Incongruous. INcongruous. InCONgruous? However you say it, surely the picture in the dictionary next to that word should be the “Carry Hawk” revolver, a new Talo Distributors Exclusive Blackhawk .45ACP/.45 Colt Convertible from Ruger.
According to the advertisements by Talo, the “Carry Hawk” is another handgun “designed to Wiley’s specs.” No, it’s not the famous coyote they’re referring to, but the writer and editor, Wiley Clapp. Mr. Clapp’s contributions to the craft have been immense. Between the books he’s written, being the Handgun Editor for Guns & Ammo, and his articles in American Rifleman, he’s been a fixture in firearms literature.
Print media being what it is today, which is about as dead as the trees it’s written on, more people probably know the Colt and Ruger guns he’s associated with than his actual writing. That’s a shame, because Mr. Clapp has walked the walk and I’d hope that folks who are relatively new to firearms will look him up.
The goal for the “Carry Hawk” appears to be a single action revolver that you can carry every day for personal protection, and still keep on the farm or ranch for game or larger threats, like smaller, less irksome bears. Clapp says the “Carry Hawk” is as “at home in a high-riding Threeperson-style holster on a rancher’s hip as it is in the glove box of his GMC pickup.” (Gone are the days when a rancher could afford a new pickup made by GMC.)
What Mr. Clapp describes was accomplished with the very first Colt Model P, and in a smaller, lighter gun. But those Colts, handy and beautiful as they are, are not half as capable as the full-framed Blackhawks. If you tried to run the same loads in a Model P as you can in this Ruger, you’d be very, very sorry.
Capable as it may be, the Ruger Blackhawk .45 ACP/.45 Colt convertible Talo “Carry Hawk” is one of the weirdest single actions revolvers I’ve come across in a long time.
It starts out great.
This is not a small or lightweight firearm. The revolver is built on Ruger’s New Model Blackhawk frame. It’s not the slightly smaller frame of the .357s or the New Model Blackhawk flattops. The top strap, cylinders, and the whole frame measures the same as the newer New Model Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum.
The upside — and it’s a big one — is that this allows the shooter to not only easily handle the pressures of .45 ACP, but also the heavier 20,000 psi loads, and then some.
Covering the entire firearm is what Ruger refers to as a “black matte carbon finish.” I assume this is a diamond-like carbon PVD finish, but I could be wrong as there’s no more information provided by Ruger.
Note that all the metal is finished this way, to include the Super Blackhawk style lowered hammer and the trigger shoe. The finish is even throughout and gives the revolver a tough looking exterior to match the Blackhawk’s renowned actual toughness.
The only downside is that the finish acts a bit like a chalkboard. Bump it against a tree limb or set it down on the caliche and it’s going to show up nice and bright. All of the photos I took of this revolver were after the shooting and carrying for the review. Tried as a might, I just couldn’t get some of the handling marks to come out.
Ruger is great in that they release their guns — especially their distributor exclusives — with a wide variety of barrel lengths. The “Carry Hawk” sports the shorter 4 5/8″ barrel that has long been popular with cowboy action shooters.
It’s always hard for me to decide between the 5 1/2″ length or the 4 5/8″, but the shorter barrel does look better. (Note that the advertising literature released by Talo is wrong. It is NOT a 4″ barrel, but the standard 4 5/8″ length). It’s also slab-sided, with the ejector housing running the full length and terminating at the muzzle. That barrel is my favorite feature of the gun.
Staying near the muzzle end, you’ll find a big departure from the standard Ruger sights. Instead, there’s a white XS Big Dot setup, which are much more popular on smaller, self-defense minded pistols.
The rear sight is the familiar adjustable rear, but instead of just a notch there’s a single white line in the middle. Turn the teeny screw clockwise on the side of the rear sight and the post, along with your point of impact, moves left. The front is a very large white circle dot, .2″ in diameter.
The traditional use of this kind of sight is to place the dot right over the target and place that front sight dot on top of the rear sight line so that it looks like a lollipop. Because the front dot is so big and bright, you’ll easily see it in low light and it pops right into view as you press the gun forward.
If your goal is minute-of-dude at seven yards, it’s hard to beat. It also works well for failing eyes, as long as you don’t care too much about the rear sight alignment.
