Watch for RF’s full review of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR coming soon.
To paraphrase Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters… “If someone asks you if you want to test their Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460XVR… you say yes!” Accordingly, I got the chance to borrow Smith’s megarevolver and take it out for a spin. Spin as in, it spun my wrist back a full 90 degrees every time I fired it. Now, I know that looks like it hurts, but … surprisingly, it didn’t. I fired round after round of .460 S&W and .454 Casull from the XVR, and the rubber grips really helped absorb the shock. It still terrified me though. Sheesh, that thing packs a punch. I mean… okay, so, generally, if you’re shooting a big-bore powerful handgun . . .
you can develop a flinch which messes with your accuracy, right? As in, right before the trigger breaks, your body involuntarily braces for the shock/impact/flash and that can drag the gun a little off target, right? Well, with the S&W .460 XVR, you might be forgiven if instead of a flinch, your body starts to duck down and cower in terror of what’s about to happen.
Which is to say — there’s a lot of recoil. Also a hellacious amount of noise and flash. I’m well used to the recoil of the mighty .454 Casull from a 7-pound, 6.5″-barrel Raging Judge Magnum, but seriously, the .460 from this smaller handgun is in a whole different class of blowback. The five pounds of the RJM helps it soak up some of the recoil, but the XVR — while still very heavy at nearly 4 pounds — is lighter and is fires a substantially more powerful cartridge. That adds up to some serious kick. Let’s just say there will be no double-tapping from the S&W XVR.
It’s not so much that you’re firing off a bullet, it’s more like you’re setting off a flashbang grenade in your hand. The deafening roar, the incredible flash, and the push in your hand, and the desperate scramble to keep ahold of the revolver, and the stream of profanity that involuntarily erupts — well, let’s just say, you’ve got to try it. (And yes, of course, there’s a liberal dose of hyperbole in here; the recoil is manageable. It’s potent, but how much fun would there be in just clinically describing it as “substantial recoil”?)
In reality, the recoil only looks that bad in super-slow-motion. At full speed, yeah, there’s a kick, but it doesn’t look quite so overwhelming. And I was never overwhelmed by it. I fired dozens of rounds and never lost control. But I can’t say I was making quick follow-up shots either — it does take a while to get the big revolver back on target after firing off a .460 S&W.
One thing that’s fun about the .460 chambering is that it provides for the opportunity to fire several different calibers, going all the way down to the .45 Schofield. I tried each caliber I could fit in the XVR; in terms of recoil, the .45 Schofields were nearly unnoticeable; they felt like a .22LR at most. The .45 Colt had more thump to them, but felt like less recoil than a typical 9mm pocket pistol. The 60-ounce weight of the XVR really helps to soak up the recoil on these rounds.
The .454 Casull, however, kind of grabs you by the throat and yells “HELLO” in your face. And while there’s plenty of bark to the .454 Casull, it pales in comparison to the .460 S&W. Now, on paper, the .460 S&W isn’t THAT much more powerful than the .454 Casull. Using the Hornady Custom as an example, the 240-grain .454 produces 1,920 ft/lbs of energy, and the .460 S&W version produces 2,149 ft/lbs. A noticeable increase, sure, but only on the order of about 12% more. But it sure doesn’t feel like only 12% more. I had no way to objectively measure it, but subjectively, it felt like the recoil was easily twice as much for the .460. The .454 was unquestionably a softer shooting round, the step up to the .460 was a very noticeable step up.
As for fit, finish, and action, the 460XVR is simply exquisite. Coming from the S&W Performance Center, the 460XVR represents its brand very well indeed. The double-action trigger is slick as melted butter; compared to my Raging Judge it’s like comparing a Maserati against a rusty old pickup. Not that I don’t love the rusty old pickup, I do, but there are very good reasons why this powerful XVR revolver costs over twice as much. As Ferris Bueller would say, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
As part of my evaluation, I did a ballistic gel test using the Hornady Custom 200-grain FTX ammo. Why did I choose this particular round? Well, basically, because no store in town carried any .460 S&W ammo at all, and the largest superstore (half an hour out of town) had only two types of .460 in stock: the Hornady Custom, and an Underwood loading of the 300-grain XTP bullet. And since I’d previously tested the XTP in .454 Casull from the RJM and found the bullet to basically disintegrate at those velocities, I wasn’t really all that interested in testing it from an even-more-powerful gun (what would it do, vaporize?) so I went with the FTX load.
The FTX is a light-for-caliber load, traveling at a rifle-class velocity of 2,200 fps. Or so it says on the box; I couldn’t get any valid chronograph readings. My chrono was constantly spitting out “Err” or unreasonably high numbers like 3,220 and 3,236 fps. I know there’s no way this round was exceeding 3,000 fps, so I just chalk it up to the chrono being confused by the shock wave and/or the muzzle flash and/or the shearing of atoms and bending of gravity that this .460 S&W round seemed to do.
So, unfortunately, I have no chrono readings for you; I tried firing from several different distances and just couldn’t get reliable readings that I trust. I also tried the Underwood load, and the chrono claimed 2,873 fps — which is still totally unrealistic; the Underwood ammo is rated at 1,750 fps right on the box. Interestingly, I tried some .454 Casull ammo (the aforementioned Hornady Custom in 240-grain XTP weight) and those clocked in at an average of 1,658 fps, which is entirely reasonable and proper. Those same bullets do about 1,860 fps from my RJM, which has a 6.5″ barrel, so I would find 1,658 to be reasonable for a 3.5″ barrel revolver. I have no explanation as to why I was able to successfully chrono the .454 but was unable to successfully chrono the .460. While I was at it, I also fired some 180-grain .45 Schofields (520 fps) and 225-grain .45 Colts (829 fps Winchester SilverTips).
Chrono or no, the results in the gel block were entertaining and horrifying at the same time. I don’t know who out there may recall the boxing showdown between undefeated heavyweight champion Michael Spinks and undefeated challenger Mike Tyson (tagline: “Somebody’s 0 Has Got To Go) but… the thrashing that Tyson put on Spinks was about as one-sided and overwhelming as what the .460 S&W did to the gel block. Watch the video to see that poor gel block get totally mutilated and nearly split in half. The level of destruction was on par with what I’ve previously encountered when testing 12-gauge shotgun slugs. The overall penetration wasn’t overly deep at 15.50”, but the amount of devastation throughout the block looked more like something from a rifle rather than a handgun round.
I wish I would have had the opportunity to test a hardcast bullet from the XVR, but there were none available. I have no doubt that a hardcast round would have traveled at least four feet through gel. I don’t think I would recommend the Hornady Custom as a bear-defense load (or for use against other large dangerous animals like a moose or elk) but with the appropriate hardcast bullet, I have no doubt that the XVR would make a comforting companion when hiking in the woods.
In summary, the S&W 460XVR is powerful, versatile, flexible, expensive, and heavy. And very, very fun.