S&W .44 backpacker vs Ruger super redhawk Ak .454


June 9, 2010, 11:31 PM
I am going to buy either the super redhawk alaskan .454 or the S&W backpacker. I was wodering if anyone has fired both of these weapons and can give me your impressions of each. I have fired the .454 7" and I really like it but I dont want to carry a 7" barrel and a rifle. I will be carrying it as a side arm while deer hunting. I live and guide in alaska and will be using it primarily for bear protection.

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June 9, 2010, 11:37 PM
Having owned a 2.5" 629... its nothing to be worried about.
I have a 27/8" .44 mag in my EDC rotation.
It barks and jumps... but isnt painful.
I am accurate with it , tagging coffee cans, at 40 yards.


NM Mountainman
June 10, 2010, 12:51 PM
I know that my answer does not directly address the exact question which the OP asked. But you may find my point of view on the question helpful.

I have fired numerous .44 Mag rounds through S&W N frame revolvers with all barrel lengths from 2.5" to 8.4". I've also owned and fired many rounds through Redhawks and Super Blackhawks. All of them shot well, and all are fun to shoot. All are high quality revolvers, and I like them all. I have also carried S&W 629's in all barrel lengths from 2.5' to 6.5'' in a belt holster while hiking or hunting all day in rugged mountainous terrain. I've only carried the 7.5" length Rugers.

It is my observation that none of the barrel lengths shorter than 4" offer any practical advantages at all when compared to the 4" barrel. True, the shorter barrel will save about 2 or maybe 3 oz. of weight, but you will never notice it when carrying the revolver in a belt holster. In addition, the 4" barrel revolver is just as quick and convenient to draw as a 2.5" or 3" barrel if you are using a well designed, high quality belt and holster.

In my experience, almost all shooters shoot the 4" gun better than the shorter ones, even if they like the shorter ones better. You will also get a little more velocity and a little less recoil and muzzle blast from the 4" barrel. And the 4" barrel model usually can be purchased for a lower price. So for shooting, practical use, and convenient all day carry in a belt holster, a 629 with a 4" barrel is as good as it gets. The Ruger confers no practical advantages over the S&W, so I prefer the S&W for its smoother action and trigger pull.

Similarly, I see no practical advantage in getting a Mountain Gun rather than a standard 629 with 4" barrel. The weight savings with a MG is negligible.

Ruger and S&W have both used various marketing ploys to convince us that a .44 Mag snubby is somehow better to carry for bear defense or for survival scenarios. It's just another way to sell more guns. But a .44 Mag revolver is a bulky and heavy revolver regardless of barrel length. The slight savings in weight with the shorter (than 4") barrels confers no real practical advantages.

But if you are a collector, and you want to own examples of all available barrel lengths, then go for it. Or if you just like the looks of the shorter barrels, buy one and enjoy it. (I think they look kind of cool myself.) But you won't get any real practical advantages with the shorter barrels in .44 Mag.

The .454 with a 4" to 6" barrel (if you can find one) will also be a better shooter than one with a shorter barrel.

June 10, 2010, 01:59 PM
The benefits of the .454 aren't realized in such a short barrel. Heavy .44 loads will develop just as much energy from a 2-3" barrel.

As far as the choice between the two guns, that's totally up to you. The Smith has a smoother action and is just generally more svelte and lighter weight. However, that weight savings can be a negative if you intend to shoot it much. My 3" 629 beats on me pretty good with 240 grain and heavier loads. Not like my 7.5" SRH .454, but not exactly pleasant, either.

I'd say handle both, then decide.

As an aside, the Alaskan will afford you the ability to run heavy .45 Colt loads and, if you handload, .454 loads better suited to a shorter barrel.

June 10, 2010, 02:54 PM
The Ruger confers no practical advantages over the S&W...

Except, of course, the length of the cylinder, which draws remarks such as the following from Buffalo Bore's website regarding their heaviest .44 Magnum ammo:

"Heavy .44 Magnum +P+ Ammo - 340 gr. L.F.N. - G.C. (1,478 fps/M.E. 1,649 ft. lbs.) - 20 Round Box


This new load is designed for only certain revolvers that have the cylinder length to handle it. They are as follows. Ruger Red Hawk, Ruger Super Red Hawk, Ruger Super Blackhawk or Vaquero, Freedom Arms Model 83, Taurus Raging Bull and Dan Wesson Revolvers. Suitable rifles include T/C Encore, "modified" Marlin 1894, Winchester 1894, any rifle with a falling block action and the Handi Rifle.

