Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley in .454 Casull (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I’m not saying they’re stupid, but man, people make some very questionable choices.  Fearing “election riots” a grown man traded me used Glock 42 in .380ACP for a new-in-box New Model Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley in .454 Casull. Not even a drag line on the cylinder yet.

He made a bad trade. The Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley in .454 Casull is an awesome, historic handgun, fully capable and well proven to take any animal on earth.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The .454 Casull is generally considered the start of the true heavy magnums.  If you believed Dirty Harry and thought it was the .44 Magnum, you are mistaken.  The .44 Magnum is, even at its most potent loading, a sneeze compared to the .454 Casull.  The top loads of the .44 Magnum produce about 1,200ft/lbs of muzzle energy.  The .454 Casull? Over 1,900ft/lbs. And that’s through the same weight revolver with the same barrel length.

Unlike many of the big bore magnums, that power isn’t because of a particularly heavy bullet.  In fact, the inability to load a bullet to or past 400 grains is really the only downside to the .454 Casull. No, Dick Casull’s big baby’s claim to fame is how fast it pushes the 300(ish) grain rounds. A 300 grain bullet fired from a 6 1/2″ barrel like this one should be moving at 1,600 fps, at its top end. A 240 gr hollow point?  You’re looking closer to 1,900 fps.

That’s a whole lot of energy. And pressure.  The .454 Casull legitimately operates at rifle pressures. With its perfected case, small rifle primer, and a good amount of fast powder behind the bullet, the SAAMI maximum pressure for the .454 Casull is a whopping 65,000 psi.  For reference, that’s slightly above both the 5.56 NATO and .308 Winchester rifle cartridges.

Of course, all that energy comes with a price paid in recoil.  At the top end of the .454 Casull loads from this Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley, you should expect about 35 lbs of recoil energy back to the shooter.  To put that into perspective, assuming you were shooting it through the exact same gun, the absolute top loads of a .44 Magnum will give you 23 lbs, and the .357 Magnum would give you 11 lbs. For more perspective, a 15 lb rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum provides 29 lbs. Heavy loads in the .460 Smith and Wesson Magnum fired from their 460XVR double action revolvers provides about 31 lbs of recoil energy. That’s assuming H110 is used as the powder for all the previous pistol loads.

Anything above 30 lbs is a heck of handshake.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Fortunately, all that recoil is usually unnecessary, mostly because of the practical genius of Dick Casull.

Handgun hunters owe a whole lot to Mr. Casull.  His work, and his incredible influence on other gunsmiths, led the way for revolver hunting as we know it today. I have no doubt there would not be the variety and quality of firearms or cartridges available to the handgun hunter today if not for Dick Casull.

He didn’t start out to produce the most famous cartridge that bears his name, he started out trying to create a very heavy .45 Colt.  He rightly recognized the killing potential of the .45 Colt, but saw the weaknesses of the case design as well as the firearms they were fired in.

Eventually, he strengthened the case wall and head, and went with the small rifle primer to get as much case head strength as possible.  He lengthened the case a bit as well.  The guns he put them in were originally modified Ruger single actions with custom cylinders.  This was before he and Wayne Baker created Freedom Arms.

I have fired a few of Freedom Arms revolvers in .454 Casull, and they are all exceptional guns.  A Freedom Arms Model 83 in .454 Casull is a true homage to the master, but firing Casull’s cartridge in a Ruger single action is a bit like bringing the bird back to the nest.

Casull’s process means that every .454 Casull-chambered revolver can also fire the .45 Colt and .45 Schofield cartridges.  For the commercial ammunition buyer, that gives you a very wide range of bullets, muzzle velocities, and recoil profiles. For the hand loader, you have a truly extreme array of possibilities.  I can fire a 180 gr Cowboy Action Load at 660 fps and wonder if the bullet actually made it out of the barrel.  I can fire a hard cast 395 gr bullet at 1,300 fps, and wonder only at the power of the monster I have created.  And everything in between.

Red Deer taken with Ruger in .480 Ruger. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
Red Deer taken with Ruger in .480 Ruger. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For those of you who read my review of this same gun in .480 Ruger, you’ll recognize all the same general features on this new revolver of mine, save the caliber. They’re twin sisters (fraternal).

The Super Blackhawk Bisley carries the same brushed stainless finish throughout the gun.  This is definitely a “working gun” finish.  You can still see a bit of the “grain” in the steel, and although the finish is even throughout, there’s nothing special about it at all.  The Ruger Bisleys are probably the best revolvers most people can afford, but it’s not because Ruger spends a lot of time making them pretty.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Following the utilitarian theme are the hardwood grips adorning the Bisley grip frame.  The fit is okay.  They overhang a bit on the front, one side more than the other, and the wood doesn’t quite meet up with the frame on the back.

Although the wood-to-metal fit is just acceptable, the grip shape itself is just about perfect.  Borrowing from the original Colt Bisley target revolver grip frame, Ruger improved on this further, making it the supreme grip for recoil reduction.  Even with the .44 Magnum, most shooters find a big improvement in recoil management with the Ruger Bisley frame over the standard plow handle.  Some folks have an issue with the trigger guard hitting their middle finger in recoil on the Bisley frame, but I have not had a concern with this.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

One of the weak points on all adjustable sight Ruger single actions are the sights.  The front sight is a serrated black ramp.  On a dark target, or shooting in shadows, this tends to disappear, or at the very least loses its sharp edges. The Hunter models have an orange insert, but these models do not.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The rear sight is one of the most often changed items when customizing these guns.  That’s because it is also black and unmarked, so only worsens the problems of the front sight. They also seem to vary widely with how difficult they are to adjust, and how well the adjustments remain true under heavy recoil.  Heck, I’ve had a Single Six rear sight that simply would not hold still.  This one does.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

One of the great features of these newer Super Blackhawk Bisleys in the heaviest calibers is the larger locking cylinder base pin included right from the factory.  This is a must have for any of the truly big calibers, and ensures that the base pin won’t walk out in heavy recoil.  The results of this occurring run from annoying to catastrophic, so it’s great that Ruger addresses this from the outset.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Of course, being a Bisley, not only do we see the different grip but also the lowered wide hammer spur.  These guns all include this welcome feature.  With a deeply textured top surface, this hammer is easy to get to even with heavy winter gloves on.

