Ruger Four-Inch .44 Magnum Stainless Redhawk

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 27th, 2007

 

 

 

I never really warmed up to the Ruger Redhawk. Donít get me wrong; it is an excellent revolver. Since its introduction in 1979, it has proven to be a rugged, reliable, accurate, and very strong sixgun. I have just always preferred single action revolvers for my own use, and found the Redhawks to be a bit larger and heavier than what I preferred to carry. They have been offered chambered for a variety of heavy-duty  cartridges, and with barrel lengths of five and one-half or seven and one-half inches. I also never really found the standard grip on the Redhawk to fit my hand, so I just never got really excited about the gun. It remained that way until I heard of Rugerís intention to introduce the Redhawk with a four inch barrel, and suddenly the gun is not much bigger than a Smith & Wesson Mountain Gun, although it is still heavier at 46.6 ounces, unloaded.  However, it is also a lot stronger than the Mountain Gun, has a much heavier frame, and has very thick chamber walls. This makes the Redhawk the strongest double-action .44 Magnum available, and the four inch barrel suddenly makes the Redhawk comfortably packable in a well-designed holster. I decided to try it out, and placed my name on the list to review the new sixgun as soon as production was underway.

I have only had the new Redhawk here for a few weeks now, but so far, I am impressed.  Not only have the handling qualities of the Redhawk improved by the use of the shorter barrel, but it seems that Rugerís quality is starting to improve dramatically as well. At first, I thought that I just got a fluke, but after speaking with other shooters who have received a new Redhawk, they confirmed that the sixgun is much smoother in action that previous Redhawks that they had known.  Now, I never thought that I would be making this statement, but this Ruger has the smoothest double-action trigger pull that I have felt on a new revolver in a long time. Ruger has made some changes at the factory, and it looks as if they have paid off. The double-action trigger pull measures just over eight and one-half pounds, but its smoothness makes it feel much lighter. The single action pull measured a bit heavier than I like at seven pounds, two ounces, but it is crisp and clean, and easily lightened if desired.

The new Redhawk wears seamless finger groove Hogue synthetic rubber grips. There are no screws holding the grip to the frame, and to remove the grip, a plastic wedge is provided to help in the removal. The dern thing is plenty tight, and it is a bit aggravating to remove, but it is something that is seldom needed, and is easier once the technique is learned. The grip feels good to my hand, and the pebble finish helps to keep a good firm grasp on the weapon under recoil.

Recoil is not bad at all with normal weight .44 magnum loads, but with the heavy weight bullets at top speeds, the hand can take a beating after a shooting session with a box of those loads. The backstrap is not covered, which helps with trigger reach and control, but the steel frame contacts the web between the thumb and forefinger. After a while, it can become unpleasant, but again, with normal magnum loads, it is not a problem, and a glove helps tremendously with the heavy stuff.

Like all Redhawks, the sixgun is built for years of hard use. A shooter does not buy a Redhawk with expectations of having to have it rebuilt as it wears after a couple of thousand magnum loads. You will not wear out a Redhawk by shooting it. The design is a solid frame, with no side plate, and the massive cylinder locks up in front at the crane and at the rear into the recoil plate of the heavy frame. The ejector rod does not rotate, and will never unscrew itself from its fixed position, locking up the cylinder, as happens too frequently with some other double-action revolvers. The cylinder bolt notches are cut a bit off center, making a stronger cylinder wall than on designs that place the cut directly over the center of each chamber. The barrel/cylinder gap measured just three one-thousandths of an inch (.003") on the test gun, which I was glad to see.

The Redhawk wears a good set of fully adjustable blued steel sights, and the front ramp has a red insert to help the sight picture in certain lighting conditions, as well as a white outline rear notch.  The hammer spur is checkered for a secure hold while cocking the piece for single action fire, and the firing pin is protected from accidental discharge by Rugerís famous and proven transfer bar safety system. Thankfully, there is no key lock on the Redhawk design, at least not yet.

While the handiest Redhawk yet, the sixgun is still by no means a pocket gun, but a good holster makes the gun ride comfortably on the hip or across the chest, depending upon the mission at hand.  One of the best and most versatile holsters available for the Redhawk, or any other large revolver, is the Simply Rugged Pancake style as built by Rob Leahy of Wasilla, Alaska. Rob knows how to build a holster. The one pictured here offers great protection to the sidearm, and allows for either strong side or cross draw carry. I carried the four inch Redhawk comfortably in this holster. It works very well for concealment of a big revolver under a shirt or light jacket, and doubles as a very versatile field holster. He can build them with or without the thumb break protecting the hammer, builds them out of top grade materials, and his work exhibits excellent craftsmanship. His prices are downright cheap for the quality of his holsters. I have a few of them, and they all receive their share of time on my hip.

Firing the four inch Redhawk resulted in perfect function. I was a bit concerned that the light double-action trigger pull might fail to ignite a primer with light strikes, but these concerns were unfounded. The Redhawk never failed, firing reliably in both double- action and single-action modes. Chronograph data  was obtained on a sunny but cool day, with a temperature varying from twenty-three to thirty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. The results are listed below:

.44 Magnum Loads

Manufacturer Bullet Style Bullet Weight Velocity
Handload LFP 200 1043
Cor-Bon JHP 180 1613
Cor-Bon BCHP 260 1365
Cor-Bon LHC 320 1197
Grizzly WFNGC 300 1122
Grizzly Hawk SP 250 1247
Grizzly Hawk SP 275 1129
Grizzly WLNGC 320 1100
Bruin LFN 295 1228
Bruin Keith 250 1326
Remington-UMC JHP 180 1498

.44 Special Loads

Speer GDHP 200 807.7
Federal SWHP 200 841.7
Cor-Bon JHP 165 1178

All velocities are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is jacketed hollowpoint. BCHP is bonded core hollowpoint. HC is hard-cast lead. GDHP is Gold Dot Hollowpoint. WFNGC is a wide flat nose gas check lead bullet, and WLNGC is a wide long nose gas check bullet, both made by Cast Performance Bullet Company. LFN is lead flat nose. SP is soft point jacketed. Keith is the famous semi-wadcutter design by Elmer Keith. Velocities were measured at a distance of twelve feet with a PACT chronograph.

 

Accuracy was tested using the Ransom Master Series Machine Rest. This rest makes it possible to remove all human influence upon the accuracy of the revolver, eliminating factors such as shooter fatigue and trigger control upon the revolverís accuracy. On a real good day, I can hold a sixgun over a solid rest and shoot about as accurately as I can with a machine rest, but I donít have as many good days as I once did. With the Ransom, I can shoot all day long, and know that the gun is getting a fair shake, without my abilities or lack thereof influencing the results.  The Ransom is also an excellent way to determine which particular loads will shoot well in any given handgun, without the influence of the shooter skewing the results. I tried the Redhawk with fourteen different loads, both magnum and Specials, and also with my one lead plinking handload. I did not try to work up a target load for the Redhawk, preferring to use ammunition that I believe will be the most useful in this type of handgun; .44 Specials for social work, and Magnums for hunting and protection from large carnivores. With most loads tested, the Redhawk grouped around two and one-half inches at twenty-five yards for five shots.  Several of the loads tested did better, and a couple of them turned in superbly accurate groups. The Grizzly Cartridge 320 grain WLNGC load grouped just slightly over one inch, and the Bruin Cartridge 295 grain load grouped slightly less than one inch. That is darn good accuracy with high performance ammunition.

The four inch Ruger Redhawk is a dandy handgun. It is relatively compact and reasonably light for the power it packs. It excels as a trail companion when in areas that one might encounter dangerous wild animals, and is compact enough to serve as a good carry weapon for self defense against predators of the human type.  It is also a good revolver for hunting,  wearing a barrel that is long enough to be legal in most places, and still handy enough for comfortable packing in a holster. I like it better than the Alaskan series of revolvers, especially in .44 magnum. I like the bit extra barrel length, and the more compact and aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eyes, frame of this Redhawk. I think that this is the best Redhawk yet.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

For the location of a Ruger dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at:  www.lipseys.com.

To order any of the high performance ammunition shown here, go to:  www.cor-bon.com, www.grizzlycartridge.com, or www.bruincartridge.com.

To order a  Simply Rugged holster, go to:  www.simplyrugged.com.

Jeff Quinn

To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Ruger four-inch .44 Magnum stainless Redhawk.

 

 

 

 

The super-strong Redhawk design locks the cylinder into the frame at front and rear.

 

 

The Redhawk features Ruger's patented transfer-bar safety system.

 

 

The new Redhawk comes with one-piece Hogue grips.

 

 

One-piece Hogue grips are removed by use of a special wedge tool.

 

 

 

 

Jeff tested the Redhawk using a variety of .44 Magnum and .44 Special ammunition.

 

 

 

 

Jeff also used a Ransom Rest to take the guesswork out of accuracy testing.

 

 

 

 

The Redhawk proved to be very accurate, turning in groups such as this 2" group using Grizzly Cartridge Company's 275-grain Hawk bullet load...

 

 

...and this 15/16" group using Bruin's 295-grain LFN load.

 

 

The Redhawk was filthy at the end of a day's testing, but function was perfect.

 

 

Rob Leahy's Simply Rugged Pancake Holster is a great rig for field or concealed carry.

 

 

Although Jeff has never been a big fan of the Redhawk, this new model has made a believer out of him!