Shooting the Most Powerful Revolver on Earth – Smith & Wesson 460 XVR

Smith & Wesson offered us a chance to try out the most powerful production revolver in the world. Meet the Performance Center 460 XVR.

S&W 460 XVR
S&W 460 XVR

U.S.A.-( When we first opened the box and the nylon zipper case our first thought was “How do I mount a stock on this thing?” only to be rebuked by the thought of that cylinder going off so close to my face.

“It’s a lot of gun”, is the understatement of the year.

Brief History of Why

At one time my favorite handguns to shoot were considered oddballs. Take for example the Thompson Center Contender in 41 Magnum, 30-30 Winchester, 223 Remington or 45-70 Government. That was all about squeezing the maximum velocity out of a powerful round in a handgun. Then there was the Remington XP-100 in 7mm BR and the Savage Striker in 308 Winchester.

L to R: .45 Colt, .454 Casull, 460 Magnum,
L to R: .45 Colt, .454 Casull, 460 Magnum,

The problem with the XP-100 and the Savage Striker was that they were awkward to shoot for many shooters. The Thompson Center Contenders and Encores also suffered from being single shot and the case could be made that an 8″ to 10″ bbl hunting revolver was a wiser investment.

These handguns were developed as serious hunting handguns for big game.
These handguns were developed as serious hunting handguns for big game.

Many of these “cut down rifles” disappeared from the market when something better came along from S&W in the forms of the S&W 500 and S&W 460. Many shooters mistakenly believe that they were developed for Brown Bear encounters in the Great White North.

On the contrary, they were developed as serious hunting handguns for big game as they ballistically mirrored the powerful .30 caliber Magnum rifle rounds in a (slightly) more portable package revolver style.

 The barrel is crowned with a side-venting muzzle brake, which controls barrel rise, vents gasses to the sides and makes one hell of a fireworks show.
The barrel is crowned with a side-venting muzzle brake, which controls barrel rise, vents gasses to the sides and makes one hell of a fireworks show.

Smith & Wesson offers short barreled versions of these revolvers for those who venture into bear country, but we caution our readers for using these revolvers for that purpose. The hard recoil may cost you a quick follow-up shot and much of the power of these round are lost in a sub 8” bbl.

The Design

In 2005, Smith & Wesson rolled out the 460 S&W on their powerful X-Frame which had been developed for the earlier 500 S&W Cartridge. The frame is precision machined from stainless-steel hammer forgings with a brushed satin finish. The unfluted cylinder holds five rounds. The barrel is fluted forward of the shroud to reduce weight and increase rigidity. The barrel is crowned with a side-venting muzzle brake, which controls barrel rise, vents gasses to the sides and makes one hell of a fireworks show.

S&W 460 XVR Side-venting muzzle brake

Top and bottom Picatinny rails adorn the barrel shroud. The top rail is for optics and the bottom is intended for a bipod.

Shooting the Most Powerful Revolver on Earth

Surprisingly we found the ammunition a bit cheaper than we anticipated at $34 for a box of 20 rounds of Hornady 200 grain XTPs at our local sporting goods store. The muzzle velocity with these rounds through the 14″ barrel came out to 2,370 f.p.s.; with a kinetic energy of 2,495 foot lbs. of energy.

Despite those numbers, the felt recoil was much less than we anticipated (particularly when you realize that you can download to a 454 Casull).

We have spent 30 years shooting big bore revolvers and as we mentioned, rifle calibers out of pistols. We used to think that this made us a poor judge of recoil until last year when we fired 5 rounds from an 8 3/8″ S&W 500 and had to put a pair of gloves on to finish the box!

The 460 S&W was less punishing. Some compare it to a heavy 44 Magnum. We do not find that to be accurate. It was much more comparable to a 454 Casull. We suspect the 5.5 pounds of revolver and bipod soak up much of that and the Hogue grips help out quite a bit as well.

Our first outing with the revolver was to get used to the recoil and have a few members of the staff at Reno Guns & Range get acquainted with it. Not only to see if they wanted one as a rental gun but to see if they had the same sense of recoil that we did.

With our suspicions confirmed we took it out to the local outdoor range and sighted it at 100 yards using the factory sights. You will get better accuracy with a proper optic, but iron sights with the bipod from a bench gave us a sub-3-inch five-shot group.

We know of other shooters that really get that down to just under or just over an inch and we can see that. Our eyes at that distance even with a bipod are probably a bit too old for iron sights these days.

Final thoughts

If you are a dedicated handgun hunter and want a wheel gun capable of taking any animal in North America, this one is right up your alley. If you are a certified power fiend who wants to push the most energy down range; this revolver has your name on it. Again, the sub 8-inch barrels are probably not worth it for either of these tasks, yet they possess a unique “cool factor” in their own right.

If you are a dedicated handgun hunter and want a wheel gun capable of taking any animal in North America, this one is right up your alley.
If you are a dedicated handgun hunter and want a wheel gun capable of taking any animal in North America, this one is right up your alley.

We have not seen many holsters for this one, but S&W includes a nylon sling for ease of carrying.

Although you can download to the other straight wall .45 revolver cases, we probably would not go much shorter than the 454 Casull due to bullet jump through that long cylinder.


