Big Bore Revolver, which one?


January 16, 2003, 08:24 AM
Hello all,

I am a lurker from the Firing Line forums but I never actually posted. I have a question for all of you. I am looking for a .44 caliber or larger revolver and have pretty much narrowed it down to the .44 magnum or the .45 Long Colt. I shoot at an indoor range (25 yds) where we have to use 'house ammo' and they don't sell anything like .454 or .480 or .50 AE. What would you recommend I get as far as a revolver is concerned? Is a non fluted cylinder a big deal? I have been mainly looking at the Smith and the Ruger Redhawk. The weapon would be for target shooting and the like. I have much smaller items for a CCW.

My primary wants are that it is built to last, is accurate out of the box, and has a comfortable grip. I do reload so I suppose that should be taken into consideration because there are places I can go to shoot outdoors.

Thanks in advance for the information.


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January 16, 2003, 09:16 AM
Not enough of a difference to loose much sleep over, I myself am a huge 45 colt fan, however if your range makes you buy house ammo you may want to price their 44 vs 45 and see how much more this is going to cost you to shoot.

If you reload you can get equal performance out of the 45 with less pressure, a good thing.

Bottom line both great calibers, look to the ammo aspect.

January 16, 2003, 09:58 AM
Both are great guns. I prefer Ruger Revolvers though, I have the Super RedHawk in .454 Cas (7 1/2" BBL), but normally I shoot .45 Colt through it (.454 is $20 a box of 20) and it's like a shotting a
.38 Spl.

.44 Mag and .45 Colt run about the same price - depending on which manufacter you decide on.

I like being able to load hot .45 Colt and still not have the "felt recoil" of the .44 - loaded right - you can beat the .44 and still not have a sore wrist after a hundered rounds.

Plan on hunting with the gun in .45 Colt with a couple of the
Cor Bon hunting loads.....

Try to shhot both if you haven't already and see what you think.

Happy shooting.....

Tony Z
January 16, 2003, 10:13 AM
Just my .02

I would go with the 44 magnum, The Ruger Redhawk is one of the best revolvers in my opinon. You just can't go wrong with the 44 Mag in the Ruger Redhawk.


January 16, 2003, 10:29 AM
I agree with the other gentlemen. However I am used to the Older Smiths. Never used a Ruger; therefore, can't give any opinion on that weapon.

I own and shoot a Model 29 classic (blue) 5". Very accurate. My pet load is 10 Grains of Unique with a Keith style gas checked 240 grain bullet. Mild recoil and very accurate. My heavy loads use jacketed bullets with H110 or 296. I use Hogue Rubber grips. I think they are comfortable.

I own a Colt .45 single action, and enjoy shooting it. If I wanted to be serious with the .45 long Colt I would buy an Older N Frame Smith with a 4 inch barrel preferably.

My preference would be for the .44 Mag. I think they are more versatile. Many manufacturers load a variety of shells, and there are many bullets available for loading.

Hope this helps a little. Regards Barney

Bottom Gun
January 16, 2003, 11:41 AM
I would look for a good USED S&W in .44 mag.

Gila Jorge
January 16, 2003, 11:50 AM
I have a 629 Classic 44mag and several Ruger Vaqueros in 44mag and a SBH in 44mag. I also
have a BH in 45 LC. Also a 696 Smith in 44 Spcl.
I much prefer the 44s over the 45s. My first big bore was a 45 LC. I also reload. That said the
45LC caqn be handloaded to 44mag levels and at lower pressures. If I were looking for Single
Actions they would be Rugers....double actions would be Smiths.

January 16, 2003, 12:17 PM
I have both S&W and Ruger in 44 mag and 45 LC. Enjoy the heck out of both of them. As you indicate that you are a reloader I think that the 45 LC in the Ruger Redhawk or Super Redhawk might be the better choice. As other posters have mentioned the 45 LC can be reloaded to higher levels of performance than that of a 44 mag. My persnal choice is to do this in my Rugers and not to do this in my S&W. Rugers are just that much more strongly built handguns. The Super Redhawk in 454 is an interesting choice because of the flexibility it offers. You can shoot any power range from mildly loaded 45 LC's up to and including the powerful 454 stuff. Further, you can load 454 for a lot less than the "buck a bang" stuff you buy at the gun store.l FWIW. Good shooting:)

January 16, 2003, 03:57 PM
Having handled and shot a most of the stuff thats out and available, I still have to vote for Elmer Keiths favorite:
The S&W mod29 with a 4"bbl.

The Rugers are fine guns, but are just too big/heavy for my tastes. Occasionally I like to take my guns out to the "boonies", and lugging around a 4lb revolver isn't what its all about. If I need more than a 4" .44mag, I'll carry a .35 Rem Marlin336 loaded w/180fn @2500fps or Bushmaster w/14.5"ak-bbl!

