Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Ruger's New Blackhawk: Fun Incarnate
I picked up my Blackhawk last week. It's got a 7 1/2" barrel and is chambered for the ancient .45 Colt (aka .45 Long Colt). I loaded up 100 rounds of .45 colt in Starline nickel plated brass(seen above) and topped 50 with Magtech 250 grain LRNFP's and the other 50 with Speer 200gr SWC--both cast lead bullets. I used WW231 powder (I don't publish my load data for CYA reasons, sorry) and CCI Large Pistol primers. I loaded my own ammo because .45 Colt ammo off the store shelf is absurdly expensive. Twenty rounds of plain old plinking ammo will run you about $17.50. I loaded all 100 of my rounds for about $40. Re-using my brass, the next 100 will cost about $18--about the same as 100 rounds of 9mm bulk ammo. If you're going to shoot .45 Colt and you aren't made of money, a reloading press may serve you well.
I took the old smokewagon out to my dad's farm for a thorough workout. I shot a bad-guy silhouette and didn't keep careful track of my groups. I will sit down and do a serious accuracy workout before I head back to college (I hope). I could make head shots from 35 yards when resting over the hood of my truck. From 25 yards or less and using a one-handed hold, the torso was an easy target. I shot a good number of "X"s once I got my grip figured out. I managed to pick off an unlucky sparrow from about 20 yards using a two-hand hold. I apologise again for not getting solid group sizes or doing any serious testing. It took about three cylinders of ammo to figure out that this gun requires a firm grip to keep the muzzle from diving when that massive hammer comes crashing down on the firing pin. Also, the trigger was a bit heavy. Very clean and crisp, but heavy. The revolver itself points very naturally and I think it is better used with a one-hand grip inside 25 yards. Provided you aren't trying to kill sparrows, that is.
The sights are big and blocky, which is nice because this revolver is capable of pretty amazing accuracy. My only complaint is that the front blade disappears in the glare of the sun. I'm heading out to the hobby shop to pick up some burnt orange paint for it. That should cure the glare and give me a clearer sight picture.
The trigger could use a little work, but is very capable right out of the box. I ordered a Wilson Combat reduced power spring kit to reduce the hammer's "nose dive" effect. Also, the checkering on the grips is a bit rough on your bare hands when it's cold out. With gloves on, the deep checkering really gives you some purchase on the grip. With bare hands and a 30mph crosswind on a 25 degree day, it is painful. No problem because I'm going to dress it up with some black pearlite grips from MidwayUSA.
On the tangible side of things, the Blackhawk is rugged, simple, accurate, and darn near cheap. I was out the door for $422 and change. Rugers are notorious for being overbuilt and tough. The Blackhawk takes that to the extreme. As proof, check out this article by the legendary John Linebaugh. I would feel perfectly comfortable with the Blackhawk at my side as a woods companion. Double action revolvers are faster to shoot, unload and reload. Semi-auto pistols are faster yet. However, as a hunting piece or an insurance policy while checking the back forty, a single action revolver chambered for a powerful cartridge will do just fine. It's also quite a bit of fun on the range.
Now for the intangibles. I love this revolver. It is slow to fire. It is slow to load. It is even slower to unload. But I don't care. It is just a hoot to fire. It has enough recoil to be fun, but without beating on you. It's easy to shoot accurately, and almost impossible for me to put down. I brought my M&P15 and three magazines with me to the range, but I just couldn't put the old single action revolver down! I fired off 48 rounds before I realized it. I was trying to pace myself and try to objectively measure the difference in recoil between the 200 grain SWCs and the 250 grain LRNFPs. I can't tell you because I was too busy enjoying myself while firing bullets the size of ashtrays into the forehead of my bad-guy silhouette. For a few minutes, I was the man who shot Liberty Valance. I was Rooster Cogburn. I was the Man with No Name. I was the Flatland Gun Nut, enjoying myself immensely.