Gun Review: Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley in .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

When it comes to guns, I collect very few of them. Don’t get me wrong, I buy a lot of guns, but I generally shoot them for a few years and then sell them or give them away.

There are only two series I collect just for the sake of having them (I shoot the heck out of them, too), and one of them is the Ruger Blackhawk series in calibers that start with .4. So when I saw that Ruger released the Super Blackhawk Bisley in .480 Ruger, I had to have it.

I’m glad they made it and I’m glad I bought it.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

When it comes to the revolver itself, it’s not much different than a few other guns I have. Heck, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between this one and my Bisley in.45 Colt. I wanted this one purely because of the caliber, and also because I thought the Super Blackhawk was just perfect for it.

It is.

The .480 Ruger is no slouch in punch, but ultra magnums like the .460 and .500 Smith & Wesson magnums certainly produce more power, and in the guns they are typically chambered in, equal or less recoil. That’s because recoil is a function not just of the size, weight, and speed of the bullet, but also the simple mass of the firearm itself. Any increase in weight will have a corresponding decrease in recoil.

The .480 Ruger Bisley is not a heavyweight. When comparing a S&W X Frame revolver chambered for the .460 or .500 you’ll find those guns, in a similar barrel length, are much heavier, and are usually ported or compensated. That’s how the recoil is so manageable. Those guns may be pack guns, but they aren’t really belt guns.

Moving a bit down the scale is the .454 Casull and the .475 Linebaugh. I would highly recommend either to anyone seriously considering handgun hunting. Both are powerful enough to put down any animal on earth. They’re also right on the edge of what is tolerable to shoot for short strings. They’re fun to strap on and hunt with, but not much fun on the range, at least at their top loads.

Hornady .44 Magnum far left, Hornady .480 Ruger Center, 410gr Hand Load Right. 410gr .475" bullet vs 240gr .429" bullet (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Hornady .44 Magnum far left, Hornady .480 Ruger Center, 410gr Hand Load Right. 410gr .475″ bullet vs 240gr .429″ bullet (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

In a move that is pretty uncommon in the shooting industry, Ruger looked at the .475 Linebaugh and figured some shooters might actually want a bit less of a good thing.

The .475 Linebaugh is essentially a blown out, cut down, .45-70 Government cartridge. The .480 Ruger, then, is a shortened version of the .475 Linebaugh. You can make — and now I have made — .480 Ruger brass from regular .45-70 brass. Or you can just get the always exceptional brass right from Starline.

The .480 Ruger was originally chambered just in the heavy double action Ruger Super Redhawk revolver, but the good folks at Lipsey’s listened to customer demand and asked for the .480 to be chambered in the comparatively lighter single action Super Blackhawk. These revolvers are now available only through Lipsey’s distributors.

The result of the Ruger cartridge in the Ruger revolver is a portable powerhouse that’s easy to carry, capable of hunting just about everything but a few of the African dangerous game animals, and yet still reasonable enough in recoil to allow for plenty of practice sessions on the range.

At this time, the .480 Ruger Super Blackhawk only comes in Ruger’s standard brushed stainless. That’s a shame, as many will dream of a case hardened frame with a blued barrel and cylinder. As it is, the finish is just fine for a working gun.

Different companies do this finish different ways. You can bookend the “brushiness” of the polish with Colt being the finest and Ruger being, well…not the finest. There are no obvious tool marks, but the level of polish still retains fine lines and “grains” in the steel.

I haven’t quite figured out the code for what Bisleys get what grips, but there is a theme in there somewhere. These grips are simple, two-piece hardwood scales, set slightly below the steel of the grip frame. The wood to metal fit is acceptable, but not exceptional.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger carried. (image Joe Esparza for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The 6½” stainless steel barrel is enough to get heavy bullets up to speed as well as provide a long sight radius for precision shots. The “Hunter” series of Ruger Bisley’s have 7½” barrels, and that’s just too long and cumbersome to draw. The 6½” is about all I can comfortably wear and draw on my strong side.

There are a couple of things that set every “Bisley” model apart from other single action pattern revolvers. First, and the most obvious, is the grip shape.

Left to right: Ruger Wrangler, Vaquero, New Model Blackhawk, New Model Blackhawk Bisley, Super Blackhawk, Bisley Hunter. Note hammer and grip shapes. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Left to right: Ruger Wrangler, Vaquero, New Model Blackhawk, New Model Blackhawk Bisley, Super Blackhawk, Bisley Hunter. Note hammer and grip shapes. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The original Colt “Revolving Belt Pistol of Navy Caliber” was designed to shoot single handed. And so was every single action revolver that followed its pattern. The “Peacemaker’s” grip would follow the Colt Navy, and the Bisley would be only a slight variation on that theme.

That variation was designed to allow more precise shooting over long strings in Colt’s target revolvers. Ruger has merely copied this design for their Bisley labeled guns.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger in-hand (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

This Ruger’s Bisley grip, like the original on the Colt, helps to reduce recoil of any revolver by not only allowing a full purchase on the gun even if you have quite large hands, but also by allowing the gun to roll up and back during recoil.

