The .600 Nitro Express Hand Cannon
Updated: Aug 16
Wanenmacher’s Tulsa Arms Show bills itself as the "World’s Largest Gun Show." With more than 4,200 tables spread out across 11 acres, I’d bet that claim is true. The show is open to the public for 18 hours over the course of two days, twice a year. To look at every table in 18 hours, you’d have less than 16 seconds at each table. Because of this, it’s impossible to see every cool item at the show.
However, at the November 2014 show, I did indeed see something very cool. A man came up to the table I was at with two pistol cases and a twinkle in his eye. I wasn’t prepared for what was inside.
The cases held a pair of custom-made Thompson Center Encore pistols with 10” cannon-style barrels. Looking at the caliber designations on each, I was both amused and unnerved when I saw ".577 Hand Cannon" and ".600 Hand Cannon." Right then and there, I knew that I had to experience them for myself.
The guns returned with us from Oklahoma and went on exhibit in April 2015 at the museum where I worked at that time. Every day for almost two years, I eyeballed the .600 in the case, longing for the opportunity to take it to the range.
Fast-forward to March 2017 when NRATV wanted to do an "At the Range" video shoot with unusual museum guns. Instantly, I knew this was my opportunity to touch off a round (or two) from that gun.
Wanting to know more about the history behind these modern-day hand cannons, I reached out to Match Grade Machine, which is the Utah-based company that made the barrels.
When I asked him how these barrels came to be, Dylan told me that the man who had them made "always had an eye for the big bore stuff." He sent Dylan photos of old cannons for reference and he set to work designing the barrels. They made two pairs: one set that was 10" in length and one set that was 16.5" in length.
They machine the entire product – barrel, underlug, extractor, and locking bolt – in-house out of solid aircraft-grade steel, using a Fadal VMC 15 machining center. Workers then use manual lathes to ensure absolute precision in their barrels.
Looking at photos of the gun, you’ll notice that it has no sights. There’s two reasons for this: for starters, there’s no way to accurately aim a gun that powerful. Second, Dylan didn’t want to mill away any exterior part of the barrel for sight channels because that would make it weaker in those spots.
After shooting the gun twice, I can confirm that it does indeed live up to the name, "Hand Cannon." Even with slightly less powerful loads out of concerns for safety (both for me and the range backstop), it was still quite the beast to shoot.
The experience is one I won’t soon forget; and thanks to video, I won’t ever have to.
Enjoy this content? Consider supporting my work by becoming a patron through Patreon.
Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.