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Old September 12, 2015, 04:11 PM   #1
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Ruger VS S&W newb questions.

Hey guys. Im shopping for my "first" big bore. I put that in quotation as I have actually owned a 44 mag many moons ago but I was just a kid and just shot what ever was on the shelf out of it with not much regard to anything aside from putting holes in tree stumps etc. Now Im in the market for some real horse power.

I think Ive narrowed down...rather the market has narrowed down my choices to rugers and smiths. Im wanting something packable as the wife and I are in the back coutry often. Reloading is a must. Im wavering between 44mag and stepping up to 454.

Id love a freedom arms but cant swallow spending that much money on that nice of a peice that Im gonna drag around the woods.

So the stupid question to this long drawn out opening is, Given that we all know rugers are king of the heap for strength, how far behind do smiths fall as far a strength? Im really just ignorant to smiths. Obviously I wont be shooting maximum loads often. Am I fearing something that isnt even an issue with Smiths?

Commence argument.
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Old September 12, 2015, 05:00 PM   #2
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I'm afraid I can't really answer your question in regards to the caliber/strength - but - if a revolver is chambered and made to shoot a certain cartridge - then they ought to be able to handle it. The problem arises when folks try to "push" the maximum loading data - just because they think they can. If you re-load to accepted SAAMI specs for the cartridge/handgun - then I'd say either would be good.

I have and like both Rugers and Smiths - but not in those calibers. Personally, for back country, rugged carry, all different weather conditions, etc. - I would go with a Ruger but then I prefer SA revolvers.

Someone will chime in I'm sure - but it's my understanding that both Ruger and Smith can have cylinder throat size to bore size problems at times. Example - Ruger supposedly gang reams cylinder throats three at a time - if a reamer is replaced due to wear, etc. - you could end up with the throats not being all dimensionally the same - the same with Smiths. Not a big deal - you slug your bore and then check your throats. If necessary, get a throat job to have them all sized equally to the bullet diameter you are using/reloading. If your throats are off, so will be your accuracy. Properly sized / equal sized throats equals tighter groups. All I shoot is my own cast so I'm looking at it at that perspective. Too tight throats will swage the bullet on the way out to the barrel - you want them the same or even a few thousandths larger than what the bore measures/slugs.

Good luck in your choice - I don't envy it as both makes are good.
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Old September 12, 2015, 05:03 PM   #3
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Let me begin by saying that I'm not purporting to be some kind of expert either about big bore handguns or about Rugers vs. Smiths. However, I just went through this process last year and I thought I could give you a little insight as to my experience.

First: Smiths are not fragile. You can, and I have, fired several dozen Bear Load 305 grain .44 mag rounds through my S&W Combat Magnum model 69 without any signs of damage.

Felt recoil is heavy, but not excessive. However, due to a couple long time injuries to my wrist and elbow, over 90% of the ammo that I put through it are .44 Special-power reloads. Felt recoil with these is actually less than that of my .40 cal Sig.

I chose the M69 because unloaded it's actually three ounces lighter than my 4 inch Ruger GP 100 in .357 mag.

With Ruger if you want a .44 you have to choose between a Super Blackhawk single action or a Super RedHawk, which for me turned out to not be much of a choice, for different reasons. But your question had to do with strength. Both of these Rugers are very strong and you probably could put a steady diet of bear load ammo through them for a decade and it wouldn't be a problem. They are also much heavier, which may be a concern for you. The positive of being heavier is that these big guns absorb a bit more recoil.

Of these three revolvers I found the SRH the easiest to shoot quickly and accurately, the Smith was second and the SBH was last (but not because it is single-action). I ended up choosing the Smith because performance-wise it was second in speed, first in accuracy, and lightest in weight, and I spend a fair amount of time in the field where weight is a factor.

Hope some of that helps.
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Old September 12, 2015, 09:21 PM   #4
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Thanks for the response guys.

Bedbugbilly you make a great point, they are built to handle X therefore they are built to handle X.

On the Rugers I would definitely be leaning to a super Red. Pops had a vlack hawk with the 8'&xx" barrel, nice shooter but good lord thats alot of steel! Also I see my self as a double action kind of guy for shtf trouble. In the smith corner Im liking the backpacker, though I really dont like the stupid bear tracks they emboss on the cylinder.