Besides, there's lots of 4"M29's floating about and prices are reasonalble.

January 16, 2003, 04:24 PM
I say go with the .454 Super Redhawk and go as light or heavy as you comfortably tolerate.

January 16, 2003, 05:26 PM
Is a non fluted cylinder a big deal?

Only personal preference. The weakest point is going to be where the bolt stop notch is, there isn't a difference in strength between fluted and non fluted cylinders.

I like the 45 Colt, but if you're going to be forced to shoot their house ammo you might be better off going with the 44, much wider range of factory type loadings than there is for the 45 Colt.

January 16, 2003, 06:04 PM
I have four Redhawks; I like them, but I've added Pachmayr Decelerators to them all.

All extremely accurate (lucky me?).

The Mighty Beagle
January 16, 2003, 08:38 PM
Had both calibers, no longer own the .45 Colt guns. 44 Mag. is just too ubiquitous, with so many different loads to choose from and light Specials often being just as easy to find as .45 Colt ammo.

Hot-rodded .45's? I found having a "reloads-only" gun somewhat disadvantageous. There are just times when I want factory ammo, such as for self-defense and testing purposes. And yes, occasionally I do rely on a big-bore magnum for defense.

Redhawks are great guns but the Smith is far more carryable and usually has a better trigger. I finally got sick of fighting my Redhawk's weight and heavy SA pull.

Might I also suggest a new Dan Wesson? My used sample is quite nice, with accuracy and a sweet trigger. Still the most comfy gun though when firing Magnums.

January 16, 2003, 08:51 PM
The .45 Colt screams for a single action revolver. I would get a Ruger Vaquero chambered in .45 Colt.

If you want the DA revolver, then I would get a S&W M29 .44 Magnum revolver.

January 16, 2003, 10:01 PM
Thank you for all of the information. I guess I will go check out the 454 Casull this weekend since it seems I can also shoot 45 LC out of it. I have shot a 44 mag and did not find the recoil too bad ( I only shot 50 rounds) but if I can find something that hits as hard and doesn't recoil as much, that is all the better.

Thanks again for the information.


Carlos Cabeza
January 17, 2003, 12:02 PM
Apparently the >45 long colt can do everything the .44 mag can do and more. I recently purchased a .44 Vaquero and I am pleased with it. The .45 LC seems to be hard to find at my ususal sources for ammo and is a bit more $. You might want to visit the "Linebaugh Custom Sixguns" website, they have some interesting articles concerning the ballistic differences between the .45 LC and the .44 Mag. Also they can make a Ruger into a real HANDCANNON if you wish !!!:)

January 17, 2003, 06:55 PM
After a long time as a dyed-in-the-wool semi guy, the Ruger Redhawk in 44 Mag has become my favorite handgun. I can't say enough about it, shoots great, super strong for those wrist-smashing loads we love to stuff and the accuracy is astounding.

I think that if you were going to shoot reloads, either the 44 or 45 would be fine, but since you'll have to use house ammo when shooting indoors, IMO you'll be better off with the 44.

Either way, you're in for a ton o' fun--enjoy!

January 17, 2003, 07:38 PM
Single action or Double action?

A double action gun of the same strength will be heavier than a single action gun.
DA:Smith&Wesson 29/629
DA:Ruger Redhawk
DA:Ruger SuperRedhawk
SA:Ruger Blackhawk
SA:Ruger Vaquero/Bisley

44Magnum version of the same gun will be stronger than the 45Colt version of the same gun. But since the 44Magnum operates at higher pressures than the 45Colt, everything is the same.
A 45Colt will push 250gr and heavier bullets at the same velocity as a 44Magnum, but at lower pressures (out of modern guns).

A custom gun maker, John Linebaugh, makes custom 45Colt handguns out of 44Mag Ruger Blackhawks. He reams the cylinder to tight tolerances, and 45Colt brass will last longer because of this. Polishing the cylinder helps in extraction too. I doubt factory Rugers/Smiths have tight/polished chambers. He's not cheap though.

45Colt looks good on paper too. Since its 0.451-0.452 diameter. I can use my 230gr RN bullets. Just gotta watch out for the recoil, or put a cannelure/crimping groove on the bullet before its used on the 45Colt.

January 18, 2003, 12:23 PM
Notes from IPSC'ing with Redhawks:

The 44 gets real hot on long field course.
The 45 Colt needs dedicated speedloaders, probably.
LSWC bullets can hinder quick reloads.
ANY EXAMPLE may need chamfers, both on chambers and extractor stars.
The 41 doesn't get nearly as hot as the bigger ones.
The 357 hardly gets hot at all.
(Clarification: when I write 'hot' I mean the 'raise blisters' kinda hot.)
The 357 versions' 7.5" tube means I got serious sight radius.
Open-bottomed Milt Sparks holsters rule the MOO universe.
Federal primers.

