Firearms

Ruger Blackhawk .357 Mag. Rundown

zoned paper target with 5 bullet holes that show s errors in your form

Personal defense, competition, and tactical use are among the reasons people buy handguns. When power is prioritized over magazine capacity, the .357 Magnum revolver remains an excellent choice. When accuracy, reliability, and pride of ownership are important, the Ruger Blackhawk stands alone.

Don’t discount the Ruger single-action revolver as a first gun. It is a fine baseline to learn the nuances of revolver shooting. The Ruger Blackhawk is heavy, reliable, almost impossible to break, and more accurate than most of us can hold.

new model Blackhawk revolver stainless steel right profile
An interesting option for all-around rough use is the stainless-steel New Model Blackhawk.

I have owned quite a few Ruger single-action revolvers. While some have been .44 Special, .45 Colt, or .44 Magnum, my favorites are chambered in .357 Magnum. The .357 is a versatile caliber with a great deal of power.

With lighter .38 Special-level loads, the .357 revolver is a cream puff to fire and use. It is also very accurate. Full magnum loads are well suited to taking deer-sized game. With a range of velocity from 600 to 1,800 fps, the .357 Magnum is a versatile caliber.

Ruger single-action revolvers have done service as working guns that take game, teach marksmanship, and provide protection against wild animals. The Blackhawk is perhaps the most indestructible handgun ever made.

As an example, an acquaintance and avid outdoorsman once forded a creek with his Blackhawk. The Blackhawk was soaked, so he took the cylinder out and cleaned the revolver by a campfire. After he was done, he could not find the base pin!

He shoved the cylinder in place and using his camp knife, whittled out a stick into the form of a base pin. It worked! He later test-fired the revolver with the hand-cut, wooden base pin in place and it worked fine. Of course, he replaced the base pin, but this is another testament to the utter ruggedness of the Ruger Blackhawk single-action revolver.

Top down view of the Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum showing the rear and front sights
Ruger’s adjustable rear sight is a model of ruggedness and easy adjustment.

Ruger Blackhawk Features

Sure, many of us grew up watching cowboy movies and like single-action revolvers. The Blackhawk is about as far removed from the original single-action as possible. The originals were iron, not steel. The Ruger is of the highest quality steel.

The Ruger features coil springs instead of the old leaf type. The Ruger’s adjustable sights are a model for long-range accuracy. The single-action demands the shooter consider his marksmanship and focus on the operation of the revolver, not simply pulling the trigger and sending a lot of rounds downrange.

The single-action Ruger Blackhawk is loaded by opening a loading gate and then loading the chambers one round at a time as the cylinder is rotated. There is no half-cock notch on the Ruger. It is safe to carry with six rounds and a cartridge under the hammer.

Revolver in a black nylon blackhawk! holster
This simple Blackhawk! scabbard carries the Ruger afield.

After loading the loading gate is closed, the hammer may be brought to full cock. A press of the trigger drops the hammer and fires the revolver. Hence the term ‘single-action.’ The trigger does one thing, it fires the revolver. This is a simple action and one that helps shooters learn marksmanship. The single-action is slower to load, fire, and unload than a double-action revolver, but sometimes power and accuracy are more important.

The easy packing, shorter 4.625-inch barrel Blackhawk has much appeal. My personal Blackhawk .357 is a 6½-inch barrel version. This makes for good accuracy potential and a full powder burn, which increases velocity.

Firing the Blackhawk

Recently, I was able to test the revolver with a good number of .38 Special and .357 Magnum loads. The rounds were fired from a solid pistol rest at 25 yards. Velocity was measured at 9 feet with an RCBS chronograph. I fired a five-shot group to measure accuracy potential. Groups were measured in inches.

