Powder Coated Bullets?

Using PC Bullets In The .480 Ruger

By Jeff “Tank” Hoover

Recently, Ruger (in collaboration with Lipseys, a big Ruger distributor) came out with the long awaited Ruger Bisley 5-shot in .480 Bisley. The hopes, wishes and dreams of many dedicated big-bore shooters had been answered. For years, enthusiasts have wished for Ruger to follow suit of the custom gunsmiths, and release a factory 5-shot Bisley, in a true big bore caliber.

A factory big bore 5-shot puts what was once a custom option well within the reach of big bore enthusiasts, without having to break the bank. More people will be able to enjoy the roar and recoil of shooting the truly big bores without breaking the family budget, or putting up with the painfully long wait usually accopmanying custom guns. Ruger surprised us by throwing in the .454 Casull as a bonus, and releasing it as well, when the .480 Ruger was announced.

I was lucky enough to receive my .480 among one of the first batches released. I was immediately impressed with the fit and finish of the gun, along with the stoutness. The cylinder throats measured at .478″ and barrel/cylinder gap at .004″. The .478″ throats are a perfect match for the unsized Powder Coated (PC) bullets I will be shooting in this gun, bullets which were born and swaddled in my garage. The heavy, non-tapered 6.5″ barrel, along with the unfluted cylinder, give this stainless steel single action a robust, fist-full of big bore power perfect for the hunting fields.

Before shooting, I tweaked this gun as I do all my Ruger single actions. First, a 30 oz. Wolff trigger spring was swapped out from the stiff factory spring. Second, while the hammer strut and spring were out, I removed the hammer spring and polished the strut, to smooth the compression of the hammer spring while cocking. Lastly, I thoroughly cleaned the barrel for its maiden voyage at the range and greased the cylinder boss and ratchet. With such loving care, this DIY foreplay had her purring and begging to be shot!


Chamber throats measured at .478″.


A 30 oz. Wollfe trigger spring was used to replace the stiff factory spring.


Cast of characters used in testing. L to R, LEE 325-gr. WFNGC, Saeco 350-gr.
WFN, Miha 476 640 HP, LEE 400-gr. LFN, Saeco 370-gr. WFN and RCBS 400-gr. SWC

Powder Coating

During my wait for delivery of the gun, I loaded a small avalanche worth of several loads, consisting of PC bullets, using various molds of different styles and weights with different powders and charges. Powder Coating (PC) is nothing more than applying a dry coating in powder form to an object electrostatically and then curing that coating with heat, allowing it to flow evenly and produce a tough, hard finish.

For years, I was a dedicated cast bullet shooter who lubed and sized my cast slugs the traditional way with a lube/sizer. After hearing about PC bullets, I gave it a try. After much experimentation and shooting, I came up with a way to process hundreds of bullets at a time, in a quick, easy method, providing me with results which out performed my traditionally lube/sized bullets, and in less time. The new bullets and techniques used to process them meant less time in my loading room and more time on the range.

One of the biggest advantages of the PC bullets was the ability to use a softer alloy driven faster, without leading. The baking process anneals the alloy, making it more malleable. This allows the bullet to expand on impact and stay together without shattering, or breaking apart. The bullets nose will either rivet, or mushroom, depending upon bullet style used. Hollow points obviously expand the most, almost turning themselves inside out, while SWC and other flat nosed designs seem to rivet. Borrowing Veral Smith’s title from his famed book, “Jacketed Performance With Cast Bullets,” it’s perfectly possible to do this with PC bullets.


Chart of handloads used in testing.


Accuracy was consistent at 25 yards with all loads.


Miha 385-gr. HP .476 640 showed good accuracy in the Ruger at 50 yds.

Shooting Results

Shooting was done from the bench with a sandbag under a 4″X6″ block of wood. Five-shot strings were fired and chronographed for accuracy and velocity. The PC slugs were left unsized, as they were a perfect match at .477″-.478″ for the .478″ chamber throats. All loads showed easy case extraction from the cylinder, and no signs of high pressure were present. There was no smoke present while shooting the PC bullets and the barrel was sparkling clean after one patch was pushed through afterward.

With 40+ years shooting experience behind me, I’ve learned shooting full power loads is not always necessary to enjoy a particular gun. Heavy loads, especially with the truly big-bores, can be particularly punishing. Why beat yourself up shooting heavy loads all the time? One of the great benefits of handloading, and one not used enough, is choosing the loads right for you. There’s nothing wrong with shooting 325-400+ grain bullets at a cruising speed of 900 fps. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the gun, and sending heavy bullets down range builds confidence. When small clusters of bullet holes start appearing, go to a heavier load. This is the smart, easy way to learn to shoot big bore guns.

A few turns of the windage and elevation screws had me on-target of my 2″ squares for most loads. Accuracy was impressive, especially for the first time out. Groups were shot at both 25 and 50 yards. Cast PC bullets were used throughout the test, ranging in weight from 325 grains to 400+ grains. Velocities were from 900 to just under 1,200 fps.


A perfectly expanded PC cast bullet from the Ruger .480 Bisley.


Ruger .480 Bisley 5-shot loaded with 385 gr. HP PC cast bullets, Barranti Leather
NW Hunter rig and Bill Snow blade round out this kit for anything a dedicated
handgun hunter could encounter.


A Good Gun!

Ruger, along with some strong persuasion from Lipsey’s, did a great justice to big bore aficionados by bringing out these big bore Bisleys. By making them affordable to the workingman, a common theme for Ruger, it in turn promotes the handgun sports. It’s been a long time coming, but like anything worthwhile, it was well worth the wait!

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index



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