Smith & Wessonís .460 XVR Magnum Revolver

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

September 10th, 2005

 

 

 

Smith & Wesson created quite a ruckus in the handgun world a couple of years ago when they introduced their big X-frame revolver chambered for the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum.  Some shooters immediately hated it, while others instantaneously loved it, and neither had seen or fired one. My first reaction upon handling one was like most otherís: "That thing is huge!", and it was. It was also a huge seller, and still is, as far as big revolvers go.  It is not a gun that you stick in your back pocket and forget that it is there. It is, however, a revolver with plenty of power to take any game animal on Earth, and makes for an excellent primary hunting arm for those who prefer the handgun.  It is within this same niche that falls the .460 XVR, but with added versatility.

The .460 XVR is S&Wís latest chambering for their big X-frame revolver. This is the same five-shot cylinder as the .500 S&W Magnum, but the .460 uses a longer case. It is, basically, a stretched .454 Casull, which is a stretched .45 Colt. However, the .460 maximizes the available cylinder length on the S&W X-frame. The cylinder on the .460 measures 2.305 inches long with a diameter of 1.920 inches. The gun is constructed primarily of stainless steel, and it has plenty of it in the beefy cylinder walls. This allows the .460 to operate at magnum rifle pressures, propelling a factory loaded 200 grain Barnes X bullet at an advertised velocity of 2300 feet-per-second (fps).  From my sample revolver, that Cor-Bon factory load averaged a bit better, chronographing at 2358 fps from the eight and three-eighths inch barrel. The barrel also has an unusual rifling configuration for a production revolver, using a gain twist*, reportedly for enhanced accuracy. The XVR comes in a hard plastic case, and is supplied with two different interchangeable recoil compensators. The gun wears a Hi-Viz fiber optic front sight, but is also supplied with a black post-style front sight. The rear sight is standard S&W adjustable, and the gun is drilled and tapped for a scope mount. The sample gun weighed exactly seventy-three ounces, and measured fifteen inches in length with the longer of the two compensators installed. It has S&Wís internal key lock, and wears a set of semi-soft synthetic grips.

The fit and finish on my sample XVR is excellent. The barrel/cylinder gap measured .003 of an inch. The trigger pull was typical Smith & Wesson: superb. The double action pull was butter-smooth and measured nine pounds and nine ounces, and the crisp single action measured just under three and three-quarters pounds, and felt even lighter. The trigger pull could not be better for a gun of this type. It is light enough for good target work, but not so light as to be a danger under field conditions.

The gun functioned perfectly during all testing, and I shot it a lot. It shot it with factory loads in .45 Colt, .454 Casull, and .460 S&W Magnum. I shot lots of handloads through the gun with bullets weighing between 200 and 360 grains. While the big .460 has plenty of power, recoil was not at all painful. Compared to the recoil of the .500 S&W Magnum with heavy loads, the .460 is a pussycat. The compensator and rubber grips do an excellent job of taming the felt recoil. The .500 would wear me out with heavy loads, but the .460 allowed long sessions of testing without fatigue.

While the .460 is a velocity champ with factory 200 grain loads, I was interested to see how it would perform with heavy bullets. I like heavy, blunt bullets for hunting the big stuff, so most of my testing was towards that end. The factory Barnes X bullet is designed for a flat trajectory, and should prove just dandy for long-range (from a hand gunning perspective) hunting of deer, antelope, and elk. With a 150 yard zero, the Barnes X is only four inches low at 200 yards, with just under 1800 fps of remaining velocity. Not too shabby.  With the factory load having the high velocity/flat trajectory pretty well covered, I was anxious to see how the big case would handle the heavy bullets.

Working up loads for the .460, I had no load data available. None. Keep in mind that all data listed here is by careful experimentation. None of it has been pressure tested, and I by no means suggest that the reader try to duplicate any of it. Pressure tested load data should be available very soon from sources such as Hodgdon Powder Company. I show this to illustrate my findings with the test gun only. Others much more qualified than I are working on load data for the .460 Magnum.

I tried several powders that I was certain would be useful in this big cartridge. I also tried powders that I hoped would be useful in this big cartridge. Notice that with some powder/ bullet combinations, I reached the point where adding more powder gained no more velocity. There were a couple of instances where more powder resulted in less velocity, particularly with LilíGun. I canít explain it; it just happened that way.  Within the loads listed, there proved to be some useful combinations with heavy bullets. The temperatures were fairly warm and humid during all tests, with air temperatures between 85 and 96 degrees. Federal Gold Medal large rifle primers were used in all loads. Powder and bullet weights are listed in grains. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. All chronograph testing was done at twelve feet from the muzzle with a PACT chronograph.

These are most of the results of my load testing:

Powder Charge Weight Bullet Velocity
Lil' Gun 39.2 250 Hornady XTP 1681
Lil' Gun 39.2 CP 335 WLNGC 1766
Lil' Gun 39.2 CP 360 WFNGC 1732
Lil' Gun 39.2 Belt Mountain 305 Punch 1571
Lil' Gun 39.2 360 Keith 1727
Lil' Gun 39.2 200 Barnes X 1871
Lil' Gun 42.8 Belt Mountain 305 Punch 1718
Lil' Gun 45.0 200 Barnes X 1918
Lil' Gun 47.5 200 Barnes X 1883
Lil' Gun 47.5 CP 360 WFNGC 1852
Lil' Gun 48.3 CP 360 WFNGC 1864
Lil' Gun 51.0 CP 360 WFNGC 1843
Reloder 7 44.5 CP 360 WFNGC 1587
H110 51.0 200 Barnes X 2090
H110 53.0 200 Barnes X 2269
H110 53.3 250 Hornady XTP 2088
H110 53.3 200 Barnes X  2224
H110 50.0 Belt Mountain 305 Punch 1877
Trail Boss 14.0 Mt. Baldy 270 SAA 1032
Trail Boss 15.0 Mt. Baldy 270 SAA 1034
H4227 42.5 CP 335 WLNGC 2064
H4227 42.5 CP 360 WFNGC 1737
H4227 42.5 Belt Mountain 305 Punch 1651
Titegroup 11.0 Mt. Baldy 270 SAA 1110
Titegroup 12.4 Mt. Baldy 270 SAA 1198

