Smith & Wesson 460V Review
That "V" is actually a Roman numeral, referring to the 5" barrel. It could just as easily be a capital letter, standing for "Versatile."
Gun reviews typically delve deeply into a firearm's technical aspects, examine the finer details of a model's features and evaluate performance based on a narrow range of criteria. Fitness for a broad scope of applications is often left as something for the user to determine on their own. A different approach will be taken here. Smith & Wesson promotes the 460V as "The World's Most Versatile Big Bore Revolver" (www.smith-wesson.com). This investigation will consider that claim within the context of big game hunting, asking:
(1) Is the 460V an effective method of take for big game?
(2) Does the 460V serve a big game hunter in other useful ways?
The 460V turns out to be an extremely practical piece of equipment, though it's not without limitations, or competition.
Smith & Wesson provides a foam-lined hard, plastic case to securely
package the 460V and its' components. A spent 'proof' casing is also included.
To avoid a rematch of 'heavyweight' title bouts fought with Ruger in the 1950's, Smith & Wesson utilized computer engineering techniques and discreet collaboration with partners like ammunition maker CorBon to take the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum from a closely guarded concept to full production in just 18 months. At the 2003 SHOT Show, Smith & Wesson clearly established themselves as the undisputed world champion among manufacturers of big bore handguns. Embrace of the .500 S&W Mag. is evident not only in the growing variety of firearms chambered for it, but the proliferation of factory loads, as well.
Smith & Wesson next configured their X Frame revolver for speed. The .460 S&W Magnum and 460XVR (Extreme Velocity Revolver) debuted at 2005's SHOT Show, propelling a CorBon loaded (www.dakotaammo.net) Barnes 200gr SPB (www.barnesbullets.com) at 2330 fps. Jaws dropped and eyes went wide when it was proposed that an XVR 'zeroed' for 200 yards could bring down whitetail-size game from 0-250 yards with no holdover. Handgun hunters have been quick to take advantage of this flat shooting, hard hitting cartridge, and the .460 S&W Magnum is proving nearly as popular as its' larger sibling. The driving element of this appeal may be the caliber's evolutionary design. Like the 44 Remington Magnum, a longer version of the .44 Special, the .460 S&W Magnum cartridge is a taller .454 Casull, itself an elongated and slightly beefier .45 Colt. SAMMI rates the maximum average pressure for Smith & Wesson's .460 Magnum cartridge at 65,000psi.
A 5" barrel keeps overall length to 11-1/4;" weight is 3 lbs., 14-1/2 oz. with the five round cylinder empty. An advertised velocity of 2100 fps is presumably based on use of the same 200gr CorBon / Barnes ammunition yielding 2330fps in the XVR.
The X Frame platform is in many respects an up-sizing of Smith & Wesson's tried and true double / single action design. Notable exceptions are found in a ball detent mechanism that secures the cylinder crane's front end, and a fully enshrouded barrel. This latter characteristic increases strength while also dissipating vibration. The barrel, itself, is a gain-twist configuration obtained through electro-chemical rifling. This method of manufacture provides excellent consistency within the production process, and there's some thinking ECR results in smoother transitions between lands and grooves that may shorten or even eliminate break-in. The barrel shroud's muzzle accepts either of two interchangeable recoil compensators held in place by a locking screw.
Compensators are easily interchanged with the allen wrench provided.
A locking screw under the muzzle is turned clockwise, then the allen
wrench is threaded through holes in the compensator to twist its'
grooves free of their X Frame slots.
A soft rubber Hogue grip further contributes to recoil management. The top strap is drilled for a Warne style scope mount rail, and a Leupold one piece mount for dovetail rings can be quickly adapted by a gunsmith or machinist. Open sights are factory installed. The Safety is Smith & Wesson's internal type. It works well, but special attention is necessary. Before tasking the 460V, it's advisable to key the mechanism and double-check that the safety is disengaged.
The Safety's keyhole is positioned directly above the thumb release.
