Review: Ruger Blackhawk

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Reviews

Today, much of the market seems to revolve around tactical gear and personal defense. That is important, nothing is more vital than taking responsibility for our own safety.

Americans typically respond to threats with a raised first rather than whimpers. While survival is predicated more upon prior training than the gear we use, gear is important. However, sometimes ordinary gear is overlooked and some of this gear is excellent.

Black Ruger Blackhawk right profile

The Blackhawk is a legendary firearm well worth its price.

I have often thought the beginning handgunner, wishing to learn marksmanship, should begin with a quality .357 Magnum revolver with adjustable sights. The majority of loads expended should be mild .38 Special loads. And if that handgunner becomes a handloader, and he/she should, no cartridge is better to learn with than the straight walled .38 Special—with the .44 Special and .45 Colt close behind.

Personal defense isn’t the only reason for owning a powerful and accurate handgun. The single-action revolver is a fine target gun and also a great game getter. Humans have a protean faculty for adaption and the single-action revolver may be pressed into defensive action more often than folks think. There are better tools for some missions, but for just shooting and taking game, nothing beats the Ruger Blackhawk single-action revolver.

Loading gate of a revolver handgun

The single action is loaded through the loading gate one cartridge at a time.

There really isn’t anything like the Blackhawk. The cowboy guns are not in the same class for strength and durability. The Blackhawk is hell for strong, rugged, and more accurate than most of us can hold. Ruger is an American icon and among our most respected makers, and this history is built on the single-action revolver.

Many shooters enjoy firing these revolvers. As an example, my son is a Captain in military intelligence. His personal defense handguns include a Novak custom 1911 and a custom grade Bar Sto .38 Super Commander. Most of the time his sidearm is the Beretta 92. His first handgun, and his favorite shooter, is a Ruger Single Six .22. He still enjoys a good cowboy gun. (I know, the steel and performance are much better than a cowboy gun, but that is what we call them.)

I have seen him firing at 100 yards with the big-bore Blackhawk, and he knows how to handle the single-action revolver. The single-action revolver was an important stepping stone to marksmanship. As for myself, the Ruger Blackhawk as been an important part of my outdoors life. When you need to stop an animal, and you have only one shot, the Blackhawk never fails if you do your part.

Transfer bar on a revolver handgun

The transfer bar ignition system ensures safety if the revolver is dropped.

No matter what the climate the Blackhawk never fails. I have always felt, how hard you hit matters more than how many times you hit. The Ruger has been delivering since 1955 in hard-hitting calibers. The .357 Magnum and .45 Colt Blackhawk revolvers are hard hitters—especially with heavy bullet handloads, but the .44 Magnum is my favorite.

I use the standard Blackhawk. I like the Super Blackhawk, but the standard black single action has a lot of appeal and does what I need accomplished. While the Vaquero is the deal for cowboy shooting and quickly addressing bad buy targets, I like the Blackhawk. Again, hitting for real, hitting hard, and with real accuracy are hallmark traits of the .44 Magnum Blackhawk.

When you have to ear the hammer back for each shot, you tend to be careful with your shots. In marksmanship training, making that one-shot hit is more important than a series of fast shots. The single action is a great trainer. It is still my favorite hunting revolver, and I do not see that changing. In my opinion, high capacity handguns have caused a general deterioration in marksmanship. The single-action revolver reinforces marksmanship.

Three Ruger Single Six revolvers

There are a wide variety of traditional and modern Ruger Single Six revolvers.

Modern, New Model Blackhawk revolvers are safe to carry fully loaded with all six cartridges. There is a bar riding between the hammer and the firing pin at all times unless the hammer is fully to the rear. When the hammer is cocked, the transfer bar falls away, and the hammer will strike the firing pin when it drops. This is a safe system that eliminates any chance of an accidental discharge if the revolver were dropped.

The single-action revolver is loaded one cartridge at a time through an open loading gate. Not fast, but deliberate, and many of us enjoy this manual of arms. You don’t have to worry about spent cases flying all over, they are easy saved in the ammo box for later reloading.

