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In a recent article I took a look at the massive and powerful Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .454 Casull, but I got some response that the big wheel gun wasn’t for everyone. For this article I decided to review another heavy-hitter from Ruger, this time the Redhawk chambered in the more popular and widely available .357 Mag.

This is a gun that’s only slightly smaller than the big .454 Alaskan, but it varies in a number of important ways. The main response I received about the .454 was that it wasn’t something people even consider owning down here in the lower 48, though I always seem to see them sell at every gun store I frequent.

The Ruger Redhawk is a well-established double-action stainless steel design that boasts a thick frame and rugged durability. The model I received features a 2.75” barrel, a triple-locking un-fluted cylinder, and an eight-shot capacity with moonclip capability. And if you thought the Redhawk would be an easier carry than the Super Redhawk, I hate do disappoint you, but this revolver weights in at the same beefy 44 oz. as the big Alaskan.

Unlike the Super Redhawk’s ultra-powerful .454 chambering, .357 Magnum is a widely available mainstay and enjoys a large and devoted following. It can be loaded to reach incredible performance levels while offering (reasonably) low recoil. I tested several great .357 loads in this revolver for both accuracy and velocity.

Testing was done at 85 degrees Fahrenheit over my Oehler 35P chronograph, which had been placed five feet from the muzzle. Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups at 25 yards from the bench.

HSM Cowboy 158gr Semi Wadcutter ——————————————————-1123fps, 3.5”
HSM Pro Hunter 158gr JHP——————————————————————1073fps, 2.75”
Hornady 158gr XTP—————————————————————————-1215fps, 2.5”
Hornady 135gr Critical Duty——————————————————————–1233fps, 2”
Black Hills 125gr JHP—————————————————————————1344fps, 2”

By now people know what to expect from .357 ammunition, but I was surprised at how little felt recoil there was with any of the loads I tested. Maybe I shouldn’t have been given the Redhawk’s 44 oz. solid steel frame. My favorite was the HSM Cowboy load, as it delivers a big 158gr lead bullet with recoil low enough to easily train with.

The Redhawk’s curved rosewood grips are very attractive. But that means there’s no rubber — as on the Alaskan — to absorb recoil. Still, I found shooting the big wheel gun wasn’t unpleasant. I was able to make quick follow-up shots, transition between targets, and point-shoot with relative ease. The nicest part was that I was able to very quickly reload…but there are some pointers to be aware of with that.

The moon clip capability (the Redhawk ships with three) is probably the most advantageous part of this revolver. But clips have their own set of problems that can be exacerbated by the length and close fit of the eight.357 cartridges. If a full clip has a slight bend or isn’t aligned just right, it can be hard to get the rounds inserted tightly enough to close the cylinder.

Ejection of empties isn’t as smooth with clips, either. Of course, you can always use a speed loader or reload with loose rounds. While some find moon clips difficult to work with, I feel that they have a great deal of utility. The best carry method I have found for this gun involves eight loose rounds in the gun and a reload with moon clips.

Like the Super Redhawk, this is a big beefy gun that works best carried in a pack or chest rig. I carried the Redhawk in the same Hill People Gear Heavy Recon Kit Bag that I used in my previous .454 review. This is a great piece of gear and it really takes the sweat out of carrying a gun as compact and heavy as this one. I like it for anything over 40oz, including some full size 1911 pistols.

My overall impressions of this revolver are very positive. It has the same capacity as most carry pistols and 1911s, but is chambered for the powerful .357 Mag. Recoil with .38 Special is negligible and still very manageable with full-house. 357 loads. The trigger is excellent, the sights are great, and it handles nicely.

The Redhawk probably won’t your everyday carry gun. It’s bigger and heavier than most people will be willing to deal with on a daily basis. This will most likely be a special use gun for most people, a powerful, reliable backwoods gun that can handle just about any threat you’re likely to find yourself facing.

Specifications: Ruger Redhawk

Caliber: .357
Capacity: 8 Rounds
Overall Length: 8.25 inches
Weight: 44 oz.
Sights: Adjustable rear, ramp front with red insert
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
MSRP: $1079

Ratings (out of five stars)

Aesthetics * * * * *
Stainless steel and rosewood grips? This big, classic revolver has it where it counts.

