.500 S&W Magnum
Comparison of the popular .44 Magnum (left) to the .500 S&W cartridge (right)
Type Centerfire (.50 caliber)
Place of origin United States
Production history
Designer Cor-Bon / Smith & Wesson
Designed 2003
Manufacturer Smith & Wesson
Produced 2003 onward
Parent case Unique
Case type Semi-rimmed, straight
Bullet diameter .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Neck diameter .526 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Base diameter .526 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Rim diameter .556 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Rim thickness .056 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Case length 1.6 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Overall length 2.250 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm)
Rifling twist 1:18.75 in (476.25 mm)
Primer type Large pistol originally, now large rifle
Maximum pressure 60,000 psi (Bad rounding hereScript error MPa)
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
300 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) FTX LEVERevolution2,075 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s)2,868 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point)1,975 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s)3,031 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
400 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) JHP (Platinum Tip Winchester)1,800 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s)2,877 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
500 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) JSP/Hard Cast1,500 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s)2,500 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Test barrel length: 8.375 in
Source(s): Hornady (300gr),[1] Cor-Bon (350gr),[2] Winchester (400gr),[3] Double Tap,[4] and BALLISTIC SUPPLY[5]

The .500 S&W Magnum is a fifty-caliber (12.7×41mm) semi-rimmed handgun cartridge developed by Cor-Bon in partnership with the Smith & Wesson "X-Gun" engineering team for use in the Smith & Wesson Model 500 X-frame revolver and introduced in February 2003 at the SHOT show.[6] Its primary design purpose was as a hunting handgun cartridge capable of taking all North American game species.

Cartridge historyEdit

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, 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, due to the low supply and high demand for the revolver. This surge in demand was due to the Dirty Harry movie, where the Model 29 revolver was billed, incorrectly, as the most powerful revolver. 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 would be 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 January 9, 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.[6] COR®BON would later go on to develop the .500 S&W Special cartridge.

Cartridge design and specificationsEdit

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 or magazine rifles, due to the semi-rimmed design.

The .500 S&W Magnum was designed to fire a bullet with a diameter of .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) unlike the .500 Linebaugh, which fires a .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 .510 in (12.9 mm) but had to be redesigned to fire a .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) instead.

.500 S&W Magnum – Dimensions in inches & (mm)
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 (Bad rounding hereScript error bar). However, most factory ammunition is limited to 50,000 psi (Bad rounding hereScript error 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.[6]

Cylinder bore ∅ is given as .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm). SAAMI recommends a 6 groove barrel with each groove being .130 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) wide. A barrel with a bore ∅ of .4880 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) and a groove ∅ of .4983 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) is also recommended. The recommended twist rate is 1 in 18.75 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm). While the bore diameter of .4880 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) is consistent with other firearms which fire a .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) diameter bullet, the groove diameter of .4983 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) is an oddity as most firearms which fire a .500 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) will have a groove diameter of equal to the diameter of the bullet.[8] For this reason regular cast lead bullets should not be fired in the revolver as excessive leading of the forcing cone and barrel will occur, leading to excessive pressures or the deposited lead acting as an obstruction in the barrel or forcing cone.

While the overall length is given as 2.300 inches (Bad rounding hereScript error 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 .200 inches (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) shorter than that of the S&W Model 500.[9]

Performance Edit


The .500 S&W Magnum is considered the most powerful commercial sporting handgun cartridge by virtue of the muzzle energy it can generate. 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 (Bad rounding hereScript error g) at 1,800 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s), a 400 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) at 1,625 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) and a 440 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) at 1,625 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s). Compared to the next most powerful commercial sporting handgun cartridge, the .460 S&W Magnum, which can launch a 325 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) at 1,650 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) or a 395 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) at 1,525 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s), the .500 S&W Magnum produces about 15% to 40% more muzzle energy than the .460 S&W. The .500 S&W Magnum comes into its own when used with heavier bullets, particularly those with weights of 500 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) or greater. When possible these bullets should be 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 Smith & Wesson 500 cartridge, with some of the top-performing rounds delivering 3,031 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J) of energy with a 350-grain (Bad rounding hereScript error g) bullet traveling at 1,975 feet per second (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s). It is claimed to be the most powerful handgun cartridge manufactured and provides power similar to long-established wildcat cartridges such as the .375 JDJ (J. D. Jones) and pistol loadings of the .45-70 Government.[10][11][12] Indeed, some rounds use bullets weighting almost 1 oz. (28 g ~ 440 gr.), which are sent at about 1,500 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) – essentially the same performance of a 12 gauge shotgun slug.[7]

Bullet weights available for this cartridge range from a 265-grain (Bad rounding hereScript error g) jacketed hollow point to a 700-grain (Bad rounding hereScript error 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.[13]

