Handheld Heft: Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley Review

Handheld Heft: Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley Review
The special edition Ruger Super Blackhawk from Lipsey’s exemplifies the meaning of hand cannon, especially when loaded with heavy Buffalo Bore .44 Magnum ammo.

The author hits the range with a Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley, a .44 Magnum revolver with some serious heft.

Back in the early ’80s, a friend showed up at the farm with a .44 Magnum revolver. I think he’d traded a set of chrome wheels off his Chevy Nova for it. Like most used .44 Magnums, this one came with a half-box of ammo, and we did our best to try and shoot it all up. I think we gave up after we’d both fired about two cylinders full. If my memory serves, he soon traded it for some other now forgotten gun. That was my first introduction to the .44 Magnum, and though I’ve messed with several since, I’ve never had an inkling to own one. Until now.

I was recently browsing the Lipsey’s website to see what was new. Lipsey’s is a Louisiana-based firearms dealer known for offering unique limited edition guns, especially from Ruger. For example, they’re currently offering a Ruger 77/22 chambered for the .22 Hornet, but it’s configured like an Africa Express rifle. The gun that really caught my attention, however, was a Ruger Super Blackhawk in all stainless-steel with a Bisley grip and a 4.625-inch barrel. It was a .44 Magnum, but inexplicably it seemed to scratch an inch I didn’t know I had.

Even though the barrel is short and the recoil intense, hits on a 10-inch 50-yard steel plate were possible while shooting off-hand. The revolver’s good trigger helped immensely.

It Keeps On Giving

This is a beautiful revolver. The brushed stainless finish contrasts nicely with the dark laminated wood stocks. And while I’ve never really liked the Bisley grip, it seems to fit this revolver—both esthetically and ergonomically—perfectly. More importantly, with the Bisley grip it seems to balance in hand better than a Super Blackhawk with the standard grip.

The Bisley hammer on this compact big-bore revolver is easier to manipulate than the standard hammer.

Also, the Bisley grip is known for being much more comfortable on a revolver that has stiff recoil—but more on that in a moment. The revolver’s 4.625-inch barrel keeps it compact and not too heavy. It’s only slightly heavier than a 5-inch 1911. The shorter barrel also makes it easier to wear in a hip holster. The adjustable rear sight and black, ramped front are standard for a Ruger Blackhawk, and the trigger was light to the touch and exceptionally crisp.

I needed serious ammo for a serious handgun, so I turned to Buffalo Bore because they make the most serious .44 Special and .44 Magnum ammunition you can buy. And if you’re gonna shoot a .44 Magnum, you might as well get serious about it. I chose four loads. The first was their .44 Special Anti-Personnel load intended for self-defense. It uses a 200-grain hardcast wadcutter bullet at an advertised 1,000 fps.

The rear sight on the Lipsey’s Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum is the standard sight Ruger uses on their single-action revolvers.

The second was their .44 Special Outdoorsman load, which I think might be the best all-round load for this revolver. It pushes a 255-grain hardcast SWC Keith bullet to an advertised 1,000 fps. The other loads were heavy-hitting .44 Magnum loads. One pushes a 300-grain jacketed flat nose to 1,300 fps, and the other a 305-grain hard cast SWC Keith bullet at 1,325 fps.

The front sight on the Lipsey’s Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum is the standard sight Ruger uses on their single-action revolvers.

From the bench, both the .44 Special loads were pleasurable to shoot, and out of the 4.625-inch barrel, they both delivered better than advertised velocity. The two .44 Magnum loads were a handful and maybe more, and they too exceeded advertised velocities. I had no trouble shooting sub-inch three-shot groups with the .44 Special loads from the bench at 15 yards, but due to recoil, I really had to concentrate and grit my teeth with the .44 Magnum loads. When it was all said and done, after firing three, three-shot groups with each load, the overall average group size was only 0.97 inch.

Though this Heavy .44 Magnum load for Buffalo Bore is a handful, it shot very well out of the Lipsey’s Super Blackhawk, delivering more than 1,200 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Almost All Roses

If there’s a downside to this hand cannon, it’s that the ejector rod is a bit short to fully push fired cases from the cylinder. You can pop the rod and usually force them out, but with some of the hotter loads this will not work. While this might seem like a major detractor, in reality it’s not. This isn’t a revolver designed for house clearing or another application like mass zombie eradication, where you’ll need to shoot a lot a reload in a hurry. If a couple shots from this thing does not solve the problem, your problem is unimaginably bad or you just can’t shoot.

I do not need a .44 Magnum revolver. There’s nothing big and bad enough in West Virginia that requires that much nastiness to stop it. But there’s something about this hand cannon that I can’t shake. Johnny Walker, my best friend who lives in Kodiak, Alaska, has been begging me to come up and visit. If I go, I can think of no better revolver to have on my side; Walker has already had to shoot one Kodiak bear who thought he looked like an appetizer. The thing is, my friend frequently comes back home to West Virginia to visit, and other than him, there’s nothing on that bear-infested rock of an island I care about.

