August 07, 2023
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If you were lucky enough to win the “awesome childhood mega-lottery” and grow up in a family that treasured the outdoors and promoted firearms proficiency and safety, chances are there was a term that followed you throughout your fledgling years as a young shooter. This term was “logical progression” and it meant that the firearms you initially had access to were small caliber weapons with simple and safe to manipulate actions. For many of us, our humble beginnings consisted of “learning the ropes” with the aid of Red Ryder BB guns (“Black Bart” attacks and “a compass in the stock with this thing that tells time” optional), variable pump air rifles or single-shot .22 rifles. Once familiar with these “apprentice” weapons, we invariably moved to more complicated and powerful ones like Smith & Wesson's 460XVR Performance Center Revolver. “Big things have small beginnings…” -T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole); Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Looking back on my childhood and early adolescence, I’m fairly certain my firearms apprenticeship (under the strict tutelage of my good ‘ol dad) could be classified as an “accelerated program.” I graduated from the same Daisy Red Ryder my father adventured into the woods with as a child to a Marlin Golden 39a lever action .22 rifle capable of holding 19 rounds of .22 long rifle in its tubular magazine. Shortly thereafter, my father, an avid trap shooter, introduced me to his arena of “Dirty Birds” and “Handicap Shoots.” He recruited a shooting buddy with mad gunsmithing skills to shorten an old Winchester Model 12 shotgun (chambered in 12 gauge) and install an inertial recoil reducer for his #1 (read that as “only”) son. After coming to terms with slightly bruised shoulders and the recoil generated by my shottie, I was off and running as a junior clay bird terminator at age twelve…but the best was yet to come. The greatest and most unexpected moment I experienced as a young shooter occurred on Christmas morning a mere two years later. On that crisp winter morn in northeastern Ohio, my father entrusted me with one of the most legendary wheelguns ever produced…the Smith & Wesson Model 29 chambered in .44 magnum. I was 14 years old.
My “Dirty Harry” Callahan revolver wasn’t just an iconic weapon showcasing a supreme “coolness” level that was off the charts, it was a bond of trust between my dad and I that could never be rivaled. My father subsequently purchased an additional 8½-inch barreled S&W Model 629, and my firearms training progressed into the intricacies of reloading, recoil management, and handgun hunting for feral pigs and white tail deer. I don’t think my #1 dad ever realized the significance of the door he opened for me as he camouflaged the big Smith’s presentation box in festively patterned Christmas wrap and placed it under the tree way back in 1982, but the sense of responsibility and respect it instilled served as a template that was never lost on me during the remainder of my teenage years and throughout my adult life.
When Dad passed away several years ago, I came to the realization that the saga he began on that Christmas morning nearly four decades ago still had several chapters remaining to be written before its conclusion. The most recent addendum would feature the results of Smith & Wesson’s passion for designing and building big bore wheel guns that began all the way back in 1935. That year would see the introduction of the company’s first magnum revolver: the Model 27 chambered in .357 magnum. The weapon that would carry the torch in 2022 was a direct descendant of my old Model 29 .44 magnum: The Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR Hi-Viz…the most powerful production revolver on the planet. Of equal importance would be the setting in which this story would unfold…the place where it all began so many year ago… Home.
Never Say Never…To a Good Ol’ Fashioned Midwest White Tail Hunt!
After moving to the wild and rugged cascade mountains of Washington state twenty-six years ago, and a short time later to the otherworldly paradise on earth known as Alaska, I breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that I was leaving the complexities of Midwest white tail deer hunting behind in perpetuity. Gone forever were those initial harrowing and chaotic hours of an Ohio deer season’s first-morning Tet
offensive-like barrage of gunfire that rolled like thunder from the crowded forests surrounding the little patch of family-owned woods I hunted on. Never again would I be racked with the self-doubt I harbored regarding my tactical decision to perch, totally exposed in a tree-stand, rather than bunkered down in the relative safety of a foxhole or fighting position like my stern but experienced drill sergeants taught me to dig at Fort Leonard Wood.
