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Old February 13, 2012, 09:05 PM   #1
Flyboy_451
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What happened with the .480 Ruger?

I have been thinking about this particular cartridge a lot lately, and the thread on the .327 Federal provoked me to get others views on this seemingly failed cartridge.

It seems that the .480 is destined to slip silently into history with only a small number even really noticing it? It is sad to see that Ruger no longer lists any gun chambered specifically for this cartridge, but they do show the No. 1 being available in .475 Linebaugh/.480 Ruger. Little is heard about this cartridge at all, and a check of two local gun shops found exactly ZERO ammunition on hand. Probably not surprising, but nothing to celebrate either.

Before delving into why the .480 has faded from sight, please permit me to offer my view on why this cartridge could have been a great one. I have been a fan of big bore revolvers for as long as I can remember. There is just something very comforting and satisfying about having a gun of solid design and respected history on your hip. Add a large bore and it only gets better. There are few tasks that a big bore sixgun cannot handle, and not just the hand cannons such as the .500 Smith. Even a .45 Colt loaded with black powder equivalent loads is no slouch.

The .480 is really nothing more than a a .475 Linebaugh Special, but why should this relegate it to the list of cartridges left behind? For any of you that have not shot a full power .475 Linebaugh, make no mistake, we are talking about RECOIL! MY 5 1/4" BFR will launch .420 grain bullets at 1400fps. But, this is not the type of load that it sees most frequently. Full loads are fine when you are in pursuit of, or defending yourself from, large dangerous critters, but how often do we really need that level of performance? My general use load is that same 420 grain bullet at a sedate 950-1000fps. This load is not unpleasant to shoot and is capable of taking pretty much any critter on the continent with proper bullet placement, and is well within the performance envelope of the .480.

So, the .480 certainly has enough performance for nearly any chore we could ask of a handgun. It can be put into a gun that is of packable size. It can be downloaded to ridiculously mild velocities and recoil levels. It's easy to load for, whether you are wanting mild or wild. Cast and jacketed bullets are easily had in a wide array of weights and styles? So, what went wrong?

For what it is worth, here is my opinion. The .480 was a pretty well conceived cartridge that was poorly packaged and then marketed to the wrong crowd. It is also possible that it suffered from poor quality control on the part of Ruger in that I have heard, but not verified, that there were several issues of stuck cases in the Ruger revolvers.

First, the packaging; someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the only gun factory chambered by Ruger for the .480 was the Super Redhawk, with barrels of either 7 1/2 or 9 1/2 inches. The strength of the Super Redhawk is unquestioned, but the damned thing is as big as a Chevy Suburban, and weighs almost as much! I think a much more popular choice would have been to chamber the Blackhawk series as a five shooter. After all, it was the .475 Linebaugh, frequently built on the Blackhawk frames, that gave birth to the idea of the .480. John Linebaugh, Hamilton Bowen, Dave Clements, and many others have been making a good living for a lot of years doing these conversions, and I would venture a guess that they get very few requests for 9 1/2" barrels on their custom guns. So, why would Ruger think that there was some untapped market that was going to snatch up the .480, chambered in a gun that is nearly as large and heavy as a carbine length rifle?

Marketed to the wrong crowd? Absolutely! This fits into the previous discussion about packaging. It seems that there are three basic groups that buy the truly BIG BORE handguns. The first are those who actually use these guns in the field. Avid hunters and outdoorsmen that require a truly powerful handgun that can be easily carried afield. This is the group that Ruger, in my opinion, ignored. We had no desire to lug an anchor into the field with us. We wanted a practical, powerful handgun that carried easily on the trail, usually as a back-up rather than a primary gun. This is not what they offered us.

The second group, are those who want to have the biggest baddest hand cannon out there, but will probably only use it at the range or to laugh at their non-shooter friends when they unwittingly touch off one of these big boomers. This group is not primarily made up of serious shooters, but it appears that this is who Ruger was targeting with the .480/Redhawk.

