Ruger Super Blackhawk

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn


After bringing out the world's first .44 Magnum single action handgun in 1956, Bill Ruger was riding a huge wave of success. His Single Six rimfire revolver and .357 Blackhawk were well received by the shooters and hunters of the world. The .44 Magnum Blackhawk, later to be known as the Flattop (Here Come Ol' Flat Top), was also a great success.

Not content to leave well enough alone, Ruger had listened to the urging of shooters to produce a heavier Blackhawk to better handle the recoil of the .44 Magnum. While being a  delight to carry and easy to handle, the .44 Blackhawk could be a bit painful to shoot with the heaviest loads. In my hands, and those of many others, the old XR-3 grip frame of the original Blackhawk has the best feel and pointability of any sixgun that Ruger ever produced. The XR-3 does, however, smack the middle finger hard when firing heavy loads.

In an effort to make a more user-friendly grip frame, and at the urging of prominent shooters such as the late Elmer Keith, Ruger lengthened the grip frame and squared the back of the trigger guard in the manner of Colt's Dragoon models. In order to add a bit of weight to the new sixgun, he made the entire gun, with the exception of the walnut grips, out of steel. Rugers earlier designs used aluminum for the grip frames. He also eliminated the cylinder flutes, which were a carryover from black powder days, thereby adding more weight to the revolver. These changes produced a heavier sixgun with a grip frame that eliminated the knuckle-busting tendencies of the earlier XR-3 design, at least for some shooters. Ruger added a wider, lower hammer spur and a wider trigger. The top of the frame protected the adjustable rear sight. Ruger called his new gun the Super Blackhawk.

As happens with any change, some shooters welcomed the Super Blackhawk as an improvement and some did not. For a few years, a new Ruger .44 could be had in either Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk configuration.

One of the best qualities of the Super Blackhawks, at least in the case of the Old Models, was the superb finish of the guns. The Supers had a high polish blued finish that was better than any other Rugers, past or present. I say that they had the best finish because, even though the Super Blackhawk is still produced, it no longer wears the premium finish of the Old Models and early New Models. The only revolvers in the current Ruger catalog to receive the high polish are a few of the stainless models. The newer blued guns, while wearing an excellent finish, do not equal the beauty of the old three-screw Super Blackhawks.

I recently acquired an Old Model Super Blackhawk in one hundred percent perfect, unfired condition. That particular sixgun is the one shown here in the photos and tested for this article. Upon receiving the new Super, I immediately cleaned the gun, which had been properly preserved in its pristine condition, loaded it with some good handloads that I had on the bench, and proceeded to fire the thing. 

I have owned Super Blackhawks in the past, but this particular three-screw model, right from the beginning, exhibited excellent accuracy.

I also fitted a pair of Herrett's walnut grips to the gun that I had slimmed down and refinished to better fit my hand. When firing heavy magnum loads, these grips are the most comfortable that I have ever used. I have had them on other Super Blackhawks that I have owned, and they protect my knuckles from dislodging and flying through the air, while still allowing the sixgun to properly roll in my hand under recoil.

In the limited time that I have been shooting this gun, I have fired some very good groups. The group shown here was fired at 25 yards with Remington factory 180 grain jacketed softpoints. The group measures just 1.2 inches. This group is the norm for this load in this sixgun. I am anxious to work up some heavy-bullet loads for this gun. I have on the way some heavy bullets from Cast Performance that should work nicely in this gun. I have also owned New Model Supers that were very accurate.

Among the .44 Magnum handguns available today, the Super Blackhawk represents the best value in a hunting or target-shooting sixgun along with Ruger's own Bisley model. In my opinion, nothing else on the market even comes close to providing the strength and quality of the Super for the money spent. In my area, a new Super Blackhawk can be had for well under 400 bucks. There are some other great single action .44s available, but bring a lot more money with you. 

For a good .44 Magnum, that you will never wear out, and doesn't cost a lot, this gun can't be beat. 

Jeff Quinn


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Ruger's "Old Model" Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum Single-Action revolver. The Old Models were polished to the superb deep blue finish seen here. Ruger no longer polishes its blued guns to this level of perfection.



Herrett's walnut Super Blackhawk grips as slimmed-down by the author. Jeff thinks these are the best grips available for heavy-recoiling loads in the Super Blackhawk.



The author has owned many Super Blackhawks over the years, but none more accurate or pleasant to shoot than his recently-acquired 100% perfect, previously-unfired example.



Five-shot, 1.2" group shown is the norm for this sixgun using Remington 180-grain JSP loads. Author is looking forward to developing some heavier handloads for this revolver.