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Case Histories:.460 Smith & Wesson

Case Histories:.460 Smith & Wesson

Those of us who have endured the discomfort of firing a .454 Casull cartridge in a 2.5” Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan, or similar compact revolver, will wonder why anyone would need anything more powerful. Well, in 2005 Hornady joined forces with S&W and Cor-Bon to do just that. Their ‘baby’ was based upon the straight-walled, rimmed .454 Casull case stretched to 1.8”. They christened it the .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum, intended for use in their S&W Model 460 X Frame series of revolvers at working pressures of up to 65K psi. Bonkers or what?

Fastest production

At the launch, S&W claimed that it was the fastest handgun round in the World, propelling a 200-grain pill at over 2400 fps… that’s a muzzle energy of over 2500 ft/lbs and more than my favourite .308 Winchester reload! Not unlike the Alaskan chambered for the Casull, the creators of the .460 S&W claimed that in a handgun it was the “cartridge of last resort”. They elaborated upon this, suggesting that when confronted by a grizzly that was only winged by an errant rifle shot, the .460 S&W Mag would easily drop the enraged Ursus Horribilis. Its wider remit is as a long-range handgun hunting cartridge, for use on large game and pests.

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To the designer’s credit, they refrained from packing it with a triplex powder charge - as featured in Dick Casulls’ original concept cartridge. However, having viewed footage of the factory Cor-Bon with its 200-grain Barnes X bullet, being fired from a 2.75” barrelled X Frame, there is no doubt that they’ve used a very fast propellant in order to minimise performance losses from extremely short revolver barrels.

Assembly advantages

The straight walled design makes life much easier for us, enabling the use of carbide dies – catalogued by all the usual suppliers. Data is present in most of the manuals published over the last decade and quote a selection of widely available propellants. However, the choice will not hide the fact that you’re only going to get around 150 rounds per tub; the .460 S&W Mag is a greedy little sucker! Large Rifle primers are the order of the day as is a hefty crimp, especially for use in any multi-shot arm. Bullet choice may be influenced by the Section 5 limitations on expanding bullets rather than the chosen application. But then, what the heck are you going to do with this cartridge here in the grizzly-free UK? A Section 7/3 revolver would be unlikely, so we’re left with a very limited choice of rifles. Other than custom builds, the inventory is small, the beautiful Big Horn Model 90 Lever Action is yours for between $3000 and $4000. More economical, is the stylish Thompson Center Katahdin model, with its 20” barrel but perhaps the most logical choice would be the Ruger No1 single shot.

Auto alternative

As a rimmed round, it does not lend itself to magazine feeding for semi-automatic rifle applications but all is not lost, enter the .45 Raptor. This semi-wildcat from Arne Brennan (better known as one of the co-designers of the 6.5mm Grendel) appeared in 2014.

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  • Case Histories:.460 Smith & Wesson - image {image:count}

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