500 magnum wound

500 magnum wound DEFAULT

Big Horn Armory Model 89

In 2008, Big Horn Armory owner Greg Buchel desired to build a rifle strong enough to shoot the 500 S&W Magnum cartridge in a John Browning-style lever gun. Greg knew the slim and sleek Winchester Model 92 would be too small for such an endeavor but wanted the rifle’s action smaller than the big-bore Winchester 1886.

So Buchel did what so many others before him had done — he designed his own action, calling it the Model 89 (halfway between Winchesters’ ’92 and 1886). By using 17-4PH stainless steel, a steel three times stronger than originally used by Winchester, it worked. The Model 89 mid-sized action allowed adjustments to be made, moving pivot pins for carriers, release points for cartridge guides and other critical internal parts for a correct geometry to cycle the 500 S&W Magnum cartridge.

Long story short, Buchel and his group of engineers were successful. On my Model 89 I fitted a Trijicon RM06 red dot sight on the sight rail, as my primary sight. The Skinner Sight peep sight installed on the bolt of the rifle maximizes sight distance to the front sight, providing another tough, durable sighting system.

Sours: https://gunsmagazine.com/ammo/the-magnificent-500-sw-magnum/

In 2004, at the SHOT trade show, Smith and Wesson unveiled their .500 Magnum cartridge in a special, long cylinder/long frame revolver specially designed for the oversized cartridge. This was dubbed the "X-frame" revolver and an 8-3/8" barrel with a muzzle brake was the original configuration.

The new cartridge was ballyhooed as the most powerful revolver cartridge in the world. S&W's intention was to make it impossible for other manufacturers to chamber their existing revolvers for the cartridge, since the cylinders would not be long enough to accommodate the .500 cartridge. In this they were successful, as (to the best of my knowledge at this time) only Taurus has bothered to create a new revolver--a lengthened version of their Raging Bull model--designed for the .500 S&W cartridge.

While largely successful in restricting competition from most other handgun manufacturers, they also severely limited the popularity of the .500 Magnum cartridge, since a selection of guns to shoot it was not available and many shooters prefer not to purchase S&W products. (See The Dark Side of Smith & Wesson for that story.)

Another problem for S&W was the limited appeal of their new X-frame revolver. Anyone not interested in a .50 caliber revolver was automatically excluded from being a potential Model 500 customer and the very limited market appeal increased the per unit production cost of the gun.

At least a partial solution to that problem appeared at the 2005 SHOT Show, where S&W introduced a .45 caliber version of the X-frame revolver. This fired a new cartridge based on the .454 Casull case lengthened to fit the X-gun's cylinder. Strangely, since they were attempting to appeal to a wider market, they named the new cartridge the .460 Magnum, implying that it is an odd caliber, which it is not.

To this day, many handgun shooters do not realize the .460 S&W shoots standard .45 caliber revolver bullets. The X-frame revolver chambered for the new cartridge became the S&W Model 460 and, like the Model 500, it was introduced with an 8-3/8" barrel with a muzzle brake.

The .460 and .500 are hunting cartridges, pure and simple. Unfortunately, their outsize recoil and muzzle blast keep the vast majority of handgunners from shooting them accurately. Since correct bullet placement, not raw power, is the key to humane, one shot kills of big game animals, the .460 and .500 should be attempted only by the most experienced and recoil tolerant handgun hunters. Even for these individuals, it takes practice to master these cartridges.

The .460 S&W Magnum

Designed by Hornady at the behest of Smith & Wesson for their oversize X-frame revolver, the .460 Magnum actually uses .452" diameter bullets. This is good for reloaders, since many bullets from many bullet makers are available for the .45 Colt and .454 Casull cartridges and the misnamed .460 S&W Magnum can shoot them all. Hornady, Federal, Winchester and Cor-Bon offer factory loaded .460 Magnum ammunition. Depending on the manufacturer, factory loaded bullet weights range from 200 grains to 395 grains.

The .460 Magnum was designed specifically as a handgun hunting cartridge for CXP2 (deer size) and CXP3 (elk size) big game and that is its sole purpose. It has no rational personal defense, pistol match or plinking applications. Factory loaded ammunition is offered in the various manufacturers' hunting ammo lines.

The .460's claim to fame is that it kicks a bit less than the .500 Magnum, making it easier with which to hit. Unfortunately, the muzzle blast is ear splitting, made even worse by the revolver's muzzle brake, which promotes flinching. The .460 kicks appreciably harder than the .454 Casull or .480 Ruger, which are for hunting the same CXP2 and CXP3 game animals.

The .460 uses a straight, rimmed case with a 0.478" outside diameter. It is 1.80" long and the rim diameter is 0.520". The maximum cartridge overall length (COL) is 2.275". A large rifle size primer is used for ignition.

The extraordinarily high SAAMI specified maximum average pressure (MAP) is 65,000 psi, the same as the MAP of the .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle cartridge! However, cartridges load to this pressure are often difficult to extract from a revolver, so the Speer Reloading Manual #14 recommends holding pressure to no more than 55,000 psi for reliable operation.

The .500 S&W Magnum

The .500 Magnum was designed by Cor-Bon specifically for the S&W X-frame revolver. Until the introduction of the .460 Magnum a year later, the .500 was the only cartridge offered in the X-frame gun.

Like the .460, the .500 is a purpose built, big game hunting cartridge. Hornady, Federal, Winchester and Cor-Bon offer factory loaded .500 Magnum ammunition in their handgun hunting lines. Depending on the manufacturer, factory loaded bullet weights range from 275 grains to 500 grains.

Although the Model 500 X-frame revolver is long, heavy and massive, the recoil of the .500 Magnum cartridge remains punishing. It sounds like a magnum caliber rifle when fired and, even in full daylight, a couple feet of flame visibly jets from the muzzle.

It is kind of interesting to watch a newcomer to the cartridge shoot for the first time. Groups typically look like shotgun buckshot patterns and "grounders" (bullets hitting the ground in front of the target frame) caused by severe flinching are common, even at the relatively short range of 25 yards.

The .500 S&W uses a straight, rimmed case. It measures 0.530" in outside diameter with a 0.560 rim diameter and a length of 1.620". The COL is 2.250" and the bullet diameter is .500". A large rifle primer is used for ignition. The SAAMI specified maximum average pressure (MAP) is 60,000 psi. As with the .460, cartridges loaded to maximum pressure can create extraction problems in revolvers, so most factory ammunition and sensible reloads are intentionally kept somewhat below the MAP for reliable operation.

The Comparison

We will compare the .460 Magnum and the .500 Magnum in velocity, kinetic energy, trajectory, sectional density, bullet cross-sectional area and recoil. Federal Cartridge offers factory loaded ammunition and provides full ballistic information for both cartridges, so we will use Federal loads for comparison.

To represent the .460 Magnum we will use Federal's Premium load with a 300 grain Swift A-Frame bullet at 1750 fps. Full power.500 Magnum ammunition will be represented by Federal's Premium load using a 325 grain Swift A-Frame bullet at 1800 fps. These are typical hunting and field loads for their respective calibers. Federal ballistics for both calibers are taken in 8.4" vented test barrels that simulate 8-3/8" revolver barrels and we will use their figures in this comparison.


Velocity is important for initiating bullet expansion and it is the most important factor in calculating kinetic energy. Higher velocity flattens trajectory, making hitting easier at extended ranges and particularly at unknown ranges in the field. Here are the velocities in feet per second (fps) of our comparison loads at the muzzle (MV), 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards.

�        .460 Mag, 300 gr. A-Frame: MV 1750 fps, 1630 fps at 25 yards, 1510 fps at 50 yards, 1400 fps at 75 yards, 1300 fps at 100 yards.

�        .500 Mag, 325 gr. A-Frame: MV 1800 fps, 1680 fps at 25 yards, 1560 fps at 50 yards, 1450 fps at 75 yards, 1350 fps at 100 yards.

As you can see, the .500 load is slightly faster at all ranges, from the muzzle to 100 yards. This bodes well for the .500 in terms of energy and trajectory.


Kinetic energy is defined as the ability to do work. In this case, the "work" involved is primarily powering bullet penetration and expansion. Both are, of course, necessary for lethality. Here are the energy figures in foot-pounds (ft. lbs.) for our comparison loads from the muzzle (ME) to 100 yards.

�        .460 Mag, 300 gr. A-Frame: ME 2040 ft. lbs, 1760 ft. lbs. at 25 yards, 1510 ft. lbs. at 50 yards, 1300 ft. lbs. at 75 yards, 1125 ft. lbs. at 100 yards.

