Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum Revolver
By Rick Ryals
The Ruger Blackhawk (Old Model) was introduced in 1955 and was initially chambered in .357 Magnum. The original Blackhawk was a midsize frame revolver for the .357 caliber and weighed 38 ounces. It was constructed of chrome-molybdenum steel with a one-piece aluminum alloy grip frame and trigger guard. The original barrel length was 4-5/8”, with several different barrel lengths (5-1/2" and 6-1/2" being the most common) offered over the years. Other chamberings added subsequently included .44 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .45 Colt and .30 Carbine.
In 1956, the Blackhawk appeared in the then new .44 Magnum. The .44 Magnum chambering used a larger, heavier frame with a 6-1/2” barrel length. 7-1/2” and 10” barrel lengths were made available later. This larger frame size was also used for .41 Magnum, introduced in 1965 and .45 Long Colt, introduced in 1968. The standard Blackhawk continued to be offered in .44 Magnum until 1963.
Although the Ruger Blackhawk outwardly resembled the discontinued Colt Single Action Army revolvers, Bill Ruger introduced design changes to improve strength and reliability compared to the older Colt revolvers. Coil springs were used throughout instead of flat springs. Other internal parts like the sear and cylinder bolt were made thicker and stronger. These changes made the new Ruger revolvers more reliable that the older design. In fact, the strength and durability of Ruger single actions has become legendary.
In 1959, Ruger developed and introduced the Super Blackhawk (Old Model) specifically for the .44 Magnum. This larger, heavier revolver weighed a whopping 49 ounces and was designed to better take advantage of the power of the new cartridge, as well as handle its recoil. It was initially offered with a 7-1/2” barrel length for an overall length of 13-1/4”. The barrel featured six grooves with a 1:20” twist rate. The original Super Blackhawks were all blued steel with walnut grip panels. The black Ruger eagle adorned the grips near the frame.
Several features distinguish the Super Blackhawk from the standard Blackhawk. First, the grip frame is steel instead of aluminum and longer with a distinctive square back trigger guard. Other new features included a wider hammer spur, a wider serrated trigger, an unfluted cylinder and an integral sight rib at the rear of the top strap. The internals received more hand fitting than standard Blackhawks.
In 1972, Ruger ceased production of the Old Model single action revolvers. In 1973, the New Model Blackhawk was introduced. This new model was produced in only the large frame version and weighed 40 ounces. The New Model Super Blackhawk was also introduced in 1973 and weighed 48 ounces.
The New Models contained Ruger's transfer bar ignition system. This is perhaps the safest single action trigger ever produced, as the hammer cannot contact the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. Thus, unlike the old model Blackhawk and all other traditional SA revolvers, the New Model Ruger single action revolvers are safe to carry with six cartridges in the cylinder.
The New Model Super Blackhawk was initially offered with a 7-1/2” barrel as the Old Model had been. Over the years, additional barrel lengths have been introduced, including 4-5/8”, 5-1/2” and 10-1/2”. Barrel rifling remained six grooves with a 1:20” twist rate. Metal finish was available in both blued and stainless steel. Early models had walnut grip panels, but this was later changed to laminated hardwood.
Currently manufactured Super Blackhawks are offered in both blued and stainless finishes. Grips are laminated. In addition to the standard Super Blackhawk, Hunter and Bisley versions are also offered. Both feature a 7-1/2” barrel with integral rib for Ruger scope rings. The Bisley model has the longer, more curved, Bisley grip frame. Both of these models weigh 52 ounces.
The standard Super Blackhawk grips are stained to resemble rosewood, while the Hunter and Bisley versions are stained black. Both fluted and unfluted cylinders are offered. Trigger guards can be had in round or square back versions. Barrel lengths available are 4-5/8”, 5-1/2”, 7-1/2” and 10-1/2”. Weight varies from 45 to 55 ounces, depending on barrel length, cylinder fluting and barrel rib (in the case of the Hunter and Bisley). Fully adjustable rear sights are standard on all Super Blackhawks.
The Super Blackhawk that is the subject of this article was produced in 2010. It has a satin finished stainless steel frame with rosewood stained laminated wood grips. The Ruger Eagle medallion is located on the grip panel near the frame. The barrel length is 4-5/8”, overall length is 10-1/2” and the weight is 45 ounces. The trigger guard is the round version and the cylinder is unfluted. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation and the front sight is a 1/8” black blade mounted on a stainless ramp. It is a very handsome, traditional looking revolver.
The trigger pull exhibits a small amount of creep before breaking at 64 ounces on a RCBS trigger pull gauge. The pull weight is consistent. While 64 ounces (4.0 pounds) is not a light trigger pull, I consider it reasonable for a modern production gun.
The grip on the Super Blackhawk is noticeably thicker than that used on Ruger's New Vaquero revolvers. It has a substantial feel in the hand. At 45 ounces, this revolver is no lightweight. However, its weight is reasonable for the .44 Magnum cartridge and lighter than the longer barreled models. Either .44 Magnum or .44 Special cartridges can be fired, making it a versatile revolver.
At the shooting range, I found that the velocity of Winchester factory loads with 240 grain jacketed flat point bullets averaged around 1350 feet per second. Group size at 25 yards was around 3” with this ammunition. Considering that my previous centerfire handgun experience has consisted of 9mm and .45 ACP semi-autos, I found the factory loads a hand full.
Anticipating this, I also included some mid-range handloads. These consisted of Speer 270 grain jacked flat point bullets loaded over Accurate No. 7 and Hodgdon HS-6 powders. I used Remington cases and Winchester WLP primers. If you do not handload, .44 Special cartridges can be used for practice.
Loads with 13 grains of Accurate No. 7 yielded around 990 feet per second, while 14 grains produced around 1040 fps. Loads using HS-6 produced 970 fps with 11 grains, 1040 fps with 12 grains and 1120 fps with 13 grains. These loads were noticeably more comfortable to shoot, yet would still be capable of taking medium game. Most of the 25 yard groups shot with these loads averaged around 2” to 3” with a couple (that were my fault) going to 4”. Unfortunately, the Super Blackhawk is capable of better accuracy than I am.
Overall, the Ruger Super Blackhawk, like other Ruger firearms, is an incredible value in today's market. The 2011 MSRP of the model reviewed here is $709. For comparison, a nickel finished Colt Single Action Army revolver carries a 2011 MSRP of $1490 and is only suitable for .357 Mag., .45 Colt and .44 Special. Freedom Arms offers single action revolvers in .44 Magnum, but their MSRP starts at $1870.
This is not to say that these companies do not make fine revolvers. This comparison is merely intended to illustrate what an incredible value the Ruger Super Blackhawk represents. It is an extremely durable, reliable, well-built and handsome gun. We owe Bill Ruger a debt of gratitude for making these fine American made single action revolvers available to us at such a reasonable price.
Copyright 2011, 2012 by Rick Ryals and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.