Reliability * * * * *
The thing likes to shoot with and without moon clips. Novices and experts alike can benefit from them, but they can be problematic. But that’s your choice to make. This is an exceptionally reliable gun that will go bank when you really need it to.

Accuracy * * * *
While not as accurate as some target guns I’ve used, this is a plenty accurate, powerful revolver for its size and intended use.

Handling * * * * 
This gun handles well and feels good in the hand. The rosewood grips are a bit smooth for wet and dirty environments, but that depends on how dirty you plan on getting.

Carry * * *
While not quite as large as the .454, this is still a massive revolver that will require some special accommodations for most people to carry. Stowed in your gear,  it will do just fine. Wearing this big 44 oz beast on your belt will be harder, but it can be done.

Overall * * * * 1/2
For those looking for a large, (relatively) high capacity revolver that has rugged features and is capable of protecting you anywhere in the lower 48, this is a great do-it-all option. There aren’t many situations that eight rounds of .357 won’t handle.


Ammunition for this article can be found at,, while gear and the knife can be located at and

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  1. Good review Josh. Another gun that I think about from time to time. *(Barrel length that is)

    I’d really like to see some of those groups. You don’t happen to have the targets do you? I’m a bit surprised to see a short barrel like that get those numbers! Makes me think I should look into factory ammo.

  2. But why would you carry this if you could get a few more inches of barrel and carry it the same way? Just for weight savings? Genuinely asking here, not making a dig.

    • A couple more inches of barrel does start to limit comfortable carry options, such as on a belt rig or small carry pack. That extra mass can dig into your thigh or chest when out backpacking. However, I think they could have added .5-1” more barrel without giving up much comfort and reaped better ballistics with hot 357Mag loads.

      All that to say it won’t be replacing my G20 with 15rds of best-millimeter goodness, but dang is it tempting to get one just for fun.

    • I don’t get it either. In a smaller concealed carry type gun, there is a definite advantage, but nobody is going to conceal this beast. I’d opt for the 4in Redhawk, myself. Much better ballistics and the weight difference would be negligible.

    • PeterK,

      I think the same way: I would want that revolver with a 5-inch barrel which increases accuracy (longer sight radius) and muzzle velocity (about 200 fps for 125 grain bullets and about 100 fps for 180 grain bullets).

      Although, come to think about it, is it really going to matter whether your muzzle velocity is 1,300 fps or 1,400 fps when shooting a 180 grain hardcast bullet at an attacking bear at 15 feet? I doubt it. For such close encounters, maneuverability is probably much more important than an extra 100 fps of muzzle velocity.

      I think I just talked myself out of longer barrel lengths for a contact distance self-defense woods gun.

      • The difference in MV should be closer to 250fps, not 100. That equals a big difference in penetration and energy delivered. When it comes a bear charge, 8 rounds are meaningless if they don’t immediately strike a vital organ. Plus, in your scenario, a charging bear at 15 feet means you only get one shot, maybe the second one is a contact shot while she’s on you, if you’re real lucky.
        A revolver in .357magnum this heavy with a less than 3″ barrel is nothing more than a novelty.

        • Mr. Taylor,

          That 100 fps difference in muzzle velocity from a 3-inch versus a 5-inch barrel is from BuffaloBore’s own product page (Item 19A, 180 grain hardcast bullet) available here:

          For whatever reasons, incremental increases in barrel lengths do not produce as much increase in muzzle velocity in heavy-for-caliber bullets as for light-for-caliber bullets.

          Note: BuffaloBore’s loadings are almost always maximum allowable charges/pressures unless they indicate otherwise. And a 180 grain hardcast lead bullet is the ideal bullet construction for stopping an angry bear.

        • Geoff, I haven’t seen an 180 grain round designed for snubbie, but I’d still take whatever increased velocity I can get.

          Uncommon, I was going off ballistics by the inch, but even using Buffalo Bore’s data, you are talking about a more than 10% increase in energy delivered. In your scenario, when you are only likely to get one or two rounds off anyway, I’ll definitely take that 10% per round delivered advantage.

          This gun makes no sense at all. Revolvers should be powerful and portable. This revolver sacrifices both.

