Bill Ruger introduced the rugged and reliable Blackhawk revolver-action revolver. Colt revolvers were practically unobtainable, and Colt was slow to reintroduce the Single-Action Army. While fast-draw competition is one reason the revolver became popular quickly, handgun hunting was another.
A Bit of Blackhawk History
The .357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk was then, and remains today, an excellent all-around hunting revolver. With the introduction of the .44 Magnum cartridge, things got interesting; Ruger brought out the .44 Magnum Blackhawk in 1956. That revolver resembled the original Blackhawk and was a good revolver, although not ideal for handling the .44 Magnum cartridge. Ruger was keen on history and modeled his firearms after classic guns of the Old West. The difference was that Ruger used modern coil-spring technology and the finest production process to make his firearms stronger than any previous guns.
The Ruger Blackhawk was a light-packing gun with plenty of punch, although it kicked hard with Magnum loads. Ruger changed the grip configuration by lengthening it and produced a squared trigger guard. The result was a revolver with some resemblance to the Colt Dragoon. The Super Blackhawk also featured an ultra-strong cylinder without flutes.
Ruger also added a special hammer spur and wide trigger, creating one of the strongest and best-accepted modern revolvers ever manufactured. The Super Blackhawk features a ramp front sight and fully adjustable rear sight. The original revolver also was polished to a high standard. The newer guns are also very nice, and the older Super Blackhawk revolvers were a high point of production. However, a tremendous advantage is that the newer guns are available in stainless steel.
The original Super Blackhawk (pictured) is a very capable handgun and one that has worn well with age. The Super Blackhawk is often very accurate and among the few revolvers I can fire about as accurately off hand as off of a solid bench-rest firing position. For example, recently I sighted in the Super Blackhawk with Federal American Eagle 240-grain JSP, an affordable loading that is often accurate in any .44 Magnum revolver.
At 25 yards from a rest, I placed five rounds into a 1.2-inch group, the norm for the Super Blackhawk. I would like to say my carefully crafted handloads do a little better; unfortunately, they usually do not. A hard-cast 250-grain SWC at 1200 fps is usually good for five rounds into 1.5 inches. My favorite powder is H110.
The balance of this six-gun with a 7.5-inch barrel is outstanding. The balance is neither handle- nor barrel-heavy; it is ideal. As for value, the Super Blackhawk has been the best value on the market for some time. The only revolver that may be stronger is the robust and reliable Ruger Super Redhawk, and it would take a lot of shooting to prove the Super Redhawk is stronger.
Bill Ruger revived the single-action revolver and placed it in ascendancy in the hunting field. The plow-handled single-action grip lets the revolver roll more in recoil. The single action is usually more comfortable to fire than a double-action revolver of the same or similar weight.
As for the cartridge, the .44 Magnum has quite a history. Among the first centerfire .44 caliber cartridges to earn great fame and renown for its accuracy was the .44 Smith and Wesson American, later known as the .44 Russian (because of the thousands sold to imperial Russia). The .44 Smith and Wesson was used to drop buffalo; buffalo were huge and hunters accomplished the deed by galloping alongside the beast and shooting it in the ear.
The .44 Russian developed about 700 fps—no powerhouse—although it was a superbly accurate cartridge. In 1907, S&W lengthened the .44 Russian into the .44 Special. The Special is not appreciably more powerful and came in strong, double-action revolvers, which led to much experimentation. Handloaders, led by Phillip Sharpe, Elmer Keith and others, developed loads that jolted a 250-grain, hard-cast SWC bullet to 1200 fps. Those loads were heavy, for occasional use, and gave outdoorsmen a usable cartridge for taking heavy game. In 1956, Remington developed the .44 Remington Magnum. Advertised as jolting a 240-grain JSP to some 1400 fps in the long-barrel Smith and Wesson revolver, the load came close to that reality.
There is no animal in North America, save perhaps the narwhal, that has not been killed with the .44 Magnum revolver. Even the polar bear has fallen to the mighty .44. In Africa, Elmer Keith took elephant with a brain shot. A good, steady hand and a bullet with good penetration work wonders.
In my experience, the .44 Magnum kills all out of proportion to its paper energy figures and gives fuel to my disregard for paper energy. Inside of 50 yards, the .44 Magnum kills quicker and cleaner than a .30-caliber rifle. My last boar hog, at 280 pounds, fell quickly to the .44 Magnum.
As for accuracy, a heavyweight, hard-cast lead bullet (Laser Cast/Oregon Trail) over a heavy charge of Winchester 296, H110 or 2400, is often brilliantly accurate. Some of those loads are accurate to 100 yards. I believe modest loads serve Magnum revolvers best for most practice sessions. The 250-grain bullet, at 1000 fps, is a great practice loading, and the factory Blazer load is a good choice for inexpensive practice.
The .44 Special is light shooting and accurate in the .44 Magnum. There are more powerful handguns than the .44 Magnum; the .454 Casull and monster .500 Magnum come to mind. However, the .44 Magnum was first with the most and remains the most powerful handgun most care to use for practice and hunting.
If you have mastered the .44 and feel limited, then go ahead and try the others. The .44 Magnum, however, is a must-have handgun for serious shooters. The Ruger Super Blackhawk is still among the strongest, most accurate and most durable of revolvers.
It is a modern classic.
Typical .44 Magnum performance, Ruger Super Blackhawk with a 7.5-inch barrel
|240-grain JHP||1400 fps|
|300-grain JHP||1200 fps|
Do you already own a Ruger Blackhawk? What are your thoughts on the new version? You ready to get one? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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