April 2006

Big-Bore Revolvers: For Power, Choose Ruger’s Super Redhawk

A bear of a gun, the Alaskan could handle the most powerful loads, including .454 Casull. Smith & Wesson’s 21-4 .44 Special was too old fashioned for us, but we’d buy the .45 Colt M25.

In this article we evaluate three guns that make no excuses for their girth. The Smith & Wesson Model 21-4 is a straightforward, large-frame revolver chambered for .44 Special only. Its .45 Colt brother, the Smith & Wesson Model 25-13, is slightly more modern, adding adjustable sights. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan was fit with a longer cylinder, and together with its heavy frame, it is capable of firing .454 Casull as well as .45 Colt ammunition.

Our focus in this test was personal defense from humans and not bears, so we left the Casull rounds at home, but we did test an extra-heavy .45 Colt load from Atlanta Arms and Ammo formulated specifically for Ruger and Thompson Center firearms (). The intention was to split the difference between .454 Casull and more commonly available .45 Colt ammunition. This round featured a 328-grain lead truncated-cone bullet. Our other .45 Colt test rounds were Federal’s 225-grain lead semi-wadcutter hollowpoints, Speer’s 250-grain Gold Dot Hollowpoints, and another Atlanta Arms and Ammo product topped with a 275-grain lead truncated cone.

For our .44 Special rounds we chose 165-grain JHP rounds from Cor-Bon, Winchester’s 200-grain Silvertip HP rounds, and 240-grain Truncated Cone Jacketed ammunition manufactured by Atlanta Arms and Ammo. Test distance was 25 yards from a sandbag rest. We fired single action only to collect hard data, but fired on steel targets double action only to evaluate rapid-fire capability. Limited to six-round capacity, we wanted to know which guns offered the right mix of power, accuracy, and speed. Here’s what we learned:

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