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I like my old sofa. It is broken in, shaped like my butt, and it isn’t the end of the world when it is subjected to spills. Unfortunately, due to a planned summer visit from our grown children and their respective families, my wife opted out of enduring the “humiliation” of our seasoned furniture within the context of family scrutiny. Consequently, my person has been dislodged, disturbed and interrupted, dragged from furniture store to furniture store as an unwilling participant in Sofa-Quest.

Sectionals with built in recliners were removed from consideration, not as an issue of aesthetic bent, but rather one of public safety. I had plopped onto a floor sample sectional at Macys and accidentally trigger the power recline button. My head was driven back and my legs and feet were tossed into the air while my wife looked on in abject horror. I was trapped, wrapped in sofa cushions that were attempting to swallow me alive. Fortunately, my old Air Force training kicked in and I bailed out. It may have been more of a modified tuck and roll maneuver but, in any event, I found myself on the floor, head down, on my hands and knees, with the sofa reluctantly breaking off its attack.

There were tears streaming down my wife’s cheeks. Unfortunately, what I thought were tears of concern, were actually caused by my wife laughing so hard she could barely breath. Ditto for the sales woman standing next to her… and the customers gawking from behind them… and the little kid sitting on the recliner next to me, who was obviously having no difficulty operating the same type of recliner that nearly took my life. I hate shopping and I hate recliners even more, however, my wife treated me to a compensatory break at McDonalds which lessened the emotional scarring.

It was at the fifth or sixth store of the day and all was seemingly lost; “Too expensive”, “Wrong color”, “Poorly made”, “Twelve to sixteen weeks delivery?”. Unfortunately, the saleswoman turned the conversation into a “I love my grandchildren, don’t you?”, picture swapping, lady bond-fest, so we now own a new sectional, with recliners, and my personally imprinted sofa’s days are numbered… to twenty three to be precise. What does this have to do with the Ruger? Not a thing.

The Ruger Redhawk 45 Colt – In overview

I don’t review firearm other than when they pass through my hands as part of a larger handloading or gunsmithing project. This is the case with this Ruger Redhawk in 45 Colt. So we’ll crank out a bit of information and take a few pictures before moving on with the rest of the project.

Introduced in 1979, the Ruger Redhawk is the result of a design collaboration of Bill Ruger, Harry Sefried and Roy Melcher.1) 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 # 5027
Type Action Double/Single Revolver
Capacity 45 Auto
Capacity 6
Barrel Length 4.2″
Rifling Twist 1:16″ RH
Weight 46.00 Oz
Overall Length 9.5
Grips Hogue® Monogrip®
Hardware Satin Stainless
Trigger SA/DA 7 Lbs12 Oz / 11 Lbs 7 Oz
Rear Sight Micro Adjustable
Front Sight Ramped
MSRP $1,079.00
California and Massachusetts Approved

The Ruger Redhawk has appeared on Real Guns® on numerous occasions, chambered for the 357 Mag, 44 Mag and 45 Colt. Beyond the Redhawk’s aesthetics, which I find to be appealing, it has excellent balance and accuracy and it is of stout design. Additionally, the Redhawk’s longish cylinder offers opportunity for the handloader working with heavy for bore bullets.

Top loads, the .45 Colt may not churn up the power of the 460 S&W or the hard kicking 454 Casull but, with hard cast lead, it will punch through several feet of ballistic gel or penetration while creating a large deep wound channel with expanding jacketed bullets. Despite its power, the Redhawk remains a manageable, compact firearm. In 4.2″ barrel form, the Ruger Redhawk makes for a terrific trail gun and, for the hunter, it has proven quite effective on hogs, deer and black bear. Light loaded, cowboy action type ammo or light handloads, the Redhawk is an excellent recreational target shooter and plinker.

In my view, the issue of a 45 Colt preference over the 44 Mag is not about superior power, as both cartridges produce an over abundance for any practical applications and both can be loaded down for paper punching weekends. Preference for the 45 Colt is also not related to availability of factory ammunition as there is a major selection for both the 45 Colt and 44 Mag. Bullet weight range for the 45 Colt run from 78 grain fragmenting to 365 grain hard cast thumpers. The 44 Mag is similar with factory loads in bullet weights from 180 grains to 340 grains and both yield similar velocity with similar bullet weights. For me, choosing the 45 Colt is more out of deference to its history and to a tighter rifling rate of twist than the 44 Mag; 1:16″ Vs 1:20″. In my experience, the Redhawk in Colt 45 produces greater accuracy with heavier bullets than the 44 Mag.

