The latest rendition of the Ruger Redhawk is a stainless steel model with an unfluted eight-shot cylinder in .357 Magnum, a 2.75-inch barrel and a round-butt frame with hardwood grips. As Ruger put it, the gun’s features “create a package that is powerful and reasonably compact with very manageable recoil.” It was time to test that claim.
Upgraded Ruger Redhawk
My new Ruger Redhawk arrived in a gray plastic carrying case with a security padlock, the owner’s manual and other printed material, and a small bag with three stainless steel moon clips that each held eight .357 Magnum cartridges.
Taking the revolver out for a once-over revealed very good metal-to-metal and wood-to-metal fitting, and the overall finish was evenly applied. Laser-engraved lettering was kept to a tasteful minimum. I pressed the cylinder release and eased out the behemoth unfluted, eight-shot cylinder and noticed the recessed area around the ejector star that enables the use of the moon clips. I also noted the cylinder crane locking mechanism and the smooth ejector rod, which is protected by a shroud integral to the revolver’s heavy barrel.
The stubby barrel has a serrated rib on top, and the black ramped front sight has a red plastic insert to assist in dim-light shooting. The sight is mounted in a dovetail, and a spring-loaded pin above the barrel’s bore allows the sight to be replaced. I noted several sources for replacement sights of various configurations. At the rear of the thick topstrap is the fully adjustable rear sight. It’s black, and the squared notch has a white outline. You need a thin-bladed screwdriver to turn the elevation and windage adjustment screws.
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The Ruger Redhawk is a traditional double-action/single- action (DA/SA) revolver with a transfer bar safety, and the hammer has a square and deeply checkered spur. The SA trigger pull on my weighed 4.78 pounds on average, and the DA pull was about 14 to 15 pounds and stacked up toward the end of the pull, making it possible to trigger-cock the gun and then have an almost single-action-like pull at the end of the stroke. The trigger face is smooth and fairly wide.
As mentioned, this version of the Ruger Redhawk has a round-butt grip frame and is fitted with Altamont hardwood grip panels that appear to be rosewood. The rounded shape of the grips allows them to fit various hand sizes, and they let the revolver roll in your hand during recoil. The sides of the wooden panels are adorned with Ruger silver medallions and artistically shaped areas that are stippled and checkered.
Full-moon clips are an improvement on the old half-moon clips that have been around for 100 years. They’re mostly used to let rimless pistol cartridges eject from revolvers, but during the past few years, they’ve also been adapted to rimmed cartridges and serve as speedloaders.
Ammo & Leather
Right off the bat, I decided I wouldn’t use anything but full-bore .357 Magnum cartridges in this 44-ounce chunk of stainless steel and wood. So, I repaired to my ammo locker and chose four loads with various bullet weights and configurations from Black Hills, CorBon, Federal Premium and Hornady.
Leather for the new short-barreled Redhawk was pretty scarce, so I rummaged through my plastic totes and found a reliable old Uncle Mike’s Super Belt Slide holster made from the company’s nylon Mirage material. Mirage looks like leather but is half the weight, difficult to scratch and lasts a long time. The adjustable thumb-break retention strap lets me put the release where I want it, and the three belt slots allow for an FBI cant or vertical positioning. This pancake-style holster rides high, and it’s easy to conceal and fast to get into action. And yes, I know the triggerguard is exposed, so don’t put your finger on the trigger until the gun is on target.
With the three inlcuded moon clips, I was good for reloads. I also picked up a small six-round cartridge slide that would hold all three cartridge-filled moon clips on my belt. A big gun such as the Redhawk needs a firm foundation for carrying, so I slid the holster onto a heavy-duty, two-ply leather Versacarry belt. It kept the holstered Redhawk in place just fine.
I lucked into a sunny day for range work with the .357 Magnum Ruger Redhawk, with temperatures in the low 50s. I wasn’t sure where the gun would shoot, but I set up my Oehler Model 35P chronograph to get some velocity measurements and make sure the Redhawk was zeroed in. The gun shot a mite low at first, so I adjusted the elevation screw of the rear sight. Note that the screw slots on these sights are thin and small, so make sure you have the right screwdriver in your kit before you hit the range.
With the chronographing and sighting-in completed, it was time to punch paper for the accuracy evaluation. I fired the Redhawk in SA mode at 15 yards from a bench using a sandbag rest, shooting three 5-shot groups with each test load. Federal’s 130-grain Hydra-Shok JHPs created the best group at 1.64 inches. Second place went to the 180-grian CorBon JSPs at 1.74 inches, and it had the best three-group average at 2.26 inches, although I thought I’d get a higher velocity reading with it. The biggest group average was only 2.52 inches. I found the big gun’s recoil manageable, if not comfortable, with the steel grip frame and wooden stocks.
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I guess if I had to give this revolver a role, it would be for predator control, be that predator four- or two-legged. If properly placed, eight .357 Magnum shots can do some serious damage, even from a fairly short barrel.
For a practical shooting test, I decided to use a familiar combat qualification course that starts at 3 yards, moves to 7 yards and then ends with a 15-yard barricade position. I once relied on a 125-grain JHP load when I carried a .357 revolver on duty, so I went with the Black Hills cartridges. I loaded the Redhawk cylinder and then put the three fully loaded moon clips on my belt using the cartridge loop slide. I started by firing with just my strong hand, then just my weak hand. Then I used both hands to shoot double-taps, triple-taps and finally behind the barricade from standing and kneeling positions. Reloads were accomplished when needed. I fired 32 rounds altogether.
With the 125-grain bullets, I wasn’t bothered by recoil or muzzle flip. The big 44-ounce Ruger Redhawk wasn’t difficult to control, even one-handed. Heavier bullets with handloads intended to be used in bear country might be a different story. I fired quick repeat shots with good accuracy, and the sights were easy to see on the blue B-27Q silhouette target I was using. All of my shots stayed in the white Q-zone. The two low 7-ring hits were pelvis shots taken during the body armor drill. Four shots escaped into the 8-ring, but the rest were 9s, 10s and X’s.
The sights were easy to pick up, and empty cases ejected just fine, even when they were in moon clips. One observation, however: The long .357 Magnum cartridges tend to sag in the moon clips and are not held as rigidly as they might be in a speedloader. That slowed my reloading down slightly.
Otherwise, everything went well. The Ruger Redhawk did not malfunction, and the holster/belt combo functioned without a hitch. If you don’t mind the weight and bulk, this is a revolver to take into dangerous places.
Caliber: .357 Magnum/.38 Special
Barrel: 2.75 inches
OA Length: 8.25 inches
Weight: 44 ounces (empty)
Sights: Red ramp front, adjustable rear
Finish: Satin stainless