View Full Version : Need Help! Blackhawk field sidearm w/6 iches or less witch caliber to choose?

February 24, 2009, 04:13 PM
Hi I'm new to this site. I am an archery hunter from Arizona. I am looking for a Ruger Blackhawk with a barrel length of 6 inches or less to carry as a sidearm for the AZ archery season. To be legal to carry a sidearm while archery hunting in AZ for self defense purposes, the handgun barrel must be 6 inches of less without aid of scope or other electronic sights, iron sights ONLY.

So I have narrowed it down to Ruger Blackhawk revolvers and possibly a .44 Super Blackhawk because of there safety features and rugged durability with magnum loads. I am limited to 4.625 or 5.5 barrel lengths. My main concern is being easy carry and have an accurate gun if I decide to hunt with it also. I would like to be able to shoot a texas whitetail with it, if need be while archery hunting during rifle season or fend of a pesky black bear or mountain lion in AZ while archery hunting.

It must also be fun to shoot for just plinking or shooting rabbits for practice. I would also like it to be stainless but that is not that important. The problem is I am not sure to go with BH .357 mag 4.625" stainless or blued, BH .41 mag 4.625" blued, BH .45 colt 5.5" blued, or SBH .44 5.5" stainless or blued. I am not currently a handloader but have access to plenty of handloading equipment ext. and would be interested in it down the road. Please let me know some of your thoughts.

Main objectives are: fun to shot plinking/hunting/lower recoil , good field easy carry sidearm, capable of killing large aggressive animals, accurate with 6 inches or less barrel. Thanks

February 24, 2009, 04:33 PM
45 Colt would be my choice. It's a very versatile round for a revolver, like your Ruger, that can safely handle loads way more powerful than the original Single Action Army blackpowder loads.

For the Blackhawk you can construct loads with hunting bullets that will be mid 44 magnum range in power, while you can practice and plink with mild lead bullet loads. Because of the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting you can buy those loads cheaply (especially compared to 44 mag) or load them yourself.

The same logic applies to 357 for hunting and plinking loads, but the 357 hunting loads won't reach the power of the 45 Colt.

41 mag and 44 mag - Not very suitable for plinking/practice unless cost is not a factor. If you ever got interested in CAS the 357 or 45 would be far better, too.

Big Bill
February 24, 2009, 04:39 PM
Buy a .357mag/.38spec/9mm convertable BH...


I love mine. I put a Hogue Monogrip on it.

Too bad you can't buy it in a 6 1/2 barrel.

February 24, 2009, 04:46 PM
Do you think 5.5" would aid me better then the 4.625" for easy field carry & hunting purposes then the 4.625" If you are looking for the best easy carry I am sure the 4.625" would work better but I am concerned about accuracy for hunting, aiming and balance with iron sights. Also the added weight in front will help with recoil right? I am not sure if there is a real big difference in accuracy between the two.

February 24, 2009, 04:47 PM
I would go w/45LC w/a 4 5/8 barrel. You can use pussycat 45 S&W loads up to 45 Colt barnburners. It's even better if you handload.

February 24, 2009, 04:48 PM
Big Bill, I know I am very limited to barrel length.

February 24, 2009, 05:07 PM
How about a Redhawk 4" with a pancake holster? :)

Gun 4 Fun
February 24, 2009, 05:14 PM
They do have a 4 5/8" .357, but it isn't near as powerful as the old .45 Colt. I don't care what the paper ballistics are for the two, the .45 Colt will leave the .357 in the dust. Handguns don't kill by kinetic energy, they kill by bore size, along with enough momentum to drive the bullet through what they hit.

The .45 Blackhawk will fire any Buffalo Bore or Cor-Bon ammo. These loads will surpass the .44 magnum. I know that most guys use ballistic charts to compare rounds, but those don't take into account bullet weight or diameter.

I own .357's, .44mag's, .45 Colts and even a .475 Linebaugh. I just got rid of my 5.5" Blackhawk a few months ago. It would be an excellent choice, but for use primarily as a backup gun, the 4 5/8" would be best. It won't give up but a few feet per second across an actual chronograph, and there isn't enough difference in sight radius to worry about for aiming purposes.

