Ruger Redhawks - A Case of Sibling Rivalry
Magnum and 45 Colt - Wilderness Protection
D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com
I should have finished this project a week ago, but I was having too much fun
shooting both Ruger Redhawks and couldn't get myself to settle down in front of
a computer. The Redhawk is the product of a stout design, its finish is
stainless utility, its comfortable Hogue grips are recoil absorbing, and its
sights are mission appropriate.
The Redhawk isn't particularly pretty, although I'm in no way suggesting it is
ugly. It certainly isn't a run of the mill effeminate European style autoloader.
It is a precision piece of machinery, mostly devoid of sharp edges with a lot of
blended finishing. It is designed to serve its purposes over the long haul. It
looks good when clean, it looks good covered in black soot and powder residue
after a long day of shooting. It is, in fact, a guy's gun.
Ruger is smart to offer the 4" Redhawk in both .44 Remington Magnum and .45
Colt. Each cartridge has its supporters, therefore each has its detractors, so
buyers get their preference and Ruger gets to sidestep the debate. Enthusiasts
who really know guns and make their decisions based on quantified performance
can have their choice and the rest can buy the .44 Magnum version. Did I say
something wrong? I'm kidding...really.
So a bear walks into a bar...
Contrary to the notions sometimes advanced by the Discovery Channel tripe and
PETA, animals have not evolved along with their human neighbors. They don't want
to establish a meaningful relationship with us, they don't want to meet in a
town hall forum, they basically want to eat, defecate in the woods and mate
every once in a while. In California
where people define themselves as "wilderness trail joggers", the local mountain
lion population still refers to them simply as "food".
Treadwell learned the hard way, the meaning of the expression, "Sometimes you
get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you". Fishing in a remote area can get a little dicey when a dispute
breaks out between fisherman and bear over the ownership of a prize salmon. Of
of the time animals can be observed and confrontations avoided, but that .1%
chance that things can turn bad, demands contingency planning.
If wild animals aren't a wilderness problem, unfortunately, humans can be. If criminals
would invade a home in the middle of the day with police only fifteen minutes away,
what do you think the code of conduct would be when you're
hours, if not days, away from assistance? If you're going to be out on your own,
and self reliance is required, the Ruger Redhawk is a good place to start. Where
a .44 Magnum or .45 Colt with heavy loads would be too much for most concealed
carry or even home defense situations in an urban or suburban setting, they are
just about right for the noted broad self-defense applications. Big enough to
stop a bear in a pinch, but not so big that they are too punishing to shoot and
For dedicated hunting pieces,
Ruger makes Redhawks and Super Redhawks
with longer barrels and in configurations to accommodate scope mounting for long
range handgun hunting. However, in many places shots at deer, hogs and black
bear are within 50 yards. I see no reason why either the 4" .44 Magnum or 45 Colt
couldn't make for an excellent ultra light, compact firearm with a big thump for hunting season.
A double action preference...
My choice has been single action revolvers for heavy magnum loads, more
specifically, heavy framed Blackhawks in one form or another. I like the
strength and simplicity of these single action revolvers; few parts to break, a
cylinder in a fixed location and the ability to handle heavy handloads with
ease. The drawbacks have been three miles of slow motion hammer fall and the
need to cock the hammer before the gun would fire. Fortunately, neither
circumstance applies to the
Redhawk. The Redhawk is touted by Ruger as being up to snuff for magnum loads and it is
ready to fire with the pull of its trigger. I believe the physical size of the
Redhawk gives credence to this claim.
||2 lbs 13 oz
||2 lbs 14 oz
||2 lbs 13 oz
Ruger kept the Redhawk's overall weight down without
sacrificing beef on
the cylinder, frame and barrel where it is welcome, while
providing more cylinder lock up points than typical, for a total of three; 1) center
pin lock, 2) indexing pawl and 3) front latch. The dimensions indicated
above were taken from examples of each gun. Minor variations amongst a
Redhawks, such as frame at barrel width, are due to finishing variations and not differences in frame size specification.
Ruger operates a sophisticated casting operation, doing lots of work for
outside clients as well as for their own firearm production. There
are virtually no manufacturers' handguns sporting forged or
billet parts anymore, so the defining issues become not if a gun
contains cast parts, but rather the quality
of castings, the preciseness of machined surfaces and the quality of
parts fitting. Ruger clearly has a handle on investment casting;
few gate marks, virtually no parting lines, no rough edges or pock
marks from air, impurities or poorly managed process.
Outside of the cylinder, centering pin rod, locking latches,
springs and a couple of pins, parts are cast then machined as
required for fit. As an example, the cast trigger guard has
received lots of secondary machining operations for a critical
fit of trigger small parts and fit to the gun's frame.
Overall, a pretty slick assembly.
Disassembly of the Redhawk is pretty straight forward. With no side plate,
of the parts pull out of the top or drop out of the bottom and
there is only one coil spring, or mainspring that covers all sprung functions.
If you're used to the screw through the grip versions of
Ruger products, the Hogue grip
takes a little patience for removal and the use of the Hogue
Bantam Tool. The little "U" shaped tool, to the left of the
grip, is packed in with every new gun.
Sights I can see...
combination of non-reflective ramped front sight and
simple white outlined fully adjustable rear sight,
with a nice grooved wide rib in between, works well.
The sight radius, at roughly 5.800", doesn't seem
the combination of front and rear sights is easy to hold
steady on target.
