The Colt’s gun squeezes out a win over a Ruger Super Redhawk in this matchup of Hunter Pistol–ready wheelguns.
Handgun silhouette shooters who are in the market for a new competition revolver have a number of items from which to choose, but they must be careful to select a wheelgun that has the basic performance characteristics necessary to succeed in the sport.
Foremost among these considerations is the question of cartridge, whose recoil must be shootable over at least a 40-shot course but still have the accuracy and oomph to ram down los borregos at 100 meters or 100 yards. The .44 Magnum is a long-standing favorite because of its power and wide availability of components for building accurate handloads. Other factors the shooter must consider is weight: Guns chosen for the Hunter’s Pistol class rule 3.1. must come in under 4.5 pounds complete with sighting equipment and have a barrel no longer than 10.75 inches. Of course, it’s also helpful if the gun can do double duty in another silhouette category, which means it’s nice if the product comes with good open sights that make weight so the gun can be used under 3.1.1 Hunter’s Pistol Open Sights rules, and if the product is drilled and tapped for scope bases, or can otherwise accommodate optics under the confines of the Long Range Pistol event’s rule 3.3.2 for Conventional Pistol, which has the same restrictions as the Hunter’s Pistol class.
We recently tested a trio of revolvers that fit these requirements: Ruger’s Super Redhawk GKSRH-7, a stainless-steel version with a 7.5-inch barrel that retails for $589; a Colt Anaconda MM3080, the 8-inch stainless-finish .44 Magnum that commonly sells for $629 retail, and Smith & Wesson’s blued Model 29 .44 Magnum wheelgun, which comes with an 8.4-inch barrel and a retail price of $566. Of the set, we preferred the Anaconda over the Redhawk and 29, for reasons we describe below.
How We Tested
We acquired a selection of .44 Magnum ammunition from three manufacturers. We used Remington’s .44 Remington Magnum 210-grain semi-jacketed hollow points (R44MG6), CCI’s Blazer .44 Magnum 240-grain jacketed hollow-point round (D01C3), and Winchester’s .44 Remington Magnum 240-grain jacketed soft-point loading (Q4240). To test for accuracy, we clamped the guns into a Ransom Pistol Rest with windage base. The rest was mounted on a 24-inch-square plywood base that was 1.4 inches thick. This platform was C-clamped to a 1-inch-thick steel sheet attached to a steel pipe embedded in concrete and planted in the ground. We shot all our test groups outdoors at 50 yards. We fired 10 six-shot groups to collect our accuracy data, spotting the rounds with a Nikon 20- to 60-power Field Spotting Scope. Using a Parker-Hale cleaning rod and jag, we cleaned the guns with Pro-Shot copper solvent between lots and then fouled each gun before shooting the next test lot. We measured all the groups to the nearest tenth of an inch using a Neal Jones benchrest-scoring device.
We also did extensive range testing on steel silhouette targets, following the design of standard competitions we’ve attended. It was during the range testing that we formulated our likes and dislikes about the guns’s form and function. After this extensive testing, we were able to formulate what we liked and didn’t like about each gun. Here’s what we thought:
Ruger Super Redhawk
Introduction: Ruger’s revolver line is extensive, and it includes two Redhawk marques. The $589 Super Redhawk, introduced in 1987, is distinguished from the standard Redhawk by its heavy extended frame and its integral scope-mounting system on the wide topstrap. Also, the Super’s wide hammer spur has been lowered for better scope clearance. There are two versions of the gun in 7.5-inch barrel length (KSRH-7 and GKSRH-7) and two that wear the 9.5-inch barrel (KSRH-9 and GKSRH-9). The G-designation guns, like the GKSRH-7 we tested, have a high-gloss stainless-steel finish, while the other two have a satin-stainless exterior. Our gun came with a lockable case made of high-impact plastic, a lock and keys. Also supplied were two 1-inch stainless-steel scope rings, which fit the gun’s built-in Barrel Integral Scope Mounts. Two sight kits are offered for the revolvers, one of which is a steel gold-bead front sight with matching V-notch rear sight. We tested the other system, which paired four interchangeable fiberglass-reinforced nylon front sights with an adjustable rear sight with a white outline.
Physical Description. Our test Super Redhawk had a bright-gloss stainless finish on its 7.5-inch barrel and frame. “Cushioned Grip” panels of Santoprene and Goncalo Alves wood accented the polished steel, making a very attractive firearm. The six-shot gun weighed 53.5 ounces and measured 13 inches in overall length. The sight radius was 9.5 inches. The gun’s maximum height was 6 inches, and maximum width (across the cylinder) was 1.75 inches. The trigger broke between 3.75 to 4 pounds. The gun featured an interchangeable red-nylon front sight, which settled into a square-shaped rear notch with a white outline. The barrel/cylinder gap measured 0.004 inch. The cylinder chamber mouths measured 0.48, 0.47, 0.50, 0.50, 0.49, and 0.51 inches. The Super Redhawk had Ruger’s standard transfer-bar safety mechanism. Also, the gun has no sideplates, which means the sidewalls act as integral portions of the frame. Ruger says this design helps the gun withstand the stresses imposed by the .44 Magnum round. Fit and finish on all the parts was excellent.
Accuracy Evaluation. As the accompanying table shows, this gun shot best with Remington 210-grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints, which amassed 2.88-inch groups on average and a best group of 1.32 inches. The Blount CCI Blazer 240-grain jacketed hollowpoint rounds were next with 3.76-inch average groups, and a best group of 3.10 inches, followed by Winchester’s 240-grain jacketed soft-point loading (4.59-inch average groups, 3.84-inch best group). The gun’s overall average across all three rounds was 3.74 inches. We didn’t note any accuracy variation among the gun’s six cylinders.
