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.
The massive cylinder holds five rounds of .460 S&W ammo.
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.
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.
For close range hunting opportunities, the S&W 460 XVR is a potent choice. Photo: Mark Hampton.
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.
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.
As luck would have it, a hog hunt in Texas materialized right before closing time on this piece. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to chase a big mean hog behind a pack of hounds. Heck, I couldn’t wait! This kind of action gets you up close and personal. Shots are usually close range affairs with this type of hunting. Grabbing a box of Winchester’s 250-grain JHP ammo, my wife and I hit the road south for some Texas hog-hunting action. The XVR was ready for a trial run, now if we can only get one of those big old boars to cooperate.
We met up with some real dog men near College Station. The bottomland country is ideal for hogs and there are far more than plenty. When the dogs were turned loose they worked their way toward a small, brushy creek. The heavy vegetation along the creek bottom provided ideal habitat for hogs. It wasn’t long before the dogs found action. We headed toward the area where they were bayed but before we could get there the hogs broke and ran. One of the boars came flying past me and I tried to put a bullet in his boiler room, to no avail. The chase continued. Since there were several hogs, the canines got split up and were going in different directions. By the time we caught up with one particular dog, he was barking bayed, but the hog had other ideas and took off. If you think hunting behind a pack of dogs is easy or unsporting, think again. Luckily the dog handlers had put tracking collars on the dogs so we could eventually find them.
Even with the short barrel, accuracy was acceptable with a variety of ammo. The XVR wasn’t finicky. It produced minute-of-bear groups with just about any ammo (above). There is a variety of quality factory ammo available for the .460 S&W Magnum (below). Photo: Mark Hampton.
It was getting up in the day when we hiked for over a mile where another dog was barking. The hog was in the thickest jungle of undergrowth you could imagine. As I fought my way in to the gauntlet of briars and brambles, I could barely make out a dark shape in the impenetrable jungle. I fought my way a little closer and could scarcely see what the dogs were barking about. Unfortunately I couldn’t make out the head from the tail and about that time the big hog busted out of his hiding place never to be seen again. We crawled our way out of the thicket, wiped the blood off from all the thorn punctures and headed a different direction.
I didn’t have a holster made for the gun but that will soon change. Those across the chest rigs would work well for the XVR, keeping it close and readily available, yet non-restrictive. Leather-stretchers like Simply Rugged or Barranti Leather make a dandy system such as this and would be great for hunting or fishing in the backcountry where four-legged critters are a concern.
After a short break for lunch our luck changed for the better. Once again, the dogs had a pig bayed in a real thicket. I eased in this time with the hopes of dropping the hammer on some pork. By the time I scrambled through the vines and brush, sweat was running in my eyes so bad I could barely see. But I did see a big pig fighting the dogs. Carefully I got in a position for a shot. The distance was close. Heck, you couldn’t see 15 feet! I wanted to make certain the dogs were clear before shooting. The big .460 slug could go clean through a hog and I sure didn’t want to hit a prize dog on the other end. When a shot finally materialized, the mighty .460 performed as expected. The hog dropped on the spot and that chase was over. Those green fiber optic sights were an asset. Even though the thick jungle-like growth made for dim lighting conditions, it was easy to see the sights.
There are a lot different ways to hunt hogs but chasing a pack of hounds is sure a lot of fun. We hunted the rest of the day and took several hogs in the process. The S&W XVR worked like a charm. The Performance Center has once again concocted a superb revolver that performs like a champ. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Photos By Joseph R Novelozo
Bad Blood Knives
P.O. Box 220, Kodak, TN 37764
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01104
Action type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .460 S&W
Barrel length: 3-1/2 inches
Overall length: 10 inches
Weight: 59.5 ounces
Finish: Matte stainless steel
Sights: Hi-Viz green fiber optic front, adjustable rear
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