The Ruger revolver is friendly to hard cast bullets such as those offered by Magnus. The .357 Magnum is a mild kicker in the heavy Blackhawk revolver. This revolver is a fun plinker with .38 Special loads such as the Winchester 158-grain cowboy load. Accuracy is excellent and this combination is well suited to small game.

Ruger Vaquero

The Vaquero features fixed sights. While good for some uses the author really appreciated the adjustable sighted Blackhawk.

With heavy Magnum loads the revolver isn’t uncomfortable to fire at all. Unlike the double-action small-frame revolvers, this big single action has plenty of weight and also a well-shaped grip handle that makes for comfortable firing. As an example, I recently tested Winchester .357 Magnum 158-grain JHP load. This is a choice load for deer at moderate range. This load clocked a strong 1300 fps, and sent five shots into 1.5 inches at 25 yards. That is a credible performance.

I have also handloaded the formidable Hornady XTP bullet in this caliber. 125 grains at 1600 fps and a 158-grain XTP at over 1300 fps is very accurate. I have also experimented with long-range fire and the Hornady 180-grain XTP at just over 1100 fps with excellent results.

If defense against large animals is part of your scenario, the Buffalo Bore 180-grain hard cast SWC will break 1335 fps from the short barrel Blackhawk and over 1400 fps from the 6 ½-inch barrel revolver. That is a true Magnum load and the type of load that led to the statement ‘a rifle on your hip.’

Gospel Singer Paul Jordan's Ruger Super Blackhawk

This stag gripped Super Blackhawk belongs to Gospel Singer Paul Jordan.

My favorite Ruger Blackhawk, and my favorite .44 Magnum, is the Ruger Blackhawk with 6 ½-inch barrel. I recently fired this revolver with Winchester’s 240-grain flat point .44 Special. The barrel hardly moved as this 800 fps load is fired. At a long 25 yards, the lead bullets clustered into less than two inches. And it was fun!

I have also fired Winchester 240-grain hollow/soft nose in .44 Magnum. 1200 fps is a lot of muzzle stomp, and this is an accurate loading. I have also experimented with Hornady’s 200-grain XTP factory load. For deer at moderate load this bullet makes sense. There is nothing wrong with a 250-grain cast SWC and I have loaded quite a few of these.


The .44 Magnum Blackhawk remains my favorite big bore revolver and a formidable hunter. The Ruger Blackhawk isn’t a black tactical, but it is black tough and a super strong revolver well worth its price.

Are you a fan of the Single Six, Blackhawk, or Vaquero? What is your favorite model? Do you have a favorite load? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (55)

  • Richard Penick


    Vincent, I also live in AZ now just north of Tombstone. My place abuts BLM land where I can shoot every day by just climbing under the barbed wire. Never did convert my 3 screw as the first cocking notch keeps the hammer from resting on the firing pin and cannot be released by pulling the trigger alone. Never did get into the fastdraw thing. I just like to hold things that go Bang when you pull the trigger. BTW, thanks for the reply.


  • Vincent LaVallee


    Richard, I purchased my .357 Mag 6.5″ Ruger Blackhawk in 1965! I use to quick draw with it, so a bit of the blue has worn off on the inside tip, but otherwise it is in perfect condition. These guns were called 3 screw revolvers, and had to problem the old Western folks had back in the 19th century in the Old West – the gun would go off it jilted too much when a cartridge was in the camber (cylinder). I sent mine off to Ruger about 4-5 years ago, and they upgraded it for free, so now I can have a round in all chambers without fear of it going off accidentally. Have you had your upgraded? I did try to get Ruger to supply me with a 9mm cylinder for my .357 Mag Blackhawk, but they said they no longer provide that.

    As for its accuracy, I use to shoot about 100 yards in Minnesota (where I bought mine) at muskrat mounds when out in the woods, or deer hunting. I could get within 2′ with free shooting (standing), and much closer if I rested my shooting hand on something. This gun is very accurate.

