October 26, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
I enjoy writing about firearms, but it can be a challenge to write enthusiastically about guns that are so similar in design to other firearms that their parts are practically interchangeable. The cure for the fifth-striker-fired-gun-in-a-row blues is the Magnum Research BFR, which is unlike just about anything in the handgun market.
The BFR is a single-action revolver crafted from stainless steel. This American-manufactured revolver is charming, in the same way a vintage H1 Hummer or the 72-ounce Big Texan steak is charming. Everything about the BFR is outsized, and it will certainly overshadow any other firearm your buddies bring to a barbecue show-and-tell.
My interest in BFR handguns grew out of my passion for hunting whitetails with a handgun. There aren’t a lot of companies selling high-quality single-action wheelguns for hunting. Ruger owns the lion’s share of the market, and Freedom Arms has its fans even, though its guns carry a hefty price tag. Magnum Research’s BFR doesn’t get the attention that it deserves, so I wanted to test the company’s single-action shotgun/centerfire .45/.410 revolver.
It’s available with either a 7.5- or 5.25-inch barrel. Both barrels have a 1:20 twist rate and a groove diameter of 0.451 inch. The shorter version measures 12.75 inches overall, while the long-barreled version is an even 15 inches. The long-barreled .45/.410 BFR weighs 4.5 pounds. Buyers can choose from either white Bisley-style grips or black polymer plow-handle-style grips. All these revolvers feature a brushed stainless finish, and the .45/.410 has a removable ventilated rib with front and mid-beads instead of the adjustable iron sights and Weaver-style rail that are standard with all other BFR revolvers.
The .45/.410 BFR also comes with a choke tube that helps improve pattern performance, but it must be removed before shooting .410 slugs or .45 Colt ammunition. Cylinder capacity is six rounds, and the single-action trigger breaks at a crisp 2.5 pounds. An interlock on the loading gate allows the cylinder to rotate without cocking the hammer. The .45/.410 uses Magnum Research’s long cylinder, the same cylinder that’s used for BFRs chambered in .30-30, .45-70 and .444 Marlin. Because this has the long cylinder, it can easily accommodate both 2.5- and three-inch .410 shotshells. Suggested retail for this gun is $1,306 as tested, but the Bisley grips raise retail price to $1,391.
The Magnum Research .45/.410 draws a crowd wherever it appears. I have never had a half-dozen onlookers observing while test-firing, but you can count on the BFR to function as an icebreaker when you pull it from your shooting bag. One person even wanted to take a selfie with it. I started with two light .45 Colt loads from Federal and SIG to get accustomed to the feel of the gun. Both rounds barely caused the big, beefy BFR to move in the rest, and either load would have been ideal for a new shooter.
At the Range
Next, I tested Grizzly’s +P load. It’s rated at 1,225 fps, but the BFR pushed it out the muzzle at 1,372 fps, which places it squarely in .454 Casull territory. That also makes this round a compelling choice for bear defense and hunting large game. Recoil is also compelling, even in a revolver that weighs as much as a mountain rifle, and these hot loads are best reserved for an experienced shooter with a steady hand. With the choke tube screwed back into place, I fired both 2.5- and three-inch .410 loads. Both .410 loads produce manageable recoil, and even though three-inch loads produce more muzzle rise, it was nothing like the Grizzly .45 Colt ammunition.
It could be argued that the BFR .45 Colt/.410 is as versatile as any handgun on the market. You could make a compelling case for it as a self-defense firearm—with either .410 or .45 Colt loads—although not as a concealed-carry gun. After a single .410 shell and a few .45 Colt rounds, my “assailant” target looked quite tattered. With .410 shells, even the light 2.5-inchers, the BFR would work well for dispatching rodents and venomous snakes, and with potent .45 Colt ammo it could crumple a bear. It would also make a great all-purpose cabin gun—fun to shoot and functional for dispatching small or even large game as needed.
In my home state of Ohio, handguns chambered in .45 Colt are one of the few legal centerfire options for hunting deer. I think the BFR .45 Colt would work for hunting deer, hogs or similar-size animals at close range—and then switch to shotshell loads for hunting small game. But I also think BFR .45/.410 could make use of a rail or an optics cut.
But don’t buy the BFR .45/.410 because it’s practical. That’s not what makes this gun special. This is a gun you buy because you want it, because it’s one of a kind, and because it deserves space in your collection. Those should be all the reasons you need to check out a special revolver like this.