  • Model: PERFORMANCE CENTER Model 460XVR – 14″ Barrel with Bi-Pod
  • Caliber: 460 S&W Magnum (will chamber 454 Casull, 45 Colt, 45 Auto Rim, 45 Schofield)
  • Capacity: 5
  • Barrel Length: 14″
  • Overall Length: 21.5″
  • Front Sight: Black Ramp
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable
  • Action: Single/Double Action
  • Grip: Hogue
  • Weight: 87.1 oz
  • MSRP: $1559

About Mike Searson:Mike Searson

Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

  • 8 thoughts on “Shooting the Most Powerful Revolver on Earth – Smith & Wesson 460 XVR

    1. I just got mine, today was the first day of shooting. It put both 45 Colt and 454 Casull rounds touching at 25 yards, so the long leap to rifling is the none issue anyone who has used revolvers knows it would be. At 125 yards, 460 rounds were minute of pie plate for two shooters using the weaver stance with a Leopold 1.5 X scope. I look forward to elk hunting with this new gun this fall. Lots of hand loading components are on their way’

    2. I own the 4 inch barrel 500 smith and wesson and have shot 15rds + with zero issues and I have to got to say, it its almost more fun to shoot than my 50 bmg, the recoil is not nearly as bad as I am reading but I also shoot quite a lot so maby I am just adjusted to it. I also own the 14 inch s&W .460 but to recent nerve pinch in c4, c5, and c6 I have not been able to take her out to test fire her. But I am imagining it will kick about the same as my para ordinance p-10 .45 that I carry daily.

      I am curious though where you guys are finding the 396 grain ammo for the .460 I would very much like to have that in my hunting bag in place of the 200 grain that currently sits in its place.

    3. I’ve had mine for several years now. I’ve got a Leupold VX-3 on it with their PRW rings holding it on. I only use 200 grain Hornady FTX factory loads. After several hundred rounds, I have zero wear/cutting on the strap. A few years back I tightened my barrel cylinder gap to 0.07mm, and boy did my speeds go up. I have also yet to see any binding due to heat caused cylinder expansion. I shot a deer with it a few years back from 25 yards, and it created a 5” exit wound and blew the front leg clean off her. One of my absolute favorite guns, and a real crowd pleaser at the range.

    4. the 460 is neither the most powerful or fastest. I am not sure how people fall for the marketing hype of the 460 or the comments that the 500 is to much recoil and the 460 is better. Does everyone understand the 500 can be loaded as hot or as light as anyone would wish. You can have it recoil like a 25acp or like a full bore 500. I can not see anyone using one of these and not reloading. Cost accuracy bullet selection. First on most powerful. That is easy handlload the heaviest bullet possible at max pressure for the 460 and 500. The 500 wins by a good amount. As for vel the 00 holds more powder and for the same weight and contruction bullet has far less bearing surface for friction so it will ALWAYS all things being equal be faster. Lastly flat shooting. That is strictly a combo of bullet BC and velocity. At the same weight and design the 460 would win in some instances but you can use tipped 500 bullets that have decent BC and they can easily match the 460. Do not believe me? Play around of JBM ballistic calculator and you will see.

      The idea of using all the various 45 cal cartridges in the 460 might be fine for paper punching but have you ever considered the effect on the cylinder chambers shooting a round that is up to 1+ inches shorter than the 460 in the cylinder? Where is the most wear in a rifle barrel? The throat. On a revolver the cone. As those are the areas that are right next to the case. Now half the cylinders chamber is in that position. Which means……….. Maybe I am different but I would much rather pay for a new barrel when it wears out than a new cylinder especially the huge size and cost of the x frames cylinder. But yeh you guys go blasting away with the 0.900″ length case 45 auto rim in a cylinder that is 2.3+ inches long. Sure it will have great accuracy with a jump of how much is that before its actually into the rifling of the barrel??? and what harm could it really do right???

      What it comes down to is there really is nothing the 460 can do the 500 can not. Now if you are unwilling to handload then yes of course the 460 can offer some advantages. But then I could never understand anyone that can afford to shoot regularly that should not be hand loading. You recope all the costs in less than a year if you shoot reg at all. Not to mention for a 460/500 you can do that on a single stage no need for a dillon progressive as there no high vol fire.

      1. The leap is all theory and no real world issue. Just like 38 special in a 357 Maximum, it really does not matter. I like my 460 for Bullet selection.

    5. I love the .460 ! personally, I think the .500 is too big for the X frame. The .460 is a perfect fit. Arthritis, carpal tunnel, broken hands in the past, 150# wet and the gun is no more threatening than my .357 or .44 mag. I listen to folks complain about it and I can’t figure why. I am confident my 395gr. bullet hitting at 2865 foot pounds of energy would stop a bear or intruder without any problem. Awesome gun. Shoot 2×6’s and the 500 will go through 6 and stick in 7. The 460 will go through 10 and stick in 11. I’m looking at getting another. i use the 8 3/8”
      good article – thanks

    6. Mike the 500 is the most powerful and the 460 is the fastest. I have no problem banging away with my 6.5 inch 500 without gloves.

      1. Dave jones … Quite right .. 500 mag is the most powerful .460 can be a little “quicker” … Also I have no problem shootin my 4″ 500 mag without gloves … This is a poorly written article full of opinion and inaccuracy

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