Take a key along and check the 460V before going into the field to
make sure the Safety is off.
The factory installed open sight system is robust, but may not be to everyone's liking.
At the Range
CorBon Hard Cast Lead, Flat Nose (395gr / 1525fps) rounds were fired off a rest at 25 yards. Three-shot groups spread just over an inch (1-1/8") using the factory sights. With a Leupold VX-III Handgun Scope (www.leupold.com), 3 CorBon DPX Spitz rounds (200gr / 2300fps) grouped under two inches (1-5/16") at 100 yards from the same rest. This seems especially tight, given the 25 yard group, so it's fair to suspect the 460V's short range accuracy is better than this shooter managed. Trigger pull was determined to be 3 lbs., 10oz. for single action; 9-1/2 lbs. double action.
Leupold's VX-III Handgun scope and dovetail rings on a custom-adapted
Leupold one-piece mount. Adjustability is more limited than the Warne
system, but this set-up is lighter.
Subjective impressions of firing the 460V are substantial recoil (especially with the 395gr rounds), and unusually loud report. It's no lightweight, but the heft does not make the 460V cumbersome to handle. No difference in recoil suppression was detected between the compensators. Larger and more numerous ports on the longer compensator are supposed to discourage lead fouling, but don't expect miracles.
If firing the 460V is painfully loud, a drop-in 'sleeve' can be
fabricated to neutralize the compensator. It's quieter, but there's
more felt recoil. Alternatively, the compensator may simply be removed.
In the Field
There's a good bit of hype in sporting arms advertising, but as far as big game hunting, Smith & Wesson has a fair shot at meeting their "-world's most versatile-" claim with the 460V. The Desert Eagle semi-automatic affords as many caliber choices (.357 Mag., .44 Mag. and .50 AE - www.magnumresearch.com), but the adaptation requires changing barrels and ammo clips. Any firearm chambered for .460 S&W Magnum will also take .45 Colt, or .454 Casull. Just load and go. Furthermore, .45 Colt and .454 Casull are well established cartridges, there's a wide variety of production ammunition to choose from. This spectrum makes tailoring bullet design, weight and velocity for a particular hunt as simple as an off-the-shelf purchase in many cases.
The 460V would be a sound choice for hunting any big game species in North America, but it is a revolver, after all, not a magic wand. A 5" barrel is going to take something away from muzzle velocity and long range accuracy. The practical limit for a proficient marksman using a scope and CorBon 200gr DPX Spitz ammo is more likely to be in the 200 yard neighborhood under the best of circumstances. That's still plenty of opportunity. The CorBon 395gr. Hard Cast Lead, FN rounds used in our short range accuracy testing would be ideal for Brown Bear, Yukon Moose and American Bison. Effective range might well be restricted to double-digit yardages, but the skilled hunter still has excellent potential for bringing the big boys down.
An intriguing possibility for maximum anchoring authority would be if Grizzly Cartridge decided to make a .460 S&W Mag. version of their 300gr. Punch 'solids' (currently in compatible .454 Casull, www.grizzlycartridge.com), or offer the bullets for handloading. Now, that would be a legitimate African 'Big 5' round. Even the pachyderm would fold up.
A handgun can be preferable to any rifle when pursuing game in heavy cover, or over rugged terrain. There are a few potential drawbacks to handgun hunting, though. Some kind of stabilizing 'rest' is almost mandatory for aiming through a scope. While a quality cross-chest holster will hold most scoped handguns securely and comfortably, a scope's lenses can fog in cold weather if the pistol is packed too close to the body or underneath clothing. The traveling big game hunter may find handgun ammunition is not as widely available as the more popular rifle calibers. Collectively, this seems a small cost when compared to the benefits of handguns like the 460V.
