At the 2003
SHOT Show, Smith & Wesson introduced to the
shooting industry a new and massive revolver, built on what they
refer to as their new X-frame. The new frame was built
especially for their newest handgun cartridge: the .500 Smith
& Wesson Magnum. The new frame is the largest ever built
by S&W, but with a few changes is very similar to the
double-action design that has proven reliable for over 100
years. The removable side plate and internal parts will be
familiar to anyone who has ever worked on a S&W revolver,
just built on a larger scale.
reporting on the introduction, and a few photos from the SHOT
Show, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new .500
to give it a try. Unlike some magazines, Gunblast does not
publish a "test" of a gun until we actually shoot it,
and shoot it a lot. By the time the big Smith arrived, I had
already secured a quantity of ammunition from Cor-Bon,
who worked with S&W on the development of the cartridge.
Upon opening the blue plastic hard case, the stainless Five
Hundred is an impressive sight. My first thought was: "Now
THAT’S a big gun!"
length on the sample received measures eight and five-sixteenths
of an inch in length, plus an additional three-quarters of an
inch for the ported compensator attached at the muzzle,
resulting in an overall gun length of about fifteen inches. The
barrel also is of the full underlug design, as are many of
Smith’s other large revolvers, and has a full-length solid rib
on top, into which is set an excellent interchangeable front
sight. The five-shot cylinder measures a hair over two and
one-quarter inches in length, and has a diameter of one and
seven-eighths inches. My sample .500 Magnum weighs in at
just under seventy-three ounces. This gun makes the S&W .44
magnums look small.
Magnum actually handles much better than it would appear. The
balance is toward the muzzle, but it hangs very well in the
hands, and is easy to hold on target.
Hundred wears a good set of adjustable sights of the familiar
Smith & Wesson design. The front post sight was thankfully
left black, and provides an excellent sight picture. The top
strap under the rear sight is drilled and tapped for a scope
base, which might be desired by some shooters, particularly
those who hunt in low light conditions.
The grip frame
on the new .500 is the same size as Smith’s K and L frame
revolvers, and wears a set of Hogue soft rubber
finger-groove grips. The grips cover the backstrap of the grip
frame to cushion the web of the hand from recoil, and provides a
bit more trigger reach, which is very comfortable to my hand.
lockup is a new arrangement for a Smith & Wesson revolver.
In addition to the standard rear cylinder pin lock, the crane
locks to the frame with a ball detent setup, resulting in a very
secure alignment of the cylinder with the barrel and frame.
The action has
Smith’s new internal key lock for safe storage of the
revolver, if that is a concern. It is unobtrusive, and can be
either implemented or ignored as the owner sees fit.
single-action trigger pull measured just under a crisp four
pounds, but feels lighter due to the wide target trigger. The
double-action pull measured a smooth ten pounds and three
ounces, but once again felt lighter than that. The checkered
hammer spur falls right under the thumb for easy cocking.
stated, the ammunition for the big Five Hundred is produced by
Cor-Bon in Sturgis, South Dakota. Cor-Bon is well known for
producing premium quality high-performance ammunition. The
specifications for the new S&W magnum include a 275 grain Barnes
hollow point at 1665 feet-per-second, a 400 grain Hawk
soft-point at 1675 fps, and a 440 grain hard cast gas-checked Cast
Performance flat nosed lead bullet at 1625 fps. The case
length for the big magnum is 1.625 inches. While I wasn’t able
to obtain any of the 400 grain ammunition, I had both the 275
grain load and the 440 grain load available for testing. As you
can readily see from the specs, both the 275 and the 440 grain
loads are traveling at about the same velocity, and are
really each in their own class. The Barnes is built to open up
quickly upon impact, and the 440 grain Cast Performance bullet
is built for deep penetration on the toughest flesh and bone.
big Five Hundred ready to shoot, I didn’t really know what to
expect. I have fired many large magnum revolvers and
single-shot pistols, but the new Smith was an unknown to me.