The downside is that hold, combined with the large dot, makes precise shooting pretty much impossible. At seven yards, the front sight obliterates a 2″ target. At 25 yards, it covers the entire vital zone of most game animals.
To ameliorate this issue, you can sight in with a more traditional 6 o’clock hold at 25 yards, placing the top edge of the big dot right underneath the target. This will allow the shooter a much more precise hold, and you’ll still be able to use the “hold on target” sight picture on targets right in front of you, as long as precision isn’t the priority.
Moving back behind that super-cool barrel, we get to the cylinder(s).
When it comes to adaptability and flexibility, the only thing that might beat a Ruger single action convertible in .45 ACP/.45 Colt is a Ruger single action in 9mm/.38 SPL/.357 Magnum. Then again, which one wins depends entirely on what you are looking for.
The Carry Hawk features two unfluted cylinders, one chambered in .45ACP and the other in .45 Colt. Unlike the Single Six convertibles, neither of these are labeled in any way, and the only way to tell the difference visually is to look inside the cylinder and see how far down the throat it starts. Or just load it.
The dual cylinder feature is great if you need to purchase ammunition at the store, as .45 ACP is usually more commonly available than .45 Colt, not that you can find either of them on shelves these days. For the reloading revolver shooter, there’s nothing the .45 ACP can do that the .45 Colt can’t. And since this is a full-framed Blackhawk, there’s a whole lot you can do with it. More on that later.
Moving further to the rear, we come to the trigger. Like most New Model Blackhawks, it’s okay. But just okay. The average trigger pull weight, as measured by my Lyman Digital Trigger Scale, is 4lbs 6.2oz. That’s the average over five pulls, and there was a full 3 oz. of deviation from the top and bottom pull weights.
This particular revolver’s trigger doesn’t have the grit and slight catches some Ruger single actions are plagued with, but it does have a long bit of squish before the hammer falls. The Ruger New Model Blackhawk is one of the more difficult single action triggers to get light and crisp, without backlash, and usually takes a competent gunsmith to get it just right. It’s worth it.
So far, so good. There’s a solid “working gun” theme here.
Then, right there at the back, everything goes awry.
Gone are the hard lines of the slab sided barrel. The fullness of the unfluted cylinder is abandoned. Right there, right where you’d expect the long vertical line of a Ruger Bisley grip to emerge, it curves quick, and abruptly ends.
What you have instead is the most striking thing on this revolver…the bird’s head grip. It doesn’t fit the look or feel of the rest of the gun at all. Visually, I love it. It’s different and seems totally out of place with the barrel, frame, and cylinder, and that’s why I love it. Visually.
In the hand, not so much. It’s just too small for me. The plow handle is maybe better when shooting a heavy load with both hands for precise shooting, but just maybe. For the heavy .45 Colt loads, the Bisley grip is where it’s at. You don’t find John Linebaugh putting out a single action in .475 or .500 Linebaugh in anything but the Bisley grip frame for good reason.
For shooting light loads or any of the .45 ACP loadings, the bird’s head grip works just fine. Heck, single-handed on a 230gr 800fps load, it rolls nicely. But if I try to get my full hand on it, the higher grip makes the lowered hammer spur dig into the web of my firing hand, and is particularly uncomfortable for the heavier (20,000 psi) .45 Colt loads. It also doesn’t work at all for me if I put on work gloves. Again, it’s just too small for my hands.
But hey, options are great. There are lots of people who shoot single actions well who absolutely love and swear by the bird’s head grip. It’s certainly diminutive, and if your goal is to conceal carry a large frame revolver, it’s a comfortable way to go.
The scales on the grip are a beautiful black micarta, accented with a silvery Ruger medallion. They look absolutely perfect on this gun. I’d love to see black and white micarta grips on more Ruger factory revolvers. The material looks great, and is as durable as it gets.
Together, with the flats of the barrel, the 4 5/8″ length with the full-length ejector housing, the finish, the micarta grips and the un-fluted cylinders make for a gun that looks great. I’m not sure I would have put all of those together, and if you described it to me, I’d say hard pass. But I’d be wrong. The whole is more than the sum of the parts on this one, and all of that really adds up on this gun.
