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Lessons From The .460 S&W

by J. Scott Rupp   |  July 8th, 2011 26

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. “Man, do I have a gun for you to shoot,” I told him.

New shooter Tommy Richardson gets ready to shoot the .460 S&W.

New shooter Tommy Richardson gets ready to shoot the .460 S&W.

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 morning’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. I’ve shot maybe 200 rounds out of a .460, enough to know it’s not a gun for the casual shooter. But at the same time, Tommy’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 wouldn’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 I’ll be damned if I could ring that stupid thing.) He shook his head. “That’s a lot of gun.” There was no way I was going to pressure him into shooting it, but since this was really the reason we’d made the trip, there was no way he wasn’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. “Look, don’t even try to hit anything until you get a feel for it,” I told him. “Just aim at the backstop.” 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 again—and again, and again.

“Wow, that’s a lot of gun,” he said. Yep, I told him. It is.

Tommy touches off the .460. Despite the impressive recoil, he was game for two rounds with it.

Tommy touches off the .460. Despite the impressive recoil, he was game for two rounds with it.

We shot a bit more with the Ed Brown and the Mossberg, then I told him we’d pack up everything but the .22s and shoot some steel swingers to finish the session. “Okay,” he said, “but I want to shoot the .460 again.” 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 didn’t, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

“My hands are kind of numb,” he told me later. “But that was really something.” Time will tell whether I made a mistake of introducing him to a firearm that is beyond his skill level. Hell, it’s a stretch for me. But there are times when an opportunity knocks, and I’ll bet he’ll tell people about shooting that .460 for a long time–plus now that he’s shot it, he won’t have cause to be afraid of recoil in any handgun, short of the .500 of course. But he doesn’t have to worry about that on my account because, frankly, I’ve shot the .500 and it’s too much gun for me. The .460 is my limit.

  • Alan

    The first time I touched off a S&W 500 it was love at first sight (shot). I have shot them in all barrel lengths since, from 4 to 12 inch. The ideal gun for me is the 8 inch ( I know, it is approximately 8 inches) ported barrel version. I can shoot that one comfortably one handed. The 4 incher is a real hand-full and the 12 incher is so heavy (the one I shot had a scope) I could barely hold it up on target with two hands. I have yet to buy one, because I find it hard to justify the expense for the gun or the ammo, (not much dangerous game here in CT) but as soon as I find a nice used one it will be going home with me.They are just a blast to shoot. Pun intended!

  • Steve

    Quite a few times, now I have seen someone of questionable character show up with a .460 or 500. I saw this a lot during the .44 mag Dirty Harry craze also. These "men" were obviously lacking in self esteem. After magnificantly flinching a few rounds (well into the dirt) downrange they would then hand it to a "loved one" (?) so they could prove what a man they were by comparison. I don't even enjoy shooting a .454 or .44 mag, although I found the single action Casull .454's would shoot way under one inch groups (accuracy is fascinating). I had a .44 SW Horton 3 inch that I carried off duty for a couple of years. It was loaded with slightly stiff .44 Specials. I put heavy mags in it once when hiking where there were a lot of bears. I think I might have shot a total of 10 factory magnums out of it. My .357 J frame back up gun has had ONE .357 through it. I was hired a a rangemaster when I was 18. The "macho" people listed above were always kicked off the range before they ruined someone. Over the years, I have known and seen many people who shoot HEAVY handguns consistently. Be advised that they are VERY prone to nerve damage in their hands. On windless days, one of the guys used to like to stand with me while we shot off hand with .22 target pistols at the steel as far away as 400 yards. Now he can't hit a steel at 50 yards, even with two hands. He has to bench the gun. Makes me sad. It also makes me more than just sad when I see someone stand back while a friend, or anyone, is turned into an unhealable flincher.

    • Jon Nelson

      I have every hand gun from a .17 to 500 n truely enjoy shooting them all. Some of us can hit the target with the big guns. But then Marines always could. The size of my gun does not question my manliness.