Stuffing five of the big cartridges into the cylinder is like
poking big brass sausages into a stovepipe. Everything about
this gun seems oversized, somewhat like it’s not even real. It
reminds me of the guns seen on the old Saturday morning
cartoons; where the coyote pulls a gun out of his pocket that is
as big as he is. Anyway, preparing to shoot the new Smith, I
donned my shooting glasses and hearing protection, then as a
last thought, I grabbed a hard-hat just in case the big gun
decided to slap me in the forehead.
hammer on the first round, it was readily apparent that
something big was happening, but the recoil was nothing like I
had expected. In fact, I found the gun to be very controllable,
especially with the 275 grain loads. Even the 440 grain hard
cast loads, while producing much more power, were not painful to
shoot. The ported compensator and soft rubber grips apparently
do their jobs very well. While at the NRA Whittington Center
in New Mexico, I invited several experienced shooters to try the
big Smith, and while a few were a bit reluctant at first, no one
found the gun painful to shoot. I have fired some of the latest
incarnation of super light pocket .357 magnums, and find them to
be more punishing to fire than the Five Hundred. While packing
more punch than the original .45/70, and with a fatter bullet,
the .500 S&W Magnum is very manageable for an experienced
I fired the
new Smith at various targets ranging from paper at twenty-five
yards, to steel silhouettes out to four hundred yards, and rocks
at over five hundred yards. I found the new X-frame to handle
the new cartridge very well, producing satisfying hits, when I
did my part. As can be seen in the photos, the new gun is very
accurate on paper at 25 yards, which is the standard that I use
when testing handguns with open sights. If I could hold better,
I believe this gun would place every shot into the same hole! I
would love to try it with a scope mounted.
was encountered with the new Smith and Wesson. Reliability was
perfect with the lighter 275 grain loads, but a problem occurred
with the heavier 440 grain ammunition. With about half of the
shooters who fired the gun, the cylinder would rotate slightly
backwards with recoil. The cylinder did not unlock and swing
out, but it would rotate upon firing. After observing several
shooters, the degree of rotation was traced to the way that the
gun was held upon firing. The tighter the gun was held, and the
more rigid the arm position, the more the cylinder would rotate.
It happened to me every time with the 440 grain loads, and
figuring out the cause of the problem was driving me crazy. I
also know of two other guns that exhibited the same problem. I
finally figured out that the cure was as simple as a slightly
stronger cylinder stop spring. After installing the heavier
spring, the problem went away immediately. The gun had been
recoiling away from the cylinder stop, releasing the cylinder to
rotate. The factory is aware of the gremlin, and it should not
be a problem on future guns. Smith & Wesson is absolutely
committed to building quality products, and is always quick to
fix a problem when it occurs.
S&W ammunition from Cor-Bon performed a bit better in my gun
than advertised. The 440 grain Cast Performance load
chronographed at 1662 feet-per-second ten feet from the muzzle
of the test gun. This is awesome power from any kind of
hand-held ordnance, and is capable of taking any game animal on
the planet. I know from experience that the Cast Performance
bullets hold together very well for deep penetration, even when
busting through tough bone. The lighter 275 grain hollow point
should prove excellent for thin-skinned game.
As with most
any new firearm or cartridge, especially one that exceeds the
performance of existing technology, the question always comes
up: "……but what is it good for?" I asked this
question myself at first, but after shooting the new Five
Hundred, I have come to realize that the gun packs tremendous
power into a portable package. While the gun is large, it is not
cumbersome, and carries well in a good across the chest holster.
It has the power to take very large and dangerous game, holding
five of the fat magnums, each delivering up to 2600 foot-pounds
of energy with factory ammunition, and delivering outstanding
target-grade accuracy in the process. Even for shooters
who will never hunt large bears or the wild bovines of Africa,
many will still want to own the big Smith. Much like the
thousands of large bore rifles that are sold each year, most
will never be called upon to save the owner from extermination
in the claws or hooves of some wild beast, but it is enjoyable
to shoot the big rifles anyway. Every rifleman should own at
least one dangerous game rifle, and every handgunner should own
a Magnum. The new .500 Smith & Wesson magnum is the
handgunner’s version of the African rifle. It is good to own
Check out the
new Five Hundred online at: www.smith-wesson.com.
the big S&W .500 can be ordered directly from Cor-Bon at:
an article here on Gunblast.com about hand loading for the .500
S&W Magnum. I have been working up some accurate and
powerful loads for the new gun, and will have the results
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.
All content © 2003 GunBlast.com.
All rights reserved.