The single action trigger of the New Model Rugers are rarely anything to crow about, but this one is a little better than others.  There’s a bit of squish, but right behind that is a surprisingly light trigger. As an average of five trigger pulls, my Lyman digital trigger scale puts this .454 Casull New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley’s trigger pull at 2lbs, 13oz.  I would have guessed lighter, and this is likely the best of the Ruger single action triggers I remember.  Certainly the best of the ones I have, and I’ve got a bunch.

To contain the immense pressure of the round, the cylinder has been bored to hold only 5 rounds.  This is obviously necessary to contain the .454 Casull, but it’s also nice to know that an infinite amount of very heavy .45 Colt (25-30k psi) would never start to fatigue this cylinder.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Because of the New Models’ transfer bar, that means that you can fully load the cylinder each time, giving the gun the same real carrying capacity as the original Colt single action cartridge revolvers.  There’s no need to load one, skip one, and load four (or 3).

Just like the .480 Ruger I previously reviewed, if you need more than five full power .454 Casull loads to take anything down, run. Run for your life. You’ve picked a fight with Godzilla.

I put 200 rounds of commercial .454 Casull ammunition through this revolver.  I also threw another 120 rounds of my own .45 Colt handloads of varying pressures through it, and then 20 more rounds of my own hand loaded .454 Casull top pressure loads through it.  I never had any issues with the gun in any way.  There were no failures to load or fire, and all the rounds ejected with a simple press of the ejector. The sights never changed and the base pin never moved. The grips did loosen a bit, but nothing a turn of the single center screw didn’t fix.

All the shooting was done within a week’s time.  The revolver was well lubricated prior to shooting, but not lubricated or cleaned in any way during the review until all of the shooting was done and it was time for photos.

I measured the cylinder gap and end-shake on this gun both before and after shooting.  Neither changed.

To be fair, I was not able to precisely measure the end-shake (cylinder front to back play) on this gun.  I don’t mean I don’t have the tools or don’t know how, I mean it is so minimal that none of the tools I have was precise enough to measure it.  That is very good news.

It’s incredibly rare to have a round within SAAMI specifications blow up a revolver.  That’s just not how these guns die.  They shake themselves to death. Sometimes this starts with excessive end shake, where every round fired makes the problem worse.  With zero start on that from the factory, and even after quite a few rounds in a compressed amount of time, I’m confident this firearm is capable of outlasting a lifetime of shooting and hunting. (As an aside, if you want your revolvers to last, especially your heavy recoiling guns, ensure they are lubricated adequately. I store a little Lucas Oil tube in each of my revolver cases to make sure I don’t shoot them without checking lubrication.)

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Unfortunately, the cylinder gap didn’t measure quite up to the same standards.  When I first saw it, I thought “But Soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”  Measuring .009″ with a feeler gauge, it’s far too much, and if this gun wasn’t headed to a smith for some work I’d send it back to Ruger to bring it down closer to .002″, or at least to Ruger’s usual .005″ish.

As it is, it’s robbing each cartridge of power. This was easily born out on the chronograph, where not a single commercial round fired reached within 50 fps of the advertised velocity, and none of my reloaded rounds came very close to what the math said would be the muzzle velocity either.

Since I have a Ruger Blackhawk Bisley in .45 Colt (as everyone should), I was able to shoot light to heavy .45 Colt rounds side by side in each gun.  In every instance, the smaller caliber Ruger, which has a much tighter cylinder gap, shot the same bullet faster than the Super Blackhawk Bisley.

This is common with the heavy cartridges, and even more especially for one with as much powder and as high pressures as the .454 Casull, a larger cylinder gap like this bleeds powder.

The cylinder throats measure .456″ with a minus pin gauge.  This is acceptable, but I’d prefer them a bit tighter.   Any qualified gunsmith can move the barrel in to reduce the cylinder gap, but nobody is going to magically shrink those cylinder throats.  Proper bullet selection will be key.

I assume this is pretty standard for these guns, as I hear and read most folks say their Super Blackhawk Bisley’s shoot .454 Casull cartridge much better than the lower pressure .45 Colts.  This isn’t usually how it should be.  Higher pressures and more gas typically make for worse shooting, not better. Imperfections, especially an imperfect barrel crown, will really show up the more gas is being pushed through them, so we would expect the .45 Colts to shoot better.  (For instance, is there any Single Six Convertible made that shoots the .22 WMR as good as it shoots the .22 LR?)

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The key to wringing the most accuracy out of guns like these with wider throats and a larger cylinder gap isn’t more powder and pressure, it’s longer bullets closer to the forcing cone that obturate the bore better.

Commercial Magtech 260gr jacketed soft point rounds scored the same as Winchester’s 225 grain Defender jacketed hollow point round, printing an average of 3″ for four strings of five round groups when shot seated off bags. Stepping up some in recoil and bullet weight, the HSM “Bear Load” 325gr moving at 1,300 fps averaged much better, at 2.1″ on average. This is good, but it can do better.

The Cast Performance 300 grain flat nosed gas checked hard cast lead bullet is my favorite for the heavy .45 Colt.  I’ve taken deer, pigs, javelina, and a wide variety of varmints with this bullet in that previously mentioned .45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk Bisley.  Loading that same bullet into .45 Colt Starline cases and pushed by 23 grains of H110, my groups shrank a bit more, finally dropping just barely under the 2″ mark.   Taking that same H110, but increasing it to 26 grains, and now pushing an even heavier Cast Performance 335 grain bullet with a liberal amount of gooey bullet lube, my groups finally shrank to the 1.7″ mark, on average.

