RUGER'S .454 SUPER REDHAWK
1869. 1873. 1907. 1935. 1956. 1983. Now if you are a real big bore sixgun fan you can immediately identify these numbers. They are, of course, the dates of the introduction of some very important cartridges, milestones in fact. The most important cartridges to sixgunners. In 1869, Smith & Wesson brought forth the first centerfire sixgun cartridge, the .44 S&W American in the Model #3 Single Action. It was soon modified by the Russians for their use to carry an inside lubricated bullet and the .44 Russian cartridge was born. Four years later, in 1873, Colt came forth with the now legendary Colt Single Action Army chambered for the equally legendary .45 Colt. Both cartridge and sixgun still exist in greater demand now than at any time since the days of the Frontier.
Shortly after the turn of the century, in 1907, Smith & Wesson upgraded their .44 and their sixgun, and we had the New Century, or Triple-Lock chambered in .44 Special. By 1935, the frame of the .44 Special sixgun was used as the platform for the first Magnum, the .357. Twenty years later the same platform would be used as Smith & Wesson stood the sixgunning world on its ear with the .44 Magnum.
We had surely arrived. It was impossible for a sixgun to ever be more powerful than the big .44. That was the same thing they said with the arrival of the .357 Magnum. They were wrong then and they were wrong again. In 1983, from a small factory in the middle of what most folks would call nowhere, the .454 Casull arrived in the Freedom Arms revolver.
These then are the most significant developments in big bore sixgun cartridges over the past 130 years: .44 Russian, .45 Colt, .44 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .454 Casull. Did you make it through this quiz O.K.? I hope so as here comes another one. Now we zero in on great sixguns that chamber great cartridges. The dates are 1955, 1959, 1980, 1985, 1987.
Now it is a little tougher. These dates represent the first production of several significant Ruger sixguns. The first one should be easy. That was the year that Ruger modernized the Colt Single Action Army design with the .357 Blackhawk using all coil springs to power the action, a flat-topped frame, and fully adjustable sights. When Smith & Wesson introduced their .44 Magnum, Ruger followed very closely with a larger framed version of the Blackhawk also chambered in .44 Magnum. Two years later, in 1959, the .44 Blackhawk received a larger grip frame, a wide hammer and trigger, and the Super Blackhawk was born.
During the 1970's it became increasingly harder to find a double action .44 Magnum. Smith & Wesson was running the production line around the clock and still could not keep up with demand. Prices went sky high on Model 29's with some going for double their retail price. All of this was caused not by need but by Clint Eastwood's portrayal of Dirty Harry Callahan and his "Make my day!" utterings to the bad guys.
It was time for Ruger to go big bore double action and in 1980 we finally found relief with the introduction of the bull strong, six shot double action Redhawk in .44 Magnum. It was an immediate hit with hunters especially. Seven years later, the Redhawk was made even larger and stronger with the Super Redhawk.
If you got a perfect score on both parts you are probably one of those chosen few who think about very little in this life except big bore sixguns! If we could somehow graph both sets of dates we would see Ruger and Cartridges coming together at .45 Colt, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum. Now we add one more intersection and one more date to the list. In 1999, Ruger chambers their biggest and baddest for the .454 Casull. The Redhawk was surely Ruger's answer to the need for a big double action so why the Super Redhawk? The Super Redhawk is not even a 'bigger' Redhawk or an improved Redhawk; it is simply a stronger though different sixgun. The answer is found within the pages of R.L. Wilson's book, Ruger & His Guns.
Trouble had arisen with the Redhawk about the time that they had decided to change the Redhawk so it had the grip and trigger mechanism of the GP-100. Before this could be done, a few Redhawks started blowing the barrel shanks at the threaded portion. To combat this the frame was extended to enclose about two and one-half inches of the barrel, which in turn made room for both of the scope rings on the frame rather than on the barrel. Now we know why the Super Redhawk is such a strange looking sixgun!
Then about the time they decided to change the Redhawk to this configuration, it was discovered that the problem with the Redhawk was not a design flaw or even a weakness, but of all things it was being caused by the lubricant that was being applied to the threads of the Redhawk barrel before it was screwed into the frame. So what to do now? Do you drop a very popular sixgun, the Redhawk, because of a problem that did not exist? Do you forget the new design and stay with the Redhawk? Or do you bring out the new sixgun, the Super Redhawk, and still maintain the Redhawk in the line? Sixgunners everywhere are happy that Ruger chose the latter option.
How did Ruger view the new .44 Magnum Super Redhawk? Their literature read: "The ultimate development in a heavy frame .44 Magnum double action revolver of unusual appeal for today's outdoorsmen, hunters, and silhouetters shooters. It has all the mechanical features and patented improvements of Ruger's newest double action the GP-100 (introduced one year earlier), with a number of important additional features. Unique new Ruger Cushioned Grip panels are anatomically designed to fit the hands of a majority of shooters. The extended frame is designed to accommodate the Ruger Integral Scope Mounting System which positions the scope rearward for superior balance and performance. Interchangeable front sight system. Offered in stainless steel in a variety of barrel lengths."