I fired a few different kinds of leftover .45 ACP round for accuracy testing, but there was no need beyond that to test for reliability. If the round will chamber, it will fire in .45ACP just as it does in .45 Colt. I fired some .45 ACP, and even some .45 Super for this review, but I spent most of my time with the far more versatile cowboy cartridge.
That cartridge in this revolver will fire everything from the easy-on-the-wallet and easy-on-the-wrist 185gr soft lead Cowboy Action loads moving at 700fps, to so-much-fun 255gr home cast bullets pushed by 37 grains of black powder…all the way up to the show-stopping fully capable 300gr hard cast round with a muzzle velocity just touching 1,000fps.
This is the extreme versatility that justifies carrying a single action Ruger for so many people. Beyond the style, “pointability” and reliability, it’s the fact that you can put such an incredible variety of loads through a single action Ruger. And that goes double for this dual cylinder revolver.
Because of the sights and the slightly shorter sight radius, precision shooting suffered a bit with the “Carry Hawk” compared to my other Ruger single actions, including the convertible .45s. That giant front sight, even with a 6 o’clock hold, made precise shooting more difficult.
At 25 yards, I couldn’t get any round to print better than 3″ with a five-shot group, averaged over four shot strings off bags. The groups themselves told the tale. If the horizontal spread had matched the vertical spread, then several groups would have hit the 2″ mark.
That said, everything I shot went around that 3″ mark. That goes from Remington’s Golden Saber and Black Belt .45ACP rounds, to the aforementioned 300gr hard cast “Ruger only” load. I would expect that a more traditional sight set-up would lead to more precision. If the shooter wanted to change the big dot and the rear notch, it’s a very simple and inexpensive process.
The cylinder gap measured at .004″ with a feeler gauge. The bore diameter was .451″. The cylinder throats for the .45 Colt measured five at .453″ and one at .452″, and the .45 ACP measured all at .452″, using a minus pin gauge set.
I ran out of Cerrosafe, so I couldn’t take a cast of the forcing cone. That said, I hammered a soft .454 ball down the bore and it measured at bore diameter, so we know the forcing cone isn’t smaller than that.
I’ve now measured dozens of New Model Blackhawks made in the last 10 years or so, and whatever tight cylinder throat and forcing cone issue Ruger used to be known for appear to be resolved. When it comes to the relationship between cylinder throat, forcing cone, and bore diameter, Ruger is building Blackhawks for success.
As it is, if you want to use this revolver to hit the vitals on a pig or a deer at 25 yards, I would think a competent marksman would be successful with a wide variety of loads. A 255gr hard cast bullet moving at a moderate 1,100fps, put into a 6-inch circle, would take one of our little Texas Hill Country white tail deer at 35 yards easily, and from just about any angle.
I’ve killed several deer at 25 yards or less with a .45ACP 230gr semi-wadcutter bullet, and had pass throughs on most of them. Then again, a big doe here will field dress to 90lbs…usually less. On pigs, a 300gr hard cast bullet spells doom for even the biggest feral hogs around.
The finish, dual cylinders, and barrel alone make the “Carry Hawk” worth the purchase. I’ll swap the sights and I’ve already ordered a Bisley grip frame from Brownells to replace the bird’s head, but again, that tiny grip works well for a whole lot of other people.
This is a weird, weird gun. And I like it because it’s weird, and because it’s a .45 caliber Ruger convertible Blackhawk.
Caliber: .45 Colt / .45 ACP
Finish: Matte Black
Barrel Configuration: 4-5/8″ Slab-Sided
Rifling Twist: 1:16″, RH, 6-groove
Grip Frame: “Bird’s Head”
Grip Panels: Black Micarta “Gunfighter” Profile
Front Sight: XS Big Dot white dot
Rear Sight: Adjustable V-Notch Lollipop
Overall Length: 10-3/16″
Weight: 39 Ounces
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * * *
A class all it’s own. There’s really nothing to compare this one to. Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.
Reliability * * * * *
Ruger single action. I say again, Ruger single action.
Accuracy * * *
The mechanical recipe for precision is there, the sights just don’t allow for it.
Overall * * * *
The Ruger “Carry Hawk” is a fever dream of an idea, exceptionally well executed.