If that notion appeals to you, there’s a great tool for acting on it: the Smith & Wesson Model 460XVR. To kill a whitetail with it, even at significant range, all you have to do is hold it still while you squeeze the trigger. It really is that reliable.
Handgun hunting has changed a lot since the 1930s and 1940s, when Col. Doug Wesson and Elmer Keith started attracting attention to the possibilities by taking .357 Magnum and heavy-loaded .44-caliber S&W revolvers into the field after deer and other North American big game.
Today, handgun hunters regularly use single-shot, break-open pistols and bolt-action handguns chambered for rifle cartridges, including the traditional .45-70 and even the recent .300 Winchester Short Magnum, to take the biggest game on every continent—even at rifle distances.
Such tools are in fact rifles in every respect, other than not having shoulder stocks. But S&W’s .460 Magnum extends the same capability to a true revolver, and in fact takes handgun revolver hunting to another level.
This conventional-format, straight-wall cartridge sends a 200-grain handgun bullet out the muzzle of an S&W Model 460XVR “X-frame” 7.5-inch revolver at more than twice the speed of sound. It offers a maximum point blank range (MPBR) of 250 yards for deer-sized targets.
It’s the fastest, flattest-shooting big-bore revolver cartridge ever, with nearly a ton-and-a-quarter of muzzle energy, and it carries more of that energy 300 yards downrange than a .44 Magnum revolver has at the muzzle.
Yet subjective recoil is no worse than you’d find with that same conventional .44 Magnum. This is a reliable 200-yard-plus big-game tool in the hands of a responsible shooter, and it leaves every other big-bore handgun hunting cartridge far behind.
The .460 S&W Magnum is actually a conventional .45-caliber load, same as the shorter .454 Casull and .45 Colt cartridges, both of which can be chambered and fired in a .460 chamber. Overall case length is 1.80 inches; overall maximum loaded length is 2.30 inches. That’s long, with plenty of room for powder.
Velocities from Hornady’s polymer-tip 200-grain SST load and Cor-Bon’s all-copper 200-grain Barnes XPB Spitzer run in the 2240-2340 fps range. Slower loads with bullet weights from 300 up to 395 grains are also available from several ammunition makers.
Performance? For a revolver, the .460’s trajectory profile is simply unprecedented. With a fast, 2250 fps Hornady 200-grain FTX .460 Magnum load and a 200-yard zero, the maximum point-blank trajectory for the vital zone of a whitetail stretches to 250 yards. That’s with a real 8.375-inch revolver, not a test barrel. Just aim where you want to hit, with no holdover.
The S&W Model 460XVR (which stands for “Xtreme Velocity Revolver”) itself is built on the same X-frame platform as the Model 500 S&W pioneered in 2003 for the massive 500 S&W Magnum cartridge, but with several high-performance innovations.
For one, the breech end of the M460XVR barrel has a polished surface with radiused inside/outside edges to eliminate file marks or tool scars that could become concentrated erosion “channels” for gas-flow, which in turn would create metal deterioration and flame-cutting.
For another, the Model 460XVR employs 1:100/1:20 “gain twist rifling” in the bore. Gain-twist rifling essentially starts out with a very slow twist (or, in the case of the 460XVR, essentially no twist), and then “spins up” to the desired rate for the specific caliber/bullet configuration as the bullet passes down the bore.
The benefit in a high-velocity modern revolver is that this allows the bullet to transition more slowly from a non-rotating state as it crosses the barrel/cylinder gap under extreme pressure and slams into the rifling at the rear of the barrel.
The result is a far more concentric and consistent alignment of the bullet with the bore axis, more positive and non-distorted land/groove engagement, consequent enhanced accuracy and less wear and tear on the bore. Plus, “peak torque” is greatly reduced, lessening the abrupt sideways twist often felt with other high-pressure, big-bore handguns.
This also highlights one of the most remarkable facts about the whole 460 revolver and ammunition system. It’s quite manageable to shoot—much more so than nearly every “milder” .454 Casull revolver currently available.
The 460VXR’s weight (72.5 ounces in standard configuration), effective cushion-back grips and integrated compensator design, plus the gain-twist rifling engagement, give the gun the recoil feel of a mid-weight .44 Magnum such as a standard S&W Model 29/629 (albeit with far more muzzle blast).
Most revolver hunters are happy with a 2 1/2-inch group at 50 yards. With factory ammunition, the Model 460XVR delivers that at twice the range, and with some loads approaches minute-of-angle accuracy (a 1-inch group at 100 yards).
To take full advantage of the cartridge’s noteworthy trajectory benefits, several years ago one of our guest hunters set it up for 200-yard shots on whitetails. He was shooting Hornady 200-grain ammo and had a 2.5-8X Nikon scope mounted. The average of his three full-cylinder groups was 3.68 inches.
Since then, a number of folks have used the 460VXR to take whitetails at long range. We know of some trophy bucks having been shot as far out as 220 yards. Even at that range they’ve either dropped in their tracks or have run only a short distance before expiring.
That’s impressive performance for any handgun.
The 460XVR is available in 5- and 8.375-inch standard production versions, plus three refined optics-ready S&W Performance Center versions with 10.5-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch (complete with bipod) barrels. With tools such as these at his or her disposal, a serious revolver whitetail hunter doesn’t have to give up any advantages to anybody any more. All that’s required is to hold it still while squeezing the trigger.
For Your Information
Many states and provinces now allow the use of handguns for whitetail hunting. However, regulations vary considerably. Check with the appropriate wildlife agency for details on what’s legal where you hunt.
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