Any of these rounds fired by a competent marksman, save the Winchester Defender, would cleanly take any deer, pig, or black bear at 50 yards.  Any of the .454 Casull rounds would do the same for Elk or Moose at the same distance.  That 335 grain hard cast round moving over 1,300 fps would take any animal that walks on this or any other planet we are aware of.  I’d expect a pass through on even a grizzly at 30 yards with that one, and it is well under the maximum pressure limit for the cartridge.

Given the history of the cartridge, and how the Ruger single action is linked directly to its birth, the Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley in .454 Casull is a must have for any big bore pistol aficionado. It’s also one of the most versatile cartridges available, and capable of providing the marksman with the joy of target shooting, or big game hunting on any continent.

Like all Ruger single actions, there’s no better starting material for a truly world class gun.  I’ve got seven Ruger single actions with different smiths, and as soon as a couple of them come back, I’ll be having some work done on this one.  Probably Hamilton Bowen’s “Perfected Bisley #3” package.  Given the ridiculous low cost of the gun to me, I’m still doing great, cost-wise.  But even if you left the gun factory, it’s still a good revolver, capable of a lifetime of solid performance.

(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
(image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications:
Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley
UPC7-36676-00871-1
Caliber: .454 Casull
Capacity: 5
Front Sight: Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Barrel Length 6.50″
Grooves: 6
Twist: 1:24″ RH
Material: Stainless Steel
Finish: Satin Stainless
Grips: Bisley Hardwood
Overall Length: 12.40″
Weight: 50.4 oz.
MSRP: $1,049 (Lipsey’s Dealer Exclusive)

Style and Appearance ***
Some do stainless better than others.  Ruger’s brushed stainless finish on all of their revolvers is good enough.

Customization *****
There’s probably no other revolver out there that has been modified as much as the Ruger single action. Maybe the Colt Single Action Army, but I doubt it.  Customization costs money.

Accuracy ***
Decent, but nothing spectacular.

Reliability *****
Ruger has done well with these big bore Super Blackhawks.  This one is no exception.  It will run forever.

Overall ***
The potential for this revolver is incredible. The disappointments are (mostly) easily fixed. Ruger has made what was once purely custom now within relatively easy reach of the average handgun hunter and shooter, and done it well enough to satisfy all but the pickiest of gun writers.

114 COMMENTS

  1. NB that when you get the gap down to 0.002″, unless you keep the front of the cylinder clean, you could see drag from residue build-up. The revolvers that came with a gap of 0.002″ from the factory were Colts, (eg, the Python), and were of course tight. S&W’s tend to have a slightly larger gap from the factory, as do Rugers. 0.009 is a tad on the high side, and will vent more gas.

    I’ve thought about getting a .454 for some time now. Maybe this would be the way to go.

    • My first powder for reloading was Unique. After a few shots, drag became significant due to burnt powder building up in the barrel cylinder gap.

    • .009″ gap is pretty standard on most revolvers now. The companies making revolvers aren’t expecting the average owner to care about that measurement, so they make the tolerance pretty wide open.

      The best revolvers one can buy today are used ones 25 years old or older.

    • I’ve got a 460 XVR 8 3/8″ that will shoot .45 LC, .454, and .460. My accuracy is great for the 1st 5 rounds or so of the heavy stuff. I like the Ruger Bisley, got one in .44 Mag. The Freedom Arms are very nice, just not in the cards for now.

      • I shot the 460XVR a couple of years ago at an outdoor range in the middle of winter. The report knocked the snow off trees 50 yards away and caused a mini-avalanche from the roof of the shelter we were under.

        The revolver continued to be impolite as we went down the power range from .460 to .454 until we started shooting .45 Colts.

  2. I had my brother’s Ruger Blackhawk .454 Casull at my local gun range. They opened a second range which could handle rifles and larger handguns for us. Some guys were shooting 45’s and such in this somewhat darkened range. I opened up with the Casull and it was like a fire breathing dragon, lighting up the range with every round. Felt like Robo Cop blazing away!

    All the other lanes went silent while I was shooting. When it was over, they gave a standing ovation! Fun times!

  3. Guns this powerful should have hydraulic recoil pistons to manage muzzle rise. You know, miniatures of the pistons you find on the standard field howitzer.

    • There’s a .50 BMG pistol out there that has such a piston mechanism.

      When I had my Super Redhawk in .44 mag, I noticed the beginnings of the top strap being cut by powder blast. Since that’s not an easy (if even at all possible) repair, has no gun company considered a replaceable metal plate up there as a way to mitigate that kind of damage?

      (Oh, I have a Dick Casull design hanging around my neck right now. His single-action .22lr revolver. NAA has made some major improvements in build quality since the first one I bought in the late 90s…)

      • “(Oh, I have a Dick Casull design hanging around my neck right now. His single-action .22lr revolver. NAA has made some major improvements in build quality since the first one I bought in the late 90s…)”

        I like the boom/blast of the .22tcm. Wonder if someone will build a derringer around that?

        • NAA makes one in .17 hmr, I believe.

          A quick search shows Bond makes an over-under derringer in .22tcm…

        • “A quick search shows Bond makes an over-under derringer in .22tcm…”

          Oh…bad on me; didn’t look in the last six months or so. Thanx for the heads-up.

      • That topstrap is fixable, and fairly easily so, once you know the alloy they used to make it which is also easy to determine. Heck putting a “demilitarized” MG back in working order usually isn’t that hard. That half-retarded guy from Sons of Guns did it FFS.

        It’s metal, easy to fix. Hell, I’d do it for free on a revolver like that.

        I charge the classic car guys more than you want to think about for what amounts to similar kinds of work.

  4. This makes total sense if you reside in Alaska where there are large bear for instance. Working or recreating in the Alaskan wilderness a powerful handgun like this Ruger Bisley in .454 Casull certainly has it’s place. Also, for the serious handgun hunter of big game from deer on up to moose. Yet for the lower 48 states, with the possible exception of Black Bear, a *.357 Magnum comes into it’s own. Next to a .22 or .32 the .38 Special 148 grain lead target wad-cutters for hunting small game: rabbit, squirrel, and grouse, or for dispatching vermin such as raccoon, skunk, and possum. Even for butchering livestock (killing a cow, steer with a head shot), or for killing rattlesnakes: CCI’s classic .38 Special shot or snake load. In this case less is more. Most women , and even men can handle a .38 Special, but certainly not a .454 Casull. Unless of course if you are an experienced seasoned hand gunner who spends time in the outdoors and who has no physical limitations that would prevent you from shooting a .454 Casull.

