Previous attempts had already been made to improve upon the venerable .45 ACP such as the .45 Super. However these rounds had failed to catch on with the general public and Johnny Jay Rowland wanted to create something better than what was being offered. In the end he would produce a semi-automatic caliber that would rival the acclaimed .44 Magnum in terms of ballistics and “stopping power”. Where the .45 Super, or the .45 ACP 2.0, had failed to truly catch on, the .460 Rowland is still strong with Johnny Rowland producing Ammo, Conversions, and more for this powerful round on the 1911, Glock 21, and other platforms.
If It Isn’t Broke, Improve On It
While one of the “big three” handgun cartridges that gets trotted out in the never-ending caliber wars, the .45 ACP is an old cartridge. Old enough in fact to have been originally designed in 1905. This means that the cartridge is only able to handle a fraction of the pressure that modern ammunition powders are able to produce. The .45 ACP is only able to handle up to 23,000 PSI in a +P loading, whereas the .45 Super is able to handle up to 40,000 PSI.
Johnny Rowland first introduced his .460 Rowland to the public in 1998 with production guns from manufacturers following soon after. What truly set the .460 Rowland apart from other attempts to improve upon the .45 ACP was the down range power. Comparable to one of the strongest handgun calibers available, the .44 Magnum, the .460 Rowland achieves equivalent ballistics to one of the hardest hitting handgun calibers available. With revolvers rounds like the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum are able to do more damage down range due to the revolver’s design. However with semi-auto handguns the performance of the cartridges had to be lowered due to accommodate for the recoil and the reciprocating nature of the slide. To give you a comparison, the .45 ACP averages around 500 foot pounds of force while the .44 Magnum averages around 1,000 foot pounds of force. The .460 Rowland averages roughly 960 foot pounds of force, roughly equivalent to the .44 Magnum.
The ability to handle higher pressures and create these higher levels of force is achieved by a thickening of the case walls and webbing to contain the nearly doubled pressure. However when converting a Kimber 1911 for the .460 Rowland RealGuns.com Editor Joseph D’Alessandro noted that the cases he found commercially had similar thicknesses to the current .45 ACP Cases. When calling about this to one manufacturer he was told that the cases were heat-treated differently. In the end D’Alessandro experienced no issues with his .460 Rowland Conversion.
What makes this particular round stand out is the ability for barrels chambered in it to work with .460 Rowland, .45 Super, .45 ACP +P, and .45 ACP without having to change out the barrel or recoil spring. However it should be mentioned that the slight gap between the case and the head of the chamber (1/16″) might cause additional fouling than normal in the chamber and lead to malfunctions if the chamber is not cleaned properly after extended use.
Hand loading & Factory Ammo
Factory ammo can be found from a few different manufacturers, Buffalo Bore and Underwood Ammo both make excellent .460 Rowland Ammo. In addition to this you can go directly to 460Rowland.com and find ammo suitable for range, hunting, and self-defense.
Hand loaders also have a few options open to them, Starline makes brass specifically for the .460 Rowland and .460 Rowland brass can also be bought from 460Rowland.com directly. A wealth of loading data is also available at 460Rowland.com and hand loaders should have no trouble with reloading this round. As I said above the thickness of some .45 ACP brass might be the same as the .460 Rowland brass, however it is not advisable to utilize the .45 ACP brass for a .460 Rowland load. First the case dimensions are different, the .460 Rowland being 1/16 of an inch longer than its parent case. Second, the .460 Rowland brass has been heat-treated differently and is better able to hold the pressures of the hotter load.
Chambered Firearms & Accessories
So for those of you feeling like you want to upgrade your current .45 you have a number of options. The most common is a conversion kit from 460Rowland.com. Conversion kits are offered for the 1911 both full-sized and commander sizes, as well as Spring Field XD, XDm, Glock 21, and Glock 30. The SIG P220 is also able to be converted to the .460 Rowland, however as of this writing I have not seen any conversion kits from .460 Rowland available.
Existing owners of one of these firearms should consult with their manufacturers to make sure that they are able to handle the .460 Rowland, especially 1911 owners. Many older 1911’s were not heat-treated like modern 1911’s are and should be carefully looked at by a gunsmith before converted. Failure to do so might result in catastrophic damage to the slide, frame, barrel, or you. Also it should be noted that a compensator is a must have on this particular caliber, the combined compensator and the heavier recoil spring help to ensure that the slide stays locked up for long enough for the pressure in the barrel to drop to a safe level. If it does not it could result in a “kaboom”. A full list of acceptable brands who’s modern 1911’s would make a good fit for the .460 Rowland can be found here. Also bull barrel and fully ramped 1911’s are not compatible with the conversion kits.
A few factory guns can also be found Wilson Combat makes the awesome, if pricy, “Hunter” offered in .460 Rowland and 10mm. The Ruger Black Hawk as well as the Smith & Wesson Model 25/625 can be converted to .460 Rowland as well, however this is more complicated than converting a semi-auto, and requires the cylinder to be reamed out. However once done the gun will accept .460 Rowland, .45 Winchester Magnum, and .45 ACP.
Dan Wesson also produced a .460 Rowland revolver, able to fire .460 Rowland, .45 Winchester Magnum, and .45 ACP however it has become a rare find these days.
Mr. Guns and Gear on Youtube did a review on a Glock 21 Conversion that you can take a look at below
Hasn’t Caught On, Yet…
Despite offering so many benefits the .460 Rowland is about on par with the 10mm and other niche handgun calibers supported by larger manufacturers. The .460 Rowland perhaps owes its continued success to the evangelism of its creator who hosted The Shooting Show on what eventually became The Outdoor Channel. Despite its increased ballistics and stopping power that could make a grizzly think twice it remains a niche caliber. Hopefully it will continue to see support and see more and more people adopt this round.