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I had just finished watching Bergman’s “Hour of the Wolf”, rife with symbolism and shot in black and white, and became obsessed with the Johan and Alma dynamic and wondering whatever became of Ingrid Thulin. Which, of course, got me to thinking of the contemporaneous 45 Auto – 45 Colt chambering of the new Ruger Redhawk pictured above. This may appear to be no more than an image of a good looking revolver, however, closer examination reveals an intensely, almost ghostly, surreal juxtaposition of 45 Auto and 45 Colt ammo. It’s about the art, man.

Vid vilken tid tar det 5:00 tåget anländer?

The Ruger Redhawk 45 Auto – 45 Colt is also available in color, as pictured below, at no additional cost. Ruger puts a great deal of effort into designing tough, reliable firearms and, with that mission accomplished, they don’t seem to mind assuring that their products look as good as they shoot.

Introduced in 1979, the Ruger Redhawk is the result of a design collaboration of Bill Ruger, Harry Sefried and Roy Melcher. Unlike revolvers like the S&W Model 29, the Redhawk was designed from the onset as a hunting handgun. Subsequently, the design focus has been on frame and cylinder strength and performance attributes that are beneficial to a hunter. The Redhawk’s mechanical design is unique within the Ruger lineup. Like the GP100 and Super Redhawk, the frame has solid sides and the assembly is modular. However, the Redhawk utilizes a single coil spring to power the hammer and for trigger return after firing and it has a traditional, rather than peg, grip frame.

Ruger Redhawk

Manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Model # 05032
Type Action Double/Single Revolver
Capacity 45 Auto / 45 Colt
Capacity 6
Barrel Length 4.2″
Rifling Twist 1:16″ RH
Weight 47.00 Oz
Overall Length 9.5
Grips Hardwood
Hardware Satin Stainless
Trigger SA/DA 7 Lbs12 Oz / 11 Lbs 7 Oz
Rear Sight Micro Adjustable
Front Sight Interchangeable Inserts
MSRP $1,029.00
Includes 3 45 Auto moon clips

45 Colt and 45 Auto capable… not a passing fad

During WW I, Model 1911 type autoloaders were is short supply while 45 Auto ammunition was readily available. To take up with supply slack, Model 1917 revolvers were fitted with moon clips to permit their use with 45 Auto ammunition. Good ideas don’t die. In more recent times, custom shops have provided the popular service of cutting the 45 Colt Redhawk’s cylinder to accept moon clips and permit the use of 45 Auto ammo. The cost is approximately $150 plus another $50 or so for moon clips and shipping. This new model Redhawk is factory produced with this cylinder modification, it is supplied with moon clips, it is covered by a factory warranty, and it cost no more than a standard Ruger Redhawk.

OK, Joe, I’m pretty sure WW I is over, as is the 1911 pistol shortage, so why would I want to shoot 45 Auto ammo in my 45 Colt Redhawk when there is 45 Colt ammo that can shoot end to end through a buffalo? Glad I asked. There are fifty-six types of 45 Colt factory ammo produced, but one hundred twenty-three types of 45 Auto. The 45 Colt ammo types are biased toward hard hitting hunting and low power cowboy action shooting. The 45 Auto ammunition is biased toward self defense with numerous specialized defensive ammo types. From a cost standpoint, practice ammo for the 45 Auto runs approximately $16/50, 45 Colt ammo sells at approximately twice that price.

Moon clips and cylinder machining… What does that look like?

Setting up a single cylinder to handle both 45 Auto and 45 Colt cartridges requires two accommodations. The first accommodation is to foster proper headspace for both cartridges. The 45 Colt case is 1.285″ long and headspaces on its 0.512″ diameter rim. The 45 Auto is only 0.898″ long and it headspaces at its case mouth. If you plop a 45 Auto round into a 45 Colt cylinder it will drop in until the case head is approximately 0.387″ into the cylinder and you will have to go in after it.

The second accommodation, when making a firearm that shoots both 45 Auto and 45 Colt, is to make the ejector work with a rimless cartridge. The radiused openings in the ejector must be at least as large as the cartridge case to permit loading. The 45 Colt has a large rim that rests atop the ejector. The 45 Auto does not have a protruding rim, so an ejector will pass over it… as dramatically illustrated above, right. Use of a moon clip with the rimless 45 Auto will establish proper headspace for the 45 Auto and provide a surface for the ejector to make proper contact to push out empties.

In use, the Ruger’s moon clip is preloaded with ammunition and then inserted as an assembly into the revolver’s cylinder. Three such clips are supplied with the Redhawk, each with a life of approximately 10,000 rounds. Below left, the cylinder machined to accept a moon clip. Below, right, an empty moon clip set in place to illustrate the mechanical relationship.