And that’s exactly what you want to do with it. Just let it roll.

The other “Bisley” feature is the hammer. Unlike the more common up-swept models, the Bisley hammer dips down before rising up to a flattened, heavily grooved spur. This makes reaching up with your strong hand thumb to cock the revolver easy. Remember, unlike the double action ultra magnums, these guns were designed to cock and fire with one hand.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger hammer (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

As an added bonus, because of its shape, the Bisley hammer is much less likely to catch on the draw than the standard up-swept type. Take a close look at many custom revolvers and you’ll see the more common hammer has been replaced with the Bisley.

The trigger on the .480 Ruger is, like every New Model Blackhawk, Super Blackhawk, or New Vaquero I’ve shot, disappointing. The single action trigger pull averages at 3 lbs. 8.2 oz. on my Lyman trigger gauge. A bit over three and a half pounds isn’t bad, but I’d prefer lighter.

The concern is that, although the average was an acceptable weight, the trigger pull had several ounces of range between different pulls. It had a wide standard deviation.

The experience isn’t a crisp, clean break, but instead a sloppy, mushy pull that has no definite wall or snap. The trigger is just kind of an inconsistent slide until the gun goes bang. Especially on a heavy recoiling gun, that’s less than ideal.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger markings (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The trade-off is that wonderful transfer bar. Traditional single action cartridge revolvers can only be safely carried on an empty cylinder as dropping or striking the back of the hammer can cause the hammer to strike an exposed primer. Ruger’s transfer bar eliminates this issue and allows the shooter to carry a full cylinder with complete safety.

For the .480 Ruger Bisley, that cylinder has 5 rounds, not 6. The .480 Ruger case is just too large in diameter to fit 6 inside the Bisley’s standard cylinder and still have adequate cylinder wall thickness. When you’re delivering a pistol round that capable of delivering 1,000 ft/lbs of energy at 100 yards, 5 rounds is enough.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger cylinder base pin (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Super Blackhawk in .480 Ruger comes with an “over-sized” locking base pin. I put over-sized in quotations because that’s what it’s referred to, but it’s absolutely necessary for a heavy recoiling revolver. I have noticed when shooting heavy .45 Colt ammunition (310gr at 1,200fps) the base pin will tend to walk forward towards the muzzle bit by bit. That becomes a problem.

The Super Blackhawk addresses the issue with a larger, more massive pin that includes a simple screw. That screw is tightened down against a divot on the underside of the barrel. I put a pretty long string of punishing loads through the revolver, and never had the pin move a bit.

All in all, I’ve now put 220 rounds through this revolver, with a variety of charges, powders, and bullets, both homemade and commercial. I experienced no issues concerning reliability in any way.

At no point, even with rounds that were right at the top of the SAAMI pressure listing, were there any signs of over-pressure. No primers raised, and the fired cases always pushed right out without any sticking.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger front ramp sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The sight set up of the .480 Ruger Super Blackhawk is a familiar one; a serrated fixed ramp front and square notch rear sight, adjustable for elevation and windage. It’s a decent arrangement and gives the shooter a solid shot at putting huge chunks of lead on target.

Unfortunately, the front sight is all black and easily disappears against the black rear sight edges, as well as against a dark target. A steel front sight the same color as the base would be more appreciated.

As the front sight blade is simply pinned in, an alternate can be easily made, if you so choose. There used to be a few options for drop-in replacements available, but they seem to be discontinued.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger adjustable rear sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The rear sight is also all black, and any kind of bright “U” notch would be appreciated. An upgrade, like Bowen’s Rough Country rear sight, would go a long way to making the rear sight easier to see, as well as a bit more durable.

Using pin gauges, the cylinder throats all measured out at a very tight .478”. The major bore diameter was right on the money, at .475” and the minor bore diameter was .465”. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

What was out of the ordinary was the lack of end shake and the minimal cylinder gap. The cylinder gap measured at a slightly wiggly .001”, but the .002” gauge wouldn’t fit even if I was pushing the cylinder to the rear. None of my other Ruger single actions measure that tight, usually closer to .005”.

That tight cylinder gap is particularly important in the big bore revolvers, as the loss in velocity pushing the big slugs with H110 and Winchester 296 powders becomes quite remarkable when there’s a bit of space between the cylinder and the barrel. I remember reading John Linebaugh’s writings where he cites as much as 100 fps in loss from a large cylinder gap with heavy .45 Colt loads.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger muzzle (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Hornady seems to have discontinued their heavier offering and now only offers a single loading for the .480 Ruger, their 325gr XTP moving at an advertised 1,350 fps at the muzzle. In addition to their 325gr round moving at the same speed as Hornady’s, Speer also offers an even lighter bullet, a 275gr Gold Dot Hollow Point moving at 1,450 fps. I found both the Hornady 325gr and Speer 275gr rounds at Cabellas and McBrides Gun Store here in Austin, Texas. They were not inexpensive.