Many loads tested were not listed above, as the results were unsatisfactory, with some indicating excessive pressure. Neither are the loads listed above recommendations.  Hodgdon 110 proved to be the best for the 200 grain Barnes X bullet, resulting in high velocity, easy case extraction, and good accuracy. With the heavy 360 grain bullets from Cast Performance and Mt. Baldy, LilíGun and H4227 proved the best. Reloder 7 displayed good accuracy, but the velocity wasnít there.  For mild and accurate target and medium game loads, the Mt. Baldy 270 SAA loaded with Titegroup or Trail Boss worked very well. For deep penetration, the Belt Mountain Punch bullet loaded over H110 is a good choice, as are the heavy 360 grain bullets from Cast Performance and Mt. Baldy.

Once again, this load data is all experimental. I look forward to more testing as reliable data becomes available. The accuracy of the big .460 XVR was outstanding. As can be seen in the pictures, keeping five shots at just over the one inch mark at twenty-five yards could be performed with ease from a rested position. I wished that I had a scope mount available for long range accuracy testing . Maybe later, as I am not finished with this revolver yet.

As stated earlier, the big .460 was pleasant to shoot, becoming a bit harder to handle as I pushed the heavy 360 grain bullets towards 1800 fps, but still not painful even at that level. While the .500 S&W Magnum offers more power with the heavier bullets, the .460 S&W Magnum offers a flatter trajectory, and more versatility. It is suitable for hunting anything from jackrabbits to grizzly bear on this continent, and warthogs to Cape buffalo on the other side of the world. It is accurate enough for target shooting, and has one of the slickest actions of any production revolver available. It shoots flat enough for 200 yard antelope hunting, if the shooter can do his part. It is big and heavy, but  more compact than most of the single-shot hunting handguns available, and carries five rounds in the cylinder. It is not a belt gun, but carried in an across-the-chest holster, it is about as handy as a gun with this much power can be. The .460 XVR pushes a 200 grain factory load faster than any production revolver available. Handloaded, it can push a 360 grain bullet 400 fps faster than does the .454 Casull. It is accurate, strong, and built to last. And it is also a Smith & Wesson, built in the USA by some of the nicest Yankees that you will ever meet.  I like it.

Check out the extensive line of Smith & Wesson products at:  www.smith-wesson.com.

For factory loaded .460 S&W Magnum ammunition, go to: www.cor-bon.com.

For more information on the bullets tested, go to: www.castperformance.com,    www.mtbaldybullets.com, www.barnesbullets.com,   www.hornady.com, and   www.beltmountain.com.

Jeff Quinn

*Gain twist rifling has a gradual increase in the twist of the rifling in the barrel, allowing the bullet to gradually increase its rotational speed. This type of rifling allows the bullet to fully engage the rifling before it starts the rotational spinning, avoiding deformation of the bullet.

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor GunBlast.com assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Smith & Wessonís .460 XVR Magnum Revolver.

 

 

 

 

The .460 XVR comes with user-changeable Hi-Viz front sight and S&W's legendary fully-adjustable rear sight.

 

 

The top strap is also drilled & tapped for scope mounts.

 

 

The 460 XVR uses the same basic 5-shot cylinder as the S&W .500, allowing plenty of beef between chambers for high-pressure loads.

 

 

The .460 XVR comes with 2 different muzzle compensators and 2 front sights, allowing a great deal of versatility and user customization right out of the box.

 

 

Like all their current production guns, S&W's .460 XVR features a key-locking safety system.

 

 

 

 

The .460 XVR (top) is shown with a S&W Model 620 .357 Magnum revolver for comparison.

 

 

The .460 XVR fires (left to right) .45 Colt, .454 Casull, and .460 S&W Magnum ammunition.

 

 

The .460 S&W Magnum is flanked by two other modern behemoth cartridges, the .500 S&W Magnum (left) and .50 Beowulf (right).

 

 

Cor-Bon's 200-grain spitzer hollowpoint load is an excellent and flat-shooting choice for the .460 S&W Magnum.

 

 

Despite its size, Belt Mountain's 305-grain Punch Bullet takes up very little case capacity.

 

 

The great cylinder length of the .460 XVR allows Belt Mountain's Punch Bullets to be seated out to maximize case capacity.

 

 

 

 

Bullets tested in the .460 XVR included (left to right): 250-grain Hornady XTP hollowpoint, 200-grain Barnes X hollowpoint, 270-grain and 360-grain Mt. Baldy Keith-type semi-wadcutters, 335-grain and 360-grain Cast Performance LBT-type, 305-grain Belt Mountain Punch Bullet.

 

 

Author used a new pistol rest from Hyskore Shooting Products for accuracy testing. The fully-adjustable Hyskore rest is just the ticket for benchrest shooting with a wide variety of handguns.

 

 

S&W's .460 XVR proved to be very accurate, turning in groups like this all day with a variety of loads.