Tips & Tales on the
.480 Ruger Bisley

Santa, a loving wife and Ruger make for a happy Tank!

Factory ammo is available from several sources for the .480 Ruger. The Bisley is riding
in a Barranti Leather NW Mountain Companion holster.

For many, 2015 became a colossal year when Ruger relented, finally releasing the long awaited 5-shot, single-action Bisley. The rumor mill speculated a chambering in what else? the .480 Ruger, a 0.015″ shorter version of John Linebaugh’s famous .475 Linebaugh.

Born in 2003, the .480 Ruger cartridge was first used in the 5-shot Super Redhawk. Single-action fans were licking their chops at the 5-holed cylinder of the Bisley, waiting. Good thing single-action shooters are patient because it took Ruger 12 years to finally give us what we wanted — but they did!

Handloads are basic and simple. Molds by Lee and MP-Molds cast great bullets.
On the right is the longer .475 Linebaugh brass next to the .480 Ruger.


Ruger was slick, pulling a fast one on us as rumors of a 5-shot, big-bored beast spread fast, far and wide among the big-boomer crowd. Surprising everyone, Ruger released not one 5-shot Bisley, but twin baby boomers.

Calling them “Thunder and Lightning” wouldn’t be a stretch, but their proper names are the .480 Ruger and .454 Casull. Oh, baby! Can you sadistically say knuckle-busting fun for everyone?

Enthusiasts now had factory, affordable, big-bore 5-shot single-actions chambered in two powerful cartridges, something once a custom, or semi-custom proposition. I say “semi-custom” referring to Freedom Arms, the mighty fine guns manufactured in Freedom, Wy.

How It Happened

Lipsey’s, a large Ruger distributor, has a secret weapon named Jason Cloessner, the VP in charge of Product Development. Jason has the ability to persuade Ruger and other manufacturers to tweak their products for those special “Lipsey’s Exclusives” we all love.

The reason for his success? Jason’s a true-blue gun guy like you and me, and he knows what we want. It’s this simple and it’s how we ended up with factory 5-shot thumb-cockers. Life is good!

Handloads are powerful, accurate reminders we can load our own ammo if
the need arises, or simply for pure enjoyment. Those 2" squares make dandy targets.

The Catch

June 2015 — I bump into Jason in Raton, NM and he has a suspicious grin on his face. He says there’s some pilot guns he needs shot for a durability test of sorts and needs some help.

Some catch! Fly down to Baton Rouge, shoot free ammo on a prototype pistol, eat Cajun food for a couple days and fly back home. Sounds like a dream vacation, right? The catch? Jason wanted 5,000 rounds of ammo shot through Ruger’s newest Bisley.
Now I love to shoot, but in the two days my sidekick, Doc Barranti and I had to shoot, we only managed 2,500 rounds between us. We’d shoot those guns so hot you needed gloves from burning your hands.

The guns held up and Lipsey’s received their first order of Ruger 5-shot Bisleys in .480 Ruger and .454 Casull a few months later. Santa, along with a loving wife, left both caliber Bisleys under the tree that year. I know, you hate me.
Handloaded Heaven

One of the nice things about the .480 Ruger torture test was the mounds of spent brass Jason divvied up among the hardcore handloaders at Lipsey’s and some for Doc and me.

As far as handloads go, I have two favorite loads featuring home-cast bullets from Lee and MP-Molds. The Lee is a 400-gr. LFN design and the MP-Mold is a 385-gr. HP with a dual crimp groove for either .480 Ruger or .475 Linebaugh. Powders include Alliant Unique and Hodgdon HS-6.

The loads are safe, simple and satisfying. The 10 grains of Unique with the Lee slug runs 919 FPS while the MP-Mold HP runs 971 FPS. These are easy recoiling loads, accurate and will knock down just about anything needing it.

The Hodgdon HS-6 load is 14.5 grains as it falls from my Lee auto-disc dispenser, and the Lee bullet goes 1,096 FPS while the MP-Mold HP goes 1,162 FPS. My cast bullets are powder coated and sized 0.476″ with Lee push-thru sizing dies.

We were once told Ruger would release a 5-shot Bisley when “pigs would fly ….” Well, here you go.

The Guns

Ruger did an exceptional job on these 5-shot Bisleys. The Bisley grip-frame is a favorite for many when shooting heavy recoiling guns. The grip gives you more to hang onto and disperses recoil over a wider area, seeming to come straight back at you instead of flipping like a plow-handle single-action. It’s a knuckle-saver for sure.

The 6.5″ straight barrel adds weight for balance while lessening felt recoil. The base-pin has a locking setscrew to prevent the pin from launching under recoil. The cylinder is unfluted for good looks and extra weight.

Ruger hit a homerun making 5-shot Bisleys a factory option to the millions of working men and women out there. It makes a once-unreachable custom gun obtainable for those who thrill in shooting large diameter hunks of lead downrange. Now if we can only get Jason to persuade Ruger to release a .500 Ruger …

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