Lipsey’s Ruger Super Blackhawk in all stainless-steel with a Bisley grip and a 4.625-inch barrel.

Nope, I just don’t need a lightweight, compact, easy to carry .44 Magnum revolver. But then again, my house and gun safe are full of guns I don’t really need. The thing is, sometimes—when it comes to guns—“need” has absolutely nothing to do with it. I like this gun, and I get a feeling it likes me. And who knows, with all the talk about aliens, this might be just exactly the gun we’ll all need one day. We just don’t have enough information right now to know for sure, and I like being prepared.

Epilogue: Recoil

So, let’s talk a bit about the .44 Magnum. In general, it kicks—everybody knows that.

Federal lists a 280-grain Swift A-Frame load at 1,170 fps. If you plug that into a recoil calculator with a 46-ounce handgun like this one, it’ll tell you you’re going to experience about 16 foot-pounds of recoil energy. That’ll get your attention. To put it in perspective, Federal’s 230-grain HST load for the .45 Auto will recoil with about 8.5 foot-pounds of kinetic energy out of a 5-inch 1911, and a very hot 10mm load will generate about 13 foot-pounds.

While shoving a Buffalo Bore heavy loaded .44 Magnum cartridge in the cylinder of the Lipsey’s Super Blackhawk, you feel there’s nothing you can’t take on, and you’d be right.

Out of the Ruger, the Buffalo Bore 305-grain Heavy load for the .44 Magnum recoils with 25 wrist-twisting foot-pounds! It doesn’t feel anything like a hot 10mm load. In fact, it doesn’t feel like you’re shooting a handgun. It feels more like you’re trying to hold on to a mule’s leg to try to keep the mule’s leg from kicking you in the face. I might’ve peed myself a little the first time I fired one of those 305-grain loads. It’s not that it was painful—it was a bit painful—it was just, well, a bit scary.

NOTES: Reported average muzzle velocity (VEL), standard velocity deviation (SD) and average muzzle energy (ENG) were established by firing 10 rounds over a Caldwell G2 chronograph with the screens positioned 10 feet from the muzzle. The precision (PRC) of each load represents the average of three, three-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 15 yards. Recoil (REC) was calculated using an online recoil calculation source. Temperature: 58 degrees, Humidity: 48 percent, Pressure: 29.90 in-Hg, Elevation: 2,200 feet.

I shared my impression with Tim Sundles who owns Buffalo Bore. He said—in a nonchalant, matter of fact way—and I quote, “Yeah, it’s hard to write a letter after shooting the hard kickers.” Ya think?! Hell, it’s hard to pick your nose or scratch your ass with any efficiency after a cylinder full of these dinosaur killers.

I know this is a review about a revolver and not intended to be a dissertation on the .44 Magnum, but give me some leeway, precision testing those heavy .44 Magnum loads from the bench while trying to shoot the best groups I could was daunting. This would have been quite different with Ruger’s 7.5-inch Super Redhawk Bisley Hunter at 52 ounces, which would recoil about 14 percent less and have a lot less muzzle flip. You’re more than welcome to call me a wuss. I could care less. I think with this revolver reminded me of the lesson I learned on the farm about 40 years ago, and that’s that I’m pretty much a .44 Special kind of guy.

The 4.625-inch barreled Super Blackhawk from Lipsey’s fit perfectly and carried comfortably in Galco’s SAO holster.

Two Final Comments And I’ll Let It Go

First, after all the shooting, I sat down at the computer to draft this report. I couldn’t. My fingers didn’t want to respond efficiently to what my brain was trying to tell them to do. And finally, if you own a .44 Magnum, you owe it to yourself to get at least one box of Buffalo Bore’s 305-grain Heavy load. It’s expensive; Buffalo Bore is proud of this stuff, and they should be because it’s near the pinnacle of practical handgun power. A box of 20 retails for $53.68. But it’s worth the price to at least, just once, feel all that power in one hand.

I let my 24-year-old son, who’s a Gunsite graduate, shoot it. I cannot write what he said. Just don’t shoot this stuff in a revolver with a scandium or aluminum frame, or any revolver of questionable strength. If you do, you might experience something worse than a little bit of metacarpal numbness.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. New Model Super Blackhawk Bisley SPECS:

  • Catalog No.: 0876
  • Action: Single
  • Trigger Pull: 2.75 Pounds
  • Chambering: .44 Special/.44 Magnum
  • Frame: Stainless-steel
  • Barrel: Stainless-steel, 4.625 Inches, 1:20 RH twist with 6 grooves
  • Capacity: 6
  • Length: 10.5 Inches
  • Weight: 48 Ounces (advertised), 46.4 Ounces (actual)
  • Sights: Adjustable rear, black ramped front
  • Grips: Bisley black laminate
  • Price: $1,089.99

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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