Smith & Wesson’s 460XVR (X-treme Velocity Revolver) is a Performance Center hand cannon aimed squarely at the handgun hunting market. As if to evince the seriousness of its purpose, the snub-nosed 460XVR comes packaged in a plain white corrugated box, not the usual cardboard container gaily decorated with the vivid blue and white S&W colors. The box is highly utilitarian and can be used for many other purposes, such as shipping heavy machine parts or an improvised midnight burial of the neighbor’s Labrador . . .
Inside the big white box is the usual paperwork, a big black soft case gaily decorated with the gold Performance Center logo, and an expended cartridge that, with just a little rock salt on the case mouth, would be suitable for dainty shots of Tequila.
Open the soft case and there it is – a BFG. Yup, a Big Gun. A picture of the 460XVR next to an S&W 642 Airweight is included for a sense of scale. The pic is kinda reminiscent of a father-and-son range photo, although it seems that young Mister 642, with his fluted cylinder and fancy wood grips, must take after his mom even though he does have his dad’s snubby little nose.
The 460XVR is robustly built to handle the very powerful .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum cartridge, which is based on the .454 Casull, which in turn is based on the familiar .45 (Long) Colt. The little Airweight son-of-a-gun in the picture is chambered for the ancient (vintage 1898) and familiar .38Spl. The photo below illustrates the size difference between the .38Spl, .45LC and .460S&W cartridges.
The pictured .460S&W round is a 2 1/8” long, 300 gr. JHP that escapes an XVR’s muzzle at an astonishing 1750 fps, although that speed might require a longer barrel. We don’t know for sure because, when ShootingtheBull410 previewed this very XVR revolver, his chrony had a nervous breakdown.
For serious handgun hunting of big game at distance, the XVR is available with barrel lengths up to 14” and a fitted bipod. With a long barrel, a lighter 200 gr. bullet can reach 2250 fps at the muzzle and still be zooming along at 1715 fps when it’s 100 yards downrange. That’s almost twice the speed of sound at the muzzle, which is approaching Ludicrous Speed from a handgun.
The XVR can also fire the .45 Colt, the All-American standard that was first used by Roy Rogers to tame the west way back in 1872. The XVR is equally at home with the .454 Casull, which for all I know was used by Dale Evans to tame old Roy if he stepped out of line. While neither the traditional .45 nor the Casull are lightweights, they do not compare to the power of the.460S&W round that when used as directed in the XVR, according to Smith & Wesson, “has the highest muzzle velocity of any production revolver on earth.” On Mars, not so much.
Both the .460 and the .454 are first and foremost hunting cartridges. Commercially loaded .460 cartridges are available with bullet weights up to 395 grains, which should be more than adequate to vaporize most North American big game short of the infrequently-encountered escaped circus rhinoceros. The comparatively weak .45LC remains a very capable man-stopper even now, more than 140 years after it was first adopted by the US Army. So, although the XVR has a hunting focus, it is a versatile revolver that can be used effectively for self-defense without evaporating the bad guy, taking out a couple of walls of the garage and exploding an electrical power substation in the adjacent zip code.
The XVR is a Performance Center piece, and right from the get-go it looks like quality. I’m not a fan of the appearance of the unfluted cylinder, but based on that unfortunate Titanic incident it seems that removing metal right where it is needed most might be a bad idea. The whole piece is glass bead-finished stainless steel, and it appears expensive.
The barrel sports a neatly tapered full under-lug and an attractive polygonal sculptural profile. The teardrop hammer and the trigger are both chromed. While the 460XVR is a serious hunting machine, it’s very clear that some folks at S&W wanted it to look good, too. They succeeded.
The well-contoured one-piece synthetic grip completely covers the back strap to promote shooting comfort. The grip, with its pebbly texture and pleasing color, looks better than the same old nondescript black rubber grip pictured on S&W’s web site.
The sighting system consists of a fixed HI-VIZ green fiox front and a fully adjustable square notch rear. The front sight is bright under incandescent lighting and in natural sunlight can be used to signal ships at sea. The rear sight’s elevation and windage can be set by turning two screws, one on the right side of sight for windage and one on the top handling elevation. Both require a simple, flat head screwdriver. One warning about such screwdrivers – they will not do the job unless they are actually in your range bag when you take the XVR out to play. More on that later.
