Whether you dig big wheelguns, fear no recoil, or simply desire a handgun hunting round that can take down pretty much any game on the planet--this one’s for you. On a recent Safari, one of our hunters bagged a Cape Buffalo with one well-placed .460 S&W round, along with a whole host of plains game animals. While we’ve been working--and hunting--across the globe with S&W’s long-barreled 460 XVR, the time is right to study the round itself. Here’s what you ought to know. 
 

Related Review: Smith & Wesson 460 XVR – Ready for Anything
 

Table of Contents

A Relative Newbie
Performance Roots
High Octane
.460 S&W firearms can shoot other rounds
Reloading
Factory Ammo
Feel the Pressure
Not Just Wheelguns?

A Relative Newbie

 

Though the round is relatively new it's proven itself capable of taking some of the biggest game in the world. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The round is fairly young, having been introduced in 2005. Its debut came closely on the heels of the company’s .500 S&W launch in late 2003.  At the time of the debuts, both chamberings--catching the eye of big game hunters-- were found only on parent company Smith & Wesson’s hulky X-frame wheelguns. Both have since expanded to a wide reach from multiple arms and ammunition companies. 
 

Performance Roots

 

The .460 S&W is built around a straight-walled, rimmed casing. The burgeoning round draws from proven winners. In fact, in simplified terms, it’s a lengthened version of Dick Casull’s namesake .454 Casull but was worked up by a S&W product manager. Though called a “460,” the bullet diameter of the .460 S&W is actually 0.452-inch. Likewise, the Casull round also uses .451-.452” diameter projectiles, the same as old west standby 45 Colt. 
 

High Octane

 

A .460 S&W Magnum cartridge (left) compared to a .500 S&W (right). (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Speaking of Smith & Wesson, the .460 is their marketing darling. Buyers of the S&W XVR line of Performance Center wheelguns are getting what the company calls in all their advertising the “highest velocity revolver round in the world” before clocking data just a hair over 2,400 feet-per-second. For what it’s worth, the .500 S&W shows average velocities in the neighborhood of 1,500-1,950 FPS. 

That round has its own home-cooked claim to fame, however; S&W has touted the slightly larger .500 S&W as “the most powerful handgun round on earth.” Neither round is for the faint of heart--or recoil sensitive--but for those willing to practice and confident in controlling the beast, the terminal results on game are more than appealing. 
 

.460 S&W firearms can shoot other rounds

 

A standup look at the main rounds a .460 S&W Mag firearm can handle, from .45 Colt (left), .454 Casull (center), and the .460 S&W Mag (right). Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The .460 S&W holds greater appeal because of its modularity. Most guns chambered for the whopper .460 S&W can safely fire other related rounds, including the .454 Casull and .45 Colt. The latter generates by far the least recoil, and having the option of reduced “kick” choices certainly draws more buyers. However, if you do shoot those other chamberings, be sure to thoroughly clean and polish the cylinders and chamber before switching back to the heaviest hitter. Felt recoil from a .460 S&W is less than that of the .500 S&W, but greater than the .454 Casull and not even in the same conversation as the .45 Colt. 
 

Reloading


Handloaders are well-served to dish up their own rounds. Common bullet weights for the .452-diameter projectiles range from 200 to well over 300-grains, with some lead-specialists casting bullets in excess of 400-grains.  The casings are built not for a large pistol primer, but rather, ignition by means of a large rifle primer. Brass is readily available from most major producers, though snagging many reloading components these days is trickier than it has been in the past. 
 

Factory Ammo

 

You'll pay a pretty penny for the .460 S&W ammo, but factory produced ammo is at the ready. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


Though we always like to talk reloading, factory rolled ammunition is (usually) readily available--albeit rather expensive--for the .460 S&W. We’ve shot--with good results--loads from Federal Premium, Hornady, Winchester, Buffalo Bore, and Cor-Bon. The corresponding mix of projectile types allows hunters to reasonably target everything from mid-sized game like deer up to the largest--and even dangerous--game all over the world. 

 

Feel the Pressure


Ammunition is governed and gauged by official Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) calculations. For the .460 S&W, official SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) is 65,000-pounds-per-square-inch (PSI). In comparison, the .45 Colt shows a mere 14,000 PSI rating.  Remember, though, that is the maximum; most modern loading manuals show .460 S&W recipes generating closer to the 55,000 PSI range. Though this is clearly an apples and bananas comparison, rifle rounds up to--and including-- the .416 Remington Magnum carry the same 65,000 PSI SAAMI max specs. 
 

Not Just Wheelguns?

 

The .460 S&W was designed as a potent wheelgun round. And there, it has become quite common. In addition to its parent company, companies like Magnum Research and Taurus ride the big bore wheelgun wagon. However, it’s not all handguns anymore. In fact, Cody, Wyoming based Bighorn Armory builds some mean--and pretty--lever action rifles and carbines for that chambering. 

In addition, Katahdin built single shot rifle barrels for the T/C Encore platforms. In the factory production gun world, there are a pair of single shots-- both CVA’s affordable Scout and the venerable Ruger No. 1 have made a home for the stout .460 S&W round. That’ means it’s possible to roll out on the hunt with a caliber-matched rifle and handgun pair. 

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