February 2, 2010

Ruger 50th Year New Model Blackhawk Flat Top, $583

Those who are most serious about Cowboy Action shooting tend to favor lighter-recoiling firearms so they can cut their times down, never mind that bigger guns like .45s tend to be more authentic, especially when stoked with black powder. Not that it takes any less skill to do well with lighter recoiling equipment, but it can give an edge. How much benefit does a .38 Special offer over, say, a .45 Colt?

To find out more, we gathered a trio of .38 Special single-action six-shooters to see how well they’d do for us, and to find out how much we liked ‘em. All were .357 Mag-capable, and all had 4.75-inch barrels. One was a Ruger New Model 50th Anniversary Flat Top Blackhawk ($583). We tested with three main types of ammo, Black Hills Cowboy loads, Federal 110-grain JHP .357 Mag, and with a modest handload in .38 Special cases that approximated Cowboy loads. Here’s what we found.

Ruger 50th Year New Model Blackhawk Flat Top, $583 
We acquired one of these limited-edition flat-top Rugers largely because it resembled the earliest Blackhawk Ruger .357s which so many shooters liked, though the similarities extend to outward appearances only. These 50th Year Blackhawks will be harder to come by as time goes on, but the normal New Model Blackhawk, which sells for $482, should be easy to get. Some of our staff used to have the older version, and liked it much better than recent Blackhawks, so we chose this one for a good look at the latest single-action setup by Ruger.

Gun Tests June 2006

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The all-steel Ruger flat top 50th Year Blackhawk had remarkably clean lines and comfortable Colt-size grips. The Micro sight didn't need to be touched. The Ruger laid 'em in there a touch better than two others, and looked great doing it. The front of the cylinder was beveled to ease holstering.

The neat, adjustable, all-steel rear Micro sight set into a flattened top strap set this Ruger off from the other two test revolvers, which both had fixed sights. This 50th-Year commemorative Ruger brought back memories of long ago to some of our testers, who recalled a time when Ruger made the Blackhawk with an aluminum frame and ejector rod housing, and with the earliest easy-loading cylinder that you could turn back against a stop and eject an empty or load a fresh cartridge, all without fumbling for that just-right cylinder position.

Unlike the older Blackhawk, this new Ruger was all steel, and had all of Ruger’s latest safety devices. Open the loading gate and the hammer is locked. Even better, this Ruger incorporated the latest Ruger innovation, easy loading. You could simply back the cylinder up against a stop and the chamber would be perfectly aligned with the opening, a feature now incorporated on all new Ruger single actions, and long overdue, we thought.

Fit and finish were impeccable. We appreciated all the well-done flat surfaces, something Ruger used to have trouble with long ago, especially on the flat top of the frame. Gold-filled lettering on top of the barrel declared the commemorative nature of this offering, but as always, we didn’t like the lengthy discourse along the left side of the barrel, which basically tells you to read the manual. Cylinder lockup was dead tight, and timing was excellent. The balance of the gun, though it was a touch heavier than the other two, was perhaps the best of the trio. The slightly smaller grip with its classic-looking black checkered grip panels felt great, we thought, and if normal Blackhawks don’t have this identical grip size, we all though they should. As we found out, the grip size and shape was identical to that of a Colt S/A. Normal Blackhawks now have “rosewood” panels. The sight picture was ideal, we thought, with just the right amount of light on the sides of the front blade.

Gun Tests June 2006

Courtesy, Gun Tests

We loved the Ruger's retro grip. It was identical in size and shape to that of the 1907 Colt Model P on the right. Long ago Elmer Keith got Bill Ruger to lengthen the Ruger's grip, which we feel only gives the gun more room to get up speed before it smacks your second finger. We firmly believe Ruger ought to adopt this grip for all its Blackhawks as standard. We liked the checkering too.

We found a bit of creep to the trigger, which broke at 3.80 pounds. On the range , the sights were perfectly centered, and the Ruger shot better than its competition with both types of cowboy loads. Oddly, the only revolver in this test with adjustable sights was the only one that didn’t need to have the sights touched. The other two guns shot off center. We found no problems with the Ruger at all. The more we shot it, the more we liked it.

