Meet The RSh-12: The Most Powerful Revolver in The World is Russian

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Well, the most powerful production revolver in the world anyway, and that’s just according to the manufacturer. For whatever reason, Russian designers took to creating a revolver to fire their 12.7x55mm cartridge (speculated to be a cut-down .338 Lapua case; it and the rifle it was designed for have been covered previously on TFB here), it has been suggested for the purpose of destroying locks and other objects.

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One of the interesting aspects of the 12.7x55mm cartridge is that it is capable of being loaded with very, very light bullets for caliber; one aluminum-cored loading has been reported to be as light as 7 grams (108 grains). This gives the caliber the potential for very, very high velocity, and it’s possible that when firing this ammunition the RSh-12 could become the highest velocity production revolver in the world.

The RSh-12 competes with the S&W 500 for the title of “most powerful revolver” in the world. It remains to be seen how powerful the former is, and whether it does take the crown from Smith & Wesson’s effort.

Thanks to Daniel for the tip.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • C.

    I’d have thought the Russians would have enough sense to build a .88 magnum revolver. Why shoot through locks when you can shoot through schools?

    • CB

      They already shot through schools back in 2004.

      • lapkonium

        You’re a disgusting arse of a human being.

    • El Duderino

      Robocop unavailable for comment.

    • 69murray

      My mother hung me on a hook once… ONCE!

  • Giolli Joker

    I wonder if this as been really produced or it’s just a prototype that will never see real development or use.
    The linked article says that it can be equipped with a suppressor (and the barrel actually looks threaded) that should require interesting technical solutions…

    Russians have always been aware that lower barrels on revolvers can help tame muzzle jump, but it seems that the inspiration for the overall look comes straight from the Chiappa Rhino.

    • Hrachya H.

      Agree with you. Must definetly be inspired by Rhino (polygonal cylinder and lower barrel) at least for exterior. My best guess is that it uses Nagant style forward moving cylinder with cylinder just being pushed to the barrel to eliminate the gap (obviously no brass protruding over cylnder).

      • Hrachya, that speculation has no ground to stand on, so far as I know. If you have documentation for this, could you share it?

        • suchumski

          Wasent the Rhino just a copy from the MATEBA?

          • Darren Hruska

            More like a “successor” actually. Emilio Ghisoni designed the Mateba revolvers AND the Chiappa Rhino.
            Anyways, I’m pretty sure the RSh-12 doesn’t use a “gas seal” action like the M1895 Nagant or M1910 “Swingout” (basically an M1895 with a swingout cylinder). The RSh-12 does come with suppressors, but it’s hard to say how effective they’d be without a “gas seal” action. Now, the suppressor should lower the sound signature a bit since not all gases will escape via the cylinder gap. Much of it will still travel through the barrel. Whether it’s a noticeable difference or not is unknown.

          • Giolli Joker

            Actually Emilio Ghisoni designed the Mateba 6Unica (semi-auto revolver) and all the other oddities that preceded it.
            Antonio Cudazzo designed the Rhino with Ghisoni’s blessing and wanted Ghisoni’s name to be related to the project.
            Mateba 6Unica’s and Chiappa Rhino have in common only the lower barrel and some exterior lines, the first is a semi-auto revolver, the latter a more conventional revolver with much different ergonomics.
            (source: I bought a 6Unica .454 directly from Mateba, I met the late Emilio Ghisoni, I shot Rhino prototypes well before Chiappa was involved and I’m in touch with the person that sponsored the Rhino development and brought it to Chiappa Firearms)

            Regarding the RSh-12, I agree with Nathaniel that there’s no evidence that the cylinder is moving forward to provide seal. I would guess that there would be a clue of such a feature in the cylinder indents, but they seem to be traditionally shaped, although oddly positioned way more forward than usual.
            There’s even a slot on the barrel, just before the muzzle, that might be a port but that would again go against the capability of shooting suppressed. There even seem to be sort of a lever inside it…

          • Darren Hruska

            Well, I do know that Ghisoni did pass away before the Rhino hit the market, but he did still play a vital role in its creation. Anyways, that’s a pretty impressive story you got there! Buying .454 Casull Sei Unica is beyond awesome itself, but actually meeting the guy behind it?! WOW!!!
            I’m not quite sure what’s up with that slot. However, I’m sure there’s some special things about the cylinder that we don’t know. This gun is meant to fire loads with bullet weights ranging from 108 grains up to 1,173 grains. The shorter and lighter bullets will have to (obviously) travel further to catch the barrel’s rifling. So, I can see the cylinder gap being extremely small.