Recoil isnt a big factor. Im kind of weird in that I dont mind heavy recoil in handguns but I despise it in rifles.

I think if the Redhawks weren't so damn ugly this decision would have been made long ago. That afterthought looking barrel just bugs me to no end.
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Old September 13, 2015, 08:48 AM   #5
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Quote: far behind do smiths fall as far a strength?
As far as they always were. It's a fact that S&W fans don't want to accept that they do shoot loose. Not if you only shoot a few rounds a year and otherwise keep it in your safe only to take it out and wipe it with a diaper. But if you actually shoot it a lot, as many people do, it will shoot loose. With standard loads, not overloads. If you ever manage to shoot a Ruger loose, you'll have spent enough on ammo or components to pay off a good sized mortgage. With that said, I love my N-frame .44's but I treat them like strong .44 Specials.
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Old September 13, 2015, 12:00 PM   #6
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Back in the Dirty Harry days, I once had a S&W .44 mag.
Unless S&Ws have really gone downhill since then, there's nothing wrong with them in the strength department.
My pals and I used to reload them just using the published data as vague suggestions.
We figured it they were meant for something called "Magnum" we would treat them as such.
Lots of really heavy duty rounds went through those 29s with not a whiff of damage.
And Smiths have a much better supporting after market, too.
But you have left out their 500, if more power is desired.
That ought to tickle yer recoil sensibilities some.
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Old September 13, 2015, 12:16 PM   #7
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Back when they first were introduced, 29s and 629s gained a reputation for shooting loose. These were guns built before 1988 before the "endurance package" became standard. S&W actually offered the "endurance package" as a free upgrade to those models at one time. Post 1988 629s are not the same guns as those with the earlier reputation. One reason S&W now offers a lifetime warranty on new guns.....because of the confidence they have in them. I have 2 post 1988 629s with over 10,000 rounds of legitimate .44 mag ammo shot thru them and neither has disintegrated in my hands. If they do, they will be fixed or replaced for free. If I need to shoot ammo stronger than what I can get from a standard .44 mag, I use a bigger gun. I see no reason ever to "overload" any firearm.

That said, both manufacturers make fine firearms and both stand behind what they produce. Folks that own either and/or both are happy with them. Aesthetics, triggers, finish, accuracy and price are some of the determining factors between the two. Many folks give up a little of the first four mentioned above to save a little of the fifth. Every man must know their limitations....along with their priorities.
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Old September 13, 2015, 12:57 PM   #8
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Chainsaw, both the Ruger and Smith and Wesson are excellent revolvers. Rugers are tank tough, but generally not as well fitted and finished at the the Smith and Wesson's are.

Either should give you years of service provided you don't do anything silly and start getting crazy with reloading, and do something silly.

For a hunting, camping, general field use revolver I would go with the Ruger. Other than that I prefer the S&W products.
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Old September 13, 2015, 04:04 PM   #9
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You mentioned the Ruger Redhawk. I had a friend who had one in 44 Magnum and dearly loved it. It would handle any factory load he gave it and ask for more. You also mentioned handloading and straight walled revolver cartridges are a good place to start.
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Old September 13, 2015, 08:08 PM   #10
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I'd personally lean towards the Ruger, their 4" Redhawk .44 Mag would be a lot of gun for the money. I have several 454's and I dearly love the cartridge, you can get the Toklat Super Redhawk for around $800 and the one I have is quite possibly the most accurate gun I've ever owned. Ruger triggers aren't bad, they're a little heavy but a Wolff spring kit can change that in a hurry.

You mention Freedom Arms, and yes they're pricey but have you considered a Magnum Research BFR? I have one and it's a fine single action, not a FA but definitely a step up from Ruger. Here's my BFR 454:

Of course you can't go wrong with the Blackhawk/Super Blackhawk if you're in the mood for single action and don't want to spend over $600. While the .44 Mag is plenty there's nothing wrong with the 454 either, you don't have to fire full power 454's through it or you can shoot .45 Colt through it while still getting 44 Mag levels of power. Whichever caliber you choose, the Ruger is a great gun.
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Old September 14, 2015, 09:11 AM   #11
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Super Blackhawk for the win. Nice pic btw!
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Old September 14, 2015, 03:32 PM   #12
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Guys, Thank you all for the good response. Ill shop in peace knowing what ever I choose will do me well.