        • Mr. Taylor,

          Plus, in your scenario, a charging bear at 15 feet means you only get one shot, maybe the second one is a contact shot while she’s on you, if you’re real lucky.

          Probably true and an interesting argument that both merits a short-barreled revolver and undermines the advantage of 10mm semi-auto pistols with 15-round magazines by the way.

          A revolver in .357magnum this heavy with a less than 3″ barrel is nothing more than a novelty.

          If that revolver launches a 180 grain hardcast lead bullet at a muzzle velocity of at least 1,250 fps (BuffaloBore’s loading launches that very bullet at 1,300 fps out of a 3-inch barrel which is only 1/4 inch longer), I think that would be pretty effective on black bears up to 400 pounds or so.

          I would agree that a .357 Magnum revolver is lacking for BIG black bears (400 to 700 pounds) and grizzlies. That is why I carry a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6-inch barrel when I am in the woods. If I am only worried about average black bears, I load it with cartridges that have “medium” charges and launch 240 grain soft point bullets at about 1,350 fps for a total of 971 foot-pounds energy at the muzzle. If I am worried about HUGE black bears, moose, and grizzlies, I load it with 305 grain hardcast lead bullets with a muzzle velocity of about 1,300 fps which is 1,144 foot-pounds energy — and figure on at least two good hits to promptly stop such giant beasts.

        • Mr. Taylor,

          This gun makes no sense at all. Revolvers should be powerful and portable. This revolver sacrifices both.

          I tend to agree and got a hearty chuckle out of your comment. Incidentally that is why, up to this point, I have always carried revolvers with 6-inch barrels in the woods. It was only during this comment thread that I realized I would only sacrifice 100 fps with a 3-inch barrel revolver and would get significantly more maneuverability (important if a bear is literally on top of you). That is what has me rethinking my revolver choice for the woods.

        • Mr. Taylor,

          By the way, I have read credible accounts from hunters who took down BIG bison with .45 Long Colt revolvers launching 255 grain hardcast lead bullets at something like 950 fps. Not only did those loads drop those bison in short order, they made complete pass-throughs with something like a 1.25 inch diameter exit hole on the far side.

          The “magic formula” for these bullets are:
          — heavy bullet weight
          — maintain their shape even when hitting hard bone
          — large, flat meplat (frontal surface)

          The result is a bullet that goes straight, penetrates something like 4+ feet of muscle and bone, and makes a large (on the order of 1 inch diameter circle) permanent wound channel. In essence those heavy hardcast lead bullets with large, flat meplates are like 1-inch diameter coring tools which drop animals fast when you put good shots on them.

        • Uncommon, I wasn’t thinking of black bears at all, only grizzlies. I recently went black bear hunting in Idaho, only to see nothing but grizzlies. None were interested in me, but I can tell you, a grizzly running down the mountain looks like a furry Volkswagen.

          I don’t think there’s any maneuverability lost between 2.25″ of barrel. Only velocity to be gained.

          I completely agree with you on the heavy, hard cast rounds for hunting. The big meplat of that 45 has a lot to do with it. The 45Colt is the most underrated, and potentially one of the most powerful cartridges available, when loaded properly.

        • Mr. Taylor,

          Yes, that .357 Magnum revolver with 2.75 inch barrel is definitely inadequate for grizzlies.

          I even feel somewhat undergunned with my .44 Magnum revolver with 6-inch barrel in grizzly country. I know that a decent shot with my big .44 Magnum revolver will definitely kill a grizzly bear within 15 seconds or so. The problem is that an angry grizzly bear can deliver fatal wounds to me in that 15 seconds it takes the bear to go unconscious.

          Nevertheless, that big .44 Magnum revolver is the largest handgun that I can handle effectively so that is what I carry. Better to put rounds on target with a .44 Magnum revolver than to miss with a .460 S&W Magnum.

        • I would not shoot a bison with a 255 lead hardcast at 950 FPS from a .45 Colt unless I had thoroughly updated my life insurance. That’s 510 foot pounds. Energy isn’t everything, but that’s pretty wimpy. As to velocities, just use a chronograph! Everything else is just a reference point.

          This 8 shot .357 – as cool as it is – shoots right around .40 Smith energy levels with 165 grain rounds. I still might get one, but you don’t get the “full effect” of .357 until about 4″ of barrel. An 18″ barrel yields some impressive energy levels.

