The vampire Alucard in Hellsing: he carries an awesomely huge pistol (39 cm/16" long, 6kg unloaded) stylized after an old-fashioned Colt that can fire the mighty .454 Casull cartridge (which is only slightly smaller than a AA battery); in fact, this ammo gives the gun its common name, "The Casull." Later on he is given another, bigger pistol (though it's more like a huge block of metal with a trigger) called "The Jackal" (also 39 cm/16" long, 16kg unloaded, 13mm Mercury core rounds with blessed Macedonian silver jackets), which he uses together with the first one akimbo-style. Both guns are ridiculously heavy for their size. For comparison, the US Army's standard-issue platoon machine gun, the M240B, weighs in at 12kg. Neither are weapons any man could hope to wield, the former for its kickback and the latter for its insane weight, but "It was never meant for a man." The latter is also so heavy because it has a bomb inside it.
Witness Luke Valentine's reaction to the Jackal being fired once, and blowing up half a wall:
Although not quite as impressive as the above examples, Luke Valentine can single-handedly wield a cut-down M1 Garand as his weapon of choice. While not quite as absurd as the solid slabs of steel that Alucard uses as handguns, the Garand is chambered for high-powered rifle ammunition that is actually superior to the Casull in most respects.
His Evil Twin Knives (who designed and built Vash's gun) uses an identical weapon with the same capabilities, although his was made with a dark, blued steel finish.
In the anime OVAAngel Cop, one character totes around a gigantic gun that's actually intended for use by a character in a strength-augmenting suit of armor. She's warned that firing it too often will eventually destroy every muscle in her arms.
Black Lagoon has its own vicious way with this trope using a Giant Mook neo-Nazi who claims that only a man of his gigantic proportions can handle his gold-plated Luger chambered for .454 Casull. Revy guns him down while he's still ranting about the capabilities of his weapon. She then points out (while sitting on his chest, which is still bleeding from her shooting him) that having a weapon that huge isn't even necessary, because all a bullet needs to do is hit the target to kill it. She proves her point by shooting him in the face at point blank range with her 9mm handgun. The funny part? Revy was out at the time and spent his rant calmly reloading.
Black Lagoon also has plenty of other characters (most of them villains) with oversized weapons, including Yolanda, the old nun from the Church of Violence who fires a gold-plated .50 AE Desert Eagle one handed; Gretel, a small girl and one of a pair of truly Creepy Twins, who fires a BAR from the hip; and even a Terminator 2-style minigun-wielder.
Corporal Randel Oland from Pumpkin Scissors and his 13mmnote (.51 Cal), For those curious, that's a little bigger than the ammunition used in anti-tank rifles. armor-piercing hand-gun (the "Door Knocker")—which is used by special infantry to go up against tanks. Randel wields it with one hand.
It's actually pointed out in-universe to be a highly impractical weapon; Randel, being over seven feet tall and built completely out of muscle, is one of the few people who's able to make good use of it.
Gungrave anime: During the arc that introduced the Necrolyzation technology, Brandon resorted to using a large handgun that fired "D-point rounds" to deal with Necro-Raised enemy Mooks.
Bubblegum Crisis: Both Leon and Priss carry Hand Cannons. Leon especially has a futuristic break-top style revolver called the "Earth Shaker" chambered in .600 Nitro Express with only three chambers in the cylinder. Considering that he's a member of a special police force which has to fight killer cyborgs who can shrug off small arms fire with ease, it's kind of understandable that he would carry something with more punch with him.
Trinity Blood has a couple of examples of this, the most notable of which are Tres' twin M13 Jerichos. Tres being an android, his usage of oversized weaponry is a bit more reasonable.
In One Piece, new character Basco Shot uses a large Flintlock on the Blackbeard Pirates' assault on Whitebeard. Considering that Shot has to be around 22 feet tall, that's got to be one big gun.
David from Blood+ carries a huge Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver (the very one mentioned in the top page quote), which he can imperceptibly hide in the folds of his jacket. Somewhat justified, in that he spends most of his time shooting it at Chiropterans, large and powerful quasi-vampiric monsters. (It never seemed to do much good, though). It's odd considering David comes right out and says that guns are useless against the monsters in the second episode.
Mana Tatsumiya in Mahou Sensei Negima! normally dual-wields Desert Eagles. They may or may not be air gun replicas, but can certainly fire real bullets, or at least Depleted Phlebotinum Shells. Keep in mind that firing a Desert Eagle in a single hand could potentially break the user's arm through recoil.
Contrary to popular belief, large-caliber handguns actually have less recoil than smaller-caliber ones, due to increased mass which helps compensate for the force and energy of the bullet leaving the gun, and due to the smoothness of the Desert Eagle's action in particular, it wouldn't kick nearly hard enough to break someone's arm. It does, however, have to be held firmly in place for the action to cycle properly.
Killy's Gravity Beam Emitter in Tsutomu Nihei's Blame! better fits into a Wave Motion Gun category, both due to its truly immensefirepower and enormous recoil, but it's still a pistol. And it isn't even all that big.
Wicked City protagonist Taki wields a revolver with an undisclosed modification specifically for demon hunting. The resulting force from every shot in the entire film throws him into walls, and unlike some anime the shots always have devastating results.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the spent casings from the Eva-sized handguns and assault rifles are big enough to crush cars. Not that the damn things are ever actually useful against Angels. Except for Matariel.
A character in Guyver has a pistol which has been "modified" so that it can damage Zoanoids, who are normally Immune to Bullets — it has a very large stock and its bullets are high-calibre, armour-piercing and explosive. They're so huge the gun can only hold three of them at once.
The Arcane Colt Custom in Witch Hunter demonstrates the realistic effect a weapon like this would have; after firing it only once, the main character's arm is broken by the recoil.
Liz and Patti's 'Death Eagle .42' forms in Soul Eater, being massive versions of their usual Weapon forms. Kid uses one in each hand to shoot down Mosquito's bats.
Kurohime features the title character's weapon, Senryuu (which grows even bigger as the series continues, and can transform into a gatling revolver, a sniper rifle, a shotgun/cannon, and something vaguely semblant of a minigun) and Onimaru's gun.
Castle in the Sky has something akin to this, an the one-shot weapons that Dola's pirate gang uses seem to also be capable of loading stink bombs as well as the normal bullet/explosive rounds. Near the end, the Big Bad actually calls the one Patsu carries a "cannon you can hardly lift."
Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero favours a Thompson Contender chambered for rifle cartridges as his main weapon. He furthermore uses custom-made bullets (containing his own ground-up bones) that disturb magic.
To say "disturb" magic is to massively understate it, whatever the bullets hit is severed and then tied together into a knot, essentially, presumably on a very small scale, if it hit a person, the surrounding area would have all the muscles, nerves, and veins severed and knotted, making them useless and causing fatal bleeding. If it hits an expression of magic, it cuts apart the magic circuits of the caster of the spell, ties them together, and causes the mana in the person to explode out of them.
Shows up fairly often in City Hunter, as only two of the main characters use normal-sized pistols: protagonist Ryo Saeba uses a modified Colt Python .357 Magnum (he can use any gun with near-perfect aim, but his usual weapon is that); his assistant Kaori, while favoring bazookas, grenades and miniguns (and a giant hammer from hammerspace), carries a relatively smaller Colt Lawman Mk III in .357 Magnum caliber (a memento from her late brother); Umibozu, when he can't use machine guns, bazookas and other heavy weapons, uses a S&W Model 29 chambered for .44 Magnum; and Reika Nogami carries a Derringer C.O.P. .357 Magnum (big for a Derringer, and very powerful). One-shot and recurring characters bring their own contributions.
Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica uses at least once a .50AE Desert Eagle (and what looks like a Taurus Raging Bull in the manga). Bonus points since Homura is an average built 14 year old girl. It's arguably a subversion: that Desert Eagle was the first firearm she wielded in an early timeline, having stolen it from the Yakuza when she was a lot less experienced. By the time of the show's timeline, dozens of iterations later, she's switched over to a much less flashy 9mm Beretta.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Chirico Cuvie's signature sidearm is the "Bahauser M571 Armor Magnum", an anti-armor pistol. Holds three (plus one) armor-piercing slugs in its underslung tubular magazine, each about the size of a C battery. Implied to be standard for Gilgamesh's Armored Trooper pilots, it's only capable of piercing weak spots on enemy mechs, such as joints and the main camera. This doesn't stop Chirico from scoring his fair share of AT kills with it, nor does he shy away from using it on people,.
In Mike Mignola's Hellboy series, the title character packs the Samaritan: a 20mm (.79'') hand-cannon. However, he is a superhumanly strong demon who fights supernatural menaces. Usually the gun isn't much use anyway, and Hellboy himself admits that he's a lousy shot with it, which is why he uses Depleted Phlebotinum Shells and his Right Hand of Doom.
In the The Warlord comics, Travis Morgan carries a .44 AutoMag which was certainly never a standard issue sidearm for USAF officers. It also qualifies as an instance of Rare Guns.
Some of these show up in Preacher: .45 revolvers, .50 pistols, and one piece the Big Bad maniacally refers to as "Doomcock." The SaintOfKillers also wields a pair of Walker Colt revolvers, which pack .44 ball and were arguably the most powerful handguns until magnum revolvers appeared in the 20th century. More specifically, they're a pair of Walker Colts forged from what used to be the Angel of Death's sword which makes them Weapon of Mass Destruction-class revolvers which never miss, never fail to kill what they hit, and can kill God.
When Nick Fury makes his return to the mainstream Marvel Universe during the Skrull invasion of New York in Secret Invasion, he does so wielding a gun that's about as big as he is.
In Jon Sable, Freelance, one of Sable's preferred weapons is a chrome .357 Magnum pepperbox. As a prototype that never made it into production, it also counts as an instance of Rare Guns.
Mr. Shlubb and Mr. Klump, twoloquacious hitmen in the Sin City series, use Robocop's Auto-9 machine-pistol (it's actually the same prop, even). Hartigan uses it akimbo with another gun to blow them both away in That Yellow Bastard.
Hartigan's original pistol was a .44 Magnum, mirroring Dirty Harry's Weapon of Choice. Other minor characters have a preference for large handguns as well, including the prison guard who escorts Hartigan out and the guy who tries to stir trouble up with Marv in A Dame To Kill For.
Lobo uses pretty much nothing but Hand Cannons or BFGs.
Marvel Comics' The Punisher 2099 uses as his main weapon the circa-2015 manufactured Smith & Wesson .54 Magnum full-automatic revolver. It's belt-fed and can fire 6 rounds a second (360 a minute). One character later observes that this weapon usually leaves the Punisher's victims with a "hole in the chest...and a missing back."
In one issue of ABC Warriors, workcrew on a massive terraforming operation on Mars have been going missing. The woman in charge carries a massive hand cannon with three chambers, but only three rounds. It is capable of killing anything it hits. She is eventually killed by hundreds of Martian animals after using up her three rounds.
In Detective Comics #841, the Mad Hatter uses a revolver that is actually fairly normal... if you don't take into account its four foot long barrel; It's easily mistaken for a walking cane.
In what seems to be a Shout-Out to the Johnny Dangerously reference below, a character in the veryNSFWLann by Frank Thorne says about his favored machine pistol, "This is not a gun. It's a poem. An ode to death. It shoots through schools — of sharks!"
Judge Dredd's Lawgiver falls into this category especially after the introduction of the Mark II version. Naturally, there is a degree of Depending on the Artist here. It also shoots (at least) six different types of rounds, including high explosive.
Deckard's gun from Blade Runner. Is it a blaster? Naw, but there is nothing like a gun that puts a four foot hole in...well anything.
Colonel Douglas Mortimer in the WesternFor a Few Dollars More wields a Buntline Special that may be cumbersome on the draw, but can pack one hell of a punch with deadly accuracy.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the midget pirate is seen firing a very large hand cannon that blasts him back out of the frame when Barbossa's meeting with Sao Feng is interrupted by the East India Trading Company.
Robocop in his movies and TV series used a huge machine pistol. It was a Beretta 93R with some futuristic doodads including an extended, casket-shaped barrel and slide assembly with ostentatious compensator. It spews flames each time it's fired, and has an implausibly large ammunition supply. Overlaps with More Dakka. It was originally supposed to be a Desert Eagle (itself a handcannon), but they switched to the modified Beretta when they saw that the Desert Eagle looked small in Robocop's hands.
Inverted by the Noisy Cricket in Men In Black: a tiny, unseemly weapon resembling a hypodermic needle with a handle, pauses momentarily and chirps like a cricket when you pull the trigger, and then promptly annihilates whatever it was pointed at and knocks you flat on your butt. The recoil usually hurls Agent J about fifteen feet, no matter how he tries to brace himself; in the TV series, he eventually acquired what amounted to a silencer for it, which made the blast more manageable and stifled the recoil.
Snatch. Bullet Tooth Tony and his "Desert Eagle. Point five-o."
At one point in Hard Boiled, Mad Dog, The Dragon, uses a Thompson/Center Contender, a single-shot pistol that uses rifle bullets, and which he's apparently modified to spit the spent cartridges out in slow-mo, to fight Tequila and Alan. This pistol appears to be using a .30-06 barrel.
In the Woo-directed Van Damme flick Hard Target the main villain Fouchon (played by Lance Henriksen) also favored a Thompson single-shot pistol (in .45-70 Gov't!) as his main firearm.
Hungarian movie Argo features a character called Psycho carrying a 2 ft. long revolver. With Disney characters carved on it. Yes, like Mickey Mouse.
In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent get shot at by a guy with a Hand Cannon, but every shot misses. "Did you see that gun he fired at us? It was bigger than him."
Rooster Cogburn: Why, by God, girl, that's a Colt's Dragoon! You're no bigger than a corn nubbin, what're you doing with all this pistol? Mattie Ross: It belonged to my father, he carried it bravely in the war, and I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it if the law fails to do so. Rooster Cogburn: Well, this'll sure get the job done if you can find a fence post to rest it on while you take aim.
Amusingly, the pistol used in the film was not actually a Colt Dragoon; but a Colt Walker which is even bigger.
The Cowboys had John Wayne telling the boys he had for cowhands to put their guns in a wagon. Cue the smallest boy extracting the largest gun from his belt.
The opening scene of Desperado has El Mariachi's buddy spin a story of how he cleared a bar with a sawed-off and a de-stocked Armsel Protecta shotgun, which manage to throw your average Mexican about ten feet in the air with one shot:
Buscemi: The stranger... he bolts out of his bar-stool like you wouldn't believe, he grabs his case and he dives right in the middle of the room with it! Just dives right in! Now, I don't know what he does on that floor, but he's up in two shakes, his suitcase is wide open, and he's pulled God knows what out of it, but it's the biggest hand cannon I've ever fucking seen!