When I arrived out west, I committed my off time to the pursuit of elk, mountain lion, and mule deer in the big timber and high mountain desert of the “Evergreen State” and moose, Dall sheep, mountain goats, bear, musk ox, and caribou in the breathtaking and otherworldly “land of the midnight sun.” That all changed, however, when one of my best friends from Anchorage retired and moved from the 49th state back to his family farm in Ohio. My friend, callsign “Caveman-1,” is a giant of a man with an equally proportioned heart and, while he would never broadcast it, is a retired Anchorage Police detective, U.S. Army Military Police Officer, and bronze star recipient. His wife and children are like family, and his mom’s callsign, “Mama-2,” says it all on the subject of where she rests in my heart. His farm, nestled in the rolling hills, green fields, and rustic hardwood forests of Amish country possesses “shloads” of acreage with the added bonus of being exposed to only a modicum of hunting pressure…even on the PTSD-inducing, shrapnel filled first day of gun season! After several years of polite invites (or what some would refer to as “dog-shaming!”), I agreed to make the trek home and see what all the fuss was about. The decision was a wise one.
This trek south to Ohio is now a four-year strong institution steeped in rich traditions, my favorite of which is the strategic placement of terrifying, potentially demon-possessed antique dolls by Caveman-1’s mom throughout the bedroom I stay in at their turn-of-the-century Victorian farmhouse. This custom began when I previously made it known, during a moment of “loose lips sink ships”/moonshine-infused pickle consumption weakness, that “I fear neither man nor beast.” Unfortunately, I followed this boast with the admission that “I have been known, from time to time, to reserve a deep-rooted level of suspicion (bordering on heightened anxiety) for clowns, mimes, and those dolls with the black, hungry eyes that follow you around the room like your soul is made of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.” Since that day, I have faced a hoard of “new and improved” unholy hell-spawn dolls and figurines on each stay. Luckily for me, I always bring my Max Von Sydow (the wise and brave priest from “The Exorcist”) action figure with me for protection against the forces of darkness mischievously scattered about my guest room! But we’re not here to discuss my inner most fears…. we’re here to talk huntin’. To wit: HANDGUN HUNTING, so let’s get crackin’!
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center 460 XVR Hi-Viz
I deployed to Caveman-1’s farm for “deer season 2022” with a wheelgun that can be unrepentantly characterized as the little brother to the “Guns of Navarone.” My go-to weapon for the hunt was the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460 XVR Hi-Viz chambered in .460 S&W Magnum. This X-frame big-game hunting masterpiece is capable of killing any mammal in North America and, for practiced big-bore pistol shooters, is effective to 200+ yards when equipped with the proper optic and stoked with quality ammunition.
The Performance Center 460 XVR Hi-Viz is a dedicated hunting handgun through and through. If you wondered what the acronym “XVR” stands for, the answer can be found at its business end after the trigger is pushed: “X-treme Velocity Revolver.” This “big iron” handgun is capable of launching top-shelf, bonded hunting projectiles at speeds approaching or exceeding 2,300 feet per second (fps). The .460 Smith and Wesson is touted as the highest velocity revolver cartridge in the world, and with a maximum chamber pressure of 65,000 psi, approaches those commonly associated with magnum rifle cartridges. It’s at this point that novice magnum handgun shooters may have concerns regarding whether they’ll ever be able to play the piano again or retain the ability to hold their as of yet unborn children in their own hands due to the .460’s raw, unmitigated power. Never fear…while the XVR’s kick isn’t as dainty or lady-like as Joy Behar’s reaction to finding out that Red Robin may cancel their “bottomless fries” policy, the mammoth revolver sports an aesthetically pleasing, yet practical and recoil dampening muzzle brake.
For shooters who don’t wish to bend the space/time continuum every time they push the XVR’s trigger and would relish the option to send lighter loads down range, there’s another spot of good news. The .460 S&W magnum hand-cannon currently under discussion is also capable of launching .45 Colt and .454 Casull from its ample barrel for those range days when you feel like being an under-achiever! This pistol also provides diverse sighting options for its operator as well. The 460 XVR Hi-Viz is factory outfitted with a Hi-Viz (shocker!) fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear sight. It also possesses an integral rail system for those who wish to install a red dot sight or powered optic. Additional features include an unfluted five-round cylinder, Performance Center tuned trigger, and recoil dampening synthetic grips. As previously mentioned, this gun is designed to be a big game destroying hand cannon and as such is no shrinking violet. It’s specifications match its intended purpose as a heavy duty hunting weapon, weighing in at nearly 4.9 pounds and sporting an overall length of 15.2 inches. If you have any trepidations regarding the XVR’s weights and measurements, just remember these words of wisdom from an expert:
Outfitting the 460 XVR-Hi-Viz With The Trijicon SRO Red Dot Optic!
