Lessons From The .460 S&W

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

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.

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.

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.

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