Buffalo Bore makes a fairly wide variety of loads for the .480 Ruger caliber, and if you’ve made the poor life decisions that keep you from reloading, I’d highly suggest you look to them to feed the Ruger single action. I would, however, recommend that you be sitting down when you look at the price for a box of 20 rounds.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger on the bench (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The hand loader will be able to unleash the full potential of the .480 Ruger. For some reason I can’t quite figure out, the Hornady and Speer factory loads are downright anemic. The Hornady reloading manual has that same 325gr bullet going 1,500 fps at its maximum, and the Speer manual puts their 275 grain round 5 feet per second short of 1,700 fps.

That a pretty big hunk of lead moving really fast, and would be ideal for the largest whitetail, mule deer or wild pigs.

That’s fast, but too light. No, if you’re going to shoot a big bore, go heavy. There’s just no replacement for displacement. My preferred loading in this revolver is the 410 grain hard cast gas checked bullet from Cast Performance, moving at 1,250 fps from the muzzle. It will do another 50 fps over that, but the group starts to open up a bit at the top of the pressure limit.

For those of you who aren’t bullet nerds, let me put that into perspective.

The 1873 Springfield Rifle in .45-70 Government was used in the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo. It had a 32” barrel, shot one bullet with each loading, and weighed 9 lbs. It’s a big gun firing a big bullet because buffalo are big animals. This revolver, in terms of bullet weight and muzzle velocity, is right on par with that rifle.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger hunting round group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

On the range, my own hand loads did best. I don’t think I’ve ever found a revolver that doesn’t like a big lead round with a wide meplat. Shooting off a front bag at 25yards, this round scored extremely consistent 2” five-round groups on average for four-shot strings.

The .480 Ruger is capable of acceptable levels of precision with commercially available ammunition. The commercial Hornady round shot 2 3/4” groups on average under the same conditions, and the Speer 275gr commercial offering shot the same average, but with a wider standard deviation. The gun seems to like the wider, heavier bullets.

Single handed off-hand groups at 25 yards with the Hornady round measured between 5” and 6”, but that’s more of a shortcoming of the shooter than the gun itself. Try as I might, I’ve never been much of a shot off-hand.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley .480 Ruger off-hand (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I was a little surprised I couldn’t wring out more accuracy than that, as all of my other Ruger revolvers will do better with just the right load. Perhaps a trigger job and a brighter front sight would help.

Although the recoil is not inhumane, it is quite stout. Shoot the factory Hornady or Speer loads off-hand and you’ll definitely know you touched one off, but it doesn’t feel much different than a full power .44 Magnum load. Because, well, it isn’t.

Hornady .44 Magnum left, Hornady .480 Ruger right (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Hornady .44 Magnum left, Hornady .480 Ruger right (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

That 410 grain hunting load is a different story altogether. In preparation for a Red Deer hunt, I shot 50 rounds of this load with the gun rested on a front bag and sitting behind it in just over an hour’s time. This position will dramatically increase recoil.

I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad, but by the end of the session, the memorial bracelet I wear wouldn’t fit around my swollen wrist. It took a few days to settle down and get back to normal. It’s pretty rare that I’d do 50 rounds of that kind of shooting at once, if for nothing other than the cost. And again, off-hand, the .480 Ruger is powerful, but not painful.

Although the .480 Ruger was originally made for the Super Redhawk, it really seems perfect for the Super Blackhawk Bisley. It’s right at the top end of what is still enjoyable shooting, and yet would do a number on even the largest of bears.

It’s a shame it never really caught on. I’m guessing that the bragging rights of the ultra magnums, no matter how heavy they are or how much they recoil, won out in the caliber popularity contest. That’s too bad, because it’s an outstanding cartridge, but maybe the Super Blackhawk Bisley is the right vehicle to drive interest back into Ruger’s big bore pistol round.

At right around $1,000 off the street, the Ruger is a very strong value and if yours is anything like the one I’ve picked up, it’s sure to last you a lifetime of hunts.

Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, Brian Wilson of Frio County Hunts got me on that Red Deer. My first shot was less than ideal, hitting too far back at the quartering, but turning animal just over 70 yards away.

Not to worry. The round smashed through her last rib, traveling diagonally through the animal, shattered the top of her femur and a chunk of her pelvis, then exited the body. She dropped instantly. The second round cut through the top of her heart. There were two roughly half-inch holes on either side of her body. She made it 15 feet. Meat for weeks. And that’s why I like the big bores.

Ruger Super Blackhawk .480 Ruger

Redneck Red Deer (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications: Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley

Caliber: .480 Ruger
Grips: Bisley Hardwood Laminate
Front Sight: Serrated Ramp
Barrel Length 6.5″ (4.62″ also available)
Material: Stainless Steel
Capacity: 5
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Twist: 1:18″ RH
Finish: Brushed Stainless
Overall Length: 12.57″
Weight: 48 oz.
Grooves: 6
MSRP: $1,049 (Lipsey’s distributor exclusive)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * *
The finish is OK. The quality of the wood is OK. The fitment is OK. The Ruger got its reputation as a working gun, but not necessarily as a beautiful one.

Customization * * * *
There’s a whole lot you can do to these guns yourself with just a Jerry Knudsen shop manual and some patience. Quality gunsmiths, like Bowen Classics and John Linebaugh, take what can be done with the Ruger single action line to an entirely different level. If you can dream it, they can do it.

