It all started innocently enough a couple of months ago when I ran into my friend Tommy Richardson just after returning from filming a segment of Handguns television. â€śMan, do I have a gun for you to shoot,â€ť I told him.
Now Tommy is a total newbie when it comes to shooting, but beginning late last year I started taking him to the range. We started with a morningâ€™s classroom lesson in my dining room, reviewing gun nomenclature, how ammo works, and an extensive safety briefing. After that we headed to the local indoor range with a selection of handguns. I started him on .22s, then we moved on to .44 Specials (cowboy loads in a 5-inch 629, so no recoil to speak of), a .45 Colt and at the end a 9mm, my CZ 75, which being an all-steel gun is pretty much a pussycat.
He really seemed to enjoy it, and we shot another time or two, moving on to a 1911 and more work with various 9mms. So when I told him I had a gun for him to shoot, and it was a Smith & Wesson .460 XVR, I was only half serious. Iâ€™ve shot maybe 200 rounds out of a .460, enough to know itâ€™s not a gun for the casual shooter. But at the same time, Tommyâ€™s an enthusiastic person, and I figured the idea of getting to try such a powerful gun like the .460–something few everyday shooters get to see, let alone fire–would have a lot of appeal for him.
Weeks went by and it was hard to find time to get to the outdoor range where I normally shoot. There was no way I was touching off the .460 indoors. But Tommy asked a couple of times when we were going to shoot the .460, and I knew it wouldnâ€™t be long before I had to return the gun to Smith, so we packed up a bunch of guns and headed for Angeles Range.
We started off with a Ruger Mark III .22, and he shot a Mossberg .223 rifle I was testing, along with my 10/22. Then we stepped up to my brand new Ed Brown, which was making its maiden voyage. And then it was time.
I shot it first, repeatedly missing the 100-yard gong, much to my embarrassment. (I was right around it, but Iâ€™ll be damned if I could ring that stupid thing.) He shook his head. â€śThatâ€™s a lot of gun.â€ť There was no way I was going to pressure him into shooting it, but since this was really the reason weâ€™d made the trip, there was no way he wasnâ€™t going to try.
I handed him the gun, told him to keep his thumbs away from the cylinder. He dry fired it a few times, then slipped five huge cartridges into the cylinder. â€śLook, donâ€™t even try to hit anything until you get a feel for it,â€ť I told him. â€śJust aim at the backstop.â€ť And with that he fired, displaying admirable follow-through. At that point I wondered if he would just hand the gun back to me, but he fired againâ€”and again, and again.
â€śWow, thatâ€™s a lot of gun,â€ť he said. Yep, I told him. It is.
We shot a bit more with the Ed Brown and the Mossberg, then I told him weâ€™d pack up everything but the .22s and shoot some steel swingers to finish the session. â€śOkay,â€ť he said, â€śbut I want to shoot the .460 again.â€ť After burning through a few hundred rounds of rimfire, we broke out the XVR, and Tommy ran another cylinder full of ammo through it, and I could tell he was really working his butt off to hit that gong. He didnâ€™t, but it wasnâ€™t for lack of trying.
â€śMy hands are kind of numb,â€ť he told me later. â€śBut that was really something.â€ť Time will tell whether I made a mistake of introducing him to a firearm that is beyond his skill level. Hell, itâ€™s a stretch for me. But there are times when an opportunity knocks, and Iâ€™ll bet heâ€™ll tell people about shooting that .460 for a long time–plus now that heâ€™s shot it, he wonâ€™t have cause to be afraid of recoil in any handgun, short of the .500 of course. But he doesnâ€™t have to worry about that on my account because, frankly, Iâ€™ve shot the .500 and itâ€™s too much gun for me. The .460 is my limit.