The September 2021 and January 2022 issues saw our testers comparing seasoned 44 Magnum revolvers with modern counterparts in the same chambering. Here, we look at three very modern 44 Magnum revolvers designed with the handgun hunter in mind.
Our first test piece was the Ruger Super Redhawk with the 7.5-inch barrel (No. 5501, $1370) followed by the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 also with a 7.5-inch barrel (No. 170318, $1418). The third entrant is a new Colt Anaconda (Anaconda-SP8RTS, $1499), which sports an 8-inch tube.
To assess their viability for use in the hunting fields, we mounted optics on all three pistols. The Super Redhawk wore a Burris Extended Eye Relief scope in a fixed 2.75-power magnification. The Colt Anaconda also held an official Burris Pistol Scope (2-7×20, No. 200291, $419), which we kept set at 2.75x to make it fair to the other Burris. Our Smith & Wesson M629 Performance Center Hunter includes the UTG SCP-RD40RGW-A, which is a 1×30 red- or green-dot optic that mounted directly to the Picatinny rail on the barrel of the S&W.
Loads tested used bullets from MidwayUSA.com, including the 240-grain hard-cast Keith-style semi-wadcutter from Hunter’s Supply (267313, $53/250), along with the 240-grain Speer Gold Dot jacketed soft point (166262, $25/100). Wanting to include something for the hunters who really need penetration, we also experimented with some Cast Performance Bullet Company 320-grain hard-cast wide-nose gas checks (141652, $45/100). Loads were assembled using a mix of brass, Winchester large pistol primers, VihtaVuori N110 or Alliant 2400 powder, and recipes from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. Our test results showed the VihtaVuori N110 to be a good bit more accurate for the combinations we tried. Here are the results and our opinions of the handguns:
Gun Tests Grade: B+
Introduced in 1987, supposedly as a replacement for the Ruger Redhawk, both large-framed revolvers are still in the Ruger line up — proof positive that the large-bore wheel gun is alive and well with American shooters. Also available in 454 Casull, 480 Ruger and 10mm Auto, our 7.5-inch-barrel 44 Magnum sample tips the scales at almost 3.5 pounds. We like recoil-attenuating weight in a large-caliber pistol. We understand that there are outstanding large-bore revolvers with frames crafted primarily of lightweight alloys and for which there are very specific tasks. Frankly, the mere thought of shooting those makes us flinch.
|Action Type||Revolver, double action or single action|
|Overall Length||13.0 in.|
|Overall Height||6.25 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.75 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||3.4 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||3.7 lbs.|
|Receiver||Brushed stainless steel|
|Front Strap Height||2.5 in.|
|Back Strap Height||4.5 in.|
|Barrel Length||7.5 in.|
|Grip Thickness (Maximum)||1.36 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.5 in.|
|Cylinder Capacity||6 rounds|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable with white outline|
|Front Sight||Replaceable blade with red insert|
|Sight Radius||9.25 in.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Double Action||11.2 lbs.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Single Action||3.2 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||3.4 in.|
The fairly straight barrel on the Super Redhawk measures about 0.910 inch at the muzzle. That translates to the actual tube of the barrel being almost one quarter of an inch thick. And the reinforcement doesn’t stop there. The frame of the Ruger is also very substantial and includes a heavy topstrap. This is wide enough and strong enough to provide space for grooves to be cut for Ruger scope rings. The rings fit into dovetails on the frame and also provide a recoil lug for both of the mounts. These rings are not going to slide to the rear on you in recoil. We did notice a tendency for the primary screws on the rings we were using to loosen just a bit. Nothing came off and we couldn’t tell that our zero ever wandered. You just might want to check them from time to time and consider some medium thread-locking compound like Blue Loctite. The muzzle sports a nice crown and an additional concave surface that further protects the rifling. The Super Redhawk frame not only sports an underlug to protect the ejector rod, it uses a full-frame extension to cover the ejector and provide additional support to the barrel. This extension covers about an extra 2 inches of barrel where it screws into the frame, making that joint very strong indeed.
The cylinder is largish, though it does have flutes. The chamber mouths are slightly chamfered, making the insertion of cartridges smoother. A large bolt protrudes deeply into the cylinder, locking it up solidly. Additional lockup is provided with the expected pin protruding from the ejector star into the breech face. There is also a lever that projects forward from the crane into the frame. Timing was excellent, and we could hear the bolt sliding into its notch in the cylinder before the hammer was released.
The Super Redhawk uses Hogue grips. In fact, all three of our tested 44s used Hogues. We call that a sign. Adhesion in our hands was good without being overly abrasive. At the same time, the grips provided a bit of cushioning while they completely covered the backstrap. On the Ruger, the Hogue grips attach to a single stud extending from the bottom of the frame. The frame proper contains all of the fire-control parts, including the springs that power the hammer and trigger. The trigger weights in both double action and single action were acceptable, but we felt they were a bit stiff and might well benefit from the proper application of some good Wolff replacement springs.
