The Mighty .460 Smith and Wesson Bolt action rifle
I’m always looking for new ideas and this seemed like a great one. We were talking about subsonic calibers with suppressors that were being used to specifically hunt feral hogs. Several examples were brought up about the fact that the .300 Blackout was failing on the big pigs. While it seemed to have stellar performance on most of them, it seems like it was lacking a bit for the really big hogs (+300lbs.) which would often run off and be lost, sometimes without even a blood trail.
Our discussion went to what might be the ultimate pig rifle. The problem is, there really isn’t much to choose from in anything over .30 caliber. We wanted something that was reloadable using standard brass in an established caliber that was easy to get just about anywhere, could possibly use cast lead bullets and could be suppressed enough to get off a least a couple of shots on a herd moving towards you.
There are some wildcats that fit the bill, the .50 Hushpuppy being one of them, but that requires a lot of effort to make usable brass.
We wanted something that was easy.
One of my friends suggested that the .460, if it could be made to work, might be a good candidate for a pig rifle. When I asked why, what he said made perfect sense. The .460 can also shoot the .454 Casull, or even the .45 Colt.
While the .454 Casull is a smoking round, the .45 Colt runs a sedate 800 and something feet per second speed right out of the box. Meaning that, for people like him that didn’t reload, having the ability to run to the local Walmart or Sports Shop to buy a box of heavy projectiles that were already subsonic was a definite plus.
Now, we already know that any subsonic bullet isn’t exactly going to be very flat shooting…in fact, the trajectory of most resemble the arc of a rainbow. On the subsonic .460 it is no different. One thing that the .460 could handle though is a standard off the shelf box of supersonics traveling at over 2000 FPS that could be used for longer shots where suppressed shots weren’t an issue. An example would be walking up on a heard of hogs in a field, say around 150 yards or so. One could simple take the can off, pop some full house loads in the magazine and start shooting.
This was an idea that sounded great. With supersonic rounds you had the range with plenty of energy for the big pigs. If you are slipping through the woods or sitting in a stand using a suppressor in hopes to ambush several hogs, the .45 Colt ammo had the quiet energy to do it.
So, after thinking about it for awhile, I thought that I’d try it out.
I started with an Encore. I got a barrel and some brass from a friend of mine, and to test the concept out, I immediately threaded the barrel 5/8-24. I had just got a silencer in from X-Caliber. It is a .45 caliber can, is user serviceable and it is as quiet as any out there for less cost than the rest of them.
That can sounds good with everything. Its rated for subsonic .300 Blackout and it is quieter on my bolt rifles than some of the .308 cans are. Since we were running subsonic .460 through it, I figured that it wouldn’t be an issue.
So the barrel was threaded, with the can on it and we were good to go. I started out using some hand loads that I had loaded for my .45 Colt Ruger Vaquero. They were loaded with Accurate Arms No. 5 and had a cast 255 grain bullet stuffed in it. They were great in the Vaquero, so I tried them out.
I first thought that the shorter case might be an issue with the accuracy due to the amount of bullet ”jump” , the distance it had to go before engaging the rifling. This is a known issue on some calibers and I thought that it might be the same here…sort of like shooting a .36 case in a .357 magnum. Yes it works and its done a bunch but its not exactly the most accurate load for a .357.
As it turns out my fears were unfounded. Sighting in the scope at 25 yards and shooting several through the same hole proved that maybe is wasn’t the issue that I thought it could be. It was accurate and wonderfully so.
It worked out great. So we knew then that store bought .45 Colt ammo could be used effectively in the .460.
The only limitation that the Colt has is that due to case capacity, 300 grain bullets are about as long as you can go. Not really a handicap, but since it’s a .460 we figured we could do better.
A friend of mine that was working in parallel with me brought over some loads in the .460 cases. These were loaded with 405 grain cast lead bullets. These were originally designed for the .45-70’s and bigger, being .458 in diameter. They had to be sized in several steps to get to the .454 diameter used by the .460.
We tried two different powders. Trailboss and Red Dot, both of which have been used for various suppressed loads because they are quieter than other powders.
So, bracing for shock, I touched the first one off.
I couldn’t believe it. It was as quiet as any Blackout out there. There was a bit of a kick, not bad but noticeable but shooting a 405 grain bullet that was too be expected. Still, for a suppressed load one could shoot all day without any discomfort at all.
We were putting those big lead bullets through one hole at 25 yards. I had concerns about the twist being too fast to stabilize the long bullets but checking a couple of bullet twist calculators showed it to be good and it was.
I might add that we were using a Nikon BDC reticle, and once you figure out where to hold at what range, its easy to use.
I was impressed. It sounded good, it shot good and you didn’t have to walk up to the target to see the big holes in the paper. So far…so good.
So, expanding on the success of the Encore, I figured that a bolt action rifle could be modified to do the same thing.
I took a Savage that I had which had a .45 ACP barrel on it and took the barrel off. The .45 ACP worked great but it was a single shot gun due to the fact that the bullet case was too short to be held properly in the magazine. Figuring that the .45 Colt or the .460 would have no issues because it was longer, I re-chambered the ACP by simply running a .460 reamer right into it. That was quick and easy.
I did have to disassemble the bolt and remove the bolt head so that I could re-bore it. The case head on the 460 runs around .540 diameter. The bolt head that I had was originally for a .308 which is smaller so I counter bored the bolt face. That didn’t take long and inserting the .460 case into the head showed a perfect fit.
Stuffing 3 rounds into the magazine can be tricky. I didn’t modify the magazine feed lips, it seems to work OK without it. You have to place them in there a certain way, or they will just strip out the top. When I figured that out it wasn’t an issue. I suppose that I could grind the feel lips just a bit but as long as it’ll work, I’d rather leave it alone in case I want to swap calibers later on down the road.
The Savage rifle in .460 does well. I can see this becoming popular in this area. Its simple to build, requiring just a .45 caliber barrel, a counter bored bolt head, and some threads on the end of the barrel for a suppressor. It’s quiet and that bullet slapping the berm the predominate sound. It looks good too.