Reliability * * * * *
Supreme.

Accuracy * * *
For a revolver of this barrel length with adjustable sights, hovering just under 3” with commercial ammunition and 2” from the best pet load, that’s what I’d call right at average.

Overall * * * (and * * * * *)
On paper, the Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley is exactly average, but this isn’t an average category to start with. The big bore caliber, for a not-so-big-bore price, puts this revolver in a class all its own. For about $1,000 out the door, this gun is ready to hunt anything in the western hemisphere right out of that grey plastic box.

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Nice review. I really like the idea of the 480 from perspective and the oddity.

    I guess I’ll stick with +p 45 Long Colt loads (“long” just to annoy the haters) in my Bisley.

    I dont think I’ve bought any factory 45 ammo in over 20 years. My reloads do all I need in Bisley or Winchester Trapper.

    Might like a Flat Top to have a lighter carry gun with punkin-roller loads.

    Thanks again for the review of a nice revolver for hunting just plain shooting. Although light loads might still be pricey.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thanks. I do love the “Ruger Only”loads in the 45 Colt. In reality, there’s not a whole lot you can’t take, under 50 yards, with a 310 grain round moving at 1,200 feet per second.
      That said, the top loads of the 480 Ruger are producing more energy at 100 yards than that heavy 45 Colt does at the muzzle.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Indeed. And that is somewhat desirable even though I would never need it.

        I noticed in another review of this six gun that accuracy with the 480 was not as tight as the 454 model. May be there are some factors of the build (bore, twist) that need tweaking.

        My 45 can easily cut under 2.5 inches with its preferred load of 2400 and a WFN bullet.

        Black hawks and their kin are fun.

      2. avatar kahlil says:

        Limited searching, but I couldn’t see what rounds the .480 guns can chamber…the article implies .45 colt can be fired, is that correct? In what I have found elsewhere it appears that you can’t chamber other (.45 colt/schofield, etc) in a .480 revolver, so what is the verdict?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          .480 Ruger is the caliber. Any firearm chambered in .480 Ruger will be able to fire the .480 Ruger. It will not be able to fire any other cartridge.

      3. avatar mrbadnews says:

        Roll those 410s you wrote about back to around 1100 FPS. I bet you groups will tighten up and your wrist will thank you. I have a Blackhawk in 475 Linebaugh. I have 18 left of a 20 count box of “high veloicity” (but by the book) 475L loads collecting dust. However, I have found bullets around 400 gr very darned shoot able around the 1100 fps mark. And,… those 410s at that speed will still shoot through anything. I’m loading 4227.

        All that should be very doable in the 480.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      these big guns are brutal to shoot…and of limited usefulness…there are better things to hunt with…and if you really think you might encounter a bear… a short-barreled shotgun with slugs is a much better choice…that being said, I do own a couple just for the novelty factor…

  2. avatar jwm says:

    A cut down .45-70 case and it is considered the runt of the litter of big magnums? We gots first world problems, for sure.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      don’t forget blown out.

  3. avatar Jerms says:

    “Don’t get me wrong, I buy a lot of guns, but I generally shoot them for a few years and then sell them or give them away.”

    Hey, it’s me your friend

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Man, it’s good to hear from you. We still have a lot of post holes to be dug at the farm. That limestone is murder! Come on by this weekend, We’ll get started about sun up. Bring your rock bar.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        What kind of beer do you stock in a Rock Bar?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Brother a day of digging holes with a steel pole and a coffee can earns you whatever beer you want.

      2. avatar kahlil says:

        why not soften the ground up first with the .480? 😉

      3. avatar IdahoBoy says:

        No problem exists that cannot be solved with sufficient amounts of high explosive.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          This is the Way.

  4. avatar RGP says:

    There are some things you get with one of these that you don’t get with other Ruger revolvers. Screw lock basepin and considerably harder steel than you have in other Blackhawks, and I believe the action may be blocked from the factory. Bottom line it isn’t like the old Rugers that would lose accuracy and need a new barrel every 20k rounds or so. You probably won’t ever wear out one of these as long as you keep it properly lubricated.

    I got to shoot all of about 20 rounds through a 4 5/8″ .480 during the summer. Suffice to say that about 15 grasshoppers lost their lives to that fivegun.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You mentioned something that I forgot to put in my review. Lubrication. It’s pretty rare to get one of these Ruger revolvers to blow up. But they can shake themselves to death. A lubricant with some staying power at the front and back of the cylinder are required to keep them running. This is probably the only place, and the only uses I have for grease in a firearm.

  5. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    I had the distinct pleasure of getting to stop by the Freedom Arms factory when I was out in Idaho/Wyoming back in 2018. Ever since then I have had the bug for a big bore single action revolver. This would certainly be easier to stomach than even some of the “cheaper” options from FA.

    Nice review!

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thanks. Casull is a genius and you’ll never ever go wrong with a Freedom Arms Gun. But man, they are proud of them.

