Ruger’s decision to pull the Super Redhawk (SRH) in .480 Ruger from production several years back sent a shockwave through the ranks of .480 aficionados across the land. But now the big bore is back — with a vengeance.
Think about this: if Ruger won’t produce a revolver chambered in .480 Ruger, why would anyone else? Was Ruger sounding the death knell of the .480? Apparently not. It’s okay to relax and let your guard down now, as the .480 SRH is back, tanned, rested and ready to wreak havoc on the hunt.
But let’s back up to 2001. Ruger had just released a new Super Redhawk in a proprietary cartridge bearing its name (the first cartridge to ever bear the Ruger moniker), resplendent in the love-it-or-hate-it Target Gray finish. Upon returning to California from an overseas assignment, as was my habit in those days, after being away for year-long stretches, I dropped in on my local gun shop to say hello and catch up (and, inevitably, buy more guns). In the display case, drawing me toward it like a beacon, was the new .480 Ruger Super Redhawk, in all its gray glory and big-bore perfection.
Ruger’s advertising campaign of the day boasted more energy than the .44 Magnum and less recoil than the .454 Casull—both stable mates in the Super Redhawk lineup. For me at least, the .480 SRH looked to be the perfect Goldilocks cartridge. However, with the big revolver arms race heating up, the great idea of the .480 Ruger never stood a chance. It couldn’t brag having the most size, the most velocity or the most muzzle energy. Those attributes were being rightfully claimed by Smith & Wesson. However, those in the know recognized that the .480 Ruger was merely a cut-down .475 Linebaugh. In hardcore handgun hunting circles, John Linebaugh’s creation, the .475 Linebaugh, has earned legendary status as one of the preeminent big-game revolver cartridges.
The first handful of factory loads offered the public did not show the true potential of this cartridge and were overshadowed by the aggressive marketing of the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum, and later, the .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum. The lightest load featured a jacketed hollow-point of 275 grains, the other two loads featuring 325-grain bullets at an advertised 1,325 fps.
Like the .454 Casull version of the Super Redhawk, the .480’s cylinder is also carved out of special high-strength steel called “465 Carpenter,” a steel that was torture tested by Ruger to make absolutely certain it was up to the task of repeated 65,000 psi abuse, such as only the .454 Casull can dish out. While the cylinder walls are thinner on the .480 iteration, the maximum pressure specification for the .480 Ruger is considerably lower than Dick Casull’s wonder cartridge.
The Redhawk’s Return
The big news for 2014 is the return of the .480 Ruger Super Redhawk. Plagued with purported sticky extraction since its inception in 2001, the on-again, off-again .480 Ruger SRH is back for good now. Upon first glance, the new .480 SRH is basically the same. Under more careful scrutiny, some differences present themselves, most notably the front sight and the thing it’s attached to.
Back now with only one barrel length offered, a 7½-inch bull barrel (without taper), a revised front sight and new chamber dimensions (remember the complaint about the .480 Ruger SRH has always been a sticky extraction), I acquired the first new .480 SRH to leave the factory. Gone is the love-it-or-hate-it Target Gray finish and in its place is an attractive satin stainless steel finish. Ruger engineers cited that the wear characteristics of the gray finish were not up to its standards, and that once the finish became worn, it could not be touched up or reapplied. Since Target Gray met with mixed reviews from the start, the decision was made to discontinue it.
Gone from the product lineup is the 9½-inch barreled version of the .480 Super Redhawk; I personally felt that barrel length made for a cumbersome and rather unwieldy revolver, so it won’t be missed by me. Even the 7½-inch version is a bit on the long side for my tastes, but I can live with it, particularly when a revolver proves to be as unbelievably accurate as this one, but more on that later.
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Hogue’s excellent Tamer grips now come standard on all Super Redhawk models, a welcome addition; adding those grips is a change I have made to every SRH I have owned in the past. The Tamers come with an integral Sorbathane insert in the backstrap area that rests in the web of your hand, precisely where hard-kicking double-action revolvers deliver their punishment. Another pleasant surprise was the creep-less trigger pull that came in at right around four pounds in single-action mode.
The Prodigal Gun didn’t disappoint at the range. I fitted the new Super Redhawk with an Ultradot 30 red dot-type sight mounted via Ruger’s 30mm rings (the rings supplied with the SRH are of the 25mm, or one-inch variety). Not the ideal set-up for shooting groups off of the bench, I was more concerned with performance in the field on game.
I hit the range with a number of factory loads before developing my own, just to get a baseline and to see how the new SRH would perform. The SRH delivered consistent accuracy, the likes of which I have rarely encountered—especially from a production handgun right out of the box.
In the Field
The game test would be in Argentina. I booked a hunt with Caza y Safaris (cazaysafaris.com) for water buffalo in the province of Buenos Aires. I loaded up CEB’s 340-grain solid bullets (made of copper), at right around 1,300 fps. We spent hours in the mild weather playing cat and mouse games with a small herd of water buffalo.
My first shot was at 30 yards, a double lung hit, but despite the mortal wound, I unloaded into the fleeing animal, my PH firing as well, to prevent the buffalo from going to water and making recovery problematic. Unequivocally, I am of the mindset that a hunter shoots until his game is down for good. The 1,500-pound bull went less than 25 yards before piling up and succumbing to the .480 Ruger.
I am pleased that the .480 Ruger SRH is back.
The Super Redhawk platform is able to handle the most powerful revolver cartridges ever created. The look may not be for everyone, but there is pure beauty in function for me, and if beauty is measured by function, the Super Redhawk in .480 Ruger is Miss Universe.
Ruger Super Redhawk
action: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .480 Ruger
Barrel: 7.5 inches/1:18 twist/RH
Sights: Fixed front/adjustable rear
Capacity: 6 shots
Weight: 53 oz. (empty)
Trigger: 4.0 lbs. (single-action)
Grips: Hogue Tamer Monogrip
Overall Length: 13 inches