�        .500 Mag, 325 gr. A-Frame: ME 2340 ft. lbs, 2030 ft. lbs. at 25 yards, 1755 ft. lbs. at 50 yards, 1515 ft. lbs. at 75 yards, 1315 ft. lbs. at 100 yards.

Based on these figures, the .500 Magnum deserves its ferocious reputation. It generates substantially more kinetic energy than the .460 at all ranges. This should translate to superior killing power in the field.


It should be remembered that, in the field, game is not shot right off the muzzle, so a relatively flat trajectory is important to handgun hunters. For field use, I would suggest a 100 yard zero for both of these cartridges, which should mean a mid-range trajectory (maximum bullet rise) of about 2.5-3 inches between the muzzle and 100 yards. This will give a useful range of about 125 yards before a big game hunter needs to consider holding over the designed point of bullet impact.

Federal Cartridge bases their handgun trajectory information on a 25 yard zero and for comparison purposes we will use Federal's trajectory figures. Here are the Federal trajectory figures (in inches) for our selected loads, based on a 25 yard zero from a revolver with iron sights.

�        .460 Mag, 300 gr. A-Frame: +/- 0" at 25 yards, +0.1" at 50 yards, -0.8" at 75 yards, -2.8" at 100 yards.

�        .500 Mag, 325 gr. A-Frame: +/- 0" at 25 yards, +0.1" at 50 yards, -0.6" at 75 yards, -2.4" at 100 yards.

These figures show that, using Federal Premium factory loads, the .500 shoots slightly flatter than the .460 out to 100 yards. The difference, however, is small (only 0.4" at 100 yards) and for big game hunting purposes can be ignored. Note that both of these cartridges shoot flat enough, even with a 25 yard zero, that the big game hunter has no need to hold over for a heart/lung shot at 100 yards, even if the game is a relatively small deer or a pronghorn antelope.

Sectional Density

Sectional Density is the ratio of a bullet's weight (in pounds) to its diameter squared (in inches). SD is important when comparing cartridges and loads because, other factors (such as impact velocity and bullet design) being equal, the bullet with the greatest SD will penetrate deeper, creating a longer wound cavity and increasing tissue destruction. Obviously, however, if the bullet penetrates all the way through the target, wounding ceases.

The actual bullet diameter for the .460 S&W is .452" and the actual bullet diameter for the .500 S&W is .500" Here are the SD's for our selected bullets.

�        .460 Mag, 300 gr. bullet: .210 SD

�        .500 Mag, 325 gr. bullet: .186 SD

As you can see, the 300 grain .45 caliber bullet has a substantial advantage over the 325 grain .50 caliber bullet in sectional density. Since the two A-Frame bullets are of similar construction, we can assume that our comparison .460 load should penetrate deeper than the .500 load.

However, while 300 grains is a heavy bullet for a .45 caliber handgun, 325 grains would be considered a medium weight bullet for a .50 caliber handgun. Among the heaviest bullets offered for the .500 S&W are the Hornady XTP (jacketed hollow point) and Cor-Bon HC (hard cast lead) offerings, both weighing a massive 500 grains. These .50 caliber, 500 grain bullets boast a SD of .286.

Cross-Sectional Area

Other things (such as bullet construction and expansion ratio) being equal, a fatter bullet makes a larger hole and consequently a wider wound cavity with increased area. Note that cross-sectional area is independent of bullet weight. Here are the cross-sectional areas of our .452" and .500" diameter bullets to five decimal places.

�        .460 Mag (.452"): 0.16046 sq. in.

�        .500 Mag (.500"): 0.19635 sq. in.

Obviously, the .50 caliber bullet has an advantage over the .45 caliber bullet in cross-sectional area.


Greater recoil is always bad. It makes accurate bullet placement more difficult by increasing flinching and increases the recovery time required between shots. Both of these cartridges deliver fierce recoil, even in massive X-frame revolvers with 8-3/8" barrels. Neither is controllable by the vast majority of handgun shooters and should be avoided for that reason. Here are some approximate recoil energy (ft. lbs.) and velocity (fps) figures for our comparison loads fired in a 4.5 pound revolver (the approximate weight of the S&W Model 500 with an 8-3/8" barrel).

�        .460 Mag, 300 gr. bullet at 1750 fps: 31.52 ft. lbs; 21.24 fps

�        .500 Mag, 325 gr. bullet at 1800 fps: 41.00 ft. lbs; 24.22 fps

These are absurd recoil energy and velocity figures, far beyond the approximately 10 ft. lbs. of recoil energy and 12.5 fps recoil velocity you would expect from a full power .44 Remington Magnum load (240 grain bullet at 1271 fps) fired from a big 4.1 pound revolver. Not many handgunners can do their best shooting with a .44 Magnum hunting revolver and far fewer can control the outsize recoil of a .460 or .500 Magnum revolver. According to these figures, the .460 kicks over three times as hard as a full power .44 Magnum and the .500 kicks over four times are hard as a .44 Magnum. Buyer beware!


The .500 Magnum prevails in the velocity, energy, trajectory and bullet cross-sectional area comparisons with our Federal factory loads. The .460 Magnum wins the sectional density and recoil comparisons. However, the differences between the two cartridges in velocity and trajectory are basically inconsequential.

The difference in recoil is not inconsequential. The .500 generates about 33% more recoil energy than the .460, which is very significant to even the most hardened handgun hunters.

It is fair to say these are truly specialized cartridges, suitable for use only by a tiny minority of experienced handgun hunters. Their thunderous power is generally superfluous, since it is good bullet placement, not raw power, which cleanly harvests big game animals.

Note: This article is mirrored on the Handgun Cartridges page.

Sours: https://www.chuckhawks.com/compared_460_500.htm
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It’s time for another rant.

Some time ago I got together with my brother and a friend of his because he asked me to do a bit of training with them. We drove out to the range and had a pretty productive session with the public range all to ourselves. As we were nearing the end of the session other people showed up. By this point I’ve spent enough time on the range to know pretty quickly if someone is going to be a problem…and this group was going to be a problem. I kept a careful eye on them as we were finishing up. Of the four of them, at least two had never touched a gun before and the third was certainly very inexperienced. The fourth was, I suppose, the “gun guy” of this group as the guns appeared to belong to him…though sadly he didn’t seem to have any more sophistication in the way he handled weapons than the rank newbies.

The exact moment when an inexperienced shooter accidentally fires a .500 S&W magnum into the air.  These kind of powerful firearms and fully automatic weapons should NEVER be handed to an inexperienced shooter without sensible familiarization and safety precautions. Doing so courts disaster.

He pulled out a big blue S&W case and my heart rate instantly jumped at least 30%. I had a bad feeling that he was about to pull out a .500 S&W Magnum from that case, and that he was going to hand it to someone who had no firearms experience. Sure enough, the case contained one of the big X frame revolvers. I told my party to pack up because we needed to exit the range ASAP. I approached him and asked if he thought it was really a good idea to hand a weapon like that to someone who had no clue what they were doing. Naturally he was completely resistant to any input and was quite offended by what I assume he considered my “meddling.” Short of actually beating this guy unconscious…and believe me: the thought crossed my mind…there was nothing that could be done to stop this train wreck from happening.

My guys were packed up by the time this **CENSORED** idiot had loaded all five chambers and handed it to the smaller male of the group who had clearly never fired a shot through a handgun before.

I positioned my guys well back from the action and told them to watch carefully.

“He is going to fire two shots. One will land somewhere in the berm. Then under the massive recoil of that revolver he is going to fire a second one wildly up into the air completely by accident. And Hacksaw Jim Dumbass over there is too stupid to realize it.”

Some of you may share Mr. Dumbass’ incredulity. “Silly gun-writer! Revolvers can’t double!” On the contrary:


I want you to notice the description of that video: “SKINNY LITTLE BOOM BOOM GIRL CANT HANDLE THE RAW POWER OF A 500 S&W!!!!”

…as if what you see in that video is her fault. It isn’t. What you see right there is a failure on the part of all the dudes watching the spectacle rather than intervening to prevent it.

