Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 460 Smith & Wesson

The 460 with a Leupold scope makes a great hunting combo
                 .460  Smith & Wesson

 A few years ago, Smith & Wesson decided to make the most powerful revolvers in general production. The .500 was introduced at the SHOT show in 2004 while the .460 came out a year later.  With the .500 S & W they succeeded quite well as it has more muzzle energy then any other revolver with energies going up to 2800 foot LBS or so. They went on to produce the fastest production revolver. Again they succeeded by introducing the .460 with a 200 grain bullet rated at 2300 FPS , producing 2350 FT LBS. of energy.  Through necessity, these are massive revolvers weighing at 5 Lbs. plus empty. With this much power recoil is a major factor and the revolver’s weight will mitigate it to an extent.  The muzzle breaks also help but these guns are not for the faint at heart. When you shoot these guns, the muzzle blast will feel like someone is shoving you. They are specialized guns meant for serious big game hunting. At that, they excel regardless of what you are hunting.   The gun is attractive being made from Stainless steel and isn’t blued.
For something different black powder was tried. Aimpoint sight also works well

 The question that begs to be answered  is why would you buy such a powerful and specialized revolver?  Some people want the most powerful and fastest regardless if it is a car that can do 250 MPH or a super powered revolver. The .500 can generate as much muzzle energy as a 30-06 with a top load.  I know a guy that had one with a 4” barrel and no muzzle break. At his request I made some heavy loads utilizing a 400 grain bullet.   He offered to let me try it, an invitation I declined. Anyway he shot it twice and sold it.  I shot a 10” with a break and scope and while it is manageable, it is quite a handful. The redeeming feature was we were shooting 275 grain bullets which helped to reduce recoil. Accuracy at 100 yards was quite impressive. For the recoil junkie Hornady offers a 500 grain bullet and load. If that isn’t enough one company offers a 700 grain bullet rated at 1250 FPS.  No way no how I would shoot that load, except in a rifle. Self inflicted pain has no fascination for me. The reader might notice that recoil is frequently mentioned and that is for a reason. I fail to see the logic in buying a firearm that can’t be handled by the owner. 
Muzzle break really needed cleaning after shooting black powder

  Of the two, the .460 is more versatile. Besides the .460 ammo, you can shoot the .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, and the .454 Casull. Also there is a wider selection of 45 caliber bullets then the larger 50’s.  With the two smaller cases you can use conventional jacketed or cast bullets at the velocities that they produce.  Do not use thin jacketed bullets with the .454 or .460 cases.  Doing that can strip the jacket off and leave it in the bore which may cause a problem with the next round.  Several companies make the proper bullets for the .460 and I would suggest you use them. Companies such as Hornady and Barnes makes jacketed or solid copper slugs while LBT makes cast bullets up to 395 grains. They are cast hard with a gas check and are well suited to the pressures involved. Keep in mind the .460 is set up to operate at 60,000 PSI, which is in the range of magnum rifles. Those specs require that the guns are made out of the best steel available in order to stand up to that abuse. Tolerances must be kept tight also to enhance the longevity and safety of this revolver.  The S & W is up to the task as we have fired it quite a lot with no malfunctions due to the gun.  The 460 requires a large rifle primer because of the pressures and large amounts of magnum handgun powder involved. A magnum rifle primer isn’t generally necessary though in real cold weather I would consider one.
Shot load at target 3 yrads

 The gun is a double action type though the single is a lot more practical. The trigger is great breaking at 2 & 3/4  lbs. single action. The double action trigger is ok though I don’t see much use for it.  With a scope and ammo the gun can weigh close to 6 Lbs. which makes it difficult to hold offhand for most shooters including myself. There is a bipod available as well as a sling. They would make sense if a rest isn’t available. Out in the field a bipod would enable you to take advantage of the 200 yard potential that this gun offers.    Hornady advertises their 200 grain load as being point on at 200 yards. With the velocity obtainable and the pointed bullet, that claim is creditable. I have tested Hornady ammo in quite a few calibers and it performs as billed in virtually all instances.   

 The gun that we tested has an 8 & 3/8” barrel though other lengths are available. Shooting from a rest with the 200 grain Hornady wasn’t too bad as recoil goes straight back but the muzzle blast can be only described as intense.  Even standing behind a shooter you can feel the blast. This gun definitely isn’t for the faint at heart.   There are two muzzle breaks one for lead while the other covers jacketed slugs. There is a hunting holster and speed loaders offered for the .460. That way you can carry it on a hiking trip and be ready for anything.
Couple of nice heavy hunting bullets 300 grain  cast & Sierra

 The proof is in the pudding as to how powerful the loads really are. We have a verity of factory loads plus some handloads we chronographed and tested for accuracy. We also fired ammo with shorter cases including the .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, and the .454 Casull. That is what I mean by versatility. Anyway, here are some chronograph results. During the testing, I had my Freedom Arms 454 with a 10” barrel and chronographed many of the loads in both. The Casull was anywhere from a little over 100 FPS to 250 FPS faster then the Smith. It may have been partly due to the longer barrel and lack of porting or the tighter tolerances of the Freedom Arms Revolver. Anyway it was an interesting test.  Recoil was on the brutal side with the heavy loads in both guns.  When you shoot a certain amount of the heavy, loads your hand tends to start hurting which is a good time to stop. If you don’t mind carrying around the weight the 460 is pretty versatile.

