By Norman Gray
It marked the modest beginnings of Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson’s company named the “Volcanic Repeating Arms Company,” of Norwich, Connecticut.
Under these two men’s direction the revolver would undergo changes that would help make it what it is today. They produced their first lever action pistol fittingly named the “Volcanic Pistol,” but eventually financial difficulties forced them to sell the company in 1866 to Oliver Winchester.
Winchester saw great potential in S&W’s design and incorporated it into his Winchester Lever Action Repeating Rifle and established the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In 1856 S&W re-established their business and using a patent they owned from 1854, manufactured the first self-contained Rimfire cartridge firing revolver in the world.
By 1869 Smith & Wesson had designed a new revolver and was promoting it by 1870 as the S&W NO. 3 American “Single Action” available in .44 S&W American or .44 Rimfire Henry. With the American Cavalry and the Russian Imperial Government as their first customers, success was within their grasp and the rest falls into the annals of history. Today, if you are fortunate enough to own the NO. 1 (Small Frame) in .31 cal., in 70% or better condition, it would fetch you a whopping 40 grand. As of the Blue Book of Gun Values by Steve P. Fjestad, there are about 183 pages covering S&W firearms, testament to the company’s 160 years of innovation in firearms manufacturing and design.
Fast forward 160 years and the power of the internet allows you to research your next firearm purchase in your bathrobe. Ok, maybe you’re not so tech savvy, so you turn to the pages of your favorite firearms publication or local gun shop. Then maybe your an impulse buyer who just has to buy the latest and greatest while others conduct painstaking research before they buy. Whatever type you are, the choices are staggering and firearms manufacturers want your hard earned money spent on their products.
But if you’re like me, there may be one other category sometimes overlooked that you may fit into and that’s the versatility buyer.
I know what you’re thinking, “There is no solitary firearm that will do everything!” And you’re right, if there were, a lot of us writers would be looking for new jobs. Although I’m sure you noticed firearms manufacturers have been starting to hit the versatility market hard with modular designs? Something I’ve practiced for years, is starting to become trendy and why? If you have a budget for a firearm, let’s say a shotgun; you want one that will allow you to do multiple things like shoot slugs for deer, shot for ducks and that evening be ready for a Three Gun Match or for use in home defense. Making interchangeable parts for that shotgun like the Mossberg FLEX allows you to tackle almost any shooting situation and that makes perfect sense in today’s economy. This concept allows you to stretch your dollar as far as it can go while still being able to buy a box or two of ammunition.
Now with that idea, wouldn’t that same philosophy make sense in a hunting revolver? The Smith & Wesson 460XVR X-treme Velocity Revolver’s middle name is Versatility, well in a metaphorical sense, but you get the idea or you will. As I stated in the beginning S&W is the go to guys when it comes to revolvers in this writer’s humble opinion and they have hit a home run with the 460XVR revolvers. This one revolver allows you to fire four different calibers starting with its namesake the .460 S&W Magnum followed by the .454 Casull, .45 Colt and the .45 S&W Schofield.
The first three you most likely have some experience with or heard about and the last has a history all its own, but they’re all 0.452 (.45) caliber and this gives you the versatility to hunt a wide range of game.
Smith & Wesson manufactures twelve models of this remarkable X-Frame revolver in two calibers starting with the well-known .500 S&W Magnum which also fires the .500 Special. This is followed closely by its little brother, “Little not being the operative word,” the .460 S&W Magnum. Seven of the twelve are manufactured in .500 S&W Magnum and the other five are in .460 S&W Magnum, both offer the revolver hunter different configurations to meet their needs. I have no doubt that if you mention the .500 S&W Magnum in the company of shooters someone will be aware or have shot of the S&W .500 Magnum. The WOW factor of the .500 S&W Magnum is without question, but the pure hunting prowess of the S&W 460XVR and its many calibers is undisputable, in the end isn’t it the choices we make that defines us?
