Even before yesterday's renewed examination of .45 wheelguns for big critters, I got to talking with my neighbor a bit about his .460 Rowland, which is what he intends for bruin repellent.
I remember running across reports of this cartridge a while back, and I kinda wrote them off; at the time, my thinking was that guns tend to work best with the cartridges they were designed around, especially auto pistols, and at any rate I was figuring that I'd invest in the Rolls-Royce of big wheelguns, a Bowen Arms Nimrod, for all things bear, and be done with it.
This was before moving to Alaska, however, and now I'm thinking about the Rowland idea again.
In a nutshell, the Rowland is an elongated .45ACP case that operates at 40,000psi, as opposed to 21,000psi. Jim Clark makes a drop-in kit for 1911s that is simply a compensated barrel, bushing, guide rod, 20 and 24 pound Wolff recoil springs, and instructions, and it sounds like the expansion port compensator and heavy recoil springs are enough to keep slide velocity low enough that it doesn't batter the gun. It's been around long enough now that we can say that it works.
And the power level seems to be mid-level .44 Magnum performance. Buffalo Bore claims, out of one of the Clark kits, 230 grains at 1350fps, and 255 at 1300. Consider that when most people considered the .44 the "most powerful handgun in the world", the load it had made its name on was a 240 grain bullet at a listed 1500fps. (Well, from 8" and longer test barrels, that is. In the 4" and 6" barrels of most people's working guns, actual velocities were probably closer to Elmer Keith's original development envelope of 1,200fps.) And of course now, we know that the .44 can be loaded to much greater performance levels...but still, 255 grains at 1300, especially with a good bullet design, is pretty impressive...and that performance from what's effectively a 6" 1911?
Wow, that really is something. At the penalty of requiring either a new holster or an existing one with open muzzle...that's the gun you already know, the one you might already wear on a regular basis, luxuriously slim and comfortable, with eight or nine full-house .44 Mag loads on tap, and a slim reload faster than any rimmed-round wheelgun. This is an idea which may be worth revisiting.
My neighbor bought his already converted; it's a Dan Wesson base gun with the Clark kit installed, and probably fitted by someone--the lockup seems pretty tight. The only thing I'd change is the sights, but that's a personal preference--I get distracted by all the white on a Millett-style rear sight, and for a field gun I want the front sight to be plain black, either with serrations or an undercut.
He seems amenable to some joint testing at the range, so I'll see if I can score a box of Buffalo Bore's 255s for him (not cheap, but a worthy experiment) and bring chronograph and some penetration testing materials; maybe we can see how they perform next to BB's 325-grain .45 Colt.
Fun times ahead. :-)