The third group is also, by my estimation, the smallest group. This group are the ones who will actually carry a large, long barreled handgun into the field as a primary haunting gun. This group is closely related to the first, but has a different preference in handguns. There is nothing wrong with this group, I just don't think that they make up a large enough contingent (even when combined with group 2) to support the manufacturing of a gun available in such limited configurations.

I also mentioned possible quality control problems with the Ruger Guns. Bear in mind, that I have no first hand knowledge of this, and am only seaking about the possibility because of reports that I have seen circulated on the net regarding difficult extraction of spent cases. One of the leading causes of difficulty ejecting cases in the high power/pressure revolvers is chambers that are cut too large. This requires the case to stretch a great deal to seal the chamber. This expansion often overworks the brass to the point that it cannot rebound enough to allow for easy extraction. Ruger is pretty notorious for large chambers. With typical revolver cartridges, this is not much of an issue, but when the power level goes up, so do the instances of stuck cases. If this is the case with the reports of stuck cases, Ruger is fully at fault for either not understanding the nature of the problem, or not producing guns of proper dimension for reliable use.

The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, was that no other company that I am aware of, chambered any guns for the .480. Magnum Research and Freedom Arms both chambered guns in the .475 Linebaugh, which can shoot the .480 also, but it is only for the shooter that does not handload that this is an advantage. The .475 can easily be loaded down to .480 specs, and the cost of brass makes it undesirable to use both .475 an d.480 brass.

The .480 was a perfect solution for those who wanted the advantages of a big, heavy bullet, but did not need or want the full performance of the .475, if it would have been handled a little differently. Sadly, I think it may suffer a fate less glamorous than the .41 Remington Magnum. Both are fine cartridges that maybe just didn't get the chance the deserved for a variety of reasons.

What say you, big bore fans?

JW
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Old February 13, 2012, 09:16 PM   #2
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Yep, one of the few new calibers that made sense to me. Would have been a beaut in a Blackhawk. On the other hand it didn't make sense to me in the Redhawk.

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Old February 13, 2012, 09:50 PM   #3
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A .480 Ruger Super Blackhawk with an 5 1/2" barrel would have been very interesting, indeed!
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:13 PM   #4
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I suspect most shooters of the 475 Linebaugh handload, so the 475 can be loaded to whatever power level one desires. The 475 is generally carried for protection against big, mean critters, so the shooter wants as much power as possible for that duty. The 480 Ruger can't be loaded to quite the maximum power of the Linebaugh, and, unlike, say, the 44 magnum and 44 special, the 480 Ruger required a gun of the same size and weight as the full bore 475 Linebaugh. So, in the minds of most .475 shooters, the Linebaugh is a better choice.
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:43 PM   #5
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JayCee,

I would say that your statement about .475 shooters mostly being reloaders as well, is probably accurate. I also agree that the .475 is, in general the better choice. However, from what I have seen of the .480, ballistics when using handloads, rivals the .475 so closely that the difference is largely academic. It seems that the .475 outpaces the .480 by around 100fps in most bullet weights, with a bit more advantage with the heaviest bullets.

my main point was that the .480 was capable of filling the same role as the .475 in nearly any situation, and that it was a factory offering. I am not sure what the availability of factory guns in .475 was when the .480 was unveiled, but it seems to me that at that time, custom guns were the only option. I could be wrong on that, as I simply do not know when Magnum Research or Freedom Arms began chambering their guns in .475. Even if they were readily available when the .480 was introduced, the Freedom Arms guns command prices similar to that of the finest custom guns. Worth every penny, but not cheap! The Magnum Research BFR is, in my opinion, one of the best bangs for the buck in a big bore single action, with a MSRP of $1050. They are a bit on the large side and if you want a shorter barrel, you will be either custom ordering from the factory, which starts at $1400 if my memory is correct, or buying a stock gun and having the barrel cut down.