John Goodman: You got the bastards of bastards, .357. A guaranteed head removal. That's... that's a sweetie. You got your standard-size .45, super-sized. That's a fucking Hungry Man right there. And you got the king of mayhem. Half-cannon. Sword of justice. Take this fucker to the holy land, start your own crusade. Any one of these is bound to make you feel better of what's bothering you.
In Alien Nation, Sykes upgrades from his police-issue sidearm to a Freedom Arms Model 83, a 5-round .454 Casull revolver, in order to combat the Newcomer gang that killed his partner. At the time the film was made (1988), this was the most powerful handgun/cartridge commercially available.
Bohdi (played by Patrick Swaze) also uses the .454 Casull in Point Break.
Paul Kersey's friend "Wildey" from Death Wish 3 is the world's most powerful production semi-automatic. The bullet has as much impact energy at 100 yards as the .44 Magnum has at 1 yard. Unlike most examples here, the .475 Wildey Magnum has a relatively manageable recoil.
Almost all the major characters in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man wield a Hand Cannon at some point in the movie, ranging from .44 Magnum Desert Eagles to .454 Casull Rugers.
Marlboro: Man, why in the hell are you carrying a hand cannon like that?
Harley: Hey... I learned to shoot using one of these.
Marlboro: Which might be why you shoot like shit. Harley, nobody learns to shoot using a gun that big.
In the original movie, the two trade in two .50-caliber Desert Eagles used by two Russian mob dudes who tried to murder them, along with a pager and a money clip, in order to get their hands on their original arsenal.
In Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol!, gun nut Tackleberry gets to take the recruits to the range. By far the most enthusiastic recruit is Mrs. Feldman, an 80 year old who is raring to become a badass grandma and bust some criminal heads. She takes a particular liking to Tackleberry, and demands to wrap her hands around his immense, rigid, manly instrument. The recoil blows her across the room, and she promptly declares "Damn, that was FUN!"
Any scene involving Tackleberry. Particularly this scene from the first movie.
Every agent in The Matrix spawns (literally) with a Desert Eagle .50 Action Express in their shoulder rig. And they seem to have Bottomless Magazines. Just to be clear, the Desert Eagle .50AE uses a gas-operated cycling system akin to what you would find in a semi-automatic rifle. The agents, because of their nature, can of course fire these things one-handed.
I Come in Peace (aka Dark Angel) has an alien pistol that when fired, blows up entire rooms (example, with a car).
In Hellboy it is shown that HB's "Samaritan" holds four rounds each about the size of a thumb.
Hellboy: I'm not a very good shot, but the Samaritan uses really big bullets.
In the second movie, he gets an even bigger gun, that apparently uses clockwork to fire, has six barrels, and fires pairs of massive flaming shotgun shells. It is called the "Big Baby" and he uses this to destroy a forest god.
Hellboy: You woke up the baby!
Though normal-looking guns are present, the air pirates in Castle in the Sky use these as their weapon of choice.
The toon revolver in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is abnormally large. Possibly because all of its bullets are sentient.
In Looper, the Gat Men all use the Magnum Research BFR .45/70 revolver.
City Heat, when Burt Reynolds' character pulls out an "artillery" model Luger P08, and Clint Eastwood pulls an even bigger Colt Buntline Special. Definitely some subtext there.
In Split Second, Stone's modified sidearm is massive — and that's lampshaded by multiple characters calling it his personal cannon.
In Dead in Tombstone, Guerrero carries a pair of massive custom-made three barreled pistols. He is the only one who knows how to assemble them.
In The Stainless Steel Rat, a sci-fi action/comedy series by Harry Harrison, James "Slippery Jim" DiGriz (the title's "Stainless Steel Rat") carries a .75 recoilless semiautomatic pistol (usually firing explosive bullets) which, while having been fired repeatedly, has NEVER killed anyone, or even seriously wounded anyone. This is attributed to DiGriz's semi-pacifist beliefs.
Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) encounters a lot of people with very large-caliber boltguns. Of the sort that are normally mounted on tanks. Including Amberley in the book where she shows up in her power armor.
Notably averted by Cain himself. Although most Commissars carry bolt pistols (the aforementioned full-auto-firing RPG launchers), Cain prefers his trusty old laspistol, the classic pea-shooter of the setting. The trope is in full force on the covers of the books, though, since these depict Cain as he likely appears on propaganda posters throughout the Imperium: either dualwielding boltpistols or combining a boltpistol with a chainsword.
In the Executioner series of novels, protagonist Mack Bolan carries a .44 AutoMag, the first automatic pistol to use .44 magnum ammunition. He later switches from that to a Desert Eagle.
Another shows up in the form of a gun much like Killy's from BLAME! in the short story collection State of the Art.
In the Western novels of J.T. Edson, the preferred handgun of the Ysabel Kid is a Colt Dragoon, nicknamed "the thumb buster" because of its recoil.
In the Doc Savage novels, Patricia Savage's signature weapon is an old six-shooter handed down from her grandfather - a Colt Frontier Single Action .44 with the trigger filed off and a fanning spur welded on the hammer, which she carries in her purse.
Kurt Austin carries a Bowen revolver, essentially a .357 Magnum Colt Python custom-built to fire the same .50-caliber rounds that the Desert Eagle is famous for. His partner Joe Zavala calls it "Kurt's Cannon" and likes to joke that it shoots railroad spikes.
Roland's revolvers in The Dark Tower series are described as being very, very large .45 Colt Single Action Armies of an incredibly antique vintage, with yellowed sandalwood grips. It's also alluded to that they were forged from the metal of Excalibur.
In the illustrations, the guns look like 7" Colt Single Action Army revolvers. With swingout cylinders instead of a loading gate. Considering they were made in another "if," this makes sense.
The main character in the Stephen King novel Roadwork, who has virtually no experience with firearms, walks into a gun shop and buys a .44 Magnum and a Weatherby .460 rifle. He eventually uses both of them to shoot it out with the police who have come to forcibly remove him from his house.
Burke from Andrew Vachss's books favours large-calibre handguns for quick manstopping.
Brian Mallory, the protagonist's brother from The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, carries a Russian pistol that most definitely qualifies as a Hand Cannon (and is later called that). It was picked from a dead Tzarist officer in Crimea, "isn't exactly regulation," "queer-looking," and presumably shoots something not unlike artillery canister shells. Think giant razor-buckshot rounds, "as thick as a copper's baton." It is single-shot, insanely loud (it even causes friendlies to lose their bearing for a minute) and can literally gib six people at once with a well-placed shot. In other words, a flare gun from Hell.
Honor Harrington has her trademark weapon, a replica Colt M1911 chambered in .45ACP. The 1911 is not quite a Hand Cannon in the 21st century, but when the story takes place (around two thousand years in the future), the standard firearms use gravitic technology to propel streams of tiny darts at railgun velocities, to incredibly gory and lethal effect. Duelling is legal on her home world, but specifies the use of only chemical propellant firearms specifically because the wounds they inflict are survivable. She only has the gun because it was given to her since she's an avid supporter of the Society of Creative Anachronisms note which in Real Life is an organization that likes to recreate the Medieval and Renaissance-era lifestyle "The Way It Should Have Been"
Inverted in the Raymond Chandler novellas Trouble Is My Business and Red Wind. Both stories feature hard guys carrying .22 target pistols. As Chandler puts it: "This guy uses a twenty-two. He uses it because he's good enough to get by with that much gun. That means he's good."
Johannes Cabal uses a Webley .577 to insure that his victims stay dead. In his line of work, it certainly makes sense.
Eddie Chase in Andy McDermott's Wilde-Chase novels favours a .50 Wildey automatic, often being mocked by other characters for the overkill. Subverted in The Sacred Vault where he loses not one, but two Wildeys over the course of the story before even getting a chance to fire them.
Dr. Theophilus Algernon Tanner of the Death Lands adventure series and his always trusty [LeMat] revolver. He's blown away many a "mutie" with the .63 caliber "grapeshot" round fired from the gun's underbarrel. Heroic Albino Jak Lauren packs a .357 Colt Python, which he uses when stabbing the problem to death isn't going to cut it.
In the Into the Looking Glass Series, "Two-Gun" Berg's signature weapons for his Power Armor are a pair of handguns that are essentially sawed-off .50 caliber sniper rifles.
In The Dresden Files, magic isn't always the answer. Sometimes a massive gun is. Especially if you're a demon-fueled semi-supernatural entity who can fire a Desert Eagle on the run in heels and still hit a target. Even the eponymous Harry Dresden is known to carry a .44 DirtyHarry, among others. It's also good for tactical variety (to have non-magical weapons), noir-detective vibe, and the occasional phallic joke.
Later in the series, Murphy gives Harry a Smith & Wesson .500, which he actually argues is overkill, until he's reminded that his Rogues Gallery now includes mutant Sasquatch, fallen angels, ancient gods, and other things that might not even notice a hit from a .44.
In Choosers of the Slain, MI6 agent Charles Calthrop pulls out a Winchester .454 revolver, after initially reaching for a service-issue Walther to fight back against multiple gunmen in the defense of Katya and Natalya.
The main protagonist's Desert Eagle .50 cal pistol from A Deeper Blue, with large caliber pistols discussed a bit with a terrorist whose head said pistol is aimed at.
In The Salvation War series, the fact that demons are larger and much tougher than humans makes .50 caliber Desert Eagles and Smith & Wesson .500 revolvers the handguns of choice.
In Portlandtown The Hanged Man's gun is a red-handled Colt Walker, which never needs reloading.
Ultimate Hero has 'Fate', a pistol with two barrels that can fire at supersonic speeds. Played a bit more seriously than normal; firing it has a very high chance of spraining or breaking the shooter's hands.
Live Action TV
Deputy Jo Lupo from Eureka loves Hand Cannons, having an entire drop-down rack of them. When she administered the weapon familiarity test to the sheriff, he had to take it several times to pass.
Hammer's .44 Magnum in Sledge Hammer! is not only a blatant phallic symbol, it's the only thing keeping Hammer sane... well when he isn't talking to it... or sleeping with it.
Jayne might be better known for his most favorite gun, but his one-handed death-dealing implements are not lacking either. (Nor is the ''quantity'' lacking.) In fact, the main sidearm that Jayne uses is a LeMat, a Civil War era revolver with 9 chambers, as well as a second barrel that can shoot buckshot. That's right, a revolver AND a shotgun.
Zoe's main sidearm is a "Mare's Leg," a cut-down Winchester 1892 carbine worn in a hip-holster.
Lots of people on Firefly have massive pistols. Jayne's estranged former partner in "Jaynestown" springs to mind.
Even Mal gets an honorable mention: his gun fires .303-caliber rifle rounds.
Bones acquires an extremely large handgun (a S&W .500) when she is being threatened by one of the villains of the week. It is clearly too large for her to handle, as shown in the Halloween episode◊ when she fires it at a bad guy with a shotgun, she misses completely, and it knocks her back, so she gives it to Booth. Even he has trouble firing it successfully. But, boy, does it look threatening. Its ridiculous power eventually comes in handy when Booth uses it to shoot a bad guy through an inch-thick solid-steel door.
Stick-up artist and cat burglar Omar Little uses a Desert Eagle in HBO's The Wire, mostly to break "bulletproof" glass.
On NYPD Blue, stick-up man Ferdinand Hollie (sort of a proto-Omar) extolls their virtues in "Hollie and the Blowfish":
Sipowicz: No, you see, I got a vision of a street full o' taxpayers gettin' caught in the crossfire, Ferdinand, while you do business with your thirty-eight.
Sipowicz: My mistake.
Hollie: Niggas see that big gun come out, they don't argue. They lookin' down that big-ass barrel like it's the Lincoln Tunnel, and they Jersey-bound. Man, they give it up, wail like bitches. Only fools stop to trifle with a forty-four.
The Particle Magnum used by Ronon Dex in Stargate Atlantis. Given that later in the series, Rodney McKay easily beats him to the girl, I'd say he's compensating for something, except that he already had the magnum long before that.
Josh Randall's "Mare's Leg" in the series Wanted: Dead or Alive is a cut down Winchester 1892 Carbine, in a hip holster similar to that of Zoe above.
Parodied on SCTV with "Harry Filth," a Dirty Harry-esque cop played by John Candy, who at one point carries a revolver that's much bigger than Harry himself.
During a gun battle on one episode of NCIS, the Big Bad's weapon lets off a godawful boom and blows huge holes in the scenery.
McGee: What's he using, a cannon??? (After which, Ziva identifies it as a .50 caliber.)
In Hank Williams, Jr.'s song "I Got Rights", the singer goes to a gun store and specifically requests a "Smith and Wesson magnum 44" to hunt down the killer of his wife and son.
The oversized bolt pistols and SMGs of Warhammer 40,000. .75 caliber rocket-assisted rounds. Don't forget the plasma pistols too. The space marine version even moreso, since it's designed for people who are at least eight feet tall and would require a tripod for a human to wield.
Dark Heresy has a pistol that is actually named Hand Cannon. While not the most powerful sidearm in the game by any standard, it is fairly effective (especially when loaded with armor-piercing rounds) and its low price makes it attractive to players who can't afford a bolt pistol (there are plasma pistols and Inferno pistols as well, but they're so rare and expensive they only exist in the game to taunt you. And for it's sibling systems, where you usually have more requisition power).
The Shadowrun Eichiro Hatamoto II is a pistol that fires a single shotgun slug. It's recommended not to miss. Then there's the Remington Roomsweeper, which is kind of like a Sawed-Off Shotgun, except not. It's a pistol that fires shotgun slugs. It's noted that it's damn hard to fire.
Cyberpunk's weaponry supplements have many examples of this, as they're intended for use by and against cyber-enhanced combatants. One of the most memorable is the 'Hellbringer,' a 3-round .666 caliber magnum revolver. There's also the Colt AMT, an eight-shot revolver that fires very large bullets. The caliber is not specified but it causes very high damage in-game. Both of the aforementioned are designed to be used only with cybernetic arms.
Characters who have full body cybernetic conversions or are wearing powered armour can also carry firearms such as "assault rifles" chambered in .50 BMG or 14.5x114 RUS, as well as a 4 gauge autoshotgun and a 10 gauge, 6-barrel gatling shotgun with a back-mounted ammo hopper.
Subverted in Warmachine where many warcasters carry guns that are called Hand Cannons but which are no bigger than the setting's average handgun. Most of the time.
Only a partial subversion as they hit just as hard (or even slightly harder) than the full rifles used by the rank-and-file troops. Hand Cannons have a range of 12 inches and are Power 12 while the military rifles issues to Cygnaran Trenchers are only Range 10 and Power 11. Even in the new RPG; compare the hand cannon (which has the same stats as in the wargame) with a normal repeating pistol shows that it's worthy of the name.
While Feng Shui gives us the standard hand cannons for the contemporary juncture, for those coming from the 2056 juncture, there's really only one gun worthy of Hand Cannon status — the Buro Godhammer, which fires .50 caliber rounds, has a five-round mag, and can be fired full-auto for even nastier damage (though you'll have to reload after).
Hong Kong Action Theatre actually calls the largest handguns Hand Cannons, which range from your standard .44 Magnum caliber boomers to out-there weapons out of a sci-fi movie.
Rifts has a fair number of large handguns, including a plasma Cartridge pistol with a bore two inches wide, weapons deliberately designed for large humanoids, and a laser pistol with its own under-slung Grenade Launcher.
The magnum pistol from GURPS: Ultra-Tech fires a 15mm round, larger than the bullets in a modern anti-materiel rifle. And then there's the shotgun pistol...
MechWarrior, the tabletop RPG of the BattleTech wargame, has a number of fairly formidable weapons, but the game's nod to this trope is the Sternsnacht handgun. The original is described as a hunting rifle cut down to operate as a pistol, but the knockoffs put out by the companies hoping to cash in on the popularity of the original are large, noisy, extremely heavy for a sidearm (2.5 kg!), have hideous recoil that translates into penalties against the to-hit number, and worst of all, only carry three shots. This makes it a hugely impractical weapon even in spite of the damage it deals.
Speaking of BattleTech there is also a pistol version of the Gauss Rifle, so just imagine that. There is also a Gyro Jet Pistol, which pretty is much a rocket launcher pistol, and is also described as a "handcannon" in the rulebooks.
In Scion, Eric Donner, Scion of Thor, (one of the "canned characters" in the gamebooks) has as his signature weapon an oversized revolver called "Giantkiller." In addition to being a huge gun with oversized ammo (which he has to have custom-made), thanks to his divine parentage, it can shoot lightning.
The shellcaster in Shards of the Exalted Dream is explicitly identified as a hand cannon. The biggest have barrels the size of a man's thigh.
In the Mutant Chronicles universe, every pistol, submachine gun and assault rifle looks far beefier than it should have to be, and a lot of the Dark Legion's weapons are handcannons, the Ezoghoul's favorite weapon is actually called the "Blutarch Handcannon."
In the post-series Transformers Generation One toyline, "Action Masters" were Transformers who gave up the ability to transform in exchange for greater physical prowess and to be "more alive" as the commercial put it. Some apparently felt the need to compensate further, as they came with accessories (usually weapons) that do transform: Kick-Off, for instance, has a handgun with a barrel as long as his arm and as wide as his fist. Several others, like Krok, Rad, and Banzai-Tron, had partners who transformed into extensions of their already-sizable guns, increasing their size and power dramatically. Kick-Off's own weapon can be enhanced by transforming his jetpack and attaching it, making it roughly the size of his entire body but still held in one hand. Meanwhile, Overrun normally pilots a helicopter, but it apt to tear off its primary weapon (which is freaking huge relative to his body; this is a very small helicopter, of course) and use it on foot.
In Borderlands 2, Torgue makes pistols called Hand Cannons, but they're not that big. The real examples are basically any gun with the long Jakobs or heavy Torgue barrel. Special mention goes to Maggie, which is essentially a shotgun pistol, the Rex, which is described by its flavor text as "a very big gun". Unlike other Jakobs guns, which fire faster the quicker you mash the fire button, Rex has a very slow firing speed but unparalleled per-shot damage — meaning it handles exactly like you'd expect a huge, powerful pistol to, The Unforgiven, which is essentially a handheld Sniper Rifle, with the same Critical hit bonus, accuracy, and single shot damage as most snipers, the Pocket Rocket, whose massive explosive area borders on grenades and rockets more than the standard Torgue gyrojet, and fires pretty damn fast to boot, and the Unkempt Harold, which doesn't just have outstanding firepower for a pistol, but outguns quite a few full-sized guns as well.
The M6 series of pistols in Halo is chambered for 12.7x40mm (necked-down .50 BMG) high explosive armor piercing rounds. Seems like overkill at first, perhaps, but against the Covenant, it might just be justified.
In the Telltale seasons, Sam & Max: Freelance Police have a huge revolver and Luger, respectively. This is probably to compensate for the fact that they weren't allowed guns in the TV show and "left them at the cleaners" in Hit the Road. Successfully complete the Hit the Road game however, and you get to watch Sam and Max amuse themselves by unloading on a carnival's BB gun shooting gallery with them.
Resident Evil games usually have a Magnum serving as one of the more powerful weapons. Ammo's rare and it's usually slow to fire, but they typically kill zombies, Hunters, Lickers, et cetera in one hit. Players often reserve their ammunition entirely for the boss fights as they tend to be the best weapons. Resident Evil 4 has an unlockable magnum that's actually called the Handcannon, as well as the Broken Butterfly magnum. The one that Barry is packing in the Resident Evil (1) Remake can drop the Tyrant's first form in one shot.
In Resident Evil 2, Leon gets the .50 caliber Desert Eagle, which is a one-hit kill to zombies and lickers, and a two-hit kill to anything else short of a boss. Apparently unsatisfied with this level of death, however, it's eventually customized with a ten-inch barrel that, in addition to one-hit killing everything short of a boss, damn near knocks Leon off his feet with each shot. On top of this, if you have enemies lined up and shoot them, you can hit all of them with one bullet due to the custom Magnum having piercing effects.
Resident Evil 4's Hand Cannon might be the best revolver in video game history: its rounds can kill nearly any normal enemy in 1 shot & can pierce through multiple targets,* & no, most shields don't stop them. Whats better, the Shop Keeper has an upgrade for it which gives it infinite ammo & zero reload time, turning it into a complete Game Breaker.
Then in Gungrave Overdose there's Fangoram who wields the massive "Center Head" which is bigger than both of them and fires what can only be described as small artillery rounds, and is strong enough to critically injure Grave to the point where his Regeneration powers can't close his wounds properly, leaving Grave in a near-comatose state for a while...until he snaps out of it by sheer force of will.
Carmelita Fox in the Sly Cooper games has her shock pistol, a huge red handgun firing bolts of electricity that kicks so hard she has trouble holding onto it when she shoots the thing. Some of the NPC guards can be seen brandishing these as well, either single or akimbo.
The pistol weapons in Mass Effect are rather large for a human being... but since the grip is intended to be large to allow a variety of species' hands to use it, we don't know what it's made of (light weight nano composites?) or how the technology would realistically act, it could very well be a Justified Trope given how most of the weapons expand from a storage mode.
In Mass Effect 2 one of the pistol type weapons is the literal the Carnifex Hand Cannon. It is an excellent weapon against armored opponents.
The Phalanx heavy pistol from the Firepower Pack DLC does it one better. Besides being a literal Sniper Pistol, the thing is positively enormous. When you have a chance, take a good look at the thing in its holster - it ends up looking patently ridiculous.
You can put together a pretty cool one in the first game with explosive rounds.
And in Mass Effect 3, not only do the Carnifex and Phalanx return, they're outdone by two new weapons. The Paladin is explicitly stated to be an even more powerful variant of the Carnifex, and the Talon is a shotgun revolver.
Also making an appearance in 3 is the Scorpion. It's one of the heaviest pistols in the game and fires Sticky Grenades.
The Groundside Resistance Pack adds the Executioner, a pistol whose strength is on par with the heaviest sniper rifles, at the cost of massive recoil and a single shot per clip.
Subverted with the pre-order bonus weapon, the N7 Eagle. Its description blatantly says it was named after the Desert Eagle, but instead of being a low capacity Hand Cannon, it does low damage per shot, is fully automatic, and has a huge capacity, to the point where some players using power-intensive classes will use the Eagle as a replacement for an ASSAULT RIFLE.
Nero of Devil May Cry 4 has the Blue Rose, a customized Smith & Wesson Model 500 with barrels at the twelve and six o'clock positions of six-shot cylinder(normal M500s have five shots), which somehow fires both at once with a single hammer. He can fire it one-handed, and it can later be upgraded to have a Charged Attack that fires delayed-detonation high-explosive rounds.
On a similar note, Dante's signature pair of pistols look like handcannons, but they're more like heavily customized Colt .45 M1911s. What gives them their Handcannon status, however, is that the bullets fired by them are charged (and somehow reloaded) by Dante's power.
The first two games have the .223 pistol — apparently a cut down .223 hunting rifle that's been "lovingly handcrafted" into a pistol. It looks suspiciously like Deckard's gun from Blade Runner, and .223 is almost never used to hunt with, but it's still a rifle round in a pistol package. It is justified, in an odd way, since the outer casing of the gun in Blade Runner is the lock section of a real .222 rifle.
The 14mm pistol also counts. There's some background info that explains before the end of the world that it was a hunting pistol.
And, after a noted absence in 3, both return in Fallout: New Vegas — the 14mm (now 12.7mm) pistol is a bona fide Hand Cannon, boasting the highest damage of all semi-auto handguns, but the .223 pistol, AKA "That Gun" is a unique revolver with no common counterpart in the base game note (although they added one in the Gun Runners' Arsenal DLC), actuated components, and still chambered for .223 (or more accurately, the .223's military counterpart, the 5.56x45mm NATO). New Vegas also introduces the Hunting Revolver, an oversized big bore revolver, based on the Magnum Research BFR("Big Frame Revolver"), that shoots .45-70 Gov't rifle rounds. It's the most damaging non-unique handgun in the entire game. Its (semi) unique counterpart, the Ranger Sequoia, does even more damage. Honest Hearts introduces JoshuaGraham'sAce Custom M1911, A Light Shining In Darkness. Despite being a small handgun that shoots quite fast, it is absolutely deadly, particularly the NPC version he uses.
Arcade Gannon packs his own personal Plasma Defender which, along with a stylish design, packs quite a mean wallop.
The unique weapon Pew Pew is a modified laser pistol that has only two shots in spite of taking 10 energy cells in its magazine. In exchange for draining five batteries with each shot, it does over six times the damage of a standard laser pistol, four times the Critical Hit damage, and has a boosted critical hit chance besides. Several perks can boost its damage from 75 per shot to 100 per shot, making it more powerful than several higher-tier guns. Contrary to the expectations of hand cannons, Pew Pew is the same size and weight as a laser pistol, and has no additional skill or strength requirements to use—a starting player can use it just as easily as a seasoned Mojave Courier.
Fallout 3 has the Blackhawk, a powered-up unique version of the Scoped .44 Magnum, earned by bringing a sheet music book to Agatha after completing her quest. Broken Steel also has the even more-powerful Callahan's Magnum (shoutout to Dirty Harry), but the only way to obtain that is to commit the ultimate betrayal by Kill Satting the Brotherhood's citadel.
In Case 3 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the victim is shot with a huge, 45-caliber revolver. The gun is described as being able to not only knock the target off their feet if hit with a shot from it, but capable of dislocating the shoulder of the shooter if they aren't used to firing such a powerful weapon. In appearance, it's described as "making normal revolvers look like water pistols," giving the impression that this is a huge (and very, VERY intimidating) weapon. Klavier even calls it a hand cannon at one point.
One of the Expansion packs, Opposing Force, gives the HECU marine protagonist the actual desert eagle.
In Killer7, the persona Dan Smith uses a Colt Python as his primary weapon. While this is large enough to qualify for this trope as is, he receives a mid-game upgrade: the Demon Gun, a double barreled, twelve-shell cylinder revolver, which appears to be larger than his head in several cut scenes. MASK goes one better by using a pair of cut-down grenade launchers.
Duke Nukem: the Manhattan Project has Duke start with a large handgun with a shiny gold finish.
Duke: Say hello to my little friend...
The Star Wars: Empire at WarExpansion Pack, Forces of Corruption, features Tyber Zann, leader of the corrupt fraction, who has a handgun that can blow away a whole squad of infantry.
Advent Rising introduces what is described as a handgun that fires ".90 calibre armour-piercing concussive rounds" and can be dual-wielded. Obtaining a good level of handgun skills allows protagonist Gideon to fire the weapon in rapid three-round bursts that can match the rate of fire of any machinegun in the game. This is trumped by an energy pistol powered by a miniature fusion generator which hits significantly harder and can still be dual-wielded. Better skill in with this handgun allows Gideon to fire grenades at the cost of more ammo. This is then matched by a Seeker energy pistol which, while it starts off weaker, can become stronger when Gideon learns the skill needed to fire hideously powerful rounds which can bounce between upwards of four enemies at the cost of extra ammo. This, too, can be dual wielded. About the only thing limiting total arm cannon carnage is ammo consumption.
Fefnir in Mega Man Zero has two. Justified as he was built as a heavy weapons specialist and is strong enough to do it.
Xavi from Sengoku Basaradual wields a pair of literal hand cannons. Apparently, it can also function as a flamethrower and a jet exhaust to power up his punches, or to lift him up.
The Sniper vs. Spy update for Team Fortress 2 brings us the Ambassador, an alternate revolver for the Spy which was initially touted as a Hand Cannon. In reality, though, the Ambassador is marginally weaker and slower than the standard revolver. Its true power comes from its near-perfect accuracy and ability to always crit with a headshot. In skilled hands, it lives up to the title of Hand Cannon; in unskilled hands, the standard revolver is just better.
In addition to Sawed Off Shotguns, the scout can carry the Short Stop, which is based on a modern pepper-box pistol, that is, a pistol with multiple barrels. Also, the demoman's Loose Cannon is about as literal a "hand cannon" as you can get.
The guns in the Disgaea series are all above average as far as size goes, but it's taken to a ridiculous extreme in Disgaea 4, where a giant monster unit can magichange into a handgun that's as big as the wielder. Considering that the wielder can't even reach the trigger, it seems logical to assume that the monster turned weapon is capable of firing of its own accord.
Fomalhaut's barrel in FFXII is roughly as thick as Vaan's arm.
Interestingly, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has smaller guns, but also smaller wielders—they're used by a class only available to Moogles, the smallest playable species. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 reintroduces hand cannons as a separate weapon type from the small guns, making them available both to Moogles and to Bangaa, although the animation doesn't make it clear if they're being fired one-handed like they were in Tactics.
The Culverin weapon in Final Fantasy XI, which actually looks more like a modern-day shotgun ingame, is unique in that it does not accept regular ammunition of any sort, instead opting for cannon shells that are significantly less efficient inventory-wise.
Vincent Valentine's Cerberus in Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus is a gigantic, aggressively ridiculously designed revolver with three cylinders, three hammers linked to one trigger and three barrels. Even with the normal barrel the weapon is the size of his own leg, and it can be fitted with an even sillier three-foot "sniper" barrel. His InfinityPlusOneGun is the Death Penalty. In his earlier appearance in Final Fantasy VII, it looked like this◊, which is not quite a Hand Cannon. Come Dirge of Cerberus, and it looks like this◊.