      1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

        If you had to choose between the .480 Ruger and a 454 Casull as a “first” big-bore revolver, which would you recommend?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The .454. More commercial ammunition options, more reloading options, more chambering options. I’d just spend most of my time, as with any of the big bores, with starting loads.

        2. avatar Don from CT says:

          I recently picked up this same gun except in .454. Its a wonderful gun, but really does take some getting used to.

          I have an old 6″ model 29 and can shoot full bore .44 mag loads no problem. But Buffalo Bore .454s still spook me.

          I can tell because when I take it to the range, my first shot is always in the black. Second shot is about 6″ low.

          Ha.

          Of course the beauty of a .454 is you can load up some .45 Colts to get used to the gun and work your way up to heavy ruger only .45s. Then make the jump to .454.

          I’ve dropped back to .45 Colt for now. At some point I’ll start shooting .454s.

          I love the fact that with the .454 Cassul version, I can shoot everything from 400 ft-lb pussycats to 2000 ft-lb monsters.

  6. avatar GS650G says:

    I like single actions and appreciate shooting them more than 15 round pistols. When you load and unload one at a time you place shots more carefully.

    1. avatar Me says:

      You talking single action or single shot?

      I’ll stick with my 7.5″ bisley in .44 magnum, blued and engraved factory cylinder. Main reasons, it’s paid for, and .44 mag hurts the wallet plenty, don’t need a round that I can’t find in my area.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Me,

        I am pretty sure that GS650G was referring to single-action revolvers since you load them one round at a time (until the cylinder is full) and you unload them one round at a time (until the cylinder is empty).

        I also went with .44 Magnum a while back so that I could purchase ammunition almost anywhere. Although, in practice, most stores in my neck of the woods do not have any .44 Magnum ammunition on the shelves, or at best just one choice of .44 Magnum (which is often NOT what I want). Thus, I have been forced lately to order my .44 Magnum factory ammunition from online distributors and have it shipped to my home.

        And I am really surprised that I have such a hard time finding .44 Magnum ammunition. Deer hunting is HUGE in my state. I want to say that my state is in the top 5 states in the United States in terms of the number of hunters who go afield for deer season. To provide a little more perspective, this last season there were 15,000 antlerless licenses available for my county alone (although people only purchased something like 7,000 of them).

        1. avatar Specialist38 says:

          The internet is your friend. SGAmmo.com is my favorite.

        2. avatar frank speak says:

          I started carrying one as back-up after my rifle misfired and jammed with a deer in my sights…[crappy ammo]….never had occasion to use it, but i’m sure it would have got the job done at close range….

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Specialist38,

          Yes sir or ma’am — SGammo is quite possibly my favorite online ammunition distributor. I usually check with them before seeing what other distributors are offering.

  7. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I like the Bisley revolvers. The grip just feels good. .480 is just more than I need here. I once had a Freedom Arms field grade in .454 Casull. 7 1/2″. Sent it back to have it fitted with micarta grips. That was a bit expensive. Anyway, the most accurate and closest to a Bisley I’ve owned. Just too big. 7 1/2 ” barrel.i remember the 5 1/2″ Ruger Bisley in .44 Mag. Show me that in stainless and I’m buying. That day. In the meantime I’ll muddle through with my Smiths.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      https://ruger.com/products/newModelSuperBlackhawkBisley/specSheets/0818.html

      https://ruger.com/products/newModelSuperBlackhawkBisleyHunter/models.html

      I have both and enjoy both. They prefer the same Cast Performance heavy flat nosed bullets as the other Ruger’s.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        jwt, as an aside. Just bought a Randall #1 6″ stainless, nickel sliver hilt and stag. Probably the most handsome Randall I’ve ever bought. Everyone that has seen it has tried to buy it. You should take a look at Chris Stanaback’s site. Good friend.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Thanks for the head’s up.

  8. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    great review.
    i remember being disappointed in ruger when i read the .480 was less stout than .460. even still those and the .500 are more than i want to deal with.
    big honkin’ wood grips on my old model super work well taming the lowly .44mag. i’d like to try the bisley grip.
    and i think the idea of fitting the bisley hammer is a great one.

  9. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    do i get that from clements?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      If you are referring to having a Bisley hammer fitted, Clements, Bowen, or several other smiths could do that for you. You could very likely do it yourself with hand tools and a little time. The Ruger Bisley hammer just needs a little work on the back of the hump to fit the grip frame.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        i could shape that to match the shovel handle profile. pretty much any labor provided by either of those gunsmiths is several times my purchase price. probably well worth it.

      2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        oh, i forgot.
        eyegore asks, “what hump?”

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          You’ll see when you compare the hammers and to the grip frame.

        2. avatar RidgeRunner says:

          Young Frankenstein reference. “Hump? What hump?”

  10. avatar conrad says:

    The Freedom Arms .500 Wyoming Express with the 4 3/4″ barrel is everything the .480 is, and a bit more if you need it. Ballistics mentioned here are what I get with the 410 grain bullet and 1250 fps is a good place to be with it. The .454 is limited with lighter bullets, and heavy is always the better way to go.