Comments (7)

Got one of the retro flattops when they came out in .44 special. I guess it was so popular that Ruger is going to add it to its regular list, or so I read on the always reliable Internet.

I like the gun. It has that Colt feel in the hand; very well balanced, if a bit heavier. Lock-up is fairly tight. No creep detected at all in the trigger; and the pull is smoothe. And as reported by others the loading and clearing of spent shells is so much easier with Ruger's new cylinder alignment.

I do have some problems with the gun, though. Two are cosmetic. I don't like the "black gun" look of it. I would much rather have it blued. The black appears to have been applied on top of a stainless finish. My fear is that over time the black finish is going to chip and peel away. Bluing has its problems, too. But given all that, I'd still rather have a tried and true blue finish.

The loading gate presents another problem. It also reinforces my concerns about the gun's finish. Because the gate was not installed particularly well it was loose, wobbly. It did not align very well. Working with it for a while seemed to line the gate up a little better, but not perfectly. Also, because of the misalignment there are a couple of dings in the black finish which reveal the very shiny stainless base. I bought this gun new. It had been handled by only a few people in the shop and, presumably, someone at the factory. Even with that little bit of use the black finish chipped. I think it's reasonable to be concerned what could happen over ten years' time.

The last problem is small. While I think the supplied grips are very, very well done, I prefer wood. I grip it better and control it better during firing (or, at least I think I do). Besides, to my taste, the gun just looks better with wood. Still, the ones supplied are perfectly fitted to the gun and make gripping it a pleasure.

Posted by: shadowpdf | August 26, 2010 9:56 PM    Report this comment

I have a CHL and I carry a H&K USP compact in .40 cal., but I also have a Blackhawk in .44 mag that I also carry for back-up. The Blackhawk sure gives you that little bit of extra confidence, especially when you know that if a .40 cal. doesn't stop something the .44 mag can disable an adversary if you hit them ANYWHERE. Plus, I don't have to worry about the Blackhawk jamming up on me.

Posted by: jamesabrt | August 20, 2010 7:20 AM    Report this comment

I purchased one of these 50th anniversarys in 44 Mag from CDNN for $375. What a great pistol. I now have 4 Blackhawks. The fit and finish on all is beautiful and their strength is legendary. Ruger has always had their act toghther. This revolver is a rock.

Posted by: Dan983 | February 11, 2010 9:13 PM    Report this comment

Thank You Very Much for the info Gus S. I will contact ruger to see what I can find our because my Blackhawk is one of the older 3 screww models and I really don't want to change it to the newer type.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past, Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath, Locked, Loaded and Keeping My Powder Dry.

Posted by: bear1 | February 4, 2010 1:25 PM    Report this comment

To; bear1-----You must change out the cylinder to shoot the 9mm. My gun came with this extra factory cylinder when I purchased it.
I suggest you contact Ruger. (Gus S.)

Posted by: www.gusplaceresort.com | February 4, 2010 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Ihave liked the Ruger Revolvers ( single actions) esp. since the 1960's when I got my first Single Six in 22-22mag and my first Blackhawk in 38-357Mag. and I still think that they are one of the best hand guns on the market today. I am just wandering if I can fire 9mm in my older model Blackhawk or if I can get a extra celinder for it, for 9mm.

Posted by: bear1 | February 4, 2010 1:00 PM    Report this comment

I purchased my Blackhawk Convertable in 1978. It was my first handgun purchase. A friend told me about this gun and I was attracted to the idea of being able to shoot 3 different rounds from the same gun (9mm, 38 spec.& 357 mag) At the time, I was living on 160 acres in Elbert Co., Colorado which seemed to have an endless supply of Coyotes. A rifle would be the first choice for most coyote hunters, but I can tell you that this Blackhawk will do the same job if you still have a good eye & steady hand. These days, I have many guns, but I have to say, none of them are more fun to shoot than this Blackhawk. This article makes me want to go out and pick up the 50th. anniv. model. Happy Shooting; Gus S.

Posted by: www.gusplaceresort.com | February 4, 2010 9:50 AM    Report this comment

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