Before we get to the venison and potatoes of the 460 XVR’s white tail exploits, here’s the inside track on its range performance and ability to withstand the trials and tribulations inflicted upon it by America’s last frontier. The story of the XVR’s accuracy, reliability, and back-country testing started nine months before departing the 49th state for the 17th. The S&W big game murder-machine’s original purpose in Alaska was to serve as my primary weapon on a spring of ‘22 Kenai Peninsula black and brown bear hunt.
I outfitted the big wheelgun with an optic that is renowned for both lightning fast pointability and a penchant for combating scope punishing recoil with concussion mitigating “what-for”: The Trijicon SRO red dot sight. If you’ve never used a no-power red dot optic for handgun hunting, there is only one definitive word to describe it: liberating! The clear sight picture and rapid pointing characteristics inherent to red-dot optics are advantages any lowland or close-quarter hunter appreciates. The SRO proved itself in Alaska during a previous black bear hunt in the deep, dark woods of the Kenai Peninsula during a successful solo hunt with a six-inch barreled Colt Anaconda in .44 magnum. The SRO’s rugged build and clear glass provide it with the finesse to make rapid follow-up shots in conditions ranging from sunny, blue-bird daylight to abysmal scenarios plagued with waning daylight and visibility-limiting climatic conditions. The SRO is a toughie, with the ability to absorb the massive recoil of a magnum handgun while still retaining zero and full-functionality. It is waterproof up to ten meters and for those whose paranoia level elevates a skosh when considering a battery powered pistol optic, rest easy in the knowledge that this bantam-tough red dot sight’s battery life is rated to three years with constant use in average temperatures at its #4 brightness level (out of eight illumination settings).
200-grain, 2,200 Feet Per Second Hornady Coffin Nails…the .460 XVR’s Big Game Problem Solvers!
Our Ursus Arctos (brown bear) and Ursus Americanus (black bear) adversaries have an uncanny ability for soaking up tremendous amounts of punishment. This, combined with the difficulty of tracking them into incredibly difficult terrain, dictates that we strive to limit our shooting distances to one-hundred yards and in. My hunting partners and I have found that while close and intermediate range bear hunting comes with a certain degree of risk, the payoff is a swift, humane harvest. In keeping with this credo, I zeroed the .460 XVR at 100 yards, fifty yards, and “Ruh-Roh-Raggy” yard line. That final measurement of distance could also be defined as “danger close,” and is roughly the distance in which it would not be considered untoward to ask your antagonist if they would like to freshen up their breath with a stick of gum or a Mento.
The “fists of justice” for the Performance Center’s big game murder-machine was its loadout…the 200-grain Hornady FTX. This cartridge achieves a muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps (packing a whopping 2,149 ft. lbs. of energy) and downrange speed of 1,715 fps at 100 yards (retaining 1,305 ft-lbs of energy). Hornady’s force multiplier for this cartridge is the FTX (Flex Tip) bullet. With its distinctive red polymer tip, the bullet’s design takes advantage of its aggressive aerodynamics, and high-antimony/single piece lead core bonded to a heavy jacket for maximum down-range terminal ballistics. The FTX’s range performance spoke for itself…and foreshadowed what was coming down the pike for anything in its path that would look attractive wrapped up and resting peacefully in our chest freezers! The group average (five shot groups/five strings of fire) for the Hornady FTX at fifty yards was .99 of an inch and 2.30 inches at 100 yards, with the best groups measuring at .85 of an inch and 2.25 inches, respectively.
Hornady’s 200-grain Monoflex Handgun Hunter round was also tested and scored 2.30-inch average groups at 50 yards and 3.89-inch average groups at 100 yards. The best groups at these yards measured 2.30 inches (50 yards) and 2.59 inches (100 yards). The Monoflex also utilizes a devastatingly effective bullet designed with hunters in mind. The round’s Monoflex bullet is comprised of a stout copper alloy and an expansion-controlling elastomer-filled cavity, which Hornady estimates will retain 95% of its weight at the end of its travels. Designed as a true “grocery-getter,” it achieves a muzzle velocity of 2,150 fps and down-range speeds of 1,701 fps at 100 yards.
In the name of science, I also sent a five-round string of fire out to the 200-yard line. The Hornady 200-grain FTX’s were on paper and knocked out a 6.18-inch group from this distance…not too shabby for a revolver equipped with one of Trijicon’s micro red dot sights. Considering that the heart-lung vital area of a bull moose is approximately the size of a basketball, if a 200-yard “Hail Mary” shot were
required, the weapon/optic combo would still be a formidable game-getter. I’m certain the 460 XVR Hi-Viz is capable of far treater accuracy at the 100-yard line and beyond when equipped with a powered optic. We weren’t gearing up for distance, however…we were prepping for close quarter hunting…and the Trijicon SRO was the optimal sight for what we had in store for her on the last frontier and in the lower ’48.
Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride: Triumph and Tragedy on the Last Frontier
As mentioned in the title of this segment, our Performance Center masterpiece and Trijicon SRO indeed triumphed at the range in both accuracy and reliability. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when our annual spring bear hunts were canceled due to “the requirements of the service.” Earlier in the year, I retired from law enforcement after nearly three decades of sowing the seeds of hate and discontent amongst nogoodniks and ne’er-do-wells both domestic and abroad. Nature abhors a vacuum, however, and out of the clear blue, I was presented with a Godfather-reminiscent “offer I couldn’t refuse” post-retirement career opportunity. Unfortunately, this once again meant I was a “noob” with zero vacation leave on the books…thus bringing our spring bear hunting ambitions to a screeching halt.
All was not lost, however. The S&W 460XVR had one last chance to prove itself in Alaska…this time in the Alaska range on our annual moose hunt. My hunting buddy (Kenai Jay) and I drove six hours to a remote airstrip near Tok, Alaska, then flew by Super Cub into a remote stretch of willow and birch choked countryside just below a formidable glacier that had been a tremendous producer during past seasons. In 2016, I harvested a lunker bull moose with the 460XVR’s big brother, the Performance Center Model S&W500, within five hundred yards of our spike camp. Unfortunately, we had about as much luck on this hunt as Michael Moore’s gastroenterologist did at convincing him that five quarter pounders with cheese and half of a peanut butter pie were not healthy breakfast entrée choices. We hunted hard for two weeks without calling in a single bull. There was a silver lining at the end of the expedition, however. This outing gave us an opportunity to field-test outerwear, footwear, and optics from Sitka Gear, Kenetrek, and Vortex under atrocious weather and terrain conditions without a single failure. More importantly, we subjected the 460XVR and Trijicon SRO to torrential downpours, dirt, gritty, wind-driven glacial silt, and unrelenting exposure to the elements and both passed all tests corrosion-free and mission-capable.
With zero seconds on the clock and the final 49th state score reading: Moose and Bear 2, Rikk and his Performance Center bunker-buster 0, it looked like 2022 would be just another sad “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” tale. But WAIT. There was one final chance at redemption (and some deer sausage gravy on the breakfast table) for “Team Rambo/Smith & Wesson 460XVR Hand-Cannon.” To tell this tale, we must travel over 4,000 miles southeast to a briar patch besieged clearing on Caveman 1’s farm that would be the final proving ground for the big pistol and Trijicon SRO.
Two Bobs and a Buck: The final Chapter in the 460XVR/SRO Saga!
It was early December and I was boots dry in my old stomping grounds of Eastern Ohio. I arrived at the farm on the final evening before the white tail opener and the Caveman-1 crew were there in force. After much hello-ing, hugging, and maybe a wee drop or two of homemade white lightnin’, it was off to bed with my satanic bedside companions (strategically placed about the room by Caveman’s mom) in anticipation of a zero-dark-thirty wakeup. We all woke up at the crack of day and infiltrated our various areas of operation. It was gun season… day one…and I settled into my stand approximately 45 minutes before dawn and broke out a new secret weapon against cold hands: the Sitka Gear “Incinerator Muff.” I learned in short order that it was a game-changer for my ever-icy paws and would classify it as a must-have for still hunters who wish to keep their hands (and more importantly, trigger fingers) warm and pliable in extremely low temperatures.
The morning came and went without a single visit from a buck. I was, however, lucky with ladies! My hide was visited by multiple does throughout the remainder of the day, several of which felt safe and comfortable enough to bed down. I also had the opportunity to observe a half-dozen bobcats pass within a stone’s throw…none of which, surprisingly, busted me! As I previously lamented, good fortune was not something in abundance during this year’s previous hunts, but as dusk rapidly encroached, Lady Luck finally arrived with a wink, a nod, and a smooch on the cheek. She also positioned two newly-arrived bobcats in strategic positions within my field of fire and, through some cosmic act of charity, gifted me with the temporary clairvoyance to don my hearing protection prior to even seeing a hint of a shootable buck. My bobcat visitors (and soon to be “partners-in-crime”) didn’t pass through my field of fire as the others had, but rather camped out…possibly in a bid to ambush a rabbit or last-minute Charlie squirrel foraging for corn. Whatever their intentions were, they did me a solid, because the previously mentioned deficit of bucks in front of my hide ceased and desisted a mere three minutes later.