Let’s examine the Smith & Wesson 460XVR in detail and see what this remarkably flexible revolver brings to the table for handgun hunters. The 460XVR has a growing fan base within the handgun hunting community mainly because it offers the hunter numerous choices in the .45 caliber field. There is a vast combination of factory ammunition, bullets and powders that allow hand loaders to custom fit the ammo to what they’re hunting. Now I can sit here and tell you things you have already heard about S&W, but I feel 160 years in business has made that self-evident. Instead let’s cover the features that matter in a hunting handgun and why the 460XVR should be right at home next to your favorite hunting rifle.
The S&W 460XVR is in all respects a standard revolver in its façade and operation, be it an extra-large one, with a few added features to make it a hunting thoroughbred. Firing the 460 S&W Magnum with hand loads can generate up to 61,000 psi with Sierra’s 300 gr. JSP and 34 grains of Accurate’s No. 9, generating a muzzle velocity of 2,208 fps. To help combat the recoil Smith & Wesson manufactured a very effective compensator into the 8.38” barrel with six ports placed at the muzzle beneath the fiber optic sight. Along with these two removable compensators that work in conjunction with these ports, recoil now generates a firm push instead of intense barrel rise like most revolvers. The first removable compensator consists of 12 slots that works in conjunction with the six existing ports on the barrel and is for use with jacketed bullet.
The second removable compensator extends from the barrel a ¼ inch and has nine holes but does not use the six smaller ports on the barrel. The second compensator is mainly designed for use with lead bullet ammunition. Why two separate compensators? Lead bullets generate more debris and the larger openings in the compensator allow lead particles to escape without clogging the compensator. Softer lead bullets driven at higher velocities can lead the inside of the barrel and particles may break loose. Bullet manufacturs fix this problem by using lead bullets that have a higher content of tin and antimony making them harder (known as solids or Hard Cast) and will help with this problem. These bullets can be driven harder (fired at a higher velocity) than softer lead bullets without leading becoming an issue. Some lead bullets employ a gas check (a copper cup on the base of the bullet) to aid in reducing leading of the bore and can be driven faster than they normally would.
These compensators can be changed out in under a minute with the supplied 2.5 mm hex wrench. Simply place the hex wrench into the screw under the compensator and turn clockwise about 3 turns until it stops. Rotate the compensator ¼ of a turn with your fingers or supplied breaker rod to either the left or right and pull straight out.
There is a top and bottom to the compensators and they can be installed incorrectly.
Just remember that both compensators have notches cut into them and these notches need to be facing down in the 6 o’clock position. While holding the compensator with your fingers, tighten the screw under the compensator counterclockwise till it stops, about 3 turns, be careful not to over tighten the screw.
Smith & Wesson revolvers manufactured in 2001/2002 are equipped with an internal locking mechanism located on the cylinder latch side of the revolver. Simply open the cylinder and unload the revolver and while the cylinder is open insert the supplied key. Turn counter clockwise 90 degrees (an arrow is engraved into the frame showing the direction of turn) until it stops. A small flag marked “locked” will pop up next to the hammer indicating the revolver is now locked. This action will prevent any hammer or trigger motion from taking place. To disengage the lock just insert the key and turn clockwise until the flag drops into the frame. If you travel with your 460XVR in the locked position make sure you carry one key on your key chain and the other in your wallet or some place you will not misplace it.
Arriving at your hunting camp and not being able to unlock your revolver would stifle your hunting trip severely.
The 460XVR’s rubber grips are molded with finger grooves to provide you with a tacky, secure grip; anything else could cause you or a bystander injury so hold firmly. I don’t recommend the 460XVR to new or inexperienced shooters, unless firing the .45 Schofield or .45 Colt, recoil from the .460 or .454 could prove too much to handle.
The 460XVR comes standard with a green fiber optic front sight blade and I find this a great option if using the revolver without optics. The down side is the carbon from the compensator tends to darken and stain the sight pipe. If you’re using optics it can be replaced with a supplied gold dot metal sight blade making cleaning that area easier. The front sight is in a spring loaded foundation, so push back on the sight and the pin removes easily, a padded vise or friend will make this operation go much smoother.
