The Ruger Redhawk 44 Magnum Double Action Revolver

   06.23.20

I seem to be on a bit of a 44 magnum kick lately, so I might as well talk about the Ruger Redhawk, that double action revolver which was introduced in 1979. By then, Sturm, Ruger, and Co. had been making double action centerfire revolvers for several years and had found success with its line of medium-frame guns based on the Security Six.

The Redhawk, which was necessarily larger to handle the 44 Remington Magnum cartridge, was not just a scaled-up version of the Security Six; one reason being that Bill Ruger was a tinkerer who often changed his designs, even on the same model. And of course, he needed the new revolver to be very strong.

The resulting gun was surely strong, but the trigger pull is terrible — suggesting he might should’ve stayed with the same trigger design used in the Security-Six. The Redhawk’s single action trigger pull is one of the worst-ever, and like other Ruger double action revolvers the double action pull is inconsistent and heavy.

Although designed for the 44 mag, the Redhawk has also been offered in 357 S&W Magnum, 41 Remington Magnum, and 45 Colt (with the latter version being somewhat notorious for poor accuracy).

The gun shown in this article is an older version that’s no longer available, with 5.5-inch barrel and blued steel finish (blued versions were dropped in about 2005). These days they only come in stainless steel, with barrel lengths of 2.75, 4.2, 5.5, and 7.5 inches.

Right side of Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver. (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Right side of Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver.
(Photo © Russ Chastain)

The right side of this revolver is marked “RUGER Redhawk” and has Ruger’s trademark phoenix logo stamped on the lower portion of the frame, with “.44 MAGNUM CAL.” on the right side of the barrel.

The Redhawk is easily taken apart without many tools, and one of the tools you need is a pin that stores between the grips… but you probably shouldn’t go there unless you have a good instruction book and are mechanically inclined.

I’m not a fan of the factory grip supplied with Redhawk revolvers, and have been known to classify it as “extremely poor.” What’s worse is the large number of aftermarket grips I’ve tried that were equally crappy. The fairly decent rubber grips shown on this gun are Butler Creek brand.

Some years ago, a friend searched long and hard before finding a decent grip for his stainless Redhawk; here are some things we learned:

  • Factory Redhawk wood grips offer poor control and aren’t very “grippy”
  • Hogue finger-groove grips are too narrow and provide poor control
  • Pachmayr finger-groove grips aren’t much better than Hogue
  • Collecting Redhawk grips is not cheap
  • The best grips he could find were standard Pachmayr rubber grips without finger grooves. They fill the hand pretty well and give reasonable confort & control.
Left side of Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver. (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Left side of Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver.
(Photo © Russ Chastain)

Stamped on the left side of the barrel is the obligatory Ruger “read the manual” warning.

Like any 44 magnum revolver, the Redhawk will happily digest ammo marked 44 Special as well. This is roughly comparable to shooting 38 Special in a 357 Magnum revolver.

Top rear view of Ruger Redhawk 44 Magnum Double Action Revolver showing the sights and hammer spur. (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Top rear view of Ruger Redhawk 44 Magnum Double Action Revolver showing the sights and hammer spur.
(Photo © Russ Chastain)

The Redhawk’s front sight has an interesting design with a quick-change feature. This one has a nice red-orange plastic insert, and can be removed by pressing a plunger at the front of the sight’s base.

The frame is inletted for the rear sight, which pivots up & down on a cross pin via the elevation screw. If you remove the rear sight by removing the elevation screw and cross pin, take care not to lose the spring(s)!

The cylinder latch is on the left side of the frame, like many other double action revolvers; to open the cylinder, press the button inward towards the gun’s centerline.

I have heard complaints of short firing pins on many Redhawks. If you have that trouble, consider getting an extended one from Bowen.

Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver with cylinder open. (Photo © Russ Chastain)
Ruger Redhawk 44 magnum double action revolver with cylinder open.
(Photo © Russ Chastain)

The thick cylinder walls are one feature which has helped the Redhawk earn a reputation for toughness; another is the cylinder that’s a touch longer than other 44 mag revolvers. It also helps that the cylinder latch secures the crane as well as the rear of the cylinder — and the frame has a lot of mass and lacks a side plate.

Conclusion

The Ruger Redhawk is rugged, and many consider it about as tough a 44 mag as you can lay your hands on. It’s usually dependable and accurate, with the possible exception of 45 Colt models.

A capable and well-practiced shooter could surely use the Redhawk 44 to hunt big game and/or as personal protection while hunting/hiking in bear country. It’s a bit large for self defense carry, and it might be a good idea to get some frangible bullets in 44 special if you plan to use it for home defense.

It’s a big, heavy, tough revolver and many folks dearly love the Ruger Redhawk 44.

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