The resurgence of North America's large carnivores is a conservation success sportsmen can be proud of. With it comes the increasing possibility other predators are hunting your quarry, or you. As populations and range of dangerous species spread, more outdoorsmen encounter circumstances where the personal protection firearm is a smart choice. Bowhunters often tote a sidearm when lawful, and even rifle hunters can benefit from a 'back-up' when the caliber used to hunt an animal wouldn't stop the critter if it charged. Situational awareness and constant vigilance will always be the best insurance against harm, but if confrontation's inevitable, you want the means to protect yourself.
Many outdoor enthusiasts log much more woods time than the big game hunting seasons, and the sidearm is a common companion for several reasons. A reasonably compact pistol can be readily portable and easily accessible. Handgun actions can be cycled without taking your finger off the trigger, and contemporary big bore revolvers deliver phenomenal knock-down power. It doesn't matter if the beast intends to gnaw, claw, or stomp you into frothy goo. Your chances of surviving an attack improve substantially with a weapon that's handy, reliable and capable.
The means by which an outdoorsman carries a handgun can't be overlooked. If it's not comfortable, eventually it will get left behind as a nuisance. If it doesn't ensure the handgun is easy to get to in an emergency, you might as well carry a brick because that firearm is nothing more than dead weight. This is why a hip holster is so useful, especially for big bores like the 460V. The revolver rides near the body's center of gravity, minimizing apparent weight. A hip holster also positions the grip for rapid deployment. That helps when seconds are precious. A number of materials are available, but handcrafted leather can't be beat for great looks, custom fit and durability.
Custom holster and matching sheath by Larry Dombrowsky, Rifle Boot
and Saddle (970-625-4816). A 'thigh-tie' tethers the holster down for
smoother, faster draw. The leather is wet-molded to the revolver, it
fits snuggly enough that a retaining hammer loop is unnecessary.
Sight system compatibility is an aspect of the X Frame revolvers that will hopefully improve over time as the platform establishes itself. Personal preference can figure strongly in choosing sights, so there's a premium on adaptability. The selection of compatible electronic sights is pretty limited. While Smith & Wesson uses the common 'slot and pin' type front sight, allowing for a wide choice of aftermarket options, the rear sight is of a less popular design where there aren't as many choices. Two rear sights are included with the 460V. These are easily adjusted and/or changed. Those who would like something different should consider XS Sights' white line rear blade. It's a shallow 'v' configuration with a centered vertical stripe that facilitates rapid target acquisition (www.xssights.com).
Whether it's an aftermarket upgrade (front), or modification of
the stock components (rear), there are plenty of options for making
sure the sights satisfy the shooter's preferences.
Just as the variety of factory ammunition made-in, or compatible-with a .460 S& W Magnum makes it possible to choose ammo for a particular hunt, so too does the cartridge' versatility allow for optimum defensive selection. Want minimum recoil and rapid follow-up? Try a CorBon / Barnes DPX in .45 Colt. Need bone-breaking penetration and maximum stopping power? The CorBon Hard Cast Lead, FN rounds we used provide 2040 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy (8-3/8" barrel). By comparison, a .45-70 Government, long the standard for American big bore rifles, was traditionally loaded with 405gr bullets at 1500fps - 2023 ft. lbs. Apply a conservative 10% discount for the 5" 460V, and while you may no longer have a ton of k.e., you still have lots of whallup.
Of course, shots have to be well placed. This requires proficiency, and the 460V arguably encourages good marksmanship by being heavy enough to promote steady off-hand aim while not so massive as to cause rapid fatigue. And, the .460 S&W Magnum caliber allows a shooter to use low recoil .45 Colt 'cowboy action' ammunition for building and maintaining good form. Powerhouse rounds can then be introduced -gradually, or sparingly- as needed.
No sportsman wants to be strictly limited in the gear available to them, but whether you were going for a weekend camping trip with the family, or going after the North American Super Slam, if you could only have one gun, it's hard to think of another firearm that would perform as well under widely diverse circumstances as the Smith & Wesson 460V.
Mike Kallal is a freelance outdoor writer and big game hunter living in northwest Colorado with his wife and daughter.