The .44 magnum has long since been eclipsed in the "most powerful handgun in the world" title. Thompson Center Contender and Encore pistols are available in stout centerfire rifle chamberings that far exceed the .44's power, but there are also plenty of potent handguns to choose from. The .454 Casull revolvers reigned supreme for many years, fighting off challengers such as the .50 Action Express (which is still the top dog semi-auto handgun round) and the .480 Ruger. Then Smith & Wesson pulled out the stops and produced the S&W Model 500, a .50-caliber handgun made to shoot a cartridge originally developed by Cor-Bon in Sturgis, SD. The Model 500 proved capable of throwing a bullet weighing in excess of 400 grains at velocities exceeding 1,600 fps to deliver more than 2,500 foot-pounds of energy, making it the undisputed world champion in handgun power outside the world of single-shots shooting rifle calibers. But the designers at Smith & Wesson weren't done.
In a masterpiece of engineering foresight, Smith & Wesson went to work developing a handgun that would not only shoot a new, flat-trajectory cartridge with unprecedented speed and power, but would also be able to shoot .45 Long Colt AND
.454 Casull cartridges. The result was the S&W X-Frame Model 460, and I recently got my hands on one.
In size and appearance there are many similarities between the S&W Models 500 and 460. Both are large, heavy revolvers with rubber grips and a five-shot capacity designed for hunting big-game animals. What sets the .460 cartridge apart is the pointed shape of the bullet and longer case length, resulting in much higher velocities. Indeed, the Model 460 will shoot a 200-grain bullet in excess of 2,300 fps to deliver more than 2,300 foot-pounds of energy. That's slightly less energy than the S&W Model 500, but designers were after long-range performance with the .460 cartridge and they delivered. If you sight-in a Model 460 using a pointed 200-grain bullet to hit about 2.5-inches high at 100 yards, it will impact about 6.5 inches below the line of sight at 200 yards. Think about that for a moment. With a trajectory like that you could hold dead center on a deer's vitals out to 200 yards and knock him down – with a revolver. For comparison, a 240-grain bullet from my .44 magnum revolver zeroed to hit dead-on at 100 yards will drop just under 2 feet at 200 yards and have nowhere near the energy of the .460 at that range.
I recently shot a S&W Model 460 and will tell you up front that this is no revolver for wimps. With a ported 8-3/8" barrel, the gun roars. Recoil is also substantial. I'm no stranger to big handguns and have used a .44 magnum for years. Comparing the .44 magnum to the .460 S&W is like comparing a .38 special to a .44 magnum. But if you can tame the beast, the .460 delivers the goods downrange. While I didn't shoot it as well as other handguns I've fired, I was able to put all the rounds into a 6-inch target 50-yards downrange easily with open sights shooting off sandbags. Switching to Winchester's new reduced-recoil .460 ammunition improved my accuracy considerably, so I know that "flinch factor" played a role in my first several shots. I estimate that the Winchester ammo reduced recoil by about 40%.
The S&W Model 460 XVR revolver comes in stainless steel finish, has adjustable rear sights and a fixed front blade sight, measures 15" overall length and weighs about 4.5 pounds without a scope. It's a big, heavy, and loud revolver, but is accurate and powerful enough for nearly any North American big game. If you're up to the challenge of mastering it, the S&W Model 460 will be a capable and versatile handgun that you can shoot three types of ammunition with. Look for one at the gun counter in Cabela's retail stores.
For more information or to see the S&W X-Frame Model 460, please visit your nearest Cabela's retail store gun counter.