Smith & Wesson Performance Center 500: Handgun Review

The Smith & Wesson Performance Center 500 can deal with every animal you might encounter. It can fire loads light enough for varmints, heavy enough for thick-skinned dangerous game, or flat enough for long-distance species such as sheep or antelope. And while custom guns are never cheap, the Performance Center 500 is hand-built by master craftsmen and will put every bullet right where you point it. For just over $1,500, that’s pretty good. Here’s what makes it so awesome.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center 500
For $1,599 this big revolver can tackle just about anything you want to hunt.

Compensator: The compensator’s 360-degree design throws flame like the exhaust from a Top Fuel dragster but helps to tame the .500’s formidable recoil, making its 275- and 325-grain loads kick less than a .44 Magnum. It also acts as a barrel nut, suspending the barrel in the barrel shroud. In essence, it pulls the barrel between the frame and compensator, eliminating barrel stress and enhancing accuracy.

Barrel: You have a choice of three barrel lengths: 6 ½, 7 ½, or 10 ½ inches. The 10 ½ gives the best performance with the various loads for the 500, in both velocity and accuracy. Every Performance Center 500 barrel is made by Lothar-Walther and is precision ground at both the crown and the forcing cone, where the barrel extends through the gun frame. What you actually see is the barrel shroud. The barrel itself is contained within it, suspended in between the frame and compensator.

Scope: Traditionally, hunting handguns have been effective to about 100 yards or so (the exception being some single-shot handguns that have been chambered for rifle cartridges). The 500’s downrange energy and trajectory can increase that to 200 yards with the right scope and shooting technique.

Rings: Not every scope ring withstands all of the punishing recoil generated by the 500’s heaviest loads. I recommend cross-slot-style rings devised by Leupold—the company’s PRWs. They offer the best grip because they have metal tabs which sit in the integral grooves machined into the top of the revolver’s barrel shroud. This integral Picatinny-style rail—available only on the 10 ½-inch model—eliminates any need to use a separate scope base, thus providing another accuracy-enhancing feature.

Chin: The chin in front of the trigger guard is the best spot to rest a handgun when you’re using a set of sticks or any other shooting aid. Placing the barrel (or the barrel shroud in this case) on a rest can create some accuracy-destroying stress, especially when shooting at longer distances.

Cylinder: With its five charging holes, the 500 gives you better backup capability than most rifles. And with the exception of a double rifle, a revolver gives you the quickest follow-up shots of any repeater in the event of a misfire, a comforting advantage when you’re hunting dangerous game.

Trigger: As crisp as a mountain stream, the trigger is tuned to break at 4 pounds in single-action mode. The hammer and the trigger components are forged, not metal-injected, which allows them to be matched up for a crisper let-off and better trigger pull.

Grip: Smartly designed grips by Hogue feature a gel insert where the web of your hand rests to help dampen the 500’s kick. Made from a special material called Sorbothane, the insert acts just like a recoil pad on a shotgun or rifle.