By Glenn Barnes
If you prefer an open-sighted hunting handgun, Ruger’s adjustable sights are perfectly suited for the rigors of serious field work. High-visibility front sights add versatility to the hunting package.
One of the most closely guarded secrets in the shooting industry during the mid-1950s was the development of the .44 Magnum cartridge. Remington and Smith & Wesson collaborated to produce the first truly big-bore handgun cartridge and six-gun designed expressly for hunting.
Today, 50 years later, the .44 Magnum is still considered to be the standard by which all handgun hunting cartridges are judged, and rightly so.
It’s the most affordable and readily available big-bore magnum. It’s produced in an astounding array of single- and double-action revolvers. It’s one of the most accurate handgun hunting cartridges ever conceived. Factory .44 ammo suitable for tackling everything from varmints to Cape buffalo is available around the world. And the majority of shooters find it the perfect combination of power and manageability.
Sturm, Ruger has long been at the cutting edge of handgun technology. Its first .44 Magnum six-gun, the “Blackhawk,” came onto the scene in 1956. Known to collectors today as the “Flat Top,” it paved the way for future generations of tank-tough and accurate Ruger single-action handguns. In 1959, the Flat Top was modified and updated at the suggestion of legendary six-gunner Elmer Keith.
Cylinder-crane gap should be practically non-existent. If more than a little is present, pass on that handgun and find another.
The original standard 6.5-inch barrel was replaced with a 7.5-inch tube. A wide hammer and trigger were added for comfort, and an all-steel grip frame similar to the old Colt Dragoon’s gave the new gun an extra measure of strength and robust good looks. It also alleviated the painful recoil of the big .44. After Keith evaluated the “Ruger Super Blackhawk,” he proclaimed it the finest single-action six-gun ever made. “It embodies all my ideas of what such a gun should be for the cowpuncher, hunter, guide or old hillbilly,” Keith wrote.
In 1973, Bill Ruger once again upset the industry apple cart by introducing the New Model Super Blackhawk. Prior to this, single-action revolvers could only be safely carried with a hammer over an empty chamber. The new gun featured a transfer bar making it perfectly safe to carry the six-shot revolver fully loaded.
From 1973 to 1991, handgunners were content with their New Model Super Blackhawks. Its success in the field was legendary, as was its ability to withstand all of the abuse Mother Nature could dish out.
The Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter’s cylinder is big and beefy, capable of withstanding the high pressures generated by the .44 Magnum.
In 1992, Ruger introduced the first single-action revolver designed for hunters. The New Model Super Blackhawk Hunter featured a heavy bull barrel, a full-length rib to accommodate factory scope rings, extra-long ejector rod and stainless-steel construction. The square-backed trigger guard was rounded for greater comfort when firing heavy loads.
This new revolver was everything a handgun hunter could ask for. Then, without notice, Ruger did a most unusual thing. The company dropped the new gun from production. No explanation has ever been offered. Almost a decade later, Sturm, Ruger realized the error of its ways and brought back the quintessential hunting six-gun.
Comparing my older Super Black-hawk Hunter to the latest version shows nothing has been changed. Both exhibit attention to detail on a par with guns costing much more. But the true worth of a hunting revolver lies in its performance, not its looks. And perform it does.
Since the 44 Mag is my favorite handgun hunting cartridge, I keep a good stock of factory ammo and reloads on hand. I gathered 10 different factory loads and 10 handloads in bullet weights ranging from 180 to 300 grains to give the Super Blackhawk Hunter a thorough workout.
As is the case with the majority of .44 six-guns I’ve tested, this one was not picky about ammo. Accuracy was superb with all loads. The largest 50-yard five-shot group averaged 2.54 inches while the smallest measured a scant 1.43 inches.
Time spent at the range with a new gun is always fun, but the true measure of a hunting handgun is in the field, not at the bench. I purchased my gun long after the hunting season had ended, so I didn’t have the opportunity to test it on game, but one of my hunting buddies fared quite well with his.
My friend was perched high in a pine tree overlooking a food plot. About an hour before sunset, two does pranced into the small clearing in front of him. The larger of the pair kept glancing back over her shoulder, looking hard at her backtrail. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, a good-sized buck walked out of the brush. The buck was about 75 yards from his stand, a bit farther than he likes to shoot when using open sights. He steadied the big Ruger, cocked the hammer, and settled in to wait for the buck to venture closer.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another smaller buck enter the clearing at 40 yards. Immediately, the larger buck ran towards the intruder to drive him away, and as luck would have it, stopped right in front of my buddy’s stand. He peered down the barrel at an imaginary spot right behind the deer’s shoulder, squeezed the trigger and sent a 240-grain bullet on its way. At the shot, the big buck simply dropped.
My friend also had a doe tag, so he decided to take the larger doe as well. She was quartering towards him about 45 yards away. The six-gun roared, and the big doe ran a short distance and piled up. My friend owns many hunting handguns, but the Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter is his favorite.
Countless handgun hunters share his opinion that the New Model Super Blackhawk Hunter is Ruger’s best effort yet. Don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.
Reprinted from the December 2005 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine