By Trampas Swanson

Perhaps one of the best things about hunting I have discovered is the amazing opportunities the sport offers. For a true outdoorsman, not only do you get to enjoy the great outdoors, but hunting also tests one’s marksmanship to assure a clean and humane kill. As I grew up in eastern North Carolina, learning to shoot and hunt were basically rites of passage for a young boy. Fortunately for me, I raised with two very accomplished hunters, my father Rick and grandfather Charles, as my main influences.

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Hunting With Large Handguns

As I grew, I was challenged with different levels of hunting and the tools to do so. I hunted squirrels with .22 pistols and rifles, tracked doves with shotguns, and harvested deer with a 32-20 lever action borrowed from a close friend of the family. Over time, my favorite game to hunt would become whitetail deer. Soon I graduated from open sight rifles to shotguns, then I turned to black powder rifles, scoped rifles and finally bow hunting. When the time came to join my dad hunting deer with a scoped pistol, there was little question as to my willingness.

By then, my father had been hunting with a Ruger Super Redhawk chambered in the powerful .44 Magnum for at least 5 or 6 years. Through constant training, my father was able to make incredible shots hanging from his sling-style tree stand. After several fantastic shots were made, Dad decided to mount a scope atop his pistol. This extended his comfortable range of shots out to the 120 yard limit.

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I believe I was around 23 years old when I decided to join the ranks of the handgun hunter. Before making my purchase, I did my due diligence in researching my handgun options. I knew already I would go with a pistol chambered in .44 Mag because my grandpa handloaded excellent ammunition for my dad’s pistol. He reused nickel plated brass and Lubalox coated Black Talon hollow points manufactured by Winchester. At the time, my top three choices available for purchase locally were the Colt Anaconda in a gaudy tiger stripe camo pattern, the Smith & Wesson model 629 and the Ruger Super Redhawk like my father owned. Due to the large size of the grips of the Colt and Smith & Wesson, the Ruger’s peg-style frame wrapped in a thinner, rubberized grip fit my medium sized hands the best.

Ruger Super Redhawk History

To understand why the Ruger Super Redhawk revolver is still such a powerhouse in the handgun hunting world, we must take a quick look at where it came from first. Building off the rock solid Redhawk double action revolver design from the late 70’s, the Super Redhawk debuted in 1987 chambered in the top hunting cartridge of the time, .44 Magnum. Originally offered in 7.5” and 9.5” barrel lengths, the Super Redhawk retained its half under barrel lug ejector rod housing as opposed to competitors using the full lug design. This saved weight and helped the pistol’s balance move closer to the shooters hand. This weight shift helps to retain more control during the heavy recoil. The integral scope rings and free 1” scope rings immediately endeared the pistol to hunters.

Ruger fans may notice the Super Redhawk shares the same trigger design and grip panels as the famed GP100 .357 Magnum revolver. Like the GP100 and Redhawk, the Super Redhawk was constructed of stainless steel and offered in three finishes: blued, semi-gloss (featured) and high gloss. In 1997, Ruger expanded the Super Redhawk line by including the .454 Casull in a new target grey finish and later the .480 Ruger in 2003. These two new calibers offered different dynamics for handgun shooters with high pressure loads. Despite these loads being heralded as the “latest and greatest,” most true handgun hunters remained with the classic .44 Mag for its proven performance and readily available ammunition supply.

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Recently, Ruger began to offer the Super Redhawk in 10mm much to the delight of its strong cult following. The widely accessible ammunition in proven loads offered by companies such as Buffalo Bore, Federal, Winchester and Hornady Ammunition make this new chambering in an old favorite fresh and new in the industry for devoted handgun hunters. Having shot one during this year’s NSSF Industry Day at the Range prior to the doors opening at SHOT SHOW, I can tell you from experience the 10mm Super Redhawk offers a great option for handgun hunters who want the power of a 180 grain round through a heavy pistol to soak up the recoil. These shooters may be younger or smaller framed who wish to have a more controllable option or can’t handle the heavy recoil of the .44 Magnum’s 240 grain – 340 grain rounds.

Specs

  • Weight: 2.75 lbs.
  • Barrel length: 2.5 in (Alaskan), 5 in (.454 Casull), 6.5 in (10mm), 7.5 in, or 9.5 in
  • Caliber: .44 Mag, .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, 10mm
  • Action: Double-action revolver
  • Feed system: 6-round cylinder, 5-shot cylinder on 2008-later 480 Ruger
  • Sights: Integral scope ring mounts, adjustable rear sight, fixed front sight with orange insert

Hardware and Ammo

Having owned a Super Redhawk for a couple of decades now, I have worked with this pistol extensively to ensure success in the field. The last thing you want to do when hunting game such as 200 lb. wild boar is knock one down only to find out its merely wounded. They have been known to attack you when you try to approach. To assist in getting the most out of its accuracy, I mounted a Leupold 2.5-8x32mm Pistol Scope on the Super Redhawk. The generous eye relief and duplex reticle offer a crystal clear field of view that makes shots on “kill zone” sized targets out to 150 yards a simple matter of using a good rest or mastering a steady hold.

