The latest handgun to be chambered for the ultra-powerful .44 Remington Mag. cartridge is the new Ruger .44 Mag. Blackhawk single-action revolver manufactured by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Southport, Conn.
Examination of a production gun indicates that it is nearly identical in design with the .357 Mag. Blackhawk revolver first offered by the Ruger Firm in December 1955. The only significant difference noted is that the frame and cylinder of the .44 Mag. Blackhawk have been lengthened and widened slightly to accommodate the .44 cal. cartridge.
Our sample gun weighs a fraction over 2.5 pounds and has a barrel length of 6 1⁄2 inches with sight radius of 8 1⁄2 inches. The Micro target rear sight, click-adjustable for windage and elevation, is recessed into the top strap to give a low silhouette. The 1/8-inch wide square blade Baughman-type quick-draw front sight is mounted on a large rectangular ramp block sweated to the barrel. The heavy, slightly tapered barrel is .705 inches at the muzzle and .780 inches at front edge of frame, and is rifled with six narrow lands, with a right-hand twist. The cylinder frame is a high-strength alloy steel casting; grip frame and trigger guard are dural castings. The smooth two-piece monogrammed grips are of varnished American walnut.
Design improvements Mechanically, the .44 Mag. Blackhawk, like other Ruger single-action revolvers, is a much modernized version of the old Colt Single Action Army and Frontier revolver first offered in 1873. Significant design improvements are the substitution of virtually unbreakable coil-type action springs in lieu of old style flat springs and the independent rebounding-type firing pin mounted in the cylinder frame instead of on the hammer nose. The cylinder frame is of reinforced construction with thick and wide top strap for maximum strength. The 1 3/4-inch-diameter cylinder, machined from tough alloy steel, is 1 3⁄4-inches long with chamber mouths counterbored to provide maximum case head support.
The single-action lock mechanism requires hand cocking of the hammer prior to each shot. The lockwork allows the hammer to assume one of four positions: all the way forward, in the safety notch, in the loading notch, or in the full-cock notch.
Through long custom, most users of single-action revolvers carry them with the hammer down on an empty chamber. It is dangerous to carry a single-action revolver with hammer down on a loaded cartridge since the firing pin then rests on the primer. Any bump against the hammer might accidentally discharge the cartridge. Reliance on the hammer safety notch is also unwise as a hard bump has been known to break it allowing the hammer to fall and discharge the cartridge. These comments are offered for information only and are not meant as specific criticisms of the Ruger revolver since they apply to virtually all single-action revolvers, regardless of make.
For our offhand firing test we used both .44 S&W Spl. and .44 Remington Mag. factory loads. These cartridges are completely interchangeable in the Blackhawk since head dimensions are identical, the only difference being the 1/8-inch greater length of the .44 Mag. case. Accuracy obtained with 770 fps, 246-grain, .44 Spl. loading was excellent with recoil extremely light in this relatively heavy 2 1⁄2 pound gun. We then switched to the heavier 1570 fps, 240-grain, .44 Mag. loading which in the enclosed range gave a truly spectacular muzzle flash. Accuracy was excellent although average groups were somewhat larger than those obtained with the lower velocity .44 Spl. loading.
The consensus was that the grip is a bit on the small side considering the recoil of this high-velocity, heavy-bullet cartridge. A slightly larger grip, with increased finger room in the rear of the trigger guard, would definitely enhance the shooting comfort of this fine gun.
Examination of bore and cylinder after firing disclosed no traces of lead, which is no doubt due to the excellent Remington gas-check bullet designed especially for this cartridge. We checked the tightness of every screw on the gun both before and after firing. The after-check indicated a slight loosening of several grip frame screws, ejector rod housing screw, and hammer pivot screw. (Note: this loosening can be virtually eliminated by placing a drop of varnish under the screw heads.)
Fit and finish of all parts and assemblies are excellent. Steel parts are attractively polished and blued; dural grip frame and trigger guard are black anodized to match.