Talking about love at first sight. I knew when I first laid eyes on this beauty I had to have one. I have a passion for big bore revolvers and to see what Ruger had done to the Super Redhawk design by essentially cutting off the barrel made this attractive to me. Though the Super Redhawk is very sturdy and reliable I hate it’s looks especially the barrel end protruding from such a large frame. The Alaskan cured me of all the cosmetic issues which prevented me from buying a Super Redhawk. Most people think of a snub nose revolver as a concealment weapon, weighing in at 41ounces this is far from an 642 airweight. Though it is my understanding the folks at Ruger came up with this design at the request of the President of the company. While on a trip to Alaska he fielded many request to come up with a short barrel, large bore magnum handgun for field carry, hince the Alaskan was born in 2005.
The Alaskan has been produced in 3 Calibers 480, 454 and 44magnum. The 480 was Ruger’s first new cartridge which had been developed by Sturm, Ruger and Hornady. In 2003 when this cartridge was introduced it was the largest diameter revolver cartridge made. Around 2007 Ruger discontinued the 480 Alaskan due to sticky extraction problems. Then in 2008 Ruger reintroduced the 480 Alaskan with a 5 shot cylinder, this version of the Alaskan didn’t stay on the market very long either before meeting it’s demised and being discontinued. Ruger has been very tight lipped as to the reason the 480 were removed from it’s lineup. The Alaskan 454 and 44 are still going strong and it is the 454 model which I am reviewing today. I tested my Alaskan with 3 different loads at 15 yards with a standing unassisted two handed hold. First up was Hornady 454 Casull 240gr XTP/MAG the box says these are rated at 1900fps at the muzzle. With only a 2 1/2 inch barrel I am sure the Alaskan would produce about 15% less velocity which is still about 35% more than standard 44magnum rounds. The second box of ammo tested was Winchester Super X 250gr Jacketed HP Reduced Recoil load which is rated at 1300fps. One thing is for sure in a snub nosed packaged 454 reduced recoil or not will equal LOTS of energy and RECOIL. The recoil and muzzle blast from the Hornady rounds were what I was expecting from this snub nosed power house but it was more than anything I had experienced before. Though the Hogue Tamer Grips do an excellent job and prevents me from classifying this recoil as brutal and uncomfortable. My experience does include the Smith and Wesson 460 and 500 magnums but both of course are in the larger X Frame 8 inch barrels. The 3rd load tested was my own 45 Colt reloads using Alliant’s 2400 powder producing 890fps. These were the rounds we used for the dayattherange accuracy testing though all rounds were accurate my reloads were an absolute dream to shoot in this platform, the experience was equivalent to shooting 38 special.
On with the Range Review
Fit&Finish Grade = Excellent
The fit and finish is what many have come to expect from Sturm Ruger at 41 ounces with a 2 1/2 inch barrel is very hefty and is the tightest revolver I have owned. Stainless is one of the most durable finishes and will go well for it’s intended use as a field weapon. The cylinder lockup is very tight and the cylinder gap measured .004 while forcing and holding the cylinder to the rear. The Hogue Tamer Grips which are much like the grips which come on the Smith and Wesson X Frame revolvers do an excellent job at taming the recoil. The Alaskan sports the same grip as the GP100, some to make this a more concealable platform as removed the original grips for the smaller wood insert grips the GP100 were once known for. I could not imagine 454 recoil with the smaller grips, great job with the Tamer’s Hogue!
Trigger Grade = Good
The trigger on the Alaskan like most double action Ruger’s has a long pull. The pull was smooth, crisp and consistent on each pull. The double action pull on this revolver was some what heavy but that is subjective, this pull weighed in at 12 pounds with my RCBS trigger guage. The single action pull was very nice with not much over travel and weighed in at 4pounds on the trigger guage. A friend and I talked about the heavy trigger pull and the possibilities of why. His thoughts were it may be needed to consistently ignite the small rifle magnum primers which are used with 454 ammunition. Though this is heavy compared to other revolvers I have reviewed on this site I suspect and trust Ruger has a reason and I will not be attempting to change anything. Again the trigger does deliver a consistent feel each and every time and with more trigger time I am sure I will get used to it. It can also be very detrimental to your health to have a gunsmith do a action job to lighten the pull, be in the backwoods of Alaska and stumble upon a grizzly and have to pull the trigger only to discover a round will not go off. As Allstate insurance would say your in good hands with the Alaskan as it is out of the box. Seems fitting considering the Alaskan was developed as an insurance policy you hope you will never have to use.
Sights Grade = Excellent
From the factory, the Ruger Alaskan comes with a black pinned in front ramp sight and with traditional white outlined adjustable rear sight. This sight combination was very easy to acquire sight picture and sight alignment quickly on the indoor range as well as outdoors.
Reliability&Accuracy Grade = Excellent
The 2 1/2 inch barrel and balance of this weapon provides a center balance in the palm of your hands and provides a short eye relief, which most would say leads to poor accuracy but I found this not to be true. This is very subjective as well because I do spend a decent amount of time training with snub nosed revolvers. The firing of my SAAMI spec’d 255 grain 45 Colt provides 6 shots of very accurate deadly lead down range as well as a ton of enjoyment.
Here are my first 6 shots of 45 Colt. I may have done a little better had I took these shots first before firing the 454 Casull loads. I believe my body was still shaking from the percussion of the high performance Hornady ammo.
The Ruger Alaskan .454 will be my go to pistol for packing in bear or big cat country. There are many large bore handguns capable of taking the large 4 legged creatures in hunting situations. However, everything changes when a momma bear becomes the hunter and surprises you when your gathering firewood for the camp fire or fishing for Salmon and find yourself far away from your rifle. Ruger has created a platform thats easy to carry especially if deployed with a simply rugged holster which ensures you will always have adequate protection on your person while in the back countries of wilderness.