        • Accur81,

          I know .45 Long Colt 255 grain hardcast seems like a wholly inadequate ballistic solution for BIG bison. As I mentioned, the killing effect is not from velocity or energy. Rather, the killing effect is removing a one inch diameter cylinder from the beast, through and through. That is utterly devastating even for a 1,500 pound bison.

          Hardcast lead bullets with large, flat meplats are devastating beyond description. The best analogy I heard was to think of speedboats. Think of how much a speedboat disrupts the water going forward at 60 m.p.h. Now think of the much, MUCH greater water disruption if that same speed boat was going backwards at 60 m.p.h. That is what hardcast lead bullets do. They are like a tiny speedboat going backwards at 647 m.p.h. (950 feet per second).

        • I do think as cool as this one is, a 3″ or 4″ 686+ is far easier to carry and more potent shot for shot.

          But damn if it isn’t one heck of a beautiful toy 🤠

        • ‘A revo lver in .357magnum this heavy with a less than 3″ bar rel is nothing more than a novelty.’

          +1 – I have 2 .357s, a 3″ GP 100 Wiley Clapp for carry and a stainless 6″ GP. This is only an ounce lighter than the 6″ and a half a pound heavier than the 3″. For woods carry, there’s probably a better chance that you’ll be eaten by a dinosaur than need the extra 2 rou nds, and it’s far too bulky and heavy for CC, where the need for the extra two rou nds is more like getting hit by a meteorite. Besides, S&W, S,R&Co and Taurus all make a lighter, more compact 7 shot revolvers.

          I figure about 175-200 extra fps and ft/lbs out of the 6″ with the 158gr. Double Taps I keep in them. Heavier bul lets should yield less difference since they spend more time in the ba rrel, both absorbing energy and leaking energy out the cylin der gap.

        • Accur81,
          Bison are very easy to kill. In middle of the 19th century, the “sporting” way to do it was to ride up next to them and stab them in the neck with a large knife. I’ve been on buffalo hunts before, with rifles, pistols, and bows. Shots from 25 yards away are pretty common. At those ranges, even at under 1000fps, I’d find a pass through likely.
          Now, I like to push the .45LC to it’s potential. Some stock Ruger and Freedom .45LC revolvers will get a 320gr round going 1,600fps safely. Some. John Linebaugh’s custom Rugers in 45LC can be fed a regular diet of 370gr pills moving at a shattering 1400fps. Be advised, in a 5 1/2″ Ruger Blackhawk Bisley, recoil is stout.

        • Yeah, so I’m not going after a massive bison with a handgun that puts out 500 foot pounds. I’m just not. If it worked for you, great. I’m sure your luck is probably better than mine. I’ll take a .45-70, .300 Win Mag, or .338 Lapua, with my .460 XVR strapped to my chest. My dad shoot a large cow through the chest 3 times with a .300 Win Mag and 180 grain Winchester JSPs before it dropped. Somehow I don’t think that beast would have been impressed with 255 grains at 950 FPS.

          Hey, different strokes for different folks. I believe a .45 with a 255 grain bullet at 950 FPS putting a 1″ hole through a buffalo every bit as much as I believe that “my .30-06 shoots 1/2′ groups at 100 yards with cheap commie ammo.” Energy isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.

        • Accur81,

          Did you even read my comment where I explained that a hardcast lead bullet with a large flat meplat is akin to a speed boat going backward through water?

          Even when common hunting bullets expand, they still have incredibly rounded shapes and edges to them which still tend to “slip and slide” through animal tissue. Hardcast lead bullets with large flat meplats do NOT deform which means they cut and crush through tissue. I believe hardcast bullets also eject matter in front of them to the sides at high-enough velocities that the ejected material acts as a jet cutter which produces the 1-inch diameter permanent wound channels that people report.

          But don’t take my word for it. Research what people do with 255 to 305 grain hardcast lead bullets at velocities of 950 fps or greater. You will be pleasantly surprised at how effective they are even for really BIG game.