And Ill check out that BFR.
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Old September 14, 2015, 04:30 PM   #13
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Personally, I've never understood the reasoning behind "Smith's are fragile".

They aren't. They are 100% good for the job they are built for.

Blowup strength? Who gives a rodent's posterior? If one gun lets go at say 63% overload, and the other maker's gun at 67% (or any other figure) what does it matter? If you get into the kinds of pressures that blow up quality guns, you have ALREADY SCEWED UP major!

Durability? ok, maybe you've got a point there, big Smith vs Big Ruger, but considering you will spend well more than the cost of a new gun in ammo before your S&W needs a tune up, again, what's the point of worry?

Nobody thinks you can run an engine forever without tuning it back up every so often. And every one has a finite life, a point at which it is no longer economically repairable. Every one.

Most of us will never come close to that point.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old September 14, 2015, 09:37 PM   #14
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Hi, Jackmoser65,

Just curious, but how many rounds did it take before your S&W(s) shot loose. Some say that it takes many rounds or even doesn't happen, but since it has happened to you, it would interesting to know how many rounds it took and what the loads were.

Jim K
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Old September 15, 2015, 10:36 AM   #15
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For the record. Buffalo bore does NOT want you using their +P loads in Smiths.
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Old September 15, 2015, 01:43 PM   #16
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As mentioned, you likely won't live long enough to damage a Smith or any revolver with just the ammo. The thing that's really important is how well the revolver fits your hand. Partial to Rugers because they do fit my hand. Smiths do not.
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Old September 15, 2015, 02:36 PM   #17
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Smith = strong enough

Ruger = more than strong enough
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Old September 15, 2015, 04:20 PM   #18
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For the record. Buffalo bore does NOT want you using their +P loads in Smiths.
And for the record, you are incorrect. +P is fine, it's the 340gr +P+ load they don't recommend and my understanding is because the OAL of that cartridge is too long to fit the S&W cylinder.

Deer Grenade 44 Mag. +P

Buffalo Bore's Deer Grenade 44 Mag. +P is a 240gr. Massive, Hollow Nosed, 12 BHN cast bullet with a gas check traveling at the below velocities out of stock, real world, over-the-counter firearms:

1. 1935 fps -- Marlin 1894 20 inch

2. 1897 fps -- Marlin 1894 18 inch

3. 1871 fps -- Marlin 1894 16.5 inch

4. 1578 fps -- Ruger Super Blackhawk 5.5 inch

5. 1535 fps -- Ruger Redhawk 5.5 inch

6. 1466 fps -- S&W MT Gun 4 inch


Last edited by laytonj1; September 15, 2015 at 04:29 PM. Reason: more info
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Old September 16, 2015, 12:14 PM   #19
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Went back and reread AFTER coffee. Your right, its the +p+ stuff.
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Old September 16, 2015, 10:40 PM   #20
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There's two kinds of strength: "blowup resistance" to a single potent slug of whatever caliber, and "long term wear" or "action" strength in which the gun doesn't come apart at once but can "get loose" over time.

Rugers tend to be strong in both categories. S&Ws tend to be weaker in terms of long term wear.

One good example is the classic six-shot N-frame 357Magnums like the 27 and 28 (and the older N-frame 38Spls such as the Outdoorsman). In terms of blowup resistance they were great. The 27 and 28 in particular can shrug off monster loads. BUT when shot rapid-fire with low-powered ammo (including really light stuff like 38Spl target loads) they reveal a weakness: the action parts will slowly come undone. The mechanisms that stop and start that heavy cylinder will take a beating doing rapid-fire. The problems are fixable mind you. When rapid-fire revolver competition was a big deal (PPC and the like) it was common to use S&W K-frame variants because their lighter cylinders stood up to rapid-fire with 38 ammo better than their bigger cousins. You wouldn't think the smaller gun would be stronger, but, there it won't any examples of custom PPC guns on an N-frame.

In stark contrast a Ruger Redhawk in 357 has an even heavier cylinder (2nd beefiest 357Mag ever built in fact) but you can go at it like it was full-auto without killing it nearly as fast as you can a 27/28. And it will resist blowup better than a six-shot S&W.

Another category of problems involves frame stretch. You more or less only see this to a serious degree with aluminum frame guns which Ruger has never done. Wait...yes, they have, the LCR in 38. But even that isn't turning up stretch complaints except for what appears to be one early bad batch that skipped a step in the frame's metallurgy (very few guns involved).