On issues of stout….iness

The Redhawk’s cylinder is held at the center pin, cylinder latch and the front latch, the latter which is keyed into the frame when the cylinder is closed. This all makes for solid lock up when the hammer drops. The cylinder to barrel gap measured 0.005″ on this example. Some dimensional points of comparison…

Revolver Caliber Cylinder
Frame at
Ruger Redhawk .45 Colt 1.780″ 0.104″ 1.750″ 0.941″ 0.680″
S&W Model 25 N Frame .45 Mag 1.715″ 0.086″ 1.670″ 0.896″ 0.670″
Ruger Bisley .45 Colt 1.736″ 0.088″ 1.702″ 0.890″ 0.625″

Below, a good illustration of how beefy the Redhawk design is in comparison to a S&W N frame Model 25 where both are chambered for the 45 Colt. The Ruger top strap is thick enough to rise above a ribbed barrel and the Rugers recoil shield is enormous.

The Redhawk has a quick change front sight, secured in a dovetail and retained with a spring loaded front sight plunger. The rear sight is micro adjustable for windage and elevation and adjustments stay put even under heavy use.

At the risk of raising the ire of the “Who cares what it looks like” contingency, the Redhawk is a work of sculptured mechanics. Lines, mass, angles, proportions, and tapers all flow well into pleasing lines and finish and form follows function.

Don’t call me Long, just call me Colt… 45 Colt

As indicated previously, there are currently fifty one factory loads for the 45 Colt. A good number are sold with application caveats as the only official SAAMI Pmax specification is 14,000 PSI. Many are sold with unofficial +P pressure designations where are not standards, but rather the creation of the respective ammunition makers. No, crafty Europeans are not the point of origin for the high pressure 45 Colt as the CIP standard is only 1100 BAR or roughly 15,950 PSI.

What does this 45 Colt and 45 Colt +P mean in the greater scheme of things in a revolver that can handle the extra heat? A 200 grain standard pressure round has a muzzle velocity of approximately 700 fps. A 325 grain +P has a muzzle velocity of 1325 fps. Buffalo Bore specifically lists the large frame Blackhawk (Not small frame New Vaquero or early and special edition flat top Blackhawks), Redhawk and Super Redhawk as compatible with their +P rated ammunition.

Some context on the manufacturer controlled +P loads and why they are very much firearm specific and not a casual selection. The difference between the 45 Automatic and 45 Automatic +P SAAMI standard is just 2,000 PSI. The difference between the 9mm Luger and 9mm Luger +P SAAMI standard is 3,500 PSI. Our pressure checking suggests that while the SAAMI standard for the 45 Colt is 14,000 PSI, some of the manufacturer’s +P labeled ammunition approach 32,000 PSI.

What does all of that look like coming out of the barrel?

Ammunition Pressure Bullet
25 Yard
3 Shot “
Winchester PDX1 Defender Standard JHP 225 850 781 2.2
Remington HTP Standard JHP 230 850 879 1.8
Buffalo Bore Heavy Colt +P JHP 260 1450 1407 1.9
Grizzly +P Lead Cast 265 1400 1203 2.0

*Manufacturers’ Listings with no stated test barrel length, solid or vented

The velocities noted are typical for the respective brands and ammunition in concert with a 4″ to 4.2″ barrel revolver. There are two standards for .45 Colt certifying barrels; 7.260″ unvented and 5.673″ vented, but manufacturers are all over the place on test barrel length for SAAMI standard pressure ammo and there is no test barrel spec for the non-SAAMI ammunition. Subsequently, it is difficult to establish context for rated velocities. Recorded velocity was clocked over a chronograph, 10′ from the revolver’s muzzle.

SAAMI ammo tends to shoot at or near advertised velocity as does ammunition labeled +P made by Buffalo Bore when shot from the Redhawk with 4.2″ barrel. It has also been my experience that some +P performance exists mostly on the ammo box label. Regardless the ammunition, recoil runs soft to moderate. My wife shared the task of shooting to collect the table information and experienced no shooting related difficulties.

There must be more to this story….

There is, I promise. This is headed to reloading, only instead of working with heavy hard cast bullets and which ever powder I have the most of on hand, the project will be dedicated to lighter jacketed bullets and some of the more recently released smokeless powders.

Pictured above, Speer 200 grain jacketed hollow point, Sierra 240 grain jacketed hollow point, Hornady 250 grain jacketed hollow point, and Speer 260 grain jacketed hollow point. All will be represented in Part II.



1) Ruger and His Guns – R.L. Wilson

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