February 24, 2009, 05:20 PM
Gun 4 Fun,

thanks for the reply that's what I'm looking for! Keep um comin :)

Gun 4 Fun
February 24, 2009, 05:30 PM
It's not just my opinion either, it is what most "in the know" guides and outdoor writers would tell you as well. It is based on 37 years of experimenting and hunting. I like the .357, it just isn't a .45 Colt. Barrel length as stated above would suit your needs best. You may want to swap out the factory stocks for some after market grips like Pachmayr Presentations for the Blackhawk. They still have traditional styling with a much more comfortable grasp, and will handle recoil better. I like the Hogues as well, but they are even bigger and start to become a nuisance when trying to save space, or prevent hang-ups on clothing or worse, your bow!I have all of them in my inventory and have tried all of them. It is one of few places I prefer Pachmayrs to Hogues.

February 24, 2009, 06:09 PM
My first pick would a .45 LC one in either the 5 1/2" or 6 1/2" configuration then the 6 1/2" .41 magnum. Actually...I'd go Bisley first and you should still be able to find one of the stainless ones around in .45 caliber.

February 24, 2009, 06:25 PM
Gun 4 Fun---

Be quiet! You are going to make me want a .45 Colt. :eek:

Gun 4 Fun
February 24, 2009, 06:29 PM
You already want one, now you need one.:D

February 24, 2009, 06:32 PM
AZ I like big bill's idea of the convertible, but i would go with the .45colt/.45acp

It has been a very trusty gun for me if i am shooting the Colt i load it up with the hot stuff from Buffalo Bore and if i am just plinking it shoots great with the cheap Wal-Mart Acp stuff. I picked mine up used a few years ago for around $275.00 and i love it. It has the wood grips with the 4 5/8 barrel. I always tell people if you are going to get a hand gun with the intent of ever killing anything never get any thing under a .45 just in case :)

February 24, 2009, 06:33 PM
I'm sure thinking I do. :p

February 24, 2009, 06:38 PM
but for use primarily as a backup gun, the 4 5/8" would be best But if used for some hunting, or plinking the 5 1/2 or longer is better. For general packing I like the 5 1/2 which is a compromise between 'perfect packing' and target shooting/plinking.... IMO. Of course, you could always buy two guns ;) .

.44mag or .45 Colt will do the job. If you reload you can go hot or tame -- stoke to your desired use. With factory you have to go with .44mag (hot) or .44 special (tame). In the .45 you have normal 'tame' loads with special 'hot' Buffalo Bore or Cor-Bon ammo for the Rugers.... Right now I am happy with .45, but then I don't hunt and like 'tame' loads (<1100 fps) :) . I understand the .44 should be able to 'reach out' a bit further than the .45 if hunting is your game...

February 24, 2009, 06:39 PM
If you don't reload, I would go with a .357 BH or .44 SBH. Good factory loads are widely available for these two.

Most of the factory loads for .45 are weak, either loaded for "cowboy" games or to be safely fired in old Colts. To get the most out of the .45, you either reload or buy high dollar "boutique" loads.

.41 mag ammo can be hard to find and really limited. This is another "reloader's" cartridge IMO.

I've owned SA revolvers in all the above calibers. I still own a 4 5/8" BH in .41 mag. Most accurate out of the ones I've owned.

Gun 4 Fun
February 24, 2009, 07:09 PM
Who cares if boutique loads are expensive? You don't buy them to arget practice with. you only need to make sure your sights are set with them and that you can hit with them. Then, practice with the "cheap" stuff and load the good stuff for your hunt!

But if used for some hunting, or plinking the 5 1/2 or longer is better. For general packing I like the 5 1/2 which is a compromise between 'perfect packing' and target shooting/plinking....

I used to feel that way, but in reality, there's so little difference in sighting radius between the two lengths, that any ability to hit better with the longer one is purely theoretical. Going on out to 7.5" is another story, but defeats the OP's original question. But, having 7/8" less barrel translates into a shorter gun that requires a noticably shorter holster, and easier packing. The 4 5/8" barrel is still easy enough to hit with accurately out to 50 or so yards and farther with practice. Plus when your up in a tree, less is always more when it comes to having equipment with you to control.

