My son, Michael, got his Federal Firearms License not long ago, and he tells me that right now is a good time to buy guns – as there are more potential sellers than buyers. Looking on gun selling websites pretty much confirms that, as I am seeing guns offered for sale that were fairly hard to find not that long ago. Among these are good revolvers in hunting calibers, including a good number of Ruger Blackhawks and Super Blackhawks. I have had a yen for a .45 Long Colt revolver for some time now, and recently scratched that itch with a “pre-owned” New Model Blackhawk with a 7 1/2″ barrel. The .45 is one of the few cartridges that made the upgrade from black powder to smokeless and is still a viable option, even in these times when rustlers, stage robbers, and renegade “Native Americans” have pretty much been brought under control.
My .45 had pretty weathered grips when I got it, obviously the ones that came with the gun.
I usually upgrade the grips on any handgun I buy soon after I take possession, and already had several “custom” grip types on order for my Super Blackhawk which wears the same grips as the New Model Blackhawk, I elected to refinish these stocks to “get me by” until some of the new ones came in. Below is a comparison of the older grips after sanding and refinishing with an oil finish to the grip on the “good side” of my new Ruger. The next shots show the .45 grips after refinishing. I think the old grips actually cleaned up nicely, and are an improvement even over the new Ruger grips.
I do not care for open sights on most handguns, and only have 2 1911’s and a .38 revolver with open sights – and the 1911’s wear night sights on one and fiber optics on the other. Although I do not expect to try to play Elmer Keith and shoot long range with my .45, I find it much more precise to aim with a long eye relief pistol scope, and almost as fast to get on target as with a red dot type optic, especially if you can shoot with both eyes open. Accordingly, I mounted My Weaver 2X on this gun, at least for now.
Had my first “range test” yesterday, using loads with 300gr Sierra jacketed soft nose bullets with a light charge of Titegroup power that is supposed to yield 700 – 850 fps (depending on barrel length). Did not take the chronograph, and only fired 6 rounds, mostly to insure everything worked correctly. These bullets are listed on the box as .4515 diameter, and .45 Colt specs usually show .452. I have some 300gr Hard Cast bullets on order from Montana Bullet Works, because I have had very good luck with a 335gr cast bullet from them in my suppressed .44. Dave at MBW asked that I measure the actual cylinders, as Ruger has a reputation for making them a bit “off spec” in their .45’s. Five of my cylinders measured close enough to .452 to call them that, the sixth was actually nearer to .4515. My .4515 bullets fit easily through all the cylinders except the smaller diameter one, and they went through that one with slight resistance. Since Hard Cast bullets are a bit softer, overall, than jacketed bullets,this means a .452 cast bullet should work fine. In fact, the .4515 jacketed bullet was fine in that cylinder, also.
Recoil with this charge was less than a full bore .44 mag – or ,45 LC, of course, but due to the weight of the bullet it is still noticeable – but not unpleasant to anyone who shoots .44 mags a lot. My experience with the big hard cast bullets at sub sonic velocities – 1050 – 1100 fps – has shown that big bullets at “slow” speeds penetrate very well on hogs out to at least 75 yards, and I expect most of my shots to be closer to 25 yards, so I will be confident using this load that will be easier on both the revolver and my wrist. If more power is needed, the “old” .45 can deliver it! Modern .45 loads can push past .44 magnum power levels, even closely approach those of the powerful .454 Casull.
For more detail and some load data for the .45 “long Colt”, here is a link to an article by John Linebaugh on his efforts with the .45 that contains considerable praise for the Ruger Blackhawk revolver:
Be sure to note his recommendations for suitable revolvers to fire stouter .45 loads. Since Ruger does not chamber the Super Blackhawk in .45, I was pleased to note that the standard Blackhawk is considered strong enough for even strong .45 loads. I was surprised at the assertion that the only difference between the two revolvers was that the cylinder of the SBH was stronger and heavier. My super calibrated hunting pistol/sausage scale shows that the .45 Standard Blackhawk weighs just under 3.5 pounds, with the 2X Weaver scope mounted and a 7.5″ barrel. The .44 mag Super Blackhawk with the same mount as the BH and a scope of similar weight on a 5 1/2″ barrel gives a reading of 4.25 pounds – and feels obviously heavier. (These are unloaded weights) I suspect maybe the BH has an aluminum grip frame, while the SBH is steel), and the hammer on the SBH is larger and of a shape that looks almost like a compromise between the standard hammer and a Bisley hammer. I am going to shoot 300gr Hard Cast bullets in my BH .45, at probably under 1000 fps, for less recoil and longer gun life – maybe later on I’ll invest in a “stronger” revolver to try to use the .45 cartridge towards its true potential.
As with the Ruger .44 mag I shot last week, it was very easy to “get on paper” with this revolver and load at close range. I was pleased with the few shots I made offhand, and expect the actual sighting in from my rest will go very well. Realistically, at the close range I was shooting, the first 3 shots would have killed a hog, if aimed in the right spot. I continue to be pleased with the Weaver 301 base mount for Ruger Blackhawks. It is easy to install and mount a scope with this base and Weaver type rings, and it is very secure, None of the shooting I’ve done so far has worked anything loose – although a bunch of hot loaded rounds might do that eventually. I also wanted to make sure the sort of cylinder latch problems I have found with my new Ruger SBH did not appear after mounting this base and scope and shooting it. Whether for good or bad, this is not the case. The older Ruger is still tight as a bank vault, so the mount is evidently not the problem with the newer Ruger either.
Hope to get back out and finish fine tuning the sighting on both of these Ruger “big bores” soon – and get some shots at hogs soon after that. Bore sighted with my old BSA optical type instrument this morning, so should be an easy process to finish.
Another “old-timer” gets back in the game!
While still having problems with new production Ruger SBH’s, I found thus “well-used” SBH with 7 1/2″ barrel in .44 magnum for what I considered a very good price. It showed neglect in the form of some surface rust – even had “dust bunnies” in the chambers! On the other hand, it wears a set of Pachmeyer wrap-around recoil absorbing rubber grips. This model SBH has an unfluted cylinder – which I prefer if only for looks – and the squared off back edge of the trigger guard which some complain hurts fingers, and thus is covered by the rubber grip. This gun is massive, even compared to the standard Blackhawk, which is a substantial gun itself. In contrast to the cylinder movement problems I found with my recent “new” SBH, this one locks up tight and solid, function is perfect so far. I hope to make this into a “mild” custom, with a new finish, wood grips, and a few other touches. I do not expect any mechanical changes to be needed, and the timing and trigger are as good as I could hope for – so cosmetic touches are all I plan for now. It already wears a Belt Mountain base pin I had on hand, and I have mounted my T/C 2.5 X 7 variable scope. After quite a bit of oiling, polishing, and a touch with a wire brush most of the surface corrosion is gone, and it could almost look like just “honest” wear that a hunting handgun could be expected to pick up over the years – almost makes me tempted to keep it this way. This is one solid magnum revolver, and makes it obvious why Ruger has built such a reputation of excellence in this field.
Range test to follow, then we’ll wait on the return another the finish job.