Since writing the original article for
Gunblast.com reviewing Ruger's new .480 Super Redhawk (see
article at The .480 Ruger), I have had the
opportunity to do some load development with the new cartridge.
The original factory ammunition from
Hornady is loaded with a 325 grain XTP Magnum hollowpoint bullet at a
velocity of 1350 feet-per-second (fps). As stated in the earlier article, I
achieved 1332 fps at 12 feet from the muzzle, indicating that Hornady's
ballistic figures are very accurate. Also noted in the first article was my
intention of trying the new cartridge with some heavier bullets, both in weight and construction.
I obtained for the purpose of this article some excellent bullets from
Cast Performance. These are hard-cast .475 diameter flat point bullets in 370 grain plain base and
405 grain gas-check configurations. I have used the Cast Performance bullets
before (see article at Cast Performance), and have total
confidence in their accuracy and construction. I also received some of Hornady's XTP jacketed
hollowpoint bullets in 325 and 400 grain weights. I experimented with several proven
powders that are old favorites with magnum shooters and one that is quickly becoming
a favorite of mine for heavy bullets in the magnum handguns, that powder being
Hodgdon's Lil' Gun (see article at Hodgdon
Lil' Gun Powder).
I won't list here every powder and bullet combination tried, but will
attempt to review some of the better loads for practical handgun use. As some of the loads did not prove to be
useful, I will try to save the .480 shooter a little time and materials in
their own load development.
I do want to commend Ruger on the strength and accuracy of the Super
Redhawk that I used for testing the loads in this article. The loads were developed for use in this Ruger, and I
strongly urge each shooter to develop the best loads for his own gun. I will
concentrate the effort here only upon the best bullets and powders that I have found for this particular cartridge.
In the course of this load development,
I used exclusively the Hornady New Dimension Carbide dies. They
worked perfectly in conjunction with my Dillon 550B reloader in loading
flawless ammunition for the tests. All loads were fired over the screens of
my Pact Professional chronograph which has proven itself for the last 18
In comparing the results of my load development with that of Hodgdon
Powder Co., I concluded that with some powders I could not achieve the velocities that they did with seemingly
identical guns. For instance with the 325 grain hollowpoint and Li'l Gun, while I came within 10 fps of their
results, I had to use more powder to get there, and the pressure was excessive
for my gun. While Hodgdon has state-of-the-art pressure equipment and I do
not, I did have to enlist the help of a hickory limb to extract the cases. I point this out only
to confirm that each gun is unique, and must be treated as such when developing
For the heaviest and most dangerous game in North America, including the
largest bears, I believe that the 405 grain bullet from Cast Performance should prove ideal in the .480. With 23
grains of 296 powder, this bullet was reaching speeds of 1300 fps and showing signs of only moderate
pressure. This bullet weight and speed are nearing that of the traditional
45-70 rifle load, and should have no trouble penetrating plenty deep in flesh
and bone. Li'l Gun also proved to give good results with both this Cast Performance 405 and the Hornady
400 grain bullets, but 296 was better. The aforementioned load of 23 grains
and the 405 CP was very consistent, with a mean average deviation (MAD) of only 5.6.
In working with the lighter weight bullets, I was able to exceed the
velocity of the factory load by over 100 fps, using the same 325 grain
XTP-HP and 296 powder. This bullet at this speed is relatively fragile according to my tests. That is not a
condemnation of the bullet at all, merely a statement of the use for the
bullet. Were a person inclined to shoot light game or heavy varmints at long
range, the 325 Hornady at 1500 plus fps should be a great combination of bullet construction and speed,
giving immediate expansion.
Loading the same Hornady 325 with a charge of 10 grains of Alliant Unique (see article at Alliant Unique)
gave superb accuracy out of the Ruger with a muzzle velocity of 1015 fps, and
a MAD of only 5.9, indicating excellent consistency. This particular load
should be ideal for use on Whitetail deer, with great accuracy, relatively
mild recoil, and good bullet expansion. Interestingly, the same charge of
Unique behind the CP 370 grain bullet gave erratic velocities and a MAD
exceeding 65. This same bullet proved great with more velocity however, indicating to me that bullet
obturation was inadequate with the mild powder charge of this load.
Loading the CP 370 grain bullet with 26.2 grains of
W-W 296 gave both good velocity and accuracy.
In conclusion, the bullets and powders
which proved best in my opinion are as follows:
For heavy loads and maximum penetration I like the Cast
Performance 405 grain bullet with a healthy dose of H110 or W-W
For long range and high velocity where deep
penetration is neither needed nor desired, the Hornady 325 XTP Magnum HP with
28 to 29 grains of 296 will give plenty of reach for a big bore sixgun.
Perhaps the most useful load for ninety-five percent
of the hunting that will be done with a .480 caliber sixgun (or fivegun for that
matter) in this country, is the 325 Hornady and Unique powder. This is a load which is neither
punishing or excessively destructive, leaving plenty of meat for the freezer
instead of a lot of bloodshot pulp and hair. This isn't a load that will win you bragging rights
for having the biggest, baddest magnum in the woods, but it isn't intended to be.
Someone will always come up with a stronger gun and load.
If you really need the power, the .480 can deliver. It will throw a tough, heavy
bullet weighing more than 400 grains in excess of 1300 fps. It will also send
a 325 grain bullet in excess of 1500 fps. Having the ability to do this and still be
extremely accurate with milder loads, gives us a versatile, if somewhat heavy, hunting handgun and cartridge.
This cartridge, in my opinion, would be ideal in a lighter sixgun, such as
the Blackhawk. It would also have great potential for use in a lever-action or
It is, as currently offered, available in heavy handguns
very suitable for hunting with or without a scope sight. The Ruger .480
gives shooters an affordable big bore alternative to the excellent custom handguns that
are beyond the financial means of many. A shooter desiring a .475 bore handgun can buy a Super
Redhawk, dies, leather, and a large supply of components for much less than a custom five-shot revolver
There will always be a demand for the custom
guns, and rightly so. They are true works of art. The .480 Ruger is more of
an everyman's sixgun that will get him into the over-.45 club without selling the children to do so.
I think that Ruger has, once again, hit the
proverbial nail on the head. It is a cartridge that will give twice the power
and penetration than most shooters, including myself, will ever need.
NOTE: All load data posted on this
web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor
GunBlast.com assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data.
The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under
conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the
potential user of this data. Always use data from respected loading
manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated
in the source manual.
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.