A few guns meet just the right combination between being robust, accurate, versatile, and timeless. It’s not a stretch to say that the Ruger Blackhawk is one of those guns.
This single-action revolver (which borrows heavily from the Colt Single Action Army while incorporating several upgrades of its own), has been in Ruger’s catalog since 1955. It’s also available in countless configurations, so if you want a Blackhawk, you’ll spend a fair chunk of time scrolling through Ruger’s website to see each available option.
The Blackhawk that I owned for over a year was a .357 Magnum with adjustable target sights, a 6.5-inch barrel, and a blue finish with rosewood grips.
While I have since parted with this Blackhawk, I feel qualified to write up a review on it based on the good time that I was fortunate to spend with it.
Let’s start by explaining what the Blackhawk even is, to begin with.
Why Did Ruger Build the Blackhawk?
The Ruger Blackhawk is a single action only revolver that is modeled heavily after the iconic Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolver.
Colt had ceased the production of the SAA before World War II in order to focus production on the M1911A1 pistol and other firearms for the war effort. Following the conclusion of the war, Colt didn’t resume making the SAA, but they remained enormously popular with the general public.
The popularity of Hollywood Western films and TV shows, which regularly featured the Colt SAA in its many configurations, ensured strong public demand for the single action ‘cowboy’ style of revolvers.
As the 1940s gave way to the ‘50s, Colt still didn’t resume production of their single action revolvers…so another company took the lead.
That company was Ruger.
Ruger had made a name for themselves thanks to the massive success of their Standard Mark I .22 target pistol, which was known for its durability, ruggedness, and accuracy.
In the early 1950s, they unveiled the Ruger Single Six revolver. This was basically a Colt SAA that was sized down to a smaller grip and frame and designed to shoot .22 LR (and later, .22 Magnum and .17 HMR). Like the Ruger Standard, the Single Six was notable for its durability and build quality.
The Single Six was a fun gun for plinking that could satisfy the itch of someone who was watching a lot of TV westerns and really wanted to own a ‘Cowboy’ gun. While the SIngle Six was hugely successful, it didn’t take long for people to start pining Ruger to build the Single Six with a larger frame and caliber, akin to the Colt SAA.
Ruger answered their prayers with the Blackhawk.
A Modernized, Beefed-Up Colt Single Action Army
In a nutshell, Ruger took the design of the Colt SAA and made it stronger by adding more metal to the cylinder and frame. They also added adjustable target sights to help with shooting performance. The Blackhawk also utilized coil recoil springs over the flat leaf springs that were installed on Colt SAA’s; Ruger claimed this was for greater durability and longevity as well.
In 1973, Ruger unveiled the New Model Blackhawk, which added a safety transfer bar to permit the safe loading of a sixth chamber. It was standard practice to load only 5 live shells in a Colt SAA or earlier Ruger revolver, because if the hammer and firing pin were to be resting against a live round there is too high of a chance of an accidental discharge. The safety transfer bar solved this problem.
The New Model Blackhawk also only required the loading gate to be opened in order to free up the cylinder, Older Blackhawks are more like Colt SAA’s in that the hammer must be pulled back to half-cock to free and allow the cylinder to rotate.
Colt eventually brought back the Single Action Army later (releasing 2nd and 3rd Generation models respectively), but the Ruger single action revolvers were here to stay. The Black Hawk was an immediate bestseller and continues to perform well for Ruger today.
Ruger also released a version of the Blackhawk called the Vaquero, which removed the Blackhawks adjustable sights and had a profile and appearance more akin to the Colt SAA. Ruger reduced the frame size in later versions of the Vaquero (rechristening it the New Vaquero) to make it even more like a Colt SAA, but that’s a story for another day.
Today, Blackhawks are available in a seemingly infinite number of configurations. Blackhawks vary from one another depending on their finish, grips, caliber, and barrel lengths.
The original Blackhawks were available in .357 Magnum and .45 Long Colt, which were the most popular calibers available for the Colt SAA at the time as well. Ruger also released the Super Blackhawk, which is built on an even larger cylinder and frame and can accommodate larger calibers such as the .44 Magnum and .454 Casull.
Why Go With A Blackhawk Ruger?
In my opinion, the Blackhawk Ruger set out to build a gun that would satisfy the wants and needs of those who desired a single action revolver in an era where nobody else was making them, but in the process they created something that’s more practical and versatile.
I can see the Blackhawk filling four primary practical uses for anybody interested in owning one:
Target Shooting: The Blackhawk is a very accurate revolver and is very adept as nothing more than a target revolver.
Handgun Hunting: With the right loads, the Blackhawk would be a good choice for handgun hunting. The gun is routinely used by handgun hunters in North America and Africa, especially in the .44 Magnum and .454 Casull versions. Some versions of the Blackhawk even permit the addition of a scope.
Hunting Sidearm: Besides being used as a primary hunting weapon, the Blackhawk is equally at home in your holster as a secondary weapon to your long gun. It would be a formidable self-defense weapon against a dangerous big game.
Survival Weapon: The Blackhawk would be a good choice of handgun to take with you in any SHTF scenario where you had to flee into the woods and live off the land.
After over a year of ownership, I ultimately sold my Blackhawk to use the funds to buy other guns on my wishlist.
I’ve long had had Ruger GP100 in .357 Magnum (my all-time favorite revolver, which I’ll also do a review on) and a Uberti SAA reproduction in .45 Long Colt, so between those two revolvers, the Blackhawk wasn’t fulfilling any personal needs for me that those other two aforementioned guns weren’t already doing for me.
Nonetheless, I can see why people would take a Blackhawk over a GP100 or an SAA-type revolver. It’s more durable than the SAA and a better choice than the GP100 if you prefer single-action revolvers.
Conclusion – Ruger Blackhawk Review
Ruger scored big with the Blackhawk, and it’s not hard to see why it’s long been one of their most popular products.
If you desire a durable single-action revolver that’s more stout than the standard SAA, the Blackhawk is what you’re looking for.
Nick Oetken is a writer and firearms enthusiast based out of Idaho. He specializes primarily in writing about the outdoors, firearms, and disaster preparation. Nick is a published author and has written for major firearms publications like Guns.com.