April 02, 2014
Want a challenge? How about hunting whitetails at 200 yards or more — with a revolver?
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.
Alexander Arms R-17 .17 HMR
offers a number of innovative AR rifles, but if you're looking for an easy-shooting rifle for hunting small predators the R-17 chambered in .17 HMR
is ideal. Rather than manipulating an existing rifle to handle the .17 HMR cartridge, the R-17 is a purpose-built rifle with an oversized extractor, chromed interior parts, and a monolithic magazine block.
It comes with a fluted 18-inch barrel and is available in camo. If you spend your time chasing small predators at moderate ranges, this rifle is ideal. It's cheap to shoot and offers very light recoil and fast follow-up shots.
Bushmaster A -TACS Predator
The Bushmaster A-TACS Predator
has a 20-inch fluted chrome-moly steel
barrel, a round, comfortable handguard and comes covered in A-TACS camo for optimum concealment.
The flat-top receiver is ready to have optics mounted, and the magazine release is ambidextrous. The pistol grip is soft and comfortable, and at 8 pounds the Predator is stable enough for long-range shooting on coyotes, bobcats, and foxes. It's chambered in 5.56/.223, perhaps the most versatile of all predator cartridges, and it is accurate enough to knock dog dogs that won't come in close.
DPMS Prairie Panther
The Prairie Panther
is one of
the lightest, most accurate 5.56 predator rifles on
the market, weighing just 7.15 pounds. It comes with a 20-inch fluted barrel that is Teflon coated, 416 stainless and has a 1 in 8 twist rate and a carbon fiber free-floated handguard that helps further reduce weight.
It has a two-stage trigger, and despite its light weight, it's one of the most accurate ARs you'll come across. It's also available in three camo patterns, including King Snow Shadow for those who like to hunt
predators in the depth of winter.
Rock River Arms LAR-15 Fred Eichler Series Predator
If there was any doubt what the LAR-15 Fred Eichler
series rifle was designed to do, then just check out the paw prints cut into the handguard tube.This is a predator gun through and through, and it was designed as such, from its full-length top rail to its RRA Operator A2 or CAR tan stock and its non-reflective 2-stage trigger.
The LAR-15 has a low-profile gas block and majorly oversized trigger guard to accommodate gloved fingers. It comes with a cryogenically treated, bead-blasted 16-inch barrel with Rock River's directionally tuned and ported muzzle brake. This gun was designed from the ground up to make dogs howl.
Mossberg MMR Hunter
Mossberg's MMR Hunter AR
has a direct-impingement gas operating system, a 20-inch barrel, and a round, textured, handguard tube, dual sling studs up front, and a variety of other features that make it one of the best predator ARs you can buy.
It comes with a flat top receiver for mounting optic, a comfortable Stark pistol grip with an additional battery compartment and an A2 style fixed stock. The MMR Hunter weighs only 7 pounds, so it is light enough to carry while making multiple setups, and it is available in a black finish as well as Mossy Oak Brush and Mossy Oak Treestand for the ultimate in concealment.
Smith and Wesson M&P15 PC
Smith and Wesson's M&P15 PC
rifles are built in Smith and Wesson's Perfomance Center, which means these guns are fine-tuned and extremely accurate.
Blue Heron Communication's Jeff Puckett says that he enjoys 'watching it shoot a ragged hole, ' which is the kind of accuracy that is possible from a gun like the M&P15 PC. It has a 20-inch stainless barrel, a 4.5 pound two-stage trigger with a large enough trigger guard to accommodate gloved fingers, 10-round magazine, an A2 buttstock, long, smooth handguard tube and a chromed bolt carrier and gas key. It's available in black or RealTree Advantage Max-1
camo and is chambered in 5.56/.223.
Nosler Varmageddon Rifle
Don't let the name fool you, the Varmageddon
rifle is not just for varmints. It's one of the best predator and competition ARs on the market. The Varmageddon rifle is built by Noveske Rifle Works
in Oregon, and it features a lightweight NSR handguard as well as a match grade Noveske barrel and Magpul
The long top rail is perfect for mounting high-powdered scopes, and the Varmageddon rifle is available with a Leupold VX3 4.5-14x50 Varmageddon Edition scope
with CDS turrets. If you're serious about knocking down dogs
at extreme range and you don't mind forking over the cash then this is your gun.
2,695 (rifle); $
3,595 (combo package)
was one of the first companies to buy into the AR platform for hunters, and the R-15
has been a big hit for Big Green. Remington also offers one of the most extensive lineups of field-ready predator ARs, and you should be able to find exactly what you're looking for in the R-15 line.
The VTR Predator Carbine
is available with or without a collapsible stock, and both versions come with a fluted gas block and machined aluminum handguard tube. The Predator VTR line is available in either .223 or .204 Ruger, two excellent predator hunting cartridges.
Ruger SR-556 VT
The 'VT ' may stand for 'Varmint Target
, ' but this is an excellent predator gun as well. While most of the SR-556
line has a decidedly tactical slant, the VT has a cold hammer-410 stainless 20-inch barrel, a smooth, flat top handguard that is capable of accepting additional rail at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock position, and a very nice, clean, two-stage target trigger.
Like other SR-556 rifles, the VT employs Ruger's two-stage piston, a hardy and reliable operating system that can stand up to lots of abuse.
SIG Sauer M400 Predator
The SIG Sauer M400 Predator
rifle comes with an 18-inch fluted stainless barrel that is threaded and capped, a long, Hogue
aluminum handguard, and a soft, comfortable Hogue pistol grip. It's short overall length (36.25 inches) and light weight (6.1 pounds) make this gun a great choice for the predator hunter who likes to spend time walking.
The long, tubular handguard is easy to grip and comfortable, and the flat top receiver gives plenty of space for mounting optics. If you plan to spend a lot of time walking from one setup to the next or hunt in rough, mountainous country the M400 Predator is a good bet.