Notes from brain:

Ruger, make me a 6-shot 10mm moon-clip GP with a 4" tube; screw S&W.
The 7.5" is slower drawing out of the holster.
Seven speedloaders minimum.
Can't put cannelure on bonded bullets (well, you can, but results will be erratic).
Universal Clays is extremely versatile, if you care about accuracy (and metering, and cleanliness, and cost, and density, and maybe some other stuff).


First, consider what you'll actually use the gun for. You know, kinda like you consider which tool to use.
S&W and Taurus both make decent revolvers, but they may not be your ideal 'tool'.
Ruger, either.

Brad Johnson
January 18, 2003, 01:14 PM
From the standpoint of sheer versatility the Ruger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull is hard to beat. Power ranges go from ultra-light .45 LC plinkers all the way up to wrist-wrenching Casull loads that will reliably knock down anything smaller than a Greyhound bus.


January 18, 2003, 02:35 PM
I used to have a 29 Classic 5" that was amazingly accurate. They have really nice triggers. I can't even use the DA triggers on semi-autos after I've used one on an N-frame. I only sold it because I couldn't afford to feed it.

January 18, 2003, 02:49 PM
If you reload and particularly if you reload for a .45 auto as well, the .45 is a better deal so long as you select a revolver (Ruger) sufficiently strong to make it worth the effort. You may need to have the cylinder throats reamed on a .45 Colt, or you may not. A number of them run tight for the bore diameter, which means you start an undersized bullet down the tube from the outset. The remedy is to have them reamed, but by all means shoot the gun considerably and identify a problem before you have this done. Many will shoot fine as is.

The .44 Mag is just as good as the .45 Colt for 99% of any hunting application you might put a handgun to. Any .44 Mag you choose will handle any factory .44 Mag load, with the exception of specialized loads engineered for long-cylindered guns like the Redhawk and Super Redhawk. A steady diet of monster-killer loads will shorten the useful life of any gun not designed specifically for those types of loads. If I needed to shoot loads that heavy all the time, I might just start with a .454 from the outset. As it is I shoot a standard .44 Redhawk, and can employ any load from the lightest .44 Special level loads to 330 grain bullets at 1350 fps. I have encountered nothing in field applications that would cause me to trade it in on a .45 Colt.

The .44 enjoys a couple of other advantages; you can get factory ammo or components practically anywhere. If you like big rifles and reload, you can get a .444 and use the same (component) bullets for both rifle and pistol. You cannot do that with a .45 Colt/.45-70 combo, and expect stellar accuracy using your .451-2 pistol bullets in the rifle's .457-8 bore. The .45-70 in its hottest loadings may shade the .444 in power just a bit, and in specially built 5-shot revolvers that cost about as much as a used pickup, the .45 Colt enjoys a similar slight advantage over the typical stock .44 Magnum. You cannot shoot the heaviest .45-70 loads in just any old .45-70 you might find a good deal on, but you can shoot the .444s in any rifle so marked by the manufacturer.

The .45 Cult (oops- meant "Colt", or did I?) is a superb round in the right gun, and has enjoyed the attendant publicity boom that has come with the Cowboy Action craze. This is a fine thing by the way, because it has gotten a lot of folks out shooting who otherwise might never have bothered. It has tons of tradition and 'cowboy coolness', if those things are important to you. The endless arguments about power, pressure and recoil are perhaps best taken with a grain of salt; I think you will find that the most vocal proponents of the .45 are those who make their livings customizing, rechambering, supplying ammunition for them or writing about them. This is just fine too; they are providing a fine service which is good for the industry and handgunning in general. I'm just not convinced that stock, six-shot .45 Colts enjoy a significant power advantage over .44s in the same model. If you prefer a slick revolver like the S&W N-frames, the .44 shows an apparent power advantage- but the fact is that you can kill about anything with good .45 Colt loads tailored to these guns as well. If I was looking to carry one for defensive purposes as well as hunting, I would probably pick the .45 Colt to avoid the much-maligned 'Dirty Harry' stigma which might follw dusting some miscreant with a .44 Magnum. I did carry the .44 for a few years for just those purposes, but thankfully nobody tempted their good luck charms beyond the limit and we never had to test the theory.

Far more important than any real or imagined power, pressure or recoil difference between them is the necessity of putting a bullet, suitable for accomplishing the intended task, precisely where it needs to go. Either will handle any sane handgun chore in fine style so long as you accomplish that little amenity when you really need it.

Good luck in your happy dilemma, and I seriously doubt you can go wrong either way.

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