The very essence of being a survivalist, or “prepper,” for those born after the 1980s, is the ability to adapt to a situation, handle one extreme to another and also be flexible with each new scenario.
While being a survivalist does entail storing almost everything to be prepared for situations such as food shortages, power outages, droughts, viral outbreaks and economic calamities, it goes beyond that. It’s also about the capacity to make the most of what you have and to make use of what you find.
Ruger’s new Redhawk has a 4.2-inch barrel and a round butt frame, rather than the typical square butt of its other Redhawk models. The rounded butt was to make the gun more concealable and to improve the handling characteristics a bit.
And it only got better from there.
Not only was the new Redhawk chambered for .45 Long Colt, it was also set up to fire .45 Auto rounds, as well, with full-moon clips, three of which are provided with the Redhawk. That one little extra really added a whole new dimension to the introduction of the new Redhawk, and, in my mind, elevated its importance as a key firearm to have in a prepper’s collection.
Virtue Of Versatility
The .45 Long Colt round, itself, is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges on the market. There are loads in the 160-200 grain range that can be used for small game or target practice; 200 to 225 grains for self-defense; 250 to 260 grains for hunting game such as deer; and you can even choose bear-stoppers in the 300-to 325-grain spectrum.
Now, couple the versatility of the .45 LC round with the new Redhawk’s ability to also fire .45 ACP and .45 Super. That’s a tremendous range of power, but it’s also a broad gamut of opportunity: In a real-world survival situation, ammunition may be in short supply, and it would certainly be useful to have a gun on hand that fires multiple calibers.
While the .45 LC used to be a very popular round in its day, it’s nowhere near as common as it used to be. The .45 ACP round, however, is one of the most common handgun rounds you’ll come across in this country. With three available caliber options, whether you’re bartering or scavenging, you’ve got a good chance of finding rounds meant for serious work that will fire in the Redhawk.
To The Firing Line
I took two days trying out different loads in the Redhawk. The amount of testing involved took longer, simply because of the number of different calibers and loads I fired and because I was very deliberate in testing the premium ammunition that was available. Buffalo Bore was kind enough to provide several types of ammunition to use for the Redhawk review. In fact, they were too kind: They provided different loads for .45 ACP, .45 Super and .45 Long Colt, as well. I figured out early on that this was going to take some time.
Anyone that has used Buffalo bullets before knows that these are premium cartridges and not cheap by any means. The average cost per round with the variety I had on hand was around $2.00—but it was so very worth it, when you consider the accuracy and performance.
With that in mind, and because I wasn’t using a Ransom Rest, I took my time testing the accuracy of the loads from a bench rest at 25 yards. I’m not getting any younger, and my eyes aren’t what they used to be, but the Ruger Redhawk still shined with several of the Buffalo Bore loads.
The first box I tried out was the lead-free, .45 Colt +P 225-grain Barnes XPB load. Billed by Buffalo Bore as suitable for big game from deer to elk, this load packed a little recoil but was quite consistent and accurate, with no fliers to speak of. This allowed me to easily sight in the +P .225-grain Barnes XPB load by walking the rounds up until I was dead-on at 25 yards. I had it sighted in within six rounds, with the only real variance affecting POI being my eyesight.
What really helped with easily sighting-in the Redhawk was the high-contrast, “Immobilize” zones on Thompson Target’s Full Torso B27STOP target. It has a skeletal silhouette with high-contrast areas done in bright red with inner white circles to indicate key areas to immobilize a subject.
After trying seven different loads of a couple of rounds each, the winner for the best group at 25 yards was the Buffalo Bore 225-grain Low-Flash, Anti-Personnel wadcutters at standard pressure. This group came in at just a hair over one inch from center to center, which proves that once you find the right load, the Redhawk is capable of incredible accuracy. Some of the other loads weren’t anything to sneeze at either.
Because the 4.2-inch Redhawks are still fairly new to the market, there are not a lot of offerings to be had when it comes to holsters. However, I came across a beautiful specimen that meets my needs perfectly, especially when you consider the context of versatility. It’s Galco Gunleather’s Great Alaskan Shoulder System (GASS).
This holster is designed to bear the weight on one shoulder and has a cross-strap that runs behind the back and around to where it clips to the holster in front of the wearer’s body. This places the Redhawk in a cross-draw position about halfway up the torso. This is a perfect solution for the carriage of this type of handgun.
The wide shoulder strap is very comfortable and doesn’t place the same kind of strain on the shoulders or neck area as other shoulder systems sometimes do. It can be worn on the same shoulder where the gun is positioned, or you can wear the strap across the chest and over the opposite shoulder.