    *.357 Magnum revolvers will chamber and fire .38 Special ammo, but not the reverse.

    • “…..454 Casull certainly has it’s place. Also, for the serious handgun hunter of big game from deer on up to moose. Yet for the lower 48 states, …”

      Aliens….and Zombies..

      • That reaction from the other shooters on the firing line was my favorite part of going to the range with a hand cannon.

        Step up to the firing line where 9mm, .357mag and other guns were being shot. Through my muffs the shots went ‘pop’! ‘pop’! ‘pop’!.

        Then I’d light off a round of full-house Buffalo Bore with a *BOOM*! and every head on the firing line automatically turns my way… 😉

    • What makes total sense is up to the individual, and is not at all dependent on geography. Lotsa folks who aren’t bagging brown bears and elephants like hand cannons because they are fun.

      And they will blow your head clean off.

    • I respectfully disagree about the .357. Black bear are well within the capabilities of that cartridge. Heck, if you were nuts, even grizzly. The buffalo bore 180 grain hard cast is almost 800 ft-lbs from a 4” barrel and is plenty of gun for almost all critters in North America.

      • You are probably right about the .357 Magnum for defense against Black Bear. It still comes down to proper shot placement. Though a .44 Magnum might be better, the .357 could certainly save one from being mauled to death. Your posted comment on the .357 is reassuring and comforting.

    • I want one but “screwed the pooch” by buying a Blackhawk in 30 carbine with the ability to also shoot 32-20. Boy, is it a useless gun.

  5. Stupid worthless redneck caliber. Meanwhile, mint 9MM Ruger single six revolvers are bringing well over $1000 on gunbroker. The first US company to put out a midsize, all metal 6 shot 9MM revolver will corner the market.

      • Just for fun, I Googled “redneck caliber”, and found out about the 2Fity-Hillbilly, a .257 Wildcat. If that ain’t a redneck caliber, I don’t know what is.

      • There are several. Oddly enough, they sell well. Also, people have been modifying 38 and 357s with moon clips for 9 mm for decades.

        But that 9mm Single Six?

        • JWT, I wondered about that 9mm Single Six myself. How many rounds does it carry? Three? Ignorance should be quite.

        • 9mm fits nicely in between .38 special and .357 magnum power wise. But for my money I’d just as soon shoot +p+ .38s or any of the emasculated .357 magnum loads available from nearly every ammo maker on earth.

        • @ the hon. Gov.

          My thoughts as well, at least as revolvers are concerned.

          I have a friend with a Ruger Blackhawk with both .38/357 and 9mm cylinders. It is a fine gun, Ruger Blackhawk and all, but, my first question was, why the 9mm cylinder? What is it for? When are you going to head out to the range and think, “I don’t want to shoot .38 or .38+p or .357 magnum, or, since it is a Ruger, big ole .357 bear loads, no, instead, I’ll grab a handfull of 9mm and send that down range … from my revolver … modeled on a Colt SAA … yeah, that’s the ticket.”

        • I have a 357 Blackhawk that came with a 9mm cylinder, maybe I tried it once. It was a interesting addition in my “deal” on the gun, but not a selling point. Too much fun with 38 /357 to bother

        • A 9mm revolver works well for someone who shoots a lot of 9mm in semi-autos, and for the ‘prepper’ types looking for universal ammo capability…

        • @Mr. Name; there was a time not too long ago when buying ammo didn’t involve being the highest bidder, that a 50 round box of 9mm practice ammo could be had for ~$11 and .38 or .357 would be $20+. If you shoot a lot and want a little more kick than .22 LR, 9mm makes a lot of sense.

          @Geoff; an LCR or SP101 in 9mm would be a great BUG for about 85% of concealed carriers.

        • @ Gov and jwm. Yeah, I suppose 9mm is cheap but I reload most of my ammo and, given that, 9mm and .38/.357 come out to be pretty much a wash (except that the revolver loads are easier to handle at the press) so I don’t really think about that 10 bucks or so a box. Point taken.

          There is still something aesthetic that makes me want to put rimmed cartridges in revolvers and rimless in magazines.

        • “There is still something aesthetic that makes me want to put rimmed cartridges in revolvers and rimless in magazines.”

          That translates over to that Casull-designed NAA Mini I have.

          I humor myself by imagining the .22lr is a mini-me sized ammo while I’m loading it…

    • Mid size, 6 shot, 9mm, all metal revolver. Hmm, I submit for your approval the Smith and Wesson Model 10.

      (Oh, did you mean 9mm as a diameter or short-hand for 9mm Parabellum, or 9mm Kurz, or Largo, or 9×23 Browning?)

    • Madcapp, “stupid, worthless, redneck caliber.” Unless you may have to face down large, dangerous game. Some men do. Your 9mm is a weak, anemic mid-range caliber barely capable of handling the original intended target over 100 years ago.

  6. Very nice gun, and glad you were able to score one for yourself. However, it may have been a “good” trade for the other guy if he needed an EDC conceal carry gun, regardless of caliber.

    A truck is superior to a Ferrari if hauling is desired. A Ferrari is superior to a minivan if speed and handling are desired. A minivan is superior to a motorcycle if family capacity is desired. A scooter is superior to a motorhome if gas mileage is desired. Etc., etc.

    It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I personally want that wheelgun of yours, but only because I already have my Glocks. 🙂

    • Later, the same guy would trade me a well-used Glock 17 and 100 rounds of ammo for a new Super Blackhawk in 44 magnum AND a Wrangler in 22LR.
      I tried to dissuade him on that one, but only once.

      • One of my cousins has a Super Blackhawk in .44 Mag. He once told me it’s his favorite handgun.

