S&W's Model 460XVR

The Extreme .45

S&W’s .460 Magnum (top) is the same size as the .500 Magnum (bottom).
The only difference is the .460’s holes are smaller and the 500 has been
smoothed and ported by Mag-na-port and stocked by Herrett’s.

All arguments about which is the most powerful revolver became moot in 2003 when Smith & Wesson introduced the X-Frame .500 S&W Magnum with the capability of launching a 440- grain bullet from an 83⁄8″ barrel at nearly 1,700 fps. We were at the absolute top of the ladder. There was no place else to go — including up. Then, just as they did in 1964 with the .41 Magnum coming 10 years after the .44 Magnum, Smith & Wesson backed up. This time it only took two years to take a step down the ladder. Using the same basic X-Frame as on the Model 500 revolver, Smith & Wesson has introduced the Model 460XVR chambered in .460 S&W Magnum. We had reached the top with the .500 and now it was time to drop back and put a little more enjoyment in shooting while still maintaining extreme power. Even in the 41⁄2- pound Model 500, and contrary to some other writer’s opinions, the recoil with the full house 440-grain bullet is brutal.

Not So Bad This Time

I couldn’t say, as some did, shooting the .500 “wasn’t that bad.” It was — and remains — way above bad with full-house loads. For my use, I cut the 440-grain load by about 200 fps. It is still not in the pleasant-shooting stage, but compared to the full-house factory load, it is pure pleasure. The same can be said for the .460. Compared to the .500, shooting it is pure pleasure. With a full-house load launching a 395-grain bullet at close to 1,600 fps, I can truthfully say shooting this X-Frame is not that bad. The combination of four-plus-pounds weight, interchangeable muzzle compensator, and finger-groove Sorbathane rubber grips all work together to keep felt recoil tolerable. When I tested the .500, I said this would be my last time doing the extensive shooting necessary to develop loads. My wrists and hands just would not take it anymore. The fact I have put more than 1,000 rounds through the .460 demonstrates how much more user-friendly this latest S&W Magnum really is.

The Model 460 shoots exceptionally well with Cor-Bon’s 250-grain XPB load.

Forward Step Back

Just as they did in 1935 with the .357 Magnum, in 2005 Smith & Wesson claimed the high-velocity record for a revolver as the .460 factory round from Cor-Bon using the 200-grain Barnes XPB bullet is rated at 2,300 fps. When one considers how many rifles out there are in the same velocity neighborhood with lighter bullets, it is easy to see just what Smith & Wesson has accomplished with this latest X-frame. To me it is a whole lot more practical than the .500 S&W. At least those who purchase the 460XVR will probably spend a lot more time shooting this “smaller” 21st-century magnum.

The Model 460XVR weighs 73 ounces equipped with an 83⁄8″ barrel. According to Smith & Wesson, the barrel features gain-twist rifling, made possible by Smith & Wesson’s new Electro Chemical Rifling (ECR) producing superb accuracy. Gain twist simply means the twist of the barrel rifling becomes faster towards the muzzle. Does it really produce better accuracy? I don’t know, but it certainly shot very well in my hands using my eyes. Finish is an all satin stainless steel, capacity of the cylinder is five shots, and the single-action trigger pull on the test gun measured 33⁄4 pounds. As expected, the rear sight is fully adjustable and, removed, reveals it is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. The front sight features interchangeable blades and is provided with a gold bead and an optional HI-VIZ green dot. Even before shooting I installed the green dot and found it to be very easy to see. Unlike red-ramp front sights, which disappear or wash out in bright sunlight, the green dot just seems to glow all the more.

These two long-range, big-bore Encores are from SSK Industries. The .460
has a Leupold LER scope (top) and .500 S&W Magnum sports a Bushnell
Elite LER scope (bottom). Both scopes are in T’SOB Mounts from SSK.

The SSK Industries .460 Encore shoots as good or better than most rifles. >br> These groups were made at 100 yards.

Deer At 250 Yards?