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/or the mass of the projectile.[14] Winchester's reduced recoil X500SW ammunition propels a 350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) bullet at 1,400 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error 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 a 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 (Bad rounding hereScript error g) bullet at 1,250 feet per second (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s).[15] These low recoiling alternatives to the full-power 500 S&W Magnum, significantly reduce the felt recoil in the shorter 4-inch-barrel (Bad rounding hereScript error 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 a very high recoil energy and recoil velocity. The high energy and velocity of the recoil will 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 (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[". Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)[16] plays a major role in moderating the recoil of the cartridge.[17]

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.[18]

Sporting applicationsEdit


The .500 S&W Magnum was designed to be primarily a handgun hunting cartridge. It also serves a secondary purpose as a back-up survival handgun cartridge as a defense against the large bears of North America.[19] Due to its power, recoil and size, the 500 S&W Magnum is a poor self-defense or concealed-carry weapon, especially in an urban environment.


The .500 S&W Magnum’s success with large dangerous game is in part due the availability of heavier bullets with exceptional sectional densities. Bullets above 500-grain (Bad rounding hereScript error 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.[20][21] 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".[19]

In North America, it serves the purpose of hunting all North American big game species. The cartridge has had success in harvesting of Alaskan brown bear, American bison, moose, and elk. It is also used to hunt black bear, whitetail deer, wild boar, and feral hogs.[21] The cartridge gained some notoriety as being the cartridge which was used to hunt the supposed Monster Pig.

Bullets ranging from 275–325 gr (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[". Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".) can be used for light CXP2 game species. Bullets heavier than 350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g), including Winchester’s reduced-load ammunition, are appropriate for use with CXP3 game species. Bullets over 500 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error 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 (Bad rounding hereScript error 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. The .500 S&W Magnum cartridge has found use in survival guns such as the NEF Handi Rifle and the S&W Survival Kit. It is carried in Alaska for defense against the bears.[6] Smith & Wesson manufactures a 2.75-inch-barrel (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) version of the Model 500 revolver (model 500ES), which is included in the S&W Survival Kit. This shorter-barreled revolver is handier, weighing 56 oz (Bad rounding hereScript error kg) and has no muzzle brake as are included with the more common Model 500 8.375 in (Bad rounding hereScript error mm) revolvers.

Firearms and ammunitionEdit

Currently there are a few revolvers which are capable of firing the .500 S&W Magnum:

Each holds only five rounds to allow for thicker cylinder walls to accommodate the pressure generated by the large and powerful cartridge. The single shot Thompson-Center Encore, NEF Handi Rifle, and Towner pump rifle are also chambered for this round.[13] It is currently the most powerful production handgun cartridge available.

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.

.500 S&W Magnum Ammunition
Ammunition Bullet Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy
Cor-Bon HT500SW275-12 275 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter DPX 1,665 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 1,688 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW325-12 325 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter DPX 1,800 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,338 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW350-12 350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter JHP 1,600 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 1,990 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW385-12 385 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter BC 1,700 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,471 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW400SP-12 400 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter SP 1,625 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,346 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW440HC-12 440 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter HC 1,625 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,580 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Cor-Bon HT500SW500HC-12 500 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Hunter HC 1,500 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,499 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Federal P500XB1 275 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Barnes XPB 1,840 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,067 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Federal P500SA 325 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Swift AF 1,800 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,338 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Hornady 9249 300 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) FTX 2,075 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,868 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Hornady 9250 350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) XTP MAG 1,700 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,246 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Hornady 9252 500 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) FP XTP 1,425 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,254 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Winchester X500SW 350 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) JHP 1,400 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 1,416 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Winchester S500SWDB 375 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) Dual Bond 1,725 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,477 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Winchester S500PTHP 400 gr (Bad rounding hereScript error g) PTHP 1,675 ft/s (Bad rounding hereScript error m/s) 2,491 ft·lbf (Bad rounding hereScript error J)
Values courtesy of the respective ammunition manufacturer

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

See also Edit

Footnotes Edit

  1. Script error
  2. Script error
  3. Winchester
  4. DoubleTap Ammo
  5. Script error
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Script error
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Smith & Wesson Model 500 .50-Cal. Magnum Is The King Of Handguns", Popular Mechanics, 1 September 2003,
  8. 8.0 8.1 Script error
  9. Script error
  10. Ballistics data from COR-BON.
  11. .375 JDJ loading data by Accurate Powder
  12. Hogdon load data, search for .45-70 pistol loads.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "NEF's biggest and baddest Handi-Rifle: yeah, it's a .50", Guns Magazine, Jan, 2007 by John Taffin.
  14. Script error
  15. Script error
  16. Script error
  17. Script error
  18. Script error
  19. 19.0 19.1 Script error
  20. Script error
  21. 21.0 21.1 Script error

References Edit


External links Edit

Script error

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.