This load brings a level of power to the 44 mag. that has never before been known.

The below velocities tell the story.

5.5 inch factory stock Red Hawk - 1401 fps
7.5 inch factory stock Red Hawk - 1478 fps"

If you want to "hot rod" the .44 Magnum into near .454 territory, the Ruger can handle it better than the S&W.

Considering the OP specifically mentioned a short-barreled sidearm for brown bear defense, this particular advantage of the Ruger seems especially practical.

June 10, 2010, 03:32 PM
Wow. 340 gr bullet at over 1400 FPS in a revolver is a lot of gun.

NM Mountainman
June 10, 2010, 06:12 PM
"Considering the OP specifically mentioned a short-barreled sidearm for brown bear defense, this particular advantage of the Ruger seems especially practical."

When I said there was no practical advantage of a Ruger over a S&W, I was referring to revolvers with 4" and shorter barrels. For most shooters it is not a practical option to shoot loads with bullets heavier than 240 or 250 grains in these revolvers, or to use BB maximum +P+ loads. Loads exceeding SAAMI specs are difficult to shoot in these short (4" or less) barrel revolvers regardless of whether it says Ruger or S&W on the barrel. The recoil is just too severe. So in a short barrel or light weight revolver, you will be wise to restrict yourself to loads with bullet weights which do not exceed 250 grains and with pressures below SAAMI maximums. With hard cast bullets, these loads will still give good penetration.

BB sells a lower recoil (and lower velocity) load with a 250 gr. hard cast bullet. It was specifically designed to use with a S&W 329. Go to their web site and see what they have to say about it. I think a load like this will be a practical maximum load for most shooters with a short (4" or less) barrel .44 Mag.

June 10, 2010, 06:55 PM
For most shooters it is not a practical option to shoot loads with bullets heavier than 240 or 250 grains in these revolvers, or to use BB maximum +P+ loads.

I agree. I was just suggesting that if a person was to get either a 4" Redhawk or a 4" 629, and they wanted it to do absolutely everything (including the occasional cylinder full of 300-340 grain loads), the Ruger has the edge. I do, however, prefer the action, trigger, and ergonomics of the 629. The Ruger just soaks up nasty loads much better, and will happily accommodate the specialty +P and +P+ cartridges.

I've shot Buffalo Bore's 300-grain .44 Magnum +P hardcast loads through my 4" Redhawk, and it's not fun by any means. However, it is rather accurate within 15 yards, and offers superior penetration over a standard 240-grain commercial load.

June 10, 2010, 07:33 PM
The problem with that BB heavy + .44 load is that it behaves like .454 loads. That is, in a 2.5 or 3" barrel, it's velocity suffers tremendously.

Big magnums don't like short barrels. The bigger the magnum, the more it suffers from lack of tube. In a 3" or shorter barrel, you'll be doing well to hit 1,000 ft/lbs with anything other than the .500 Mag. And even that one doesn't fair so well in the snubby X-frames.

And FWIW, the SRH cylinder is only .050" longer than a 629 cylinder.

June 11, 2010, 07:44 PM
thanks for all the great info. I was leaning toward the .454 but now i'm not sure. I guess I want the power of the .454 but maybe the .44 with a longer barrel to maximize the load potential and improved accuracy might be the most practical choice. I have been having trouble finding .454 rounds and there are no .45lc in my town at all right now. but the shelves are full of .44, ammo availability is a big consideration. what it really comes down to is: i want both guns!

June 11, 2010, 08:15 PM
Yeah, there's always the tendency to want more guns!

I went through this a few years back, winnowing down the sidearm for bear country. We have more blacks, but they get large here. We do have grizzly, but not that common.

I tested the 29/629 and Ruger SRH. I decided on .44 magnum as an acceptable round with better controlability. I also decided on the S&W vs. the SRH for size and carry ease.