There is always a lot of hype around a new product and I really question when Smith & Wesson says, “If you zero its sights at 200 yards, you will bag your buck with a center hold. zero-250 yards with no hold over! Just center it and fire. A 460XVR will do the rest.” I know what they are trying to say by emphasizing the extremely flat trajectory of a 200-grain bullet at a muzzle
velocity of 2,300 fps. However, shooting deer at 250 yards with a revolver is something I will never recommend.

I have some extremely accurate revolvers mounted with scope sights and, for me at least, my self-imposed maximum distance for shooting game is half that mentioned by Smith & Wesson. Save the 250-yard shots for scope-sighted, single shot pistols chambered in rifle-style cartridges, and even then it requires knowledge of the actual distance, a solid rest, and an animal willing to stand still and present a broadside shot. Yes, I know about Elmer Keith and his 600-yard shot on a mule deer using a 61⁄2″ Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum with iron sights. This needs to be put into proper perspective. First there are very few Elmer Keiths, if any, around and secondly Keith admitted this was a desperation attempt to stop a deer, which had been wounded by a rifle shooter who was now out of ammunition, and said deer was about to make it over the top and get away to die a lingering death.

Before Smith & Wesson provided test guns, SSK Ind. was chambering the Encore in the .460 S&W Magnum. So in addition to the XVR, I also had a 10″ SSK Custom Encore for testing loads. J.D. Jones of SSK provided the Encore barrel topped with a variable Leupold scope. Shooting this combination at 100 yards delivered groups right at 1″ with factory Cor-Bon loads. This I would use at 250 yards if all the other conditions were in place.

The 45 family today includes (from left to right) the .45 ACP, .45 Auto Rim,
.45 Colt, .454 Casull, and the .460 S&W Magnum. The .460 will handle the
.45 Colt and .454 Casull as well.

The .460 S&W (left) is longer than its older brother, the .500 S&W.

High Quality

Smith & Wesson introduced the 460 XVR at the 2005 SHOT Show, but decided to do more testing before releasing guns. Endurance tests of 5,000, 10,000, and 15,000 rounds were performed paying special attention to any flexing of the frame with proof loads. As one would expect, the 460XVR — as is the Model 500 — is manufactured with specials steels and special heat treating. I had absolutely no malfunctions with the 460XVR except two instances of primers flowing around the firing pin with the Cor-Bon 200-grain load. This was towards the end of the testing process with a dirty cylinder (I had not cleaned the gun nor even run a brush through the barrel at anytime while testing). This is not normal treatment and testifies to the quality of the Model 460XVR. The last five rounds grouped into 11⁄4″ at 25 yards. The majority of these loads were fired with hard-cast bullets, so it seems, in this particular sixgun at least, there is no propensity for leading. This also speaks highly of the quality of the gas-checked bullets from Cast Performance Bullet Co. and Oregon Trail Bullet Co., which were used in handloads along with jacketed bullets from Barnes, Belt Mountain, Hornady, NWCP and Sierra. These will all be featured in a separate article making up a “Taffin Tests” for our sister publication, American Handgunner.

Current factory loadings from Cor-Bon are topped with a 200-grain Barnes
or 250-grain Barnes XPB bullets, a 335-grain A-Frame and a 395-grain Hard Cast.

