The first handgun I ever bought was a stainless, 5.5 inch Ruger Redhawk in 44 magnum. I purchased it from the Ft. Ord Rod and Gun club in 1982. I still have it and it would be absolutely the last gun I ever got rid of. Not because it's the be all end all of modern handguns but because it was my first and has the place of primacy in my heart.
I bought that gun after careful and considered thought. In the course of my research I came across the writings and musings of one Elmer Keith and he ended up having a fairly profound impact on my views and opinions about all firearms and especially handguns.
When faced with the choice between calibers I invariably choose the larger and tend toward heavier bullets. I believe that the marksman is the true decider but something (or someone) hit with bigger notices it more immediately. Shot placement is king but big bullets tend to make more reliably lethal wounds with the tendency for all things mechanical in nature to fail at inopportune times. It's just my personal choice. Your mileage may vary.
Elmer used to write for Guns and Ammo, among others and that is where I was introduced to him. Keith was a proponent of six guns. He was instrumental in developing the 44 Special into what would become the 44 magnum. Keith was a six gun guru and became the man I most listened to when it came to big bore handguns. John Taffin has a great article about Keith and his six guns here. He designed a bullet design still in wide use today. When you hear or read 'Keith Style Bullets' this is what they mean. Love him or hate him (and there are many on both sides of that argument), Keith was instrumental in the further development of big bore revolvers.
It wasn't until years later, when I became a patrol officer and had to hand over my 4 inch 686 for an HK P7, that I lost my way and strayed from the revolver path for the sinful life of 9mm and semi auto pistols. Since then I've begun my way back to the land of big guns and big bullets. I've recently added a 4.5 inch Ruger New Model Blackhawk in 45 LC to the armory. I got to shoot it the other day. Here it is almost full recoil. I was shooting Cor Bon 335 grain hardcast. They list them at 1050 fps. I've got 500 260 grain semi wadcutters and an open reloading manual on the loading bench as we speak. I'm pretty sure I can get at least close to 1200 fps without leading but we shall see.
The real question now is how far am I going to go with this? I've been eyelusting after the S&W 500 Magnum. It's a monster but maybe a bit of overkill? How about the 475 Linebaugh? A 454 Casull perhaps? The problem is that these handguns are very narrowly focused, and yes I do include both my Redhawk and Blackhawk in that categorization. They are big bore handguns that are also, well...kinda big. Unwieldy comes readily to mind but concealable and handy do not. They're handguns and cartridges designed primarily for hunting, frightening small children and impressing your friends ("Look how big mine is!"). Forget personal defense unless it's tripod mounted and fed by a squad of native porters and gun bearers. Whenever I strap on my Redhawk I have to wear a balancing gun on the other side.
Still, I cannot deny that the allure of the big bore handgun draws me like 'Possums to headlights. Big booms, big holes and sprained wrists. What's not to love? Those guns and calibers have authority. When you touch one off there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that you have a gun in your hand. They feel solid and lethal. Thor's Hammer come down from Valhalla and taken mortal form. Plastic can't even be used on a holster for one much less the actual gun. It'll melt in pure shame upon the simple touch of a true big bore revolver.
Leather is the only accoutrement they need and whole cows are often necessary to craft one. Hip holsters that might have some fine tooling and a silver concho or two and a belt with cartridge loops. Nothing more. Throwbacks to our western heritage and a time when a man could go about his business carrying the implement that safeguarded his freedom around his waist.
We have gone far, far down the road toward emasculation but we're not there yet. Not so long as we possess the means but more importantly the mindset, to resist. Make mine in Big Bore please.
I'm in the mood to resist.