          • Giolli Joker

            I’m not that confident that the revolver can chamber the subsonic rounds.
            The linked article shows these rounds:
            http://englishrussia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/AS-12-1.jpg
            While the subsonic ones, designed for the VKS (cool info on the MTs-558, BTW, thanks) are these:
            http://world.guns.ru/userfiles/images/sniper/sn72/vsk-vssk-ammo.jpg
            At 97mm of OAL (almost 4″) they seem to me way too long for the revolver.
            But I can be wrong… I can only hope that Max Popenker will be able to handle/review this monster one day to tell us about it.
            (BTW, at IDEX2013 there was a VKs and other cool stuff from KBP, including the OTs-38 silent revolver, but no trace of this behemoth)

          • Darren Hruska

            Max Popenker is the Guns.ru guy, right?
            Anyways, the older Russian sources list the RSh-12 as being able to use the PS-12A (very light bullet, likely the 108 grain one), PD-12 (duplex bullet), PS-12 (heavier bullet, probably like mid-range 400 grains or so), PS-12B (armor piercing), and SP-130 (subsonic “sniper” ammo) loadings. Granted, this is through Google translate, and thus the designations might be a bit off.
            To leave off, I know of another “low bore axis” revolver from Russia, the AEK-906. Looks interesting. . .

          • Giolli Joker

            Yes he is: http://world.guns.ru/about-the-author-e.html
            The most reliable English language source of info on Russian weapons, I believe.
            AEK-906, the Nosorog (=rhino…), I guess it’s been the first low bore axis Russian revolver… but I find the OTs-38 much more appealing for the cartridge it shoots.

          • Darren Hruska

            The OTs-38 is also a good one! That “gas seal” ammo seems to date back to the mid-1960s with the Soviet S4M and the American QSPR (a modified S&W Model 29). I do find it a bit awkward that the OTS-38 utilizes the “low bore axis” design though. I’d imagine that recoil of the 7.62x42mm SP4 round would be very manageable (143 grain bullet at 655 ft/s). Well, any slight recoil difference can be a life or death difference, I guess.

        • RaunchyDawg

          “Best Guess” doesn’t need ground to stand on if it did it would be of the educated guess type.

      • Anonymoose

        The Stechkin silent revolver has been around since way before the Rhino came out.

  • northafrican

    give it to jerry miculek

    • iksnilol

      That’s how they came up with the CIWS.

      • Chase Buchanan

        Yeah seriously. This is classified, but I found out about it because I’m a Delta Beret Army SEAL operator: The new anti-missile system for the USS Gerald R. Ford is that they’ve hired Jerry Miculek to stand on deck and shoot incoming missiles with his revolver.

        • Fanfare Ends

          Lol.

        • Dwayne Meaux

          No such job master chief warrent sergeant captian private gunny. What a fag! I am what you always dreamed to be pansy

  • dp

    Light aluminum bullet is not quite new idea; Spanish Cetme program was experimentally involved with that. The benefit is increase of muzzle energy without increase of momentum (and recoil).

  • Here is some delicious statistical information for your enjoyment.

    Weight: 2.2 kg (4.85 lbs)
    Overall length: 357mm (14.06 inch)
    Barrel length: 250mm (9.8 inch)
    Claimed effective range: 300 meters (328 yd)
    Capacity: 5
    Cartridge dimensions: 12.7x55mm
    Caliber: 12.7mm

    The manufacturer claims the RSh-12 is able to penetrate Level IV armor, not an unreasonable claim considering the huge case length (rivals with the OAL of a 7.62x39mm cartridge) and the 109 grain aluminium core bullet it pushes.

