Smith and Wesson 460 Emergency Survival Kit


by Andy Tuttle

photography by Andy Tuttle

video by Dan Jaynes

February 15th, 2009




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Many firearms enthusiasts I know are also outdoorsmen like myself.  We either hunt, backpack, or just enjoy tent camping in remote areas; perhaps all of the above.  All of us have experienced, or almost experienced, how poor planning, bad weather and perhaps even hostile denizens of the forest can turn a pleasant trip into a miserable and even life-threatening experience.  One should never underestimate the whims of Mother Nature for she will eventually chastise you until you never forget her power.   

It is for this reason that Smith and Wesson developed their Emergency Survival Kits available in 44 Magnum, 460 Magnum and 500 Magnum.  I decided to purchase one in 460 Magnum as I already have guns in 45 Colt and 454 Casull.  Very good prices can be found on these kits online.  Mine came from AJC Sport Shop.  Chris in sales was kind enough to expedite shipping to me in time for a camping trip and I appreciate the good customer service.  

The kit comes in a hard-shell waterproof case.  It features a foam o-ring to seal out moisture and has an automatic pressure relief valve.  I put the case in the shower, valve up, for 10 minutes, and it does appear to be completely waterproof.  The interior foam is very thick and well cut-out for the items it stores. 

The case contains an S&W Extreme Ops folding tactical knife, a Coglan’s Magnesium Fire-Starter, a Fox40 Micro Whistle, a Silva Polaris Compass, the Unbelievable Survival Saw, two Space Emergency Blankets, a Rescue Flash Signal Mirror, the book “Bear Attacks of the Century” and 6 fire-starter blanks.   I hastily had to pack for a camping trip (never a good idea) to the Snow Mountain Wilderness in the Mendocino National Forest, and in my rush I realized when I got there that I had forgot my favorite survival knife and multi-tool combo in its sheath in its familiar place in my home.  Then I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that I had the tactical folding knife in my E.S. kit; problem solved, redundancy has its place.  It is for this reason that an E.S. kit is such a good idea. 

Next to the firearm the tactical knife is the best part of the kit.  The knife is very industrial in appearance being done up in a matte black finish.  It is well balanced and fits the hand well.  Blade length is a useful 4 ¼ inches.  The Coglan’s Magnesium Fire-Starter and Silva Polaris Compass are standard items found in most retail sporting good stores.  The Micro-Whistle requires a forceful blow and is very high pitched and loud.  The Survival Saw I have not seen in stores.  It is essentially a chain saw blade with handles.  The blade is made of high strength, heat-treated steel and has 92 cutting teeth.  The Space Blankets are the original ones made in the U.S.A. since 1964.  The Signal Mirror is of course very reflective.  I decided to not try the fire-starter blanks as there are only 6 of them and I will save them until they are truly needed.  The book features true stories of bear attacks that were meticulously researched and checked for accuracy.  The stories are not dramatized or embellished as they don’t need to be.  The incidents and resulting physical harm are very sobering to read about.  

The gun itself is a premium firearm.  It is finished in satin stainless with a bead-blasted finish on the top of the receiver to reduce glare.  It features a red-notch front sight and a target adjustable rear sight.  The chambers are polished to a mirror-like shine for ease of extraction which I have found to be more of a necessity than a luxury when dealing with cartridges that operate at 60,000 P.S.I.  The forcing cone has been polished to reduce gas-cutting of the cone and receiver.  The muzzle has a recessed crown.  The action is very slick and it has the typical “Smooth and Wesson” trigger that at an estimate breaks at a little over 3 lbs. in single action.  The gun is not light at 3 ½ lbs but its size compares very favorably to a 5 ½” Ruger Blackhawk Bisley and full size Kimber 1911.  Its proportions look right and it balances very well in the hand being slightly muzzle heavy but not overly so.  The grips are an excellent shape and do their job of absorbing recoil well. 

The 460 Magnum chambering in a revolver is special because of its versatility.  It can shoot anything from “cat sneeze” 45 Colt loads, to 45 Colt +P, 454 Casull and 460 Magnum cartridges in bullet weights ranging from 200 to 400 grains.  In a first for a production revolver, the S&W 460 series of revolvers were designed from their conception to also shoot spire-point bullets. 

I tested hand loads in 454 Casull and 460 Magnum and measured them through my chronograph.  The 454 Casull loads tested were slightly above what can be used in a Taurus Raging Bull or BFR without cases sticking excessively.  The 460 ES seemed to devour and extract them easily with a surprisingly good velocity average of 1427 fps with a Hornady 300 grain XTP Mag bullet.  The same bullet in my initial 460 Magnum loads, which were two grains shy of maximum, averaged 1492 fps.  I feel comfortable in estimating that a max load in 460 with this bullet will average about 100 fps more than in the Casull.  These are excellent velocities considering the short 2 ¾” non-ported barrel length.  You can only burn so much powder in such a short barrel. 

Three bullets that I have recovered from earth embankments or dry paper penetration tests that I would be comfortable trusting my life to are the Hornady 300 XTP Mag, Barnes 275 grain XPB and Belt Mountain 314 grain solid.  There is no data by the way for the Barnes bullet with Hodgdon Lil’Gun and H110 propellants and special thanks to Mic McPherson, ballistician, gunsmith and author for providing me with a suitable load.  During my testing I was able to recover a Hornady and Barnes bullet fired into an embankment at almost 1500 fps.  The Hornady bullet still weighed 279 grains and had expanded to just under an inch at its widest point.  This would certainly leave a devastating wound channel.   The Barnes 275 grain bullet actually increased its weight by 4 grains, probably because of impacted soil into its hollow point.  It had only begun to expand and for tougher and very large game where deeper penetration was needed, it would be the better choice in an expanding bullet.  If a solid, non-expanding bullet is desired there is no better one available than the Belt Mountain Punch Bullet.  The bullet pictured was fired from a 454 Puma rifle at a velocity of 1900 fps into a box of dry 20 lb. weight copy paper.  Where a heavier hard cast bullet shattered in the same test, the Punch Bullet penetrated further and looks like it could be loaded again.  The same bullet was documented as penetrating 48.5 inches in wet newsprint at a Linebaugh Seminar from a 454 Casull handgun.  With one of these bullets, the owner of a 454 Casull or 460 S&W handgun need make no apologies to those armed with larger calibers that generate more recoil. 

Obviously, a loaded handgun in a box that is not accessible is worthless.  Currently there are holsters available from S&W directly and Galco that make the “snubbie” version of the X-Frame comfortable to carry.  I opted for the Galco with their matching Sport Belt. 

Whichever caliber you choose, I think Smith and Wesson’s Emergency Survival Kits are well supplied with useful items that you hope you never have to use.  Personally I find the short-barreled version of the X-Frame to be the best looking and best balanced for field use.  If the color of the grips give you pause, that is easily changed as black rubber grips are available.  I really like the canary yellow grips on mine as the gun will certainly not be mistaken for anything else than what it is:  one of the most powerful and versatile handguns available. 

Smith and Wesson products can be seen here:

Hornady Manufacturing can be seen here:

Barnes Bullets can be seen here:

Mic McPherson’s articles and services can be seen here:

Belt Mountain Punch Bullets can be seen here:

Galco Leather can be seen here:

AJC Sport Shop can be contacted here:

-Andy Tuttle, aka “CowboyTutt”


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:


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