The fanatics among us often build their own handheld weapons, but in the realm of big-bore factory production choices, there are few better than the Magnum Research BFR and Smith & Wesson Performance Center XVR in two of the most potent, albeit incredibly different chamberings: .45-70 Government and .460 S&W Magnum

So you want to hunt T-Rex, Cape buffalo, and brown bear with a handgun? You’ve come to the right place. All that and much more is possible with the right choice of sidearm. Handgun hunting is an underappreciated rabbit hole for those who dare to do things a bit differently. Let's see how these two beasts fare in the field.
 

Table of Contents

What’s in a name?
Chambering
Sights
Triggers & Grips
Holsters
Specs
Reliability & Accuracy
Recoil, Report, or Both?
Package Deal
The Winner

What’s in a name?

 

Magnum Research Biggest Finest Revolver BFR and Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR revolver
Side by side with the BFR, there’s little doubt that the XVR (top) is a legit monster. That uber-aggressive muzzle brake is not included in the 14-inch barrel length. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The Magnum Research BFR – short for Biggest, Finest Revolver – is touted by the company as “the most powerful production single-action made.” Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center XVR 460, meanwhile, claims to launch with the highest muzzle velocity of any production revolver on earth. XVR stands for X-treme Velocity Revolver, according to the company’s website.

Both are hulky stainless-steel revolvers built for hunting, but the BFR is a stout single action, while the XVR is a double action. The BFR’s cylinder is accessed by the traditional single-action wheelgun’s loading door, while the XVR uses the expected swing-out cylinder with a single cylinder lockup release point. 
 

RELATED: Whopper Wheelgun Unboxing Video – First Look at S&W PC 460 XVR
 

Chambering

 

The XVR chambers .460 S&W (left), while our BFR uses .45-70 Gov't rounds (at right). The BFR is also available in other powerhouse rounds, including .30-30 Winchester, .444 Marlin, .450 Marlin, .350 Legend, and both .460 and .500 S&W. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Both firearms easily fit the hand-cannon moniker. While each company builds a variety of chamberings in its wheelguns, the specific models we’re favoring are two of the most potent from either line. 
 

The BFR’s long cylinder lineup tops out with our .45-70 Government, designed as a thumping rifle round. However, BFRs can also be had in a list of other calibers, including powerhouses like .30-30 Winchester, .444 Marlin, .450 Marlin, .350 Legend, and both .460 and .500 S&W
 

Magnum Research Biggest Finest Revolver BFR and Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR revolver
Big bores indeed: the 460 XVR with its aggressive muzzle brake, left, versus the .45-70 BFR barrel. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


In comparison, the XVR chambers a high-pressure handgun round in the .460 S&W. Though the .500 S&W is technically larger of diameter, it’s the .460 that claims the title of highest muzzle velocity of any production revolver on earth. 
 

Sights


These brawny wheelguns include iron sights as well as allowances for mounting optics. The BFR uses a blade front and adjustable rear. Magnum Research’s online store also includes several fiber-optic iron sight upgrades. Further, the BFR ships with a Weaver scope base, but the rear sight must be removed to attach said base. 

Our chosen model of XVR – one of three different XVR 460 Performance Center options – uses the most rudimentary iron sights. While the adjustable rear is nice, its front is part of the forward barrel band, and we did not find it particularly useful or visible. The integral rail, though, is a major win, allowing ample real estate for optics attachment. 
 

Triggers & Grips

 

Magnum Research Biggest Finest Revolver BFR and Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR revolver
Both guns wear rubberized grips, the XVR's with finger grooves as shown at left – almost a necessity for shooting these powerful chamberings. The Performance Center XVR also comes with an upgraded chrome trgger and trigger stop. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The XVR is a S&W Performance Center build, which includes the company’s chrome trigger with trigger stop. Our test gun breaks at 4.5 pounds in single action. While the double-action pull is well above the maximum measurable weight of our Lyman digital pull gauge, it remains smooth and steady through its travel. Meanwhile, our BFR’s trigger is crisp, breaking at 2.75 pounds with repeatability on the same Lyman gauge. 
 

Magnum Research BFR
What the BFR lacks in startling aesthetics, it makes up for with its heavy stainless-steel build, all-around strength of action, and classic design. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The BFR ships standard with oversized rubberized monogrips, but buyers also have choices of upgrading to Hogue White Polymer, Black Micarta, and even Pau Ferro wood grips. 

The Smith, meanwhile, ships with rubberized finger groove grips. After spending significant time shooting and hunting with both, we’d strongly suggest rubberized grips when handling these powerful chamberings.
 

