Puma .480 Ruger Levergun from Legacy Sports International

 

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 24th, 2007

 

 

 

Click for video!

Even with heavy factory loads, the Puma easily fires eleven aimed rounds in eleven seconds.

 

The Puma as built by Rossi in Brazil has been around for many years now, and is a pretty faithful copy of the Model 1892 Winchester lever action rifle. More commonly called the Model 92, that wonderful rifle was surely inspired by God and designed by John Browning for Winchester back in late 1890, being basically a scaled down Model 1886, which is also a superb, but larger, levergun.  The design was to be a great improvement in strength and durability over Winchesterís Model 1873. The 92 was one of the most successful leverguns ever sold by Winchester, and their ceasing production after about one million rifles and fifty years of production left a void that went unfilled for many years. Since the end of production of the Model 92, it has been left to producers in countries outside of the United States to meet the demand for these excellent little rifles and carbines, the most prolific of which has been Rossi of Brazil.

Rossi has built the Model 92 with varying degrees of quality over the past three decades or so, with the latest ones being some of the best to date.  Imported by a couple of different importers, the Rossi-built leverguns are as popular as ever. A few years ago, Legacy Sports International started advertising that they were importing a Rossi Puma built to handle the .454 Casull cartridge. Most everyone, including me, was skeptical that the little carbine could handle such pressures, as conversions had been tried before, with disappointing results.  A little over four years ago, Paco Kelly was also skeptical, but decided to try one for himself. He was so impressed with the .454 Puma that he wrote a review for Gunblast, which was published in December of 2002, and is in our ARCHIVE section. I recommend that you read that also. Legacy had enough changes made to the weapon that they hold up really well, with no shearing of the magazine retaining screw as can happen on the Model 92 when converted to handle the heavily-recoiling cartridges, such as the .454 Casull. 

[Ed. Note: From subsequent conversations I have had with Paco, he remains as impressed as ever with the Puma .454. There have been no failures or problems of any kind after digesting thousands of Paco's hot handloads. - Boge Quinn]

The levergun featured in this review is basically the same as the .454, except that it is chambered for the .480 Ruger cartridge.  The rifle tested here is the stainless steel model with the twenty inch round barrel and an overall length of just thirty-eight inches.  The barrel has a gentle taper, and with the huge bore, is nicely light and trim. The rifle balances beautifully, and weighing just one ounce over six pounds, is a dream to carry afield. The balance point is exactly at the barrel/receiver junction when empty, and the rifle is quick to shoulder and handles like it is even lighter. The stainless finish looks good with the walnut-stained hardwood stock. The action is the same trim Model 92 that chambers the smaller cartridges such as the .357 and .44 magnums, with minor but important changes made to accommodate the larger .480 Ruger cartridge. The magazine tube is threaded into the receiver, instead of just held in with a retainer screw, solving the problem of the tube coming loose as can happen when a standard 92 is converted to a larger caliber. Also, the magazine tube is unique to the .454 and .480 Pumas in that it has an internal tube that can be unscrewed from the outer tube, withdrawn, and loaded like loading a tubular magazine on a rimfire rifle. This is a handy feature, but I prefer loading through the loading gate on the right side of the receiver as with most lever action rifles. The removable tube does allow another option however, and is a very handy feature for quickly unloading the carbine without cycling the ammunition through the action. Loading by withdrawing the tube, nine rounds would fill the tube up to the port. Chambering one would allow a total of ten rounds to be carried. However, when loading as normally done through the loading gate in the receiver, ten rounds could be loaded. Chambering one then allowed another to be inserted through the gate, for a total capacity of eleven of the big .480 Ruger cartridges. That is a lot of firepower in such a compact carbine.

The Puma tested here wears the optional Hi-Viz fiber optic sights that are very easy to see in low light conditions such as in the deep woods or at sunrise/sunset. Both front and rear are set into dovetails in the barrel, and the rear is adjustable for windage and elevation correction. They are a good option on a hunting rifle, and much easier to use quickly that a plain black post front sight with a rear notch.  The buttstock wears a very effective recoil pad, which is a welcome feature on a light rifle chambered for such a powerful cartridge.  The action uses a coil hammer spring, but was still very smooth to operate, as slick as any Puma that I have ever handled. The trigger pull measured two and three-quarters pounds, which is about perfect on such a rifle. I was pleasantly surprised to find such an excellent trigger on a modern-day levergun. 

