Wheelgun Wednesday: New .500 Bushwhacker Cartridge for BFR Revolvers by TII Armory

Hrachya H
by Hrachya H
Wheelgun Wednesday TII Armory .500 Bushwhacker Cartridge and BFR Conversion (5)

With standard factory chambering options like .45-70 Government and .450 Marlin, the Magnum Research BFR revolver is probably the most capable production wheelgun that is not a shotgun or grenade launcher. Well, if these chamberings are not big enough for you and if you want an even more powerful version of the Biggest Finest Revolver, TII Armory of Halsey, Oregon has got you covered with their new .500 Bushwhacker cartridge designed for the BFR revolver which turns this massive wheelgun into “the world’s most powerful handgun”.

Big Bore Revolvers @ TFB:

The Cartridge

The .500 Bushwhacker is a hunting cartridge specifically designed for the Magnum Research BFR revolver with a goal to squeeze the utmost power from this gun. It is basically a lengthened .500 S&W Magnum that fits the 3″ length of the BFR revolver’s cylinder. The first samples of the cartridge were made out of .375 Ruger cases but the production cartridges are newly made ones produced by Bertram Brass USA. TII Armory notes that the .500 Bushwhacker cartridge brings the power of the African stopping rifle to the frontier of the hand-held revolver. Indeed, in the 10.5″ barreled BFR revolver, the .500 Bushwhacker pushes a 400 grain bullet to 2315 feet per second, a 520 grainer to 2083 fps, and a 620 grain projectile is propelled to a muzzle velocity of 1,895 fps. The 7.5″ version of the revolver only loses 50 fps of muzzle velocity in each load.

L-R: .375 Ruger case; Early .500 Bushwhacker case made of .375 Ruger; Bertram .500 Bushwhacker case; .500 S&W Magnum case

Compared to older .50 caliber cartridges such as .50-90 Sharps and .50-110 Winchester, the .500 Bushwhacker has a smaller base diameter that allows having thicker cylinder walls at given cylinder dimensions and capacity, and is more powerful thanks to the higher chamber pressure (62,000 psi) it operates at. Additionally, the mentioned cartridges use .512″ projectiles, whereas the bullet diameter of .500 Bushwhacker is .500″ which is identical to that of the .500 S&W Magnum. This makes the conversion of BFR revolvers chambered in .500 S&W Magnum pretty much a matter of converting the cylinder without the need to have a new barrel. Last but not least, a BFR revolver chambered in .500 Bushwhacker can also shoot .500 S&W Magnum, .500 JRH and .500 Special rounds.

L-R: Two standard-length .500 S&W Magnum cartridges; Four .500 S&W Magnum cartridges loaded to longer COAL; Three .500 Bushwhacker cartridges

20-round boxes of .500 Bushwhacker ammunition loaded with 400 grain Lehigh WFN, 410 grain Bengal WFNGC or 520 grain Bengal WFNGC bullets can be currently purchased from the TII Armory’s website for $92.99 – $104.99. For those who want to load their own .500 Bushwhacker ammo and reload the fired cases, the company sells new brass cases ( $2.29-$2.65 per case) and 4-die reloading die sets ( $119.99).

The Revolver

As mentioned above, converting a .500 S&W Magnum BFR revolver into .500 Bushwhacker is a matter of rechambering the cylinder. However, even a humongous 4.5-pound wheelgun like the BFR will be challenging or even impossible to control when the muzzle energy is over 5,000 foot-pounds. That’s why one of the crucial components of the conversion package is the large 5-port muzzle brake seen in the pictures. In fact, the company does not recommend firing full loads of .500 Bushwhacker ammunition without the muzzle brake. TII Armory initially designed a steel brake but it didn’t satisfy them and they ended up using a Ti Pro Heavy titanium muzzle brake. The result is highly effective recoil reduction at minimum weight increase and balance alteration (a 7.5″ barreled BFR revolver equipped with this brake is not longer than and weighs less than a standard BFR with a 10.5″ barrel). The company notes that Ronnie Wells “Potato Judge” grip frame helps to further reduce the recoil and also recommends using padded gloves when shooting. According to TII Armory, as far as the recoil management is concerned, if a full-size .454 Casull is within your comfort zone, the .500 Bushwhacker likely is too.

Wheelgun Wednesday TII Armory .500 Bushwhacker Cartridge and BFR Conversion (2)

The cost of converting a BFR revolver chambered in .500 S&W Magnum to .500 Bushwhacker is $800 and includes rechambering the cylinder, installation of the Ti Pro Heavy titanium muzzle brake as well as modification of the front sight and its reinstallation on the muzzle brake. If your BFR revolver is not chambered in .500 S&W Magnum, then rebarreling it to .500 caliber will cost you an additional $250.

To learn more about the .500 Bushwhacker and TII Armory’s BFR conversion, read their article dedicated to this cartridge and/or watch the below-embedded video.

In the mentioned article, TII Armory notes that “there is no reason why the .500 Bushwhacker might not be adapted to Thompson Center Encores, Ruger No. 1s, or any number of other platforms besides the single action revolver“. I think a lever gun chambered in .500 Bushwhacker would be a perfect companion for this wheelgun. I’d love to see TII Armory and Big Horn Armory, the .500 S&W Magnum lever gun gurus, teaming up to create such a lever action rifle. What a battery of guns that would be! Let us know what you think in the comments section and see you in a week, in the next installment of TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday.

Pictures by TII Armory, www.tiiarmory.com

Hrachya H
Hrachya H

Managing Editor Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying the history and design of guns and ammunition. Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at Hrachya@TheFirearmBlog.com

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4 of 29 comments
  • Anomanom Anomanom on Oct 06, 2022

    More like .500 Armbreaker. Why do this instead of making a far more practical rifle?

    • Matthew Matthew on Oct 06, 2022

      @Anomanom They were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should

  • XM1A2A XM1A2A on Oct 06, 2022

    On a .500 S&W BFR, TII’s work is not true “re-chambering” but boring out the leade in the cylinder chamber holes to add another inch for the longer “Bushwacker” case.

    On the S&W Model 500 [double-action] revolver, there’s still about 1/2 inch of leade ahead of the overall length of the cartridges, in the cylinder holes — if the bullets are limited to no more than 440 grains. For the shorter barrels, 4 inches and less, 440 grain bullets are the upper limit, anyhow, on what can be stabilized to not keyhole on the target.

    Technically, this means that leade can be bored out to accept Bushwacker cases trimmed back to an intermediate length, halfway between that of the .500 S&W and .500 Bushwacker. The result would deliver top-end, .50 Alaskan energies (4,000 - 4,400 ft. lbs.) from the S&W Model 500 revolver.

    As long as chamber pressures are not pushing past 60,000 psi, the S&W Model 500 would be able to tolerate the “Bushwacker Kurz / 75%er” without blowing apart.

    • James Tow James Tow on Oct 08, 2022

      @XM1A2A Given a properly designed bullet, 2.3” COL loads can be assembled in standard .500 S&W brass. Running optimal powders at acceptable pressures, muzzle energy runs about 2,800-2,900 ft. lbs. from a S&W Model 500 w/ an 8 3/8” barrel, or 3,600-3,700 ft. lbs. from a 10.5” BFR.

      Recoil with these +L loads is tolerable, but extreme in the S&W, and unacceptable in a factory BFR. The addition of a muzzle brake is highly advisable in either case.