The .480 Ruger


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn & Jeff Quinn



There has been much interest in recent years regarding big bore revolvers.  Up until the last few years, big bore meant .41 Magnum and larger. Lately, however, the big bore sixguns of years past are seeming smaller in comparison to today's new crop of bigger and more powerful cartridges. 

Gun makers such as Freedom Arms, along with custom gun builders like John  Linebaugh and Hamilton Bowen, have been producing some five-shot revolvers delivering more power than ever believed possible a few years back. 

Dick Casull started the ball rolling with his awesome .454 Casull many years ago, using loads developed with a combination of different powders, to achieve velocities with .45 caliber bullets never seen from a revolver.

The firm of Sturm, Ruger, & Company, has for many years been making strong, affordable sixguns in both single and double action designs. Ruger is credited with bringing back the single action revolver from the brink of extinction, and continues to produce some of the finest single action revolvers available, at a price that is under that of the Italian imports.

Ruger's double action revolvers are built like the proverbial tank, using state-of-the-art production techniques and materials. From their very first double action design, the Security Six, Ruger dispensed with the traditional sideplate, going for a much stronger solid-frame design. This same basic frame design is still used in their double action revolvers, along with improved lockwork, to build some of the strongest sixguns available. The largest of Ruger's revolvers is the Super Redhawk, and this is the gun chosen to introduce the first cartridge to bear the company's name - the .480 Ruger.

As most shooters are familiar with the Super Redhawk, I won't go into detail here on the finer points of the sixgun, and just give a general description. The revolver that I received for testing wears a seven and one-half inch barrel, but the Super Redhawk is also available with a two inch longer tube. The sixgun has an ingenious cylinder lockup that is strong and durable, giving extremely solid lockup front and rear, while maintaining  a simple, one-button latch. The Super is a large sixgun. You won't be carrying this gun in your hip pocket, but with a good holster, it rides pretty comfortably on the hip or across the chest. The weight of the Super Redhawk with the 7 1/2" tube is 53 ounces, only five more than the single action Super Blackhawk. 

For handgun hunters who wish to mount a scope sight on their revolver, this Ruger comes with built-in scope mounts and matching rings, which are quickly detachable by two large knurled nuts, in the event that access to the open sights is needed. Most hunting sixguns require that the rear sight be removed to mount a scope, but the Super Redhawk's mount is made into the frame and in no way alters the adjustable sights. Personally, I prefer not to use a scope sight while hunting with a handgun, but for testing this gun I mounted a Charles Daly two power handgun scope. For hunters who want a scope on their sixgun, while still retaining the ability to access the open sights, this system is the best that I have ever seen. It is both simple and strong. The stainless steel construction of the Super Redhawk is finished in a dull but smooth finish that Ruger calls Target Gray. It is both  non-reflective and attractive, giving the impression of a serious hunting gun with a durable finish. The action of the Super Redhawk was smooth, and in both single and double action, surprisingly light for a revolver produced these days. The single action pull was very crisp and broke at about 3.75 pounds.

As for the .480 Ruger cartridge, Hornady is producing the ammunition with a 325 grain XTP/ Mag jacketed hollow point,  with other bullets to be added later. I would like to see this cartridge loaded with a stout cast bullet of about 400 grains.

The muzzle velocity listed by Hornady is 1350 feet per second with the 325  XTP/Mag bullet, and my testing over my Pact chronograph bears this to be accurate. The .480 achieved an average of 1332 fps twelve feet from the muzzle of the 7 1/2" Ruger. The ammunition also proved to be very consistent, with a mean average deviation of only 8.2, which must have contributed to the excellent accuracy achieved with this sixgun.

I fired the .480 at a steel swinging plate  target to get the feel of it, and while there was no doubt that I was firing a powerful sixgun, the recoil was not at all painful, thanks to the great cushioned rubber grips that are standard equipment on the Super Redhawk. Accuracy testing proved to be a pleasant surprise, with five shots going into a 1.25 inch group at 25 yards. The vertical dispersion of the group was due to my inconsistency of hold during firing, as I was searching for  the best way to hold the gun over the bags, when I should have held it the  same for each shot. I was very surprised  to find such an accurate group under such conditions. Any handgun that will  shoot this good is worthy of being called accurate, but especially a big bore revolver using factory ammunition.  The Hornady ammo was also very clean burning, leaving almost no trace of residue in the bore or chambers of the gun.

In an effort to check the XTP/Mag bullet for expansion, I fired bullets into a bag of cottonseed meal and also into water. The cottonseed meal has the consistency of heavy sawdust, and the bullets fired into it showed no expansion at all, behaving as a solid. The bullet fired into water went entirely to pieces, the largest of which are pictured here. What is proved by these tests as related to performance on real flesh, is nothing. It was merely an attempt by me to capture a fired bullet. I will, at a later date, try to test these bullets on live game. The reports of others that I have received have been positive regarding the performance of this bullet.

I have heard the question entertained as to why Ruger chose to invent the .480 instead of bringing out the .475 Linebaugh. Not being one that Ruger calls for advice on these matters, I can only speculate. I do see an advantage to the .480 as a cartridge capable of being chambered in Ruger's fine lever-action and autoloading rifles. I would also love to have a .480 in a Ruger Bisley with a 5-1/2 inch barrel. By going with the .480, which has a smaller diameter case rim, Ruger was able to get six chambers in their Super Redhawk, instead of only five.

In developing and offering this sixgun to the shooting public, Ruger has produced a true big bore revolver that is strong, reliable, and within the means of most shooters. It isn't the biggest or most powerful round available, nor was it meant to be. The .480 gives considerably more power than most commonly used revolver cartridges, without the expense and recoil of some of the custom and semi-custom sixgun rounds available. It also is a cartridge that is just at the beginning of its development. I am anxious to try some of the excellent Cast Performance gas check hard-cast bullets in this cartridge. Kelly is sending me some of them for testing, but they didn't arrive in time for this article. I will do a report later on reloading the .480, as I develop more data and gain experience with the sixgun. 

If you would like more information on this newest big bore sixgun or any of Ruger's products, check out their website at: You can view the entire line of Hornady products at: 

If, like me, you would like to see the .480 in the excellent Ruger Bisley, give Ruger a call at 520-778-6555 and tell them what you want. They don't know unless you tell them. As usual, Ruger has again produced a fine handgun for the hunters of this world, that should also prove popular with metallic silhouette shooters.

If you need a sixgun with more power than the average magnum, and that has target-grade accuracy to boot, check out the Ruger .480 Super Redhawk.

Jeff Quinn 


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Ruger Super Redhawk in .480 Ruger along with Hornady's 325 grain XTP/ Mag jacketed hollow point bullets.








Super Redhawk .480 with Charles Daly 2x pistol scope in Ruger's integral scope mount system.








Author was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy and handiness of the .480 Super Redhawk, but still wishes the .480 Ruger was available in the fine Ruger Bisley SA revolver.








The bullet on left was fired into cottonseed meal, the bullet on the right into water.








1.25" group at 25 yards shows that the .480 Ruger / Super Redhawk combination, using the excellent Hornady factory loads, is capable of excellent accuracy. Author thinks that even better accuracy is possible and looks forward to more extensive testing.









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Last modified: February 19, 2008

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