Even with the advent of semiautomatic pistols, there are those who still view the .357 Magnum revolver as the king of the streets. Sure, there are more-powerful revolvers, but when considering felt recoil and the ability to obtain fast follow-up shots, the power of those larger calibers is negated by increased recoil—unless you’re a master of big-bore magnums.
Understanding this, Ruger decided to up the ante with capacity, instead of caliber, with the latest “snub nose” addition to the Redhawk family. More specifically: Ruger took the larger-framed revolver, reduced the caliber size to .357 Magnum and then increased the cylinder capacity by 33 percent to eight cartridges, instead of six.
TALES OF THE REDHAWK
Production of the original Redhawk began in 1979, and its design intent was to create a revolver that could stand up to the pressures of big-bore rounds such as the .44 Magnum. Borrowing from the design of the Security-Six, the new Ruger Redhawk had a one-piece frame that made it much stronger than similar offerings on the market.
Although the Redhawk was initially designed for the .44 Magnum in two barrel lengths (5.5 and 7.5 inches), over the years, the Redhawk line has been offered in .45 Colt, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum and even .45 ACP.
Additionally, Ruger later offered more barrel lengths, including 4 inches, 4.2 inches and, as seen with this new iteration, 2.75 inches. While the Redhawk was previously chambered for the .357 Magnum load, those early samples were six-shooters. And because the smaller caliber required less metal to be removed from the cylinder and barrel, the .357 offerings were substantially heavier than their big-bore siblings.
Throughout its storied history, the Ruger Redhawk received much praise for its strength and durability, along with its accuracy. In fact, the cylinder on the Ruger Redhawk is slightly longer than other brands’ large-framed cylinders, which allow boutique ammunition companies (Buffalo Bore and Garrett Cartridges, for instance) to create more-powerful loads for rounds such as the .44 Magnum.
THE NEW MEMBER OF THE FAMILY
Ruger’s newest .357 Magnum Redhawk is almost identical to the Talo Distributor Exclusive Redhawk that’s currently being offered in .44 Magnum. The only real differences are the caliber, the non-fluted cylinder and the fact that this latest Redhawk bears a capacity of eight rounds. Like the Talo Model, the .357 Magnum Redhawk weighs 44 ounces, has a 2.75-inch barrel and has an overall length of 8.25 inches. The sight system also includes the red-ramp front sight and an adjustable rear sight with a white outline.
The eight-shot Redhawk comes in a satin stainless finish and offers rounded hardwood grips for more concealability. The bonus with this model is that the cylinder is relief-cut to accept full-moon clips for faster reloading.
The average DA trigger pull was a manageable 10.75 pounds, with an SA pull of 7 pounds. The SA pull was quite a bit heavier than I expected, although it was a crisp break with no discernible pre-travel. The trigger pull in both cases was very smooth, even though I would have preferred a lighter single-action pull.
Despite its more “compact” profile in comparison to standard Redhawks, Ruger’s latest copy is still a hefty little beast. As mentioned, it weighs 44 ounces, which is just a little more than a standard, full-sized 1911.
Also, including the cylinder, the eight-shot marvel is 1.78 inches wide, so if you’re going to make this your concealed-carry piece, you will have to really want the two extra rounds. I’m a big guy and could make it work, but a robust platform (i.e., a belt and holster) would be needed to keep this revolver secure and stable for any extended period of time.
“In typical Ruger fashion, it’s a firearm you can depend on…”
THE REDHAWK’S LANDING
Out of the box, the Redhawk impressed me positively overall. The compact grip doesn’t provide much to hang onto, considering the gun’s forward-heavy bias. But, that’s to be expected, given that the revolver is made to be more concealable—even with its large frame. One thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the very smooth hardwood grips. They seemed to slip around in the hand a bit, even just handling the firearm.
There was no time to lose; I got right down to the fun part and started blasting away. SIG Sauer provided its 125-grain Elite ball ammunition for general practice, so I started out with it and ran two boxes of it through the Redhawk at various distances to get acclimated to the revolver and get a feel for any issues.
The accuracy of the Redhawk firing the SIG loads offhand was very good, although I noticed a bit of an issue cropping up after about 30 rounds: The wood grips are designed to allow the Redhawk to roll in the hand a bit so the recoil doesn’t stove up the shooter’s hand. In my case, those smooth grips were letting the revolver roll too much. This resulted in the squared-off top of the back strap—where it mates up with the left grip panel—slamming back into the webbing of my thumb at the bottom knuckle. At the time, it wasn’t a huge problem, but I did notice it. This is the difference between slim wood grips and recoil-absorbing rubber grips.