    • tpa

      So why did you buy magnum revolvers? Also, did you hit anything at 400 yards with a .22 pistol offhand? Because the ballistics and limitations of eyesight say otherwise. Given that if the pistol was sighted in at 100 yards (unlikely), there is only a 26 foot drop-off from 100 to 400 yards. You can judge 26 yards of elevation at 400 yards away? Give me a break. Of course, if it was the ocean you were shooting at, I'd believe you could hit it. I have a .22LR revolver and a .460. I love and shoot both. Sounds like someone is just crying because he can't afford a $1000 gun.

  • Leroy

    My wife bought me the .500 Magnum for Valentines Day. Yep, she's the best. 4 inch barrel. I saw one once, and just had to have it. Shot about 11 rounds through it, two handed of course. It hurt so bad I bought gloves to try the next time we took it out. Even my 21 year old son, who has about 7 inches and 100 pounds on me has a hard time with it. Now I'm wondering just why it is I "had to have it". Recently found a .460 scoped, performance center, and a .500- 8 inch at my local gun store, both used but in 95-100 percent. They know me well and new I had to see them. Yep, bought them both both. Haven't had the time to shoot either one of them yet, but am looking forward to getting alot of practice soon, as I intend to hunt the "giant" white tails we have here in Central Florida. No, I still haven't tried the 4 inch .500 again, but I will. It is quite pricey for ammo though. Once I aquire enough casings I will be reloading them.

  • CaptainBob

    I know just what Steve means about the "macho" guy. w ehad a guy like that who had to have a .500 because it was the biggest. Well this guy had more money than brains. He took it out, set up to shoot, and before anyone could stop him, grabbed the barrel with his offhand for support and touched off a round. Really messed up his hand (fortunately not permantenly) with the blast of gas from the cylinder gap. Needless to say he brags about having a .500 but never shoots it anymore or mentions his first shot…

  • Ken

    I reload for my 460 and I learned that 4227 is a slower burning powder than H-110 and 2400. That translates into less felt recoil. I also dropped from a 300 jhp to a 250 grain jhp, less recoil yet. Now I do not feel the need to ice my hand after a long shooting session!

  • SPKorn

    In my humble view, .357 is the practical limit what most shooters can shoot well. Few can handle and shoot accurately a .44 Mag, and I always use gloves and double-hearing protection. The occasional shooter at the range with anything bigger rarely enjoys the experience. People are free to buy and own what they want, but I don't get it.

  • wayne

    I grew up shooting a 45 auto ( my dads) and fist shot a Dan Wesson 44 of my brothers that he didn't like much. Said it recoiled to much ???. My first shot was 2 handed as I made sure I had a good hold on that beasty lol. The next 20 or so were off hand and I loved it. And no, my wrist never bothered me even the next day :) . Brother is bigger as I am only 5-7" and 180 so he had a hard time with me loving his little hand gun so much lol. What the he11, different strokes for different folks right :) .

  • Dale Bailey

    I learned a long,long,time ago that a hit with a smaller caliber round is more effective a miss with a mega-magnum.

    As clint Eastwood said in one or more movies,"A man's gotta know his limitations"


    I shot my fathers S&W model 29 when I was twentyfive that was thirtythree years ago, since then I've shot Ruger Blackhawks, and Redhawks in the venerable .44mag.. However I just bought a new Ruger Super Redhawk 9.5" in .480 Ruger (yes I know it's discontineued) took it to the rifle range at 50 yards I put the first one dead center , but even with the shock absorbing Hogue grip I had just instaled the pain was so intense that the next five shots were off mark. I clearly under estimated the Ruger .480 in Hornady 400 grain jhp. Can't wait to face a large hog this season.

  • Brian

    I also fell in love after touching off a 2" barreled .460.

    The same day I tracked down and ordered a 460V.

    Hornady's FTX 200 gn @ 2200 fps are my preferred fun load to shoot. I reload the same FTX 200 gn bullet with

    50 grains of Hogdon 110 for the same effect as the factory loads. The noise and blast concussion are far worse than any recoil felt from this 4.5lb pistol. Always a head turner at the range, just make sure everyone has their ears on before poppin one off. Seriously this gun is easier on my hand shooting this load than shooting my 7.5" 629 44 mag with a Federal 180gn factory load.

