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500 Smith & Wesson


In 2003, Smith & Wesson developed and introduced the 500 S&W.  It takes the concept of big-bore handgun cartridges to the logical limit and likely beyond.  The X-Frame revolver, developed to handle this round, weighs 4½-pounds.  Nevertheless, recoil with full-power loads is still far beyond what most folks can handle or can learn to handle well.  To say shooting it with full-power loads is punishing is hyperbole in understatement.

With muzzle energy of top-end loads approaching 3000 foot-pounds, this cartridge loaded with the right bullets is entirely capable against any critter that walks on this planet.  The only other thing required is the ability to place the shot well.  And, the revolver is certainly capable of doing so in the hands of a skilled shooter.

The large capacity and long propellant column used in this round, combined with the common use of H110, which is notoriously hard to ignite, creates a situation where a squib is likely.

Should a squib occur with the primer driving the bullet into the barrel a careless shooter who assumes he had had a misfire or otherwise fails to recognize the danger and simply pulls the trigger again, will regret that decision, or maybe not!

Use due caution in component choice and loading techniques.  High neck-tension and a properly seated primer of the correct type are critical.

As with the 460 S&W and many other high-performance revolver chamberings, the handloader’s ability to create mid-range loads with affordable cast bullets makes for affordable practice ammo that will not abuse the shooter.  This is of considerable value to those wanting to develop familiarity with the gun and hone their skills at shooting it well.

Chambered in such a large and heavy revolver, with a top-end working pressure of 60,000 psi, the 500 S&W is pushing the limit of what can legitimately be called a real revolver cartridge suitable for a gun that has any of the characteristics of a gun one could carry comfortably in a holster.  Chambering in a smaller and significantly lighter revolver is a sure recipe for disaster.

As with other high-recoil pistol and revolver chamberings (generally, anything more powerful than the 44 Magnum), shooting the 500 with full-power loads requires special techniques to prevent the gun from making a permanent impression on the shooter and his or her skull, or worse.

As with any revolver round, best practice is to apply a roll-crimp after seating the bullet.  A roll-crimp eases loading of rounds into the cylinder and can help limit bullet pull under recoil if only modestly.  I cannot too-strongly recommend getting a second seating-and-crimping die so you can have one adjusted to seat the bullet and the second adjusted to only crimp the case mouth.  Generally, attempting to do both operations in one step is a recipe for damaged and destroyed cases.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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The Lee Deluxe Automatic Processing Press gives you the same priming convenience found only on expensive progressive reloading presses.


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