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Shooting Ruger’s Newest .44 Magnum Revolver

January 3rd, 2011 0

Is the new short-barreled Redhawk the perfect carry gun? Our reloading editor seems to think so.


Last year, Ruger introduced its latest .44 Magnum revolver. It is a new rendition of the popular Redhawk double-action with a 4-inch barrel and custom Hogue grips. After shooting it extensively, I say it could be the perfect carry gun. The roughened grip surface and integral finger grooves are intended to ensure shooter control of the twisting recoil delivered by full-up loads in the snubby handgun.

Ruger’s first foray into double-action revolvers began in the late 1960s with the blued-steel, .357 Magnum Security-Six. Stainless steel and other variations chambered for .38 Special and 9mm Luger soon followed. However, many shooters disliked the Security-Six’s forward-sloping grip because the gun tended to rotate in the hand when it was fired, spoiling any chance for rapid follow-up shots.

Ruger redesigned the grip to the more conventional recurving profile that directs the recoil straight back instead of up. By the time Ruger introduced the Redhawk in 1980, the new double-action design reflected the lessons learned while making and marketing the previous models. I purchased one of the first Redhawks, and it must have the smoothest trigger I’ve ever squeezed on any Ruger revolver. Years later, I reviewed a Super Redhawk .44 Mag. for Shooting Times, and it is probably the most robust production revolver ever chambered in .44 Mag. With that heritage to draw on, the latest Redhawk can be nothing less than a winner, too.

When the .44 Mag. was introduced in 1956, only Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger chambered revolvers for the new cartridge. Smith’s big N-Frame DA was offered in three barrel lengths, including a 4-inch model. Ruger’s first .44 Blackhawks (see sidebar) were fitted with 61/2-inch barrels. However, 71/2- and 10-inch models soon followed because the longer barrels helped tame the .44’s recoil. Many years would pass before Ruger produced a .44 Mag. revolver with a shorter barrel. The new Redhawk featured here is the first model to have a 4-inch tube.

The new Redhawk has a white-outline rear sight and a serrated front blade with a bright red insert. My 59-year-old eyes can take advantage of these features only while standing outside in bright sunshine. Shooting from a covered bench in the shade, I couldn’t discern either. However, the width of the front blade and the rear-blade notch are properly sized, so I could readily align them on target.

I have pretty good-sized hands but relatively stubby fingers. Even with a shooting glove, I could securely grasp the Hogue Bantam grips and control the gun when firing it. According to Ruger’s specifications, the 4-inch Redhawk weighs just an ounce less than 3 pounds, which is not too hefty to carry but heavy enough to help counter the .44 Mag.’s recoil.

The single-action trigger pull is crisp and releases at just over 6 pounds. I didn’t shoot any double-action groups, but I did check the DA pull; it averaged 11 pounds. Just out of curiosity, I checked my early-production Redhawk, and both values were a couple pounds lighter.

A few other design features are quite significant. The Redhawk’s one-piece grip/frame is comparable to a modern automobile’s unibody construction. It’s extra stiff and rugged because there’s no separate sideplate required to access the lockwork. The integrated trigger-guard assembly can be removed intact from the bottom of the double-solid frame. The dual cylinder-locking scheme positively latches the cylinder/crane assembly into both the front and the back of the frame. This ensures the cylinder is securely in position before the hammer can be cocked. The cylinder interlock and the trigger-actuated transfer bar are the Redhawk’s safety features.

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Ruger Redhawk

Model: Redhawk
Purpose: Hunting, target, personal carry
Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
1 Lacey Place
Southport, CT 06890
203-259-7843
www.ruger.com
Action Type: Double-action/single-action
Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
Frame material: Stainless steel; carbon steel (5.5-inch barrel only)
Cylinder material: Stainless steel; carbon steel (5.5-inch barrel only)
Caliber: .44 Remington Magnum; .45 Colt
Barrel Length: 4 inches (tested); 5.5, 7.5 inches
Rifling: Six Grooves, 1:20 RH twist (.44 Mag.)
Sights: Fully adjustable, white-outline rear blade; serrated ramp front blade wit
h red insert
Finish: Satin stainless; blued (5.5 inch barrel only)
Safeties: Transfer bar with cylinder interlock
Trigger type: Double-action/single-action
Pull Weight: 6.5 pounds (single-action), 10+ pounds (double-action)
Grip material: Hogue Bantam black rubber
Overall length: 9.5 inches (4-inch barrel)
Height: 6 inches
Width: 1.75 inches
Weight, empty: 47 ounces
Accessories: Owner’s manual, lock; carry case
MSRP: $836 (stainless); $ 766 (blued)


The Redhawk’s massive cylinder holds six rounds of .44 Mag. ammo.