Load VelocityGroup
.38 Special
Federal Punch 120-grain1,001 fps1.7
Fiocchi 110-grain XTP1,140 fps2.0
Black Hills 100-grain Honey Badger1,160 fps2.4
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Cast Hollow Point Standard Pressure1,145 fps2.0
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Outdoorsman1,160 fps2.5
Federal Hydra Shock 129-grain  980 fps1.8
.357 Magnum  
Hornady 125-grain XTP1,501 fps2.1
Hornady 158-grain XTP1,280 fps1.9
Buffalo Bore 180-grain FP1,409 fps        2.4
Winchester 145-grain Silvertip1,399 fps2.0
Handloads
Hornady 125-grain XTP /H110 powder  1,650 fps1.8
Hornady 180-grain XTP/H110 powder  1,280 fps1.95

As you can see, the Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum is capable of excellent accuracy potential. With heavy loads, it is suitable for taking deer-sized game. With the 180-grain bullet, it is an acceptable boar cartridge at modest range.

zoned paper target with 5 bullet holes that show s errors in your form
Quite likely, the Ruger would punch a single hole in the target at 25 yards — if human error were eliminated.

Carry Options

As for carrying the revolver, it is easier than you would think. Sometimes, when just walking around in the woods, I carry the revolver in the waistline, on the strong side, with the barrel laying across the body tilted to the left. The loading gate is open to keep the revolver stabilized. When I anticipate more movement while hunting, I carry the revolver in a simple Blackhawk! fabric holster. The revolver is secure enough, and the balance is good. The Ruger Blackhawk single-action revolver is a rifle on the hip (in some ways) and among the finest choices as an all-around, go-anywhere, do-anything outdoors revolver.

The Ruger Blackhawk is so legendary that it would be a insult to ask the readers of The Shooter’s Log whether they like it. Share your Blackhawk story in the comment section.

  • new model Blackhawk revolver black right profile
  • Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum right profile
  • zoned paper target with 5 bullet holes that show s errors in your form
  • Top down view of the Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum showing the rear and front sights
  • Revolver in a black nylon blackhawk! holster
  • new model Blackhawk revolver stainless steel right profile

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. If you’re comparing a 30Carbine in 18″,why don’t you compare it to the 357Mag in a carbine in 18″??
    Yes the M1carbine has detachable magazines vs a 10 round tubular magazined 357Mag[e.g.Marlin 1894C] but…I find the 30M1 carbine mildly interesting as a carbine,but when Ruger came out with the Min-14 223-AND the Mini 30 7.62×39!,use of the M1carbine seems fanciful for defense.Even the 5.7 Johnson seems a better[albeit later]cartridge.

  2. Gary Tilman – I found your comment quite interesting, since I too own a Ruger 6 1/2″ barrel Blackhawk from way back! But I never did any competition shooting. And if I were a semi-auto handgun fan, I would seek out a 1911 as well. But what caught my eye the most was your reference to the 380 Auto, and that you carried (or currently carry) it when going out and about normally. While this is a very small handgun (I have shot it), it is also what I would call it a ‘pea shooter’. In my ballistics file I show that this ammo varies from about 188-242 ft. lbs. of ME, with the exception of the Grizzly at 276, which is all quite low. This isn’t much more than the .22 LR, which varies from about 100-140 ft. lbs. of ME. So, why do you not carry something more powerful? There are quite a few very small .357 double action revolvers, where you can shoot the rather weak 38 Spec. if you want to avoid kick, where this ammo varies from about 200-375 ft. lbs. of ME. Or, you could use low powered .357 Mag ammo, ranging from 300-450 ft. lbs. of ME to keep the kick down as well.