The .500 S&W Magnum is an absolute BEAST of a handgun. Some .500 loads have muzzle energy comparable to those of a 12 gauge slug. The recoil on this revolver is absolutely brutal. In the following video Jerry Miculek, who has the grip strength of a silverback gorilla, has to completely change his grip because the violent recoil of the weapon drove the hammer spur into his hand:


Because Jerry is an accomplished shooter with decades of experience, he knows how to handle the weapon safely. Most people do not have Jerry’s experience or strength and have no hope of controlling the weapon. When the recoil hits the weapon almost flies out of their hand, moving far enough to reset the trigger. They grab at the gun purely out of reflex and in the process pull the trigger a second time. When this second shot happens the muzzle is most certainly not pointed in a safe direction. In the first video you can see that the muzzle is just shy of being straight up when the second round is fired.

Where did that bullet land? 

…and that, folks, is the best case scenario. The worst case is as bad as it gets:

Corredor-Rivera died of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie tells WGEM-TV that the woman was shooting a .500-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun when the strength of the gun’s recoil caused her to lose control. She was visiting family in the area. The sheriff said the gun spun around in her hand, leading to a second fatal shot. No charges are expected in the case.”

Stop for a moment and ponder what a point-blank gunshot wound to the head from a .500 S&W Magnum looks like…then realize that happened because some stupid bastard thought it would be funny to watch a newbie shoot a powerhouse revolver.

People seem naturally inclined to perform this sort of asinine stunt and now the possibility of “lulz” on the web and in social media seems to further encourage the idiocy. It’s not just big revolvers, either. People seem inclined to hand automatic weapons to inexperienced shooters with insufficient consideration, too. Sometimes with tragic results. I have had to personally grab someone and point the muzzle of the fully automatic weapon they were firing back towards the berm because they had no control and the muzzle was about to sweep everybody at the benches on the range. Someone thought it was a splendid idea to hand this person, who had no experience with firearms, an AR with a 100 round drum attached to it. The young woman in question had no idea how to control the weapon even with one shot at a time, and certainly did not have the presence of mind to release the trigger when it started going pear-shaped on her.

Nobody else seemed to understand the potential danger or notice as things were getting bad. Had I not intervened at least two people would have taken a bullet because they were too busy filming this on their cell phones to notice that they were about to capture some excellent footage of their own death.

For the love of God, stop handing these extraordinarily dangerous weapons to newbies. It’s not funny to watch a potential new shooter ruined by a bad experience with heavy recoil, and it’s really not funny if someone is injured or killed because you gave them a weapon they weren’t prepared to control. If you see something like this shaping up, intervene. Try the nice approach first. If that fails, try the not-nice approach.

Returning to the incident with Hacksaw Jim Dumbass, while he was standing there with a stupid look on his face (more stupid than the look he normally has on his face, anyway) wondering what just happened, I stepped into the vacuum and explained what just happened, why it was his fault, and how he should immediately put that weapon away before he was responsible for getting someone killed. Sheepishly, he complied.

For the love of John Moses Browning, stop this nonsense.


Like this:


.500 S&W Magnum, don't be a dumbass, fully automatic, new shooters, rant, recoil, safety, use your danged brain

Sours: https://www.gunnuts.net/2015/08/13/dont-be-an-idiot/


The term ballistics refers to the science of the travel of a projectile in flight. The flight path of a bullet includes: travel down the barrel, path through the air, and path through a target. The wounding potential of projectiles is a complex matter. (Fackler, 1996)

Internal, or initial ballistics (within the gun)

Bullets fired from a rifle will have more energy than similar bullets fired from a handgun. More powder can also be used in rifle cartridges because the bullet chambers can be designed to withstand greater pressures (50,000 to 70,000 for rifles psi vs. 30,000 to 40,000 psi for handgun chamber). Higher pressures require a bigger gun with more recoil that is slower to load and generates more heat that produces more wear on the metal. It is difficult in practice to measure the forces within a gun barrel, but the one easily measured parameter is the velocity with which the bullet exits the barrel (muzzle velocity) and this measurement will be used in examples below. (Bruner et al, 2011)

The controlled expansion of gases from burning gunpowder generates pressure (force/area). The area here is the base of the bullet (equivalent to diameter of barrel) and is a constant. Therefore, the energy transmitted to the bullet (with a given mass) will depend upon mass times force times the time interval over which the force is applied. The last of these factors is a function of barrel length. Bullet travel through a gun barrel is characterized by increasing acceleration as the expanding gases push on it, but decreasing pressure in the barrel as the gas expands. Up to a point of diminishing pressure, the longer the barrel, the greater the acceleration of the bullet. (Volgas, Stannard and Alonso, 2005)

As the bullet traverses the barrel of the gun, some minor deformation occurs, called setback deformation. This results from minor (rarely major) imperfections or variations in rifling or tool marks within the barrel. The effect upon the subsequent flight path of the bullet is usually insignificant. (Jandial et al, 2008)

External ballistics (from gun to target)

The external ballistics of a bullet's path can be determined by several formulae, the simplest of which is:

Velocity (V) is usually given in feet per second (fps) and mass (M) is given in pounds, derived from the weight (W) of the bullet in grains, divided by 7000 grains per pound times the acceleration of gravity (32 ft/sec) so that:

This is the bullet's energy as it leaves the muzzle, but the ballistic coefficient (BC) will determine the amount of KE delivered to the target as air resistance is encountered.

Forward motion of the bullet is also affected by drag (D), which is calculated as:

f(v/a) is a coefficient related to the ratio of the velocity of the bullet to the velocity of sound in the medium through which it travels. k is a constant for the shape of the bullet and & is a constant for yaw (deviation from linear flight). p is the density of the medium (tissue density is >800 times that of air), d is the diameter (caliber) of the bullet, and v thevelocity. Thus, greater velocity, greater caliber, or denser tissue gives more drag. The degree to which a bullet is slowed by drag is called retardation (r) given by the formula:

Drag is difficult to measure, so the Ballistic Coefficient (BC) is often used:

SD is the sectional density of the bullet, and I is a form factor for the bullet shape. Sectional density is calculated from the bullet mass (M) divided by the square of its diameter. The form factor value I decreases with increasing pointedness of the bullet (a sphere would have the highest I value).

Since drag (D) is a function of velocity, it can be seen that for a bullet of a given mass (M), the greater the velocity, the greater the retardation. Drag is also influenced by bullet spin. The faster the spin, the less likely a bullet will "yaw" or turn sideways and tumble in its flight path through the air. Thus, increasing the twist of the rifling from 1 in 7 will impart greater spin than the typical 1 in 12 spiral (one turn in 12 inches of barrel).

Bullets do not typically follow a straight line to the target. Rotational forces are in effect that keep the bullet off a straight axis of flight. These rotational effects are diagrammed below:

Yaw refers to the rotation of the nose of the bullet away from the line of flight. Precession refers to rotation of the bullet around the center of mass. Nutation refers to small circular movement at the bullet tip. Yaw and precession decrease as the distance of the bullet from the barrel increases.

Example of yaw. MouseOver (touch) the bullet to start the animation.

Example of tumbling. MouseOver (touch) the bullet to start the animation.

What do all these formulae mean in terms of designing cartridges and bullets? Well, given that a cartridge can be only so large to fit in a chamber, and given that the steel of the chamber can handle only so much pressure from increasing the amount of gunpowder, the kinetic energy for any given weapon is increased more easily by increasing bullet mass. Though the square of thevelocity would increase KE much more, it is practically very difficult to increase velocity, which is dependent upon the amount of gunpowder burned. There is only so much gunpowder that can burned efficiently in a cartridge. Thus, cartridges designed for hunting big game animals use very large bullets.

To reduce air resistance, the ideal bullet would be a long, heavy needle, but such a projectile would go right through the target without dispersing much of its energy. Light spheres would be retarded the greatest within tissues and release more energy, but might not even get to the target. A good aerodynamic compromise bullet shape is a parbolic curve with low frontal area and wind-splitting shape. The best bullet composition is lead (Pb) which is of high density and is cheap to obtain. Its disadvantages are a tendency to soften at velocities >1000 fps, causing it to smear the barrel and decrease accuracy, and >2000 fps lead tends to melt completely. Alloying the lead (Pb) with a small amount of antimony (Sb) helps, but the real answer is to interface the lead bullet with the hard steel barrel through another metal soft enough to seal the bullet in the barrel but of high melting point. Copper (Cu) works best as this "jacket" material for lead.