        I like the grips on your Casull. Nice classic color scheme.

        • They are very good guns. I prefer the plow handle grips to the Bisley. I’m one of those that gets my digits slapped by the trigger gaurd with the Bisley frame. Ruger makes beastly handguns. In a good sort of way.

          I’ve never shot a heavier than .44 magnum handgun. I’m not sure my 60+ yo hands would like it. I’m comfortable with the .357 being my heavy hitter these days.

        • The Super Redhawk I had came with a nice pistol scope on it. Weirdly enough, I traded a guy my Glock 22 and five magazines straight-up for that .44 mag.

          That almost qualifies as a JWT-level trade.

          The scope on mine really tamed muzzle-flip but let you experience the shockwave of the 44mag detonation to cut through you a you fired it. I swear I could feel the shock wave in my teeth front-to-rear pass trough me as I fired it.

          And like an idiot, I sold it… *sob*

  7. The front sight situation is easily remedied by raiding your wife’s nail polish collection. Don’t buy your own, you need the stuff she doesn’t want you to know she spent $30 a bottle on. Or just take a trip to the nearest department store and head to the Lancome or Este Later counter. One bottle should last a lifetime, so if you have as many Ruger single actions as JWT it might not be a bad investment.

      • That’s because either you or your wife are buying Walmart nail polish. I did my .44 mag Blackhawk 7 or 8 years ago and it still looks like I just did it, although it probably doesn’t get as much use as yours do.

        • I think the polish was Lancome, but I’m away from home for a few days and can’t check. My wife ran a Lancome counter for a few years, then Este Lauder. It will cost $25-30.

          And the Blackhawk is the 2006 50th Anniversary model.

        • If what you apply keeps flaking off, a bit of surface prep may help it stick better. Like acetone to totally de-oil the surface…

        • So. I just talked to my resident sight paint expert and…

          The bottle I have is Este Lauder. However, both Este Lauder and Lancome quit making nail polish. Apparently some of the superior ingredients aren’t always available and given the choice of a) piss off your clientele by selling an interior product, b) piss off your clientele by constantly having supply issues or c) piss off your clientele by quitting the product entirely, they chose c. There is a brand called OPI that makes a pretty good product for about $8 per bottle. I’d recommend looking for that and if it doesn’t satisfy I guess you could search eBay for an old bottle of Este Lauder. The shelf life on the stuff is basically infinity, so there’s bound to be some out there. As for my bottle (white), it can be had for a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in ,44 magnum. That’s my price and I’m sticking to it.

        • Idaho Boy. I wear full camo including face paint when I hunt crow. My wife refers to my camo paint as ‘make up’.

      • I’ve had good results with Birchwood-Casey super bright sight paint pens the last few years. I put it on pretty much all my sights that don’t have fiber or tritium.

      • I’ve used testors enamel paint on my 442, its available at craft and hobby stores. Its still there after about 4 or 5 years.

        • Isn’t most of that model paint and glue sold today the really wimpy stuff since kids kept huffing the organic solvent stuff like toluene?

        • Probably, the front sight on the 442 also has serrations on top so that could explain the positive adherence.

  8. Having no plans to be in grizzly country or out hunting moose, I think I’ll skip all that massive recoil and stick with my SA in .45 Colt. If I want to shoot a big animal, I have a Winchester in .45 Colt that will take a pretty heavy charge of H110, at least up to 30,000 CUP.

      • I wouldn’t shoot hot .45 Colt loads in a ’73 Winchester. The toggle link action isn’t the strongest in the world. Now an 1886 or an 1892 with the double locking bars will handle some serious cartridges.
        Mr. Taylor you are correct, a 300 grain bullet may be too long for a ’73 Winchester.

        • Winchester 94 Trapper….I should have noted that. Dont care about the 73, I think it might be too much load for that action.

      • It’s ’92, and I have great faith in Saint Browning’s action. I haven’t gone heavier than 300, so I have no idea if they would cycle. Marlin 94 can also handle heavier loads I have read.

    • I’d tend to agree, on a practical level at least. You’re still looking at roughly .30-30 power (and only that at close range) and it comes with some seriously punishing recoil. On the other hand, it IS cool and that tends to be a major consideration in my firearm purchases of late. The ‘cool’ can’t be discounted.

    • I have a Blackhawk in 45 Colt that I got some HSM Bear Loads for. The ones that very clearly warn “Ruger only”. That combo is a bruiser. No matter how tight you hold on, after shooting it, you’re pointing the barrel straight up in the air. Kind of fun, but not something you want to shoot more than a couple of at a time. Can’t hardly imagine stepping that up even further in virtually the same platform.

      • I have a Super Redhawk in 454 Casull and have found the you need to allow for the gun to do what it is going to do. A firm controlling grip, but not a deathgrip, will lessen the felt recoil and still allow a reasonable fast return on target. Let the wrists move more rather than the elbows. Very manageable even with hot loads.

    • I worked up loads for a Linebaugh-tweaked, 5 1/2 inch 3-screw Blackhawk .45 Colt years ago, and had them pressure tested. The one I settled on is a 335-grain LBT LFN over 25 grains of W296, just shy of 1300 f/s, and 38,200 CUP. That’s more than half the ~60k psi elastic limits of that cylinder, but like a S&W K-frame .357, I figure that using full-power ammo when you need it, and mild loads when you don’t, probably won’t wear the guns out in several hunter’s lifetimes.

      BTW: Same .45 Colt load does 1585 f/s from a 16″ Rossi, and 1600 from a 20″ Marlin. Not worth carrying around another 4″ of barrel, IMNHO.

      Anyone know if Ruger will fit my stainless Bisley .45 Colt with a five-shot .454 cylinder? Or with a cylinder in .45 ACP?

  9. I used to own a 7 1/2″ Freedom Arms field grade in .454 Casull. Most accurate revolver I ever owned. I sent it back to Freedom Arms to have the Pachmayers replaced with micarta. A bit much for N. Florida. Even with black bear. However, this revolver in .44 Mag would probably replace. My Smith .44s. Well, maybe not my Mountain Gun. Still, good article.

