Review: Ruger Redhawk .45 ACP/.45 Colt Revolver

posted on October 22, 2015

In the late 1970s, Ruger hired Harry Sefried (formerly of High Standard Manufacturing) to design the company's first big bore double-action revolver. Taking many of its cues from the successful Security-Six, the Redhawk debuted in 1979 and has been in production ever since. Built to withstand the pressures generated by full power .44 Mag. loads, the Redhawk has been a favorite with handloaders who like to shoot extra hot ammunition. Various configurations include blued and stainless-steel models with barrel lengths ranging from 4.20” to 7.50". This year Ruger released a new dual-caliber model chambered to fire .45 Colt and .45 ACP. 

This latest version of the Redhawk features an all stainless steel construction with a satin finish. The 4.20" barrel is topped with a solid serrated rib along the top for added rigidity while the barrel outline tapers towards the muzzle with a shortened under lug to keep the revolver from feeling muzzle heavy. The front sight is a removable blackened ramp with an orange insert that can be quickly swapped out for a fiber optic or night sight. The rear sight is fully adjustable for height and windage with a white outlined square notch. 

Several revolvers, including the Colt and Smith & Wesson models, are built with a removable sideplate for installing and maintaining the firing mechanism. The Redhawk, like other modern Ruger double-actions, has a single piece frame with the firing mechanism attached to a removable rounded trigger guard which provides access to it through the bottom of the frame. This monolithic design provides consistent support on both sides of the barrel and cylinder for added strength and durability. 

The 1.77" wide fluted 6-shot cylinder features cylinder bolt notches that are offset from the chambers (the thinnest part of the cylinder) for added chamber strength. The cylinder release is located on the left side of the frame. Like other Ruger revolvers, the button-like release is pressed into the frame instead of sliding forward (Smith & Wesson) or pulling to the rear of the frame (Colt). The cylinder yoke contains a spring-loaded wedge that locks in place to provide added support to the cylinder. The yoke showed no signs of binding or roughness allowing the cylinder to swing out easily to the left side of the frame when released. The cylinder spun freely in the open position and the ejector operated properly. 

Most of the grips to grace the Redhawk series over the years have been smooth hardwood with an outline reminiscent of some single-action revolvers. The advantage of this configuration is that it allows the revolver to roll back in the shooting hand to help manage recoil. Some of the 4" barrel models have shipped with finger grooved rubber grips manufactured by Hogue. Last year Ruger teamed up with the TALO group of distributors to release a special edition Redhawk with a round-butt grip frame fitted with compact laser checkered wood panels. Ruger opted to bring back the round-butt grip frame for the .45 ACP/.45 Colt version, which is an excellent choice. The wooden panels are checkered along the sides for improved purchase but smooth along the rear to allow the grip to roll back in the hand like the models fitted with the larger grip. The reduced grip profile is comfortable to shoot with while making the revolver easier to pack around. 

Removing the wooden grip panels reveals a single coil spring that supports the trigger, hammer and transfer bar safety, which prevents the revolver from firing if dropped. The use of a single spring limits the options for adjusting the trigger pull but the mechanism is much sturdier than the older leaf spring configurations. Luckily, Redhawks have good triggers right out of the box. The round-faced trigger cycled smoothly and cleanly in double and single action mode. With the hammer cocked the trigger broke crisply with 6 lbs. 14 oz. of trigger pull. To cycle the trigger in double action mode called for 11 lbs. 10 oz. but it felt a little lighter than that thanks to proper tuning at the factory.

At the base of the exposed grip frame is a round polymer grip support that contains a small takedown pin. This little pin comes in handy when dismantling the firing mechanism for cleaning or maintenance. Be careful not to lose it when removing the grip panels. 