As mentioned, the cylinder is relief-cut to allow the use of full-moon clips, and Ruger includes three in the box with the Redhawk. I made good use of these during my drill sessions at the range. Obviously, it’s not as quick to charge a revolver with moon clips as it is a pistol with magazines, but with a little practice, it’s much better than reloading by hand. With hundreds to thousands of repetitions to develop appropriate muscle memory, you can do it extremely fast—and blindfolded, as well (although the shooting part will require removing the blindfold!).
After getting through the preliminary shooting, it was time to do some accuracy testing. Fortunately, there was a good variety of premium ammunition on hand. The loads used for accuracy testing included SIG’s 125-grain Elite V-Crown, Winchester’s PDX1 loads, Buffalo Bore’s 125-grain J.H.C., Hornady’s 158-grain XTP and Double-Tap Ammunition’s 200-grain Hard-Cast rounds. Despite the shorter sight radius of the 2.75-inch barrel, the accuracy testing was done from at 15 yards from a standing rest.
The .357 Magnum Redhawk is built for maximum concealment for its size, but it can still do double duty on the trail, so it was worth keeping the distance at 15 yards and putting some heavier loads into the mix, as well. The accuracy results were very consistent between the lighter and heavier loads. The average group size ranged from 2.02 inches to 2.33 inches. The best group size was with Buffalo Bore’s 125-grain J.H.C. load, coming in at 1.50 inches; but the best average for three groups was obtained by Hornady’s 158-grain XTP load, with an average of 1.94 inches.While the ramp front sight with red insert has been around for a while and is used by a few companies for their revolvers, I much prefer the fiber-optic sights, such as the one that was on the Ruger .44 Special GP100 I recently reviewed. It allowed for more-precise shots—and that’s especially important on a handgun with just a 2.75-inch barrel. While firing from the rest, the top of the back strap beat against my thumb as if that was its job.
Geez! It really started taking a toll when I was shooting the 158- and 200-grain loads. Even the extra-spicy 125-grain Buffalo Bore loads were making the Redhawk hammer home. But the harsher recoil results happened while I shot from the rest, where the hand and arms don’t give as much as they do when shooting offhand. For most people, shooting from a rest isn’t going to be a common activity, so it’s not really going to be an issue.
Plus, I passed it around to a few shooters, none of whom had an issue with it. It could simply be the size or shape of my hand.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
With the newest addition to the Redhawk family, Ruger replicates all the factors it has become known for in the first place. The Redhawk is built Hell-for-stout, is accurate, and has a great finish and a beautiful set of grips to make it stand out in a crowd. The MSRP of $1,079 isn’t exactly chump change, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. Even so, it’s still a bit of a niche gun. First, it’s a large-framed revolver originally designed for the .44 Magnum.
However, both the grip and the 2.75-inch barrel are designed to work for concealed carry. If concealed carry is a consideration, there’s only a certain segment of the population that can make it work. The user will need to have a large enough body frame to carry it off—and even then, it will only work with the right gear. If concealed carry isn’t a concern, and hefting the 44 ounces all day isn’t a problem, have at it! It would make a great field gun or open-carry piece that’s fairly unobtrusive, despite the amount of firepower at the user’s disposal. In addition, having an eight-shot .357 Magnum revolver is a nice step up from the standard six-shooter.
“The Redhawk is built hell-for-stout, is accurate, and has a great finish and a beautiful set of grips to make it stand out in a crowd.”
There’s a lot to like about the new .357 Magnum Redhawk, and if its design criteria meet your specific needs, I’d heartily recommend picking one up when it’s available. In typical Ruger fashion, it’s a firearm you can depend on, and it will be around for generations to come.
SIG Sauer 125-grain Elite V-Crown
Hornady 158-grain XTP
|Buffalo Bore 125-grain J.H.C.||1,473||2.02||
Winchester 125-grain PDX1
|Double Tap 200-grain Hard Cast||1,166||2.09||
NOTE: Bullet weight was measured in grains, velocity in feet per second 15 feet from the muzzle by a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph, and accuracy in inches for three five-shot groups at 15 yards.
ACTION: DA/SA revolver
CALIBER: .357 Magnum
FINISH: Satin stainless steel
FRONT SIGHT: Ramp with red insert
REAR SIGHT: Fully adjustable, white outline
BARREL LENGTH: 2.75 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 8.25 inches
WEIGHT: 44 ounces
CAPACITY: 8 rounds
TWIST: 1:18.75 inches, RH
STURM, RUGER & CO.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.