5.5" Stainless Steel 45 Colt Ruger Bisley

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Some of you may be thinking Ruger doesn't make a 5.5" Stainless Bisley, who put that one together? Well, Ruger did. They have made a limited run in this configuration, I'm told only 250 have been made so if you like it and see one at your local gun shop you may want to snap it up. Since receiving this revolver I've been informed that Ruger is making additional runs of this configuration in 44 and possibly 41 Magnum.

It seems people either love or hate the Bisley grip style. Some love it at first sight, others are like me and it has to grow on them. The first Bisley I saw was a horrible picture of one in a gun magazine. That set a perception nearly in stone that those things were UGLY. After seeing several more pictures, many Linebaughs custom 45's, seeing more in person and handling several the style just grew on me. After that it was only a matter of time until I started to get a serious itch to own one. My first time shooting a Bisley clinched it.

I would bet that many in the camp that don't like the Bisley would change their mind after shooting heavy loads in one. It has been said that the Ruger Bisley grip style is the best design for handling heavy recoil. Since I haven't fired every design I can't say that it's the best, I can say that for me it is far superior to the Blackhawk, or any double action design I've every fired for dealing with heavy recoil. For me it's even superior to the excellent Freedom Arms Casull grip.

This revolver as you see it here is bone stock other than doing a poor mans trigger job which is nothing more than lifting one leg of the trigger return spring off it's peg under one of the grip panels, which side makes no difference. This does nothing to impact the reliability of the firearm and cuts the trigger pull about in 1/2, making it quite nice indeed. The trigger pull on this gun, after lifting the return spring, was smooth with a slight amount of creep before releasing the hammer. As it came from Ruger this particular Bisley has some minor end shake and a small amount of play in the cylinder. About what my several year old Blackhawk has, maybe slightly more, nothing that effects the safety or reliability of the revolver. The loading gate was slightly stiff to open, something that should get easier as it's used more. The finish on this revolver is very nice. All parts, barrel, frame, grip frame and cylinder have the same matt stainless finish and there are no visible tool marks from the machining process on any external part of this revolver. I have not fully taken it apart to see if there are any on the inside, but if there are that's of no consequence as long as it doesn't interfere with the function of the revolver, which from what I've seen thus far any internal imperfections don't have any effect on this revolver.

The biggest issue with this revolver is one that's common to all new Ruger 45 Colts - tight chamber throats. The throats on my Bisley measure .445-.450", idealy they would be .452-.453". Opening up the throats will help reduce the pressure of hot rounds a bit and more importantly should improve the accuracy.

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I tested this Bisley using a variety of hand loaded ammunition, ranging from 255gr LSWC at around 1000fps to 310gr LBT and LSWC bullets at 1300fps. Compared to a 7.5" Blackhawk fired the same day with the same loads felt recoil in the Bisley is substantially reduced. Felt recoil is subjective but the same opinion was held by myself and a friend who was out with me that day. The extra weight of 2 more inches of barrel on the Blackhawk helped, as does the Blackhawk's tendency to roll with the recoil, but still didn't compare comfort wise to the Bisley.

As should be the case with any modern high quality firearm there were no malfunctions of any kind and even the heaviest loads extracted without effort. After getting the sights adjusted for my hands and eyes I had no problems ringing a 18" steel plate offhand out to 100 yards with every load tested. Average group size from a stable rest at 25 yards was just under 2.5" with the smallest going into under 2". It's not the most accurate revolver I've owned or shot, but it does show potential for greater accuracy with the heavy 325gr Dry Creek LSWC and standard weight 255gr LSWC.

So what loads were tested and how did they shoot?

BulletPowderCharge (gr)Velocity (fps)25 yard Group
255gr LSWCUnique10.010262.3"
255gr LSWCUnique9.09001.8"
255gr LSWCH11028.0*14253.9"
310gr LBTUnique9.08502.6"
310gr LBTH11025.0*13002.3"
325gr LSWCH11021.5*11501.75"

* These are max loads and should be approached with caution and should only be used in modern extra strong 45 Colts, aka Blackhawk/Redhawk, Anaconda, Dan Wesson revolvers or others of similar size and strength. Always start low and work up carefully to ensure your particular revolver can handle it. As a very wise man has often said - every handgun is a law unto it's self.

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Bullets used were a typical cast 255gr LSWC from Aardvark, 310gr LBT from Leadhead and a hopefully soon to be available 325gr LSWC from Dry Creek Bullets. The one large group with the 255gr bullet at 1425 really isn't any condemnation of that bullet. That was simply to much velocity for that bullet. At 900-1000fps it performed very well, but at 1400+ it started leading the barrel significantly and as you can see accuracy suffered because of it. If you want to shoot the lighter bullets that fast I would recommend going to someone will cast much harder bullets for you. Many casting companies offer a "Casull alloy" bullet for just such applications.

If I were going to hunt with this handgun I would most likely use the 325gr LSWC. It's combination of good accuracy and a proven design should allow it to perform very well on just about any game in the US. The LBT from Leadhead has proven to be very accurate in other 45 Colts I own so I may take some time to tinker with the powder charge and see if I could get the 310gr LBT group down to match the LSWC. Either bullet at 1200fps is more than a match for any deer or Black Bear and should be enough for Elk or Moose if the hunter is patient and waits for a good shot.

If you like the Bisley style, like stainless steel and above all love shooting heavy 45 Colt loads this is the revolver for you. You will be hard pressed to find a better heavy 45 Colt for the field unless you have one custom made. If you're looking for a good base to build a custom 45 Colt this Ruger would make an excellent starting point for a 5 shot 45 Colt, 480 Ruger, 475 or 500 Linebaugh conversion.

Email author: John Knutson

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