This Big-Bore Powerhouse Offers
By John Taffin
The roots of the .480 Ruger go back to John Linebaugh’s .475 Linebaugh. John’s first big bore was the .500 Linebaugh which came from a .348 Winchester trimmed down to 1.400 inches. When it appeared, the .348 brass wavered on the edge of disappearing, so John looked for another possibility, which turned out to be the .45-70.
Using this old classic, he trimmed it back to fit in his custom Ruger Bisleys and the .475 Linebaugh had arrived! The .480 Ruger is a shorter .475 Linebaugh, or a “.475 Special.” The .475 Linebaugh has a case length of 1.400 inches while the .480 Ruger is set at 1.285. John’s original .475 used the rim of the .45-70 brass and once .475 Linebaugh factory cartridges arrived, the rims were made smaller and the .480 Ruger followed this pattern that allowed 6 rounds to be chambered in a normal-size cylinder.
The .480 Ruger first arrived chambered in Ruger’s stainless steel Super Redhawk, once available with either a 7-1/2- or 9-1/2-inch barrel (currently just 9-1/2). The original factory-loaded .480 was a relatively easy shooting cartridge when compared to the .454 Casull and the .475 and .500 Linebaughs. The first .480 factory round from Hornady utilized a 325-grain XTP JHP clocking out at 1,350 fps from a 9-1/2-inch Ruger Super Redhawk. When fired in an easier packin’ sixgun with a 4-3/4-inch barrel, the muzzle velocity is just slightly over 1,200 fps. This is still a powerful loading and more than sufficient for hunting deer and black bear.
Mag-na-port turned John’s Ruger Super Redhawk .480 into a Perfect Packin’
Pistol with their “480 Advantage Package.”
The .480 is powerful enough for taking such large game as this trophy bull bison.
Several years ago when I was making plans to hunt trophy bison on the YO Ranch in Texas, I decided I would take two sixguns with me, a 4-3/4-inch Perfect Packin’ Pistol with the hope of being able to get close enough to use the short-barreled, iron-sighted sixgun. However, I backed it up with a 7-1/2-inch scope-sighted sixgun just in case I had to take a longer shot. In both cases my choice was a Freedom Arms Model 83 chambered in .475 Linebaugh. Other than the obvious differences in the two sixguns, the shorter-barreled one was fitted with a .480 Ruger cylinder. This is definitely not necessary as the .480 Ruger round can be fired in any sixgun chambered in .475 Linebaugh. I just felt like the picture would be completed if I had the “proper” cylinder. My load was a 420-grain cast bullet at just over 1,100 fps. I was able to get within 35 yards of a huge trophy bull and the .480 Ruger did everything that could be asked of it. I had a broadside shot, penetration was total, in one side and out the other, and the bull never took another step.
The original .480 Ruger Super Redhawk is a large, heavy, 58-ounce, scope-ready sixgun with Ruger rings included. It’s one of the strongest double-action revolvers ever offered to handgunners.
But what about the sixgunners who want a more compact package? Their idea of a big-bore sixgun is more along the lines of my definition of the Perfect Packin’ Pistol. That is, a big-bore sixgun with a barrel no less than 4-3/4 nor more than 5-1/2 inches. The answer came with a Freedom Arms 4-3/4-inch Field Grade Model 83 .475 Linebaugh with an extra .480 Ruger cylinder. Again, not really necessary but I don’t have to be careful about cleaning a burn ring which might appear in the cylinder at the edge of the case mouth from shooting a lot of .480 rounds before switching to .475 Linebaugh.
Taurus chambered their Raging Bull in .480 Ruger and just recently Ruger brought forth the Bisley Model in a 5-shot, stainless steel, 6-1/2-inch .480 Ruger. My original 9-1/2-inch Ruger Super Redhawk .480 was becoming more weight than I wished to pack around on a daily basis, and since I already had both the .454 and .44 Magnum Super Redhawks scoped for hunting I decided to try something different with the Super Redhawk .480. It was sent off to Kenny Kelly at Mag-na-port for his .480 Advantage Package. The 9-1/2-inch barrel was cut back to 4.80 inches. The action was totally tuned and, of course, the barrel was Mag-na-ported. The result is an excellent example of a Perfect Packin’ Pistol double-action style. As an extra-added bonus it still maintains the scope-ready attribute of the original allowing me to test loads with the human factor reduced somewhat.
Ruger and Lipsey’s have offered a .480 in the Bisley Model.
These easy-shooting loads with the .480 in the Freedom Arms Model
83 are as accurate as they are pleasant.
Hornady factory ammo with a 325-grain JHP yields a muzzle velocity of 1,206 fps from the 4-3/4-inch barreled Freedom Arms. It can be duplicated using Hornady’s 325-grain XTP JHP with 23.0 grains of Hodgdon’s Lil’ Gun, 25.0 grains of H110, or 26.0 grains of H4227. Both the H110 and Lil’ Gun loads are exceptionally good shooting loads. For game bigger than deer-sized critters with the .480 Ruger, I look to heavy cast bullets from 370 to 425 grains in weight. Hardcast bullets offer maximum penetration.
Loads were assembled for use in my Freedom Arms Perfect Packin’ Pistol using Hornady’s .480 brass and CCI 350 Magnum Large Pistol primer. I do not have .480 Ruger reloading dies, however, RCBS .475 Linebaugh dies work fine once enough metal is removed from the bottom of the crimping die to allow it to crimp the shorter .480 Ruger round. In addition to the RCBS dies, I also used my old standby RCBS Rockchucker reloading press. Someday, perhaps, I will add a shell plate to my RCBS Model 2000 progressive press. I would hate to count the number of rounds I’ve assembled with the single-stage press.
I keep my powder selection simple by going mainly with three powders from Hodgdon normally used for assembling magnum sixgun loads. Those include H110, probably the best powder for full house loads. Lil’ Gun has become a favorite propellant among big-bore sixgunners as it seems to offer more velocity with less pressure and less powder used. Finally, the do-it-all powder for .45 Colt, .44 Special and .44 Magnum for nearly 40 years now is H4227/IMR 4227.
Cast Bullet Performance Company offers a large selection of quality hardcast bullets for sixgunners. All of CBP’s bullets are of the LBT (Lead Bullet Technology) design and for the .480 Ruger, as well as the .475 Linebaugh, I normally go with CBP’s 370-, 390- and 425-grain LBT bullets. I want easy shooting loads for all bullets at around 800 fps, top end loads of 1,100 to 1,200 fps, and several velocity choices in between. I find the .480 Ruger to be an exceptionally accurate cartridge, delivering many groups in the 1-inch neighborhood.
The advantage of the .480 Ruger over the heavy bullet loads in the .454, .45 Colt and .44 Magnum is the increased bullet diameter, while factory loads in the .480 are milder shooting than .475 Linebaugh loads. As a sixgunner of long-standing, I appreciate having so many choices. Now I’ve acquired so much “long-standing” I have discovered the joy of very mild-shooting .480 Ruger loads using Hodgdon’s Trail Boss powder.
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