February 24, 2009, 07:55 PM
I personally went with a 4-5/8" Super Blackhawk and haven't had a moment of disappointment. As a reloader I can load from pipsqueek plinkers up to stuff I have no desire to shoot more than a cylinder of. .45 Colt would be just as good, but you get an all steel gun with the Super although you can always add one to the .45.

The .41 is wonderful as well but you really need to be a reloader to get the versatility out of it.

February 24, 2009, 08:08 PM
Bears would eliminate the .357 for me. .44 Mag would be my choice and no one has mentioned the .44 Spl. CA rounds which is the closest thing to a squib that you can buy OTC. Should be fine for rabbits and plinkin'.

February 24, 2009, 08:19 PM

.45 colt 4 5/8ths barrel

February 24, 2009, 09:19 PM
Swampghost-- Nearly all of my revolvers are .357 (and .38), but I also carry the .44 Redhawk 4", just in case.

February 24, 2009, 11:41 PM
The .357/38 is a great choice, until you get to your bear defense option.

Either .44mag/special or .45LC using cowboy/+P loads will work. There are more choice of factory plinking rounds in .45LC, but more choice of factory magnum level rounds in .44mag. So I'd suggest choosing between them by what you think you'll do more of.

February 25, 2009, 01:42 AM
I had a Blackhawk .45 convertible with 7.5" barrel and a 1902 vintage Colt Peacemaker .45 at the same time. That was 30 odd years ago..... The only centerfire handgun I have owned for the last dozen years is a Ruger Vaquero in .45 Colt. It has the best features of both the others. Adjustable sights are over-rated. As long as I stay with about the same weight bullet the point of impact stays the same regardless of velocity at 25 or so yards. The original Vaquero can also be had in .44 magnum if you prefer. Mine is all stainless steel, [no aluminum!], with 4 and 5/8" barrel. In some ways the New Vaquero is a better gun as they come and if I were going with a .357 it would be the one to get. But in .45 Colt, the original Vaquero is stronger and every bit the equal to a .44 magnum. Yes, I have tinkered with it a little: I reamed breech end of the barrel with Brownell's 11 degree revolver kit; I reamed the cylinder throats myself to .453"; I filed and silver-soldered some alteration to the front sight; and I simply un-hooked one side of the trigger spring for a lighter trigger pull. I go to the gun shows in Portland and I notice that there are always a number of original Vaqueros available. If you're determined to use bullets of greatly varied weights you pretty much need adjustable sights. But I have found the Blackhawk's rear sight prevented the sheer, smooth handling quality that was inherent in my first-generation Colt. But that's OK considering that the Blackhawk was built to hunt whereas the Colt was made for a gun-fight.

February 25, 2009, 04:51 PM
I love my RBH convertible (45 Colt/45 ACP) but for self defense purposes, I HIGHLY recommend double action over single action. God forbid you should find yourself in a situation of fending off a mountain lion with one hand while drawing and firing your sidearm with another, you do NOT want to have to cock a SA revolver with only one hand.

Of all the four legged predators you are likely to encounter in AZ, a sick/rabid mountain lion is the one most likely to attack a human.

I would recommend the Ruger Redhawk in 45 Colt. I love the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in 454 Casull, but the short barrel precludes any humane hunting. (FWIW, the Winchester Super-x, silver box, 454 load is light recoiling, for that caliber)

Edit: I meant to say HUMANE hunting, not Human hunting. The short sight radius doesn't lend itself to high accuracy.

February 25, 2009, 07:20 PM
you do NOT want to have to cock a SA revolver with only one hand. ... Errrr... Why not? Thought that was what the thumb was for...

but the short barrel precludes any human hunting Wasn't aware you could buy tags .... :p

Zombie Steve
February 25, 2009, 07:39 PM
5.5" barrel, .45 Colt.


Anything the .44 mag can do, this will do at lower pressures. A good read:


I've shot lead plinkers and found the upper limit of my handgunning comfort all with the same gun.

February 25, 2009, 11:27 PM
I always cock my Vaquero with the thumb of the same hand that pulls the trigger whether or not I'm shooting one handed or two. Different folks have different techniques. It's what works very well for me.