For all types of strength, overall, a Ruger DA is going to dominate. And the Ruger SA action strength is even greater. (The cylinder on a 44Mag SuperBlackhawk SA is actually weaker than a Redhawk or SuperRedhawk DA 44mag, but I'd put the SA action strength even higher than it's otherwise stronger DA cousins.)
Jim March
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Old September 16, 2015, 11:30 PM   #21
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BFR Buds under $1000
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Old September 17, 2015, 11:18 AM   #22
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Ruger makes a stronger revolver , thats was not allways the case , they use a investment casting process unlike S&W that uses a machined billet of high tensile stainless . The nature of investment casting has improved dramaticlly over the years .
That was not allways the case , late 70's security and speed six line were investment cast , I don't believe they were as strong as the S&W were , I seen many a frame and cylinder failure in the early Ruger revolvers .
You can't go wrong with either company but if you are loading hot I would say Ruger .
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Old September 17, 2015, 11:46 AM   #23
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I have 2 post 1988 629s with over 10,000 rounds of legitimate .44 mag ammo shot thru them and neither has disintegrated in my hands.
That's good to know. I'm in the market for a 29 and as you described, the general consensus is that the 29-1s and -2s had some weaknesses.

When the first commercial Model 29 came out in 1957, shortly after they had to give the ejector rod a reverse left thread since the ejector rod screw would loosen under recoil.
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Old September 17, 2015, 02:22 PM   #24
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Design era school of thought matters

you make some very good, and sound points, Jim.

Allow me to suggest we use "strength" for blow up, and "durability" for service life terms.

Allow me to add a couple of other points, for some background...

S&Ws are essentially the ultimate refinements of their 100year old + revolver design. In that era, people generally did not shoot the way we shoot today. DA shooting was (again, generally) considered "emergency use only". Rapid fire, particularly extensive rapid fire simply wasn't commonly done.

Some people knew, and did prove otherwise, but it took decades for these ideas to catch on generally, and when they finally did, lo and behold, SOME S&Ws had issues with the "new" style of play.

Big frame S&W have proven to wear more from rapid fire, get that big heavy cylinder spinning at speed, slammed to a sudden stop to fire, things get a bit more stressed than lighter guns (cylinder locking bolt, hand, etc).

Hell for stout working SA though.

RUGER designs are all from within the last 50 years or so. AND, designed from the get go to use Ruger's cast frames, etc. Yes, cast is not as "good" in some ways as forged, but cast can match forged in operation, when done right.

Ruger does it right. Bigger, thicker metal (to compensate for the weakness of the casting process) compared to forged, and if you are going to have to go bigger anyway, why NOT make it a feature? Rugers are overbuilt (some massively) AND, their internals were designed for today's school of thought, and shooting habits, having the benefit of being able to look at what S&W (and everyone else) did, and had done, for decades, and is essentially still doing.

come down to it, they are all machines. Beautiful machines, but still machines. And there is no free lunch. Use them enough and they will wear out. I never will, either brand. Most of us won't. If you are someone who will, get it tuned up, or replaced when needed, and enjoy life.

I've never been much of a fan of Ruger DAs, I like S&W more.
Ruger SA? best there is for me, better than the Colt, by far. (but, they're bigger and heavier!)

I know you can wear out a S&W. It takes a lot (by my standards, but it can be done) I'm pretty confident you can wear out a big Ruger, but how many generations of active shooters that will take, I cannot say.

If that is your main concern, buy a Ruger. If something else is more important (and for me it is) buy what makes you happy. (also want to add I will not buy any of the S&W with the lock hole in the sideplate. I don't like the changed look, and I loathe the history behind it. Have several older guns that will keep me going until I take the big dirt nap for good, so S&W can do whatever they want with their new models, but until/unless they make them the way they did, I'm not in the market for any new ones.)
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old September 17, 2015, 03:11 PM   #25
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If you are really looking to go over .44mag, see if you can try before you buy. The Smith X frames (.460, .500 not sure about a .454) are BIG guns and IMHO not something you want to pack around on your hip all day. I am sure the Ruger counterparts are no lightweights either. It sounds like which ever way you go you want stainless.

Many K and N Frames
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