Rugerís 50th Anniversary Flattop .44 Magnum


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

April 27, 2006




The original Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum  is one of my all-time favorite handguns. It was introduced by Ruger back in 1956, along with the brand new .44 Magnum cartridge. To this day, I have never found a .44 Magnum that I like as well as the old original Blackhawk. The Blackhawk was to later become known to shooters as the Flattop, referring to its flat-topped frame. The original Blackhawk .44 was not finished as well as the Super Blackhawk which replaced it, but I have always liked the handling qualities of the original much better.  It had a grip frame that duplicated the one first introduced by Colt on their 1851 Navy revolver, and later used on the Single Action Army sixgun. Ruger dubbed it the XR3 grip frame, and to my hand, was the best-feeling grip frame that Ruger ever made. It was replaced in the early 1960s with a redesigned version, that has never felt as good to me.  The original .44 Blackhawk was dropped from production in 1962, with less than 30,000 produced.  For a lot of detailed, accurate information on the original .44 Blackhawk, I refer the reader to Bill Hammís excellent article titled: Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum "Flattop".

Now, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the original Ruger .44 Blackhawk, Ruger has introduced a New Model .44 Blackhawk that is the spittiní image of the original, with a few modern concessions. It is, however, the sixgun that many of us hoped would be produced for the Golden Anniversary of the .44 Flattop. Of course, the new Flattop is built using the New Model internal lockwork that allows the sixgun to be safely carried fully loaded in all six chambers. It also has Rugerís new internal key lock that was first introduced on their New Vaquero. This lock is underneath the grip panels, is unobtrusive, and allows Ruger to sell its guns in jurisdictions that are governed by idiots who insist on such devices. Anyway, the lock doesnít bother me at all.

Thankfully, the new .44 Flattop has a grip frame shaped like the original XR3 Rugers and Colt sixguns, just as God intended.  The difference is that the new grip frames are made of blued steel instead of aluminum as on the originals, resulting in a more pleasing appearance and a better balanced revolver.  The new Flattop .44 weighs 46 ounces, compared to the originalís weight of 39 ounces.  The grip frames feel identical in my hand, and the grip panels, while not interchangeable due to pin location and the internal key lock, are shaped the same on both sixguns.

The fit and finish on the new Blackhawk is very well done, and is in fact better than on the originals. The metal to metal fit is very good, and the grip panels fit the grip frame almost perfectly.  The Anniversary Blackhawk comes shipped in a hard plastic 50th Anniversary case,  which also contains a small booklet relating the history of the Ruger .44 Magnum.  Like most of the originals, the new Flattop wears a six and one-half inch barrel. On the top of the barrel is roll-marked; "50 YEARS OF .44 MAGNUM" above "1956 TO 2006". The lettering is gold colored, and looks good against the dark blue-black finish. The grips are a checkered hard black rubber, and wear the Ruger eagle emblem on each side. The trigger pull on the test gun was pretty good right out of the box; much better than on most Ruger Blackhawks that I have handled in the past few years.  The recent New Vaquero that I tested had a good trigger pull as well. It seems that such things are improving at Ruger. However, I like a bit lighter pull weight than the test gun had from the factory, which measured just over four pounds, so I lifted one leg of the trigger spring from its stud, dropping the pull weight down to two and one-quarter pounds. Overall, the Flattop has a very handsome appearance. I like the return of the Micro rear sight mortised into the perfectly flat frame top. It has that clean, classic appearance.

Loading the .44 Flattop is like on all new Model Ruger single actions. Simply opening the loading gate releases the cylinder to rotate clockwise  to load each chamber. Also, and thankfully, the chambers line up with the loading gate easily now, as they do on the New Vaqueros. This makes for much easier loading and unloading.

The Flattop proved to be very accurate, exhibiting the ability to place five rounds into about an inch with great regularity at twenty-five yards, using a rested position.  It is refreshing these days to be able to still buy accurate revolvers. Many are now built for only "combat accuracy", but this new Ruger is a target and hunting grade sixgun.

I was very pleased with the new Anniversary .44 Flattop. It is a fitting tribute to Rugerís long association with the .44 Magnum cartridge. It returns to the Ruger family of revolvers the best handling grip frame ever placed on a .44 Magnum sixgun, in my opinion. The original .44 Blackhawk has been out of production for  forty-four years. The Super Blackhawk that replaced it was a better gun in every way, except handling. Now, with the Flattop .44 back in production to commemorate the 50th Anniversary, I hope that it is in the lineup of Ruger sixguns for many years to come.  I like it.

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Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Rugerís 50th Anniversary Flattop .44 Magnum.



Comparing the Old to the New: alongside Jeff's 1958-vintage Flattop, it is apparent that Ruger has recaptured the spirit of the original guns.



The new .44 Flattop wears checkered hard rubber grips, just like the earliest examples of the original. Fitting of the grip panels to the grip frame, metal-to-metal fit, and finish were indicative of Ruger's commitment to quality workmanship.



The new Flattop also features Ruger's internal locking mechanism.





The gun is packaged in a hard plastic commemorative case, which also contains a booklet on the history of the Ruger .44 Magnum.



Author was pleased to see the return of the excellent Micro rear sight, just like the original Flattops wore.



As detailed in his article on the Poor Boy's Trigger Job, lifting one leg of the trigger return spring greatly improved the trigger pull.



Jeff was pleased with the accuracy of the new Flattop.



The new Flattop carries on Ruger's proud tradition of .44 Magnum sixguns.