It takes a large cylinder to contain the pressure of the .460 Magnum


Smith & Wesson developed the .357 Magnum in conjunction with Winchester. Twenty years later the .44 Magnum came about with the cooperation of Remington. Is interesting to me to see both the .500 Magnum and the .460 Magnum ammunition not being developed by one of the larger long-time ammunition companies, but rather Cor-Bon a relative newcomer on the ammunition scene but also a company that has been on the cutting edge of ammunition development, especially for the handgun hunter and law-enforcement use. As this is written the only factory ammunition available for the .460 S&W Magnum comes from Cor-Bon. Four factory offerings are available for the .460 S&W Magnum. First we have “the velocity champion” ammunition giving the Model 460XVR the undisputed title of not only “The Highest Velocity Revolver in the World” but also a second title of “The Most Powerful .45 Caliber Revolver in the World.” Both titles were earned with Cor-Bon’s 200-grain Barnes’ XPB Spitzer rated at a muzzle velocity of 2,300 fps and a muzzle energy of 2,350 ftlbs. As we go up the line using heavier bullets, the muzzle velocity changes dramatically as does the muzzle energy. The 250-grain XPB Spitzer, also from Barnes is rated at 1,900 fps with a muzzle energy of 2,004 ft-lbs, the 325-grain Bonded Core A-Frame, 1,650 fps and 1,965 ft-lbs, and the 395-grain Hard Cast, 1,550 fps and 2,108 ft-lbs. All four loads were fired both in the 83⁄8″ Model 460XVR and the 10″ SSK Encore for velocity and accuracy. The Smith & Wesson was equipped with the standard, factory sights with the Hi-Viz green-dot front sight, while the Encore was equipped with a Leupold 2.5-8X LER scope on the SSK T’SOB mount.

The muzzle brake found on the S&W Model 460XVR is removable, but helps r
educe felt recoil. The Hi-Viz fiber-optic green-dot front sight is very easy to see.

Definitely The Velocity Champ

From the Smith & Wesson 460 XVR, the 200-grain XPB clocked 2,324 fps, the 250 at 1,853 fps, the 325 at 1,634 fps and the 395, 1,561 fps. Notice Cor-Bon does not pad their muzzle velocities! Switching to the Encore, as expected, the muzzle velocities were significantly higher and, in the same order, came in at 2,589 fps, 2,091 fps, 1,987 fps, and 1,787 fps. The accompanying chart also shows groups fired at 25 and 50 yards with the iron-sighted Smith & Wesson and 100 yards with the scope-sighted Encore. Looking at the results for the Encore we find quality rifle-type groups with the 200-grain XPB, 250 XPB, and the 325 BC, however the 395-grain Hard Cast Bullet would not stay on paper at 100 yards. Switching to the Smith & Wesson we find all four loads shooting well at 25 yards, opening up a bit at 50 yards, and the 395 HC load at slightly more than 4″. It is very difficult to come up with a barrel twist that would handle such a wide range of the bullet weights. We can have optimum accuracy for 200-grain bullets or 400-grain bullets, but I suspect it would be very hard to have one barrel provide extreme accuracy for both.

Add Versatility

Although advertised as a .460, this latest Magnum from Smith & Wesson is actually a .45 taking the same diameter bullets as the .45 Colt and .454 Casull. That is in a properly chambered cylinder, all take bullets in the .451″ to 452″ diameter range. The Model 460XVR also accepts the .45 Colt and .454 Casull as “lighter” loads, yet it is difficult to consider some of the heavy-duty Colt and Casull loads as lighter! Both were fired in the Model 460 with good results, so either can perform as an understudy to the .460. However, the same precaution exists as when using .38 Specials in a .357 Magnum, or .44 Specials in a .44 Magnum, and the .45 Colt in a .454. Extensive use of the shorter cases in the longer cylinders can result in a ring developing in the chamber right above the case mouth. If the cylinder is not routinely scrubbed after using the shorter cases it may be difficult to chamber the longer rounds. Keep it clean and there should be no problem.

Life is full of trade-offs and the Model 460XVR is a perfect example. Its weight of 41⁄2 pounds and, to a lesser extent, the muzzle compensator and the rubber grips, make it relatively easy to shoot but difficult to pack. However any “shoulder holster” designed to ride across the stomach should do much to aid ease of carrying. I like the Model 460XVR.

Maker: Smith & Wesson
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01104
(800) 331-0852

ACTION TYPE: Double-action revolver
CALIBER: .460 S&W Magnum
LENGTH: 83⁄8″ (73⁄8″ + 1″ Compensator)
WEIGHT: 73 ounces
FINISH: Satin stainless steel
SIGHTS: Adjustable rear,interchangeable front blades
GRIPS: Sorbathane finger groove rubber

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