  • Dave

    I traded a 10 5/8" M29 for a 500 sent it to get a proper finish applyed and went to work in the reloading room came out of the room with a great load for white tail deer 348gr RCBS mould and15gr of Trail Boss works great for penatration but over done shoot that load ALL DAY no pain alot of gain

  • ramp1955

    I love my Dan Wesson 44cal with 10in barrel..Great accuracy.

  • Bill

    Several years ago, in my attempts to fill my small collection of Colt "snakes", my son alerted me to an Anaconda (cal. .44Mag). The first 20 shots through it were torturous. I HATED that gun. A few weeks later, I swapped the stock hard rubber grip for a Hogue soft rubber grip. The next time I went to the range, I shot two 20-round boxes through it with no problem. Even with the heavy "tubular" red dot mounted to it, the weight was not a factor. The accuracy was phenomenal. It was just plain "SWEET". I have always fired with two hands, but it is a joy to shoot. Now, my Python feels like a toy when I shoot it.

  • Frank G

    Just now came across your 460 article. My bucket list has always included big game with a handgun. I’m fortunate in the fact that I reside in Tennessee now, extremely “lucky” to have teamed up with 4 others in a lease consisting of 750 acres, pine and mast woods. Although there are many fine large bore handguns on the market, I did my due diligence choosing the 460 XVR S&W. Topping it off with an AimPoint 9000SC 2 MOA red dot, 3 rings to hold it square: Outstanding combo, now research the correct ammo. When S&W designed this weapon, extreme velocity was the goal teaming up with Hornady provided ultimate results. With their 200 gr round (460), at 2300 +/- ft.sec. More then adequate to get the job done. Although S&W suggests “0” at 100 yards, I elected to set up at 50 yards (knowing it would shoot dead flat out to 100). My area is rather thick; a shot out past 100 yards would not be the norm. Naturally, the other members thought I was “a crazy Yankee” ……… Hummmm they changed their views, first weekend out an 8 point (image included) at 86 yards, next outing a 10 point at 64 yards, 10 days later yet another 8 point at 48 yards, then a nice doe at 50. The only movement after you send this round was caused by gravity, they all dropped dead flat. Easy tracking that way. Well needles to say the other (all long gun guys) members were delighted yet shocked. They took a vote; they won’t let me use a handgun this coming season, the opinion that I should use a long gun because “you can’t hit anything with one” (Ha) they were just kidding, but stated “save some of the big boys for us”. Two points here: This is not a handgun for the faint of heart, most people are shocked at the sheer size. The design and mass of this wepon in fact is an advantage. Dial the cal down to .45 or .454 fun gun at the range. BUT the report is something to get use to, one BIG bang. Don't even consider the .500 the 460 XVR is far and away superior, although they may look the same sitting side by side the 460 is one Extremely Versatile Revolver.

    Frank G in Tennessee

  • DanP_from_AZ

    I saw a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .454 Casull at one of my local gunstores.

    Magna-Ported, and a tritium front sight (for bear attacks at night?).

    99.5 percenter, supposedly traded in by a real Alaskan for a .44 Mag. No grizzlies or Kodiaks here.

    Of course I had to take it home. Now it's my super-snubby mountain/wilderness hiking gun.

    I don't find its recoil anymore obnoxious than my S&W Airweight J-frame snubby .38 Spl

    or my 20 oz. 9mm Sig P290 when using +P.

    But, I limit each of those three to 50 rds. per practice session.

    That is enough, thank you very much.

  • Bryan

    Big guns are fun, but sometimes will beat the hell outta ya. Has a lot to do with the size/weight of the gun. I have an SP101 in 357 that hurts worse to shoot than any big bore I've laid my paws on. But then my 629 8 3/8 barks really bad with a 240 and 25 grains of H110……… You can always load 'em down if you don't want the recoil-I recently shot a 500 with good heavy cast hand loads and it wasn't a bit bad to shoot at all. Personally, my recent fave is a Redhawk in 327 Federal-nasty little bugger to swat something with, and isn't a bit bad to shoot. Ain't it great that we live in a country where we can buy whatever we want, and pass judgement on anyone who does different? God Bless the USA!

