A .50 caliber handgun is a handgun firing a bullet measuring approximately .5 inches (12.7 mm) in diameter. Historically, many black powder pistols fired bullets with diameters well above ½ inch. However, following the development of smokeless powder, the focus shifted to smaller-diameter bullets propelled at higher velocities, and the development of .50 and larger calibers in handguns became uncommon.
In the twentieth century, several new cartridges of half-inch diameter were developed, with the .50 Action Express (1988) being the first to achieve wide popularity. This diameter was further popularized by the development of the .500 S&W Magnum in 2003.
There are automatic, revolver, and single-shot .50 caliber handgun designs. Handguns of this caliber tend to be larger and heavier than most others of their type, for both structural integrity and absorbing the recoil associated with firing these rounds.
Despite being featured in many video games and action films as the weapon of choice for some members of elite military and law enforcement units, these guns are in reality used primarily for hunting, target shooting, and silhouette shooting.