This Redhawk differs from previous models in that it has a dual-caliber configuration that allows it to safely fire .45 ACP semi-auto pistol cartridges as well as .45 Colt revolver cartridges. A few dedicated semi-auto pistol caliber revolvers, like the Charter Arms Pitbull, can operate without the need for moon clips to hold the cartridges in place when chambered in the cylinder. But because the Redhawk cylinder was originally designed to accommodate the relatively long, rimmed .45 Colt revolver cartridge, the tops of the chambers and the ejector star needed to be recessed to make room for full moon clips to support the shorter, rimless .45 ACP cartridge. A .45 ACP round inserted into the cylinder without a moon clip slides down about half way into the chamber and sticks in a position where it can neither fire nor be ejected. The revolver arrives with three moon clips in the case and additional three-packs can be purchased for $14.95 at

The ability to shoot two calibers from the same cylinder makes this take on the Redhawk an exceptionally flexible platform. The revolver still provides all of the .45 Colt goodness fans of the cartridge enjoy, including low-recoil cowboy loads for target shooting or high quality hollow points for hunting. Adding the .45 ACP opens up a whole new level of possibilities. During the recent ammunition shortage, the less commonly used revolver cartridges like the .44 Spl. and .45 Colt vanished from dealers’ shelves for a very long time while the more popular semi-auto cartridges including the 9 mm and .45 ACP returned more quickly. If you already own pistols chambered in .45 ACP, and reload for it, then finding rounds to feed the Redhawk will not be an issue. The .45 ACP is significantly cheaper to practice with, there are a wide variety of defensive loads available for home and personal protection, and it allows the revolver be put to practical use in IDPA or similar revolver competitions. 

Before test firing this gun I checked in with the technicians at Ruger to verify ammunition compatibility for this revolver. The representative I met with said the company considers .45 ACP, .45 ACP P+ and .45 Colt standard pressure loads to be safe to fire. He was, however, noncommittal in regard to  .45 Colt rounds loaded to +P and +P+ pressure levels since there is no SAAMI standard for the  extra hot factory or hand loaded rounds that may be chambered in this gun. So, I stuck to standard pressure .45 Colt loads for testing. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that since this revolver was originally designed to digest full-power .44 Mag. loads on a regular basis that shooting souped-up .45 Colt loads from time to time will not be much of a problem.

In past reviews I have hardly been shy about expressing my personal appreciation for beefy big-bore revolvers. At the shooting range the .45 ACP/.45 Colt Redhawk exemplified the features and fun that big wheelguns have to offer. The sights were clear and easy to see. The 44-oz. weight was well balanced and kept the recoil at modest to moderate levels with all loads fired. The grip fit my smaller hands perfectly while leaving enough room for larger mitts to have enough room to maneuver. The revolver operated flawlessly without any technical issues at all. The smooth double-action trigger was a pleasure to work with for informal shooting off of the bench as was the single-action trigger for benchrested five-shot groups.

At 25 yards, the Redhawk produced the best single five-shot group of 2.72" and an average of 3.06" with Hornady Critical Defense .45 Colt 185-gr. FTX. Winchester Super X .45 Colt 225-gr. Silver Tip hollow points had a slightly larger best group of 2.84" but a slightly smaller average of 3.01". Black Hills standard velocity .45 ACP 230-gr. jacketed hollow points turned in a best group of 2.92" with an average of 3.23" followed by Barnes Tac-XPD .45 ACP 185-gr. +P jacketed hollow points with a best group of 3.14" and an average of 3.46".

The new Ruger Redhawk .45 ACP/.45 Colt revolver can be best described as a just-right big bore. The 4.20" barrel with adjustable sights is long enough to squeeze solid performance out of the ammunition fired while being a good size for competition, carry, home defense and some kinds of handgun hunting. The same can be said of the excellent round-butt grip. The Redhawk is a perfectly practical double-action when chambered for just .45 Long Colt but recessing the cylinder to accept .45 ACP moon clips takes its flexibility to a new level. If you're looking for a tough, modern, do-it-all wheelgun that launches cartridges with a 4 and a 5 in its name, then the latest Redhawk deserves your consideration.

Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Model: Redhawk (#5032)
Action: Double-Action Revolver
Caliber: .45 ACP/.45 Colt
Finish: Satin Stainless Steel
Front Sight: Removable Ramp with Orange Insert
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Grips: Laser Checkered Hardwood
Barrel Length: 4.20"
Overall Length: 9.50"
Cylinder Width: 1.77"
Weight: 44 oz.
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Twist: 1:16" RH
Rifle Grooves: Six
Accessories: Hard Case, Three Full Moon Clips (.45 ACP), Lock, Owner’s Manual
Suggested Retail: $1029



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