The strongest handgun in The Godfather: The Game is a "magnum" that already rivals the shotgun for power at both their first levels. You can upgrade it. Have fun. The sequel takes it to ridiculous lengths: You start with .357, upgrade to .44, then hit .50 and a real cash-purchased extra gives you .700.
In Saints Row, the in game version of the Desert Eagle is called the GDHC (God damn hand cannon).
The Resistance series has the HE .44 magnum, introduced in the second game, that fires bullets loaded with explosive charges that can be remotely detonated after hitting a target. The third game allows you to upgrade so each bullet spawns three explosive charges.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution features a fairly powerful and accurate .357 magnum revolver that can be upgraded to fire bullets that explode on impact.
And then there's the reaper who dual wields two revolvers with barrels longer than he is
The Chaos Dwarf Hand Cannon of RuneScape is a literal example, as it really is a cannon. That you can carry.
In Dungeon Fighter Online, the Launcher class' preferred weapons of choice are a pair of literal hand cannons. They have a passive skill called "Hand Cannon Mastery," which increase the attack speed and damage of a hand cannon, which in turn fires by creating small, short-ranged explosions that can hit multiple enemies and ignores obstacles. It's also the only way a launcher can use the skill Cannonball, which shoots an orb of energy.
In Super Mario RPG, one of Geno's final weapons is called the Hand Cannon. It's taken literally, as it's fired by Geno swinging his arms down and firing gigantic shells from his arms.
The Cougar Magnum in GoldenEye (which can even shoot through walls), and its Perfect Dark counterpart, the DY 357. Both sound like cannons, too.
7.62 High Calibre has several, including the .357 Colt Python, the Garza 12.7mm (.50 caliber) revolver, and the .44 Desert Eagle. They tend to be significantly more powerful than any other handgun weapon, but severely hampered by lack of balance, slow firing, and small clip size. In most cases, a normal handgun (or small submachine gun) is more useful.
There are a few examples in the 1997 Blade Runner video game. Most distinctive is Crystal's sidearm, which is huge and literally sounds like a shotgun. If the player obtains a certain ammo upgrade, his pistol essentially becomes one of these as well.
Battlefield Heroes: The Royal army has Harry's Hand Cannon, which falls under the Pistol category.
The antagonists of the Modern Warfare series seem to favour this kind of pistol; Imran Zakhaev in Call of Duty 4 used a .50AE Desert Eagle, while General Shepherd in Modern Warfare 2 had a .44 Colt Anaconda.
All the handguns in the Syndicate remake, but especially the Bullhammer Mk II, a revolver firing .600. One upgrade option for that is the Magnetic Acceleration Rail, which gives it an impact profile, to directly quote the fluff, "such that it's often mistaken for cannon or explosive blasts in police investigations."
Grand Theft Auto The Desert Eagle has appeared in the series since Vice City (albeit only cutscenes in that game only so far) and on, it is often regarded as being the most powerful hand gun in the series with great accuracy, making it one of the superior weapons.
Vice City did have its own player-accessible Hand Cannon in the form of a Colt Python revolver.
All the pistols in E.Ψ.Ǝ.: Divine Cybermancy are this, to an extent. The smallest pistol, the BK13, is a fully automatic .45ACP pistol with a 20 round magazine that is dual wielded. The Black Crow fires .50cal bullets from a 13 round magazine. The BK222 revolver fires .222 rifle ammunition which can kill most enemies in one hit. And finally, the Bear Killer pistol fires .444 armor-piercing bullets that can take out an attack helicopter with a couple blasts.
Jagged Alliance 2 lets you purchase a number of positively enormous revolvers, especially in the v1.13 mod. There is also a sidequest which nets you a pair of custom-modified Automag pistols chambered to fire 7.62 Nato rounds. In 1.13 they take .50 Beowulf rounds instead. If you've got a dual-wielding merc on your team, this is that gun-for-hire's wet dream.
The Twisted Metal reboot features the Magnum pistol sidearm. It has explicitly been said to be the most powerful sidearm in the game and it shows. 6 bullets, each inflicting 24 points of damage IIRC, decent firing rate, particularly accurate and only balanced by it's slow reload. Its also so much more easier to use compared to the Swarmer and Laserpistol. It proves to be deadly when used with RoadBoat.
The revolver in BioShock Infinite can kill a regular enemy in around 2 shots and is even named The Hand Cannon
Sycine Kiongozi in Ilivais X carries a 15mm pistol. It's capable of shooting down Espadas, though granted, they're fairly inexpensively made and small. Still, that's more indicative of a mounted anti-materiel cannon and not a handgun.
They abound in the Whateley Universe, from Loophole's .44 Magnum to the .50 caliber one-shot that Samantha Everheart used in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl". Sam cut off the pistol grip so she could hide it under her bra inside her blouse. She could fire it accurately only because she has super-strength. Or there's the sixty pound anti-mutant weapon Captain Tilley wield in the same story.
Surely this exchange on The Simpsons is a potential trope namer:
McBain: But Captain, I can't avenge my partner's death with this pea-shooter. (holds up a normal-sized pistol.) Captain: I don't wanna hear it, McBain. Tha-that cannon of yours is against regulation. In this department we go by the book! (The Captain holds up the book of regulations. McBain draws his "cannon", a revolver bigger than his head, and fires it at the book. The book promptly disintregrates, along with a massive chunk of the wall behind it. McBain: Bye, book!
Among the .50 revolvers, this Russian monster◊ stands out in particular. It is chambered for a round roughly equivalent to .50 Alaskan and competing with it for the title of the biggest, baddest handgun round all around. It is also the only .50 revolver in the world that is actually army issue; it is manufactured in small qualtities for Spetsnaz.
Very early hand-guns really were, literal, "hand-cannons", merely reduced-size versions of early artillery weapons, with the same one-piece cast barrel-and-stock, and touch-hole ignition.
Even later when they used matchlocks (1600s or so) most weapons were at least .50 cal, often closer to .75 cal, since modern round sizes fired with black powder wouldn't go through armor.
XVII-century German Reiter cavalrymen used the so-called Reitpistole as their main weapons. Those were bigger, badder versions of the contemporary wheellock and flintlock pistols, comparable in size to the modern Pfeiffer-Zeliska from the page picture.
Later, there was the "howdah pistol", a double-rifle elephant gun with the barrel and stock reduced in size to make it holdable, if not sensibly fireable, in one hand. It was said that the sensible way to employ one, should a tiger leap up your elephant toward the howdah in which you were standing, was to hand the giant double-barreled pistol to the tiger and allow him to fire it.
The Pfeifer Zeliska revolver: a gun chambered for the .600 Nitro Express, traditionally an elephant-gun round. It's not a production model, being hand-made indvidually; purchasing one will cost over $16,000 and the .600 Nitro Express rounds alone go for $40 each. (If you don't want that, it can also chamber the .460 Win. Mag. round.) It weighs 13 pounds unloaded and is over 21 inches long in total. Oddly, the sheer weight of the beast is in fact what makes it anywhere near practical as a weapon: the recoil of even a .600 round isn't enough to make something that massive fly around. Also, it's the gun in the page picture.
There's also a .700 Nitro Express round, currently languishing unloved; it's only a matter of time before a handgun is designed around it.
