Most shooters think of snub-nose revolvers in the context of diminutive concealment guns. Thus, at first glance, the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan-a large-frame, six-shot revolver with a 2 ½-inch barrel, chambered in .454 Casull or .480 Ruger-may seem like an anomaly. Actually, it is a reasonable solution to a problem faced by those who live or play in America's Western wilderness: the threat of an unexpected attack by a bear or other dangerous animal.
The idea of the Super Redhawk Alaskan came to Ruger President Steven Sanetti while on a trip to Alaska. There he heard repeated requests for a short-barreled, large-bore magnum handgun for handy field carry. Responding to this input, Sanetti and the Ruger design team quickly made the idea a reality, and the Alaskan was introduced in 2005.
The Alaskan is identical to the standard Super Redhawk (January 1988, p. 56), with the exception of the shorter barrel and the absence of frame cuts for scope mounts. The Super Redhawk's rubber, wood-insert stocks were replaced by a Hogue Monogrip having finger grooves and a Sorbothane cushion along the backstrap. Sighting is by way of a ramped, serrated 0.12-inch-wide black post in front, and a rear unit adjustable for windage and elevation, with a white-outline 0.135-inch-wide notch. We would have liked a front post with a red or orange insert if we had to suddenly take aim at a large, angry critter with dark fur.
We tested our Alaskan, chambered for the .480 Ruger cartridge, at 25 yards off sandbags with a 325-gr. Gold Dot soft-point load from Speer and two Hornady loads featuring 325- and 400-gr. XTP hollow-point bullets. Accuracy and velocity results are contained in the accompanying table.
Accuracy was good for a sharp-recoiling revolver having a short sight radius. The average grouping was 2.33 inches at 25 yards with the Hornady 325-gr. load. All loads stayed within a bear-size animal's vitals at reasonable handgunning range. No malfunctions were noted.
Though the recoil of the Hornady and Speer 325-gr. loads was tolerable for experienced big-bore handgunners, Hornady's .400-gr. load crossed into the discomfort zone. Interestingly, that load also retained more of its nominal velocity in the Alaskan than did the lighter-bullet loads. While the short barrel reduced the muzzle velocity of Hornady's 325-gr. load nearly 250 f.p.s. from its nominal 1350 f.p.s. value generated out of a 7 ½-inch barrel, the company's 400-gr. load dropped only 58 f.p.s. from its published muzzle velocity of 1100 f.p.s.
The muzzle velocity and energy generated by the .480 Ruger in the snubby Alaskan are considerably less than could be achieved with that cartridge out of longer barrels. In fact, the ballistics of the .480 Ruger Alaskan are equaled or exceeded by many .44 Mag. loads out of standard-length tubes.Those wanting more power out of the Alaskan could opt for the .454 Casull chambering, which would also allow the use of .45 Colt ammunition for reduced-power practice. Comparing the Alaskan's performance on paper with longer-barreled guns misses the point, however. Handiness is the gun's raison d'etre. Unlike wheelguns with 6-inch or longer barrels, it doesn't slap against the thigh or dig into the waist when holstered on the hip, and when carried in Ruger's shoulder holster, it is readily accessible in just about any position. Its compact size affords every outdoors-person in bear country the ability to be well armed at all times.
When you're walking around the camp, fishing for lunch at the river or gathering firewood in the nearby forest, you probably won't have a rifle in your hands. At such times, the Super Redhawk Alaskan is one of the best insurance policies you can buy.