The S&W Fighting 500

Is This Finally 'Enough' Gun?

I should receive very few arguments about using “enough gun” about this little test. People write, recite, quote, banter and female-dog over the correct gun to carry for your personal defense. It’s too big, too small, too uncomfortable, carrying it will require an adjustment from a bonebender and more are just a few quips from the fountain-of-knowledge folks. Oh yeah, all that may be correct in your mind’s eye — but you won’t be able to argue I didn’t use enough gun.

SAW’s Cannon

I had the chance to fire the Smith & Wesson 500 in its long-barreled version right after it’s introduction. The Smith & Wesson folks upped the ante on the big bore factory produced handgun market with the introduction of the .500 cartridge and the revolver that matched it.

Big handguns are nothing new. Jurras, Reeder, Freedom Arms, the awesome Linbaughs and master builder Hamilton Bowen have been producing these handheld boomers for many years. The SAW 500 however was a departure in that they made a lot of them. Initial orders for that first long-barreled version reached near the ten thousand-unit mark, and has gone higher since. That’s a lot of guns no matter what the caliber.

But, I’ve never been much of a long barreled handgun guy, preferring the shorter models and usually opting for the 4″ option when it comes to handguns for general use. With the introduction of the 4″ version of the 500, it begged to be taken-to-task in the defensive environment. So, thinking it was a good idea, we did it.

Sparks holster represent current trend of rear sight
and trigger guard protection.

To School

I took the 4″ 500 to school and to the range, much to the dismay of those around me on the firing line. I had about all the fun I could stand in a defensive handgun class, shooting a cross-section of ammo, consisting of mostly 270-grain and 350-grain CorBon .500 Special ammo. No, I didn’t shoot the CorBon .500 magnums. You are welcome to that one any time you choose. Although I must admit I did sneak a few of the big magnums in as people around me were starting to shoot better groups with 1911s than I was managing with the .500. Those .500 Mags cured that problem straight away.

I carried the revolver in a current rendition of a 1956 F.O. Baird speed holster, done-up nicely by Haugen Handgun Leather; and a Milt Sparks strong-side belt holster. I shot the gun in double action and loaded cartridges from my pocket. There’s no HKS speedloaders for it yet. Whatever the comments, pro or con, the large cartridges come in handy when loading while using arthritis-impeded fingers. During the class, those fat bullets put .50-caliber holes though the bad guy cardboard targets very nicely, thank you very much.

The muzzle blast affected the students around me — and unfortunately not always in a positive mode. Sorry guys. But it was exciting for all involved in the general area. I got whacked in the face twice by bullet jacket bits while firing the revolver. And once, I even got the pleasure of using tweezers to remove a small piece of jacket embedded in my face. Not to worry though, the other guy got hit worse.

The S&W 500 with the .500 specials is manageable, but you must pay attention to details. Firing it is an excellent way to practice proper sight picture and alignment, as well as consistent double action manipulation skills and follow though. Or, you’ll be vividly confirming a preignition
push — or what we laymen might call jerking the snot out of the trigger. The grounded empty brass resembling small five gallon drums is a breeze to police up, and no 9mm brass hogs tried to steal my brass. Although I confess I had to be careful not to take theirs in the form of two or three empty nine cases scooped up inside my bucket-like brass cases. They were big laying on the ground there.

Tactical Applications

Inside the tactical simulators the 500 was quite a force. With the potential of fire — as well as gunfire — I must say the brazen bad men went down quickly as the targets dropped when released from the retention magnets. Oh yeah, those same retention magnets shattered into small pieces to avoid another incoming round from the 500.

After the first target was engaged, all the other targets/threats inside the structure surrendered to avoid potential building collapse from over-pressured air in those confined environments. In short, everything ran away when the 500 went off. Oh yeah, it was loud inside the shoot house, even with ear protection. Just so you know.

Home Defense?

It might be just a bit much gun to shoot repeatedly inside the home. You could do it, but appointments with the hearing specialist might be in order after a few rounds. Your opponent should, I imagine, be properly psychologically intimidated by the gunfire belched out by the 500 in the hallway. That, or he was probably deaf to start with.

The 500 will shoot through walls inside your home, and I’m not sure hitting the target first will make much difference, other than the target will have a hole too. Concrete or brick walls are actually not much of a challenge for the 500, and should your opponent go to hardened cover, an extra round or two may be required to break down the barrier in question. Not to worry though, just hang tough and keep firing. No, really.

Left to right, .500 Magnum, .500 Special,.44 Magnum, .41 Magnum,
357 Magnum, .38 Special.

Practical Vehicle Defense

Without question the 500 will shoot though car doors, maybe too well. Immediate personal defense issues to include firing the 500 while inside the car proper — especially with the windows up — will be, how shall I say this … quite loud. Suffice to say, if your opponent is on the other side of the vehicle door, and should you shoot low through the door, the round will go though and you’ll get a hit. Trust me.

Bystanders should be a consideration while discharging the 500 in the public domain. Is that delicate enough? Without sounding cynical, I saw a photo of a man who killed an elephant with the SAW500. So I equate that to being guarded about the discharge of the 500 on Main Street. You may as well have a .308 rifle in your hand, if you get my drift here.

Concealed Carry

The SAW 500 may be a bit big for concealed carry in Texas in August, but should do nicely in Livingston, Montanain December. A “big gun to carry” might be an understatement, but then again I never talked to anybody who was in a gunfight who didn’t long for a bigger gun if there was going to be a “gunfight do over.” You know the adage, “For carrying, none to small, for fighting none to big.” This is the big version of fighting with handguns.

.500 Magnum and two “Special” Cor-bon loads.

The Ammunition

Without reservation CorBon and the Pi guys are a primary source of ammo for the 500. For this testing rodeo I received a batch of their new .500 Special, and it’s named correctly. It is special and the versions I tested were very functional, as per CorBon’s style. The two types of .500 Special fired were a 275-grain BarnesX with a velocity of 1,350 fps and a 350 JHP with a exposed ring of lead surrounding the hollow point opening, producing 1,350 fps. I’d wager both might be significantly effective as a personal defense round. How about you?

The .500 Special is a bit of a relief from the full magnums, and allows for more firing — hence more fun — before an adjustment of hands and elbows is required by your new friend the chiropractor.

Baird rig by Haugen Handgun Leather.


I would personally like a 4″ S&W 500 without the compensator. With my bad ears, the muzzle blast and concussion still makes ‘em sound like the bells of St. Mary’s, even with maximum ear protection. It may be that the .500 Special would allow for practice and would, in fact, be good for hunting animals of moderate size based on the shooter’s skills. Should I ever go to Alaska again, the SAW 500 in a Haugen chest-mounted shoulder holster could come in handy should I find myself under a large Ursus Arctos or such.

A friend of ours, Ms. Jaynee, recently found herself under an ATV flipped on top of her by a Bison. Yup, the docile wooly of the western plains. As it got complicated there, I’m sure a 500 might have come in handy to deter her would be-attempted-assassin in a fur coat. The Smith & Wesson 500 may be to much gun for personal defense, but then again, just might be based on what I was defending myself from.

Is it “too much gun?” I’d imagine your perspective on the matter might be influenced by the situation. Like whether or not it was you under that ATV while that bison was deciding whether to stomp you or not. But whatever the case — you can’t argue I didn’t use “enough” gun. Right?

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