The rear sight is a simple black blade adjustable for windage and elevation and the top of the barrel is grooved to reduce glare. The trigger guard is large enough for gloves with an equally wide trigger for positive finger contact. The single action trigger pull is pleasant and breaks at 3.75 lbs. while the double action is smooth draw of around 14.5 lbs. The hammer spur is very generous in size and easy to cock with an aggressive non slip diamond pattern cut into the top of the hammer. Esthetically speaking the revolver is pleasing to the eye although the size tends to scare and amaze any shooter who holds it, but the size and weight are a boon to the absorption of the recoil that’s generated from the .460 S&W and .454 Casull.
A deciding factor in what type of optics to use with a hunting handgun is ultimately decided by the game you intend to hunt. Longer shots on an elk or buffalo in open terrain is where magnified optics will maximize the .460 Magnum’s long range potential, hunting dangerous game such as grizzly or moose in deep cover where you could be charged may make such optics a hazard to your health.
Hunting with OEM (Original Equipment Manufactured) iron sights or Leupold’s DeltaPoint Reflex Sight ( http://goo.gl/c1rFij ) gives you the ability to draw, aim and fire without trying to find a charging bear or moose inside a scope tube. Once you have planned your hunt and equipped the 460XVR appropriately, your hunt will be more successful and you will not be placed in more danger than necessary.
The Leupold DeltaPoint is an electronic red dot reflex sight that replaces the factory iron sights in minutes. The unit comes with a mount made for the S&W 500 and 460XVR as well as mounts and dovetails for other revolvers, semi-automatics, shotguns and rifles. I highly recommend thread locking compound to install the specialized mount on the DeltaPoint as recoil will work the screws with every shot. Some of the key features that make this sight state-of-the-art is the motion activated on/off feature just move the revolver and the sight comes on and after sitting motionless for five minutes, the sight switches to sleep mode. The (IBC) Intelligent Brightness Control automatically adjust for the light available in the direction of the target. If the light is low it increases the brightness level of the red dot and if it’s bright daylight it will adjust accordingly so the dot is clearly visible.
The sight comes with a rubber cover that not only protects the sight but applying it will put the sight into its lowest power setting preserving the single CR2032 battery life. (I advise carrying a spare battery) The sight is also completely waterproof so hunting in the rain or snow will not affect its performance, but it is not recommended that it be submerged as this may result in diminished battery life. If your sight becomes dirty just wash it off with distilled water and dry the sight. The sight is small and light weight with unlimited eye relief and a wide field of view and was designed for the rigors of the field. Since the DeltaPoint employs a 3.5 MOA Dot it’s easy to acquire after drawing from a holster taking only a second to get the dot on target and you keep both eyes open while aiming. I fired 126 full power .460 loads and 152 full power loads from the other three calibers and not one anomaly.
The DeltaPoint Reflex Sight is solid and with all the mounts retails for $564.99. ( Editors Note: Brownells has the Leupold DeltaPoint on sale at the time of publishing for $399.00, http://goo.gl/c1rFij )
In order to wring out every bit of the 460XVR’s 200 yard potential a handgun scope with magnification was needed and Leupold’s VX-3 Handgun Scope ( http://goo.gl/e1Cdus ) in 2.5-8x32mm with their Dual Dovetail mount (53564 http://goo.gl/b0qVq2) and rings (52313 http://goo.gl/y2EpvS ) was a clear choice. Any optics mounted on the 460XVR must survive the pounding magnum recoil would give it. I also wanted the flexibility the 2.5 to 8 power setting would give me to maximize the 460 S&W Magnum hunting ammunition like Buffalo Bore’s new 275 gr. Lead Free Barnes XPB, Federal’s 300 gr. Swift A-Frame and the 200 yard Hornady 200 gr. FTX ammunition. The 460XVR comes pre-drilled and tapped along the top strap with 3 holes to mount your optics. Mounting VX-3 Handgun to the base was an easy process taking only 10 minutes and placing the rings in place with Leupold’s rings wrench made it effortless. The Leupold VX-3 Handgun 2.5-8x32mm scope retails for $689.99
To cover all the possible factory loads for this revolver would be a daunting task although I wanted to use as many types in these three calibers as possible. Hornady, Buffalo Bore, Federal and Double Tap each sent me their premier loads in 460 S&W Magnum, .454 Casull and .45 Colt to run through the chronograph and they performed as expected and in some cases better than expected. .45 Schofield is available from companies like Ultramax, Black Hills, TEN-X and Goex and all these are safe and fun to shoot through the .460XVR, but there are no hunting loads available.
