The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum

By Chuck Hawks

.500 S&W
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

In 2003 Smith & Wesson introduced the .50 S&W Magnum revolver cartridge and the companion X-frame double action revolver. Cor-Bon did the cartridge development work and is providing the factory loaded ammunition for the new caliber. The combo is intended to appeal to big game hunters (or perhaps hunters with big pretensions).

Cor-Bon is offering three factory loads for the new cartridge. The "moderate" load drives a 275 grain Barnes X-Bullet at a claimed muzzle velocity (MV) of 1665 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 1688 ft. lbs. This load is presumably intended for deer and other medium size game animals. I suspect that it is the only factory load most .50 S&W Magnum owners will ever shoot. With almost twice the ME of typical .44 Magnum loads, it is no picnic to shoot.

Then there is the option of a 400 grain Hawk JSP bullet at a claimed MV of 1675 fps with ME of 2500 ft. lbs. That ought to get anyone's attention! This is presumably the best choice for large game, from elk on up.

Last is a 440 grain hard cast flat-point bullet at a claimed MV of 1625 fps and ME of 2580 ft. lbs. This bullet is not intended to expand, or to expand very little, and should offer the deepest penetration of the three bullets. Why Cor-Bon went with hard cast lead instead of a full metal jacket I have no idea. Be sure to buy your Outers "Foul Out" electro-chemical bore cleaning system and plenty of "Lead Out Plus" cleaning solution before shooting this load.

Here is some reloading data courtesy of the Hodgdon Powder Company:

Starting Load - 275 grain Barnes XPB bullet, 42.0 grains of H-110 powder, MV 1965 fps, 43,900 PSI.

Maximum Load - 275 Barnes XPB bullet, 45.0 grains of H-110 powder, MV 2080 fps, 49,300 PSI.

COL = 2.085", bullet diameter = .500".

Starting Load - 400 grain Sierra JSP bullet, 34.0 grains of H-110 powder, MV 1514 fps, 38,000 PSI.

Maximum Load - 400 grain Sierra JSP bullet, 40.0 grains of H-110 powder, MV 1721 fps, 49,700 PSI.

COL = 2.050", bullet diameter = .500".

These loads were developed in a 10" test barrel using Starline cases and Winchester LR primers. NOTE that Starline .500 S&W brass is specifically designed for use with large rifle primers. Large rifle primers should not be used in brass designed for large pistol primers, as the primers may protrude from the case when fully seated, causing an unsafe condition.

Note: A full length article about the .500 Smith & Wesson Mag. can be found in its entirety on the Handgun Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2005, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.