The Maadi-Griffin .50 pistol and the Thunder .50 pistol: handguns designed to use the .50 BMG cartridge, one of the most powerful rifle cartridges in current use (actually a heavymachine gun cartridge, "BMG" stands for "Browning Machine Gun"). For comparison, the muzzle energy of the .50 BMG round is typically around ten times that of the NATO 5.56mm round used in most modern assault rifles.
Olympic Arms marketed a "pistol" that could fire NATO standard 5.56mm rounds; it bore a passing resemblance to the Mauser C96 and was basically an AR-15 receiver wedded to a short barrel and a pistol grip. In any realistic sense it was a carbine, however, since it fired a rifle round.
Pretty much every specialized AR-15 manufacturer (and a few manufacturers that don't specialize in AR's) makes a similar weapon. Due to the National Fireams Act of 1934, certain firearm types such as "Silencer," "Machine Gun", "Short-Barreled Rifle," "Short-Barreled Shotgun," and "Any Other Weapon" need to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. AR-15's which are manufactured as "Pistols" (which do not require federal registration) are not subject to the same barrel length requirements as AR-15's which are manufactured as "Rifles" (which also do not require registration), but a pistol cannot have a stock or a vertical foregrip. AR-15 pistols are often purchased with the goal of being turned into an SBR (making an SBR would involve adding a stock, a relatively simple procedure on this weapon, potentially making it identical to the M4 Carbine or Close-Quarter Battle Receiver, aside from the lack of automatic fire). Turning them into an AOW by adding a vertical foregrip is less common because any rifle or SBR can legally have a vertical foregrip, and while it's only $5 to transfer instead of the usual $200, it still costs $200 to "manufacture."
Because of the 1968 Gun Control Act, NFA-regulated items are not authorized for import into the United States. Therefore, any AKS-74U that is imported must not have automatic fire and the weapon must have its stock removed, so that it is imported as a pistol. NFA paperwork is sometimes done to restore the stock, however, no new machine gun registrations have been approved since 1986. However, because of other import restrictions (such as certain grip styles and magazine capacity requirements for non-US-manufactured receivers with below a certain number of US-made parts attached, this is not often done).
Kel-Tec also makes a 5.56mm/.223 pistol called the PLR-16, which accepts AR-15 magazines, although it isn't designed around the AR-15, but rather Kel-Tec's own SU-16 rifle.
The Nerf BrandMaverick chambers darts only slightly longer than the usual ammunition, but the gun itself is big enough to make Dirty Harry blush. That said, even standard Nerf darts are bigger than many pistol bullets.
The Nerf Recon and Retaliator both are essentially hand cannons, just with detachable barrel extensions and stocks. The Dart Tag 2012 Speedload 6 is essentially a stockless oversized pistol chambered for rifle rounds in terms of size.
The 2013 Elite MEGA series Magnus pistol uses the same darts as the 156cm-long Elite MEGA Centurion blaster. Yes, it is a sizeable handcannon that chambers anti-materiel rifle rounds. Yikes.
The Thompson/Center Contender can fire shotgun shells or various full-power rifle rounds. In fact it's so much like a rifle that when outfitted with the optional stock and longer barrels that T/C sells it basically as a rifle.
According to the law, it is a rifle or shotgun in those configurations, so don't add the former without the latter due to reasons indicated in the thing about AR-15 pistols.
During an episode of his series Lock and Load, R. Lee Ermey showed why standard shooting positions are standard. While test firing a .44 Magnum, he was nearly knocked to the floor by the recoil. He then was shown saying he didn't want to shoot it again. This is the same person who had picked up and fired a crew served machine gun in his arms to prove it could be done. Hand cannon indeed.
The current record-holder (according to the manufacturer) for most powerful production (see the Pfeifer Zeliska, above) hand-cannon is the Smith & Wesson Model 500, a 5-shot revolver with an 8-3/8" barrel (15 inches long in total) that weighs six pounds empty. In a demonstration on Spike TV's Manswers, the .357 Magnum blew a chunk out of a watermelon; the .44 Magnum took off the lower three-quarters; and the Model 500 exploded it. Due to a compensator on the barrel, however, its recoil is actually less than the .44 Magnum — though that's not saying much.
A challenger appears: the RSh-12 (Revol'ver Shturmovoy, lit. Assault Revolver or Storm Revolver), a Russian monster revolver chambered for the equivalent of .50 Alaskan.
The four-pound Colt Walker and Dragoon models were outrageously oversized to their smaller cousins brought into production a few years later.
The popular story is that the Colt Walker and the later Dragoon were designed so that once ammo had been spent, the gun would still be useful to club people and horses while wielded one-handed (the other hand on your horse reins).
The Le Mat percussion revolver, in addition to a nine-chambered cylinder and a regular barrel, has a central shotgun barrel, fired by a special pivoting striker, hence the name "Grapeshot Revolver". The largest ammunition it can use is .44 ball and one 16ga shot charge. As you can imagine, this is a very big pistol.
Any LEGO handgun. The revolver, which is the smallest, is the size of a minifig's arm.
It was a favored weapon of the anti-Soviet peasant resistance during the 1920s-1930s. In this quality it was famous enough that post-fall of the Union, an ultra-compact bolt-action shotgun loosely based on the sawed-off Mosin design was marketed as "[Kolkhoz] Headman Killer" and got pretty popular.
This 20mm (.79 caliber) Derringer. And a 30mm derringer is in planning according to the site. Since 20mm is considered to be the point where you start calling it an "autocannon" rather than a "machine gun"note for reference: 20mm shells are the kind fired from the vulcan cannons of modern American fighter jets, those literally are "hand cannons".
The Taurus Judge, a 5-shot revolver that can load either .45 Colt rounds or .410 shotgun shells. However, it actually subverts this trope: a .410 shotgun shell can only hold a few buckshot pellets (or a lot of birdshot pellets, which don't do a whole lot unless you dump it point blank into someone's face), and the .410 slug isn't much more powerful than the standard .45 Colt revolver rounds. While films tend to portray it as a simple "handheld shotgun", it's more effective for shooting snakes or blasting carjackers.
A later variant is the larger and longer Taurus Raging Judge, which can load the more powerful.454 Casull rounds as well as the .45 Colt and .410.
Taurus also released a revolver called the Raging Bull, which comes in various large calibers up to .500 S&W Magnum (though this version has been discontinued). This model had a 10 inch barrel on it.
There are a few images of a sawn-off M1 Garand floating around the internet.
The RT-20 may be a rifle, but its name is short for Ručni Top 20, or Hand Cannon 20mm.
The Mauser C96 is one of the most famous and successful semiautomatic pistols in history. It was a hand cannon, because the 7.63x25mm round it used was the highest velocity round so far until the .357 Magnum came along.
In September 2011, a Brazilian drug dealer was caught with this, a homemade 12 gauge revolver. This is not the only time this has happened. Seriously, that last one is even MORE ridiculously big somehow...
A German slang expression for a large handgun is “Zimmerflak” or indoor air defence cannon.
The earliest hand cannon existed during the Yuan dynasty, making this Older Than Print.
Pepperbox pistols are examples from the 1800's that were sold to civilians! They were designed for multiple shots, the earliest versions having matches leading to each barrel, and being a very early predecessor to the revolver. Although it's still intimidating looking down four barrels, their downside is they're impossible to aim. They're almost primarily used at point blank, like Derringer was infamously known for. Even more cannon-y was volley guns, which used multiple barrels and often shot them simultaneously.