October 08, 2019
If you’re a fan of big-bore double-action revolvers, you’re familiar with Ruger’s Super Redhawk. Introduced in 1986 and originally designed to handle the .44 Magnum, it represented an evolution from Ruger’s Redhawk, which had been introduced seven years prior. Significant changes included a frame extension, the incorporation of Ruger’s scope mounting cuts machined into the topstrap, and the adoption of the GP100’s coil-spring system.
The result was a stronger gun that handled the .44 Magnum with aplomb, and because of that, and because of the ease with which hunters could mount scopes on the Super Redhawk, it became a big game favorite.
In time the Super Redhawk was chambered for heavyweights like the .454 Casull and the .480 Ruger. (Today it’s also available in 10mm Auto as well.) Now, about the .480. Maybe you remember it, maybe you don’t, but it actually made its debut in the Super Redhawk more than 15 years ago.
A joint project with Hornady, the .480 is an interesting critter. It is a big step up from the .44 Magnum but not as powerful as its kinda-sorta parent .475 Linebaugh. Ruger was looking for a round that would use big bullets like the Linebaugh but operate at lower pressures than the .454 Casull—50,000 psi maximum average pressure for the Ruger cartridge pressure versus 65,000 psi for the Casull. For a frame of reference, the .44 Magnum’s max is 36,000 psi.
Further, the rim on the .480’s case, which is essentially a shortened .45-70 Gov’t, was turned down to the point Ruger could fit six of them in a cylinder.
A practical, middle-of-the road round, it’s capable of taking on practically any four-legged critter you’d want to tackle with a handgun without ripping your wrists off. But practicality doesn’t always sell (hello, .41 Magnum), and Ruger’s round languished—due in part to Smith & Wesson’s introduction of its X-frame revolvers in .500 S&W Magnum and then .460 S&W Magnum.
The .480 has come and gone from Ruger’s Super Redhawk lineup over the years, and now it’s back. And that’s good news.
The Super Redhawk is an all-stainless gun with a 7.5-inch barrel (1:18 twist) that weighs 53 ounces. Yes, it’s a heavy gun. I don’t know about you, but I want heavy when it comes to calibers on this level.
Sights include a fully adjustable, white-outline rear and a ramped front with red insert. The front sight assembly is screwed into the barrel, so it’s easy to change if you want a different style or height. Ruger itself offers a number of options—including green fiber optic, brass bead and red ramp—in .533- and .610-inch heights. Check them out at ShopRuger.com.
It’s a double-action/single action, and average pulls on my sample were 11 pounds 10 ounces in double action and two pounds 10 ounces in single action. The double-action pull is decent, with a normal amount of stacking, and the single-action pull is quite crisp.
The cylinder is unfluted and has off-center cylinder stop slots, both of which increase strength.
The grip is Hogue’s Tamer Monogrip. It features pronounced finger grooves, which you may or may not care for based on your hand size, and a swell between the first two grooves that help fill the hand. The stippling on the side helps keep the gun anchored in your hand, and the of course the big selling point is the composition. The grip’s synthetic rubber does a good job of soaking up at least some of the recoil.
For accuracy testing I mounted my favorite Burris 1.5-4X handgun scope in Ruger rings. You’ll note in the lead photo the rings are blued. The gun actually ships with matte stainless rings, but somebody goofed in packing it. Because the topstrap is not flat—there’s step in it—scoping a Super Redhawk requires rings of different heights. My sample came with same-height rings by mistake, so I rummaged through my collection to come up with a pair that would work. They just happened to be blued and not stainless.
The scope and rings brought overall weight to 70 ounces, and that helped make the gun quite controllable considering its unmistakable power. The only load I had on hand was Hornady’s 325-grain XTP, a good all-around choice. (You can also find .480 offerings from Grizzly, Buffalo Bore and Underwood.) It shot well, as I expected it would.
Ruger Super Redhawk .480 Accuracy Results
Hornady Custom 325-grain XTP, 1,324 fps: 2.3 inches
Accuracy recorded at 25 yards and is an average of four five-shot groups. Velocity is the average of 20 shots.
If you’re a big game hunter, you have to love that velocity from a bullet of this weight. The combination yields a muzzle energy of more than 1,300 ft.-lbs. For comparison, a heavyweight 300-grain .44 Magnum produces just under 900 ft.-lbs. while energy for the standard 240-grain bullet in a .44 Magnum runs just under 1,000 ft.-lbs.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the .454 Casull (1,900 ft.-lbs. with a 240-grain bullet), .460 S&W (2,150 with a 200-grainer) and .500 S&W (a whopping 2,870 with a 300-grainer).
The .480 may not be in such rarefied company, but I’d rather hit something with 1,300 ft.-lbs. than miss with twice that energy because the recoil was too much for me. I know, because I’ve shot them all. I can handle the .454 okay (especially in a Bisley grip), the .460 is relatively manageable if it’s a big gun and scoped, but I can’t shoot the .500 at all. At least not without closing my eyes on every shot.
So let’s all welcome back the .480 Ruger and thank Ruger for keeping it in the lineup. (And if you’re a single-action fan, the company is also offering the .480 in several distributor exclusive versions of the New Model Super Blackhawk.) The Super Redhawk is a great blend of power and shootability, and if you’re a big game hunter it’s worthy of your consideration.
Ruger Super Redhawk Specs
- Type:double-action/single-action centerfire revolver
- Caliber: .44 Magnum, 10mm Auto, .480 Ruger (tested), .454 Casull
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel: 7.5 in., 1:18 twist
- OAL: 13 in.
- Weight: 53 oz.
- Finish: satin stainless
- Grip: Hogue Tamer Monogrip
- Trigger: double action, 11 lb. 10 oz.; single action, 2 lb. 10 oz. (measured)
- Sights: adjustable white outline rear, red ramp front; topstrap cut for supplied Ruger rings
- Price: $1,189
- Manufacturer: Ruger, ruger.com