There is the obligatory and much-hated internal lock on the left side of the frame. If I owned this revolver, the lock would be the first thing to go. In fact, it would be the only thing to go. Everything else seems pretty damn squared away.
Handling and Shooting the XVR
When it’s loaded, the XVR weighs about a pound less than a Ruger 10/22. Yeah, it’s on the heavy side, but because the XVR is so well balanced, it doesn’t feel awkward. Unlike a big bore semi-automatic handgun like the Desert Eagle .50AE that I reviewed a while back, the XVR’s stock isn’t oversized or boxy and provides a reassuring grip. Normally, I’m suspicious of grips with deep finger grooves. They never seem to fit me, and my fingers usually end up riding the high points instead of snuggling comfortably into the grooves. Not so with the XVR. The stock fit me just fine, and also fit several other experienced shooters with disparate hand sizes. One size rarely fits all, but this one size will fit most.
I started out firing .45 Colt LRN (lead round nose) target ammo so that I could get a feel for the XVR before embarrassing myself with magnum ammo. There was an immediate problem – at 25 yards offhand, I wasn’t even on paper. It took a couple of shots until I figured out that the XVR was shooting high and left. No big deal, thought I. The rear sight could be easily adjusted — with the screwdriver that I left at home.
Once again, no big deal. I simply adjusted my point of aim until I was on paper, and then walked them in. Once I figured out the proper point of aim, I ended up with a nice group solidly in the 10 ring. This is an accurate revolver despite its short sight radius.
Then it was time for something a little more challenging, so I loaded five 200 grain Hornady hollowpoints. In ShootingtheBull410’s XVR preview, he noted the prodigious recoil inherent in 460 S&W loadings, so I was pleasantly surprised. There was plenty of recoil to be sure, but it certainly wasn’t punishing. In fact, it was exhilarating, like riding a Brahma bull for the full 8 seconds and dismounting without catching a gigantic horn right up the coolie. Because I believe in spreading joy wherever I am, I asked a couple of well-qualified doods to shoot the XVR with the Hornady ammo, and they both reported a similar sensation, albeit in less colorful language.
With my confidence now higher than a Colorado pot salesman, I loaded the XVR with some 300 grain JHP and let loose. And that’s when the XVR revealed both its mighty roar and even mightier kick. Every head in the indoor range swiveled around just to see what I was shooting. I even got a couple of “what the hell was thats” from my fellow range denizens. Although the range was far from full, by now everybody was watching the XVR, which put a lot of pressure on me. It was like taking a whiz with people watching. I really wanted to be accurate.
I loosed another round and a guy a few lanes to port wandered over to let me know that he could actually see a donut-shaped pressure wave blowing out of the muzzle. I couldn’t see that from my vantage point behind the revolver, but I did see the muzzle flash that reminded me of firing my Mosin M44 carbine. Oh, how I wanted to shoot the XVR in the dark!
My wrist gave out before my ammo did, so I decided that discretion was the better part of tendonitis and saved the rest of the ammo for my next range session.
The following week, I headed to an outdoor range, loaded up with plenty of ammo and multiple screwdrivers. I joined TTAG commenter Greg in Allston and our pal Dave (the master of the Alexander Arms .50 Beowulf that I reported on last year) for a little fun in the bitter, biting New England cold. I think that the temperature was -346°F when we started shooting and dropped from there to nearly absolute aero. Anyway, it was cold.
I was on target pretty quickly after tweaking the XVR’s windage and cranking down the elevation screw. There was a light frosting of snow on the ground and the roof of the shed when Greg started getting jiggy wit’ it.
What Greg is looking around for in the next viddy is the snow which has been knocked off the roof by the concussive blast of the XVR.
There was a guy a few lanes down who was shooting a nice SMLE in .303 British. He couldn’t make it snow, but the XVR did. And that was with the “little” 200 grain Hornadys. The heftier 300 grain time-bombs cleared the snow off of nearby trees, so I recommend them for Alpine avalanche control. Nevertheless, Greg maintained complete control of the XVR and no wrists were harmed during the making of these videos.