Holsters


Let’s face it. Packing either of these in a holster is a legit challenge. They are big – plain and simple. The BFR, though, has more practical packing possibilities with its 10-inch barrel, though a 7.5-incher is also available. Triple K builds several BFR-specific leather rigs, with our favorite being the Big Thunder Torso rig. 

We’re yet unaware of any useable, wearable holster for the XVR. That said, we did make good use of the included embroidered zipper case for packing it afield. 
 

Specs

 

Magnum Research Biggest Finest Revolver BFR and Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR revolver
The XVR, left, versus the BFR. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


BFR 

  • Weight: 5.3 pounds bare
  • Barrel Length: 10 inches 
  • Overall Length: 17.5 inches 
  • Cylinder Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Grips: Oversized rubberized monogrips
  • Sights: Blade front and adjustable rear, includes Weaver scope mount
  • Trigger: 2.75 pounds

XVR

  • Weight: 5.6 pounds, sans optic 
  • Barrel Length: 14 inches
  • Overall Length: 21.5 inches 
  • Cylinder Capacity: 5 rounds 
  • Grips: Rubberized finger groove grips
  • Sights: Adjustable-rear iron sights
  • Trigger: Single action 4.5 pounds; double action too heavy for Lyman pull gauge
     

Reliability & Accuracy

 

Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR revolver
African hunter Jerry Hnetynka with his Cape buffalo that fell to a single round of .460 S&W fired through the 14-inch barreled Performance Center XVR. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com) 


We did not experience functional issues with either gun. The author opted to use the BFR for a dangerous game safari, while a hunting partner packed the XVR. There’s precious little that can go wrong with an overbuilt single action. Others prefer a double action over a single. 

While double actions in high-pressure chamberings sometimes use double lockups for the cylinder, S&W does not. Many folks dislike S&W’s lawyer-proof keyed lock mechanism. But at the end of the day, both wheelguns performed flawlessly on safari, with each gun claiming a Cape buffalo among other clean harvests. 
 

Magnum Research BFR
WIth the BFR at hand, I'm confident to face dangerous game like the Cape buffalo. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


It has been said that only accurate guns are interesting, but shooting big bores with pinpoint accuracy can test even the strongest shooter’s mettle. That said, we worked extensively with both wheelguns. While they’re scoped quite differently, we wouldn’t consider either a tack-driving target pistol, yet both put out minute-of-game heart accuracy at the expected ranges. 
 

RELATED: Why the Magnum Research BFR Revolver Succeeds on Safari
 

Recoil, Report, or Both?


Picking one of these guns essentially means opting for one or the other: kick, staggering noise, or a mix of the two. When you buy, shoot, and hunt with big bores, be ready for some of each and prepare and protect accordingly. 

Though the guns, chamberings, and loads are quite different, we discovered two clear factors. The BFR in .45-70 Gov’t has greater recoil than the .460 S&W, when shooting the most comparable hunting loads possible. That said, even the .45-70 is surprisingly manageable for practiced handgunners. 

The .460, however, with that muzzle brake, carries some recoil but proved itself an ear-splitter. Wearing both plugs and muffs with the S&W XVR is a must. That holds true even when hunting – for not only the hunter, but anybody else in the hunting party. 
 

RELATED: Reviewing the Smith & Wesson 460 XVR - Ready for Anything
 

Package Deal

Smith & Wesson dudes up the XVR as a full kit. Though some of the components are not from high-end brands, there is still plenty to like. In addition to the revolver itself, there’s a TruGlo red dot optic, a Butler Creek sling, an embroidered zipper case, Midwest Industries Sling Adapter Stud and Swivel Mount Kit, and a UTG Tactical bipod. 

The BFR is a firearm, plain and simple, though Magnum Research includes a silver matched Weaver-style scope base for those who prefer to add an optic. 

Our chosen models shake down as follows with suggested retail. Smith & Wesson’s package deal on the XVR retails for a stout $1,819. The Magnum Research BFR comes in significantly lower at $1,371. But let’s face it: these types of specialty firearms do not come cheap, nor do we expect quality builds to be inexpensive. 
 

RELATED: Ultimate Big-Bore Combo – Henry .45-70 Rifle & Magnum Research BFR
 

The Winner


Sorry to disappoint, but there’s no singular champion in all areas. These big-bore handguns offer different builds, chamberings, and benefits. Not once did we have to question the function, capability, or accuracy of either. 

The bottom line is simple: if you’re in the big-bore handgun market, try them out. Get them in your hands and select a rig that makes you feel confident and allows you to focus 100 percent on the hunt at hand. The sweet success of a handgun pursuit is literally at your fingertips.
 

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