  10. Another example of that peculiar American fascination with all things that go bang, bang ,bangI justn cnnot see anybody going bear hunting let alone elephant or big cat hunting with handgun. I used the good old BROWNING 9mm High Power for years in the UK Services and that would have killled anything I actually wanted to kill. Which is why half the armed and police Forces in the world used it and so did the UK Special Forces which are good enough recommendations for me. Sorry but I would not even want any side arm that would likely kill a person beyond visual range. Do the people who,really really know weapons use these bloody things NO THEY DO NOT. This type of weapon is only useful for one thing childish Dick-Swinging. By the way I was both an Armourer in the Royal Air Force and the UK Army Reserves and a qualified Small Arms instructor so I do actually know of what I speak And I think thatn I could hold my own withm 90% of the population with any weapon from a.22 Target Pistol through SMG any bloody rifle you can think of and any SMG to boot OH and I used s 12 gauge from the age of 14

    • People DO hunt grizzly and polar bears with handguns. Probably big cats as well. Not sure about elephant.

      And what’s wrong with childish dick swinging?

    • I hunt bears with a handgun. I know a little about guns.
      Being a subject of the crown hardly qualifies as expertise, as you have amply demonstrated.

    • Being an armorer in the Royal Air Force doesn’t qualify you as an expert on what other people use handguns for and what they are thinking. Being a bigot does though. Most current and former British servicemen I have met are much more the gentleman than you – why do you think that is so?

    • “This type of weapon is only useful for one thing childish Dick-Swinging.”

      With such authority in the way you speak, you must have extensive experience as a child in losing those contests.

      Americans like our hand cannons. We earned the right to keep and bear them by teaching your military a little about American ingenuity in guerrilla combat techniques. Worked a charm in defeating the world’s greatest military at the time.

      It’s the difference in being a free citizen and a ‘subject’ in a monarchy.

      A Good Day to you, sir! 🙂

    • @Albert L J Hall …Yet here you are…..interesting.

      Opinions are ok and all, but if someone, who is a US citizen, wants a gold-plated Desert Eagle .50AE with purple/green grips then that’s what they want. I’m not seeing the issue here.

      would not ask anyone around here why btw.

      cheers

    • People hunt red deer in Britain all the time. Those can get pretty sizable. The requirements are a “rifle” with a caliber of at least .240 inches and muzzle energy of at least 1700 ft lbs. Several factory 454 Casull loads meet those requirements, but I don’t know if they take the “rifle” part of that rule to literally mean a long gun.

      Regardless, your American Cousins (aka those traitors from 1776) have lots of bigger animals wandering about, so if you don’t want to buy these sorts of toys, that’s more for us.

    • Well Mr. Hall, fuck you. We have this thing called the Bill of Rights, something an emasculated Englishman like you would never understand, so once again fuck you. Who gives a damn what your qualifications are, our qualification are we are Americans and that should suffice.

    • We are rather opinionated, aren’t we, Albert L J Hall. Arrogant. And with no respect for any opinion but our own, despite a rather narrow range of experience.
      So you were an armorer and a marksmanship instructor. You didn’t brag about seeing combat: ever actually kill anything with your BROWNING Hi-Power? Especially with Geneva-Convention ball ammo? You don’t sound like Bri’ish upper crust, so I doubt you can afford the ridiculous cost of hunting in Jolly Olde. You can shoot, and you know the guts of a few firearms. Talk to me about stopping bears with a 9mm when you know something about bears. And hunting weapons.

      In war you want to stop your enemy before he stops you, but if you wound him instead of killing him, it takes a lot more of his government’s personnel and money and resources to care for him than it does to stuff him in a body bag and ship him home, which is one reason America fights with a coyote cartridge. When you’re hunting, ethics and compassion compel you to do your best to turn the animal’s lights off with the first whack; no pain, no fear. Hunting with an inadequate cartridge is unethical. Self-defense usually happens at close ranges; hunters usually need to reach out farther, and still have adequate kinetic energy for a clean kill, and a flat-enough trajectory to place a bullet where it needs to go.

      I usually carry a 9mm, on my permit; I consider 9mm Parabellum, loaded with good +P hollowpoints, to be the minimum adequate cartridge for self-defense against two-legged predators. I own .45s, but they are bigger and heavier and harder to conceal. I’ve hunted jackrabbits with 9mms, and not felt over-gunned. I’ve finished a couple of wounded deer with one, because I didn’t have anything bigger available, and one (wounded by another hunter) required a heart shot; too dark to see my sights to hit it through the brain. It worked, but it reinforced for me that 9mm isn’t enough gun for hunting deer, as opposed to putting one down right off the muzzle; deer are tougher than similar-sized people.

      As the woman who wounded that deer, her husband and I, were dragging it out of the brush after dark, I heard a quiet snarl. When a minute later I heard it again, I asked Brian if he’d heard it. “Yeah. A minute or so ago, too.” A cougar wanted that deer, and I had the only firearm, a 9mm without night sights. I’m just as happy I didn’t have to find out if it was enough gun.

      I haven’t done a lot of handgun-only hunting, but I’ve taken a deer and an elk with a .357 Maximum T/C Contender, and taken a couple of deer, and finished an elk, with .44 Magnum revolvers. I’ve also taken a few deer, and finished a wounded elk, with a .357 revolver; more deer with a .357 carbine. I consider that cartridge the absolute minimum for hunting deer with either.

      I usually carry a 3” M66 S&W while I’m hunting with a rifle. It makes more sense to me to put down a wounded animal with 500 ft lbs of energy, or 250, than it does to blow its head off with the 2500 or 3,000 fpe a deer/elk rifle cartridge generates. And I load a couple of .38 Specials in the cylinder, and put grouse- and rabbits-of-opportunity in the pot with some frequency.