Our Team Said: Function was perfect, as we would expect on a good revolver. The Super Redhawk was in last place in accuracy, but it only missed first place by a 0.2-inch difference in group size for the best four of five. FYI, our group uses that metric because we do all testing by hand and not from a machine. We have to allow just a little bit for being human. Average group size across the three types of ammo was just over an inch at 15 yards. The Ruger really liked the 320-grain bullets, posting an average group size of 0.86 in.
44 Magnum Range Data
Testing was done at American Shooting Centers in west Houston. Muzzle velocities were determined via a LabRadar chronograph, $559. All shots for group were done from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistol Rest from MidwayUSA and aided by a mini-DRC Fortune Cookie bag from Wiebad.com. The handloads for this test were assembled using data from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. LSWC = lead semi-wadcutter. JSP = jacketed soft point. WNGC = wide nose gas check.
|Hunter’s Supply 240-grain LSWC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1282 fps||1271 fps||1367 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||883 ft.-lbs.||869 ft.-lbs.||1004 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.19 in.||0.86 in.||0.99 in.|
|Best Group||1.05 in.||0.54 in.||0.65 in.|
|Speer Gold Dot 240-grain JSP||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1351 fps||1287 fps||1421 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||973 ft.-lbs.||882 ft.-lbs.||1076 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.05 in.||0.98 in.||0.86 in.|
|Best Group||0.49 in.||0.85 in.||0.77 in.|
|Cast Performance Bullet 320-grain WNGC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1048 fps||1030 fps||1118 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||781 ft.-lbs.||754 ft.-lbs.||888 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||0.86 in.||1.08 in.||0.61 in.|
|Best Group||0.71 in.||0.93 in.||0.46 in.|
Value Guide Powerful Revolver Rankings
|Smith & Wesson Model 29-2 44 Magnum, $1250||Sep. 2021||B+||This Very Good used specimen had a trigger that was a joy to shoot and a beautiful old-school blued finish.|
|Taurus Model 44 2-440049 44 Magnum, $661||Sep. 2021||B||If you want a field gun subject to inclement weather, the Taurus is an easy pick over the M29.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP4WTS 357 Magnum, $1300||Jan. 2021||A||Pricey, but the new Python is a winner, even if it isn’t an exact clone of the original Python.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP6WTS 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A||We really liked the trigger and found the revolver to be quite accurate.|
|Colt Python (1980) 357 Magnum, ~$2500||Jan. 2021||A||The trigger is superb and the royal-blue finish is brilliant. The aftermarket Hogue grip reduces felt recoil.|
|Colt Python (1964) 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A-||It provided good performance and accuracy. This is a shooter and perhaps is a candidate for restoration.|
|Colt King Cobra KCOBRA-SB3BB 357 Magnum, $838||May. 2020||A||Offers good performance with the 3-inch barrel and is well made. Carrying it takes a bit of effort.|
|Rock Island Armory AL3.0 357 Magnum, $504||May. 2020||A-||There was a lot to like, price, accuracy, shooting comfort. Not a beautiful revolver for sure.|
|Rossi Model 971 VRC 357 Magnum, $295||May. 2020||B||A great trigger, and the porting helped keep us on target. But the accuracy was less than stellar.|
|Taurus Raging Hunter Model 2-440085RH 44 Magnum, $683||Dec. 2019||A||The Raging Hunter comes optic ready and offers the versatility of the 44 Mag cartridge.|
|Smith & Wesson PC M460XVR 170262 460 S&W Mag., $1369||Dec. 2019||A||The 460XVR is very versatile, with the ability to shoot a variety of calibers. It comes optics ready.|
|Smith & Wesson S&W 500 163500 500 S&W Mag., $1082||Dec. 2019||A-||Cartridge choice is limited. We found this revolver to be accurate and offer plenty of punch both ways.|
|Taurus Model 66 2-660041 357 Magnum, $371||Oct. 2019||A||Well suited to personal defense and home defense. Good field gun for protection against animals.|
|Taurus 608 Matte Stainless 2-608049 357 Magnum, $548||Oct. 2019||A-||It is a big gun. Just the same, the size and eight-shot capacity made it ideal for home defense.|
|Smith & Wesson M27 Classic 150339 357 Magnum, $909||Oct. 2019||B-||The grips are not the best design for handling magnum loads. Trigger action was very heavy.|
|Ruger GP100 KGP-141 357 Magnum, $500||Sep. 2018||A||The stainless-steel GP100 performs in all categories: accuracy, smoothness, control, and velocity.|
|S&W M66 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $420||Sep. 2018||B+||Stainless steel, smooth action, and a round-butt configuration seldom seen on the Combat Magnum.|
|Ruger GP100 GP-141 357 Magnum, $480||Sep. 2018||B+||The blued GP100 doesn’t perform on par with the stainless, and the stainless is easier to maintain.|
|S&W M19 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $800||Sep. 2018||B||Came with a display case and a knife with matching serial number — pretty neat, but also pricey.|
|Taurus Model 66 357 Magnum, $325||Sep. 2018||B-||The barrel length of 6 inches did not generate greater velocity. Current-production version is 2-660069.|
|Taurus Tracker 44TRACKER4SS 2-440049TKR 44 Mag., $449||Jan. 2018||A||Best Buy. A formidable revolver. Proved reliable and should be useful as a home-defense revolver.|