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Are Rugers REALLY stronger than S&W's?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Carbon_15, Jul 17, 2008.

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  1. Carbon_15

    Carbon_15 Member

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    We all repeat the line about Rugers being "built like a tank" as gospel. but is it really true. I was reading some reloading data in G&A magazine that had the disclaimer, "for use in Ruger Redhawk, Blackhawk or T/C only, do not use in S&W 29 or 629. I have a hard time beleaving that a Blackhawk is that much stronger than a 29 or 629...if any. I have always wondered if the Ruger is only bulkier, not stronger. The casting process produces weaker metal with more porosity than forging...I think Ruger has to make up for the weaker metal by using more of it, therefore giving the false impresion that it is more rugged.
    You don't hear anyone claiming the same about there overly bulky Semi-autos...or the hi-point for that mater.
    Are Ruger revolvers REALLY stronger and why...or just bulkier?
     
  2. Lovesbeer99

    Lovesbeer99 Member

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    I'm not sure if anyone is suggestion that the S&W will blow up, but it will loosen much quicker than the Ruger. The Ruger can take full loads and lots of them. The S&W wasn't designed to do that.

    I don't know that anyone has scientific proof, only experiance over time, but I could be wrong. I'll keep an eye on this post to see what anyone else has.
     
  3. mtngunr

    mtngunr Member

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    John Linebaugh has done tests on Ruger and S&W, if you can find his gun-notes on the web somewhere...

    http://www.foxwebdesigns.com/Area51/JLSixGun/articles/gunnotes.html

    The Ruger cylinder is not cast. General strength observations can be made by measuring cylinder OD, charge hole ID, wall thickness, and especially wall thickness at the locking bolt cuts in the cylinder, the cuts always being where a cylinder fails first.

    Total agreement on Rugers ability to handle full-house loads better. A Smith subject to full-house loads will need to be rebuilt five times for every time the Ruger gets rebuilt. And a Redhawk cylinder can handle loads that would scatter a Smith all over the landscape. Check loading manuals. How 'bout a 1900fps 180gr XTP?

    If the cast/bulkier frame wasn't stronger, custom builders like Linebaugh and Bowen would have been building 5-shot conversion cannons on Smiths.

    Like Taffin says, Smiths are thoroughbreds and Rugers are draft horses.
     
  4. texagun

    texagun Member

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    No doubt about it in my mind. S&W's are my all-time favorite revolvers...the older ones are works of art with beautiful actions....but they aren't as rugged as the old Rugers.

    This statement is absolutely correct.

    On the other hand, I am no gunsmith, just a guy who has been shooting them for over 50 years. If anyone thinks the S&W's are stronger, I would be glad to hear his opinion and justification.


    Great quote!
     
  5. Deer Hunter

    Deer Hunter Member

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    It was true twenty-five years ago, but not today. The amount of full-house loads it would take to bring down a 629 would be fairly close to a blackhawk.

    If you have the money and time to shoot either of them to smitherines, good for you. However the 5:1 ratio is a bit much. Again, perhaps with older S&Ws, but not today's.
     
  6. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Load up a thousand rounds of those "for use in Ruger Redhawk, Blackhawk or T/C only" cartridges and shoot them in your S&W 29 or 629. Come back and tell us how it turned out.;)
     
  7. Euclidean

    Euclidean Member

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    I think we had a thread here not too long ago where someone who knew something about metallurgy pointed out some lab results that basically said the cast frame of the Ruger was in fact not weaker than the forged frame of the Smith and Wesson at all.

    The more metal argument doesn't hold up either, if you check the manufacturer's websites the GP100 and 686 in comparable barrel lengths are pretty darn close to each other's weight.

    I think the reason has to do with the sideplate-less design of the Ruger; it's one solid piece through and through. Really from a pure design angle I like the Ruger better; the liftout trigger group is nice too.

    I think it also depends on the model to model comparison we're talking about too. Smith and Wesson's models have changed over the years and so have Ruger's.

    And the thing is, it's not that Smith and Wesson revolvers are "fragile". Far from it, it's that Ruger revolvers are often ridiculously strong.

    FWIW I have seen and heard people claim they load their Ruger semi-autos thermonuclear hot too. But bottom feeder vs. round gun is a whole different proposition.
     
  8. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Member

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    Ruger has something of a 'tradition' of over-engineering their handguns, especially CF revolvers, somewhat in the interests of durability and longevity with full-power magnum loads.

    This started, IMO, with the redesign of the original 'Flat-top' Blackhawks in .44 Mag in response to feedback from consumers. Dubbed the "Super Blackhawk" it incorporated a heavier frame, cylinder and barrel as well as a somewhat larger gripframe.