This is, of course, typical hype surrounding any cataloged sixgun, single-shot, or semi-automatic from any maker. However, if we cut through it we find most significant is the fact that they were very correct about the "anatomically designed" grips. They ain't pretty but they work!
Chambered in .44 Magnum, the stainless steel only Super Redhawk has indeed proven itself over the past ten years to be everything it was claimed to be. It handles the heaviest .44 Magnum loads with ease and is also easy on the shooter with its weight of four pounds plus combined with the cushioned grip panels and especially if a scope is added, and I don't see any reason to go with the Super Redhawk unless one does use a scope as it looks so strange without one!
Now Ruger has taken a giant step forward and chambered their Super Redhawk for the .454 Casull. For those that may not know just what the .454 Casull is about we can easily compare it to a .44 Magnum which uses a 240 grain bullet at 1400 feet per second. The .454 Casull is .45 caliber and its 260 grain bullet has a muzzle velocity of 1800 feet per second. To obtain this performance one has to raise the 35,000-40,000 pressure range of the .44 Magnum up to 60,000 or more. That is very significant additional strain placed on a sixgun frame and cylinder.
The rumors of a .454 Ruger started circulating late in 1997. I was told all about it at the 1998 SHOT Show by someone who told me they had the straight skinny on the project and it would be a single action Bisley Model with a five-shot cylinder plus an auxiliary cylinder for .45 Colt. A single action Bisley, a five-shooter with an extra cylinder. Sounded good to me. What did we get? A double action Super Redhawk, a six-shooter, with one cylinder. So much for those in the know!
Yes the Super Redhawk even though it is chambered in .454 Casull, and even though both Freedom Arms and Taurus use five-shot cylinders, will be a true sixgun with six cartridge holes in the unfluted cylinder. I know the question will be asked so we will handle it right now. NO! The .44 Super Redhawk should not be re-chambered to .454. When I called Ruger and asked them what changes were made to accommodate the newer, higher pressure cartridge, they informed me of two major changes. The steel used in the KSRH-7454 (Model number assigned to the Super Redhawk .454) is of a higher grade than that used for the .44 Magnum model, and the heat treating is different. Neither of these can be duplicated by any gunsmith that would convert the .44 to .454 and Ruger, of course, will not convert any existing guns to .454.
The .454 Super Redhawk looks like a .44 Super Redhawk and yet it doesn't. The same lines are there. The same strange profile of the main frame is maintained. But the overall effect is quite different. This is due to the color of the .454. I thought it had been coated with some high tech finish but a call revealed that no there was no coating but it was simply the Target Grey finish that occurred when the components were tumbled. Also the grips are different in that instead of wood colored inserts, the rubber grips have black laminated grip panels. All of this gives the effect of a futuristic look.
There are a few other unseen differences. The barrel twist on the .44 Magnum Super Redhawk is 1:20 while that found on the .454 version is slower at 1:24. The slower twist is designed to handle the faster and heavier bullets normally used in the .454. Due to the slightly larger holes found in the cylinder and barrel of the .454 Super Redhawk, the bigger version weighs in at 52 ounces compared to 57 ounces for the .44 Magnum Model.
A difference that is easily noticed is the cylinder marking. This sixgun is marked for the use of .454 and .45 Colt ammunition in the same cylinder. Freedom Arms has always cautioned against this in their guns for one simple reason. If one fires a lot of .45 Colt ammunition, a ring will build up in the cylinder just ahead of the case mouth. If this is not cleaned out it makes the insertion of the .454 round difficult in the tight chambers of the Freedom Arms .454 and could also cause pressures to rise dramatically if it prevents the .454 crimp from opening as it should when the gun is fired. If one uses .45 Colt ammunition in the Super Redhawk .454 it would be prudent to scrub the cylinder out routinely.
We have mentioned that the Super Redhawk sprang not from the Redhawk but rather the GP-100. This allowed several improvements in the Super Redhawk besides those already mentioned. The Redhawk has never been known for a great trigger. By using the basic GP-100 design, the Super Redhawk uses separate springs for the trigger and hammer resulting in a much smoother from-the-box trigger pull. The Redhawk has one of the best grip frames ever found on a double action sixgun but the GP-100 is even better being a stud that allows a lot of latitude for the size and shape of custom grips. The factory grip on the Super Redhawk is very usable and comfortable with heavy loads (most double action grip designs are not!) and the grip design is much more comfortable to use in long strings of fire of heavy loads than the Redhawk grip.
The Super Redhawk has always been scope ready and came with stainless scope rings as standard equipment. These rings mount solidly on the frame using one large screw each and semi-circular recesses on each side of the frame. For added strength, a lug on the bottom of each ring mates with a recess on top of the frame. This allows each ring to be anchored from side to side as well as front to back. The rings install easily, and once the scope is zeroed in will come back very close when the scope is removed and replaced again. With nothing more than a quarter, or similar sized object, to loosen or tighten the base screws, one has almost instant access to either scope or iron sights.
For those few that will use the Super Redhawk without a scope, I will mention that the standard sights on the Super Redhawk are a red insert front sight that is removable by depressing a plunger at the front of the sight base, thus allowing the use of replacement colored nylon front sights which are available as an option from Ruger while the rear sight is the standard adjustable white outline.
