’s compact lever-actions—but that goes without saying: John Browning designed it. And no double-action revolver is more recognizable—or more capable—than the Model 29. This pair makes an ideal truck team, will serve honorably for personal protection and is as good as combos get for brush-country hunting.
Burgeoning into popularity when a Florida courtroom judge reputedly began wearing a 410/.45 Colt-chambered Taurus Judge revolver under his judicial robes, the Judge revolver is both unique and uncommonly good for self defense.
Who wouldn’t want a revolver that throws your choice of buckshot, birdshot or .45 Colt slugs? Combine that with a revolving rifle-length version from Rossi, and you’ve got a versatile setup for small game, plinking, the occasional clay target and home-defense.
With western-esque looks and ultra-strong design, Marlin's 1894 and Ruger's Vaquero emerged as arguably the most popular hard-working competition guns during the huge cowboy-action movement of the ’90s. Few guns are more durable or offer higher performance, especially if a gunsmith worked a little magic tuning the actions.
Ruger Vaqueros also lifted the caution of single-action shooters who stepped lightly around weaker designs.
Marlin 1894s use a side-eject, fully-closing bolt, so they shrug off dust and grime, while allowing the use of a scope for those deviants that want optics on a lever gun.
Together, the two have won many tournaments, and will win many more—in addition to bringing home the bacon or defending a home.
When firepower can’t be compromised, the .500 S&W Magnum is just the ticket. When carrying an H&R Handi-Rifle and Smith & Wesson 500—both chambered in the beastly .500 S&W Magnum—backpackers can strut through bear country with the confidence that they have enough firepower to defend themselves with this mighty cartridge.