The .500 S&W Magnum (12.7×41mmSR) is a fifty-caliber semi-rimmed handgun cartridge developed by Cor-Bon in partnership with the Smith & Wesson “X-Gun” engineering team for use in the Smith & Wesson Model 500 X-frame revolver and introduced in February 2003 at the SHOT show. Its primary design purpose was as a hunting handgun cartridge capable of taking all North American game species.
Smith & Wesson had been at the forefront when developing powerful handgun cartridges such as the .357 S&W Magnum and the .44 Remington Magnum. However, since 1960 the company’s .44 Remington Magnum, which it had developed in partnership with Remington, was eclipsed by the .454 Casull. Since then, several other more powerful cartridges had been developed by Action Arms, Linebaugh, Ruger, Wildey, and Winchester for repeating handguns.
In 1971 Smith & Wesson had experienced a dramatic surge in orders for their Model 29 revolver in the .44 Magnum cartridge with which S&W production was not able to keep up. Available Model 29 revolvers were being sold for two to three times the suggested retail price, due to the low supply and high demand for the revolver. This surge in demand was due to the Dirty Harry movie, where the Model 29 revolver was billed as the most powerful revolver (The .454 Casull designed in 1955 would not be in commercial production until the 21st century). With the entry of the .500 S&W Magnum and the Model 500 revolver, Smith & Wesson recaptured the title of the most powerful handgun, and with it an increase in sales.
The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum was designed from the outset to be the most powerful production handgun cartridge. S&W product manager Herb Belin proposed the idea of developing the revolver and cartridge to the S&W sales team. With the backing of the sales team, the project was approved by S&W President Bob Scott. The ammunition would be developed by Cor-Bon and Peter Pi in partnership with the S&W X-Gun engineering team of Brett Curry Lead Design Engineer, Rich Mikuta, and Tom Oakley. Eleven months later on January 9, 2003 the team unveiled the S&W Model 500 revolver and the .500 S&W Magnum cartridge. According to Belin, the cartridge was designed from its inception to be substantially more powerful than any other production handgun cartridge before it. Cor-Bon would later go on to develop the .500 S&W Special cartridge.