Ruger .30 Carbine New Model Blackhawk BN31
The hunting revolver needs power and long-range accuracy, which it usually gets by topping off long cases with heavy bullets. These big, blunt bullets get their velocity by virtue of big powder charges behind them, but even so, they shoot with more arc than a lot of hunters want. Also, because the shoulder does not support handguns, muzzle flip can make them hard to handle. Even the newest heavyweight revolver cartridges are more efficient at delivering power than they are a flat trajectory.
Perhaps the focus of hunting revolvers doesn’t need to be on delivering long-gun power after all. One solution that some revolver makers are trying is introducing rifle cartridges that deliver a lighter bullet at much faster speeds.
One such revolver is the .30 Carbine New Model Blackhawk.
Of late we are seeing new interest in the .30 Carbine military rifles because they have so much history and classic visual appeal. Perhaps adding to this is one virtue seldom pointed out. That is, .30 Carbine has always been produced with non-corrosive components, which is why so many .30 Carbine weapons are still functioning in very good condition. The original intention of this cartridge was to fill the chambers of a compact rifle, giving U.S. servicemen more power than the .45 ACP pistol in situations where a full-sized Garand was impractical. Today, the .30 Carbine finds its niche with a lightweight bullet packed in a straight-walled case, and it’s just right for shooting even big game at 50 yards.
At first glance the BN-31 incarnation of the New Model Blackhawk does not tell you that it is chambered in a rifle caliber rather than one of the more popular revolver cartridges. It is not especially long, the barrel is not extra heavy, the frame is not elongated, the cylinder lends no clue and the walnut grips are standard Ruger equipment. The overall look is of a Western-style single-action six-shooter, but the adjustable rear sight reminds you that this is a modern revolver. In handling this single-action-only revolver, you will find there is no loading position for the hammer. The act of swinging open the loading gate allows the cylinder to rotate while activating a safety that makes it impossible to pull the hammer back to a ready-fire position — standard Ruger New Model design.
One feature that distinguishes this model is the tapered barrel. At 7.5 inches the barrel is among the longest in the New Model Blackhawk lineup (Super Blackhawk models are available with 10.5-inch barrels). Though .30 Carbine is a rifle caliber, it is not an especially powerful one that develops a great deal of pressure. Super Blackhawk models chambered for real boomers are built with a heavier frame that extends well forward of the forcing cone. We found the tapered barrel contributed to two characteristics to note.
For one, when reinstalling the cylinder after cleaning you must be sure to mate the relief in the cylinder rod to the curvature of the barrel. As the barrel thins out toward the muzzle, there is enough room to start the cylinder rod with the full-diameter-side facing the barrel. This will lead to jamming against the outside of the barrel as the rod is pushed into the frame. Characteristic two is how the front sight is mounted. Though the front sights on all New Model Blackhawk revolvers are mounted on a stanchion atop the barrel, the tapering means that this stanchion must be larger. Our greatest problem shooting this revolver turned out to be glare from the front sight. Not only do we feel the serrations in the front ramp blade were too fine to do a good job of dispersing glare, but we also think the stanchion below the front sight contributed to the problem by reflecting light itself.
That we were able to print groups measuring less than 2 inches at 50 yards (supported) is a testament to how well the rest of this Ruger revolver has been adapted to .30 Carbine. With patience we were able to land some very good five-shot groups. Overall average for all shots fired was 2.4 inches, with a high of 3.1 inches (Federal American Eagle) and a best of 1.8 inches (Winchester USA). The classic bullet weight of 110 grains was standard throughout our tests. Firing standing, we found that shooting with gloves (especially tacky ones like Nike’s Magnigrip football gloves designed to give extra grip to receivers) made it easier to follow through and control muzzle flip inherent in the design of round-backed “cowboy” stocks. Firing offhand was much more fun than the bench work, where muzzle rise was amplified by contact with the sandbag rests.
From the Ruger we observed muzzle energy ranging from 468 to 584 foot-pounds of energy. In this case one could think of the .30 Carbine as a pleasant alternative to a .357 Magnum. With better sights we think this revolver will come much closer to its potential.
Ruger .30 Carbine New Model Blackhawk (BN31), $435. Buy It. We would change the sights, but the machinery is here to make this a rewarding shooting experience. We feel .30 Carbine is a pleasant match for the Blackhawk. Likely available for less than $400, the handloader should find this gun to be a bargain.