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 theyd 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. Heres 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.
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 Rugers 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 didnt 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 dont 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.
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 didnt 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.