    S&W made several changes in the M-29 in response to feedback from metallic silhouette shooters that their revolvers weren't holding up as well as they'd like to the volume of heavy loads the sport demanded.

    They also developed the beefed-up L-frame to address forcing cone and top strap erosion under a steady diet of hot 125 gr. JHPs common to some K-frame models in LEA use. FWIW, the result was quite similar in size to the .41-framed Colt Pythons and Dan Wesson 15-2s and Ruger Security Sixes which were the models' major competition in both the civilian and LEA markets.

    If you examine a Ruger GP-100 or SP-101 side-by-side with their major .38 Spl/.357 competitors the heavier construction becomes obvious, as it will between a Redhawk/Super Redhawk and a M-29.

    As was said, this proviso in load data is to discourage their use in revolvers with less of a "margin" built into them.
     
  9. mtngunr

    mtngunr Member

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    Yes, but the thread starter was talking .44 mag....the Blackhawk/29 cylinders are the same strength, but the frames/lockwork are not, and the Redhawk is in a class by itself......Smith lockwork is still problematical with heavy loads, "endurance package" or no, as those of us who have seen .500S&W's unlock/counter-rotate under recoil can attest.
     
  10. Skipper

    Skipper Member

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    While this is not exactly the same as the question at hand, it is very closely related. Hamilton Bowen, speaking of caliber and cylinder conversions in his excellent work,"The Custom Revolver" says, "Lovely as they are, Smith & Wesson N-frame revolvers wouldn't survive one round of high pressure .45 Colt or .500 Magnum ammo that five shot Redhawks can handle with aplomb."
     
  11. texagun

    texagun Member

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    I'm a big fan of the S&W 686 (L-Frame) .357 Magnum so I'm always on the lookout for another one (pre-locks only). I have run across several (mostly at gun shows) that showed a lot of wear and use...excessive end-shake, cylinders out of time, and top-straps that were deeply cut from hot loads. I rarely see Rugers in that condition.
     
  12. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    Ruger top straps flame cut as well when they are shot but like with smiths it is self limiting. I would venture to guess the reason you dont see flame cutting on the rugers and you do on the smiths is that the smiths have been shot alot more by their previous owners. Yesterday I bought a 629 no dash pinned and recessed. It had zero flame cutting on the top strap. The gunshop had a used redhawk in the case that did have flame cutting so would it be valid for me to conclude that the smith is stronger??

    Of course not, I can only conclude it was probably shot less.
     
  13. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    mtngunner,


    You may want to read Mr.Linebaugh's page a bit more carefully:

    He isnt talking about a redhawk here Blackhawks only is what he says.
     
  14. mtngunr

    mtngunr Member

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    I read fine, thank you, and noted above (if you read carefully) that the Blackhawk and Smith cylinders are equivalent strength, adding that REDHAWK cylinders are in a class by themselves....
     
  15. Virginian

    Virginian Member

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    Casting does not automatically produce a weaker part. Forging does not automatically produce a stronger part. Everything depends on the alloy in question, and the manner and specifics of production.
    Oh, and yes, some models of Rugers are stronger than some models of Smith and Wessons.
     
  16. Hastings

    Hastings Member

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    I have owned Rugers and Smiths, and loved them both. I value different aspects of each. I find it hard to believe that the 29 is as strong, overall, as the Redhawk. I'd rather shoot a 29 (with reasonable loads, of course) but pack a Redhawk when wandering in bear territory. The 29 gets fondled while watching espn, and the Redhawk gets used to drive tent-pegs and pistol-whip moose.

    Obviously, these observations are purely subjective. I propose that someone do a side by side range comparison, with maximum loads, until one fails or the tolerances (which should be checked periodically during the test) of either revolver change enough to in;)dicate a clear winner in the overall strength category. This seems like it would be a pretty objective test that would settle this tiresome question once and for all. Just to add extra objectivity to it, each side could choose the factory stock specimen from among the wide array of minor variations and year-of-manufacture choices. When each side is confident that they have the supreme example of their brand's stellar attributes, let the shooting commence, and end when one side is left holding the smoking remains of a shattered cylinder in their powder-burned finger-stubs (or when one of the frames stretches noticably).

    Until someone undertakes this comparison, or until I decide to shoot six thousand rounds of mega-numb ammo that has had a pint of powder packed into each shell casing using a wooden dowel and a five pound mallet, I will continue to appreciate both revolvers as wonderfully different examples of engineering and design.

    By the way, the bear I shot with the Ruger did seem deader than the one I shot with the Smith. But, my how the bear admired the 29's bluing just before expiring.

    Hastings
     
  17. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    At one time, yes, I believe they were--and I'm a Smith guy.

    The Classic I have is technically a 629-5. During the period when this revolver was making news in the gun rags, they told folks how it came to be.