Velocities are the average of 10 shots measured on a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 Chronograph at 15 feet. Accuracy is the average of five shots from an MTM K-Zone rest at 100 yards for the Hornady 200 gr. FTX, Buffalo Bore and Federal .460 Magnum ammunition. All load groups easily fit under a paper plate which I used to simulate a vitals hit.
Re-loading for all these calibers was quite an undertaking and I always learn a few things along the way. RCBS provided the dies to load all four calibers. As for the shell holder the .460 S&W Magnum uses the number 04 shell holder, .454 Casull and .45 Colt both use the number 20 and the .45 Schofield uses number 35, but you can use the number 04 with all the cases when re-sizing cases. While belling and seating bullets they favored their own shell holders to work smoothly. Also keep in mind you must use magnum rated bullets for the .460, .454 and some .45 Colt loads or the velocities will tear them apart. I used Hornady magnum bullets for all three calibers and a mix of Laredo and Rainier bullets for the .45 Schofield.
I also loaded some unique application loads since the .460 S&W Magnum provides the case capacity you need to work with. These are unique loads for hunting or defense and depend on your hand loading skill, adventuresome spirit, location and the supplies at hand. The first is a shot load using number 6 bird shot, very handy for pests, “remove the compensator when firing shot loads,” number two is a black powder load and while messy, if black powder is all you have available it works well.
For the rest of my re-loads I used Hodgdon, Accurate a few others and Starline brass. Being able to load four calibers the bullet/powder combinations are vast and it will take some work to find that sweet spot for your favorite load. But then again that’s why we love what we do and the S&W 460XVR gives you just what you put into it. There is no greater satisfaction than taking your elk, moose or bear with your own hand-loads. Some of my loads were great and some were not but I had a lot of fun working them up and seeing some good numbers at the end helped broaden my large caliber knowledge base.
Carrying a scoped 460XVR weighing in at over 6.4 lbs. loaded while hunting wouldn’t be my first choice and having a well-made holster for this task is only a mouse click away. Galco Gunleather of Arizona has the perfect solution to carry your scoped or reflex sighted hunting handgun; their Kodiak Hunter Shoulder Holster ( http://tiny.cc/qgr4fx ) is specially designed for the .460XVR’s 8.38” barrel. The Kodiak enables you to front carry at an easily accessible angle for a fast draw and secures the revolver in the holster with a finger break. The Kodiak’s open top design allows you to position the scope on the barrel based on your model and the muzzle and front sight is protected inside the Kodiak’s muzzle guard. The Kodiak has a wide padded shoulder strap and torso strap that can be adjusted for heavy winter clothing or a large body shape and is extremely comfortable for all day wear. It is available in Havana Brown and retails for $199.95.
Accessories like a great holster make any hunt easier and more enjoyable and unlike firearms that use magazines, revolvers employ speed loaders for fast reloads. If you enjoy having speed loaders for your revolver while hunting, Five Star Firearms makes some of the finest speed loaders ( http://goo.gl/KsN1mG ) I have seen for the .460XVR. Made from 6061 billet aircraft aluminum and made on state of the art CNC machines, they use premium parts, are hand assembled and tested to ensure 100% reliability. I was impressed when I received the speed loaders and when I used them in the field and they worked flawlessly. They also carry leather and nylon pouches that will hold two to four speed loaders. (In the .460 Mag the pouch only holds one speed loader) The bull’s blood leather speed loader case is the closest color to the Kodiak holster I have found. The Five Star Firearms aluminum speed loaders for the .460XVR retail for $24.95 and they work with all four calibers.
I would also recommend a quality trigger stick to take your shot from because you never know what the terrain will throw your way and if you will have a natural rest to shoot from. I prefer a model that unfolds from a single unit to a tripod and allows you a two handed hold with the 460XVR. Primos is my first choice simply because it makes a fine walking stick and with a simple squeeze of the trigger, drops the legs to your desired height of 36.5” to 61”. The V yoke is removable for attaching range finders, binos and cameras as well as other field equipment. They offer 10 models with varying features and come in every price range from $60.95 to $195.95 and are built to survive the rigors of the field.