Terminal ballistics (hitting the target)

Yaw has a lot to do with the injury pattern of a bullet on the target, termed "terminal ballistics." A short, high velocity bullet begins to yaw more severely and turn, and even rotate, upon entering tissue. This causes more tissue to be displaced, increases drag, and imparts more of the KE to the target. A longer, heavier bullet might have more KE at a longer range when it hits the target, but it may penetrate so well that it exits the target with much of its KE remaining. Even a bullet with a low KE can impart significant tissue damage if it can be designed to give up all of the KE into the target, and the target is at short range (as with handguns). Despite yaw, an intact bullet that comes to rest in tissue generally has its long axis aligned along the path of the bullet track, though its final position may be either nose forward or base forward. (Jandial et al, 2008)

Bullets produce tissue damage in three ways (Adams, 1982):

  1. Laceration and crushing - Tissue damage through laceration and crushing occurs along the path or "track" through the body that a projectile, or its fragments, may produce. The diameter of the crush injury in tissue is the diameter of the bullet or fragment, up to the long axis.

  2. Cavitation - A "permanent" cavity is caused by the path (track) of the bullet itself with crushing of tissue, whereas a "temporary" cavity is formed by radial stretching around the bullet track from continued acceleration of the medium (air or tissue) in the wake of the bullet, causing the wound cavity to be stretched outward. For projectiles traveling at low velocity the permanent and temporary cavities are nearly the same, but at high velocity and with bullet yaw the temporary cavity becomes larger (Maiden, 2009).

  3. Shock waves - Shock waves compress the medium and travel ahead of the bullet, as well as to the sides, but these waves last only a few microseconds and do not cause profound destruction at low velocity. At high velocity, generated shock waves can reach up to 200 atmospheres of pressure. (DiMaio and Zumwalt, 1977) However, bone fracture from cavitation is an extremely rare event. (Fackler, 1996) The ballistic pressure wave from distant bullet impact can induce a concussive-like effect in humans, causing acute neurological symptoms. (Courtney and Courtney, 2007)

The mathematics of wound ballistics, in reference to yaw of unstable projectiles, has been described. The model works well for non-deformable bullets. (Peters et al, 1996)(Peters and Sebourn, 1996)

Experimental methods to demonstrate tissue damage have utilized materials with characteristics similar to human soft tissues and skin. Pigskin has been employed to provide an external layer to blocks of compounds such as ordnance gelatin or ballistic soap. Firing of bullets into these materials at various ranges is followed by direct visual inspection (cutting the block) or radiographic analysis (CT imaging) to determine the sizes and appearances of the cavity produced (Rutty, et al, 2007).

The following images illustrate bullet deformation and damage:

Bullet velocity and mass will affect the nature of wounding. Velocity is classified as low (<1000 fps), medium (1000 to 2000 fps), and high (>2000 fps). (Wilson, 1977) An M-16 rifle (.223 cal) is designed to produce larger wounds with high velocity, lower mass bullets that tumble, cavitate, and release energy quickly upon striking the target. A hunting rifle (.308 cal or greater) would have a larger mass bullet to penetrate a greater depth to kill a large game animal at a longer distance.

Bullet Design

Bullet design is important in wounding potential. The Hague Convention of 1899 (and subsequently the Geneva Convention) forbade the use of expanding, deformable bullets in wartime. Therefore, military bullets have a full metal jacket (FMJ) around the lead core. Of course, the treaty had less to do with compliance than the fact that modern military assault rifles fire projectiles at high velocity (>2000 fps) and the bullets need to be jacketed with copper, because the lead begins to melt from heat generated at speeds >2000 fps.

Bullet shapes are diagrammed below:

"Frangible" bullets are designed to disintegrate upon striking a hard surface. Such bullets are typically made of a metal other than lead, such as copper powder compacted into a bullet shape, as diagrammed below:

The distance of the target from the muzzle plays a large role in wounding capacity, for most bullets fired from handguns have lost significant kinetic energy (KE) at 100 yards, while high-velocity military .308 rounds still have considerable KE even at 500 yards. Military and hunting rifles are designed to deliver bullets with more KE at a greater distance than are handguns and shotguns.

The type of tissue affects wounding potential, as well as the depth of penetration. (Bartlett, 2003) Specific gravity (density) and elasticity are the major tissue factors. The higher the specific gravity, the greater the damage. The greater the elasticity, the less the damage. Thus, lung tissue of low density and high elasticity is damaged less than muscle with higher density but some elasticity. Liver, spleen, and brain have no elasticity and are easily injured, as is adipose tissue. Fluid-filled organs (bladder, heart, great vessels, bowel) can burst because of pressure waves generated. A bullet striking bone may cause fragmentation of bone and/or bullet, with numerous secondary missiles formed, each producing additional wounding.

The speed at which a projectile must travel to penetrate skin is 163 fps and to break bone is 213 fps, both of which are quite low, so other factors are more important in producing damage. (Belkin, 1978)

Designing a bullet for efficient transfer of energy to a particular target is not straightforward, for targets differ. To penetrate the thick hide and tough bone of an elephant, the bullet must be pointed, of small diameter, and durable enough to resist disintegration. However, such a bullet would penetrate most human tissues like a spear, doing little more damage than a knife wound. A bullet designed to damage human tissues would need some sort of "brakes" so that all the KE was transmitted to the target.

It is easier to design features that aid deceleration of a larger, slower moving bullet in tissues than a small, high velocity bullet. Such measures include shape modifications like round (round nose), flattened (wadcutter), or cupped (hollowpoint) bullet nose. Round nose bullets provide the least braking, are usually jacketed, and are useful mostly in low velocity handguns. The wadcutter design provides the most braking from shape alone, is not jacketed, and is used in low velocity handguns (often for target practice). A semi-wadcutter design is intermediate between the round nose and wadcutter and is useful at medium velocity. Hollowpoint bullet design facilitates turning the bullet "inside out" and flattening the front, referred to as "expansion." Expansion reliably occurs only at velocities exceeding 1200 fps, so is suited only to the highest velocity handguns. A frangible bullet composed of a powder is designed to disintegrate upon impact, delivering all KE, but without significant penetration; the size of the fragments should decrease as impact velocity increases.

There is a difference between full metal jacket (FMJ) and total metal jacket (TMJ) bullets. The FMJ bullet has exposed lead at the base of the bullet. The TMJ bullet is fully covered with a copper plating. The TMJ is primarily used in match shooting because TMJs are more accurate (but more expensive) than a traditional FMJ. Also, the TMJ reduces the amount of lead contaminants expelled into the air, which is an advantage in indoor ranges. A TMJ bullet is not recommended for ported firearms, because there is an increased likelihood that part of the casing may be sheared off as the bullet leaves the barrel.

Handgun Ballistics

These weapons are easily concealed but hard to aim accurately, especially in crime scenes. Most handgun shootings occur at less than 7 yards, but even so, most bullets miss their intended target (only 11% of assailants' bullets and 25% of bullets fired by police officers hit the intended target in a study by Lesce, 1984). Usually, low caliber weapons are employed in crimes because they are cheaper and lighter to carry and easier to control when shooting. Tissue destruction can be increased at any caliber by use of hollowpoint expanding bullets. Some law enforcement agencies have adopted such bullets because they are thought to have more "stopping power" at short range. Most handgun bullets, though, deliver less than 1000 ft/lb of KE. (Ragsdale, 1984)

However, there is a myth, kept alive by portrayals of shooting victims on television and in films being hurled backwards, that victims are actually "knocked down" or displaced by being struck with the force of a bullet. In fact, real gunshot victims relate that they had no immediate reaction. (Fackler, 1998) The maximum momentum transferred from different small arms projectiles, inluding large caliber rifles and shotguns, to an 80 kg body is only 0.01 to 0.18 m/s, negligible compared to the 1 to 2 m/s velocity of a pedestrian. (Karger and Knewbuehl, 1996) Incapacitation of gunshot victims is primarily a function of the area of the body wounded. Immediate incapacitation may occur with gunshot wounds to the brain and upper cervical cord. Rapid incapacitation may occur with massive bleeding from major blood vessels or the heart. (Karger, 1995)

The two major variables in handgun ballistics are diameter of the bullet and volume of gunpowder in the cartridge case. Cartridges of older design were limited by the pressures they could withstand, but advances in metallurgy have allowed doubling and tripling of the maximum pressures so that more KE can be generated.

Many different cartridges are available using different loads and bullet designs. Some of these are outlined in the table below to compare and contrast the ballistics.