    Here is a list of .357 Mag double action ‘stub nose’ revolvers:
    Chiappa Rhino with 2” barrel
    Kimber K6s with 2” barrel
    S&W 360
    Ruger SP101 with 2.25” barrel
    Ruger GP100 with 2.5″ barrel
    Taurus 617 7-shot
    EAA Windicator with 2” barrel

  3. SPENCER SCHULTZ – I have to comment on your comment about using the 30 cal carbine ammo, and comparing that to the .357 ammo. First, are you shooting the carbine in a hand gun to get such low muzzle velocity (MV)? If you are, the a 110gr bullet traveling at 1450 fps delivers only 513 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME), which is a bit below the average .357 ammo, which I have listed in my ballistics file, whose average is somewhere around 600 ft. lbs. of ME. However, if you are shooting the 30 cal carbine ammo through a M1 Carbine (any 18″ barrel), then the MV here is between 1824-2024 fps MV, and it now produces between 800-1000 ft. lbs. of ME. This is right around the max ME of the .357 Mag ammo, which maxes out at 907 ft. lbs. of ME (made by PPU and Prvi Partizan – the Buffalo Bore’s highest is 899 ft. lbs.), and these all produce quite a kick in my 6 1/2″ Ruger Blackhawk.

    And on your other point about ‘leading up the gun’, there are some full metal jacket bullets available in the market in the .357 Mag ammo. Looking at my ballistics file, Sig Sauer, Sellier & Bellot, Norma, Perfecta, Fiocchi, Geco, Armscor, and American Quality all produce FMJ .357 Mag ammo, although I cannot attest to their current availability due to the pandemic impact on ammo in general. FMJ bullets leave no lead residue behind. These FMJ .357 cartridges produced by the manufacturers I list here produce from 550-835 ft. lbs. of ME.

  4. Personally I prefer the 30 caliber Carbine. It’ll give velocities of 1400 FPS or more, especially if you shoot 100 grain bullets. The lower recoil makes it more pleasant to shoot, making easier to shoot accurately. However the muzzle blast is just as nasty as the .357 Magnum to me. Ear protection is a must for me.
    I also like that the 1/2 jacketed Speer Plinkers leave no lead residue in the bore.

  5. I have a roughly 35 year old Super Blackhawk in 44 Magnum with a 10 1/2 inch barrel. I generally use 44 Special for target practice. Once in a while I’ll use 44 Magnum rounds. Either way I LOVE that revolver. Hitting targets or anything else out past 100 yards isn’t hard even with irons sights. It’s great for making you use the basic fundamentals. If you can see the target, you’ll hit it with that revolver. Where you’re pointing/aiming is where that round is going. I’ve found it to be extremely accurate even out to and past 100 yards. Even at 100 yards I have managed to put 2, 3 and 4 rounds into a 4″ to 5″ diameter circle. The only thing I have any doubt in the article is the “replacement” cylinder rod. Mine isn’t removeable that I’ve found. Cleaning is easy. Durable and a workhorse, Oh Yeah! Everything else in the article is dead on. That’s my preferred handgun for going out to the back of my property. I know whatever I aim at, I’ll hit!

  6. Mr. Campbell, a fellow retired LEO, I always enjoy your reviews and commentaries. I have an old 6.5″ Blackhawk a mentor of mine won a lot of early SASS matches with. I treasure it for many reasons. It is unconverted, but I am used to the drill having several Colts SAA’s. A favorite go-to is a 4.75″ Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum. Mild with cowboy action loads, good defense with .44 Special hollow points, and an acceptable answer for serious threats with claws. Buffalo Bore makes a couple good choices for clawed beasts.

    I’m a Colt 1911 and revolver fan, I had to carry other guns administrators got better price breaks on. Every Ruger I have owned was tough and dependable. Even the .380 LCP II. The world has changed in the past few years; I no longer am comfortable taking any .380 for a late night run for a quart of milk.

  7. I was not a “revolver guy” when I picked up the Blackhawk 6 1/2″ barrel, Having the dual cylinder allowed me to shoot 9mm, which I was able to reload for at the time. I became a “revolver guy” because of this gun and subsequently went on to buy the Ruger Redhawk Hunter version (7 1/2″ barrel) in 44 mag. The Blackhawk to this day is still one of the most accurate firing pistols I own. A revolver is also an effective training gun as you can skip loading rounds when firing to double check how shooters “dip” when pulling trigger.. My Ruger stands by me, and I’ll stand by Ruger.