    The SW engineers gave some prototypes to two metallic silhouette shooters and they fired 10,000 rounds of full-house ammunition. The revolvers were then sent back to R/D and inspected.

    The results of these "destruction tests" are my 629-5.

    In general, I doubt the average sportsman will fire 5,000 rounds in a lifetime, not enough to override the design parameters of those tests.

    The comparison of Smith vs. Ruger is an old debate, much like Ford vs. Chevy. If frames continued to crack or flame cut, and bolt stops began to fail, you'd hear about it rags, or R/D would come out with yet another version.
     
  18. KBintheSLC

    KBintheSLC Member

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    Yeah... only 99.999% of the time.

    Forging makes the molecules form a much tighter pattern. It also eliminates most voids and air pockets that are very common in cast metals. All alloys being equal, forged parts will be significantly stronger than cast parts.
     
  19. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    I saw a Ruger GP100 taken apart by a fool who thought that Ruger was so much stronger it could handle his "proof" loads.

    As others have said I think the main thing with Rugers is their lock work. Its less delicate than S&W's, uses all coil springs and IMO usually doesn't lock up as tight as a Smith.
     
  20. Virginian

    Virginian Member

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    Voids and air pockets are not very common in quality investment cast metals. That is one reason why investment casting has been such a boon to manufacturing. And, the point is, all alloys are not equal.
     
  21. m4coyote

    m4coyote Member

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    Back in the mid eighties I purchased a brand new S&W M29 silhouette pistol, and it had the 10 5/8" barrel with the adjustable front sight. At the same time, I owned a 7 1/2 " barreled Redhawk. My normal 44 mag. handload at the time was a 210 gr. XTP over 23.2 grains of 2400. My Redhawk digested many hundreds of these, and without so much as a burp.

    Just one of them fired from that M29 was enough to absolutely lock it up. The hammer could not be cocked, the trigger could not be pulled, and the cylinder absolutely would not move. I had to take a rubber mallet and tap the cylinder to free it up. I sold that M29, and purchased a 629 Mountain Gun in the later 90's. My Redhawk still functions fine with this handload, but my "new" Mountain Gun also locks up on them. I don't just "think", I KNOW that the Ruger is the stronger gun.

    That being said, the S&W has a quality & finesse that the Redhawk will never have. The S&W has an incredibly smooth action, and a greatly superior single action trigger. I am keeping my Mountain Gun as a woods carry piece, but do not trust it with any truly "stout" loads.
     
  22. TAB

    TAB Member

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    you do realize that is a cylinder length issue and not one of strength right? You know the little details, always the more important.
     
  23. HOME DEPOT GEORGE

    HOME DEPOT GEORGE Member

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    KBintheSLC- If forging is so much stronger how do you explain the model 29 smith with a 6 1/2 in barrel weighing 40oz and a super blackhawk 7 1/2 in barrel weighing 48oz. The blackhawk is proven to handle loads that would render the smith useless. Tab-I don't see what cylinder length has anything to do with the ruger only loads, I just compared my buffalo bore 45colt with some standard 45's I have and there was no difference. It's always fun to watch these theads develop and the funny thing is that an average shooter will never shoot enough to shoot a gun loose anyway;)
     
  24. machinisttx

    machinisttx Member

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    If you get into the truly heavy loads, the shorter cylinder of the S&W will not allow seating the heavier(and thus longer) bullets to the proper depth. That reduces the powder capacity and one of two things has to happen. Either pressures increase to dangerous levels, or you reduce the powder charge to compensate and get less velocity.

    If anyone cares to run my 1400+ fps .45 Colt load through their S&W 625, they're free to do so. I wouldn't expect to have an intact gun after the first round though.
     
  25. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    The rugers are built much more solid. The Smiths are more elegant and ergonomic.

    It is like a solid block of metal versus a block of metal thinned and shaped with excess metal removed.
    The ruger is more like the solid block, but stronger as a result.

    I like some of the Rugers. The nice Smiths often feel better in the hand, have better smooth crisp trigger pulls from the factory etc. They are just more refined.

    There is more metal in and around the stress points on many Rugers so they hold up longer and can take more punishment. They are clunkier, heavier and not as refined though.
    It can take some personal or gunsmith work to get one to shoot as nicely as a Smith.

    I prefer Rugers because durability and longevity are are more important to me. You can work on them to get just as nice of a trigger pull.
    However a good number of consumers would like a Smith better. The elegance, lighter weight and better handling of something streamlined with the the excess metal removed (the same excess that adds strength to the Rugers) as well as nicer factory trigger more appealing to them.

    It is all a matter of preference. Both are fine designers of good quality revolvers. Ruger, Colt, and Smith&Wesson American revolvers really are the best in the world, all patriotism aside.
     
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