The .454 is a serious cartridge and one that must be approached seriously. I have fired thousands upon thousands of .454 rounds as well as the same or more through various .44 Magnum sixguns. I am no stranger to the recoil afforded by the .475 and .500 Linebaugh, as well as the .475 and .500 Linebaugh Longs or Maximums. I was expecting to be spending some grueling moments at the shooting bench with the .454 Super Redhawk.
I should not have spent any time worrying. The .454 Redhawk is a very easy shooting big bore sixgun! Even so I did not start at the top but worked my way up. First came heavy loaded .45 Colt rounds with 300 grain bullets at 1100 fps, then 340 grain bullets at 1250, and then, and only then did I progress on to every factory loaded .454 at my disposal as well as a few of my favorite .454 handloads.
All shooting was done with the Burris 4X scope in place in Ruger's factory rings, which added weight served to help make the .454 Super Redhawk even easier to shoot. Any .454 kicks but I kept felt recoil to a minimum with the use of Uncle Mike's shooting gloves paired with the rubber cushioned grips of the Super Redhawk. In all of my testing and chronographing over the Oehler Model 35P, absolutely no malfunctions of any kind occurred and all fired cases ejected easily from the Super Redhawk's cylinder.
As we have mentioned the Ruger .454 Super Redhawk is recommended for both .45 Colt and .454 so I started first with the .45 Colt handloads that I use mostly in Ruger Blackhawks. That is, 300 grain bullets and heavier at around 1200 fps. My normal powder charge for these is 21.5 grains of WW296 or H110. When I set the powder measure it weighed out at 21.2 grains which was fine with me.
My favorite bullets for this application are BRP's 300 grain gas check, LBT's 325 grain WFN (wide flat nose), two of NEI's standard Keith design, a 310 and a 325 grain semi-wadcutter, and finally SSK's really big .45 bullet, a 340 grain flat nose. Groups for five shots at 25 yards ran right at one-inch for these loads with muzzle velocities from 1100 to 1250 feet per second. Complete results are in the accompanying table. For most of us these are the only loads we really need as they will take care of critters in the deer, black bear, wild boar class and do it easily.
Next came the Heavy Duty .45 Colt factory loads from Buffalo Bore and Cor-Bon. Buffalo Bore's 300 Speer and 325 LBT loads both shot at around 1330 feet per second and grouped at 1 1/8" and 5/8" respectively. With Cor-Bon the choice is a 265 Bonded Core, a 300 Bonded Core and 300 Jacketed Soft Point. All of these are around 1275 feet per second and grouped at one-inch or less. Certainly nothing wrong with the way the .454 Super Redhawk shoots with .45 Colt loads be they factory or home brewed.
No we move up to the loads that are offered by both Winchester and Cor-Bon For the really big tough stuff. Winchester now offers ammunition with a 260 and 300 JFP that are dead ringers performance wise for the loads that were formerly offered by Freedom Arms. In the Super Redhawk these clock out at 1745 and 1544 feet per second respectively and group again at one-inch or less. My favorite from Winchester for most hunting applications is the 260 grain Partition Gold that clocks out over the Oehler Model 35P at 1803, that's right, 1803 feet per second.
To help further convince myself that the Super Redhawk really was an easy shootin' sixgun, I handed it to my Cowboy Shooting friend Ray Walters and asked him to shoot it and tell me what he thought the load was. The Super Redhawk was loaded with six rounds of this Partition Gold 260 grain load. After firing a cylinder full, Walters guessed it was a 240 at 1400 feet per second. He was quite surprised to find he was so far off the mark in his guess. It really does shoot easy!
Cor-Bon covers all the bases .454 wise with their offerings. The bullets and their respective muzzle velocities from the 7 1/2" barreled Super Redhawk are a 265 Bonded Core (1641), a 285 Bonded Core (1505), a 300 Bonded Core (1515), a 320 Penetrator (1508), a 335 Hard Cast (1508), and a 360 Penetrator (1441). These loads are all designed for serious hunting applications against big animals.
At no time did I experience any malfunctions of any kind . While at the SHOT Show Winchester and Ruger took a bunch of us writer and industry types out to shoot the new Super Redhawk and Winchester's factory .454 ammunition along with several other guns and types and calibers of ammunition. At the time the .454 jammed up tight. All six rounds were stuck in the cylinder and they would not budge even when pushing the ejector rod against the end of the shooting bench. It took a hammer to get them out. My first thought was Oh-Oh, We have big problems here! Turned out not to be the gun's fault at all. Someone, certainly not a writer, had loaded the cylinder of the .454 with six rounds of .44 Magnum ammunition and fired all six. They swelled up against the chamber walls and would not be moved.
We now know that the .454 Super Redhawk shoots well and also does it with a minimum transfer of felt recoil to the shooter. The only thing left to find out will take time. Time in the field to see how it holds up over the long haul. I never bet against any sixgun that says RUGER on the barrel.
RUGER SUPER REDHAWK .454 X 7 1/2"
....Courtesy of GUNS Magazine