  11. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Huh. I have a Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum and was sorely disappointed when I could only achieve three-inch groups at 25 yards with factory Sellier & Bellot, Winchester (white-box), and Fiocchi 240 grain loadings. Sounds like that might be about all I should expect.

    I was seriously looking forward to white-tailed deer hunting with it and wanted to be able to shoot out to 50 yards minimum since the cartridge certainly has plenty of oomph to take a white-tailed deer at that range. Lack of accuracy, however, suggested that I would only be able to shoot to about 30 yards maximum.

    I figured it was a “lemon” because the groups are much larger than I expected. For that reason, even though I love the look and feel of it, I was seriously thinking of selling it. Maybe I will keep it now and just have to be satisfied with a maximum distance of 30 yards for hunting.

    I am also wondering if I should try shooting 305 grain loads and see if it groups those a lot better than the 240 grain loads.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I would try some nice cast bullets size to you bore. My Ruger should cast much better than jacketed – in general.

      The exception is my 44 magnum flat top. It prefers Hornday XTP bullets.

      And you can always fire lap it to improve the bore. It’s a thing.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I would like to second this comment. Check out the link I put up to Cast Performance.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Oh, but one more thing…
          There is a reason you see the cylinder throat and bore dimentions (I should have included the chamber throat as well).
          Sometimes, and especially with the Rugers of over 10 years ago, you’ll find very tight cylinder throats or chambers, and larger bore diameters. Even if it’s only by 1,000th of an inch, that combination will lead to poor accuracy. It’s very easy to fix.

        2. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Yep. My original vaquero was accurate with 900 fps loads but would spray the paper when I jumped up to 1200 or so.

          The throats miced .449. Opened them up to .4525. Improved accuracy drastically and added 75 fps on velocity with the same load.

          An accurate gun is much more interesting.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Thanks for the heads-up guys!

        Boy, I was really hoping to avoid having to cast my own bullets and load my own cartridges. And, while I like to think of myself as a decent amateur gunsmith, there is no way that I trust myself to measure and/or change the throat dimensions on my revolver. I would need a gunsmith to evaluate and do that. (I can only wonder what that might cost.)

        In the meantime I will see what sort of accuracy I get from off-the-shelf, heavy-for-caliber hardcast loads.

        I have always gravitated toward the ballistics of 240 grain bullets in .44 Magnum. That seems to yield the optimum balance between “flat shooting” (which means I don’t have to worry about bullet drop out to 100 yards), terminal effect (plenty of sectional density and impact velocity to drop deer out to 100 yards), and recoil. If I step up to 300 grain bullets, I might have to account for bullet drop past 50 yards, although that is better than not being able to shoot past 30 yards because 240 grain bullets lack enough accuracy to shoot beyond 30 yards.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Go buy, rent, or borrow a pin gauge set. No guesswork involved.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      once fired my model 29 off a bench and hit the target dead-center at 100 yds…not sure I can say the same about my Ruger…

      1. avatar ChoseDeath says:

        I put 3 out of 6 in a steel silhouette target at 210 yards off a sandbag with my Super Blackhawk Hunter in .44 mag with the 240 grain +P Buffalo Bore Deer Grenade rounds. Maybe you should give the ol’ Ruger another chance?

  12. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Mr. Taylor,

    By the way I am happy to hear that your deer dropped so quickly.

    My experience lately has been that .44 Magnum 240 grain softpoints definitely kill deer (even when I hit them a bit high), but they sure do seem to run a lot farther than I would expect.

    My oldest child put a perfect broadside double-lung pass-through shot on a big 4.5 year-old doe at 72 yards. That doe still managed to run about 50 yards before dropping over.

    I put a nice broadside double-lung pass-through shot on a big 3.5 year old buck at 65 yards. He ran about 130 yards before keeling over.

    This season I hit a bit high on a big doe that was slightly quartering and she managed to go about 80 yards. And the second big doe that I shot this season went about 35 yards.

    The beauty of .44 Magnum 240 grain softpoints is that they make big holes and are pretty much guaranteed to be pass-through shots (at least with the boost in muzzle velocity that you get with rifles).

    Of course, whatever 44 Magnum does, .480 Ruger will obviously do it even better.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The 44 is a deer killing machine. But yup, sometimes they run. Sometimes they are DRT. I’ve never unlocked the mystery of which it will be.

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        they always seem to run a bit after a lung shot…and the heart’s a pretty small target….

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          That’s the thing, I Keep a photo album of Hearts from animals that were shot in the heart, some of which destroyed almost half of the heart, who then ran a hundred yards or more.
          And then some others just buckle and fall down. One day I think some old-timer will be able to tell me why.

        2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Nah. Sometimes, animals just don’t know they are supposed to be dead.
          One of the reasons I like a high neck shot or head shot if conservatively possible.
          Then again, one time that didn’t work and my Gemsbok lay there like Superman after a horse accident. Just looking at me. Some critters are just tough.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        jwtaylor,

        With respect to how far deer run after rock-solid fatal gunshot wounds, I am wondering if I stumbled onto a pattern based on the personal experiences of several friends and family members who have shot and recovered a combined total of over 100 white-tailed deer.