This is where I think Ruger dropped the ball. They could have been the first one in the door on a fine cartridge/gun combo if they would have done some research to see how people are using this type of caliber and what guns they like it packaged in. I find it quite humorous that Ruger was so out of it that they failed to package the .480 in the very gun that many pay thousands having customized to shoot the .475. Makes me wonder how much the decision makers at Ruger are in touch with their customers.

JW
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:46 PM   #6
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I had thought at one point Ruger offered a .480 Alaskan. That one made sense to me.
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:58 PM   #7
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Flyboy_451

You make a good point. The Ruger Super Redhawk is certainly much cheaper than the FA, and the 480 Ruger ballistics aren't that much different from the 475 Linebaugh. I guess the only conclusion you can draw is that Ruger just didn't put its heart into the marketing of the 480.
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Old February 13, 2012, 11:03 PM   #8
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I agree with the OP. I believe the niche for the 480 should have been 5-shot Blackhawk and Redhawk revolvers with 4 to 5-1/2" barrels for ease of carrying, but still more power than the 44 magnum. The Super Redhawk seems to be unnecessarily large and cumbersome to actually use, with it's 7-1/2 to 9-1/2 inch barrels.
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Old February 14, 2012, 01:18 AM   #9
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I wasn't imagining it...

... Ruger DID make the Alaskan in .480.

So, for those who are complaining it didn't sell due to the long barrel, think again.

http://www.gunblast.com/Ruger-480Alaskan.htm

Jeff Quinn really liked the .480 Alaskan; he apparently had a Ruger .480 Puma carbine to go with it.
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Old February 14, 2012, 01:49 AM   #10
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The 500 stole its thunder.
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Old February 14, 2012, 02:15 AM   #11
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When you get into the above 44 mag handgun crowd the number of people interested in purchasing such a beast is relatively small because the package gets so big and cumbersome for dealing with dangerous critters that you might as well get a short rifle in a bigger caliber or a shotgun with slugs or buckshot. A 44 mag is the largest caliber pistol ammo available at Walmart. It all comes down to sales numbers and the .480 market share is just too small to be viable. There are many times the number of people interested in the .327 because it's a viable defensive caliber in a compact easy to handle package that make the .327 a much more desirable handgun cartridge.
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Old February 14, 2012, 08:24 AM   #12
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I wanted a scoped large caliber pistol for deer hunting and selected the Ruger Super Redhawk and was looking at the .480 (Praised at the time for not having much recoil over the .44 Mag). My venture into buying one ended when trying to find ammo and/or reloading components at the time. Figured the .44 will shoot through any deer and bought it, already had dies, brass etc. I think Flyboy's "second group" covers most of the large caliber buyers, so the .480 got left behind when the .500 was introduced. Just not enough of the "third group" out there for the markets.
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Old February 14, 2012, 09:38 AM   #13
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There is a very nice 480 Super Redhawk at a dealer near me. I already have a 5" 629, but have been thinking about picking this one up for deer hunting with a scope. Ammo is very hard to find, but I reload. Brass is expensive! Not prohibitively so for hunting, but I was thinking it would get a fair amount of time on the range just for big bangs. Still on the fence.

I guess if it is still there when I happen to walk in with a pocket full of cash, we will see what happens. I don't have any oddball calibers in handguns or rifles, so maybe I need one?

On the other hand, I could just put a scope on the 629 during hunting season...or stick with the rifle....
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Old February 14, 2012, 10:26 AM   #14
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MLeake,

The barrel length issue is only part of my comments regarding packaging of the .480. But, even when including the Alaskan, the only barrel lengths are one extreme or the other. You can have too large and too small, but nothing in between. Once again, looking at what is ordered by those having custom guns built, the only length offered by Ruger that is somewhat common is the 7 1/2" length. I have never seen anyone with a longer barrel, and vey few with barrels shorter than 5 1/2". Then add in that they only made it available in a very large double action, and the field of prospective purchasers shrinks even more. Many shooters, myself included, find the recoil to be much more manageable with a single action grip frame, particularly the Bisley style.