    Since then, I purchased another Ruger single action Blackhawk with more power – a .45 LC Stainless 5.5″ Flattop convertible, which shoots both .45 LC and .45 ACP with a cylinder swap. Shooting low level .45 ACP rounds is like shooting 3.38 Special rounds in my .357, for both the relatively low cost and low power. But when I shoot the very high power .45 LC rounds (from Buffalo Bore), there is definitely a lot more power than the strongest .357 Mag rounds available.

    As for the difference in accuracy, it is very hard to tell. I do have to adjust the sights for differences between 45 ACP vs. 45LC, and to a much lesser degree between 357 Mag vs. 38 Spec. I now live in Arizona, and shoot outdoors, and generally shoot 25 yards or 50 yards. At 75 yards, my 1′ square targets are too hard to see!

    Vincent (01-07-2018)


  • Richard Penick


    I purchased my Blackhawk 357 mag with 6 1/5 bbl. in 1964- the same year it was made. Being only 18 at the time my dad gladly signed the paperwork and I ponied up the huge price of $89.95. I can’t imagine another revolver being as accurate and reliable as “My Ruger”. After 53 years it is still my favorite sidearm and will hit any thing I point it at . Haven’t tried it blindfolded yet but wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the mark then, either (ha ha).


  • Vincent LaVallee


    Hello Blake,

    I am a long time owner of the .357 single action blued Blackhawk, and about 5 years ago I researched the market for a Ruger .45 LC convertible and purchased a Flattop. Back then, that was

    that was available in a stainless convertible. I have shot many, many rounds in the .45, both .45 ACP and .45LC loads, from cowboy loads up to the second most powerful load Buffalo Bore makes for the .45 LC. When I shoot the very high powered rounds, I have to use both hands because there is a huge kick upwards, and after a full load (6 rounds) my hand is a little sore and the gun it hot!

    As for your question, I think the right term (unless Ruger has recently changed it) is that you are looking for a Ruger Bisley .45 LC convertible. I researched the difference between a Bisley and a Blackhawk, and the only difference is the grip. So, if you have not tried both grips already, I suggest you do that. The Bisley should be able to handle the hottest loads in a .45LC caliber that Buffalo Bore makes, compared to mine, which is a Flattop, so it is just a little bit weaker (thinner) since the bar across the cylinder on mine does not have the raised bump just before the rear sight.

    So, to fins a Ruger with all the requirements you specify is a bit difficult.
    Here is a link that list .44 Mag and .45 LC Ruger revolvers, so you have to run thru the list and look for what you want. I doubt that there is one listed as you specified. Also note that some of these guns that are listed here are listed in correctly, such a Super Blackhawk 45 LC – there is no such thing! Super Blackhawk is for 44Mag, and perhaps up in power.

    Here is a link to a Ruger .45LC 7.5″ Stainless, but there is no mention of a second cylinder:

    Here is a list of grips both the various revolvers Ruger makes, and it get very confusing. I had to order three times (returned the first two) to get the right size, even though I sent them a sketch of the grip!

    Here is another link to Ruger that shows 45LC convertibles, and I do not see any in 7.5″:

    So, after my research, it does not look like there is any Ruger Blackhawk or Bisley in 7.5″ stainless AND convertible.

    If you plan on using the revolver mainly for hunting, then I suggest to get the Ruger stainless Blackhawk/Bisley in 7.5″ and forgo the .45 ACP. Of course my research may not be complete.

    On a final note, the difference between the most powerful .45 LC load and the one I can shoot safely is about 85 ft. lbs. of ME. I have a very complete ballistics file I send out almost every month for free, and this caliber and 29 other handgun calibers as well as 18 rifle calibers are listed with full ballistics info with actual online listings availability from all over the web. vlavalle ix.netcom .com.

    Vincent (01-01-2018)


  • Blake Templeton


    I am looking for a ruger bisley 7.5 inch 45 lc stainless preferred with the spare .45 acp cylinder email me at blaketh08 @ yahoo . Com

    Remove the spaces, any help is appreciated


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