Rugerís New Five-Shot .480 Alaskan Revolver

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

May 14th, 2008

 

 

 

Click for video! (WMV format, 3.33 MB)

It has been almost two and one-half years since I first reviewed the .480 Ruger Alaskan revolver. The Alaskan series from Ruger has proven to be very popular with those who want to carry a compact but powerful handgun as protection from big hairy things that bite and claw, excluding of course female wrestlers. The Alaskan is built on Rugerís stout Super Redhawk platform, but incorporates a shorter barrel and a simpler ramped post front sight. It is built to be rugged and reliable, and all of the Super Redhawks that I have ever fired have impressed me as such. I never really warmed up to the Super Redhawks in their other larger configurations, but the Alaskan is just so much more compact, that it really appeals to me in both concept and execution. The longer-barreled Supers are excellent hunting arms, and are a fine choice as a primary hunting revolver, but the Alaskan is compact enough to carry on the hip while involved in other activities such as fishing, hiking, or working, but carries a lot of power if needed. The Alaskan wears a nominal two and one-half inch barrel, which measured exactly 2.586 inches on the test gun. The Alaskan is also offered in both .44 Magnum and .45Colt/.454 Casull chamberings, but the big .480 is my personal favorite. The .480 five-shot Alaskan weighed in at 44 ounces.

The other two chamberings are still produced in their original six-shot form, but the .480 Ruger Super Redhawks, including the Alaskan, are now built with five-shot cylinders. While I never experienced much of a problem with sticky extraction in the earlier test gun, some loads were harder to eject the empty cases, and apparently many shooters were getting sticky extraction with their .480 Supers, so Ruger stopped building the guns for a while. They have now reintroduced the .480 Super Redhawks with a five-shot cylinder for added strength. The five-shot has a lot more steel between the chambers in the cylinder, and also in the exterior walls of the chambers. Comparing the two, the difference is readily apparent. I fired the new five-shot Alaskan with every type of factory .480 ammo that I had on hand, along with my two favorite .480 Ruger handloads. The barrel/cylinder gap on the test revolver measured six one-thousandths (.006) of an inch, which was a bit larger than the earlier test gun, but the larger gap made only a slight difference in velocities. 

WFN and WFNGC are hard cast lead bullets with a plain base and a gas-check base, respectively. HP is a hollowpoint jacketed bullet. The Hawk bullet is a jacketed softnose. XPB is an all-copper hollow nose design, and is also the same bullet as is commercially loaded into the Cor-Bon DPX load. Bullet weights are listed in grains, and velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Testing was done with an air temperature hovering around fifty degrees Fahrenheit, at an elevation of approximately 400 feet above sea level. Velocity reading were taken using a PACT Professional XP and a Chrony Master Beta chronograph. I broke my PACT and had to send it in for repair, so I quickly ordered the Chrony to use until I get it back. I wish the marketing folks at Chrony had given it a different name. When I called the lady at Midsouth Shooterís Supply and asked for a Master Beta, she wanted to slap me through the telephone!

Ammunition Velocity
Buffalo Bore 410 grain WFN 1041
Buffalo Bore 370 WFN 1078
Cor-Bon 275 DPX 1267
Hornady 325 XTP 1092
Hornady 400 XTP 1007
Grizzly Cartridge 340 Belt Mountain Punch 972
Grizzly Cartridge 350 Hawk 1006
Grizzly Cartridge 375 LFNGC 1041
Grizzly Cartridge 400 Hawk 951
Grizzly Cartridge 425 WFNGC 876
Handload 390 Cast Performance LFNGC 941
Handload 275 Barnes XPB 1232