    Picture in my post are four different cartridges.
    From left to right: PS-12A (presumably the aluminium core light bullet), PD-12 (duplex round), SS-12 (possibly FMJ) and SS-12B (heavy bullet, presumably armor piercing).

    • Renegade

      This awful-looking Mateba clone clocks in at almost 5 pounds (empty), much heavier than the 3.75 pounds (empty) for a 6.5″ S&W 500.

      Having owned a LeMat, I can tell you that hauling around a 5 pound revolver absolutely sucks. Shoulder holster or bust.

      • John

        To give some perspective, there are some AR-15 builds that weigh lighter than that revolver.
        The most notable lightweight non-polymer AR is the AIR-15 at 4.8lbs

        • BindairDundat

          is it just me or is there a VERY noticeable lag between the trigger pull and the actual firing of the round?

          • BindairDundat

            ah, never mind, a little longer viewing and I can see it is on trigger release that the click happens

  • guest

    IN SOVIET RUSSIA REVOLVER FIRES YOU

    • k

      in soviet russia faggot is you!

    • Nicholas I

      There is no Soviet Russia, moron.

      • Dicholas-II

        Yeah because Putin wasn’t in charge of the KGB or anything… you know the people who fucking controlled the Soviet Union from the inside, moron.

        • james von Brunn

          there’s no USSR…..but…there’s a USSA………

  • jamezb

    Another strange Russian toy we won’t get to play with, thanks to Big Muther…

    • Brocus

      If you wanna be a traitor and funnel monies to our enemies…

      • Zugunder

        Your enemies? Really? And this people call us “brainwashed”…

      • Copyright101

        If you wanna be a traitor and funnel monies to our enemies

        No, it’s OK, it’s Russian and not an Israeli gun.

        • Nicholas I

          Haha. Good joke. Your pretending that Israel is our enemy when in fact it’s our greatest and most loving ally and the only democracy in the middle east. And the women there are so lovely and sweet and kind.

  • Victor

    In your average American neighborhood, this revolver can shoot through 28 houses.

    • KestrelBike

      If you listen closely, everytime the gun fires you can hear 28 separate “My Bayybee!!”

  • Kirill

    As far as I know, no Russian operations group uses it. It was designed, I suppose, because there was a budget surplus in the design bureau and they needed a way to ensure they would keep that budget for the next year, all while gaining the ability to say they have the most powerful production revolver in the world.

    Politics aren’t just a Western thing, after all.

    • Cornelius Carroll

      What ever happened to designing stuff “just because we can”? 🙂

  • Brocus
    • iksnilol

      That thing is not production, it’s a one off custom.

      • Giolli Joker

        Yep, like this one:

        http://newsystemarms.com/img_armi/collezione/cucciolo/3.jpg

        (MR New System Arms Cucciolo (“puppy”) cal. .728MR, basically a full brass 3″ 1/2 12 gauge loaded with slug)

        But actually we have no idea how many RSh-12 have ever been manufactured.
        Maybe only the prototype in the article.

        • They built at least two. Note the difference in the barrel shroud vents in the pictures shown at the linked article. The pictures near the top of the article shows three trapezoidal slots, while those towards the bottom of the article show four oval slots. The revolver shown in top photos also has a fluted cylinder.

          • Laserbait

            No, that the metal distorting from shooting it. 😀

  • ensitue

    Fugly

  • Cornelius Carroll

    Of course it’s Russian.

  • Laserbait

    It looks like Cobray tried to make a clone of the Rhino revolver. Probably a 25lb trigger pull on that thing.

  • Professor Hale

    Because Bolt cutters were too hard to get?

    • kingghidorah

      Why use cheap plentiful bolt cutters when you can potentially maim or kill yourself or someone else with a beast like this one? I use a jack hammer to open jars all of the time.

  • me ohmy

    great… the Podbyrin 9.2 mm Pistol from the Arnold Schwartzenegger flick RED HEAT is a reality…http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/(Red_Heat)_-_Podbyrin_9.2_mm_Pistol

    • That was precisely the thing which came to mind upon reading the headline of this article.