While the Super Redhawk is an overall good revolver, it is not what some would call aesthetically pleasing, or comfortable to carry or shoot. I am not saying that it was a poor choice for the cartridge, only that to limit guns to this frame alone, was a poor decision. By including the Blackhawk line, they could have appealed to a much broader market, in my opinion.

You are certainly correct that it is a niche cartridge. That being the case, why shrink your target audience even more so by such a narrow field of offerings?

JW
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Old February 14, 2012, 12:11 PM   #15
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I love the 480 the concept is outstanding. Exicution as you say sucked. My SRH is a tank I would love to see a ~5" 5 shot standard Redhawk or Blackhawk. I will have a 4 5/8" 5 shot 480 Blackhawk someday if I have to make it myself.
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Old February 14, 2012, 12:28 PM   #16
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Quote:
Makes me wonder how much the decision makers at Ruger are in touch with their customers.
Maybe they are.... Who 'really' needs more than .44Mag, .45 Colt, or even the .454? Especially when a hot .45 Colt load will drop a Cape Buffalo (Ross Seyfried) .... what more do you need? Certainly no more recoil, blast, and noise . And for general shooting, even less power is needed. I believe it was last year, I had a club member try my .45 Colt (standard 250g RNFP, 900fps load) and he said he'll stick with his .38s.... To much recoil for him. Also, not everyone is a hunter and it is more costly to shoot the big bores. I believe this is why you see more .22, 9mm, .38s, .357s being sold.... As you move up in caliber, there is less and less interest. Anyway, point is there are to many 'good standard' big bore cartridges that will do what needs doing out there to bother with niche cartridges like the the .480 and .475. I know I certainly will never own one... And those that do, can go the custom route. 480 Ruger? A niche cartridge... Not a money maker for manufacturer. End of Story. That is the way I see it!
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Old February 14, 2012, 01:28 PM   #17
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Rclark,

I kinda agree with you. Few shooters truly require performance beyond .45 Colt or .44 Mag. Even I only had a passing interest in the really powerful big bores until I owned one and really started th learn about the flexibility that they offer. One advantage of larger bore diameter is the ability to launch bullets of the same weight as the next smaller caliber to the same velocity with less pressure. This reduction in pressure lends to a more pleasant shooting experience in many instances. I find it much more pleasant to shoot a .475 than to shoot a .44 mag when loaded to similar energy levels. The blas is not as severe, and the recoil is not nearly as sharp. Letting the weight and diameter of the larger bullet do the heavy lifting, so to speak, rather than velocity. None of my big bores see full power loads with any regularity because of this. If I require more power than a moderate load in a given aliber, I step up in caliber rather than pressure. Experience has proven to me that this is easier on the shooter and just as hard, if not harder on the target. The true appeal of the big bores, in my opinion, is not how heavily they can be loaded, but how mildly they can be loaded with heavy bullets. This gives them a flexibility that smaller cartridges are hard pressed to match.

The medium and small bores will likely always be more popular than the big bores, for exactly the reason you stated. They serve the needs of a larger demographic better than the big boomers. But, this does not mean there is not money to be made by marketing big bores. The number of gun builders charging upward of $2000, with wait times that exceed a year, indicate that there is some demand for the big bores. Saying there is a lack of interest based on weak demand for a single model (possibly the least sought after action) with only the longest and shortest barrels offered is kinda like determining the marketability of trucks based only off of the sales numbers of Kenworth 18 wheelers and Chevy Luvs.

JW
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Old February 14, 2012, 01:44 PM   #18
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My only friends who've had a real "need" as opposed to "want" for .454, .480, and .500 revolvers have been Alaskan bush pilots.

As far as recoil goes, I find SA frames much more miserable than large DA frames, especially when the large DA guns have Hogue tamer type grips, but I realize such things are very subjective.

