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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.

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  1. I got to shoot one of these at SHOT show. It’s a damn fine firearm. I hope to add it to my collection of non-fluted cylinder revolvers.

  2. the ring of fire shooting downrange is mesmerizing… the slow-mo recoil footage had me cowering under my desk by the time the muzzle got to 1 o-clock though.

  3. I confess I don’t have a .460 and have never fired one, but I have 3 .500s and take them out once in a while. They are fun! I do advise wearing a glove. I use bicycle gloves. They have just enough padding to take the sting out.

  4. I’ve had my 500S&W for a while now, and it was a pain at first to shoot until somebody showed me how to actually shoot it and how to “roll with the recoil.”

    Now its probably my favorite gun to shoot, even with the powder packed monsters that push the gun to the limit. It’s no worse than a full house 44 magnum, and I can do that all day.

    • “You sound like my brother trying to get me to do something really stupid.”

      I seriously doubt you need your brother for that…


  5. Re-the issues with your chrono, you may want to place it farther away from the muzzle. My guess is that much like some rifle rounds, it’s picking up the unspent powder residue.

    • This. It’s just unburnt powder (short barrel) and residue (see those rings?) screwing with your chrono. One more reason the magnetospeed is the only way to go.

  6. I had the pleasure of punching out 4 of the .500 mag rounds a year or two ago, and it rocked!

    But it was a much heavier beast than the XVR, so I can only imagine the recoil.

    My Brother in Law picked one up in Cali, as it had only days before being added to the “naughty”
    list. Don’t get me started on that ridiculousness.

    He needs to come visit again, soon, so I can fire it…

  7. I picked up a S&W .460 5″ this summer. I had a hard time finding ammo and damn it was expensive when I did. My hand was a bit sore after shooting all afternoon but not for long. That .454 Casull round is a beast but the .460 round is artillery. I found the DA trigger pull to be tough but the SA pull was awesome. It broke crisp and lightly. I will need many more ducats and much range time to become proficient.

    • I was thinking the same thing.
      Kind of like decibels or earthquake magnitude readings.

      I gotta shoot one!!!

  8. I often say that if you need more than a .44 magnum you need a buttstock. However, just because I don’t NEED something doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT it.

    • I agree, Gov. If you’re buying one of these for sh1ts and giggles, have at it and enjoy.

      But if you’re buying one of these becasue you actually have a need for it? You might be better served with a .375 H&H magnum or a .416 Rigby.

      Or something that shoots silver bullets with crosses in the nose and soaked in holy water.

      • That or you could spend less than $500 on a 20″ lever action .44 mag that will match ballistics with either the .460 or .500 and you’ll only have to lug around an extra pound and a half. The plus side is the lever gun will hold twice as many rounds and you’ll get much faster follow up shots. And it would make a handy little deer rifle to boot.

        But yes, if you’re stepping off the North American continent (e.g. Africa) the .416 might be your best bet.

  9. Smith and Wesson needs to make that revolver a little heavier with a 6.5 inch ported barrel like the Taurus Raging Bull series. That would reduce muzzle flip to something sort of reasonable.

    While follow-up shots are effectively impossible, they should never be necessary if you put the first one on target!

    • I have gotten into the habit of always doubling up regardless of what I am shooting or if I am indoors or outdoors. The only exception in when I am shooting something suppressed. Then I will only go with one layer of ear pro.

  10. To my understanding the VXR wasn’t rated to handle the pressures of the .454, at least it wasn’t a year or so ago when I emailed S&W about it.

      • Now you have me scratching my head. A couple of years ago I was looking at buying something in .45, but with more punch. Long story short I came by the Redhawk and the Model 460 and was talking with different guys at a few shops and their stories contradicted each other. I looked up as much as I could and eventually emailed S&W. Unfortunately I can’t find the email. I’m not trying to troll I was just worried about you guys hurting yourself with the info I had.

  11. STB410, I think you need a new gunshot sound effect. I’m sure the .460 doesn’t sound like the .380! Maybe record some 1x audio on special guns like this.

    Love your tests, man.

    • Yes, you’re spot-on with this. The Mythbusters tested this claim by making a “thumb” out of a chicken, if I recall correctly, and the blast from the cylinder gap totally ripped it apart.

      The proper revolver grip, especially for a powerful revolver like this, is something you really have to pay attention to.

  12. Shot a S&W .50 Bone Collector at the range, ONCE!

    Hand cannon takes on a whole new meaning with these beasts.Tolerable, but not pleasant. Similar to the Scandium framed snubby by S&W in .357. The recoil runs up your bones through your wrists and a Vulcan Death Grip is necessary. But when dump trucks are in season,

  13. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you should let your elbow absorb a small amount of recoil by bending, take some of that stress off your wrist.

    • I think you’re right, and that’s what I was doing. At the end of each shot I basically carried the gun up and to the left, trying to dissipate the recoil. Keep in mind, you’re seeing what’s happening at about 400 or 1200 frames per second, so extreme slow motion (I don’t remember which frame rate I used).

      When you see it “live”, it doesn’t look nearly so dramatic, and you don’t really see just how much flip actually happened. But when you slow it down to 17x to 50x slow motion, you can see just exactly how much force was involved.

  14. I took mine w/8″ bbl to the range with some friends. The gas escaping the muzzle brake, blew back the hair of anyone standing by the shooter. Awesome.

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