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.480 Ruger & Ruger's Super Redhawk
By Dick Metcalf, Technical Editor, Shooting Times.

Page Three - Shooting the .480 Ruger Super Redhawk

Our review sample .480 Super Redhawk arrived in early February, just two days before a scheduled feral hog hunt to be hosted by Hornady at the Nail Ranch outside Abilene, Texas. After giving it a quick check for mechanical specs and operation, I set it up with a Leupold 4X handgun scope and targeted it at 50 yards, which I anticipated would be about optimum for brush-and-thicket hog hunting. There wasn't really time to do much else, and my initial ammo supply was limited.

Shooting The .480 Ruger Super Redhawk


Factory Load
Velocity (fps)

Standard Deviation (fps)

Accuracy

50 Yards (Inches)

100 Yards (Inches)
150
Yards
(Inches)
Hornady 325-gr. XTP-MAG
1374
11
2.38
3.63
5.13
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five six-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at the ranges specified. Velocity data is average of 10 rounds measured 10 feet from the muzzle of the revolver’s 91/2-inch barrel.

What I immediately noticed, however, was that the gun was surprisingly comfortable to shoot, feeling not much different from a heavy .44 Magnum load. Even with its superior energy and velocity behind the heavy 325-grain bullet, its bigger caliber translated into more of a subjective “push” (albeit a strong push) against the hand instead of the stinging slap and wrench of the wrist associated with shooting a Super Redhawk with full-power, smaller caliber, lighter bullet .454 Casull loads.

The pleasant discovery was its accuracy. Five full-cylinder groups of the new Hornady load at 50 yards averaged 2.38 inches from the SRH, which is as good as anyone can reasonably expect to get from any make or model of production-grade big-bore revolver. Plus the average velocity from the review gun’s 9 1/2-inch barrel came in at 1374 fps average, 24 fps higher than the cartridge’s official factory 7 1/2-inch vented test barrel ballistic rating. It’s a serious hunting tool, indeed.

How serious was demonstrated effectively the first morning of the hunt while riding in a guide’s pickup over the two-track roads of the Nail Ranch spotting for hogs. The ranch had a heavy seasonal coyote population (cattle were calving, and the wild sows were littering as well), and one young coyote was sufficiently accustomed to the presence of vehicles to not flee from sight as we came into view and instead stood watching us from a distance through the shrubbery of a mesquite flat.

I had reviewed the trajectory profile of the .480 Ruger cartridge before leaving home and had observed that it appeared much the same as a 250/260-grain full-power .44 Magnum load in the same barrel length, so I extended my arms out the window, took the same sight picture I would have used if shooting that more familiar load (i.e., put the top of the thick bottom crosshairs post on the top of the coyote’s back), and squeezed off a shot. Dust flew, the coyote yelped, ran about 20 feet, and dropped. Driving up, we found the bullet had center-punched him through the chest, with an exit wound that could hold a tennis ball. Marking the exact distance with a Bushnell rangefinder, it was a 167-yard shot.

And lest there be any doubts about it being a fluke for the gun’s capabilities, the next day another member of our hunting party nailed a coyote with one shot from his Aimpoint-equipped SRH at 94 yards, and his was only showing its head and neck over the crest of a little rise. I was struck by these results, so when I returned home and had more ammunition at my disposal, I targeted my gun at 100 and 150 yards and listed the results in the chart here. The solid softball-size average at the long distance is a real testimony to the ballistic stability of the Hornady HP/XTP bullet design. I’d now take a 150-yard woodchuck, or coyote, or deer shot with this setup any day of the week.

The hog hunting was equally profitable. All seven hunters on the trip took animals; mine was a tusky boar weighing in at about 170 pounds. These are rangy, tough, stringy West Texas pigs, ill-tempered and reluctant to quit even when hit with heavy ammunition. I broadsided my boar from a sitting position after a half-mile stalk and pulled the shot just a mite farther to the rear than optimum, transecting the liver. He ran about 50 yards and stopped head down, so I punched him again straight in from the rear. He ran about 50 yards more and forted up in a mesquite thicket, where I put another round into his chest. That put him down, and I approached close to deliver the coup de grace with a full-body line behind the entrance point. I had hoped that one of the angled shots would provide a recoverable bullet, but not so—four hits, eight holes, and all exit wounds were massive. None of the other hunters recovered bullets either. The 325-grain .475 bullets have a lot of momentum, and certainly did their job, but these pigs had insufficient mass to stop them. Any one of my four hits was mortal, it’s just that feral boars are notoriously reluctant to lie down. Barring a spine or brain shot, they prefer to die on their feet.

When the .454 Casull version of the Super Redhawk was introduced in 1999, Ruger spokesmen candidly acknowledged they did not expect the new chambering to be shot a lot for casual plinking or for steel-target competition. Its recoil was simply too severe. The present .480 Ruger, on the other hand, is a very shootable cartridge in the SRH configuration, even in extended sessions, without giving up too much at all at the “power on target” end. Serious handgun hunters are going to flock to this gun and cartridge primarily for its big-bore capabilities. The fact that the new cartridge officially bears the vaunted Ruger name will only be the icing on the cake.

Other New .480 Guns
Are On The way

When Hornady and Ruger first unveiled the new .480 Ruger cartridge and Super Redhawk revolver chambered for it at the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesaler’s (NASGW) show in Tampa, Florida, last November, it was a lead-pipe certainty that other handgun manufacturers would have their own .480 products as soon as possible. With two of the strongest names in the industry leading the way, it is an opportunity not to be missed. So no surprise that two months later at the 2001 SHOT Show, Taurus had its own new .480 Ruger version of the Raging Bull double-action revolver on display. And Thompson/Center spokesmen told me that the company would soon be working on a .480 Ruger-chambered barrel for the Encore pistol.

The Raging Bull .480 shares all common design features with the other members of the RB family, including the full-profile, heavy-lug vented barrel; dual-lock cylinder release mechanism; and recoil-cushion grips with shock-absorber panel insert. Adjustable sights are standard, and the vent rib accepts Taurus’ proprietary scope mount base that requires no drilling or tapping. The initial version will be matte-finish stainless steel with an 83/8-inch barrel.

In addition to the obvious brand-name differences between the Taurus Raging Bull and the Ruger Super Redhawk designs, one basic point of variance between the two guns is the fact that the Taurus .480’s cylinder is chambered for five shots while the Ruger Super Redhawk holds six. Taurus states that while the physical dimension of its cylinder would allow six rounds, it prefers the added cushion of the extra metal. Ruger states unequivocally that its testing shows no signs of undue stress to the chamber walls. After thousands of shooters fire thousands of rounds through both designs over the next 10 years, it will undoubtedly be proven that both work fine.

We had not received a review sample of the new Taurus Raging Bull .480 Ruger revolver by press time, but if it continues the already established Raging Bull tradition of user-friendly performance, accuracy, and reliability, it will be a sure winner, which is what we also expect from Thompson/Center’s forthcoming Encore single-shot pistol in .480 Ruger chambering, expected to start production early this spring.

You can count on Shooting Times to do complete reviews of these and other .480 Ruger guns as they become available. Look for these writeups in upcoming issues.

Page One - The Cartridge: History, Development, Ballistic Comparison
Page Two - The Gun: Specs, History, Looks
Page Three - Shooting the .480 Ruger, Velocity/Accuracy Chart, .480 Guns to Come

This article was originally published in Shooting Times magazine in May, 2001.

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