Accuracy of the Ruger Alaskan varied from impressive to adequate, depending upon the load. All accuracy testing was done with the aid of my Ransom Master Rest. The rest is really a lifesaver when testing a lot of hard-kicking loads in one session. I can shoot some pretty good groups sometimes using a hand-held rested position, but I canít do it all day long. The Ransom never gets tired, and never develops a flinch. The Alaskan really loved my Barnes XPB handload , clustering them tightly together at the twenty-five yard range. The Grizzly 400 grain Hawk load also displayed very good accuracy, grouping a cylinder full into less than two and one-half inches with regularity. Most other loads were in the three inch range, with the largest group fired measuring just barely over four inches at twenty-five yards. Overall, the Alaskan displayed very good accuracy, and with preferred loads, it exhibited target grade precision. All loads tested functioned perfectly, and the cases ejected easily, even with the hottest loads fired. The cylinder on the .480 Alaskan is plenty long enough for even the 425 grain loads, with room to spare, measuring 1.735 inches in length. The cylinder diameter measures 1.793 inches. The trigger pull on the test Alaskan measured just under four and one-half pounds single action, and just over ten and one-half double action. The trigger pull was smooth and easy to use. Recoil was brisk with some loads, but always controllable. While the Hogue grip does a very good job of making the Alaskan comfortable to shoot, I wore a PAST shooting glove for most of the testing, as recoil is a cumulative thing, I am getting old, and the glove really helps with long shooting sessions.

The Alaskan carried well on the hip in a beautiful Bob Mernickle holster that he built with an embossed bear paw design. The dern thing is right-handed, but other than that, it is an excellent design for a belt holster to carry the Alaskan, and the bear paw design adds a nice touch.

I am glad to see that Ruger is producing the .480 revolvers again. The five-shot cylinder gives hope that maybe there will be a five-shot .480 Bisley Blackhawk in the future, but that is just speculation at this time. For defensive purposes, the double action Alaskan makes a lot of sense. As can be seen in the video, recoil is a bit stiff, but the weapon can still be easily controlled in double action mode. I was firing the Buffalo Bore 410 grain cast lead bullet load in the video, which does jump a bit, but packs a hefty punch. Speaking of punch, the Belt Mountain Punch Bullet is still one of my favorites, especially when penetration is paramount. I just got in a slightly redesigned .475 version that weighs in at 375 grains, which is five grains heavier than their earlier .475 Punch bullet. The Punch is a non-expending bronze bullet that has a lead core in the rear section for added weight. These things penetrate flesh, bone, hair, skin, and cartilage better than any bullet that I have ever tested. For lighter stuff that does not require quite as much penetration, the Barnes DPX still penetrates well, and expands quickly to over one inch in diameter. Really, any of the loads reviewed here should prove adequate for most anything that walks the Earth. The .480 Ruger is a very efficient cartridge, and I am glad to see that Ruger is once again producing revolvers to fire that dandy round. When they dropped the .480 from production a few months ago, I quickly ordered one thousand Starline cases, to be sure and have a supply on hand, but with Ruger and Puma making .480 Ruger firearms, I think that the cartridge will be around for as long as shooters, hunters, and other outdoorsmen need a powerful weapon for defense and hunting purposes. Deciding between the six-shot .454 and the five-shot .480 would be a hard call. Both are fine cartridges, and either would be a good choice as a defensive handgun against the biggest, meanest stuff, but I think that I would lean towards the .480 myself. The bullets are larger and heavier, and that is a good thing. It also makes an excellent companion to my .480 Ruger Puma levergun.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

For the location of a dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

To order any of the high performance .480 ammunition listed here, go to www.buffalobore.com, www.cor-bon.com, www.grizzlycartridge.com, or www.hornady.com.

You can order the Barnes XPB bullets at www.barnesbullets.com, the Belt Mountain Punch bullets at www.beltmountain.com, and the Cast Performance hard cast lead bullets at www.castperformance.com.

To order the Bob Mernickle holster shown here, go to www.mernickleholsters.com.

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author tested the Alaskan with a good variety of ammo, using his Ransom Master machine rest.

 

 

Jeff loves Belt Mountain's Punch Bullets. They are supremely well-crafted, and tough enough to take any game that walks the Earth.

 

 

Another excellent bullet choice is Barnes' great XPB bullet.

 

 

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Ruger's new five-shot .480 Alaskan revolver.

 

 

 

 

The new Alaskan's five-shot cylinder (top) compared to the original six-shot version (bottom).

 

 

 

 

Soft rubber Hogue grips do a great job of softening the recoil of the .480 Ruger cartridge.

 

 

Cylinder release.

 

 

 

 

Like all Ruger revolvers, the Alaskan features Ruger's Transfer Bar safety.

 

 

 

 

Cylinder bolt notches are offset for strength.

 

 

Crane locks into the frame, making for a solid lockup at both front & rear of cylinder.

 

 

This beautiful holster by Bob Mernickle is just the ticket for packin' the Alaskan!