Common Representative Handgun Cartridges
NameCommentCase LengthCase DiameterBullet Weight (grains)Velocity (muzzle) in fpsEnergy (muzzle) in ft lbsEnergy (at 100 yd) in ft-lbs
.22 LRfor inexpensive guns, rimfire
(R and A)
.25 autosmall pocket gun
(A only)
.380 autopopular pocket auto
(A only)
9 mm parapopular military handgun
(A only)
.38 specialpopular police revolver
(R only)
.357 SIGpopular police pistol
(A only)
.357 magnumpopular police and hunting revolver
(R and A)
.40 S&Wrimless police pistol
(A only)
10 mmsame projectile as .40 S&W
(A only)
.44 magnumhunting revolver
(R only)
.45 autopopular military handgun
(R and A)
Colt .45cowboy "sixgun"
(R only)
.50 AEBig game and metallic targets
(A only)

Key: R=made for revolver; A=made for semi-automatic; velocity in fps

View common rifle and handgun cartridges

Examples of other less common cartridges include: 30 luger, an automatic cartridge rarely seen in this country; 32 S&W, 32 S&W long, 32 Colt, 32 Colt long, all small caliber (0.312) outdated revolver cartridges; 32 H&R magnum, a relatively new high velocity revolver cartridge; 32 auto, a popular European pocket automatic cartridge; 38 S&W, 38 short Colt, 38 long Colt, outdated revolver cartridges; 44 S&W special, the parent cartridge of the 44 magnum, occasionally used as a police revolver cartridge.

What can be learned from specific cartridge data? If the 44 magnum is compared with the 357 magnum, the effect of bore diameter is seen. The larger area of the 44 magnum creates more force with the same pressure, allowing the 44 magnum to produce more energy at the muzzle. The effect of case capacity can be demonstrated in a comparison of the 9 mm parabellum (para) with the 357 magnum. These cartridges have similar diameters and pressures, but the 357 magnum is much longer, yielding more case volume (more powder), and delivers more energy. Finally, despite the Colt 45 having the largest bore diameter and one of the longest cases, it does not deliver the maximum energy because the outdated 1873 design of this cartridge case severely handicaps its pressure handling capability.

The Glasser "safety slug" has been designed to consist of a hollow copper jacket filled with #12 birdshot. It has been designed in several calibers. When the bullet hits the target, the pellets are released over a wide area. However, the pellets quickly decelerate over a short distance, so they may penetrate poorly and are less likely to hit surrounding targets. They are designed to stop, but not kill, an attacker while avoiding injury to bystanders. At close range, they may produce substantial injury.

The Winchester "Black Talon" cartridge, which comes in several calibers, is designed with a lead core locked to a copper alloy jacket by a unique notching process that is done to prevent separation of teh core and the jacket on target impact via controlled expansion. This expansion is desinged to occur in a delayed fashion at the muzzle velocities of the bullet in order to provide deeper penetration. In addition, the jacket is thicker at the tip than at the heel, with precutting of the thick portion to that, upon target impact, six sharp copper points are raised in a radial fashion. The purpose of this design is to increase expansion and cavitation with greater transference of energy. In one study with test firings, black talons penetrating plastic sheeting (simulating elasticity of skin) expanded irregularly, while those fired into ordnance gelatin (simulating soft tissue) uniformly expanded. The copper points create a potential hazard in bullet removal by surgeons or forensic scientists. (Russel et al, 1995)

"Shotshell" cartridges containing pellets are available in a variety of calibers. In a study by Speak et al (1985), it was found that, in handguns, either shorter barrel length or larger caliber produced larger pellet patterns.

Armour-piercing bullets are designed to penetrate soft body armor (such as bulletproof vests worn by law enforcement officers). Though they penetrate such armor, they produce no more wounding than ordinary bullets of similar size. Some have teflon coatings to minimize barrel wear with firing. They may demonstrate less deformation when recovered.

Diagrammatic representations of standard handgun and rifle cartridges are shown below. The metal casing encloses the powder, above which the bullet is seated. The powder is ignited through the flash hole when the primer is struck. A case with a rim is found with revolver and lever action rifle cartridges, and also with some some bolt action and semi-automatic rifles.

The radiographic appearance of a .308 rifle cartridge and a 9 mm Luger handgun round are shown below to demonstrate the seating of the bullet in the casing.

Rifle Ballistics

Many different cartridges are available using different loads and bullet designs. Some of these are outlined in the table below to compare and contrast the ballistics.

Representative Centerfire Rifle Cartridges
CartridgeBullet TypeBullet Weight (grains)Velocity (muzzle) in fpsVelocity (100 yds) in fpsVelocity (500 yds) in fpsEnergy (muzzle) in ft-lbsEnergy (100 yds) in ft-lbsEnergy (500 yds) in ft-lbs
.22 hornetH462690204284174042672
.223 Rem*J553240275913011282929207
.243 WinP10029602697178619451615708
.30-30 WinR1502390197397319021296315
.308 Win*J15027502743166424681996904
.30-06 SprP180260023981685270122981135

Representative Rimfire Rifle Cartridges
CartridgeBullet TypeBullet Weight (grains)Velocity (muzzle) in fpsVelocity (100 yds) in fpsEnergy (muzzle) in ft-lbsEnergy (100 yds) in ft-lbs
.22 targetS298306954431
.22 LRS40115097511784

Key: R=round nose; P=pointed; J=jacketed; H=hollow point; S=semi-pointed;Rem=Remington; Win=Winchester; Spr=Springfield; LR=long rifle; *=military usage

Shotgun Ballistics

Standard shotgun shells contain the powder, wadding, and shot, enclosed in a plastic or cardboard casing, as diagrammed diagrammed below:

There are three standard sizes of shells, based upon their length: 2 3/4", 3", and 3 1/2". The length determines the amount of powder, and the amount of ounces of shot can vary within the shell, based upon the size and number of shot pellets. A "magnum" load has slightly more powder and more pellets, so that the muzzle velocities are not greatly increased, but the total kinetic energy is greater because of the greater mass of pellets. A greater number of pellets increases the likelihood of hitting a target at longer ranges, because of the dispersal pattern of the pellets that increases with range. The amount of kinetic energy possessed by any individual pellet can vary, based upon multiple variables and interactions among the shot mass.

The size of pellets varies from large "000" to small "9". Larger pellets have more kinetic energy, but fewer pellets disperse rapidly and accuracy in hitting the target is an issue. Greater numbers of smaller pellets have a better chance of hitting the target, but each pellet has a small amount of kinetic energy. For example, a skeet shooter trying to hit the clay pigeon wants many smaller pellets capable of hitting the target at a shorter range, while a deer hunter wants larger pellets capable of inflicting greater damage at longer range.

Shot may be primarily composed of lead or steel, along with combinations of other metals. The main reason for use of steel shot is environmental, to reduce lead contamination, but steel has inferior ballistic qualities from an energy standpoint (less mass), but can be partially overcome by increasing powder loads and velocities.

The spread of the pellets as they leave the muzzle is determined by the "choke" or constriction of the barrel at the muzzle (from none to 0.04 inches). More choke means less spread. Full choke gives a 15 inch spread at 20 yards, while no choke gives a 30 inch spread at the same distance. (DeMuth et al, 1976) A "sawed-off" shotgun has a very short barrel (less than 18 inches) so that, not only can it be concealed more easily, but also it can spray the pellets out over a wide area, because there is no choke.

Representative Shotgun Choke
DesignationChoke (in thousandths of an inch)% Increase over Cylinder

Key: Increased choke, or constriction, correlates with a tighter pattern of pellet dispersion, and % increase over cylinder; cylinder = barrel caliber with no choke

Standard birdshot sizes range from:

Shot Number (Size)Diameter (in inches)

Standard buckshot sizes range from:

Shot Number (Size)Diameter (in inches)

Shotgun slugs can produce significant injury, because of the slug's size and mass. At close range, survival is rare. In treating shotgun injuries, it is necessary to remember that the plastic shell carrier and the wadding (which may not appear on radiographs) can also cause tissue damage and may need to be found and removed. (Gestring ML et al, 1996)

Shotgun shells can be loaded with a variety of objects as projectiles, ranging from rubber pellets to needle shaped metal "flechettes" to rock salt to pepper balls. These have a novelty aspect, but their usefulness is questionable. Some, such as the "bean bag" with a fabric bag containing shot, is purportedly "less lethal" have been utilized in law enforcement.

Wounding is a function of the type of shot, or pellets, used in the shotgun shell. Weight, in general, is a constant for a shell so that 1 ounce of shot would equal either 9 pellets of 'double O' buckshot or 410 pellets of #8 birdshot. A 00 or "double ought" pellet is essentially equivalent to a low velocity .38 handgun projectile.

