The Ruger Blackhawk is a single action revolver originally chambered in the .357 Magnum cartridge. Produced by Sturm, Ruger & Co. from 1955 the Blackhawk frame has been used on several other Ruger revolvers, such as the Ruger Vaquero or Ruger Bisley.
By using single action the Ruger Blackhawk filled a gap in the market left by the Colt Single Action Army (production discontinued before the Second World War) and built upon the success of the Ruger Single Six (a .22LR chambered, single action revolver). The Blackhawk is a centre-fire revolver, as was the Single Six. Although originally chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge, the Ruger Blackhawk was quickly adapted to use the .44 Magnum, released by Smith & Wesson in 1956.
In comparison to the Colt Single Action Army, the Blackhawk's main rival, the Blackhawk is very modern. Having adjustable sights (both the Flat-top - Adjustable rear sights not protected by 'ears', and the Three Screw - Three visible screws on the side of the revolver), a coil spring rather than leaf spring and, from the release of the New Model Blackhawk in 1973, a transfer-bar to prevent the hammer striking a cartridge without the trigger being pulled, the Blackhawk and its various off-shoots became popular in the Western Filming market. However the Blackhawk still required the hammer to be half-cocked to reload, the same as the Colt Single Action Army.
The latter of these improvements, the transfer-bar, was offered as a retrofit by Ruger for older models.
'New Model' BlackhawkEdit
Produced from 1973 onwards the 'New Model' Blackhawk was the first Ruger to feature the Transfer-bar to prevent accidental firing. Produced in either Blued steel, shooting the .30 Carbine, .357 Magnum, .41 Remmington Magnum, .44 Special and .45 Colt or manufactured in Stainless steel, shooting the .327 Federal Magnum (from an eight-shot cylinder), .357 Magnum or .45 Colt. Multiple Barrel lengths are offered.
'New Model' Blackhawk 'Convertible'Edit
A version of the Blackhawk with changeable cylinders. Other than the ability to change the cylinder to a different caliber, the New Model Blackhawk Convertible identical to the 'New Model' Blackhawk. Changeable calibers offered were the .357 Magnum/9x19mm Parabellum, .38-40/.40 S&W/10mm Auto and .45 ACP/.45 Colt.
'New Model' Super BlackhawkEdit
Built on the same frame as the Blackhawk, available in Blued or Stainless Steel and the ability to mount a scope (either choosing a ribbed or unribbed barrel). The Super Blackhawk has a larger grip, either 5.5in, 7.5in or 10.5in barrels and unfluted cylinder (apart from the 5.5in barrel) in order to lower the recoil from the .44 Magnum round. Furthermore the grip frame and ejector rod housing are manufactured from steel, increasing the strength from the aluminium made components on the standard Blackhawk.
Vaquero and 'New Model' VaqueroEditAgain using the same frame as the Blackhawk, the Vaquero catered to the needs of the Cowboy Action Shooting genre, using fixed sights for a more traditional look and more closely resembles the Colt Single Action Army. It is identical to Blackhawk, although with fewer variants.
A further single-action revolver built on the Blackhawk frame. Using the 'Bisley' grip, similar to the grip on the Colt Bisley's from the 19th Century. Again, the Bisley closely resembles the Blackhawk as well as reflecting the Colt revolvers from yesteryear.
Moving even further backwards the Blackhawk frame was used for a percussion cap and ball black powder revolver, further opening up the market for Ruger, becoming the only major manufacturer to produce black powder revolvers at the time.
The first production models were released from 1955 to use the .357 Magnum cartridge, shot from a six-shot cylinder. However, according to popular legend, a Ruger employee managed to find spent .44 Magnum cartridges in a scrapyard, quickly deducing that Smith & Wesson were releasing a new cartridge. The Blackhawk .44 Magnum appeared in 1956, the same year as the .44 Magnum.
As well as the .357 and .44 Magnum rounds the various Blackhawks have been able to fire:
- .30 Carbine
- .32-20 Winchester/.32 H&R Magnum (Convertible)
- .327 Magnum (Shot from an Eight-shot cylinder)
- 9x19mm Parabellum (Conversion for .357 Magnum)
- .357 Remington Maximum (Discontinued)
- .38-40 Winchester/10mm Auto (Conversion)
- .41 Magnum
- .44 Special
- .45 Colt/.45 Automatic Colt Pistol (Convertible)
- .45 Colt
The Blackhawk was conceived, as was its predecessor the Ruger Single Six, to fill the gap in the market for single action revolvers vacated by the Colt Single Action Army. Hence the Blackhawk and its variants have become popular for their classic looks and use in Cowboy Action Shooting and Westerns.
Models such as the Super Blackhawk have been used for hunting and target shooting, the ability to mount a scope on these revolvers helping this. However other Ruger models such as the Ruger Redhawk, a double action revolver, are preferred.
The Blackhawk is a very popular gun for customization. The bulky frame allows for gunsmiths to use more powerful rounds and a large amount of engraving on every surface of the revolver.