February 26, 2009, 11:30 AM
My favorite is the 357 BH, 4 5/8" barrel, blue.

But, if you're in bear country, go with the 44 mag or 45 colt.

I love the short barrel BH's!:)

February 26, 2009, 12:15 PM
5.5" barrel, .45 Colt. Nice.... Looks just like mine. Puuuurfect. The warning label rolled to bottom of barrel too ;) . I have a 5.5" '93 Vaquero .45 Colt as well to complement the NM....

February 26, 2009, 12:41 PM
I think you have a good answer in the 5.5" 45 colt. I wish I had gotten the 5.5" instead of the 4 5/8" gun. If its going to be carried a lot you might want to think stainless too.

The 45 Colt is a great round I think you will like it.

February 26, 2009, 12:59 PM
If its going to be carried a lot you might want to think stainless too. Problem with stainless is it just adds more weight to be carried around. Durability? Well, I see blued revolvers that have been around a lot longer than me, and carried for years. Kept clean, last several lifetimes.... A little bluing loss, just adds character :) .

February 26, 2009, 04:06 PM
If I'm not mistaken, blued and stainless weights are the same.

February 26, 2009, 04:37 PM
I have no experience with the stainless .45 (do have a SS SBH), but I assume the grip frame on it is stainless steel as well. As a reference, my blued BH .45 (weight 37oz) grip frame is aluminum, making it lighter by about 6oz than my blued '93 Vaquero (same size and barrel length) which has a steel grip frame.

FYI, From a physics standpoint, stainless is denser than other steels : http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2004/KarenSutherland.shtml which makes it heavier of course... By how much is another discussion....

February 26, 2009, 07:55 PM
This revolver is the ultimate in "way out yander" sidearms. 45ACP cylinder for "less" expensive plinking. The 45Colt can be loaded up to impressive, even by 44 Mag standards. Adjustable sights tailored to the load you're shooting. Enough barrel to get a good sight radius and a few more FPS from your favorite loads.

I like shooting the stainless New Vaqueros, but if I want/need more umph, I turn to the NMBH45 and hand loads. I got two off GunBroker at decent prices and they aren't for sale. You can still find them at almost reasonable prices.:cool:

February 27, 2009, 01:54 AM
you do NOT want to have to cock a SA revolver with only one hand.

... Errrr... Why not? Thought that was what the thumb was for...

Thumb cocking with your grip hand weakens your hold on the gun. Not something desirable when you are struggling with a predator. In this instance speed and simplicity is of the essence.

I edited my previous post. I meant to say "humane" hunting.

February 27, 2009, 02:15 AM
It is a big difference.
I thought a 4 5/8" barrel would be fine for beers ...I mean bears.

Cult .44
February 28, 2009, 04:02 PM
You could, you know, get a .44 mag. Standard "cheap" boxes of ammo -- Magtech, Winchester white box -- fire pretty stout and let you know they're .44 magnums, and more powerful rounds are readily available from Hornady, Buffalo Bore and others. You can always fire .44 specials for low-recoil plinking. These are also readily available as well as premium .44 spcl rounds designed for self defense. The .44 mag also is very versatile for reloading, from cowboy rounds to lion killers. And there's a variety of good rifles out there for the cartridge -- leverguns, semi-auto and bolt action -- and these are a blast to shoot.

February 28, 2009, 04:12 PM
I'd get a stainless .45 colt, with 4 5/8in barrel. Why the shorter barrel? I think it looks purtier :D

March 1, 2009, 11:44 AM
I'll be the odd one here and say not Blackhawk but Vaquero (oriignal large frame - same frame as the BH's you're considering)... in 5.5" in .44 Mag. You say it's not for hunting but for carrying/trail/self defense use, so the "minute of bear" accuracy of the fixed sights shouldn't bother. The smoother fixed sight "cowboy" profile/configuration suggests less possibility of "hang up" as well when you're trying to clear leather fast. The .44 Mag load gives you anything you need from light to might, the latter being better for cat or bear protection (at least typically for easily-found, over the counter commercially available loads) vs either the .45 or .357. And, other than the .45, will be the lighter choice due to the seven big holes (cylinder plus barrel) vs the smaller .357. Since you'd hopefully only be using this occasionally if at all for your function, the pricier .44 (or .45) ammo shouldn't be an issue. You're not range shooting this thing. Since the main idea here is carry in the field, I'd even consider a 4-3/4" (4-5/8" in Ruger parlance I think)--not a barrel length I'd normally get in .44...but in this case, the better for weight and carry length, and you won't even notice the extra flash or muzzle rise when adrenaline is rushing and you're firing at a charging cat or bear.

