You probably know that Magnum Research Inc. (MRI) makes big handguns. And by big, I mean big in size and big in caliber. When I hear the name, I think of the company’s Desert Eagle semiautomatic pistols, which are legendary and instantly recognizable in part because they are often seen in Hollywood movies.
But Magnum Research is equally famous for its large and powerful single-action revolver: the Big Frame Revolver, or BFR, also known as the Biggest Finest Revolver. These large hand cannons come chambered for potent rifle and handgun cartridges. The first BFR I saw was chambered in .45-70. Egad, it was big, with an unusually long cylinder required for chambering the long .45-caliber rifle round. I had a .45-70 rifle for a few years and could not imagine how that round could be contained in a revolver, let alone one that held five shots. Just the thought of shooting it made my hand hurt.
BFRs are available in eight standard calibers and two frame sizes. The long-cylinder model handles the following cartridges: .30-30, .444 Marlin, .45 Colt/.410, .45-70 Government, .460 S&W, and .500 S&W. The short-cylinder model handles .44 Magnum and .454 Casull.
Magnum Research upgraded the BFR last year. The hammer was redesigned and is vertically higher to make it easier to cock, even with a gloved hand. The widened hammerspur was narrowed to the same width as the rest of the hammer.
Another upgrade is the newly designed, soft, one-piece Hogue rubber grip. It fits the hand nicely and is “designed with the most correct taper needed for single-action shooting.” The new hammer and grip will fit any BFR made since 2000, and you can order them from Magnum Research if you want to add them to your existing revolver.
The BFR is all stainless-steel construction and sports an attractive brushed finish. The cylinder is unfluted, which I find especially attractive. You can order a gun with a fluted cylinder from MRI’s Precision Center if that tickles your fancy.
The BFR’s rear sight is serrated and fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight blade is smooth, ramped, and tall, and it’s easy to see. Prefer an optical sight? No problem. MRI includes a Weaver-type scope mount with the revolver. The topstrap is already drilled and tapped, and screws are provided.
My upgraded test gun was a 5.0-inch-barreled, short-cylinder model chambered for the versatile .44 Mag. Full-power .44 Mag. loads will easily take a range of game and can handle defense against large predators, though some would say that it is the minimum round for the larger bear species. Considering that the gun can also shoot the mild .44 Special, it becomes even more of a do-it-all tool that can be applied to nearly any task from casual target shooting with light, low-recoil ammunition to a serious hunting gun when stoked with full-power magnums.
BFRs are well known for being built rock solid, and my gun was no exception. As the advertisements say, the BFR is “designed as a magnum from the ground up.” It weighs 53.7 ounces and feels solid and hefty for its size. Compared to 44.7 ounces for a 5.0-inch S&W Model 629 and 45 ounces for a 5.5-inch Ruger Super Blackhawk, that’s beefy.
The extra weight of the BFR comes in handy when you light off full-power magnum rounds. Some quick math (based on my handload of a 240-grain bullet, 1,410 fps muzzle velocity, and 24.0 grains of powder) shows that the BFR will have 14.3 ft-lbs of recoil and the Ruger Super Blackhawk will have 17.1 ft-lbs of recoil, which translates into the BFR producing 16 percent less recoil than the Super Blackhawk. That’s a noticeable difference.
Don’t be fooled by the ruggedness of the description. The cocking action on this gun was very smooth. The trigger pull was smooth and light, measuring an average of 2.5 pounds on an RCBS trigger pull scale. The trigger exhibited slight creep before the break. It wasn’t so noticeable during casual shooting, but I felt it when shooting groups off sandbags, where a very slow, gradual application of pressure was applied to the trigger.
BFRs are handfitted and precision designed. Barrels are hand-lapped, and the barrel-cylinder gap is held to less than 0.005 inch. When the loading gate is open, the cylinder can be rotated either clockwise or counterclockwise for loading and unloading.
The BFR uses a transfer bar in the trigger/hammer system, so it can be carried fully loaded. The gun will not discharge if it is dropped and lands on the hammer.
