Project: Epicyon

I have a gun.  I actually have a few, but one sticks out as unique, as the most powerful, as the most…


I am talking, of course, about my 460 XVR from Smith & Wesson, chambered in .460 S&W Magnum.

460*dog for scale

This gun is heavy, loud, expensive, and hard to handle (insert ex-girlfriend joke here). This gun is a personal favorite of mine because I received it as a gift from my dad.  This gun in particular will probably never be sold because it’s rather unique.  Even though it is chambered in the fastest production handgun cartridge in the world, it also chambers and fires .454 Casull, .45 (long) Colt, and .45 Schofield.  I can buy some powder-puff cowboy loads in .45 Colt and this things shoots like a cap gun.  It is both the hardest and softest recoiling gun I own.  This fact makes it much more desirable (for me) than it’s favored biggerer brother the .500 S&W magnum.  It is tied for 1st place as the loudest gun I own, and that’s because my 16″ AR has a tremendous muzzle brake.  Could I sell it and get some decent change for other projects that are far more practical?  Absolutely, but this gun just…  There’s something about it that speaks to me.  I’ve sold plenty of guns to fund other projects and purchases, both gun & non-gun, but I do not think I’ll ever sell this one.

But, that gun is not the subject of this post.  The S&W XVR is only a prelude to the true subject.  The true subject of this post, and Project Epicyon itself, is this:

BHA 460 16in

This is the Model 90 Trapper 16″ 460 S&W, from Big Horn Armory.  It is a lever gun chambered in .460 S&W, is semi-custom, is made to order, and retails for between $3,200 and $4,000, depending on selected options.  It is also one of the far-off goals of mine to own one day.  I say “one day”, because there’s no way on Earth I could afford such an expensive, if exquisite, piece these days.  So, why the weird name?  What does it mean?  Well, if you’ll hold on, I’ll tell you. [or watch this video, where I got my info]

Epicyon was a prehistoric distant relative to modern day wolves, dogs, coyotes, etc.  There are 3 subfamilies to the genus Canid: Hesperocyoninae (the first Canids), Borophaginae (“Bone-Crushing Dogs”), and Caninae.  Only the subfamily Caninae still roams the Earth, and it includes all living dogs, wolves, foxes, etc.  The Borophaginae were adapted to hunting and killing large fauna in ancient North America, of which Epicyon was the largest.  Epicyon was up to 5 feet long and weighed up to an estimated 400+ lbs.  Consider it closer to a medium sized bear, but one that actively hunts down prey.  This was a truly massive creature, and one that has it’s roots here in what would become the United States.

So, what happened to such an unstoppable monster?  Well, the very thing that allowed it to rise to the top eventually became its undoing: it’s size.  See, large creatures need a lot of food to survive.  Large predators need to eat lots of animal mass to keep on living, meaning that the larger an animal is, the more easily it can suffer from a food shortage.  Epicyon, being the largest of its kind, need the most food to keep being awesome, and this is where things went wrong.  Though Epicyon was the greatest Canid to roam the land, it was not the greatest predator.  Cats first appeared in Eurasia, but before long crossed the Bering Straight land bridge into North America, coming into direct competition with Borophaginae for the niche of super-large predator.  …and beat them at their own game.  The cat’s hunting style allowed them to be more efficient and effective at catching and killing prey, making it very hard for the large Canids to get enough to survive.  But, it wasn’t just the cats making life hard.  By this time Caninae (modern day wolves, foxes, etc) had come on the scene and were quickly filling up the roles of medium-to-large predators, and with improved hunting styles as well.  The Borophaginae weren’t good enough to stay in their weight class, and their own relatives had the lower levels on lock.  The giant bone-crushing dogs had no options left, and they eventually went extinct.  A terrible end to a magnificent 11 million year run.

What in the world does this have to do with a lever gun in .460 S&W Magnum?  Actually, quite a lot.  Let’s compare the two:  An old design, an American original, that was superseded by better designs from Europe?  A version that is so powerful that it tests the upper limits of practicality?  That sounds like they  have some things in common.

Not every gun has to be practical, or even need a well defined role.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I do not live in the a place with large native fauna (at least, not roaming free), and I’m not much of a hunter.  My preferred game in the past has been prairie dogs, and a Model 90 in .460 S&W is about the worst kind of gun I could pick for hunting them.  And that’s fine.  Not everything in our lives needs to be practical, or even useful.  If you can keep your bills paid, your family fed, and tuck a little into savings every month, go wild with the rest.   I plan to do just that with a a Model 90 from Big Horn Armory, eventually.

In the end, ‘Epicyon’ is a dumb name for a dumb gun.  I’ll admit it, but in the immortal words of Tom Haverford, “Treat yo self.”


4 thoughts on “Project: Epicyon

  1. I think there are always going to be guns that we want just because. I want a lever action in 30-30 as well, even though I know it’s more practical for me to get a 300 BLK upper and call it a day.

    I’ve also wanted a large revolver for a long time. More so when I used to hike in Montana, but still…a 5” .44 mag sounds like a nice thing to keep.


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