Regardless, go with .44 or .45 in a BH or Vaquero if for no other reason than the weight. My .02.

44 AMP
March 1, 2009, 04:15 PM
having owned a 7.5" .45 convertable for over 25 years, a 6.5" .357, and a 7.5" SBH .44 for somewhat less time, I am quite happy will all of them. I understand your need for a shorter barrel, and feel the 4 5/8" would be best from a packing/weight point of view.

You aren't hunting with the gun (primarily), but defense against predators, so I think the bigger bore is better. I like the .44, but I love the .45 Colt. And I do handload. Price on ammo has gotten outrageous lately, and I do recommend handloading!

For a cat, or a bear at defense distance, both the .44 and the .45 are going to do the same thing, poke a hole completely through, most likely. The .357 can do this too, but bullet selection is critical.

On the plus side for the .357 is the ability to shoot .38 Spl. Ammo for the bigger bores costs more, and even though you can shoot .44 Spl in the .44 Mag, .44 SPl ammo is expensive too. The .45 Colt/.45 ACP blackhawk is a fine choice, and still lets you plink fairly cheaply with ACP.

The shorter barrel gives up sight radius to longer ones, but that only becomes important for longer range shooting, and if the shooter can use it. Velocity loss is there, again more important for long range.

Muzzle blast and recoil of the short barrel magnum is an issue, for some, especially recoil. I would choose the .45 Colt, because (I like it, and) it is just more fun (pleasant) to shoot than the .44mag. You can shoot .44spl, orf download .44mag, but thats more effort than needed with the .45 Colt, where you can get factory ammo from mild to wild.

4 5/8 or 5.5" (if you can find one), choose what balances best in your hand. Vaqueros (original model) are very nice, had one in .44mag, but traded it, as I prefer adjustable sights.

March 5, 2009, 06:13 AM
Hi I'm new to this site. I am an archery hunter from Arizona. I am looking for a Ruger Blackhawk with a barrel length of 6 inches or less to carry as a sidearm for the AZ archery season. To be legal to carry a sidearm while archery hunting in AZ for self defense purposes, the handgun barrel must be 6 inches of less without aid of scope or other electronic sights, iron sights ONLY.

Where did you find these legal definitions? I bowhunt AZ too and I always carry a sidearm when I'm in the boonies alone. I thought that the "no gun" restriction was lifted in 2006 or something, but now that I am looking at the game and fish regs it still says no. Specifically in the 08-09 regs comm. order R12-4-318 Section C2:

"An individual participating in an “archery-only” sea-
son shall use and possess only a bow and arrow as
prescribed in R12-4-304, and shall not use or pos-
sess any other weapons, including crossbows or any
other bows with a device that holds the bow in a
drawn position, except as authorized by R12-4-216."

I checked the FAQ page on the azgfd.com site and it specifically says NO there too:


"Can I carry a gun during an archery hunt?

No. Commission Rule R12-4-318-C2 states that an individual participating in an “archery only” season shall use and possess only a bow and arrow as prescribed in R12-4-304, and shall not use or possess any other weapon, including a crossbow or any other bow having devices attached to hold the bow in a drawn position, except as authorized by R12-4-216."

So what's the deal? Can you give me a link or something to an official declaration that it is indeed legal to carry a sidearm during an archery-only hunt? It would be much appreciated.

March 5, 2009, 08:01 PM
Lightest, most powerful gun would be the .41 Magnum Blackhawk, 4-5/8". (By that, I mean the most power for the weight, with its aluminum grip frame and ejector rod housing.) Stainless guns weigh more. .45 Colt in a blued BH would be as good, but the more powerful loads in .45 are a bit harder to find in the marketplace. Reloads included, it would be a toss-up. I have an OM .41, blue. It rides very nicely on the hip in an old Bianchi #1 holster, and the short barrel is no inconvenience.