Operation Evaluation. Handling the gun, we thought the Super Redhawk’s hammer movement and cylinder rotation were smooth, positive, and trouble free. The trigger broke cleanly between 3.75 to 4 pounds. The rubber/wood grips helped control the gun, we thought, and offered some cushion for the stiff recoil of the .44 Magnum. Still, even with a two-handed grip on the gun, we felt the .44 Magnum drive the muzzle drive up after each shot. Magnaporting or some other type of barrel porting would make the gun much more controllable and comfortable to shoot, in our estimation.
The large, square rear sight notch provided suitable light bars on each side of the front blade, and choosing from the nylon sight inserts allowed us to tailor the sight picture to our tastes. To change the inserts, the shooter uses a punch to push in a plunger on the muzzle end of the front sight. The shooter then lifts the back end of the sight out of the notch. We had no malfunctions during firing.
Without rings and a scope, the gun easily made weight for Hunter’s Pistol at 53.5 ounces. The supplied rings and a 2X Leupold scope added another 11 ounces, which means the gun can compete carrying optics in the Hunter’s Pistol class (maximum weight of 4.5 pounds or 72 ounces) and under the iron-sight 3.1.1 rule without glass. It also easily makes weight in the other classifications, too, including 3.3.2 Conventional Pistol and 3.3.4 Conventional Revolver in the Long Range event.
Colt Anaconda MM3080PDT
Introduction: Like Ruger, Colt’s revolver line is extensive, and it includes three items in the Anaconda double-action .44 Magnum/.44 Special group. There is one version of the gun in 4-inch barrel length (MM3040DT), one 6-inch barrel (MM3060DT), and one 8-inch barrel (MM3080PDT). A fourth Anaconda is the .45 Colt MM4560DT, which has a 6-inch barrel. (Two 1996 models have been dropped from the 1997 line, the MM3080RT 8-inch camouflaged .44 Magnum and the MM4580 8-inch .45 Colt.) All the guns have matte-stainless finishes. The DT in their designations refers to “drilled and tapped” for Colt scope mounts. The P letter in our test gun means the barrel is ported. Porting is available as an option on the DT models. All of the Anacondas sell for $629.
Physical Description. Our gun came with a padded plastic case, but it lacked scope rings like the Ruger. The Colt’s wide, deeply grooved hammer spur has been lowered for better scope clearance. A red ramp front sight is paired with a white-outline adjustable rear sight. The gun had a free-floating ejector rod, offset bolt notches, full-length housing, and full-length integrated ventilated barrel rib that contributed to its 56-ounce weight. It was drilled and tapped for a scope mount. Our test Anaconda had a matte- stainless finish on its 8-inch barrel and frame. Black-rubber grips with finger grooves—with the rampant Colt medallion embedded in them—accented the polished steel. The six-shooter measured 137/8 inches in overall length. The sight radius was 10 inches. The gun’s maximum height was 6.3 inches, and maximum width (across the cylinder) was 1.75 inches. The trigger broke between 4 to 4.25 pounds. The barrel/cylinder gap measured 0.006 inch. The cylinder chamber mouths measured 0.53, 0.52, 0.52, 0.50, 0.50, and 0.53 inches. The Super Redhawk had Ruger’s standard transfer-bar safety mechanism. The gun has an automatic safety device that prevents hammer energy from being transferred to the firing pin unless the trigger is held back. The ten ports on the top of the barrel measured 0.125 inch in diameter, and the muzzle was also recessed 0.050 inch. Fit and finish on all the parts was excellent.
Accuracy Evaluation. As the accompanying table shows, this gun shot best with Blount CCI Blazer 240-grain jacketed hollowpoint rounds. They produced 2.94-inch groups on average and a best group of 2.10 inches. Remington 210-grain semi-jacketed hollowpoints were next with 3.03-inch average groups, and a best group of 1.96 inches, followed by Winchester’s 240-grain jacketed soft-point (4.06-inch average groups, 2.30-inch best group). The gun’s overall average across all three rounds was 3.34 inches. We didn’t note any accuracy variation among the gun’s six cylinders.
Operation Evaluation. Handling the gun, we thought the Super Redhawk’s hammer movement and cylinder rotation were smooth and on time. The trigger broke cleanly between 4 to 4.25 pounds. The rubber grips cushioned the stiff recoil of the .44 Magnum, and the barrel porting kept the .44 Magnum’s muzzle from flying up after each shot. This factory feature gave the Colt a significant advantage, in our estimation. The white-outline rear sight notch was easy to align. We had no malfunctions during firing.
Without rings and a scope, the gun easily made weight for Hunter’s Pistol. We added steel rings and mount and a 2X Leupold scope, which brought the unit’s total weight to 70 ounces, just a shade under the 72-ounce maximum. Thus, the optically-equipped gun can compete in the Hunter’s Pistol class (maximum weight of 64.5 ounces), or without optics under the iron-sight 3.1.1 rule. Like the Ruger, it also makes weight in other classifications, too.
Performance Shooter Recommends
If we were buying a gun today, we would choose the Colt Anaconda MM3080PDT by a nose. Though Colt’s needs to supply a scope base and rings with the gun, the factory barrel porting feature makes that cost a wash, since the Super Redhawk needs porting, in our view. The Anaconda shot slightly better overall, and its best group size was on par with what the Ruger did.
Those things said, Ruger’s Super Redhawk GKSRH-7 is a nice piece of machinery. It shot the best group in the test, handled well, and brought a rounded complement of features to the table. At $589, it was also $40 cheaper than the Anaconda, if that amount of money is a factor. Though our shooters gave the nod to the Anaconda, we nonetheless recommend the Super Redhawk.