Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A 460 S&W Levergun at long last!

Ever since Smith and Wesson introduced their infamous 500 Magnum and 460 Magnum in those gigantic revolvers almost everyone interested in them wanted to see the 460 chambered in a levergun. This is because the 460 is based off of the 454 Casull, which for a long time was one of the most powerful handgun chamberings, which was in turn based off of the legendary 45 Colt of western fame. Why? Because the case dimensions were almost identical save for length and wall thickness, allowing the shorter cartridges to fit into the new, larger actions.

This resulted in a rather interesting dilemma. This was a gun idea that everyone wanted. It was also a gun idea seemingly no company was interested in developing. While theoretically feasible it was something that proved very difficult to actually do. For one, there was no existing frame that was ideally suited for this sort of job. Everyone wanted to have it chambered in the 1894 Marlin, but it was deemed by many to be too fragile to handle the extreme pressures. It handled the 45 Colt and 44 Magnum fine, but for heavy hitters like the 454 Casull? Not so much. Also not helping was the fact that the 460 was much longer than either of its elders, something that did not help with the Marline design either.

In addition most lever action designs just weren't in the same league to deal with such high pressure cartridges. While there were a few such as the Browning BLR which is a lever action/bolt action hybrid or the Savage 99, they used internal box magazines instead of magazine tubes. This was not something that would allow an exchange of different cartridge lengths. Nobody wanted a carbine in just the 460 S&W either. After all, if you wanted a high powered 45 caliber rifle, why not just go with the 45-70 or 458 Winchester Magnum? Nope, the appeal lay in the ability to switch between the three cartridges which would make it wonderfully versatile.

The 45 Colt would be ideal for plinking, casual shooting, home defense and low budget practice. The 454 Casull would be superb for the majority of hunting purposes out to ranges almost certainly out to 200 yards with its higher velocity. But the 460 would be used for the serious hunting jobs requiring power and precision. With a muzzle velocity on revolvers of around 2,300 FPS, the 460 would command impressive ranges for a carbine. Or if loaded with fat 300 or 350 grain cast bullets it would be a monstrous penetrator capable of handling dangerous game. Six or seven rounds of medicine like that in a light rapid fire package would be lethal against dangerous game of all types.

Even with all these potential virtues, virtually no company around the world seemed to be interested in making such a package. Until now!
Almost a decade after the 460 S&W Magnum was created, a lever action rifle platform has been created to fit the bill!
Behold the Big Horn Armory Model 90!

Model 89 Trapper
Model 90 Carbine 460 S&W 
Also responsible for creating a lever action accepting the 500 S&W Magnum, the Big Horn Armory company has certainly been keeping itself busy. Their Model 90 frame is a mix between two John Moses Browning classics: The venerable 1886 Winchester and 1892 Winchester. The '86, which was Browning's second rifle was in fact a game changer back in the day and did a lot to solidify Winchester as a premier rifle company as well as securing Browning a pretty solid relationship with the company. Even in the face of more advanced rifle designs such as the 98 Mauser the 86 held up surprisingly well, being fantastically strong and able to handle massive shells that most other lever actions wouldn't accept. Even today when facing Marlin's proud 336 and 1895 platforms with side ejection and ability to easily mount optics, the 86 is still holding its own.

The 92 was basically the 86 made to handle the smaller pistol cartridges and became one of the go-to carbines, competing heavily with the likes of the Marlin 94 and effectively making the legendary 1873 Winchester obsolete. Big Horn has mixed the two platforms to create the Model 90 which from all accounts has done a sterling job of handling the tooth-rattling pressures of the 500 Magnum.

Sadly I won't be giving a whole lot of in depth critique of this rifle as the designers apparently forgot to send me a model to test out, and its price range is a wee bit beyond what I have on hand at the moment. I don't begrudge them this though! From what I gather so far their Model 90 is a rock solid design which they poured plenty of blood, sweat and tears into. At first glance I see nothing except fantastic quality with a great deal of attention given to making it reliable and functional. Not to mention a gorgeous weapon to boot! There is little I can see to improve on in terms of basic construction or the bells and whistles. They have aperture sights, sling studs, and a good black matte finish, although case hardened is also an option. By all accounts these are top notch weapons capable of handling a wide variety of jobs and would be a grace to any wall or gun safe.

To be honest folks, I've been hankering for a weapon like this for a very long time. This concept has appealed to me from the start but I didn't think I'd actually see one produced! I figured I would have to make my own model or cobble together some Frankenstein chimera to make my dream of having a 460 Magnum levergun come true. But now they are being made by a professional company for all to own! There are no words in the human language that can express the child-like delight I feel towards this little setup. And considering that I have a penchant for hyperbolic over-the-top description, that's saying something!

If any of you who happen to be reading this are burdened with an over-abundance of cash and would like to make a complete stranger happy, please let me know! Heaven forbid I invest cash in mutual funds or CDs in the bank. Nope! I've got to get myself a dream rifle! Well, I'd better start saving. Time to celebrate the new birth of one of the coolest long guns I've ever seen. I hope ya'll found this to be of interest!

Ya'll can find their site and rifles here:


  1. Yea right! Now lets have a company large enough to actually make this sweet caliber into a rifle 1500.00 dollars cheaper lol. I laughed when I saw the price for this on there website. I would never in a million years lol.

    1. That would be mighty nice. It is a bit pricey for sure, but I'm the sort of sucker who would sell half of my possessions to get one of these gorgeous guns. Living on Ramen for a few years isn't all that bad, is it? ;)

  2. Yes, very interesting, but way over priced for probably 90% of us or more.

    1. Yep, it is mighty expensive. I'm running out of arms and legs to pawn off myself, so I'll have to wait a bit longer before I can ever afford one!

  3. Yes, very interesting, but way over priced for probably 90% of us or more.

  4. They actually have to deliver them to the market, This sucker has been waiting almost 2 years and still no gun.

  5. I have a Rossi Puma in 454 and love it , how do you justify the extra cash, how about producing one in stainless and walnut for us po'boys ....

  6. I contacted Marlin engineers about a year ago. I figure they are already making actions, barrels and receivers to size and to withstand the load. Some simple retooling could blow the market wide open. I live in MI and like many states we have restrictions on where a HP rifle is legal and deer hunting is restricted to either shotgun, handgun, bow or blackpowder. With the exception that a long gun maybe used provided it fires a straight wall pistol cartridge! Who could ask for more, getting 30-30 ballistics where you were limited to a handgun or 12 gage distances... now going out 250 yards with a big honking, brush cutting bullet.

  7. i contacted big h. and asked questions like ,are these guns fitted to the buyer ? they are not ! i would think for that price they would . are they finished like as a s.w. performance center product they said no ! . Well in my opinion they look great but offered no range performance stats that i require when spending that kind of money. hopefully a company will step-up and give us a great product to fit the 460 s.w. performance center quality . thanks for listing DAVID SYROCKI Mi.