“Expect the worst, hope for the best.” It’s always a good idea to carry OEM (Original Equipment Manufactured) iron sights for an emergency backup. I would encourage you to carry a spare revolver with its own sights or a spare scope if you have the means. When you arrive at base camp, re-check your zero on paper with your ammunition that you originally zeroed your revolver with, elements and altitude have an effect on some powders and ballistics. If you hand or re-load your ammunition, check the fit and function of the rounds as you may be hard pressed to find dies and press at base camp. Bring plenty of ammunition and cross pack it (have someone else carry some of your ammo) if you can when traveling so that if one suitcase gets lost you won’t be out of ammunition. Plan ahead for emergencies when you’re on an expensive hunt hundreds or thousands of miles from home, it’s far better than going home empty handed.
I know one thing, I wrote a check for this Smith & Wesson 460XVR and it’s in my safe and I am looking forward to my first hunt with it, I know I’ll remember it for years to come. Or maybe you’re not a hunter and just want to create some thunder at the local range and want the challenge of punching holes at 200 yards. The good thing is you can do all of the above with this versatile revolver and after putting 500+ rounds from all four calibers through it, I can recommend the S&W 460XVR to anyone who appreciates a powerful revolver. The 460XVR will serve you and your sons and daughters for many years to come and help them create their own hunting memories. Oh, and invest in a good outdoor camera to record the grins!
Before shooting the 460 or 500 S&W Magnums or any other high powered revolvers for the first time heed this warning. You must NEVER place your hand or fingers next to or in front of the flash gap. (The area in front of the cylinder where the bullet crosses into the barrel) The pressure that these high powered revolver cartridges operate at will easily sever fingers and/or destroy tissue. Use extreme caution when selecting your hold to avoid this danger. See page 19 of the owner’s manual for this warning and have a great day shooting or hunting.
SMITH & WESSON 460XVR
- SKU: 163460
- STATUS: Available
- CALIBER: .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum
- CAPACITY: 5 rounds
- BARREL LENGTH: 8.38” / 21.3 cm
- OVERALL LENGTH: 15″ / 38.1 cm
- WEIGHT UNLOADED: 72.5 Oz / 2,055.4 g
- WEIGHT WITH OPTICS AND AMMO: 95 Oz / 2,721.5 g
- GRIPS: Synthetic
- ACTION: Double Action
- FRAME: X-Large
- FINISH: Satin Stainless
- FRONT SIGHT: HI-VIV Interchangeable
- REAR SIGHT: Adjustable black blade
- WARRENTY: Lifetime Repair Policy
- MSRP: $1,319.00
- MANUFACTURER: Smith & Wesson www.smith-wesson.com
1-413-781-8300 (International) Mon-Fri 8:00AM-5:00PM Eastern Time FAX: 1-413-747-3317 (USA) / 1-413-731-8980 (International) EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org MAILING ADDRESS: Smith & Wesson 2100 Roosevelt Avenue, Springfield, MA 01104
- Smith & Wesson: 460XVRwww.smith-wesson.com
- Accurate Powders:www.accuratepowder.com
- Buffalo Bore Ammunition:www.buffalobore.com
- Doubletap Ammunition:www.doubletapammo.com
- Federal Ammunition:www.federalpremium.com
- Five Star Firearms:www.5starfirearms.com
- Galco Gunleather:www.galcogunleather.com
- Hodgdon Powders:www.hodgdon.com
Norman Gray ©2014 (POMA Member)
About Norman Gray:
Norman Gray has been involved in the shooting sports for well over 30 years. He has served in both active duty and reserve component of the United States Army as an Infantryman and was honorably discharged at the end of his service. Moving to Arizona, he began assisting his long time friend and mentor Bob Shell, an accomplished writer and author in his own right. Norman is freelance contributor with Handguns Magazine, Canadian Firearms Journal and Manzano Valley Outdoors. He is also a member of (POMA) The Professional Outdoor Media Association, the (NSSF) National Shooting Sports Foundation and a Life Member of the (NRA) National Rifle Association. Visit: http://www.unleaded-ink.blogspot.com/