All in all, shooting the XVR, especially with the Hornady ammo, was infectious. The more we shot, the better we got and the more fun we had, which is almost axiomatic. The only difficulty we had was maintaining a secure grip with gloves on after our fingers were near amputation because of frostbite.
Likes and Dislikes
What didn’t I like? Not much. I didn’t care for shooting the XVR with .45 Colt ammo because it felt like I had dumped a 1.8 liter Honda Civic engine into a Ferrari 458 Italia. Now, that Honda is a nice little mill, but c’mon man. It would hardly be satisfying to drive a Ferrari body that was made for greasy fast speed but hampered with a mild street motor. So too, the XVR was meant for bigger and better (and badder) things.
As for price and availability of ammo for the XVR, well, it’s readily available now and was even during the recent Great Ammunition Extinction. Cost of ammo is always an issue, although not as critical a problem for the XVR as might be expected. Figure on two bucks a round for 460 S&W Mag ammo and you’re in the ballpark. .454 Casull will be about half a buck less, and .45 Colt is out there for south of 75 cents a pop. It sounds like a lot for the Casull and 460 S&W, but most shooters won’t be sending hundreds of rounds of heavy, store-bought magnum stuff down range. They will reload.
I wasn’t thrilled with the heavy, but silky smooth, double action trigger pull. The pull was long, too. How long? Bring a book, that’s how long. Single action, the XVR’s trigger is more like a button, with (I’m being generous here) maybe 1/16th of an inch of travel before it goes boom.
Fit and finish from the Performance Center product are perfect. I expected nothing less, and I got nothing less. Firing dirty lead ammo will leave sooty marks on the cylinder, which I believe can be removed with an eraser, crocus cloth or similar lightly abrasive polishing thingamabob. Unfortunately, while I finally remembered to bring screwdrivers to the range, I forgot to bring my eraser back home from the range.
Everything else about this big revolver was serious fun.
Because the XVR snubby has such a short (3.5”) barrel and a correspondingly short-ish 6” sight radius, it’s not a long-range hunter unless your name is Miculek. Long-barrel models (up to 14”) will do the business on deer, elk and other large critters at rifle and shotgun distances, but it seems that the snubby version has “feral hog” written all over it.
Is it the definitive bear country sidearm? I’ll leave that up to shooters who are more experienced at hiking in definitive bear country. But if I were camping in said country, the XVR snubby would be the kind of revolver that would allow me sleep well at night. It’s powerful, easy to pack, won’t take up as much room as a long gun and would be very useful at distances of, say, 50 yards or in tight spaces. And it should knock down a grizzly.
So it comes down to this compound question: if I don’t hunt with it, or protect myself from bears with it, is the pure fun of shooting the XVR worth the cost?
It is for me.
Model: Smith & Wesson 460XVR Performance Center
Caliber: .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum, .454 Casull and .45 Colt
Cylinder capacity: 5 rounds
Materials: Steel, baby. Steel! With a composite grip.
Weight: 59.5 oz., unloaded
Barrel length: 3.5″
Action: Double and single action revolver
Price: $1609 MSRP
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * * *
With its unfluted cylinder, you will like the looks or you won’t. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. It grew on me. Everything else about this big revolver is pure, unadulterated class.
Ergonomics * * *
It’s a fairly heavy gun, which it needs to be given its task. But despite its recoil-absorbing mass, the XVR isn’t clumsy to handle. For carry, S&W offers some beautiful leather (or nylon, for those so inclined) retention holsters for belt or shoulder, in left and right hand models. For hip carry, get a good belt. A really good belt.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
There’s mild recoil with .45 Colt ammo, and exciting but manageable recoil with light 460s. The heavier the bullet, the more likely this revolver will leave an impression on your psyche if not your shooting hand. But the grip is absolutely fantastic. An Airweight shooting plain-Jane .38Spls will sting more.
Reliability * * * * *
C’mon, man. It’s a Smith & Wesson revolver. And a damn well made one at that. Five for sure.
Customize This 0
OVERALL * * * *
Hog hunters will probably award the XVR five stars. Hikers too. As a range toy, it’s worth – well, what price do you place on fun?