Alaska is a place that many of us dream of going. I’ve wanted to see the state ever since I can remember. The mountains and the wilderness call to me, but alas I’m not in a place in life to make such a journey. Instead, I decided to live vicariously and review the simply awesome Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan double action revolver chambered in .454 Casull/.45 Colt to get me through until I can make it up there.
I will start by saying that this is an enormous, thick revolver. Everything on this gun is heavy and large, from the unfluted cylinder to the frame to the sights. This is a gun that’s meant for the most rugged duty imaginable in the woods and wilds.
I quickly found that this isn’t a gun you’ll want to carry on your belt. Although it weighs about 50oz loaded, it feels much heavier. This gun needs to be carried in some sort of chest harness. I toted it in a great Hill People Gear Heavy Recon Kit Bag that I’ve previously reviewed here on TTAG that I’d heartily recommend.
Because of the wet, cold, and gritty environment that this gun is meant for, it’s constructed almost entirely of stainless steel. This allows the gun to be easily cleaned and maintained in harsh conditions. I’m not always a fan of stainless guns, but the corrosion resistance is there and that scores it points in my book.
When it comes to operation, the Alaskan is like a bank vault that launches bullets (and weighs almost as much). The cylinder features a triple-locking design that ensures positive function with the powerful cartridges the gun is chambered in. This also helps with accuracy, which is in no way lacking. All in all, this gun proved 100% reliable with all the ammo I tested it with.The trigger pull was smooth and the break was clean and easy.
I tested this gun with two calibers of ammunition: .454 Casull and .45 Colt. The difference between these two is basically the same as the difference between .44 Mag and .44 Special or .357 Mag and .38 Special.
The .454 Casull was designed as a wildcat round in the late 1950’s and didn’t see widespread acceptance until the late 1990’s. It’s an insanely powerful cartridge that can be loaded far beyond most other handgun cartridges. It displays what I could call savage recoil and blast. Firing it from a short 2.5 inch barrel like the Alaskan’s is a hell of an experience.
I fired three types of .454 Casull and two types of .45 Colt in this gun totaling about 300 rounds. The .45 Colt loads were very pleasant and enjoyable, while the only ‘easy’ to shoot .454 generated just about three times the recoil of the former. I noted that, despite its massive recoil, the gun was still very accurate on paper.
Testing was done on a 90 degree Fahrenheit day over an Oehler 35P chronograph, which was located five feet from the muzzle. Groups are the average result of three, five-shot five shot groups at 25 yards.
HSM 325gr Lead WFN Gas Check Bear Load———————————–947fps, 3.7”
Hornady 240gr XTP Mag———————————————————-1495fps, 3.4”
Hornady 300gr XTP Mag———————————————————–1358fps, 4”
HSM .45 Colt Cowboy 250gr RNFP———————————————–693fps, 3.5”
SIG SAUER .45 Colt 230gr V CROWN———————————————702fps, 2.5”
The variance in the power generated between the .454 Casull and .45 Colt should give you an idea of just how versatile this gun and its cartridges are. The nice thing about it is that shooting .45 Colt feels like shooting a much, much smaller cartridge. The beefy gun — especially with its Hoque rubber grips — soaks up nearly all the .45’s recoil and it’s downright enjoyable.
I was able to produce the best groups of the day with the SIG SAUER ammo, but I believe that gun was capable of better accuracy than I got with the other loads. It’s still a very accurate piece, but the brutal recoil of the .454 makes it hard to focus on marksmanship.
In keeping with that, I have a high opinion of the gun as a whole. It’s rugged, large, powerful, and is designed to be used in difficult places. The only real downside is the amount of recoil you have to put up with to send a 300gr bullet from a 2.5 inch barrel at nearly 1400fps. This isn’t so much a conversation about the gun as it is the ammo.
The gun, loaded with light-recoiling .45 Colt ammo, is fast, accurate, and easy to put on target. The double-action pull is heavy but clean, as it should be, and follow-up shots are fast. The single action pull is, as you’d expect, crisp and light.
The pinned ramp-stule front sight and adjustable rear sight with its white outlined notch are excellent and provide a quick, sight picture.
The problems for me come when coupled with the max-power loads. People say that’s what you need for bears and, having never seen a grizzly except at the zoo, I don’t have a leg to stand on for argument’s sake.
What I did find out is that the 300gr XTP Mag load was downright painful to shoot in a gun this small and it was difficult for me to shoot accurately under various drills. Follow-up shots were difficult to master and my palm was aching after a couple doubletap drills. This is an incredibly powerful cartridge, but it’s not one for everyone.
Overall I liked the HSM Bear Load the best. It’s a heavy, non-expanding bullet that isn’t exactly screaming at just under 1000fps, but is far more powerful than .45 Colt and doesn’t snap like the XTP loads. I like the Hornady offerings, but I’d much prefer them in a longer-barreled revolver or a rifle. The rubber Hogue grip helps a lot, but it can only do so much with loads as powerful as the XTP Mag.
The Super Redhawk Alaskan is an attractive, rugged gun. My time with it gave me a glimpse into what these authoritative and compact revolvers offer the modern adventurer and I have to say that I’m impressed. Ruger managed to harness a truly powerful cartridge in this gun and it was a literal blast to shoot it as much as I did. I suggest you pay www.ruger.com a visit while I go ice my palm for a while.
Specifications: Ruger Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan Double Action Revolver
Caliber: .454 Casull/.45 Colt (also available in .480 Ruger and .44 Magnum)
Capacity: 6 rounds
Weight: 44 oz.
Barrel Length: 2.5 inches
Overall Length: 7.62 inches
MSRP: $1,189 ($925 at Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Aesthetics * * * * *
Some people like ‘em thick, and Ruger dressed this baby up to kill. The gun has attractive roll marks on the cylinder, tasteful engraving, and no out-of-place gimmicks.
Reliability * * * * *
It’s a Ruger. It’s a revolver. What else is there to say?
Accuracy * * * * *
Despite my poor marksmanship, this gun shot very well. With light loads, the accuracy is excellent. Heavy and powerful rounds? You had best work up to them. This is a very accurate gun and does exactly what it’s supposed to regardless of your flinch. Bears beware.
Handling * * * *
A beast with full-house loads. I want to give it five stars, but the recoil is so great shooting .454 that most people will only fire half a box of XTP Mag before they quit. That’s no fault of the gun or the ammo, it is just how they function together.
Carry * * *
This revolver is huge on the handgun scale. It’s physically smaller than many others, but far denser. Because of the shape and size, a special means of carry (a chest rig) is probably necessary and will take some planning.
Overall * * * * 1/2
This gun is what it is. It’s not pretending to be a daily carry gun or a dedicated hunting tool. It’s a reliable, accurate, and powerful weapon for the woods that is meant for protecting you from some of nature’s biggest jerks.
Ammunition for this article can be found at www.hsmammunition.com, www.hornady.com, and www.sigsauer.com while gear and the knife can be located at www.hillpeoplegear.com and www.eseeknives.com.