For carry in the field, I recently upgraded my holster from a nylon shoulder holster from Uncle Mike’s to a beautiful leather chest rig holster from Galco. The new rig accommodates the pistol’s scope in an open top holster with a thick leather retention strap. Galco calls this rig the Kodiak Hunter, which positions the Super Redhawk perfectly for getting in and out of a deer stand. It also provides quick access if one crosses paths with an angry hog or bear. Due to the heavy grade, quality leather construction, this holster will outlast me with just simple, proper care. Retailing for $210, this is one of the best investments a handgun hunter can make of their pistol.

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While recoil can be greatly reduced by using .44 Special, I have always viewed this round used in a pistol such as the Super Redhawk much like driving a Corvette with a V-6 engine. It is simply out of place. My preferred ammunition of choice was originally hand loads from my grandfather, but sadly with his passing in 2016, I have moved on to various factory loads. The loads I have found to perform best are from Hornady and PPU (Prvi Partizan). Both the Hornady 240 grain XTP jacketed hollow point and PPU’s 240 grain PPH44MH jacketed hollow points proved to be spot on accurate and offer great expansion when taking game. Pushing a massive 240 grain bullet between 1300 – 1450 FPS and generating a range of 971 – 1280 foot pounds of pressure at the muzzle, both loads are quite impressive and powerful enough to handle a wide range of tasks. The slight edge for overall expansion on medium sized game such as white tail deer goes to Hornady while PPU holds the edge on larger game such as elk and mule deer.

Range Time

Recently, fellow Swanson Media Group writer, Clint Steele and I decided to take the ol’ Ruger hand cannon out to the range to check zero and film the video segment for this article. Working from my Herders shooting bench and Caldwell shooting bag, Clint and I took turns squeezing off shots at a few Shoot-N-See targets using PPU .240 grain ammo. As with anything you may take a break from regularly doing, shooting a big caliber revolver takes a bit of practice to become proficient. The grip and general approach to shooting a heavy recoil revolver is a bit different than semi-automatic pistols. Clint and I aren’t immune to this. When I regularly hunted with the Ruger Super Redhawk, I shot once a week with it, mostly freehand to simulate hunting situations. Confidence in freehand shots at 100 yards and braced shoots maxing out at 150 were regularly practiced and finally mastered after months of diligent training and a considerable investment in ammunition. These skills were regularly kept sharp to ensure cleanly taking medium sized game with 6”-8” vital zones.

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With this being said, I was greatly pleased to see my first shot strike about 2” low of center and my follow up shot strike dead on. Thanks to the Shoot-N-See targets, hits on target were clearly visible from the shooting bench. Once Clint became acclimated with the scope’s eye relief and acquired a stable, clear sight picture, he squeezed off a series of three shots with solid results. We started off shooting in single action by manually thumb cocking the hammer with each shot. This gave both shooters a lighter and shorter trigger press. Moving to the longer, heavier double action trigger press, both our shot groups started to open by as much as 30%. This would decrease as Clint and I became more acclimated to the change in trigger weight and travel.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Ruger Super Redhawk is by far, my favorite revolver ever made. Colt fan boys will quickly rally around the Anaconda .44 for its collectability and high asking prices, but for me, it’s all about proven real world application outside of a gun safe. As I previously mentioned, the pistol fits my hand as if it were custom made. This is a rarity in the Magnum caliber pistol market. The Super Redhawk offers a wide range of power with chamberings offered in .44 Mag, 454 Casull, .480 Ruger, and now 10mm.

To shoot the Super Redhawk accurately, it’s all about proper form and recoil management. Educated shooters of all statures have been able to master the pistol’s power thanks to the comfortable grips and ergonomic design. Aside from mounting a scope and replacing the factory rosewood grip inserts with custom made elk horn, the pistol has remained stock since day one. I have never felt the need to change trigger springs or have any fancy custom work down to the cylinder or barrel. Compared to the 15 – 20 other revolvers I’ve owned since purchasing the Ruger, none have seemed as successfully purpose built for hunting as the Super Redhawk.

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As we verified during recent trips to the range, my personally owned Super Redhawk .44 Mag has remained incredibly accurate over 20 years. The accuracy retention owes a lot of the credit to the well-made cold hammer-forged steel barrel which commonly offers more precise rifling. Additionally, the action still locks up as tight as a bank vault to ensure the timing and safety are intact thanks to the triple-locking cylinder. Many times older, heavy use revolvers will lose timing. The danger in this comes when the mistiming starts to misalign the round in the cylinder with the barrel and cause the bullet to strike part of the forcing cone. This causes it to cant or partially sheer off and ruin accuracy. This can also cause sheered lead to fly back at the shooter or promote a stoppage of the round in the barrel, which may not be caught until another shot is fired and causes damage to the firearm.

Perhaps the best factor about this pistol is that it continues to provide me with priceless memories each time I take to the woods with friends and family chasing deer, hogs and other medium sized game. Its built like a tank and will still be serviceable with proper care not only through my kids’ lifetime but that of my future grandkids as well. With a MSRP of around $1159.00, the Ruger Super Redhawk can often be found retailing realistically around the $1000 mark with the Leupold VX-3 going for around $719.00. The only update to the new models I have seen thus far, other than the 10mm chambering now offered, is that all models are now shipped with a full rubber Houge grip for even more recoil absorption and control. If you are interested in getting into handgun hunting, I urge you to forego the cheaper brands on the market and check out a Super Redhawk for yourself.