LOAD                                   BULLET                             VELOCITY                COMMENT

5.3  gr Tite Group            250 grain cast                   768                           .45 Schofield

5.7  gr 231                       230 gr Ranier                      637                         .45 Schofield  


8 gr 231                         250 gr Hornady XTP HP    906                           .45 Colt load

7 gr Tite Group             250 gr cast                         905                            .45 Colt Load

7 gr Tite Group               250 gr Hornady XTP     868                             .45 Colt Load

11 gr HS-6                      225 gr Hornady FTX       918                             .45 Colt Load

11 gr HS-6                     250 gr cast                        940                             .45 Colt load     

Federal                             225 SWC HP                      897                          .45 Colt load

Federal                            225 Gr FTX                         851                          .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore                  325 gr LBT                        1369                         .45 Colt Load

Buffalo Bore                  300 gr LBT                       1352                         .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore                 260 gr JHP                          1489                        .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore               325 gr                                  1531                         .454 load

25 gr 2400                    300 grain cast                    1352                        . 454 load

Double Tap                 400 Gr WEN-GC                 1280                         .454 load

Double Tap                250 Gr Barnes HP               1621                        .454 load

Hornady                     300 Gr XTP                          1588                         .454 load

Federal                        300 Gr Swift A Frame       1551                         .454 load

33 gr  2400                  225 gr Hornady FTX           1469                         .454 load

Buffalo Bore             325 gr LBT                           1531                         .454 load

Buffalo Bore             360 gr LBT                           1450                         .454 load


Federal                       300 Gr Swift A Frame       1582                        .460 load

49 gr of  H-110                225 Gr FTX                    1958                       .460 load

Hornady                     200 Gr FTX                          2158                     .460 load

Hornady                    200 gr FTX                           2106                       .460 load

43 gr Lil gun               240 gr Hornady XTP          1666                     .460 load

50 gr FFFG BP            250 grain cast                     869.6                     .460 load

44 gr AA-5744           240 grain Hornady XTP     1716                     .460 load

Buffalo Bore            275 gr Barnes XPB              1772                   .460 load

Buffalo Bore            300 gr JFN                            1581                    .460 load

Buffalo Bore            360 gr                                   1471                  .   460 load

50 gr AA 1680          240 gr Hornady XTP           1439                     .460 load


Due to large case size shot loads are a viable option


  Buffalo Bore generously sent some loads in .45 Colt, .454 Casull, and the 460 S & W. The .45 Colt and .454 Casull loads shot great giving the advertised velocity and were consistent. The 460 loads however didn’t do as well. They were way under advertised speeds with high SD’s. Also the cases stuck in the chambers indicating high pressures.  My guess is they used a powder that while suitable in the shorter cases is too fast for the .460 especially with heavy bullets. At a later date, I plan on working with the heavy LBT bullets and see if I can improve upon those loads. That is one test I am in no hurry to conduct.  It isn’t on my top 100 to do list of important projects. We shot some .45 Schofield with cast bullets of 200 and 250 and mild loads. For some reason they keyholed, perhaps  due to the long travel in the cylinder.   We tried some Ranier bullets and they shot ok so that theory went down the hole. Maybe it just didn’t like those lead bullets.  Keep in mind that plated bullets at full power loads won’t work in the .454 or 460. The boxes generally specify max velocity consistent with accuracy and I suggest that you follow the advice. I have shot them over the specs and they are not accurate at all. Plated bullets however make nice .45 Colt loads.  That is why we try different bullets to see what does and doesn’t work in a specific gun.  Just for kicks and info purposes, we tried some black powder loads in the .460. As is usually the case with black powder, velocities are consistent though after a dozen or so rounds it started to gum up and stopped functioning. Of course the gun needed to be vigorously cleaned after shooting the black powder and before we went back to the more conventional ammo.  The .460 was inconsistent with some of the loads, as with such a large case any light loads with magnum powders didn’t fare so well. With the big case it is better to use full throttle loads and use the shorter cases for the reduced stuff.  Just for fun we made some shot loads using 460 cases. The load was 12 grains of 231 and 250 grains of shot with a gas check on top. I cut a wad out of cardboard to put between the powder and shot.  They proved effective up to 7 yards, which would dispatch a snake. If you do this, be sure to remove the compensator to avoid a lot of shot coming backwards.  
This young lady shot 460 & surprisingly she did fine

 We obtained some bulletproof glass that is an inch thick and of course, we wanted to see what shot through it and what didn’t. We tried two .460 loads a 225 grain Hornady XTP and a 300 grain Barnes. Both shot through with no problems though when we put a second piece behind the first both loads were stopped. We shot a .44 mag load which was a 240 grain soft point and it didn’t go through but did dimple the back of it. We had some .45 Colt and 9 mm but neither came near to going through but did make nice marks on the glass. My guess is if we had armor piercing bullets in the .460, it probably would have gone through both plates.  
Thick glass is no match for the 460


  Another interesting thing came to light, The .460 recoiled backwards while the .454 went up. That was due to the S & W having a muzzle break where upon the .454 lacks that feature.     Trigger pull double action is 14 & ½ lbs. while the single checks in at 2 & 2/4 lbs.  and breaks cleanly. I don’t imagine that very many shooters can control the .460 shooting double action. I, for one can’t.  If you want a high quality revolver that is capable of killing anything on two or four feet, this might just be the gun for you. I would imagine that it would do well shooting silhouettes out to two or 300 meters. If you can handle the recoil and muzzle blast then you should have a winner. A scope definitely gets the potential out of this massive revolver.  Be sure that it is
a quality optic meant for intense recoil or you will be replacing your scope frequently.


Unknown said...

Nice one actually. This one is really impressive actually. Those who are having guns need to understand that guns are safety device not the killing machines. You can have guns but with all the legalities and procedure so as to avoid the chances of illegal trade of firearms.
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noname said...

what a beautiful gun! i'd like to have this one
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william said...

thanks for sharing this wonderful article . i learn a lot about this. keep posting
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Toolm8ker said...

I love my 460 but hated the Nikon scope for hunting. I swapped it out for a Burris fastfire red dot. Much better set up for white tail hunting.