  • Lance

    No I still think Israel has the title they made the 45-70 cal revolver years ago that beast this in power by a long shot.

    • iksnilol

      I believe that the 12.7x55mm is more powerful than your average 45/70.

      The 12.7x55mm is an “old” cartridge furst used in a subsonic vatiant in the VSK rifle.

      • marathag

        Wimpy 45-70 rounds that are safe for old trap doors, sure.

        But there are 45-70 loaded to 458 Winchester levels.

        ..not that even the 45-70 Remington green box stuff would be easy on the hand from an oversized Colt SAA

      • Giolli Joker

        This:
        http://world.guns.ru/sniper/large-caliber-sniper-rifles/rus/vks-vssk-vychlop-e.html
        Saw it in IDEX2013, pretty impressive.
        Although we don’t know much about the ballistics of the cartridge, I bet that it beats any 45-70 but the hottest loadings that can be shot only by few guns.

  • Given the rimless case, I wonder whether it uses moon-clips or a proprietary extraction system.

    The case alone is nearly the same length as a loaded .500 S&W Magnum, so it definitely has the potential to be more powerful. It is closer in size to the .50 Alaskan, which has been used in conversions of the Magnum Research BFR by gunsmiths like Jack Huntington. Given the length of the barrel versus the cylinder, I suspect the Rsh-12’s cylinder might be able to accept the longer subsonic rounds designed for the VKS Vykhlop.

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2011/12/21/the-vks-russias-other-12-7x55mm-rifle/

    As for the speculation about the .338 Lapua, note the ammunition display photo in the ASh-12 article. There are subsonic 12.7x55mm rounds displayed above 8.6x69mm rounds. The latter metric designation is roughly equal to a .338 Lapua. Note the the mouth of the 12.7x55mm case is roughly equal to the point on the 8.6x69mm case where its shoulder begins. Any quick guesses how long a .338 Lapua case is at the shoulder? (Hint: It is nearly 55mm.)

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/dsc_1145-tfb.jpg

  • Darren Hruska

    Thanks for finally posting this TFB!!! I actually knew about this revolver for months. Anyways, here’s what I (presumably) know about this revolver. This is going by rough Google translations from Russian pages.

    The gun fires the 12.7x55mm round, which is noted. It sounds like it can use the supersonic rounds (ASh-12) and the subsonic “sniper” rounds (VKS and MC-558). And yes, the 12.7x55mm round can be formed from cut-down .338 LM brass. In fact, the MC-558 is a civilian version of the VKS (without the integrated suppressor), and it can be chambered in the 12.7x55mm “sniper” round, .338 LM, and .300 LM.
    Anyways, the supersonic 12.7x55mm round is claimed to be almost 50% more powerful than the .500 S&W Magnum (12.7x41mm). You’re looking at perhaps upwards of 4,000-4,500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That’s still quite a bit weaker than the .600 Nitro Express round from a Pfeifer Zeliska (7,600 foot-pounds at the muzzle), but this is still one of the most powerful handguns in the world while being less than half of the weight of the Pfeifer Zeliska.
    Furthermore, the barrel of the revolver is in line with the 6 o’clock position of the cylinder. This seems to be inspired by Emilio Ghisoni (Mateba 2006M, Mateba Model 6 Unica “Autorevolver”, and the Chiappa Rhino). What this does is create a low bore axis, and this puts the recoil more in line with the shooter’s hand rather than above it (reducing muzzle flip). This revolver is claimed to have a muzzle flip similar to a traditional .44 Magnum revolver even though this 12.7x55mm round is MUCH more powerful.
    Well, since this is getting lengthy, I’ll wrap it up. The RSh-12 is apparently being used by the FSB and GRU, and thus this makes it, by far, the most powerful combat handgun ever serviced. Also, here’s a picture of the MC-558 since finding info of it on the internet is almost impossible.

    • I’ve known about the gun for a while, as well, but it’s difficult to find information on it. It is, apparently, an actual production gun, though.

    • kivaari

      This rifle is not “MS-558”, it’s actually MTs-558, this why you couldn’t find info on it. The cyrillic letter “C” is this “ts” in English transliteration

      • Darren Hruska

        That sounds reasonable. I saw “MTs” in some of the links I’ve found for the rifle, but dumb Google Translate wants to call it the “MC-558”.