The .480 was supposed to have had less recoil impulse than .454 or .500, and I was surprised when it didn't really catch on. I'm not sure if the lack of available ammo was cause or effect, though.
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Old February 14, 2012, 03:33 PM   #19
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I wouldn't say that the .480 has less recoil impulse than the .454, but it is different. More of a big push than a sudden slap. Particularly when compared to full house .454 loads using bullets weighing less than 300 grains. Because I have not actually shot a .480, I can only base this on shooting .475 Linebaugh loaded to .480 type performance.

One of my favorite loads in the .475 is a 420 cast bullet at about 800fps. I have yet to meet the shooter that could not handle it comfortably, including my 12yo neice, and this is still quite a bit of power and delivers great penetration and large permanent wound cavities on deer size critters.

Your, and others, preference for the felt recoil of a double action always seems quite foreign to me. Personal preference certainly varies a great deal. I don't mind most double actions up to stout .44 magnum loads, but beyond his level I find single actions muh more pleasant. As the saying goes, that's why they make Fords and Chevys. :-)

Had the .480 been offered in a Blackhawk, and shown signs of becoming a long term offering from Ruger, or others for that matter, I probably would have bought one rather than the BFR in .475. I don't regret the purchase in the least, and even think the BFR is more gun for the money than the Ruger, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Blackhawk series from Ruger. This is probably at least part of my frustrations with the apparent fate of the .480.

I still think Ruger does a poor job of seeing what their customers want frequently. I think part of this comes from simply producing too many models as a whole. I love that they are apparently able to offer as much as they do and remain profitable, but I also would prefer for them to focus more on quality and customer feedback than on quantity of offerings.

JW
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Old February 14, 2012, 05:32 PM   #20
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I once got a 480 Raging Bull 5" barrel in on a trade and was thoroughly impressed with the cartridge. This was before I started reloading and the only ammo I could find was on gunbroker.
Didn't Ruger start making the Super Redhawk in a 5-shot cylinder because of extraction issues with the 6-shot? I had heard they did then manufacturing stopped altogether the last I had heard. You would think the 480 with the Ruger name attatched to the cartridge they would try to breath more life into it????
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Old February 14, 2012, 06:33 PM   #21
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Good point about the .45s. If I had a good .45 Colt there would be no compelling reason to get anything bigger. But the .480 was cool.

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Old February 14, 2012, 08:12 PM   #22
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I had a BFR in .475/.480 and loved it. I worked up a load that worked in that revolver that had better accuracy for me than any other I have ever used in any gun, it was like magic.

I sold the BFR and got a 10.5" S&W 500. I have not found as sweet a load for this revolver as that "magic" .475/.480 load, but I am still trying.

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Old February 16, 2012, 02:42 AM   #23
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The OP submits that he has no first hand experience w/the reputed 'sticky' extraction (w/factory loads) issue and neither do I. Altho any of my DA feels stiffer ejecting 6 cases at a time vs onesies in a SA. In scanning thru the posts in this thread, I didn't see any others that were any different. There must have been a problem at sometime to get the story started (and of course there's the proverbial 3% Lemon Rate) . . . . but was it the 454 instead?

In looking on the inet re the Carpender Alloy, it indicated it was developed for Ruger as part of the research to determine feasibility of placing the 454 in production. IIRC (I used to know) the 480 was right on its heels in the production development and releases timetable and as such, we assume the 480 uses the same special steel in its cylinder also ~ I was unable to locate an authoritive source document to confirm it tho. The 454 operates at a much higher pressures that the 480 does and if the 480 had issues, the 454 must have more severe issues. My Rugers tend to have rougher chamber finishes than my SRHs in 454 & 480. In fact, I feel they are of better quality build in these calibers than the same models in 44mag ~ just my opinion/judgement YMMV flame all you want, I'll not argue.

In summary, I question if the 480 suffered a bad rap from 454 sticky extraction issues? Reading about these issues reported by others admittedly having read reports by others really, in themselves don't validate a problem and actual reports using handloads falls short of conclusive testing ~ again, just my opinion.
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Old February 16, 2012, 09:39 AM   #24
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I got into this a little late, I have been down with the flu.