        Here is the general pattern that I seem to have noticed (of course there are exceptions):
        — heart shots: deer run a relatively long distance
        — lung shots: deer run a relatively short distance

        Here is the biological basis that I believe could explain this:
        (1) Heart Shots
        Heart shots result in basically instantaneous stoppage of blood circulation. No more blood goes to that deer’s brain or muscles. They can only function on whatever amount of residual blood/oxygen is “pooled” in their brain and muscles. Assuming there is enough oxygen to function for 12 seconds, white-tailed deer can run a LONG ways in 12 seconds.
        (2) Lung Shots
        Since the heart is in tact and there was trauma, the deer’s heart immediately jumps to maximum heart rate and promptly dumps nearly all of the deer’s blood into its body cavity (through the holes in its lungs), thus draining the deer’s brain and muscles of blood and oxygen. Assuming that this can happen in six seconds, that deer’s heart will have drained its brain and muscles of pretty much all blood and oxygen and the deer will immediately shut down. Of course a deer will not run as far in six seconds as they can in 12 seconds which would explain why deer shot in the lungs seem to run less far (on average) than deer shot in the heart.

        While that explanation passes the sniff test, I have no actual data. If you stop a deer’s heart, how long can it function on the residual blood/oxygen in its brain and muscles? Can a deer’s heart at maximum heart rate pump most of its blood into its body cavity in six seconds? I don’t know. The numbers that I picked seem reasonable and seem to fit the crude “data” that I collected.

        Anyone have authoritative information on how long a deer should usually function after instantaneous heart (circulatory) failure? Or how long it would usually take a deer’s heart at maximum heart rate to pump enough of its blood into its body cavity to shut down that deer?

    2. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      My experience with deer and .44 from my Marlin lever has been no more than 20 yards w/ Buffalo Bore deer grenade loads. Recently switched to the LeveRevolutions from Hornaday, more accurate but I haven’t had a chance to throw down on one yet. Those Deer Grenades hit wicked hard.

  13. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Unfortunately, the front sight is all black and easily disappears against the black rear sight edges, as well as against a dark target.’

    You know, that’s why they invented nail polish.

    Excellent review. Unfortunately I’m on a .44 magnum budget.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      If you look carefully at the photo of the front sight in the article, you can still see the sheen of where the polish was before it flaked off.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Hmm… I put a white nail polish bar across the front sight of my 50 year anniversary .44 magnum Blackhawk 7 or 8 years ago and it’s still holding fine. Perhaps Walmart isn’t the best place to shop for polish. I’d suggest the Este Lauder counter at your local mall. Lancome would also work.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          My daughter says “gell type” was the wrong choice. Well, $4 wasted. I wish somebody had put up a propper review of front sight appropriate nail polishes.
          Thanks for nothin’, TTAG.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Yeah, my wife runs a cosmetics counter so I’m guessing that bottle she gave me retails around $30.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Probably need to make sure the sight is completely free of oil or other contaminants also.

  14. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I’ve been waiting on this review. Those teasers on IG were killing me.

    I like this. I may start casting my own bullets this spring.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Wheel weighs, gas checks, and lots of gooey bullet lube. Pretty amazing what can be accomplished.

      1. avatar frank speak says:

        nail polish and tight holsters don’t mix well…

  15. avatar possum tracks says:

    That’s a nice firearms. 480 Ruger another proprietary cartridge. In the hands of a good handgunm hunter there is nothing those aforementioned cartridges can do that a hot loaded.45 LC or .44 Rem Mag can’t. I’m not knocking the .Ruger, Limbaugh or Casull. It’s I’ve seen more than a few shooters eventually saying “What was I thinking.” Now for a little dig, the Ruger doesn’t penetrate all that well, 454 Casull is better if you like spending money

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Like I said above, I’m a big fan of the heavy 45 Colt, but to say that It can do everything that the 480, 454, 460 or 500 can do is a little ridiculous. Any of those latter calibers are generating more energy at a hundred yards than the 45 Colt does, even the Ruger only loads, at the muzzle.
      As for poor penetration, it went diagonally through a red deer. And that includes busting through a rib, guts, a hip and a femur. At 70 yards. You don’t get more penetration than a pass through.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        jwtaylor,

        You don’t get more penetration than a pass through.

        Heavy bullets (with huge sectional densities) for the win!

    2. avatar possum tracks says:

      A good hundgun hunter gets a little closer then one hundred yards, inside of fifty I doubt the deer, bear, moose, elephant would know the difference. That Larry dude of magna port has taken a lot of big game with a .44mag

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        So you mean yes, the .480 Ruger and those other calibers will do something the .45 Colt and .44 Magnum cant’ do, after all.

