Evan Whildin, Vice President of Action Arms, Ltd., developed the .50 Action Express cartridge in 1988 with the goal of pushing the performance of a semi-automatic pistol far beyond the limits that had so far been reached. He was remarkably successful. The .50 AE launches a 325 grain Hornady bullet at 1,400 feet per second out of a six inch barrel. Muzzle energy exceeds 1,400 foot pounds. If that's not impressive enough, at one hundred yards, bullet is still traveling 1,138 feet per second and carrying 930 foot pounds of energy. That means a .50 Action Express round at one hundred yards has more than double the energy of a standard .45 ACP round at the muzzle! The .50 AE is available in many bullet types including JHP and SP.
The hunting applications for this much power are pretty obvious. The .50 AE is not as popular a choice as other cartridges, though it is more than adequate for all game animals in North America. It is often used for defense against bears, and as a backup handgun for long gun hunters in country with dangerous game. The Magnum Research Desert Eagle handgun is the most common platform for the .50 AE. Handguns chambered in this cartridge are heavy, however, so the .50 AE never gained widespread adoption in action shooting sports. Metallic silhouette shooters are more likely to be seen shooting this cartridge as they prize heavy bullets and high velocities.
At first glance, the .50 AE would seem to be the ultimate personal protection cartridge. The weight and size of the required handgun, however, is too much for most shooters. The large, heavy gun cannot be carried or deployed efficiently, reducing its effectiveness in a self-defense situation. Additionally, the recoil is more violent than a .44 Magnum, which makes follow up shots much more difficult. Engaging multiple targets with the .50 AE is nearly impossible.
The choice of the .50 AE is great, however, for the person who wants to shoot a unique, large bore handgun cartridge that kicks like a mule. It also makes a good sidearm for anyone in the back country who needs the ultimate defense against dangerous animals.