The 500 S&W Special was designed as a way to give mere mortals a way to enjoy the 500 S&W handgun without the fear of excessive recoil. It is a shortened 500 S&W Magnum cartridge that functions in revolvers chambered for 500 S&W Magnum. Before I am accused of dramatic misstatement about the recoil of this round, let me present some numbers. The factory 500 S&W Magnum Federal 275gr Barnes Expander produces 1680 ft-lbf of kinetic energy at the muzzle while the 500 S&W Special Cor-Bon 275gr Barnes DPX produces 950 ft-lbf at the muzzle. Given the weight of the average 500 S&W Special revolver, this is actually very reasonable recoil. Shooting a S&W Model 500 with 8” barrel, the 500 S&W cartridge gave me the same felt recoil as a mid-range 45 ACP from a 1911.
While this cartridge is fairly rare, it doesn’t have to be. What I envisage with this cartridge is a 4-shot or 5-shot revolver for concealed carry usage. This would produce a handgun with a terminal effectiveness equal to a 10mm Automatic +P cartridge out of a full-length barrel. I suggest this cartridge (and caliber for that matter) only be enjoyed by experienced handgun shooters. For the sake of our future and the ability to legally own guns in the future—do not give a novice shooter a 500 S&W to shoot because “it’s funny”. The Special version is a challenge to shoot well … the Magnum version can bring tears to your eyes.
For self-defense, I recommend the Cor-Bon 275gr DPX in 500 S&W Special. Be sure to shoot it first into water to test for expansion if you are using anything less than a 8” barrel length. I cannot recommend this cartridge for defense against brown bear because of the larger diameter of this bullet. It should be effective on smaller game when using solid bullets or JHPs with low expanded diameters.