6 + 2: Ruger’s .357 Redhawk—Portable Power/Magnum Punch!
By John Taffin
Using 8-round moon clips, the roundbutt Ruger .357 Redhawk can come with hardwood stocks varying in color.
Man has long been faced with difficult decisions. Is it hereditary or environment? Form or function? Ginger or Mary Ann? One we can mostly answer when it comes to firearms is which is most important: form or function? Unless you’re simply a non-shooting collector, function has to be preeminent. However, at least for me, I not only want perfect function (or as close as we can get to it), I also prefer eye-pleasing sixguns and semi-autos.
Most of today’s current crop of polymer pistols are extremely reliable, but will never find their way to an art gallery. In contrast, many sixguns are absolute works of art and those which have primarily been designed for self-defense and LEO use before semi-autos took over are especially representative of beautiful form.
John used a variety of factory loads in testing the .357 Redhawk.
Ruger originally brought forth their bull-strong, totally reliable Redhawk chambered in .44 Magnum in the mid-1980s. They went on to add versions in .45 Colt and rare versions in .41 Magnum and .357 Magnum. In recent years 4-inch versions have appeared in both .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. Now the .357 Magnum has been resurrected and in a totally unexpected version.
The latest Redhawk is in .357 Magnum and is greatly changed from the original. Instead of a 5-1/2- or 7-1/2-inch barrel this one has a 2-3/4-inch barrel made for easier packing and to be quicker into action. The grip frame has been changed to a roundbutt version not only more concealable but also more comfortable for shooting than the square-butt version (at least for me). The greatest change is the cylinder which now holds 8 rounds instead of 6. While doing all of these changes Ruger managed to come up with a very serious-looking self-defense or everyday packin’ pistol. With this short a barrel, it is not the best choice for field use, however it can be pressed into service and is definitely at a great advantage for self-defense use.
Simply Rugged offers this very sturdy and secure holster for packing the Redhawk .357 in either
straight draw or crossdraw positions.
John’s favorite load for the Ruger .357 consists of a 180-grain Rim Rock GC bullet at nearly 1,100 fps.
Pair Of 8s
For testing, I had a pair of Ruger Redhawk .357 Magnum 8-guns at my disposal. Weighing in at 44 ounces these are certainly not lightweight revolvers and if they are going to be carried, require special leather. Simply Rugged, as its name implies, produces sturdily built leather holsters made for secure carry. For this Resurrected Redhawk Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged offers a pancake design with three belt slots which allows the Redhawk to be carried either strong side or cross-draw. It rides high on the belt and in close to the body for both comfort and ease of concealability.
The roundbutt hardwood stocks are very comfortable, however, for long sessions of heavy full-house .357 Magnum loads I replace them with rubber grips. The factory hardwood grips are fine for normal use and definitely to be desired for concealability and everyday carry, but over firing hundreds of test loads, my hands appreciate the recoil-absorbing rubber grips.
These Redhawks are equipped with a fully adjustable Ruger rear sight matched up with a red insert front sight. The factory front sight proved to be too tall for my shooting resulting in groups printing low. The front sights are changeable and held in place by a spring-loaded plunger entering from the front of the base of the sight ramp. A call to Ruger resulted in lower black front sight blades available for the GP100. While being shorter these are still too tall for my use and need a little file work to bring my groups up to point of aim.
Using pin gauges to measure the chamber throats I found both revolvers had uniform 0.357-inch holes. Single-action trigger pulls left a lot to be desired with one being 6-3/4 pounds and gritty and the other smooth but heavier 8 pounds. Double-action pulls were smooth at 11-1/4 pounds. Both guns will benefit from action tuning and a trigger job.
This loader from California Competition Gun Works makes loading 8-round moon clips a snap.
Ruger supplies stainless steel, 8-round moon clips with the Redhawk and offers extras as well. I went with some aftermarket blued moon clips and quickly found there was a definite difference between them. The stainless steel clips are a little more rigid which turned out to be important as we shall soon see. For ease of loading the moon clips—be they stainless steel or blue—California Competition Gun Works offers a mooner/demooner which is much easier to work than those I have used in the past. For loading the 8-round clips, cartridges are placed one at a time in the opening on the clip and then pressed into place with a simple lever. For unloading, or de-mooning, a simple ring at the end of the tool snaps the fired cases out easily.
I discovered a couple of things when using moon clips. There is a great deal of variance in the rims of different manufacturer’s cartridges with some slipping into place easily and others being more difficult to load. When loading the moon clips into the cylinder I soon discovered the rigidity of the stainless steel clips made it much easier to line up 8 cartridges with 8 holes than with the more flimsy blued clips.
Bullet shape also made a very big difference when it came to loading these revolvers. Bullets with a Keith-style shoulder were much more difficult to line up and load than those bullets without a shoulder. I’ll never be a Jerry Miculek when it comes to fast operation of loaded moon clips, however I do my best work with the stainless steel Ruger clips and properly shaped bullets. Yes, these revolvers can be used without the clips, however, one of them gave me occasional misfires without the clips being used.
Buffalo Bore’s .38 Special loads delivered excellent accuracy.
Hornady and Remington factory .357 Magnum ammo gave impressive results.
Since these are basically self-defense revolvers, all test groups were fired at 7 yards. With most loads results were excellent. Factory .357 Magnum loads which gave groups under 1-inch for 7 shots included Hornady’s 125 XTP-JHP at 1,420 fps/7/8-inch group. Speer’s Gold Dot 125 HP gave 1,326 fps/3/4 inch. Remington Golden Saber 125 JHP gave 1,180 fps and 7/8-inch in one Redhawk and 5/8 in the other. My favorite handloads consisting of the Rim Rock 180-grain LBT WFN GC over 14.0 grains of 4227 for 1,070 fps with a 3/4-inch group from both revolvers. Right behind this load is my second choice using the Rim Rock 158-grain SWC HPGC over 15.5 grains of 4227 with a muzzle velocity of 1,100 fps and 1-3/8-inch groups from both revolvers.
Someone is sure to say these revolvers are too heavy for daily carry. I must admit I often go only with an Airweight J-Frame in a front pocket for absolute comfort, and I hardly know it is there. However, although these Redhawks may not be as comfortable to carry they are certainly more comforting. A proper holster such as the Simply Rugged modified pancake design, which allows either strong side or crossdraw carry, makes carrying not only secure, but as easy as possible. Together these two revolvers weigh 88 ounces (5-1/2 pounds) unloaded plus the weight of the cartridges. However, after losing 35 pounds and trying for more, I do not notice the weight of these revolvers nearly as much as I would have previously.
To recap, the Redhawk is a double-action revolver shooting eight .38 Specials or .357 Magnums through a barrel 2.75 inches long. Overall length is 8.25 inches and weight 44 ounces. The all stainless steel revolver has a fully adjustable rear sight, red insert front with hardwood grips all for $1,079.
Ruger’s first offering in the resurrected .357 Redhawk will soon be joined by longer barrel versions. Hopefully, they will offer both 4- and 7.5-inch versions along with the planned 5.5-inch one.
Sturm, Ruger & Co.