        1. avatar possum tracks says:

          Yes they are better , they are bigger, more powerful,. My point was most decent shots with hunting skills can do just about as much with a 45 LC cheaper and with less recoil. Kinda the old 30-06 vs 300 win mag debate

  16. avatar ChoseDeath says:

    Excellent review! I have one of these, up to 140 rounds through it, and all I can say about it is 🍆💚🇺🇸😍

  17. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Once again, JWT tells me about something I didn’t know I had to have. Just bought a used Super Redhawk in .44 with 7 1/2″ barrel to pair up with my Alaskan, added some wood Hogue grips and she’s a beauty. Needs the scope rings. Now I’m pondering going down that ol’ Blackhhawk road, though question yet another caliber to stock up on. Love the Smith revolvers, too, with a 1980s 686, a Model 10-7, and a 29, there’s just something about ’em. Gadsden, also in Year Three waiting on a custom Randall build, it’s a loooong wait. Been buying Bark Rivers to keep me fixed.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Man I do love the Model 29.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Great to look at, the model 29. Well built. I’m a Smith fan. But for shooting a .44 magnum(I’ve never shot the bigger magnums.) I prefer the Ruger grips. That rolling in the hand is a good thing for my hands. Especially now that I’m older. That 29 pushes straight back. Hurts my arthritis. Worse than the Ruger.

        I told you and Dan Z. that I would buy a new gun this month to make up for only buying one in Jan. All this talk of Black Hawks has got me thinking that my Single Six needs a big brother.

        I see a LGS trip in my near future.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Up on Hamilton Bowen’s page, Bowen Classic Arms, in his “Workshop” section, there’s a one-off .32-20 Ruger Single Six. It makes me feel funny down where I pee.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          That S&W with the ivory grips. I love my wife. But i’d trade her and throw in a used grand kid or 2 for that revolver.

          Those Rugers with the Colt barrels are something unique, to say the least.

    2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Ridge, if you order from Randll it’s about a five year wait. I go through Chris Stanaback. He posts knives monthly. They don’t last long. He will also take orders for unfilled slots. Randall dealers only get so many. He probably gets more than anyone. I have three on order now. I’ll wait less than a year for all three. Then again; I have a rifle he wants. lol

      1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

        I went to Mr. Stanaback’s site, wow, beautiful stuff. Most all are listed as sold out. Very tough to choose but I will. Some of those bone handles and exotics are gorgeous, and I like the steel. Any knife I buy has to work, at least some, so that’s a consideration for me. Appreciate the direction, the man is quite an artisan.

  18. avatar Pat says:

    I’m not a hunter, but after my first season hiking the Wyoming mountains, my .44 Mag 329 was feeling pretty puny after some close sightings of those “smallish” brown bears. Came home and shipped Hamilton Bowen a .45 Colt Bisley. When I got it back it was a 5-shot .500 Linebaugh with a 5 1/2″ rebored/rifled/engraved S&W ribbed barrel and a custom-made hammer duplicating the standard “thumb-buster” Ruger or Colt hammer profile, but mated to the Bisley grip frame. Just don’t like the Bisley hammer.
    It’s a lot of fun to shoot with plinking 430 grain cast bullet loads, surprisingly tolerable for a couple of cylinders of 540 grain Belt Mountain Punch machined bronze bullets, and easily good for 3″ at 25 yards standing for a few cylinders worth of either. And yet it’s still easily packable in a hip or chest rig. And it’s downright comforting.
    But there’s no way in hell I could manage 50 rounds in one session even with the plinking loads.
    Nice review JWT, as always.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thanks Pat, I’m sending a couple of guns his way today. How long did it take to get your gun back?

      1. avatar Pat Yates says:

        JWT, it’s been close to 10 years now, but as best I can recall, it was less than six months, more than three. Pretty sure it depends what else is in the shop and how “entertaining” the work you want done is. That hammer I mentioned seemed to have been a big chunk of the effort.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Thanks.
          I’ll need one of those for deer season next year, so I think I’ll wait until season’s over to send that one to them.

  19. avatar Tony says:

    JWT, I used to subscribe to Precision Shooting Magazine which shut down around 10 years ago. They published a sister magazine the Accurate Rifle which was mostly oriented to big game hunting, mostly in Africa. One of the regular writers, a south African, was a Veterinarian who also wondered why some heart shot critters ran off while others went DRT. He had a suspicion and was a logical fellow so he conducted autopsies on those who dropped in their tracks. As best I recall he found that the DRTs died of stroke depending on what the heart muscle was doing at the moment of impact. If pumping blood, valves open, then the sudden and above normal gush of blood caused the stroke, dropping them. With your medical background, your comments would be appreciated.

    1. avatar Pat Yates says:

      I have no medical background beyond supporting a lot of doctors these days (I’ll turn 80 this year), but I am a mechanical engineer with a lifetimes experience in figuring out why an explosive train worked or didn’t by examining debris. In my opinion, the valves in the ventricles aren’t remotely strong enough to significantly impede the pressure pulse of a 1000 fps+ flat-nosed bullet impacting the heart. At least if it’s a square hit.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      That does make sense, but there is one problem with the theory. If the deer died of such a massive stroke, then I would expect to see the same kind of bleeding from the nose, bulged eyes, and swollen and strained neck I’ve seen in human pateints. But I dont.
      Then again, maybe they are minor strokes, and just enough to stop them until they bleed out.
      The ones that drop in their tracks aren’t as interesting as the ones that run 300 yards flat out with half their heart missing.

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