At close range, the pellets essentially act as one mass, and a typical shell would give the mass of pellets a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps and KE of 2100 ft/lb. At close range (less than 4 feet) an entrance wound would be about 1 inch diameter, and the wound cavity would contain wadding. At intermediate range (4 to 12 feet) the entrance wound is up to 2 inches diameter, but the borders may show individual pellet markings. Wadding may be found near the surface of the wound. Beyond 12 feet, choke, barrel length, and pellet size determine the wounding.

If the energy is divided between the pellets, it can be seen that fewer, larger pellets will carry more KE, but the spread may carry them away from the target. Pellets, being spherical, are poor projectiles, and most small pellets will not penetrate skin after 80 yards. Thus, close range wounds are severe, but at even relatively short distances, wounding may be minimal. Range is the most important factor, and can be estimated in over half of cases, as can the shot size used. (Wilson, 1978) A rifled slug fired from a shotgun may have a range up to 800 yards. (Mattoo et al, 1974)

The Polyshok Impact Reactive Projectile (IRP) is a form of shotgun ammunition with a lead bead core encased within a single, plastic projectile. The lead core is designed to disintegrate on impact so that lead fragments are distributed over a small area. This reduces the likelihood of exit or collateral damage on missed shots. This projectile produces a single entrance wound, and both plastic and lead components can be found within the wound, regardless of the range of fire. The single entrance wound with limited area of tissue damage suggests a shotgun slug, while the small lead fragments within the wound suggest small size shot pellets, but together these findings are characteristic for the IRP (Nelson and Winston, 2007).

The following tables provide data on shotgun shell ballistics (http://www.shotgunsportsmagazine.com/downloads/shotgun_statistics.pdf):

Representative Shotgun Shells
Shot TypePellet Size (dia. in inches)# of PelletsWeight (ounces)Velocity (muzzle) in fpsVelocity (50 yds) in fpsEnergy (muzzle) in ft-lbs per pelletEnergy (50 yds) in ft-lbs per pellet

Air gun ballistics

These weapons, also known as "BB" (ball-bearing) guns, fire .177 or .22 round pellets at muzzle velocities of 200 to 900 fps. Though considered of low energy and relatively "safe" for children to use, they can cause severe injury, such as to the eye, and even to abdominal organs. The projectile can penetrate to a depth of 25 mm at a range of 1 meter and up to 15 mm at a range of 5 meters. (Grocock, et al) Air guns are usually never included in gun regulation. Homicide and suicide have been reported with air guns. (Cohle et al, 1987; DiMaio, 1975)

Sours: https://webpath.med.utah.edu/TUTORIAL/GUNS/GUNBLST.html

Wound 500 magnum

.500 S&W Magnum

Revolver cartridge designed by Cor-bon and Smith & Wesson (S&W)

.500 S&W Magnum

Comparison of the popular .44 Magnum (left) to the .500 S&W cartridge (right)

TypeCenterfire (.50 caliber)
Place of originUnited States
DesignerCor-Bon, Smith & Wesson
ManufacturerSmith & Wesson
Bullet diameter.500 in (12.7 mm)
Neck diameter.526 in (13.4 mm)
Base diameter.526 in (13.4 mm)
Rim diameter.556 in (14.1 mm)
Rim thickness.056 in (1.4 mm)
Case length1.625 in (41.3 mm)
Overall length2.3 in (58 mm)
Rifling twist1:18.75 in (476.25 mm)
Primer typeLarge pistol originally, now large rifle
Maximum pressure60,000 psi (410 MPa)
Bullet mass/typeVelocityEnergy
300 gr (19 g) FTX Hornady2,075 ft/s (632 m/s)2,868 ft⋅lbf (3,888 J)
350 gr (23 g) XTP HP Underwood1,912 ft/s (583 m/s)2,842 ft⋅lbf (3,853 J)
400 gr (26 g) PTHP Winchester1,800 ft/s (550 m/s)2,877 ft⋅lbf (3,901 J)
440 gr (29 g) LFN-GC Buffalo Bore Heavy1,625 ft/s (495 m/s)2,579 ft⋅lbf (3,497 J)
500 gr (32 g) FP XTP Hornady1,425 ft/s (434 m/s)2,254 ft⋅lbf (3,056 J)
Test barrel length: 8.375 in
Source(s): Hornady (300 gr),[1] Winchester (400 gr),[2] Double Tap,[3] and Ballistic Supply,[4]

The .500 S&W Magnum or 12.7×41mmSR is a .50 caliber semi-rimmed revolver cartridge developed by Cor-Bon in partnership with the Smith & Wesson "X-Gun" engineering team for use in the Smith & Wesson Model 500X-framerevolver and introduced in February 2003 at the SHOT Show.[5] It has two primary design purposes: as a hunting handgun cartridge capable of taking all North American game species, and to be the most powerful production handgun cartridge to date. To put the cartridge’s extreme level of power into perspective; the muzzle energy of a .500 S&W bullet fired from a typical commercial loading of the round is roughly equivalent to that of a 16 pound bowling ball traveling at a speed of over 70 mph.

Cartridge history[edit]

Smith & Wesson had been at the forefront when developing powerful handgun cartridges such as the .357 S&W Magnum and the .44 Remington Magnum. However, since 1960 the company's .44 Remington Magnum, which it had developed in partnership with Remington, was eclipsed by the .454 Casull. Since then, several other more powerful cartridges had been developed by Action Arms,[6]Linebaugh, Ruger, Wildey, and Winchester for repeating handguns.

In 1971 Smith & Wesson had experienced a dramatic surge in orders for their Model 29 revolver in the .44 Magnum cartridge with which S&W production was not able to keep up. Available Model 29 revolvers were being sold for two to three times the suggested retail price, because of the low supply and high demand for the revolver. This surge in demand was due to the 1971 film Dirty Harry, where the Model 29 revolver was billed as the most powerful revolver (The .454 Casull designed in 1955 was not in commercial production until 1997). With the entry of the .500 S&W Magnum and the Model 500 revolver, Smith & Wesson recaptured the title of the most powerful handgun,[7] and with it an increase in sales.

The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum was designed from the outset to be the most powerful production handgun cartridge. S&W product manager, Herb Belin, proposed the idea of developing the revolver and cartridge to the S&W sales team. With the backing of the sales team, the project was approved by S&W president Bob Scott. The ammunition was developed by Cor-Bon and Peter Pi in partnership with the S&W X-Gun engineering team of Brett Curry lead design engineer, Rich Mikuta, and Tom Oakley. Eleven months later, on 9 January 2003, the team unveiled the S&W Model 500 revolver and the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge. According to Belin, the cartridge was designed from its inception to be substantially more powerful than any other production handgun cartridge before it.[5] Cor-Bon later developed the .500 S&W Special cartridge.

Cartridge design and specifications[edit]

The .500 S&W Magnum is a semi-rimmed, straight cartridge optimized for use in revolvers. The cartridge is designed to headspace on its rim. However, unlike rimmed cartridges such as the .44 Magnum and other cartridges designed for use in revolvers, the cartridge can be cycled more smoothly and more reliably in tubular magazines, due to the semi-rimmed design. However, the cartridge does not cycle well through box magazines. The rim tends to lock in the extractor groove.

The .500 S&W Magnum was designed to fire a bullet with a diameter (⌀) of 0.500 in (12.7 mm) unlike the .500 Linebaugh, which fires a 0.510 in (12.9 mm) bullet. This was done so as not to run afoul of the National Firearms Act and be considered a destructive device as had happened to Whildin's .50 AE cartridge, which at first was designed to fire a 0.510 in (12.9 mm) but had to be redesigned to fire a 0.500 in (12.7 mm) instead.