  8. I am a very long time owner of a Ruger .357 Blackhawk, although mine us blued. I bought it in 1965 for $85! It is a 6 1/2″ barrel, and is very accurate. When I was young and first used it, I lived in Minnesota, and went deer hunting with it. While I never shot a deer with it, I certainly could have since I had loaded my own ammo to the max! This gun can shoot very powerful ammo. To give you an idea, the typical 9mm round has a ME of about 350 ft. lbs. lbs., and the max out at 450 ft. lbs. But the typical .357 Mag round (not the much weaker .38 Special) is around 550 ft. lbs, and it can go up to 900 ft. lbs of me. At that power, it has a hefty kick, but no where near as much as my Ruger .45 Blackhawk when shooting its very high powered ammo (LC ammo with an ME of 1219 ft. lbs.).

    But back to hunting with it – I was shooting at muskrat mounds at well over 100 yards. These were totally surrounded by water, so I could see when I missed the mound. These mounds were about 2’by2′, and I was hitting it at least 50% of the time, in the standing position. And now I just go to my outdoor shooting range (so much better than an indoor one!), and to be really accurate, I adjust the sites based on the distance I am shooting, and if there is any cross wind. It take a screw driver with a very small head in order to make the site adjustments, but it is very easy to do. Everyone who has shot this gun, has loved it. The max distance I shoot is 50 yards at paper targets I post, because anything further than that I cannot really see the target with any detail. At 25 yards I can shoot within the 8’s regularly. The variance is me, and not the gun!

    And if anyone is wondering, I sent it into Ruger about 10 years ago, and they updated it for free so I can now carry a full six cartridge load without any fear of it going off. This was called a 3 screw gun, but it has been updated. I am currently looking at getting a double action Ruger in either the ,357 or .45 caliber.

  9. Reply to RKC, No, I am talking the cylinder pin, and yes mine will NOT fall out when removing the cylinder, because the cylinder pin is long enough to bottom out on the ejector paddle, and mine is the 6 1/2″ barrel (1978). The cylinder pin allows the cylinder to be removed, yet it actually bottoms out on the ejector paddle, and thus preventing it from falling out, without the removal of the ejector housing. Thus; the cylinder pin is contained, and cannot fall out. Either way, I do not believe I would have fired mine with only a “wood stick” holding the cylinder in. Beside the associated personal risk, I wouldn’t want to ruin such an accurate firearm.

  10. Rock It

    The author discussed the cylinder pin. This pin holds the cylinder locked into the frame.

    You are thinking of the ejector rod that ejects spent cases.

  11. Quick addition:the gP100 in4″ or 6.5″is stronger than the Blackhawku.It’s a personal call.Ther[now former]Redhawk is really a beast.

  12. Nice as the Blackhawk is-especially the dual cylinder version,a Redhawk is even better.For those of us with large hands,the Hogue Monogrip fits better as well as dampening felt recoil.I also tough up/brighten up the sights with white paint,and add a lanyard stud with a short piece of shock cord.

  13. ALMOST EVERYTHING in this article is SPOT ON ACCURATE, except the one thing that was a little confusing was the part about loosing the cylinder pin, as mine is contained, and can only be removed by removing the ejector housing, which is not necessary for cleaning. Nice to see someone bring this old sable horse too light. One thing left off was the price or cost, which is usually pretty affordable, especially for such a DEPENDABLE, BULLETPROOF, WORKHORSE. Mine (years ago when I was slightly younger) out of the box, at 50 yards, put 48 out of 50 into a 6 inch bullseye. The two “fliers” were just barely outside the bulls eye. Absolutely the most accurate handgun I have ever fire, and the trigger is the envy of custom shops.

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