There are multiple adjustment points on the shoulder strap, leather back strap and the nylon strap that comes around to the front of the body, all of which allow the user to tailor a perfect fit with this holster. Though I mentioned the context of versatility in regard to this holster, that comment was meant for what this holster allows the user to do, rather than necessarily the holster, itself. For instance, during the summer time, the holster can be worn with lighter clothing without the need for a heavy belt and accompanying clothing. Throw on your shorts and T-shirt, and then slip on the G.A.S.S. You’ll be adequately armed while you stay nice and cool throughout the day.
The holster can also be adjusted to wear over winter clothing while you’re out hunting or foraging. And, for those who like to backpack or camp out, the G.A.S.S. places the Redhawk out of the way of hip straps or pads on packs and still allows for quick access to your firearm.
Another accurate offering for the Redhawk was the hard-hitting Buffalo Bore 325-grain L.B.T.-L.F.N. round. This is the .45 LC round you take into grizzly country for protection. Because of the lack of cushioning with the thin wood grips, the shooter feels the recoil of all the various loads a bit more than with Ruger’s .45 LC Redhawk with Hogue grips; but the 325-grain load was something extra special, to put it mildly. Even so, it was still manageable and bearable for at least a few shots.
Admittedly, you certainly felt the jarring recoil of the 325-grain round, and, at about the fourth shot, your hands are stinging a bit. At round six, you’re definitely done for a while (at least I was), unless you’ve got a quality shooting glove. However, this round isn’t meant for plinking; it’s for a worst-case scenario in the wilderness to defend your life. With immediate danger facing you, and with the adrenalin pumping through your body, you’re not going to be worrying about the recoil.
Though I focused a lot on the .45 LC rounds, I shot plenty of the .45 Auto rounds, as well, including the 230-grain JHP .45 Super rounds, which turned in impressive results in the accuracy department, as well. The standard pressure, and even the +P variety of .45 ACP rounds, was downright pleasant to shoot within the massive platform of the Redhawk.
Everyone is already aware of the .45 ACP’s potency for self-defense. There’s no denying its stopping performance during the past century, and loading a full-moon clip of .45 ACPs can be nearly as quick as replacing a magazine. (Just ask Jerry Miculek—a.k.a. “The Greatest Shooter of All Time.”)
I’ve seen a bit of variance between reported trigger pulls for the new Redhawk, but I was perfectly satisfied with the sample I received. My trigger scale read 12.5 pounds for the double-action pull and 6.25 pounds for single action. The DA trigger pull was smooth and allowed for quick follow-up shots—essential for self-defense—while the SA pull, though a bit heavy, broke crisply for steadier control of the gun while firing.
The Ultimate Survival Handgun?
So, is this the perfect survival handgun? Nah; nothing’s perfect. It would have to be all things to all people in order to be perfect, but it comes pretty close. In the context of being in a preparedness mindset, the new Ruger .45 Auto/.45 Long Colt has a lot to argue for it.
It utilizes one of the most versatile cartridges on the market, and it accepts two other types of rounds, including .45 ACP, one of the most popular rounds across the country. In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, this would be a highly desirable firearm to have on hand for both its power and its range of caliber options. When it comes time to barter the market, you’ve got a decent shot at finding ammunition that will work for you.
However, that same versatility makes the new Redhawk a practical gun choice right now, as well. It can be loaded with lighter self-defense rounds for when you’re inside your home, and, during the summer months, a couple of chambers can be loaded with .45 Colt snake shot, just in case.
Using cheaper, .45 ACP ball ammunition, the Redhawk would be a great tool for plinking and for practicing various drills without busting the bank. And, when the autumn months come, you can step out onto your porch and smile as you smell winter in the air and head off for the mountains to do a little hunting.
The .45 Auto/.45 LC Ruger Redhawk, along with the Great Alaskan Shoulder Holster and Buffalo Bore’s top-tier ammunition, will be a powerful and versatile system at the tips of your fingers any time you choose to wear it. To realize its full potential, you don’t need to wait for the end of the world; you can just go find it.
Material: Stainless steel
Finish: Satin stainless
Front sight: ramp, red insert
Rear sight: adjustable, white outline
Barrel length: 4.2 inches
Overall length: 9.5 inches
Weight: 44 ounces
Grips: lasered hardwood
Garrett Lucas has been an outdoors and preparedness enthusiast for 25 years. His areas of interest and expertise include firearms, edged tools, and preparedness gear and practices. He has written articles on these topics for more than eight years.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.