Above, left, the 45 Colt rim extends outward and is supported by the surface of the cylinder without a moon clip in place. Above, right, the 45 Auto cartridge / moon clips assembly is show in place, recessed flush with the cylinder surface and over the ejector.


Cartridge Weight
45 Colt/
45 Auto
4.2″ FPS
3 Shot
25 Yard
#2 Federal Personal Defense 185 45 Auto 950 891 1 1/4″
#3 UMC Ball 230 45 Auto 835 757 1 1/2″
#1 Remington Ultra Home Defense 230 45 Auto 875 774 *3 1/2″
#7 Barnes Vor-Tx 200 45 Colt 1025 1012 1 1/2″
#8 Hornady LeverEvolution 225 45 Colt 950 976 1 1/4″
#9 Winchester PDX1 225 45 Colt 850 869 2 1/4″
#6 Cor-Bon DPX 225 45 Colt 1200 1095 1 3/8″
#4 MagTech Cowboy Action 250 45 Colt 761 727 1 7/8″
#5 Buffalo Bore 255 45 Colt 1000 1002 7/8″

* Insufficient quantities of this ammunition on hand to validate.
This ammunition utilizes stepped shank Golden Saber bullets.

Over the chronograph, the Ruger’s 45 Colt ammo velocity was very close to each respective manufacturer’s velocity rating. Cor-Bon DPX ammo was the exception, but only because that company’s ammo rating is determined with a 7.5″ test barrel.  The Ruger 45 Auto velocity came in a little lower in comparison to respective ammo manufacturer ratings, however, factory testing is accomplished with a 5″ closed breech barrel. The Ruger revolver has a larger chamber volume to fill, it has a slight cylinder gap and it has a shorter barrel. 

45 Colt accuracy was very good across a range of factory loads. The best and worst are illustrated below. Buffalo Bore Heavy 45 Colt 255 grain shot 7/8″ @25 yards, Winchester 225 grain PDX1 shot 2 1/4″. I didn’t have Ransom Rest inserts handy for the Redhawk’s grip frame so these groups were shot with the revolver’s underlug sitting in a steady “V” block and my wrists supported on lead shot bags.

I had not anticipated much in the way of 45 Auto accuracy when fired from the 45 Colt chamber, as the 45 Auto case is approximately 0.300″ shorter than the 45 Colt and approx 0.004″ smaller in diameter. This proved not to be the case. Federal Personal Defense shot 1 1/4″ 25 yard groups, UMC 230 grain ball shot 1 1/2″. The only ammo that shot a little wide was a variety of low velocity Remington ammo with a stepped Golden Saber type bullet, pictured left. With only a few rounds on hand, I was not able to reshoot and validate results and, in any event, the group size wasn’t outside of an acceptable range for defensive applications.


During the course of live fire, there were no ignition problems, nor were there any issues with case gas seal or extraction. The Redhawk heft dampened recoil and muzzle rise to the extent shooting even heavy 45 Colt loads was easy on the hands and wrist. Shooting 45 Auto ammo had the feel of shooting 38 Special ammo in a heavy 357 Mag; light recoil and modest in report. Usually, at the end of a long shooting day I feel a little stressed and a little sore in the wrists. Not the case with the Redhawk.

Trigger pull in double action is relatively long, as would be expected and a bit heavy…as would be expected. Single action pull is short, crisp and still a bit heavy. As an owner and long term shooter of a similar Ruger Redhawk, practice builds proficiency. With a little work the revolver can be shot accurately and rapidly in double or single action mode.

The Redhawk’s sight system is very good. The red front sight contrasts well on target and the adjustable rear sight resolves to 3/4″ change at 25 yards, elevation or windage, with each click. The front sight blade is a quick change type with a press to release spring loaded plunger at the front. I’ve pushed a lot of high performance ammo through Redhawk revolvers and I’ve not had a sight set shoot lose in its mount or lose adjustment. For folks seeking greater variety, there are a number of conventional and fiber optic sight components available from Ruger and from aftermarket sources.

The Redhawk’s compact factory grips were comfortable even when shooting heavy 45 Colt ammunition. For folks who prefer more grip in their hand, inexpensive aftermarket pieces are readily available, including sets that extend downward below the grip frame as pictured above.

Is the addition of 45 Auto ammunition capability worthwhile? I very much believe so. This adds flexibility without compromising performance and the features comes without a cost. In fact, I sold my personal Redhawk in anticipation of purchasing this version. Good revolver, good combination. I intend to clean the one pictured below… after I shoot it just a little bit more.

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