Monster Magnums


The S&W X-frame revolver — excellent sights, trigger and accuracy — and a real handful to boot.

Monster size, weight, power, penetration, muzzleblast, recoil, accuracy and great fun are at-hand, as it were, for those capable of using these beasts. Make no mistake, the traditional 97-pound weakling shouldn’t even think of shooting them. The .500 is the “baddest,” closely followed by the .460. Strength of the individual shooting them is important. If you aren’t strong enough, hold the gun steady while squeezing off an off-hand shot accurately; they are little more than a serious handicap to the hunter.

Weighing in at around 72 ounces, it takes a strong individual to hold them and squeeze off a shot. Add a scope and the weight goes up. But without a scope, few are capable of matching the inherent accuracy of the guns. Physical strength in handling the recoil — particularly the .500 with heavy bullets and max loads — is important. Taking a hit to your forehead during recoil from one of these guns is an extremely unpleasant and often costly experience, likewise, eating an improperly mounted scope. You have to be a match for the gun physically, and more than a match for it mentally. Any tiny fear creeping into your mind about what is going to happen after the fuse is lit and I guarantee a screw up of one sort or another is in the make.

The shorty .500 with a dot sight, my favorite.


Their real purpose is plain and simple: killing big game effectively, as well as being profitable and increasing the status of the manufacturer. Do we need them for deer? Hell no, but they work fine on them, and the power and exceptional revolver accuracy factor adds range to a revolver’s effectiveness. When heavy, big-boned animals are the targets, then big, heavy, strong, high-velocity bullets come into their own. The .500 won’t kill them any deader than a .44 Mag, but generally will do it a lot quicker and more effectively. Figure elk and the bigger bears are where the Monster Magnums come into their own. African game such as kudu, similar sized and larger critters, including the big five, have all fallen to these guns. Certainly this is not unexpected, as the .44 and others have taken them too.

Herb Belin, Director, Emerging Technology, is the most visible of the folks at S&W, behind development of the X-frame revolver. Peter Pi, owner of CorBon, was the ammunition guy. Jamison made the first cartridge cases. I believe the first test barrels came from SSK, in the form of Encore pistol barrels used in initial load development. The first animal killed with the .500 S&W was a cow elk I pulled the trigger on. It was a short-range shot and was instantly effective. I wish I could show the photo of the exit in the offside rib cage — with my fist not filling the hole.

The .460 and .500 beat any variety of .30-30 for punch, and possibly headaches.


Call the .500 a fat boy and the .460 a skinny lad. Everything else being equal the X-frame picks up a bit of weight, as not quite as much metal is carved out of it. Generally speaking, the fat boy runs out of velocity quicker than the skinny, faster .460. The .500 packs a bigger punch up close, and the .460 has a longer reach. Using lighter bullets, the .460 is more pleasant to shoot than the .500, but a touch more demandinwwg of bullets. On truly big game, the .500 has the edge, with the .460 (if loaded with correct bullets) a close second.

Both put out around 3,000 FPE at the muzzle, which is a somewhat misleading way to compare cartridges, but puts both of them in the muzzle energy class of .270 Winchester, .308 and .444 Marlin rifles. Obviously, the ballistic inefficient pistol bullets simply cannot compete with the vastly more efficient rifle bullets at any distance, although, at close range the larger diameter handgun bullets may well be more effective. Both cartridges are very versatile, even in sub-sonic, suppressed rifles with heavy bullets.

If you want a bit of history on the Monsters, go to That will get you to John’s website and to the best information I can recommend on the history, development and loading of the Monster Magnums. I firmly believe John Ross knows more about the .500 S&W ammunition than anyone. You also might recognize him as the author of Unintended Consequences!

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