The .460 S&W Magnum cartridge is a large caliber revolver cartridge, designed alongside the Smith & Wesson Model 460. The .460 S&W Magnum is a favourable cartridge for hunting purposes, and is the "highest velocity cartridge" that Smith & Wesson use.
The .460 S&W Magnum was based on the large caliber .454 Casull cartridge, a popular and powerful hunting cartridge. The .454 Casull was significantly more powerful than its predecessors, hence the majority of arms the utilise the .460 S&W Magnum can use any of the less powerful, former cartridges (ie the .45 Colt, .45 Scholfield and .454 Casull).
The length of the .460 S&W Magnum is utilised to completely fill the space in the Smith & Wesson X-frame cylinder, with the majority of the cartridge filled with more powder than the former cartridges. This extra length prevents the .460 S&W Magnum from being used in certain rifles (which are set to fire with specific cartridge lengths) despite the fact that the .460 S&W Magnum produces muzzle velocities comparable to most rifle cartridges.
The .460 S&W Magnum, when firing the heaviest (395gr (26g) hard cast) bullet, produces a muzzle velocity of 1,525ft/s (465m/s). Yet when this cartidge fires the significantly lighter 200gr (13g), Corbon DX bullet (the factory standard) the muzzle velocity is increased to 2,300ft/s (700m/s).
Other bullets used with the .460 S&W Magnum cartridge are:
- 275gr (18g) Corbon DX - 1,825ft/s (555m/s)
- 300gr (19g) Jacketed Flat-Nose - 2,060ft/s (630m/s)
- 360gr (23g) Lead Long Flat-Nose - 1,900ft/s (580m/s)
The case itself can contain a pressure of, on average, 65,000psi. This is a figure that many rifle cartridges would be expected to reach but will vary with each bullet used.
The .460 S&W Magnum is "the highest velocity cartridge" that Smith & Wesson use in their revolvers. It is important to point out that this is not the most powerful cartridge that Smith & Wesson use, with the .500 S&W Magnum taking that honor (used with the Smith & Wesson Model 500). Both the .460 and .500 S&W Magnum cartridges were designed as a joint project between Smith & Wesson and ammunition specialists Hornady.
Some critics of the .460 S&W Magnum criticise the cartridge for the fact that it is recommended (and sold) by Smith & Wesson with the 200gr Corbon DX bullet, while the caliber size would point to the .460 S&W Magnum being a powerful "moose and elk gun". Most, however, conceed that the larger bullet sizes make the .460 S&W Magnum a better cartridge than most.