The 500 S&W: Too Much Of A Good Thing?
I first became aware of the cartridge when Pete Pi (owner of Cor-Bon) called to discuss the cartridge and the possibility of a test barrel for it in an Encore, as the revolver was not yet produced. Pete supplied the reamer and SSK made the first 500 S&W barrels. The second went to Pete and I still have the first. A pressure test barrel went to S&W at the same time.
Initially I used bullets intended for the .50 AE, and Barnes bullets furnished by Pete. Frankly, the S&W was very impressive compared to larger .50-caliber cartridges I had experience with. It worked with less case capacity and higher pressures to achieve very impressive ballistics, accuracy, muzzleblast and recoil. It was obvious this cartridge was going take a monster of a revolver to handle it. Incidentally the first animal taken with the 500 was a cow elk which Ed Brown videoed for me. Short shot, maybe 40 yards, with an instant down and tremendously impressive damage. My fist would go through the hole in the rib cage exit. Since then, the big S&W has taken literally every big game species.
My first shot with the revolver was from a 4″ model loaded with the 440-gr. Cor-Bon max load, while stooped-over in a small test tunnel. At the shot, I wondered what the hell I had done. The awkward position and enclosed tunnel magnified the blast and recoil characteristics —which don’t really need magnifying.
The long-barreled revolver is massive in size and weight but consistent with its power and recoil. The 4″ version is just as massive, but shorter and a little lighter. John Ross (author of Unintended Consequences) is the most knowledgeable individual on the 500 revolver and loading for it (john-ross.net/handloading.htm). Other reliable sources are the load manuals by recognized sources of published loading manuals. I’ve seen some internet data I would be very leery of. For non-handloaders, a very wide variety of ammo is marketed. For handloaders you probably won’t live long enough to try everything.
JR liked the revolver enough to have S&W make a 500-gun run of a special model for him which he sells. It’s really a relatively lightweight 5″-barreled gun without a brake. Frankly, I find it better balanced than the 4″ factory version and really can’t see any difference in recoil between the two with the loads I’ve tried. The recoil of the max loads are probably in excess of my ability to detect the differences between the two guns. Frankly, I like it better than the factory versions, but it is still a real handful with heavy loads. JR has developed cast bullets up to a bit over 700 grains, and data for them, which gives good accuracy and relatively mild pressures and recoil.
By J.D. Jones
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