      I also carry that .357 when I’m out in the woods but not hunting: a handgun in a holster leaves your hands free for fishing rod, chainsaw….There are black bear and cougar hereabouts; what’s the largest predator y’all haven’t exterminated in Britain? Fox? If I am ever accosted by a big black bear, or a monster cougar like the 300? 350? pound cinnamon-brown male a friend and I saw in Oregon’s Blue Mountains a few years ago, I will wish I had one of my .44 Magnums or my high-pressure .45 Colt. But it is rare to come across a predator that big here, mostly they run the other way. I shoot that little .357 very accurately, and very fast, now that I’ve learned to control the tachypsychia I experience whenever the shootin’ gets serious. I’ve been handloading and studying ballistics for 50 years, I autopsy my game as I butcher it, and I know what bullets to use to get the most out of a barely-adequate cartridge. I prefer .38 Specials to bigger cartridges for small game, and my M66 weighs two pounds; my bigger handguns, three plus, and toward the end of a day of up and down you notice that extra pound.

      If I lived where there are Brown bears, that high-pressure .45 Colt, loaded with 335 grain hard cast bullets (LBT LFN) at 1300 f/s for 1257 fpe, would be my constant outdoor companion, but only because I don’t own a .454. Yet. My .45 Colt load will penetrate around 42 inches of soft tissue, leaving a wound the diameter of a golf ball, or break big bone with that bullet. An animal can’t hurt you until it can touch you; up close a bullet still has most of its muzzle energy and momentum, and if I steer 1200 fpe right, it’s enough. But it is in no way excessive. For hunting Brown bear, a rifle producing 2 ½ times that much energy is considered minimal. So y’ see, some of us enjoy the added challenge of hunting with handguns, and know what it takes to do so humanely. Some of us live where there are still dangerous animals, and while we may never need to defend ourselves against one, if we do and we can’t, we’re cat dung.

      It’s not about swingin’ my dick: it’s about keeping it attached. They go for the soft bits first. So, y’know, maybe get a clue before you spout off?

  11. I’ve owned a 500 S&W as well as a .460 XVR. Both 9 inch X frames.

    Neither recoils anywhere near as hard ad my Super Bllack Hawk in .454 Casull. At first this surprised me. Then I weighed the guns. The X frames weighed close to 6 lbs AND they had a muzzle brake.

    This Ruger weighs about 3 lbs. Wow. I’ve never shot a handgun that recoils as much as this. My olde schoole nickel plated model 29 feels like a .22 in comparison.

  12. Thanks. Nice review.

    While I lust over the lines and balance of the Super Blackhawk 454 and 480, I will stick with my 45 Long Colt Bisley.

    Ross Seyfreid developed loads for the Long Colt that do everything I need doing and I keep six shots. North Florida whitetails will fall to lesser rounds but the 45 Long Colt loaded closer to its potential is decisive.

    It is also great fun to pretend that you’re artillery shooting at steel at 300 yards.

    Of course, if someone offered to trade their 454 or 480 SBB for one (or even two) of my LCPs, I think I would indulge them.

    The single action revolver is the pinnacle of utility artwork in my mind. Close behind is a lever action rifle.

  13. Yes ,,, Yes ,,, I agree with this article.
    Although, I didn’t read the whole thing word for word, because I didn’t need too,
    I’ve had & have everything this article discussed, I gotta say the 44 mag was my personal carry at my Mt. property, then I grew up and got a 460 S & W Mag, & I can guarantee U that you won’t need anything else… let’s see here,,, 460 mag, almost too much ( depending on where your at) 454 Casual,,, perfect for American type critters, then 45 long Colt for whatever… anywho,,, good article…

  14. Great article! I appreciate the explanation of the various technical aspects (cylinder throating numbers, etc.). Made for an enjoyably learning experience. 🙂

    I don’t think I’ll be getting one of these revolvers anytime soon, though. 65,000 PSI in a handgun? A man – or at least *this man* – has got to know his limitations. 😉

  15. One way to open carry without scaring the kids is to don a cowboy hat, boots, and a six shooter in a classic holster, just like Woody from Toy Story. Spurs are also a nice touch, but they tend to scuff floors when they jingle jangle jingle.

  16. Nice write up Mr. T.
    I have a S&W 500 with the comped 8 3/8” barrel. I really like it but, have been thinking about adding a Ruger Casul to the mix. I’ve shot a friends and while it does snap back a bit more than my .500, it feels good in the hand and is quite accurate. Bought mine for Ak fishing trips and pray to God that I’m never in a predicament where my ability to draw it quick enough comes into question!😳
    Hope you’re mending well.

  17. Well… I have to disagree.

    I think the man made a fantastic choice.

    Because if he has to use it as intended, I can only imagine the utter terror panic that would ensue touching off a .454 into a mob of Antifa.

    Pretty sure the city wouldn’t bother with the police and go straight to waste sewage management.

  18. I understand the usefulness of a SA revolver for hunting something the size of a bear, but if that first shot doesn’t drop it and it came at me, I personally would be wishing for a DA trigger pull. Also, the grips on the DASA revolvers look way more recoil-absorbing. Is it common to hunt dangerous game with these revolvers?

  19. Ruger loves putting terrible front sights on their revolvers. There is no reason for anything other than a proper Patridge FS on a gun with an adjustable rear.

  20. Yes! I was waiting for this one to drop, I have the exact same model (bought it after your review of the 480 version). It’s an awesome gun, but definitely a handful! I even went and bought the 6 shot Super Redhawk Alaskan to have as a sidearm in the same caliber.

    My favorite factory ammo in both has been the HSM Bear Load, it wakes you up but significantly less savage than Hornady’s XTP loadings or even some of the handloads I have worked up with the heavier 360gr bullets.

    I have had great success with W296 under the heavy cast, as well as a “lighter” load that pushes a 240gr XTP Mag to warmish 44mag velocities.

    Question for the cast bullets, you mentioned gooey bullet lube, I have been running the Cast Performance 360gr WFNGC and they claim that they come with a new proprietary lube/coating and don’t need additional lube, but the bullets look completely bare. Do you recommend lubing them anyways?