  3. The thing about the 454 is I would rather purchase the S&W 460 to have the versatility of being able to load 45 Colt, 454 and 460. While the Redhawk is a good looking revolver, what’s the point of having something that big? At least in my opinion. Why not pick up a 686 in a 3″ or 2.5″ barrel? It’s a slimmer revolver and if you get the plus you have 7 round capacity. Or even a GP 100 if you want a Ruger. I guess there’s a niche for the big bulky revolver I’m just not sure what it is.

    • “…what’s the point of having something that big?”

      It’s a soft-shooting magnum revolver.

      It’s for whoever who has fired a featherweight .357 and yelped from the *pain*.

      And it had 8 rounds instead of the usual 5…

    • The Smith X frames weigh about a full pound more than the Super Redhawks and hold 5 rou nds to the SR’s 6. If you’re going to p ack a 4 pound handgun around in bear country, you might as well p ack a 6 or 7 pound rifle or shotgun.

      • The Smith 69 seems a no brainer here. Lack of fit and finish doesn’t matter much,but five rounds of .44 in a pretty shootable and carryable package,available for sizeable discounts most places, who cares if you lose it or screw it up. all the suitable smith grips etc fit, …

  4. just a little better than the hand-cannon 454, with enough weight to stop the jump-kick that the short barrel revolvers have.and ideal for us with extra large hands.I would perfer the sand-blasted finish for better feel and look .

  5. 8 rounds is impressive in a short barrel wheelgun, but given the recommended carry restrictions, I would have a hard time turning down a Glock 20 in favor of the Ruger. Packed with 15+1 rounds of Underwood 200gr hard cast, that’s twice the capacity, half the price, and faster reloads all in a package that sits on your hip with no problem.

    • Perhaps the most important reason I choose a .357 5.25″ revolver over a Glock 20 is the greater inertia to resist the shake of my Don Knotts hands. I am significantly more accurate with such heavier guns. I am not sure this outweighs the large capacity advantage of the Glock, but I guesstimate that it does and take my chances. If worried about it more, perhaps I would get a HK Mk23.

    • M10,

      It is pretty hard to justify a revolver over the Glock 20 with Underwood, DoubleTap, or BuffaloBore heavy 200 grain hardcast loads.

      The primary reasons that I could see someone going with the revolver instead are style (they sure look pretty), reliability (revolvers rarely fail), and possibly accuracy for the reasons that Vic Nighthorse stated.

      I also imagine that a heavy revolver such as the Ruger Redhawk (at 44 ounces) reduces felt recoil to an even lower level than a light weight Glock 20 in spite of its semi-automatic recoil-reducing characteristics. Having said that, I just looked up the weight of a loaded Glock 20 which is about 40 ounces. That might mean that a Glock 20 with a full magazine might actually produce less felt recoil than a heavy revolver.

      • Glocks aren’t going to win any style competitions, to be sure. However, when filling the duty of trail gun, I’m not sure I would judge too heavily in the style category. Reliability – there’s no doubt that revolvers are reliable, but then again Glocks aren’t exactly notorious for having reliability issues. Accuracy? Well, we have a 2.75 in barrel vs 4.6 on the Glock. If you have Barney Fife syndrome, I’m guessing the heavier double action trigger pull on the Ruger would be more of an issue than anything else.

        • Revolvers also have the massive Benifits of being able to execute more than one contact shot, and they are incapable of being limpwristed and inducing a malfunction. Limpwrist FTF or FTE is more common under high stress or shooting one handed or off handed, also would no doubt be exacerbated by Buffalo Bore max pressure 200 grain loads. No doubt the Glock 20 in capable hands has more “potential” than a 6-8 shot 357 magnum revolver, but in true self defense scenarios the revolver platform offers several pivotal advantages. Always train with your carry gun, but especially high powered semi autos, 1 handed and off handed is key to building muscle memory.

        • Depends what you’re doing out on the trail. If I’m doing fence repair I’ll carry my Glock 26 in a Wilderness Safepacker, because it’s a super-dirty job and I don’t want to subject my nice revolvers to that. If some dirt and sweat or whatever make it all the way into the Safepacker, then a Glock is really easy to clean all the crud out. Also, nobody expects Glocks to be pretty. I made the mistake of going out to fix a barbed wire fence with my Glock in a standard holster and now there’s a barbed wire gouge in the grip, and I don’t care a bit. I’d be sadder if that were a big scratch on one of my revolvers.