    • Fred Johnson

      There has got to be a point where recoil forces going “straight” into the hand has to be a worse solution than having a gun roll upwards in the hand.

      Is this that gun? Or does “straight back” recoil become a problem at a much lower power level?

      • Darren Hruska

        I’m sure it’s not too pleasant, but I’m not quite sure. You either get a pushed in wrist or twisted wrist it’d seem, and the latter would perhaps dangerously throw the gun out of your hand (this is assuming one’s not strong enough to handle this much recoil). So, I’d probably take a straight-back recoil before a ton of muzzle flip.

  • USMC03Vet

    Real Russians deal with bears with their bare hands……

    http://www.zangief.net/images/zangief3.gif

  • iksnilol

    So much want.

    Also it is nice to have ammo commonality if you have a VSK.

    Also it would be a legal handgun in Norway due to being less than .460 caliber.

  • BattleshipGrey

    I understand the picatinny rail is probably meant for various things besides just lights (like a tripod), but why didn’t they also incorporate a rail just ahead of the trigger guard? That would be a little more practical for mounting lights. Not that this is the most practical weapon to begin with though.

  • An Interested Person

    I don`t really know why… but I just gotta have one.

    • James Brown

      Its strange really. I thought i knew what it was like to want something. This revolver has causes me to re evaluate that entirely.

  • LCON

    looks like there was influence form the Mateba family in regards to the cylinder barrel shroud and configuration

  • nzMACnz

    Looks just like a real life version of my Handcannon in the game Destiny

    • Darren Hruska

      Practically all of the handcannons in Destiny have the barrel lined with the 6 o’clock position of the cylinder. So, in the real world, this is about the closest thing you get to Destiny’s handcannons. Ghisoni’s designs are a runner-up.

  • C.J. Shull

    I HIGHLY doubt this will be a production revolver. Just another fancy Nitro 600 small production boutique gun you’ll never hear about again.

  • Robert Thorne

    I bet a .500 magnum chambering would be more fun. Tee hee hee

  • El Duderino

    Harry Callahan’s gonna need a bigger shoulder holster. And maybe a new set of suit jackets, too.

  • Nicholas Mew

    Because Fuck You That’s Why!!!

  • mosinman

    *looks at ISU-152*
    “is nice tank Boris…. now build in revolver form!”

  • Madcap_Magician

    In Soviet Russia, Revolver Carry YOU.

    … nothing wrong with it that a 16″ barrel and a folding buttstock can’t fix.

  • mechamaster

    ‘Russian Anti-material revolver’ is more appropriate. LoL.

  • Ben

    Big and Powerful, like Mother Russia

  • B.

    This is the firearm Bungie based the handcannon in Destiny off of.
    I want one in real life now, please.

  • John Constantine

    RSh-12 vs. S&W 500? This is a question for “The Professional Russian”!!! 😀

    • Darren Hruska

      The RSh-12 is claimed to be almost 50% more powerful.

  • StanSki

    I can haz Russki hand cannon?

  • JohnTomato

    How much?

  • Joshua Madoc

    And here I thought Matebas are dead.

  • john

    Why do some Russian weapons look like they were put together with leftover parts from a pre-war automobile plant. I think I can actually see part of a turn signal!

  • john

    Much smaller calibers with armor piercing steel cores would work just as well at “lock busting” as this monstrosity!

  • Carl Hossli

    Meh. Where’s the bayonet lug?

  • Robert177

    That revolver is so ugly, it just HAD to be of Russian design.

  • Leigh Rich

    S&W M500 is the winner hands down.

  • Beard!

    Might be a tad difficult to CC.

  • Dima

    Funny thing that they called the Assault Revolver(Револьвер Штурмовой) – 12.

  • MRHapla

    Wow, Red Heat all over again. Schwarzenegger/Belushi 1988

  • Dude

    Lock destroyer

  • Chained

    It definitely takes the crown as the world’s ugliest modern revolver—-as only Russia could do.