500 S&W Magnum Schematic
SAAMI compliant .500 S&W Magnum cartridge schematic: All dimensions in inches (millimeters).[8]

The .500 S&W Magnum has a maximum working pressure of 60,000 psi (4,100 bar). However, most factory ammunition is limited to 50,000 psi (3,400 bar) to help ease extraction of fired cases. The cylinders of the S&W Model 500 revolver are engineered to be capable of withstanding 50% over pressure. Regular proof-load testing is performed at 20% over pressure.[5]

The cylinder bore diameter is given as .500 in (12.7 mm). SAAMI recommends a 6 groove barrel with each groove being 0.130 in (3.3 mm) wide. A barrel with a bore diameter of 0.4880 in (12.40 mm) and a groove diameter of 0.4983 in (12.66 mm) is also recommended. The recommended twist rate is 1 in 18.75 in (476 mm). While the bore diameter of 0.4880 in (12.40 mm) is consistent with other firearms which fire a 0.500 in (12.7 mm) diameter bullet, the groove diameter of 0.4983 in (12.66 mm) is an oddity as most firearms which fire a 0.500 in (12.7 mm) will have a groove diameter of equal to the diameter of the bullet.[8]

While the overall length is given as 2.300 in (58.4 mm) by many sources, some revolvers will not be able to accept cartridges with bullets seated to this overall length. This is because the cylinders of the revolvers are too short to accommodate such cartridges. The now-discontinued Taurus Raging Bull 500 is an example of one such revolver. It has a cylinder which is about 0.200 in (5.1 mm) shorter than that of the S&W Model 500.[9]


The .500 S&W Magnum is considered the most powerful commercial sporting handgun cartridge by virtue of the muzzle energy it can generate.[5] Cor-Bon (now a Dakota Ammo brand) who together with Smith & Wesson developed the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge, offers several loads which include a 325 gr (21.1 g) at 1,800 ft/s (550 m/s), a 400 gr (26 g) at 1,625 ft/s (495 m/s) and a 440 gr (29 g) at 1,625 ft/s (495 m/s). Compared to the next most powerful commercial sporting handgun cartridge, the .460 S&W Magnum, which can launch a 325 gr (21.1 g) at 1,650 ft/s (500 m/s) or a 395 gr (25.6 g) at 1,525 ft/s (465 m/s). The .500 S&W Magnum comes into its own when used with heavier bullets, particularly those with weights of 500 gr (32 g) or greater. These bullets are often seated as far out as possible to take advantage of the complete cylinder length, so as to maximize the powder capacity which the case can provide.

Several manufacturers currently produce the S&W .500 Magnum cartridge, with some of the top-performing rounds delivering 3,031 ft⋅lbf (4,109 J) of energy with a 350-grain (23 g) bullet traveling at 1,975 feet per second (602 m/s). It is claimed to be the most potent commercially available handgun cartridge on the market and provides power similar to long-established wildcat cartridges such as the .375 JDJ (J. D. Jones)[10] and pistol loadings of the .45-70 Government. Indeed, some rounds use bullets weighing almost 1 oz. (28 g ~ 440 gr.), which are sent at about 1,500 ft/s (460 m/s) – essentially the same performance of a 12 gaugeshotgun slug.[7]

Bullet weights available for this cartridge range from a 265-grain (17.2 g) jacketed hollow point to a 700-grain (45 g) hardcast lead bullet. Moderate velocity, heavy bullet loads for the .500 S&W Magnum are similar in performance to the black powder.50-70 Government. The heaviest bullet, produced by Underwood Ammo, is a hardcast lead bullet weighing 700 grains, about the same as a common .50 BMG projectile. This bullet, launched at a little over 1,200 ft/s (370 m/s) produces around 2,100 ft⋅lbf (2,800 J). While in terms of sheer muzzle energy, it is one of the softer rounds, this loading is actually preferred for hunting big game, as the bullet has excellent sectional densities, allowing for deep penetration and high expansion.

Reduced Recoil Winchester factory load for the 500 S&W Magnum.
Winchester's 500 S&W Magnum 350 gr. JHP reduced recoil ammunition

Low recoil or reduced recoil ammunition is manufactured by the Grizzly Cartridge Company and Winchester. The low recoiling ammunition reduces the recoil by lowering the velocity of the projectile and the mass of the projectile. Winchester's reduced recoil X500SW ammunition propels a 350 gr (23 g) bullet at 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s). Although such ammunition is considered low recoiling, due to having about one-third of the recoil energy of full-power .500 S&W ammunition, even these are a significant step up from most of the .44 Magnums, as they produce twice the recoil energy of the latter cartridge.

Cor-Bon introduced the .500 S&W Special in 2004 as a lower energy and lower recoiling alternative to the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge. This cartridge is compatible with handguns chambered for the .500 S&W Magnum and fires a 350-grain (23 g) bullet at 1,250 feet per second (380 m/s).[11] These low recoiling alternatives to the full-power .500 S&W Magnum, significantly reduce the felt recoil in the shorter 4-inch-barrel (100 mm) handguns. At present, only Cor-Bon, manufactures ammunition for the .500 S&W Special in three load configurations.

The .500 S&W Magnum has very high recoil energy and recoil velocity. The high energy and velocity of the recoil cause the muzzle to rise when shooting the cartridge. Smith & Wesson incorporated design features to help mitigate both the perceived and actual recoil of their Model 500 Smith & Wesson revolver chambered for the .500 S&W Magnum. The revolver is equipped with a compensator and Hogue Sorbothane grips. The revolver's considerable weight of 56–82 ounces (1,600–2,300 g)[12] plays a role in moderating the recoil of the cartridge.[13]

A double-discharge effect is sometimes observed with the cartridge. The heavy recoil causes some shooters to inadvertently squeeze the trigger as a reflexive action to hold on to the revolver soon after the discharge of the previous round. Furthermore, some shooters have experienced the cylinder unlocking and rotating after the firing of cartridge which is a partial manifestation of the same phenomenon.[14]

Sporting applications[edit]

500 S&W Magnum hunting load with 500 gr. SP bullet by Hornady.
500 S&W Magnum hunting load with 500 gr. SP bullet by Hornady.

The .500 S&W Magnum was originally designed to be primarily a handgun hunting cartridge. The creation of Big Horn Armory's Model 89 lever action rifle has changed it to a serious big game hunting rifle cartridge. In that platform, the cartridge is capable of taking any animal on earth. It also serves a secondary purpose as a back-up survival handgun cartridge as a defense against the large bears of North America.[15]

500 S&W Magnum hunting load with 500 gr. SP bullet by Hornady.
Size comparison of a 500 S&W round and a human hand.

The .500 S&W Magnum's success with large, dangerous game is in part due to the availability of heavier bullets with exceptional sectional densities. Bullets above 500-grain (32 g) have the sectional densities required for hunting heavier African dangerous game. As a hunting cartridge the .500 S&W Magnum has been found to be effective against elephant and African buffalo as long as ranges are kept within reasonable limits.[16][17] Bullet selection is extremely important when hunting thick-skinned dangerous game. Smith & Wesson bills the Model 500 revolver as "A Hunting Handgun For Any Game Animal Walking".[15] Big Horn Armory bills its Model 89 rifle as the most powerful lever gun currently made.

In North America, it serves the purpose of hunting all North American big game species. The cartridge has had success in taking Alaskan brown bear, American bison, moose, and elk. It is also used to hunt black bear, whitetail deer, wild boar, and feral hogs.[17] The cartridge gained some notoriety as being the cartridge which was used to hunt the supposed Monster Pig.

Bullets ranging from 275–325 gr (17.8–21.1 g) can be used for light CXP2 game species. Bullets heavier than 350 gr (23 g), including Winchester's reduced-load ammunition, are appropriate for use with CXP3 game species. Bullets over 500 gr (32 g) can be used for dangerous game. Hornady's 500 gr. SP load is rated for CXP4 class dangerous game by Hornady out to 200 yd (180 m) against dangerous game, based on Hornady Index of Terminal Standards (H.I.T.S.) calculations.

The .500 S&W Magnum is available in firearms more convenient to carry than a full-sized rifle. This lends to its use as a defensive carry firearm in areas where dangerous predatory species may be encountered. Big Horn Armory's Model 89 carbine is a 37" long rifle suitable for close quarter use in heavily wooded areas or where brush may predominate. This lever action rifle is often carried in Alaska for defense against bears. The .500 S&W Magnum cartridge has found use in survival guns such as the NEFHandi Rifle and the S&W Survival Kit.[5] Smith & Wesson manufactured a 2.75-inch-barrel (70 mm) version of the Model 500 revolver (model 500ES, whose production ended in December 2009), which was included in the S&W Survival Kit. This shorter-barreled revolver is handier, weighing 56 oz (1.6 kg), and has no muzzle brake as are included with the more common S&W 500 revolvers such as the 8.38 in (213 mm) model.

Firearms and ammunition[edit]

Currently there are several .50 caliber handguns, which are capable of firing the .500 S&W Magnum. These types of revolvers normally have five rounds to allow for thicker cylinder walls to accommodate the pressure generated by the large and powerful cartridge. Big Horn Armory's Model 89 carbine and rifle are currently the only repeating long guns chambered in this cartridge. The Model 89's long barrels significantly increase bullet velocity and energy. The single shot Thompson-Center Encore, NEF Handi Rifle, and Towner pump rifle are also chambered for this round.[18] It is currently the most powerful production handgun cartridge available. The Magnum Research BFR with its 5-shot cylinder and up to 10" barrel lengths, is very popular amongst shooting enthusiasts.

