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Wild West Guns' 460 Rowland
my week with The Son of Chucky...
by Joe D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com
 

It isn't every day I get to shoot a relatively light weight, standard size autoloader that can put an aggregated twelve thousand three hundred fifty foot pounds of kinetic energy onto a target without reloading. Nor is it a daily occurrence when I can change a Springfield Armory XD Tactical back and forth between being a heavy hitter .45 ACP and a MAJOR thumper .460 Rowland in just about thirty seconds. Wild West Guns has made all of the preceding possible with a simple drop in conversion kit that consists of a properly chambered barrel, a solid guide rod and an appropriate recoil spring. The kit is priced below $350 and is also available in six inch and ported barrel configurations.

Wild West Guns - A sidearm for wilderness areas

The reality is that wilderness areas favored for hunting and fishing are also frequently populated with large animals that can be dangerous and quite unpredictable, both four and two legged variety. Subsequently, it's always good to bring along a gun that isn't a chore to carry, a gun that can be shot intuitively and a gun that has enough power to command respect, regardless the situation. No, I'm not suggesting three guns be carried, but I am suggesting you arm for at least one gun that will provide the minimum amount of power to handle the maximum probable threat. It could become... uncomfortable if you are armed to ward off an attack from a feral dog and, instead, your encounter is with a five hundred pound bear. To that end, with the Wild West Guns 460 Rowland conversion, you end up with no more bulk than a standard size autoloader, but with more power than a 44 magnum.

Wild West Guns' drop-in 460 Rowland conversion kit for the Springfield Armory XD, unlike competitor's kits for 1911 type autoloaders, does not employ a barrel extending compensator, a three hands to install two piece guide rod or a recoil spring that mandates a powered winch for compression. Additionally, because the conversion is based on the Springfield Armory poly framed striker platform, capacity is increased from eight rounds to fourteen rounds while maintaining a grip no wider than a single stack 1911.

Above left, a Kimber with a Clark Custom .460 Rowland conversion alongside of a Springfield Armory XD Tactical fitted with a 460 Rowland kit from Wild West Guns. While the installed kit is obvious on the Kimber, there are no external giveaways on the Springfield Armory gun and no increase in the gun's external appearance.

Thirty seconds from .45 ACP to .460 Rowland, thirty seconds back...

Pictured above 1) Wild West Springfield Armory XD Tactical conversion kit, 2) Standard Springfield Armory pieces, 3) 460 Rowland kit for the 1911, 4) Standard Kimber 1911 pieces.

These Wild West Kit makes no permanent changes to a firearm, so the kit can be swapped in and out as desired. The Wild West kit, and the conversion of this type of autoloader, is clean and a bit simpler to install and remove than is the case with 1911 type gun conversions. My personal opinion is that the lock up system on guns like the XD are more solid over the long haul than the radial locking lugs on the 1911 which sometime need work to maintain their full engagement and concurrent contact.

The 460 Rowland, Rowland, Rowland... Sorry, Blues Brothers flashback

Cartridge Bullet Weight
Grains
Velocity
ft/sec
Energy
 ft/lbs
460 Rowland 185 1500 925
460 Rowland 200 1450 934
460 Rowland 230 1340 917
45 Super 185 1300 694
45 Super 200 1200 639
45 Super 230 1100 617
44 Rem Mag 210 1250 729
44 Rem Mag 240 1180 741

 

For anyone not familiar with the .460 Rowland, this general reference table will put the cartridge into context with other powerful rounds. The Rowland can deliver exceptional performance from a 5" barrel, more than the 45 Super and more than the 44 Remington Magnum, the latter requiring a longer revolver barrel for optimal performance. Revolvers chambered for the powerful 460 and 500 S&W, absent from the table, were omitted as they fall into the foot long and five pound Popeye carry class.

Formed as a stretched version of the .45 ACP case with some internal beef added, the 0.0625" additional length of the .460 Rowland case is intended to prevent chambering the round in a conventional .45 ACP chamber. Cartridge overall length maximum of 1.275" for the .45 ACP remains unchanged to permit feeding from standard magazines and to utilize standard frames and slides as the basis for the converted firearm.