The BFR shot very well with most of the ammunition, but like most guns, it showed preferences. The average five-shot group size with magnum loads was 2.5 inches, and most were smaller. This BFR did not like the HSM load with the 305-grain cast bullets. Eighty percent of those bullets showed some sign of yaw, producing asymmetrical grease marks or oblong hits on the paper targets. (Yaw means the bullets are not stabilized during flight, causing a deviation in their longitudinal axis, and in extreme cases the bullets hit the target sideways, which is tumbling.)
I inspected the bore after shooting the HSM lead rounds but saw no evidence of leading. There was no evidence of yaw with any of the jacketed bullets from the magnum ammunition. In fact, it was dead-nuts accurate with the jacketed magnum loads.
Ballistics of the factory ammunition were impressive. The Hornady 240-grain and Federal 180-grain loads both produced just over 1,100 ft-lbs of muzzle energy from the 5.0-inch barrel. It felt like it, too. Recoil was stiff. Oh, sure, it paled compared to lighter guns in this caliber, but full-power .44s are not like shooting a .22. I was thankful that the BFR was heavy to help absorb some of the recoil.
On the other hand, shooting the .44 Specials in the BFR felt like shooting a mouse gun. Really. I was also shooting my 9mm pistol that same day, and it felt like the recoil of some of the .44 Specials was on par with the 9mm. The math showed the .44 Specials had only a little more recoil than the 9mm. My 9mm load with a 115-grain bullet traveling around 1,250 fps produced 3.0 ft-lbs of recoil in my 2.5-pound full-size Model 1911. The SIG .44 Special load with a 200-grain bullet loaded with 7.5 grains of powder had a velocity of 893 fps, meaning it produced only 3.4 ft-lbs of recoil in the BFR. Shooting .44 Specials in this gun is downright delightful.
But the accuracy with .44 Special ammunition was mixed. Some loads had group size averages the same as the magnum ammunition, but the Blazer Gold Dot hollowpoints and Hornady FTX produced wide groups. I also noted more examples of bullet yaw. A couple of the hits from the handloads with 240-grain lead bullets looked as bad as the HSM lead bullets. This specific BFR did not like the lead-bullet loads I used that day.
With the evidence of bullet instability from yaw or very wide groups in mind, I removed the cylinder often and examined it and the bore and cleaned them. At no time was there any unusual appearance in the bore, such as carbon or lead buildup. As a precaution, I regularly scrubbed the carbon from the cylinder throats, but there was no obvious reason for the tumbling other than simply a mismatch between the ammo and the gun.
I’ll repeat what I said earlier. Some guns have distinct preferences for what ammunition they shoot well or don’t. It’s a compatibility issue, and you’ll never know how some ammo will shoot until you try it.
The point of impact (POI) with the sights set from the factory was several inches low at 25 yards with the .44 Special ammunition. I was able to raise the rear sight enough to move the point of impact to match the point of aim, but the rear sight was then at the maximum of its vertical adjustment. The front sight is easily replaced, and Magnum Research has front sights of varying heights if one should need to do that. Not many revolvers offer that as an easy option.
The Magnum Research Inc. BFR is a well-built gun, and it feels like the ideal-sized packing gun with its 5.0-inch barrel. In spite of its heavy weight, the short-cylinder version does not have an imposing size. It isn’t so large that it would be awkward to carry. I can see this gun in the holsters of hunters and hikers alike.
MRI also offers custom BFRs in 21 other calibers, including .218 Bee, .30 Carbine, .300 AAC Blackout, .45 ACP, .450 Bushmaster, .450 Marlin, .480 Ruger, .50 G.I., and .50 Beowulf to name a few. Barrel lengths range from 5 inches to 10 inches, with custom barrels that include octagonal and fluted configurations.
These Biggest Finest Revolvers are extremely tough and made entirely in the USA. They’re built for magnum cartridges and designed to stand up to heavy-duty use.