          (Large caliber isn’t a requirement in my area, but all the same things apply to a 10mm Glock)

        • While the 10mm is almost as powerful as the .357 when loaded to full SAAMI specs, the .357 has a significant advantage in sectional density for a woods g un. A 200gr .40 bu llet is equal to a 158gr .357 and there’s nothing in 10mm that comes close to the SD of a 180gr or 200gr .357.

          Bob, semi-autos have the massive disadvantage of not being able to make ANY contact shots. Press the slide into someone’s ribs and you’ll push the slide out of battery.

  6. “Like the Super Redhawk, this is a big beefy gun that works best carried in a pack or chest rig”

    “The Redhawk probably won’t your everyday carry gun. It’s bigger and heavier than most people will be willing to deal with on a daily basis.”

    “While not quite as large as the .454, this is still a massive revolver that will require some special accommodations for most people to carry. Stowed in your gear,  it will do just fine. Wearing this big 44 oz beast on your belt will be harder, but it can be done.”

    “Carry * * *”


    Can someone please talk to Josh about what the ‘Carry’ rating is supposed to represent? How much the gun makes you sweat while tromping around the back woods isn’t it.

  7. If dudes have killed grizzlies w/ 9mm’s, hi-points, and spears I am pretty sure this would do the job. That stated – I have never stared down a charging grizzly and if I did I am pretty sure anything under 20mm would seem small.

  8. Hmm. My S&W 681 .357 4″ and Blackhawk .45 Colt 5.5″ are both right about 40 oz. and I find them both comfortable to carry in a belt holster for long periods (usually cowboy rigs, even for the 681). That’s open carry, of course. I don’t think another 4 oz. would cross into the discomfort zone.

      • If you have time to reload, with or without moon c lips, you obviously HAVE stopped the grizzly.

      • Personally, I feel moon clips are ridiculous when you’re using rimmed cartridges such as .357 magnum. Aftermarket/commercially made speed loaders are much better and easier to use.

  9. I just acquired a Redhawk with a 4.02 in barrel in .45 Colt/.45 ACP (with associated moon clips). Haven’t fired it yet but I can just tell it’s gonna be a sweet shooter. It certainly will not be my EDC, BUT, as far as the biggest four legged threat around my neck of the woods that would be feral hogs. Even though I have .357’s with barrel lengths from 2 to 4 inches the Redhawk with .45 Colt 260 grain JHP +P’s is prolly what I’ll pack when I join my buddy again in walking his couple of hundred wooded acres. And there are hogs around here. And white tails. As for Mr. No Shoulders maybe a couple rounds of rat shot on board. Timber rattlers and copperheads are not unusual on the
    property and cotton mouths frequent the creek. I love the outdoors.

  10. Earlier this year I bought two of the eight shot 357 Redhawks for home defense, one with the 2.75″ barrel and round butt and one with 4.2″ barrel and square butt. Never considered carrying them until I watched a YouTube video by Bowsers Fortress on carrying six inch barreled revolvers. A few weeks ago I bought an iwb suede open top holster with a steel belt clip from Craft Holsters for my 2.75″ redhawk and started carrying it concealed using a thick leather belt. Definitely doable. I wear an undershirt tucked in and a long, loose fitting cover garment. I tried the 4.2″ and it fits in the same holster albeit with the barrel protruding about an inch out the bottom, and actually carries easier because the longer barrel has more leverage against my leg. You get used to the weight after a while. The 2.75″ isn’t much heavier than a 1911, and in my opinion carries easier due to the round shape. going to get the same holster but for the 4.2″ and give that a try. And get this, I’m only 5′ 9″ and 130 pounds. I’m sharing my experience in case it helps motivate anyone else to try carrying a bigger revolver.

  11. I did have the former version. It was more reliable, than the S&W, model 17, by the mechanic at all. After 5 rounds the S&W blocked. For self defense, I recommend to mix the loads. First, soft lead, then semi, plus a full hard metall.

    The psychooligal effect is much better, than about a Glock, as the person could see the remaining rounds in the drum. And no rim lock.

  12. It´s not such strange, if a person, you meet the first time, to cross arms. So actually no sudden movements are necessary.


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