Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: S&W .460 XVR

By Mark Hampton, GUNS Magazine

The last time I went fishing in Alaska on the Naknek River we ran in to some problems. Bears! There weren’t just a few bears wandering around our fishing camp, there were a bunch. Not black bears mind you—brown bears. Every evening around camp the bears would come looking for the remains of our fish cleaning.

While fishing one morning I had to start the motor and get out of the way of a large bear swimming toward our boat. Don’t think he wanted to check our fishing license, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of him joining us. Another day we took our boat up in Big Creek, a tributary that dumps into the main river, trying to finesse one of those big king salmon with spinning gear. Wading up and down the creek searching for a big king, the sandbar was loaded with evidence we weren’t the only ones fishing. Tracks were all over the sandbar. Large tracks. It’s difficult to pay attention to your fishing technique when you’re looking over your shoulder every few seconds. I didn’t have a gun.

Several years ago when I was much younger, feeling 10-foot tall and bulletproof, I was guiding a couple of bow hunters for bison. The first string-flipper launched an arrow perfectly in the heart of a bull bison. It was a textbook shot. The big boy ran 50 yards or so and we started the laborious task of field dressing and skinning.

Later in the day, our next archer wasn’t so lucky. He made a bad shot. Then he made another bad shot. Followed by, you guessed it, another misplaced arrow. The particular bull was a big, mature bison tipping the scales around 1,800 pounds. My buddy and I followed the bull for quite some time before all hell broke loose. I know you think a bison is a docile animal, tame enough for your kids to ride. Well, when several arrows miss the vitals and the buffalo loses his sense of humor, a personality change occurs.

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The massive cylinder holds five rounds of .460 S&W ammo.

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One hallmark of hand-built Performance Center arms is elegant sculpting, exemplified by the XVR’s barrel shroud.

He charged and for some reason, picked me as his target. I took off running like an Olympic athlete. At that time it didn’t dawn on me the buffalo could possibly be faster than me. I didn’t get any gold medal but in a matter of seconds, I won his horn in the back of my leg. He tossed me in the air like a rag doll. I hit the ground hard, knocking my glasses off and leaving me in a daze. Luckily he didn’t finish me off. I did get a free ride to the hospital and was the brunt of jokes between my buddies. You guessed it—I didn’t have a gun.

I’m only sharing a couple of these real-life experiences to say this – I should have had a gun. Well now I can honestly say what gun I will be carrying when the next round of excitement comes knocking on my door. From the Smith & Wesson Performance Center comes a 3-1/2-inch Model 460 XVR. This double-action revolver is chambered in the powerful .460 S&W Magnum.

Since the model’s introduction back in 2005, there have been several permutations with longer barrels. Up until now, most of these models were specifically designed with the handgun hunter in mind. This model is purpose-built for dangerous game bent on clawing, goring or a taking a bite out of your hide. Perfect, when you stop and think about it, for a variety of circumstances. Like the Alaskan fishing adventure mentioned earlier, or following a wounded animal that could turn the tables on you during a normal, peaceful, fun-filled day.

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This large-framed revolver is built on the same beefed up, double-action X-frame as the company’s S&W 500 Magnum. It holds five rounds in a massive cylinder. My gun tipped the scales at a tad over 59 ounces and the weight is most welcome when you unleash one of those .460’s. This is the most powerful .45 caliber revolver in production. The XVR stands for Xtreme Velocity Revolver and is capable of launching a 200-grain bullet over 2,300 fps (although from a longer barrel). The frame and unfluted cylinder are stainless steel, and the soft glass-bead appearance is eye-pleasing. Barrel length is 3-1/2 inches, non-ported. The soft, green synthetic grips are very comfortable. The rear sight is adjustable in the form of a black square notch. My aging eyes appreciated the Hi-Viz fiber optic front sight. That bright green post makes target acquisition quick and easy. If you want to complicate things a bit and decide to mount a scope; no problem, the 460 XVR is drilled and tapped just like their S&W 500 Magnum. The fit and finish on this revolver is typical Performance Center—superb.

The double-action pull was silky-smooth while the single-action pull dropped the hammer at around 3 pounds. No grit, no creep. I believe the single-action trigger is perfect for this gun, not too light but you sure don’t have to tug all day long either. This is not an ankle gun by any means. It is however, a serious, well-built revolver intended to save you hide in an unexpected, cataclysmic encounter.

The .460 is a lengthened .454 Casull. As you already know, the .454 Casull is a stretched .45 Colt. If you don’t want to shoot a steady diet of .460 S&W Magnum ammo, you have the option of shooting both .454 Casull and .45 Colt rounds. Just like a .44 Special is welcome in a .44 Magnum. This capability allows extended range sessions and provides enjoyable practice time.

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For close range hunting opportunities, the S&W 460 XVR is a potent choice. Photo: Mark Hampton.

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The 460 XVR was designed for close-range encounters of the unfriendly kind. If you don’t want to shoot a steady diet of .460 rounds you can shoot .45 Colt or .454 Casull ammo. Photo: Mark Hampton.

 

Ammo Choices

At first I was a bit concerned about finding .460 ammo. Well those concerns were truly unfounded. It was relatively painless to procure a couple of different loads from Winchester including a 250-grain JHP and their 260-grain DJHP Bonded offering. Big Red’s 250-grain HP is ideal for whitetail, boar or black bear. CorBon offers six loads from 200- to 395-grain bullets. I happen to have their 275-grain DPX along with a 325-grain FPPN. CorBon’s 395-grain will handle just about anything on this planet. Buffalo Bore makes a 360-grain LBT-LFN and their 300-grain JFN. These are bear stoppers for sure. Federal hops on board with a 275-grain Barnes in their Vital-Shok line plus a 300-grain Swift A-Frame, and a 260-grain SP in their Fusion ammo. I’m currently shooting a 275-grain Barnes Expander. Grizzly Cartridge Company also makes a 260-grain BCFP and 300-grain LFNGC. DoubleTap ammo provides a 275-grain Barnes XPB. The 200-grain FTX from Hornady is another round for consideration. For deer-sized game, the 200-grain bullets work just fine and Hornady’s FTX is a dandy. Lucky for us, there is a bullet weight and design capable of just about any application you may desire.

At the range I started out with .45 Colt rounds in the form of Winchester 225-grain JHP Bonded ammo. This was a very pleasant, well-behaved round quite enjoyable to pick rocks off the pond bank. Next I worked up to some Buffalo Bore 250-grain Barnes XPB in .454 Casull. You could tell this was an increase in horsepower. By no means was it uncomfortable or uncontrollable. I ended my first range session with Winchester’s .460 250-grain JHP in their Super-X line. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Those soft, finger-grooved rubber grips really help. I had to adjust the sights as it was shooting a tad high. For a short-barreled revolver, accuracy was acceptable. Winchester labels this ammunition suitable for whitetail and black bear. No doubt it will serve its purpose well.

When I hit the range again it was time for some high-octane rounds. To be perfectly honest, it does get your attention. What would you expect? This firearm is not designed for competition or causal plinking. Naturally, the heavier bullets do recoil considerably. The 460 XVR packs a lot of power in a fairly compact platform. Ergonomically, the revolver is ready for action. If you should ever be so unfortunate to find yourself in a situation where an animal is trying to kill you, the recoil probably won’t be noticed. I didn’t have time to experiment with handloads but looking through Hodgdon’s reloading data, there are plenty of options with a variety of bullet weights ranging from 200 to 395 grains.