The .480 Ruger cartridge, though relatively new,  has been with us for a few years now. It was developed by Ruger and Hornady as a very powerful big bore revolver cartridge, and I am glad to see that Legacy has introduced it into the Puma rifle. The cartridge is very well suited to the action length of a Model 92, and all loads tested, from the lightest hollowpoint bullets to the longest, heaviest cast lead blunt-nosed slugs, worked beautifully through the Puma. Even the long Belt Mountain Punch bullets, seated to the middle crimping groove, fed perfectly. 

I tested the Puma with a variety of factory and handloaded ammunition. The handloads were developed in both Starline and Hornady cases, and used Winchester Magnum Large Pistol primers, with the exception of the 325 grain cast load using Titegroup powder, which used CCI 300 primers. Velocity testing was done with an air temperature of around sixty degrees, which was very welcome around here in February. The ammunition was fired over the eyes of a PACT chronograph set at twelve feet from the muzzle. Velocities are listed in the chart below, and are in feet-per-second (fps).  Bullet weights are listed in grains. XTP is Hornadyís proprietary hollowpoint. WFN is a wide flat nosed hard cast gas-checked bullet, and LFN is the long-nosed design of same.  Both are very blunt with a wide meplat. JSP is the Hawk jacketed soft point.  Punch is the Belt Mountain turned brass blunt-nosed bullet with a lead inner core. XPB and DPX are both loads using the Barnes X copper hollowpoint pistol bullet.

LOAD WEIGHT VELOCITY
Hornady XTP 325 1561
Hornady XTP 400 1328
Cor-Bon DPX  275 1828
Buffalo Bore WFN 410 1407
Buffalo Bore LFN  370 1477
Grizzly Punch 340 1303
Grizzly JSP 350 1423
Grizzly LFN 375 1392
Grizzly JSP 400 1254
Grizzly WFN 425 1171
Handload LFN  325 1155
Handload Punch  370 1482
Handload XPB  275 1855

All loads tested performed very well. Recoil was stout with the heavier loads, but not at all painful. The rifle was easy to handle, and easy to shoot well. The video shows me firing eleven aimed shots in eleven seconds on target using the 325 grain Hornady ammunition. Firing heavier bullets at lower velocity the time between shots was just as quick. The fastest velocity posted in the factory ammo was as expected, the Cor-Bon DPX, as the bullet weight is much lighter than most. However, the DPX uses a dandy bullet; the Barnes XPB, which has proven to be an excellent performer, opening up quickly but still offering very good penetration.  Handloading the same bullet, I pushed it up to 1855 fps using 31 grains of Hodgdon H110 powder. I had no load data for this bullet, but worked up carefully, with no signs of excessive pressure noted. If you try this load, you should work it up slowly in your particular rifle or handgun, as chambers and components vary.  The load was, however, a stellar performer in this Puma. A much more comfortable to shoot load was the handload using the Cast Performance 325 grain gas-checked hard cast lead bullet, loaded over 9 grains of Hodgdon Titegroup powder.  It was a very accurate and consistent load, with an average deviation of only 4.9 and an extreme spread of just 11. The Belt Mountain Punch bullet was loaded atop 24 grains of H110, and would be my choice of a load if going after thick-skinned animals with hooves and horns. This bullet penetrates like nothing that I have ever seen before, as was noted when tested by Paco Kelly and me independently a couple of years ago.  View those results HERE.

For thin-skinned game from whitetail to moose, and possibly even the big bears with further testing, I like the handload using the Barnes 275 grain XPB.  As noted above, expansion is quick, and it opens up to a diameter bigger than a quarter dollar. For everyday general purpose use, the 325 Cast Performance bullet with Titegroup is an accurate, reliable, and economical round to shoot.