The first poster probably hit the nail on the head about three groups.
Those wanting a serious back up gun.
Those wanting the biggest and baddest to show off at the range.
Serious handgun hunters.

In the group 1 and 2 catagory we probably have the highest percentage of non reloaders. They are probably turned off with the cheapest ammo being around $1.50 a shot. Also by availability, which also leaves lots to be desired.

The group 3 crowd, the serious hunters like the 480 Ruger just fine. Hang out over on the Handgun Hunting Forum some, and you will locate lots of 480 shooters.

Back Up Gun Crowd:
A high percentage of the back up gun guys want an economical, reasonably light and compact big bore back up gun, and would have rather had a 5 shot Super BlackHawk in 480. Agreed Ruger dropped the ball on this one.

I have both a 7-1/2" as well as a 9-1/2" Super RedHawk in 480 Ruger. If I had the option of picking my barrel lengths I would go with a 5" or 5-1/2" for general use, and probably the 7-1/2" for hunting. Ruger would have been much better off offering a 5-1/2" version than the 9-1/2". If a 5-1/2" version had been made it would have been much more totable in a holster for field carry.

Handloading for the 480 you can go mild to wild. My general purpose load is a 400 grain Lee bullet over 8 grains of Uinque.
My snake load is 4 grains of Clays under about 175 grains of shot.
My deer load is normally the 400 grain Lee with a near maximum dose of AA#9, or H110.

This year I was playing with some True Shot Lazer Cast 355 Gas Checks when deer season came around. I tagged a large doe on my Antlerless ONLY Tag, and an 11 point buck on my Anydeer Tag.

Myself as a Handgun Hunter I like the Super RedHawk. If you have a set of new unused 1" rings, you can swap them with Ruger for a set of 30mm rings. This allows installation of a 30mm UltraDot sight. Or if you do not have a set to trade, you can buy the rings.
Next is grips, the Hogue Tamer grips really soak up recoil. The Tamers have the Smurf Blue insert of Sorbothane down the back. You can see the Blue Sorbothane strip if you take the grip off. They only come standard on the Alaskan. You will probably need to order a set.
Tune Up work: Wolfe and Wilson Combat both sell a spring kit for the Super RedHawk to improve the trigger pull.
Open Sights: Marble makes a super Fiber Optic front sight for the Super RedHawk Quick Change sight system.

To me the cost of ammunition is a non issue. I have never bought a factory round for the 480. I have around 500 rounds of brass on hand, which should last me the rest of my life. I have both Lee bullet mould, the 325 gas check, and the 400 grain. Note the 325 is a hair short, and does not seem to shoot real well. Lee needs to redesign it into about a 355 grain with a little more length that will shoot better.

For my needs I really like the 480 Ruger cartridge. It is easy to load, and versatile.
I also like the Super RedHawk for a Handgun Hunting platform.
It comes equipped with a scope base and rings.
It comes with a Quick Change front sight system.
Hogue Make the Tamer Grip designed for the Alaskan, that will fit it.
It is easy to put a spring kit in.
UltraDot West will fix you right up with a 30mm UltraDot sight as well as a Scope Coat for it.

No custom, or gunsmith work required to have it field ready.

The only thing I would change with the Super RedHawk would be the addition of a 5-1/2" barrel version.

Bob
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Old February 16, 2012, 10:06 AM   #25
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I think the 480 SRH should have been offered in more barrel lengths. There was long, longer, and short. The Alaskan barely made it into production in 480 R and then they dropped it. For me, a 6.5" barrel would have been ideal. I own the 9.5" which is scoped and used for hunting.

Ammo is getting more difficult to find. None of the local shops stock it any more. The price of the Horandy loads have been creeping up in price from where they started around $18 per 20-ct box. It is pretty much a mail order item now, but at least they are available in both 325 and 400 gr loads. The 400's are hard to find.

Ruger needs to bring it back and do small production runs and cut down the barrel length as one of the choices.
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