50 GI vs 50 AE – Important Differences Between These Calibers

When it comes to choosing a powerful handgun, the caliber of the ammunition is one of the most important factors to consider. The .50 GI and .50 AE are two of the most popular and powerful calibers on the market today. While they may seem similar, there are some important differences between the two. In this guide, we will explore the differences between these two calibers to help you make an informed decision when choosing your next handgun.

What Is The Main Difference Between 50 GI & 50 AE?

comparison of handgun ammo 50 AE vs 50 GI

1) Size Comparison

Here is the size comparison between these two rounds. Remember, different bullet types come in all different shapes and sizes!

.50 GI:

  • Case Type – Rebated rim, straight
  • Bullet diameter – .500 in
  • Neck diameter – .526 in
  • Base diameter – .526 in
  • Rim diameter – .480 in
  • Case length – .899 in
  • Overall length – 1.221 in
  • Maximum pressure (SAAMI) – 23,000 psi (160 MPa)


.50 AE:

  • Case Type – Rebated rim, straight
  • Bullet diameter – .500 in
  • Neck diameter – .531 in
  • Base diameter – .543 in
  • Rim diameter – .514 in
  • Case length – 1.285 in
  • Overall length – 1.610 in
  • Maximum pressure (SAAMI) – 36,000 psi (250 MPa)

The .50 GI and AE have the same diameter, yet the .50 AE is an overall much larger cartridge – allowing for a higher case capacity. The .50 AE also has a much higher maximum pressure – making it a more powerful round but also producing more felt recoil. We saw in our comparison of the smaller 9mm 115 & 124 grain ammo that bullet size is a major factor!

2) Stopping Power Comparison

Image of 50 AE handgun ammo

We all know how important stopping power is for self-defense guns – the ability for a gun to effectively take down a target is a must! Stopping power is largely influenced by the kinetic energy a bullet carries. In our post about “what is in a bullet” we learned more about what produces more stopping power.

A 300-grain .50 GI round produces 350 ft-lbs worth of energy. Meanwhile, when leaving the barrel, the .50 AE produces an impressive 1,449 ft-lbs of kinetic energy. Kinetic energy was also a major factor in our comparison of .44 mag vs .45 acp ammo as well.

From the above-mentioned muzzle energy figures, it is obvious that the .50 AE has the higher stopping power – producing almost x5 the kinetic energy the .50 GI ammunition produces. Therefore, the .50 AE caliber is the winner in terms of stopping power. Just like we saw in our analysis of the 22 and 17 rimfire ammo, stopping power has a real impact on the use case of a cartridge.

3) Price Comparison

These two different types cartridges are priced fairly similarly. You can expect to pay anywhere in the range of $2-$4 per round. The 50 GI tends to be cheaper as it is cheaper to produce because it needs less gunpowder.

4) Ammo Availability

The .50 GI isn’t that popular a round – so its ammo is quite scarce to acquire for your Guncrafter Industries Model No.1. In comparison, the mass adoption of the 50 Action Express in the Desert Eagle pistol led to ammo being produced in surplus, and therefore, ammo can be easily found. However, just like we saw in our comparison of the 223 vs 556 rounds, ammo cost can really vary depending on avaialbilty!

Pros & Cons Of Using The 50 GI Ammo


  • Less Recoil
  • Cheaper ammunition
  • Higher accuracy
  • Easier to handle


  • Ammunition is scarce

Pros & Cons Of Using The 50 AE Ammo


  • More Powerful
  • Ammo In Abundance
  • Versatile


  • More Recoil – The .50 AE is less accurate due to more recoil being produced. It also makes weapons with sights more difficult to handle and shoot because of the recoil
  • Ammo is a bit more expensive

When Is The 50 GI Best?

Similar to the .45 ACP, the 50 GI is best for when people want a self-defense weapon. Just like we saw in our comparison of the 30-06 and 223 Rem ammo, a self-defense weapon that is easy to handle and won’t produce excessive recoil is ideal.

When Is The 50 AE Best?

The 50 AE is ideal for when people want a heavy-hitting, highly powerful pistol round and who aren’t bothered by handgun recoil. The 50 AE is also perfect for hunting purposes, as it carries enough energy to deliver a lethal blow to medium game.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 50 cal the same as 50 AE?

No, the cartridges' size differs. The .50 AE is a much larger cartridge and also produces much more energy.

Is 50 GI good for self defense?

Yes, the 50 GI is a good self-defense weapon - producing low recoil and easy to maneuver, making it ideal for self-defense.

What is a Glock 50 GI?

A Glock 50 GI is a Glock 21 that has been converted to the 50 GI platform.

What is 50 AE used for?

The 50 AE, used in the Desert Eagle pistol, is ideal for silhouette shooting, hunting, and target shooting (plinking).

What does the AE mean in 50 AE?

The AE in 50 AE means action express.

What is the difference between .50 AE and .50 Beowulf?

The .50 Beowulf has a larger cartridge length than the .50 AE. Additionally, the .50 Beowulf is mainly used in the AR-15 platform, whereas the .50 AE is used in the handgun platform.

The Bottom Line

Two cartridges with identical bullet diameters, yet they couldn’t be more different. The .50 GI is ideal for self-defense purposes. At the same time, the .50 AE is the perfect addition to your rifle when hunting and target shooting – providing you with the necessary backup when situations get too close for comfort. If you enjoy our articles and want a deeper understanding of ammunition. Then consider our article on “how fast does a bullet travel” – where we take a deep dive into the intricacies of what affects the speed of a bullet.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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