Back to the Puma rifle, I like almost everything about the little carbine. Almost. I am not a fan of the safety lever that was added atop the bolt a few years ago. The 92 action, with its half-cock notch in the hammer, is already as safe as a mechanical device can be.  This is the part where a gun writer usually states something like "The safety lever is there to use if you like, but is otherwise out of the way, and in no way detracts fromÖblah blah blah, etc." You have all read it before. Well, I ainít saying that in this case. Now, if you want to use the little safety lever, that is just fine. However, this rifle is meant to be not only a hunting tool wherein if the safety was inadvertently engaged and you lost your shot at a whitetail it is no big deal. Aggravating yes, but you still get to hunt another day. This Puma .480 is also a fighting tool, which can and will be carried for protection against the largest carnivores on our planet, and when hunting hoofed beasts and big bears in thickets and brush. If you shoulder your rifle to fire up close and personal, and that little safety is engaged, the game wardens will be picking through bear crap to see which one of them ate you. I think that in a dangerous situation, the safety could be a problem. It is not like a key lock, which takes a special tool to engage, but can be rather effortlessly flipped one way or another. However, it is easily removed, and if I buy this rifle, which seems pretty likely at this point, I will remove the safety from mine. I am not recommending that you do the same, and Legacy certainly does not recommend that you do so, but the 92 was just fine as designed well over 100 years ago. Carried on half-cock, the hammer must be cocked and the trigger pulled to make it fire. It is an excellent design without the added safety device.  The best safety is located between your ears, and no mechanical device will substitute for proper rifle handling. Enough about that minor but important feature.

The Model 92 in general is one of the best leverguns ever designed, and the Legacy Puma is one of the best  Model 92 rifles ever built. It carries beautifully, is accurate, smooth, stone reliable, and built to last. The stainless steel is a good choice for those who hunt in coastal areas or who live in the hot, humid South. I like many unique features of this Puma. I like the sights. I like the effective recoil pad. I like the magazine design. I like having a choice of how to load it. I like the light weight and handy size. I like the smoothness of operation and the great trigger pull. I like the finish, and I love the caliber. If I lived where big bears roamed the woods and streams, I can think of no other rifle that I would rather have at hand. A .45/70 levergun would be great, but it is heavier and has a lower magazine capacity than does this Puma. Having eleven rounds of .480 Ruger power instantly available is ideal for such circumstances. Another good thing about a levergun is that it can be loaded without taking it out of the fight. On a bolt action, the rifle is out of operation while loading, but with the Puma, cartridges can be slid into the loading gate with the sights still on target and a round in the chamber. I like that.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the .480 Puma. It fed cartridges smoothly that I did not expect it to feed at all. It handled better than I thought, and the quality of the rifle was better than expected. When speaking with the Legacy folks at the 2007 SHOT Show about reviewing one of these, I wasnít really all that excited about it. I wanted to do it, but just wasnít excited. When I started shooting the Puma, that is when I got excited about it. It is more gun than I ever thought that it would be. Model 92 rifles are fun. The Cowboy Action Shooters love them. However, this ainít no cowboy fun gun. This is a carbine built for the most serious of situations, and it can handle the task presented it. I own a few Model 92 leverguns, but I own nothing like this - not yet anyway.  However, I expect that Legacy will be receiving a check instead of a rifle. I canít recommend a gun any more highly than that. My brother Boge bought one just like it a couple of weeks ago.

Check out the Puma rifles and carbines online at:  www.legacysports.com.

For specs and ordering information on the ammunition tested here, go to:  www.buffalobore.com, www.cor-bon.com, www.grizzlycartridge.com, and www.hornady.com.

To order the bullets featured here, go to:  www.barnesbullets.com , www.beltmountain.com, and www.castperformance.com.

Jeff Quinn

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.

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Puma .480 Ruger Levergun from Legacy Sports International.

 

 

 

 

The Puma .480 is lightweight, handy and perfectly balanced.

 

 

Jeff's 2-1/2 year old grandson, Ethan, shows the compact size of the Puma.

 

 

 

 

Magazine can be loaded through loading gate (top picture) or directly into the tube like a rimfire.

 

 

Magazine tube is threaded into the receiver.

 

 

 

 

The stock features an effective recoil pad

 

 

Manual safety.

 

 

The .480 Puma feeds even long and heavy bullets with ease.

 

 

Author tested the .480 Puma with a variety of factory loads...

 

 

...as well as handloads using (left to right): 275-grain Barnes X, 370-grain Belt Mountain Punch, 325-grain Cast Performance Lead.

 

 

Barnes 275-grain X bullet fired into water.

 

 

Loads tested included (left to right): Hornady 325 & 400 XTP, Cor-Bon DPX, Buffalo Bore 410 & 370 cast lead, Grizzly 340 Punch, 350 JSP, 375 cast lead, 400 JSP, 425 cast lead, Handloads: 325 cast lead, 370 Punch, 275 Barnes XPB.

 

 

The Puma .480 is capable of fine accuracy with its issue open sights, as shown by this 50-yard group.