Factory loaded ammo is available from Cor-Bon in a number of loads from 185 grain to 255 grains. The task of assembling handloads for the 460 Rowland is straight forward, with one caveat; with each increment in maximum average pressure in these hyper 45 autoloader rounds; 45 ACP 21,000 PSI, +P 23,000 PSI, 45 Super 28,000 PSI, and 460 Rowland 38,000+ PSI (40,000 CUP) comes a disproportionate narrowing of margin for error. There is a substantial difference between bumping up a couple of tenths of a grain at the low end of the pressure spectrum then doing the same at the high end, as the high end is operating closer to the limits of autoloaders converted for this purpose. No big deal, just the same caution that follows any high pressure magnum handgun and rifle cartridge reloading.

Live fire... Now that was interesting

During my checkout of the Wild West Guns' 460 Rowland conversion of the Springfield Armory XD, the Rowland consistently outperformed the .45 ACP +P or .45 Super, where respective loads were loaded to proper pressures levels, and by a wide margin.

460 Rowland Handload Performance   Comparison
Bullet Weight Length COL Powder Charge Velocity   Gain Over
.45 ACP
Gain Over
.45 Super
Remington JHP 185 0.558 1.260 Power Pistol 12.8 1485   485 285
Remington GS 185 0.534 1.240 Long Shot 14.0 1510   510 310
Speer JHP 200 0.548 1.225 Long Shot 13.8 1469   389 269
Hornady HP/XP 200 0.570 1.245 Long Shot 13.5 1447   547 247
Hornady XP/HP 230 0.637 1.270 Long Shot 12.0 1286   386 186
Sierra JHC 240 0.641 1.265 Long Shot 11.5 1249   349 249

CCI 300 primers for all and all were taper crimped.
COL and bullet selection are critical to results.

Bullets selected appear above, left to right, as they appear on the table, top to bottom. While the light weights can crank out some serious muzzle velocity, I'd guess the heavier bullets that are lower in velocity for the 460 Rowland, but way over the speed limit for the .45 ACP, are the more useful as a trail gun where penetration through large and dense body mass is a typical requirement. I did load some 260 grain jacketed bullets that yielded decent velocity, somewhere in the 1150 fps range, but I will save those for future penetration testing, along with some similar weight hard alloy cast bullets.

It's easy to get so caught up in the cartridge that the gun is forgotten, which would be unfortunate. The Springfield Armory XD Tactical, in concert with the Wild West Guns' conversion kit, performed admirably. As a .45 ACP or .460 Rowland the Tactical model has a naturally good point, clean three dot sights and a recoil absorbing frame and grip.

Unlike the 1911 guns I have converted to 460 Rowland, the Springfield Armory gun isn't finicky about timing as much. This was demonstrated by the slide always locking open on empty and the gun feed and ejecting flawlessly... if somewhat rapidly. I'll have to get an extension ladder to get up on the roof and recover spent brass. No, not that bad, but I strive for the dramatic expression.

Accuracy, for this type of round, I thought was excellent, putting virtually anything and everything, bullet weight and charge combination, into 2˝" at 50 feet from a rest. The five shot group, right is typical, some better, none really worse. These were shot with 185 grain loads that clocked 1510 fps. Could this be tightened even further? I suppose, but I don't believe this is the type of gun that will see 10,000 rounds worth of range time. My recreational target shooting load is a Remington 185 grain JHP bulk bullet at 1.240" COL over 9 grains of Power Pistol. It's good for 1150 - 1200 fps, it is relatively light in recoil, but not so light of a load that it serves no purpose when I load up with heavy handloads for actual field use and not so light that the gun doesn't cycle reliably. I can, of course, also practice with standard .45 ACP ammo by removing the .460 Rowland kits and reinstalling the original parts.

Conclusion

The Wild West Guns' 460 Rowland conversion is a way to get to legitimate magnum power, cost effectively and in a standard size firearm. Purchased as a stand alone kit, it is listed as "drop in" and installation requires no more disassembly/assembly than that which is done for cleaning. The kit, and the autoloader in this case, are well made and perform as advertised. The fit and finish of the kits is excellent, the gun's Melonite slide finish and poly frame are very low maintenance and durable. If you are a fan of autoloaders, particularly with this heft, grip angle and size, this is an excellent package. Wild West Guns also makes a drop in kit for the S&W M&P Tactical, as well as six inch and ported barrel versions. Nice kit. fun gun. For further information, contact Wild West Guns. Nice people.

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