Ruger's new Super Blackhawk revolvers in .480 Ruger and .454 Casull are excellent options for handgun hunters and fans of big-bore revolvers.
Early this year, Ruger asked me to perform some testing on both of its new Super Blackhawk models, all under the veil of secrecy of a strict embargo. I put nearly 1,000 rounds through the .454 Casull model and almost 5,000 rounds through the .480 Ruger model.
Appropriately dubbed an “endurance test,” I wasn’t sure whose endurance we were testing, the gun’s or mine. I had no support crew or relief shooters. It was just the revolvers, the bench, piles of ammunition and me. I am happy to report that I survived, and my hands are still somewhat intact.
I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me. I have an inability to say “no” when asked to test firearms I find irresistible—irrespective of the parameters of the test. When Ruger engineers first approached me, I was told I was on a short list to test the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger Super Blackhawk single-action revolvers. They said something about being recoil-proof and a glutton for punishment in explaining why I had been chosen for this honor. My wife neatly sums up these “qualities” with one word: numb.
“No problem,” I said, and “Thanks, I think. I love a challenge.”
In February, a call from my FFL indicated that the first installment had arrived along with a couple hundred rounds of .454 Casull of various brands and bullet weights. I tested that revolver to the tune of nearly 1,000 rounds in a short period of time.
Shortly thereafter, a .480 Ruger Super Blackhawk arrived, and this time, my FFL told me I should bring my truck to haul all of the ammo out of his entryway.
Ever since Sturm, Ruger & Company released the .480 Ruger in the love-it-or-hate-it Super Redhawk back in 2001, revolver aficionados have been browbeating Ruger to release this cartridge in their popular single-action revolver lineup. The combination of Super Blackhawk and .480 Ruger is debated incessantly on gun websites, yet Ruger’s reticence to actually make this happen has frustrated many handgun hunters who have long wanted to see this marriage come to fruition.
Basically a shortened .475 Linebaugh, the .480 Ruger is a serious big-game hunting round that, even when loaded to spec, isn’t too abusive to the one pulling the trigger. Ruger has finally relented by offering not only its .480 Ruger in the Super Blackhawk line, but also the raucous .454 Casull. Ruger has offered the Super Redhawk in .454 Casull since the late ’90s.
Handgun hunters everywhere now have reason to rejoice as two of their favorite calibers can be had in the revolver they love in an affordable package. Available as a Lipsey’s distributor exclusive, I cannot imagine supplies will last long.
Here’s what you need to know. The new revolvers are based on the old revolvers. Ruger used the standard Super Blackhawk frame in stainless steel (415 stainless steel). The barrel is 6½ inches in both models (at least initially) and made from 15-5 stainless steel, with a 1:24 and 1:18 twist for the .454 Casull and .480 Ruger, respectively. The barrel is straight, without a taper and features a front sight base that is silver soldered on with a pinned in sight blade, and a standard Ruger adjustable sight is utilized in the rear.
The cylinder is carved from 465 Carpenter steel, the super-strong, hard-to-machine material that first made an appearance in the late 90s in the .454 Casull Super Redhawk (and later in the .480 Ruger version). The cylinder is a five-shot configuration, with counter-boring to encapsulate the case heads. Dimensionally, the cylinder is like that of the .44 Magnum Super Blackhawk, save for a tiny bit more length to the rear to compensate for the recessed case heads.
The new revolvers are fitted with an extra-long ejector rod housing that made its first appearance on the limited run of stretch frame .357 Maximum revolvers of the early 1980s. A Bisley grip frame is the only one offered and the only one Ruger deemed acceptable for these applications. A locking base pin guards against the base pin walking out under recoil, a nice touch.
I tested both models thoroughly with factory fodder. Both pre-production models suffered from teething pains that we have been assured have been sorted out, but are to be expected from test guns. Chronic screw loosening (grip frame in particular) plagued the .454, but a drop or two of thread lock fixed that issue. The ejector rod housings on both loosened regularly, and both launched their front sights, ironically on the 480th round out of the .480 model. The .480 also had its barrel unscrew itself, but Ruger promptly fixed it and had it back in my sore hands to resume testing.
Recoil means something different to every shooter. While I am no stranger to recoil, these relatively lightweight powerhouses pack a wallop on both ends. Not the worst you may encounter, but a considerable step up from the venerable .44 Magnum. The .454 Casull Super Blackhawk kicks noticeably harder than its .480 Ruger counterpart. This is no doubt due to the higher pressure levels .454 Casull ammunition is loaded to, and while the .480 delivers a heavy push, the .454 has a snappy and much sharper recoil impulse.
Both revolvers delivered outstanding accuracy, the only limits being my eyesight with open iron sights. To remedy this, I equipped both models with red dot-type sights of radically different designs. I own a number of more expensive revolvers that cannot compete with the accuracy these two new Rugers displayed.
We got the opportunity to test the new .454 Bisley on porcine flesh at Hog Heaven Outfitters of Johnston County, North Carolina. I got lucky on the first morning when a 214-pound boar made the mistake of showing up. The shot was broadside at about 20 yards and required only one Garrett 365-grain .45 Colt +P Hammerhead to seal the deal. My testing was now complete.
In summary, Ruger and Lipsey’s have finally given us what we want. What was once a custom-only and cost-prohibitive proposition is now only a phone call—and also less than $1,000—away from being yours. We all have reason to rejoice. Evidently, Ruger is listening.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.