Review: Smith & Wesson 460 XVR - Ready for Anything
Handgun hunting is a test for even the most experienced hunter, but as it turns out, a gun like the crazy-long, X-Frame S&W 460 XVR revolver tips the scales in the hunter’s favor. We were excited to pull the trigger on the gun and tag along on a recent African Safari with Smith & Wesson’s “highest velocity production revolver” in the world.
The wheelgun chambered for .460 S&W Magnum holds a capacity of five rounds. The cylinder is solid--non-fluted--as keeping the bulk of extra stainless steel is always welcome when dealing with higher pressure, harder recoiling rounds such as this. The barrel is a full 14-inches, plus muzzle brake. That totals up to 21.5 inches of stainless steel. The XVR designation reflects those claims, standing for X-treme Velocity Revolver, as well as a nod toward the largest X-Frame in the company’s lineup.
There’s little question the .460 S&W is a potent and high-pressure round, matching SAAMI specs with magnum rifles like the .300 Weatherby Magnum and .416 Remington Magnum. While that sounds absurd, the .460 S&W, at least when fired through this hefty wheelgun, is manageable for most shooters. In fact, it’s important to note that guns chambered for .460 S&W can also safely fire .454 Casull and .45 Colt for significantly lower recoil range time and greater flexibility, though such crossover requires thorough gun cleaning.
This particular model packs a large cardboard box full of accessories, as shown in our initial unboxing upon its arrival. There’s a red dot optic, zippered soft case, bipod, sling, adapter stud, swivel mount, and more. This gun comes from S&W’s Performance Center and shows off special features like the custom brake, chrome hammer and trigger, trigger stop, and a hand-tuned action.
In anticipation of several upcoming big game hunts, we spent ample range time with not only the S&W, but other hunting handguns as well. This one holds its own in testing, earning a spot on the hunt. The S&W comes with a steep price tag, but it’s also one of the most unique--think wild muzzle brake, fluted barrel, zippy round, and included accessories. We found the front blade sight to be rather awkward and basic, but that’s of little bother because this piece is built to be scoped.
For the sake of out-of-the-box testing, we used the included TruGlo red dot optic, with its 11 power settings and single-color red aiming point. We shot groups from 40 yards using a mix of Federal Premium 275-grain Barnes XPB, Federal Fusion 260-grain JHP, and Hornady Handgun Hunter 200-grain MonoFlex. The rig held its own each time, putting out tighter than expected three-shot groups.
The Federal Premium ammunition showed several groups with holes cutting one another, more a testament to the rig and ammunition than the shooter. Recoil is present but much more palatable than the .460 S&W proves in, say, a snub-nosed platform. In fact, we’d rate the noise level much greater than the actual rearward wallop. We’ll repeat this several times, but quality ear protection is a must.
Our hunting party loaded up for African Safari with handguns this time around. While we were hunting primarily with Magnum Research’s BFR in .45-70 Govt, hunting partner Jerry Hnetynka was packing the S&W. He’s no stranger to handgun hunting, as he previously hunted African game with S&W’s Magnum Hunter in .44 Magnum; however, with dangerous game on the menu, he desired more horsepower.
Over the course of the safari, he bagged Cape Buffalo and Barbary Sheep with the Smith. The Cape Buffalo fell to a single, well-placed shot with Federal Premium 275-grain Barnes Expander at just inside 40 yards. The massive bull expired moments later less than 50 yards away. To say our hunting team was impressed is an understatement. Much the same results played out a week earlier on the Barbary Sheep, which proved incredibly difficult to work into handgun range. The handgun, however, proved no match for the heavy-horned sheep.
What We Learned on the Hunt
A few observations having both shot and tagged along on multiple pursuits with the S&W. Recoil is present but surprisingly manageable given the gun’s heft a close to 6.5 pounds dressed and aggressive muzzle brake. Speaking of that brake however, it didn’t take more than one shot for the entire team—Professional Hunters, trackers, and skinners, to sport either earplugs, muffs, or both anytime Hnetynka had rounds in the cylinder. This particular .460 S&W is ear-splittingly loud. While we hunters often have a bad track record of protecting our ears on an actual hunt, do not make that mistake with this gun.
The revolvers overall length--including that massive barrel and brake--makes it difficult to holster and carry in the field. Hnetynka kept it in the zippered case until it was time to take up a track and carried it by hand in the field. Mounting a sling would be the simplest solution, but he found that to interfere with shooting from sticks. Though bulky, the gun is surprisingly handy. The rubberized, finger-groove grips are comfortable and aid in control.
Speaking of creature comforts, this particular model S&W is built to higher standards. Coming from the Performance Center means extra attention to detail, which plays out in a suave single action break at 4.25 pounds, and a controllable double action pull. The inclusion of a bipod is thoughtful and worked well from the bench as well as inside blinds with a shooting ledge.
Our bench testing with the bipod proved the gun’s accuracy potential and ease of shooting even given the snappy round. Since most of the Safari hunting is done on foot from sticks, though, Hnetynka opted to either ditch the bipod, or use it as a forward balance against the traditional shooting sticks. Luckily, the bipod mounts and detaches quickly with the use of a knurled knob that can be finger-tightened.
The Optics Question
The S&W comes with the aforementioned TruGlo optic. While Hnetynka went all-in with the included TruGlo red dot, our personal choice would have seen a change to something like the LeupoldDelta Point Pro or a straight power pistol scope. That, however, is purely personal preference.
For what it’s worth, we were impressed that the budget priced TruGlo not only held zero and stood up to the recoil for the extent of international air travel and two weeks of rough use on Safari, but did so on the original battery. That’s no small feat even for the priciest of the optics.
The End Game
Success on the range is one thing but winning results on an African Safari prove a few points. First, the handgun is capable on everything from smaller game like Bontebok, through to large plains Game, on up to some of the fiercest on the planet in dangerous game like Cape Buffalo. If it can handle that breadth so well, there’s no doubt it can bag any other game legal on North American soil.
In the world of handgun chamberings, the .460 S&W represents one of the fastest, hardest hitting production wheelgun rounds available to hunters and the 14-inch barreled Performance Center XVR its ideal companion.