    • That bullet, and the Cast Performance bullets I shoot as well, are hard cast with a gas check. They are not lubed. They may have some kind of coating on them, but if so, I can’t see it and it’s not very thick.
      I highly recommend filling the lubrication grooves with lubricant. You’ll likely see better accuracy and certainly have a much easier time cleaning the gun.
      There’s lots of good lubricants out there. Lyman’s Ideal Bullet lube is ok, great if you have a sizer/luber. I prefer their “Bore Butter”. If it’s not messy, it doesn’t work. The best I’ve ever used is Renegade Bullet Crème. No website I can find.
      Renegade Products
      PO Box 131
      Williamston, SC 29697.

  21. I’m late to the comment section on this excellent TTAG article, but allow me to comment nonetheless. Your technical data were entertaining and enlightening. I’ve owned a Super Redhawk in 454 Casull for about a year now. Uglier and less aesthetically pleasing than the Bisley, the SRH is no less capable nor any less fun to shoot. Neither bear nor elephant roam my Tennessee farm, but whitetail abound. The cartridge is overkill in its factory garb; but as you point out, handloading allows tailoring muzzle output to purpose.

  22. We are rather opinionated, aren’t we, Albert L J Hall. Arrogant. And with no respect for any opinion but our own, despite a rather narrow range of experience.
    So you were an armorer and a marksmanship instructor. You didn’t brag about seeing combat: ever actually kill anything with your BROWNING Hi-Power? Especially with Geneva-Convention ball ammo? You don’t sound like Bri’ish upper crust, so I doubt you can afford the ridiculous cost of hunting in Jolly Olde. You can shoot, and you know the guts of a few firearms. Talk to me about stopping bears with a 9mm when you know something about bears. And hunting weapons.

    In war you want to stop your enemy before he stops you, but if you wound him instead of killing him, it takes a lot more of his government’s personnel and money and resources to care for him than it does to stuff him in a body bag and ship him home, which is one reason America fights with a coyote cartridge. When you’re hunting, ethics and compassion compel you to do your best to turn the animal’s lights off with the first whack; no pain, no fear. Hunting with an inadequate cartridge is unethical. Self-defense usually happens at close ranges; hunters usually need to reach out farther, and still have adequate kinetic energy for a clean kill, and a flat-enough trajectory to place a bullet where it needs to go.

    I usually carry a 9mm, on my permit; I consider 9mm Parabellum, loaded with good +P hollowpoints, to be the minimum adequate cartridge for self-defense against two-legged predators. I own .45s, but they are bigger and heavier and harder to conceal. I’ve hunted jackrabbits with 9mms, and not felt over-gunned. I’ve finished a couple of wounded deer with one, because I didn’t have anything bigger available, and one (wounded by another hunter) required a heart shot; too dark to see my sights to hit it through the brain. It worked, but it reinforced for me that 9mm isn’t enough gun for hunting deer, as opposed to putting one down right off the muzzle; deer are tougher than similar-sized people.

    As the woman who wounded that deer, her husband and I, were dragging it out of the brush after dark, I heard a quiet snarl. When a minute later I heard it again, I asked Brian if he’d heard it. “Yeah. A minute or so ago, too.” A cougar wanted that deer, and I had the only gun, a 9mm without night sights. I’m just as happy I didn’t have to find out the hard way if it was enough gun.

    I haven’t done a lot of handgun-only hunting, but I’ve taken a deer and an elk with a .357 Maximum T/C Contender, and taken a couple of deer, and finished an elk, with .44 Magnum revolvers. I’ve also taken a few deer, and finished a wounded elk, with a .357 revolver; more deer with a .357 carbine. I consider that cartridge the absolute minimum for hunting deer with either.

    I usually carry a 3” M66 S&W while I’m hunting with a rifle. It makes more sense to me to put down a wounded animal, should I need to, with 500 ft lbs of energy, or 250, than it does to blow its head off with the 2500 or 3,000 fpe a deer/elk rifle cartridge generates. And I load a couple of .38 Specials in the cylinder, and put grouse- and rabbits-of-opportunity in the pot with some frequency.

    I also carry that .357 when I’m out in the woods but not hunting: a handgun in a holster leaves your hands free for fishing rod, chainsaw, mushroom basket….There are black bear and cougar hereabouts; what’s the largest predator y’all haven’t exterminated in Britain? Fox? If I am ever accosted by a big black bear, or a monster cougar like the 300? 350? pound cinnamon-brown male a friend and I saw in Oregon’s Blue Mountains a few years ago, I will wish I had one of my .44 Magnums or my high-pressure .45 Colt. But it is rare to come across a predator that big here, and mostly they run the other way. I shoot that little .357 very accurately, and very fast, now that I’ve learned to control the tachypsychia I experience whenever the shootin’ gets serious. I’ve been handloading and studying ballistics for 50 years, I autopsy my game as I butcher it, and I know what bullets to use to get the most out of a barely-adequate cartridge. I prefer .38 Specials to bigger cartridges for small game, and my M66 weighs two pounds; my bigger handguns, three plus, and toward the end of a day of up and down you notice that extra pound.

    If I lived where there are Brown bears, that high-pressure .45 Colt, loaded with 335 grain hard cast bullets (LBT LFN) at 1300 f/s for 1257 fpe, would be my constant outdoor companion, but only because I don’t own a .454. Yet. My .45 Colt load will penetrate around 42 inches of soft tissue, leaving a wound the diameter of a golf ball, or break big bone. An animal can’t hurt you until it can touch you; up close a bullet still has most of its muzzle energy and momentum, and if I steer 1200 fpe right, it’s enough. But it is in no way excessive. For hunting Brown bear, a rifle producing 2 ½ times that much energy is considered minimal. So y’ see, some of us enjoy the added challenge of hunting with handguns, and know what it takes to do so humanely. Some of us live where there are still dangerous animals, and while we may never need to defend ourselves against one, if we do and we can’t, we’re cat scat.

    It’s not about swingin’ my dick. It’s about keeping it attached; they go for the soft bits first. So, y’know, maybe get a clue?

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