Ammunition for the .500 S&W Magnum is available from many mainstream ammunition manufacturers. Recently many of these manufacturers have expanded their .500 S&W offerings, which speaks to the popularity of the cartridge.

Ammunition BulletMuzzle velocity 8/ 18 in barrelMuzzle energy 8/ 18 in barrel
Buffalo Bore 18A400 gr (26 g) LFN1,675 ft/s (511 m/s)/ 2,003 ft/s (611 m/s)2,491 ft⋅lbf (3,377 J)/ 3,563 ft⋅lbf (4,831 J)
Buffalo Bore 18B440 gr (29 g) JFN1,625 ft/s (495 m/s)/ 1,808 ft/s (551 m/s)2,579 ft⋅lbf (3,497 J)/ 3,193 ft⋅lbf (4,329 J)
Buffalo Bore 18C400 gr (26 g) LFN1,325 ft/s (404 m/s)/ 1,498 ft/s (457 m/s)1,715 ft⋅lbf (2,325 J)/ 2,192 ft⋅lbf (2,972 J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW275-12275 gr (17.8 g) Hunter DPX1,665 ft/s (507 m/s)/ 2,085 ft/s (636 m/s)1,688 ft⋅lbf (2,289 J)/ 2,654 ft⋅lbf (3,598 J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW325-12325 gr (21.1 g) Hunter DPX1,800 ft/s (550 m/s)/2,338 ft⋅lbf (3,170 J)/
Cor-Bon HT500SW350-12350 gr (23 g) Hunter JHP1,600 ft/s (490 m/s)/1,990 ft⋅lbf (2,700 J)/
Cor-Bon HT500SW385-12385 gr (24.9 g) Hunter BC1,700 ft/s (520 m/s)/2,471 ft⋅lbf (3,350 J)/
Cor-Bon HT500SW400SP-12400 gr (26 g) Hunter SP1,625 ft/s (495 m/s)/2,346 ft⋅lbf (3,181 J)/
Cor-Bon HT500SW440HC-12440 gr (29 g) Hunter HC1,625 ft/s (495 m/s)/ 1,844 ft/s (562 m/s)2,580 ft⋅lbf (3,500 J)/ 3,322 ft⋅lbf (4,504 J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW500HC-12500 gr (32 g) Hunter HC1,500 ft/s (460 m/s)/ 1,692 ft/s (516 m/s)2,499 ft⋅lbf (3,388 J)/ 3,178 ft⋅lbf (4,309 J)
Federal P500XB1275 gr (17.8 g) Barnes XPB1,840 ft/s (560 m/s)/ 2,238 ft/s (682 m/s)2,067 ft⋅lbf (2,802 J)/ 3,058 ft⋅lbf (4,146 J)
Federal P500SA325 gr (21.1 g) Swift AF1,800 ft/s (550 m/s)/2,338 ft⋅lbf (3,170 J)/
Hornady 9249300 gr (19 g) FTX2,075 ft/s (632 m/s)/ 2,328 ft/s (710 m/s)2,868 ft⋅lbf (3,888 J)/ 3,610 ft⋅lbf (4,890 J)
Hornady 9250350 gr (23 g) XTP MAG1,700 ft/s (520 m/s)/ 2,133 ft/s (650 m/s)2,246 ft⋅lbf (3,045 J)/ 3,536 ft⋅lbf (4,794 J)
Hornady 9252500 gr (32 g) FP XTP1,425 ft/s (434 m/s)/ 1,536 ft/s (468 m/s)2,254 ft⋅lbf (3,056 J)/ 2,619 ft⋅lbf (3,551 J)
MagTech 500C275 gr (17.8 g) SCHP1,667 ft/s (508 m/s)/ 1,917 ft/s (584 m/s)1,696 ft⋅lbf (2,299 J)/ 2,244 ft⋅lbf (3,042 J)
MagTech 500L325 gr (21.1 g) SJSP1,378 ft/s (420 m/s)/ 1,422 ft/s (433 m/s)1,370 ft⋅lbf (1,860 J)/ 1,459 ft⋅lbf (1,978 J)
MagTech 500B325 gr (21.1 g) SJSP1,801 ft/s (549 m/s)/ 2,099 ft/s (640 m/s)2,341 ft⋅lbf (3,174 J)/ 3,179 ft⋅lbf (4,310 J)
MagTech 500A400 gr (26 g) SJSP1,608 ft/s (490 m/s)/ 1,850 ft/s (560 m/s)2,297 ft⋅lbf (3,114 J)/ 3,040 ft⋅lbf (4,120 J)
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 348350 gr (23 g) JHP1,912 ft/s (583 m/s)/ 2,300 ft/s (700 m/s)2,842 ft⋅lbf (3,853 J)/ 4,111 ft⋅lbf (5,574 J)
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 839 Xtreme Penetrator350 gr (23 g) copper2,250 ft/s (690 m/s)/ 1,850 ft/s (560 m/s)2,660 ft⋅lbf (3,610 J)/ 3,934 ft⋅lbf (5,334 J)
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 347 Xtreme Penetrator420 gr (27 g) copper1,650 ft/s (500 m/s)/2,539 ft⋅lbf (3,442 J)/
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 749440 gr (29 g) WFNGC1,625 ft/s (495 m/s)/ 2,025 ft/s (617 m/s)2,579 ft⋅lbf (3,497 J)/ 4,006 ft⋅lbf (5,431 J)
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 744500 gr (32 g) WFNGC1,500 ft/s (460 m/s)/ 1,901 ft/s (579 m/s)2,498 ft⋅lbf (3,387 J)/ 4,009 ft⋅lbf (5,435 J)
Underwood Ammo 500 S&W 741700 gr (45 g) WFNGC1,400 ft/s (430 m/s)/ 1,599 ft/s (487 m/s)2,238 ft⋅lbf (3,034 J)/ 3,978 ft⋅lbf (5,393 J)
Winchester X500SW350 gr (23 g) JHP1,200 ft/s (370 m/s)/ 1,469 ft/s (448 m/s)1,416 ft⋅lbf (1,920 J)/ 1,677 ft⋅lbf (2,274 J)
Winchester S500SWDB375 gr (24.3 g) Dual Bond1,725 ft/s (526 m/s)/2,477 ft⋅lbf (3,358 J)/
Winchester S500PTHP400 gr (26 g) PTHP1,675 ft/s (511 m/s)/ 1,970 ft/s (600 m/s)2,491 ft⋅lbf (3,377 J)/ 3,447 ft⋅lbf (4,674 J)
Values courtesy of the respective ammunition manufacturer

In addition to these manufacturers, smaller manufacturers such as Double Tap Ammunition and Magtech Ammunition offer ammunition for firearms chambered for this cartridge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Ballistic Chart
  2. ^Winchester (400 gr)
  3. ^DoubleTap Ammo
  4. ^"Ballistic Supply". Archived from the original on 21 July 2009. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  5. ^ abcdeMetcalf, Dick. "Smith & Wesson's Monster Magnum". Shooting Times November 2003. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  6. ^Action Arms
  7. ^ ab"Smith & Wesson Model 500 .50-Cal. Magnum Is The King of Handguns", Popular Mechanics, 1 September 2003
  8. ^ ab"Voluntary Industry Performance Standards"(PDF). Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute. Archived from the original(PDF) on 24 April 2017.
  9. ^"Taurus Raging Bull 500". Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  10. ^".375 JDJ Loading Data"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 24 April 2017.
  11. ^"500 S&W Magnum 325 Grain Light Loading".
  12. ^"X-Large Frame". smith-wesson.com. Smith & Wesson. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  13. ^Carlson, Dan. "The Beast". cabelas.com. Cabela's. Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  14. ^Taffin, John (2004). "King of the Magnums: S&W's .500 Master-Blaster". bnet.com. American Handgunner Jan-Feb 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  15. ^ ab"Product: Model S&W 500". Smith & Wesson. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  16. ^Hampton, Mark. "To Africa with a .500 S&W". American Handgunner. American Handgunner, January–February 2004.
  17. ^ abMetcalf, Dick. "Bad, Badder, Baddest". Guns & Ammo Handgun. Archived from the original on 17 October 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  18. ^"NEF's biggest and baddest Handi-Rifle: yeah, it's a .50", Guns Magazine, Jan, 2007 by John Taffin.


External links[edit]

Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.500_S%26W_Magnum
Big Aoudad Taken with a Smith Wesson 500 Magnum handgun.


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