The 0.130" wide front blade
is retained with what Ruger refers to as a spring
loaded plunger, or what I refer to as a roll pin,
to make blade color changes an easy task. Its width
makes for an excellent sight picture with the rear
sight's 0.140" aperture. Rear sight elevation and
windage adjustments are positive click type with an
approximately 3 MOA increment adjustment.
Front sight inserts can be purchased directly
from Ruger or from
Brownells at a substantial savings.
A $13 set includes white, yellow, fluorescent
red, and sky blue selections. Another
option available from
Brownells is a Marble Arms fiber optic
front sight in green or orange, in a variety of
heights. Basically, you support the ramp on the down
side with a non-marring back up, i.e. short piece of
soft pine, and tap the pin out left to right and
reinstall the same way. I believe, for the most
part, the sights as received from the factory, are
the best sights for the gun and any of its
(Editor's note: As indicated, the
front sight blade on the two models represented are
retained with a roll pin, rather than a quick change
spring loaded plunger. Consequently, the reference
to replacement blades is in error. These parts
pertain to the spring loaded plunger retained sights
and not to those secured with a roll pin. Thanks for
the heads up Evan)
And then the blazing away began...
of this project contains new handloads developed
specifically for this project,
however, I wanted to offer some representative live fire
impressions of both guns. Neither gun exhibited roughness common to
new firearms and, after some use, they felt just
as tight and precise as they did when received. Statistically, both guns
have the same average trigger pull, 10 lbs 3 oz double
action and 6 lbs 4 oz single action.
The Ruger Redhawk is easy to shoot in double as
well as single action; none of the typical knuckle busting, hand web
or stinging sensations associated with relatively light
revolvers and stiff loads. Neat!
Both the .44 Mag and .45 Colt revolvers felt very balanced with the 4" barrel.
That's actually a big deal for me. I couldn't hit a
barn with a shorter barrel snub nose because that
type of barrel has too little mass to hold steady.
My 7 1/2" barrel Ruger Bisley is at odds with
gravity and the front sight wants to always dip
below the horizon if it's held out there for too
long. The 4" barrel Redhawk works
well for me; long enough and hefty enough to be rock
steady, but without feeling muzzle heavy.
The 44 Magnum - Port whine...
3 shot 25 yard group that measures only
1¼" and, yes, it was
absolutely hand picked from the pile. The tiny group
came from 180 grain Hornady Custom JHP/XTP ammo and
a two hand hold over a rest. All of the factory ammo
shot under 2½" and I am not a very good shot.
I had the opportunity to compare the factory
results from the Redhawk with data I had logged
awhile back with another gun I like, the
Both 4" barrel guns, I wanted to measure the
ballistic influence of the 1" of porting and
integral expansion chamber present on the Taurus
barrel. Essentially, the last inch of the Taurus
is unrifled, slightly over caliber and filled with holes
that direct gases out to either side of the gun's front
sight. I think the difference is significant,
especially when some relatively minor increases
in heavy bullet velocity can yield major kinetic
Speer Gold Dot
Much like my Marlin .45-70 Guide Gun, the
Taurus porting makes for sensational low light
level shooting with the potential for singed
eyebrows, but does little to reduce recoil or
muzzle jump. In the case of the Taurus, there is
the penalty of carrying a gun with the external
dimensions of a 4" barreled gun, but with the
performance of a 3" stubby. Magnum case capacity
benefits significantly from a little more active
barrel length and powder is why we shoot them.
The .45 Colt...
The problem I had with the .45 Colt version of the Redhawk
was putting it down. A handload I frequently
shoot with the single action Ruger is a 255 grain
cast SWC over 24 grains of W296 and a magnum pistol
primer. Clearly it agreed with the Redhawk as
well. Average velocity from the 4" barrel was 1327
fps and accuracy and shot to shot consistency were
outstanding. The group size pictured right was the best of
the best at ¾", but holding
group sized below 1¾" when shooting from a rest
was not a chore.
There are probably a multitude of reasons for the
.45 Colt Redhawk being a great shooter.
Besides the contribution of
mechanical preciseness to accuracy, the grip angle is much
better than that of a traditional single action
revolver.,making the gun comfortable to shoot and
natural to point.
Additionally the gun felt very balanced and the
sights were easy to hold on target. With a little
patience, shooting double action was as easy to
shoot as single action. The Redhawk in .45 Colt is a
gun that can be carried with confidence .
wish I had some great and original insight to offer
on the Redhawk at this juncture. I do not.
The guns are typical of the company that makes them;
excellent quality, good shooters, stronger than they
need to be. Both guns are accurate, I find the .45
Colt easier to shoot, but that may be my personal
I have a large pile of components, the
Tester is warmed up and ready to go and I
suspect I will learn a lot more about these guns and
their performance over the next few days. I
have .44 magnum loads from 180 grains to 300 grains
and .45 Colt loads up to 360 grains. There is a
mixture of cast and jacketed bullets.
Both guns have a retail price of $836 and, as is the
case with virtually all guns, a lesser street price.
Considering the quality of these guns at $150 - $200
less than comparable 625 and 629 S&W models, they
are a major value. Compared to the autoloaders I
shoot with some frequency, these big revolvers are a
lot more interesting. I believe I need to locate a
nice field carry holster.
Additional related information:
Ruger Redhawks - A Case of Sibling Rivalry 44
Magnum and 45 Colt - Wilderness Protection
Handloading the .44 Remington Magnum and .45 Colt
Ruger Redhawks - You can't buy just one.