  • Frank G in Tennessee

    Help if you can.
    There was an engineering article published 2>3 years ago, quite extensive about the design and engineering of the 460 XVR S&W. Try as I might I can seem to locate it anywhere again. I did print the article 3 to 4 pages. Yes really the new puppy tore it all up (didn’t eat it).
    Thanks for any help.

  • Jose

    Tommy, if you like the .460. Try to shoot the .480 super red hawk, I enjoy firing it

  • KEN in SC

    I bought the 460XVR over a black gun "AR15". I could not get any ammo in 460, sold out everywhere. I would shoot the .45 lc & .454 at the range and have a good time. I put a scope on the gun with all stainless hardware. _ I finally got a couple boxes of Horndy 200SST. I would load them up 2-.45 lc 2-.454 1-460sst. Start off with the .45lc's they go POP, POP then the .454's they go BOOM, BOOM then the .460SST goes KA-BOOM!!_ Went to the gun range one day and these guy

  • KEN in SC

    PART 2 they asked me what i was bring down and i told them a .460XVR

  • SteveInOregon

    " Ammo Is Everything " well almost everything, porting and barrel length & weight are right up there. I have a Dan Wesson 44mag w 8 inch, factory ported barrel and Houge rubber grips. With factory 240 gr semi jacketed flat nose it is thumpy and fun with just enough boom and blast to know Your shooing a magnum handgun. When I load it with Garrett weight forward bullets aka 'Hammerhead' 330 gr ultra wide flat nose, ultra hard cast 21 brinel, gas check + P ammo , or with Buffalo Bore 340 gr hard cast flat nose +P at 1,425fps it turns into a MONSTER, with big blue circular flame, extreme muzzle jump and hand pounding recoil, buy hot dam it is fun.

    What I enjoy about heavy full house ammo is the challenge , the challenge to overcome the massive recoil distraction, and to calmly concentrate and relax with a firm grip and literately ignore the blast and recoil to touch off the shot right when the site blade intersects the target !

    To me it is like shooting a magnum rifle at a trophy dear or Elk or ?, and you get so focused and in such a tunnel vision concentration so that You don't even really hear all that much of the shot or feel much of the recoil its only the animal and the cross hairs.

    Big bore handguns have a special place in shooting ( and hunting ) to me

    22's can be the same in there own way, as they require concentration in order to over come the mundane lack of pizzaz and recoil , the $ cheapness of each shot can lull the average Joe into practicing sloppy form and trigger control and so end up being an all around poor to average shot even tho he expends thousands of rounds of ammo all he has practiced is poor shooting over and over, and so I have learned to respect the 22 in order to make all my shooting uniformly consistent. Cheers

  • terz81

    Grip and Grip shape have a lot to do with felt recoil and also how you grasp the handgun as well.
    One of the worst handguns I ever owned was a Ruger Black Hawk with the Square Back Trigger Guard
    in 44 magnum in recoil the middle finger would get slapped hard by that Square back Trigger Guard,
    I traded it for a Ruger RedHawk in 44 Magnum, it has beautiful custom stocks but has finger groves the bottom one is very deep and it is anyoing in that it seperates the pinky finger to much from the rest of the hand.
    I also own a Dan Wesson 44 and I have both the 6 and 10 inch barrels and I bought Hogue Kingwood stocks,
    I feel this hand guns is one of the most comfortable revolvers I have ever shot, and it has wood stocks on it
    that were correctly made and cost around a hundred bucks. at fifty yards and with a ten inch barrel I shot a beer can dead center and put a second shot through it before it hit the ground than a third shot after it hit the ground. The Dan Wesson 357 is one of the finest handguns in the world as well great shooter.

  • madstabber

    i'm really suprised so many people have trouble shooting a .44 mag. the recoil isn't bad at all and it doesn't hurt my hands. never shot a .500 so can't comment on that.

  • S.B.

    I tried a .500. The muzzle brake, its weight, and great design made it bearable. The hand slap was no worse than a much lighter Blackhawk with stout .41 mag rounds, although it does obviously have much more force overall. I truly wouldn’t expect a similarly configured .460 to have noticeably less recoil- or effectiveness on a hog, deer, or black bear.

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