On The Range
Wanting to give ST readers a thorough review of Ruger’s newest .44 Mag. double-action revolver, I decided to put 250 or so rounds of assorted factory ammo and handloads through the gun. While I was at it, I thought I would also put that many rounds through Ruger’s newest .44 Mag. single-action–the 50th Anniversary Blackhawk that was introduced a year before the new Redhawk. So I spent three evenings handloading and then several extended range sessions shooting the revolvers. When I’d finished shooting, my range bag weighed about 20 pounds less and a Band-Aid protected a blister on my right hand.

The blister occurred the first day at the range. I set up the chronograph, shot bags, and targets. Then I started off shooting a couple of 20-round boxes of factory ammo in the Redhawk. The Hogue grips fit perfectly, but my hand was stinging a little after firing 40 rounds. Silly me. I didn’t think about needing a shooting glove. I rarely use one.

I switched over to the 50th Anniversary .44 Blackhawk and fired another string of 20 factory loads. Of course, any heavy-caliber single-action is going to rotate in your hand during recoil. So each time I pulled the trigger, the multiple points of the precisely injection-molded checkering on the right grip panel played havoc with the palm of my hand at a spot just below the web between the thumb and forefinger. I surely know now why they replaced the original .44 Flattop’s checkered grips with smooth walnut panels. It wasn’t just for looks!

After reloading and shooting a couple more groups, I recharged the Blackhawk’s cylinder and sent the first of another five rounds downrange. The pain could not be ignored. I looked down at the irregular shaped, opaque patch of skin and muttered, “I’ll just finish this group and then stop.” When I fired another round, the skin over the blister ripped open, and the sharp checkering raked across raw meat.

I packed up all my gear and returned home to doctor my hand.

When I returned two days later, I brought along a leather shooting glove. I fired more than 200 rounds during each of the next two range sessions without further mishap. Say what you will–a friend commented after seeing me shooting round after round in the guns while wearing the glove, “I bet you wear lace-trimmed shorts, too!”–but I’m glad I had that shooting glove. I wish I’d had it on that first day of shooting.

The 61/2-inch-barreled Blackhawk launched the .44 Mag. test loads from 70 to 150 fps faster than the 4-inch Redhawk. And, because I’m more comfortable shooting a single-action, the Blackhawk turned in better overall results than the Redhawk.

Actually, much of the difference was probably due to poor DA shooting technique. I tried to support my wrist on the rear bag with only the barrel touching the elevated front rest. However, I noticed that my hand holding the revolver butt sometimes randomly struck the rest during recoil. While I could readily grip the gun and hold it securely, I didn’t always achieve a consistent position for each shot. Most of my groups had one or two rounds punching wayward holes in the target.

The Blackhawk almost always felt right–even with evident creep in the trigger. I could easily hold it steady on target.

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Ruger New Model 50th Anniversary Blackhawk

Model: New Model 50th Anniversary Blackhawk
Purpose: Hunting, target
Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
1 Lacey Place
Southport, CT 06890
203-259-7843
www.ruger.com
Action Type: single-action
Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
Frame material: Carbon steel
Cylinder material: Carbon steel
Caliber: .44 Remington Magnum; .45 Colt
Barrel Length: 6.5 inches
Rifling: Six Grooves, 1:20 RH twist (.44 Mag.)
Sights: Fully adjustable Micro rear; serrated ramp front
Finish: Blued
Safeties: Transfer bar with loading-gate interlock and keyed internal hammer-locking mechanism
Trigger type: Single-action
Pull Weight: 5.5 pounds
Grip material: Checkered black rubber
Overall length: 12.5 inches
Height: 5.25 inches
Width: 1.75 inches
Weight, empty: 47 ounces
Accessories: Owner’s manual, lock; commemorative case
MSRP: $605 (original issue); now available only in cased set with 50th Anniversary .357 Blackhawk @ $1350 for both guns with matching serial numbers


The .44 Mag. is extremely versatile, and hamdloading components are ready available to build everything from light-recoiling practice ammo to heavy-duty hunting loads.

Single-actions are notorious for loosening up when they’re fired many times–especially with heavy loads. I learned that lesson shooting Old Model Rugers that even had locking inserts in the screws.

The New Model 50th Anniversary .44 Blackhawk shares the same malady, so keep a tool kit handy if you are going to put it through an extended shooting session. You may need to tighten the grip frame and ejector-rod-housing screws periodically using screwdriver bits that properly fit the screw-head slots. The Redhawk can’t shake loose when fired–there are no screws.

I tested-fired more factory loads in the Redhawk, including a box of Short-Barrel Speer Gold Dot jacketed hollowpoints. The ballistic results indicate this load’s power level is about par with top-end .44 Special loads, which, by the way, are perfectly suitable to fire in either gun. Although the snubby Redhawk weighs about the same as the 50th Anniversary Blackhawk, the double-action’s felt recoil seemed greater. Recoil, of course, can adversely affect the shooter’s performance if it exceeds his tolerance level, so choose factory ammo and handloads that meet your needs and enjoy shooting either–or both–of Ruger’s newest .44 Mag. revolvers.

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