Then my decision was which S&W, and i went with a 629-1 3". It carries very easily and offers about the same shooting characteristics as the 4". There is not very much loss of energy or excessive recoil compared to the 4". I have since acquired both a 6.5" and 4" square butt 29. In comparison to the 6.5", yes, there is a noticeable increase in recoil, but not unmanageable or excessive in comparison. Compared to the 4", they are very similar. If your choice came down to those two, I'd get the one you found at the best price, condition, or which appealed the most to you.

Also I think it's worth thinking about the fact you say it's a secondary weapon to a high powered rifle. I believe that makes it less necessary to carry an over-pressure cannon.

June 11, 2010, 08:36 PM
thanks Oro. i am looking at the 629 4" but the ruger red hawk comes in a 4 " for a couple hundred dollars less. I'm narrowing it down. any thoughts on the two finalists.

June 11, 2010, 08:58 PM
May not be the answer you are looking for, but the jump from a short barrel .44M to a .454C is big. A true comparison would be the S&W Backpacker to a Ruger Alaskan in .44M.
I have both a S&W Mountain Gun and an Alaskan in .44M and I much prefer the Alaskan. A heavy load in .44M is about all the handgun I want or can control and the Alaskan seems to handle the felt recoil better, at least for me, than the Smith. It seems the heavier the load, the better the Ruger feels.
As for the debate over 2.5" vs 4", I doubt the actual difference in ballistics is enough to worry about vs the slightly faster draw.

June 13, 2010, 05:30 PM
I'm narrowing it down. any thoughts on the two finalists.

Well, a few thoughts:

1) Either is going to do the job. You won't make a "bad" decision.
2) Choose the one that fits your tastes and budget matrix.

In my case, I spent more on the S&W because I just really like the looks of the 1st generation Lew Horton ones, and I really like more compact guns for carry when my purposes are not shooting-related. As much as possible within reason, I want to focus on the walk/hike/ride and not have to lug excess iron around. To me the 3" S&W carried/packed great in comparison to the others.

But that's, me. You can be larger, less concerned about that, or want a gun that's more versatility for hunting or target shooting. And cost matters, too. The Rugers will most always be cheaper, though S&W did make some 29 (Bounty Hunter I think they called it - matte blue with Hogue grips) and other rubber-gripped variants of the 629 that are not terrible expensive. The Bounty Hunter was only $575 new retail delivered from Bud's as recently as 2008.

For plinking, the 3" N frames are great with .44 special loads. Even in 3", the guns weigh as much as a full-size Colt Government Model, so there's plenty of weight to give nice recoil characteristics with non-magnum rounds.

June 13, 2010, 07:21 PM
My personal preference is a Ruger Super Blackhawk stainless steel with 4 5/8" bbl. If you handload, hardcast WFNGC at heavier weights like the 300 grn Beartooth, loaded to 1300 fps makes a decent backup or downright hunting round. The SBH, on the used market costs about 1/2 what the other two run.

June 13, 2010, 08:31 PM

If it's down to a 4" 629 vs. a 4" Redhawk, I'd say to hold one first. I've found that 629 grips tend to be a little more ergonomic, but I've yet to feel the new-ish rubber Hogue grip on the 4" version of the Redhawk. It might feel good; dunno. My favorite revolver grip is the Pachmayr Compac: it's a good compromise between packability & comfort, but I don't think they make them for the Redhawk.

Between the two, I'd rather have a Redhawk. It's mostly for aesthetic reasons... the Ruger looks the way a .44 should, plus I don't like how most Smiths nowadays don't have plated hammers & triggers like they used to.

Not to throw a monkey wrench in the works, but have you seen the new 6 1/2" model 329 on the Smith website? It has a longer barrel with less weight than the stainless models. I've always shied away from other 329's due to how light they are, but that new one sounds almost shootable at 32 oz.

June 14, 2010, 11:05 AM
As a gun to be used for dangerous game you can shoot the heaviest loads buffalo bore has in the ruger,not the s&w. And those all rubber grips on the rugers are houges. Get a 4" barrel. Just had 2 buddies buy ruger SRH with 7 1/2 barrels for 680.00 at a local store. That 10% added to cost.

July 20, 2010, 03:39 PM
Sorry for this unintended thread hijack. I'll post elsewhere.

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