March 5, 2009, 08:43 PM
I only have a .44 mag in the larger calibers. I would love to have a .45 Colt, but I don't reload and I believe the .44 mag ammo is easier to find and more plentiful. The .44 mag I have will probably be the only large caliber gun I ever own because of the cost of that type of ammo. It is a 4". You may take that into consideration.

Michael Bane
March 5, 2009, 09:20 PM
If I could throw in a contrarian opinion...it's probably a disease of sorts, but .44 Special is a superb trail cartridge and my choice for a backcountry gun. Ruger, though Lipsey's, is offering a small-frame .44 Special Blackhawk Flat-Tops for about $600, which is heaps less than most of us Special-ites have paid for .357-to-.44 Special conversions over the years.

I just bought two of the 4 5/8-inch versions and am totally happy (well, I will be when Jim Finch, Long Hunter, finishes the action jobs).

My favorite contrarian packing gun is a cut-down .30 Carbine Blackhawk...the muzzle blast alone will cause a black bear to explode!

Michael B

Gun 4 Fun
March 5, 2009, 10:02 PM
The .44 special is a great old round, and one of those new Rugers is about the only new Ruger I care to own anymore. That said, the factory ammo is even more anemic than .45 colt ammo, and if you go to handloads or specialty loads, the old .45 Colt still leaves the Special in the dust.

The only reason Elmer Keith used the .44 Special so much, was because he couldn't find a gun suitable for the loads he was trying to get out of the .45 Colt in the available guns he had to work with back then.

A 4 5/8" Blackhawk for a packin' gun is about the best choice for the OP's intended purposes, unless he can find a Smith model 25-5 or 25-7. They will take loads that will easily propell 265-300 gr. bullets at 1,000-1,200 FPS.
Plus they have the advantage of double action use for defensive purposes, should you ever find yourself coming around the bend and meeting a black bear or mountain lion. If you doubt what I just wrote, read the following from John Linebaugh, one of the premier gun builders of heavy duty calibers, and one of the most knowledgable authorities on what works on big game.


Ben Towe
March 6, 2009, 10:42 AM
You spoke of a Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum. If I didn't misread, I believe Ruger now offers the Super in .45 Colt. I have a Super in .44 that I love... Except that it's a .44 Mag. I had a stainless (old) Vaquero in .45 with 4 5/8 in. barrel that I miss dearly. If you can get the Super in .45 that's definitely what I'd go with. My $0.02.

Gun 4 Fun
March 6, 2009, 02:41 PM
According to Rugers web site, they still only make the Super in .44 mag in several permutations.;)

Ben Towe
March 6, 2009, 05:35 PM
Well... A boy can dream. :)

Gun 4 Fun
March 6, 2009, 07:07 PM
I'll go along with that!:D

March 7, 2009, 09:45 AM
Michael Bane:
If you are THE MB of TV, those of us who've seen the shows know your affection for the .44 size...whether Special or Magnum! If you are an 'alias MB' we know why you chose your handle! The Special is indeed special, and especially when handloaded UP. Of course, all .44 Magnums are also .44 Specials, but I've noticed that guys who own magnums tend to go with loads in the upper category by default, and few use restraint in reloading the round.
I still will go with a BH .41: plenty of oomph out of the box in a tidy carryable package; and I KNOW it will do for bears to 300 lbs or more. (In fairness, a pal did a real job on a treed bruin in the 200 lb class, with his shorty .44 special Horton limited edition and 246 HP/W296 … but oh, the blast and recoil was fierce! There's such a thing as too MUCH of a good thing!)

Tom C.
March 10, 2009, 09:00 AM
My idea of a good woods carry gun is a stainless .45 Colt NMBH, 5 1/2" barrel, with a .45 ACP cylinder for inexpensive practice. Weighs 42.6 oz. My identical .44 mag SBH weighs 1 oz. more. It is probably equally good. I just prefer .45 Colt.