Just after putting on my shooting headphones, an eight point buck strolled out of the briar patch to my right. In an act of pure luck and fabulous timing, the white tail’s travels came to a screeching halt immediately in front of my hide thanks to his concern over the two bobcats bracketing his intended path. My newfound feline allies caused the buck such an elevated degree of consternation, he didn’t hear the metal-on-metal sound (still disconcertingly loud, even with my attempt to muffle it between my Sitka Gear “Incinerator” flip-mittens) of the .460’s hammer creeping slowly back to its fully locked “let’s get it ON” terminus. Nor did the buck sense the big pistol come to bear and point in on his vitals. The Performance Center murder machine thundered once and the 200-grain Hornady FTX, rocketing out of the .460’s barrel at approximately 2,200 FPS nearly separated the buck’s heart from its wiring harness. The 65 yard distance might as well have been 25 feet, and thanks to the pinpoint accuracy of the Smith & Wesson/Trijicon duo, the buck pitched forward and did a single somersault…never to move again. A perfect, uber-humane harvest with nearly zero meat spoilage successfully prosecuted by a S&W Performance Masterpiece and its force multipliers: the Trijicon SRO RDS and a single, devastating Hornady FTX bullet. Later that evening, back at the farmhouse, we celebrated the buck’s sacrifice with perfectly sauteed steak-tip reminiscent strips of his heart, a splash of home-crafted bourbon, and the shared camaraderie of world-class friends!
Final Thoughts on the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 460XVR Hi-Viz/Trijicon SRO Duo
The Smith and Wesson Performance Center 460XVR Hi-Viz is a handgun hunter’s dream weapon. From its flat-shooting/hard hitting ballistics to its ergonomics and striking appearance, it is truly a big-bore masterpiece. The action is Teflon-smooth and the trigger is consistent and tuned perfectly for those who desire one that perfectly balances target-shooting accuracy with safety-minded hunting/outdoor use. The big revolver’s profile is impressive, if not intimidating. The weapon’s massive power and rifle-like ballistics down range are extraordinary. While it seems counter-intuitive, given its moniker as “the most powerful production revolver in the world,” the Performance Center XVR Hi-Viz exhibits handling characteristics reminiscent of its N-Frame .44 magnum cousins. Phenomenal accuracy, combined with the bonus gift of manageable recoil (thanks to its up-engineered muzzle brake), are additional force multipliers in the XVR Hi-Viz’s “made for hunting” portfolio.
This is normally the section of the article where I not only gush about the positive attributes of the firearm and optic being evaluated, but also point out what my well-versed hunting/shooting companions and I believe could be changed or improved upon to make the weapon system better. On the subject of the deficiencies noted for the Performance Center X-Frame/Trijicon SRO combo, I’m going to depart from my “college words” for a moment and just say: “I’ve got nothin’.” The S&W 460XVR Hi-Viz/Trijicon SRO dynamic duo were subjected to horrific conditions in the 49th. From catastrophic climatic conditions and bump/drop tests common to “fly-out” hunts into the Alaskan bush to several hundred of its concussive rounds being sent down range, the pistol/optic combo survived with unerring performance and finesse. The big wheelgun survived both the Alaska and Ohio phases of its testing in ‘like-new’ condition and the optic remained zeroed to tolerances that resulted in a laser beam accurate heart-shot on a deer that was well over half a football field away. If you are a handgun hunter, or interested in becoming one, this revolver/optic/ammunition triumvirate is uber-worthy of your consideration.
Simply put, if Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and Chuck Norris appeared in a vision and issued me an ultimatum dictating that the only handgun/optic combination I could ever hunt with again would be the S&W 460XVR Hi-Viz and Trijicon SRO, I would simply say: “Awesome. You guys are the best!”
Smith & Wesson 460XVR Performance Center Revolver
- Caliber: 460 S&W Magnum
- Capacity: 5 rds.
- Action: Single/double action
- Overall Length: 15.2 in.
- Barrel Length: 7.5 in.
- Weight: 78.1 oz.
- Grip: Synthetic
- Front Sight: Hi-Viz Fiber optic green
- Rear sight: Adjustable White Outline
- Cylinder Material: Stainless steel
- Barrel Material: Stainless steel
- Optic Ready: Integral scope base
- Muzzle Brake: Yes
- Cylinder: Unfluted
- MSRP: $2,009
- Contact: Smith & Wesson