For those who have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with handguns, there lingers the memory of “the one that got away.”
For those of us who have enjoyed a life-long love affair with handguns, there lingers the memory of “the one that got away.” We are haunted by that brief lapse in judgment where we allowed a treasure to slip from our grasp because we were lured by the siren call of a new love not yet owned. For most of us, there is probably more than just one of these lost loves, but there is always that one unforgettable handgun we can’t quite erase from our memories. For me, that handgun was an early Ruger Super Blackhawk 44 Magnum with the new 7 ½ inch barrel and that incredibly beautiful blue finish that made me wince slightly every time I slid the gun in and out of its leather holster. I had purchased the gun used in one of those early package deals (with 44 rounds left in the original box of ammo,) and apparently the original owner had installed a set of stag horn grips before even firing the gun. It was a spectacular handgun and the pride of my possessions! Alas, within a year of acquiring it I was leaving the armed forces and moving west with a wife, two little girls, and no job. When a friend of mine offered $35 over retail for it, I did what all responsible young fathers do in that situation; I took the money and prayed for a future solution.
Fast forward four decades, and I am delighted to report that someone at Ruger has responded. While you might initially think they’re delinquent in waiting this long, that’s not so. Since their response comes in the form of a 50-year Commemorative of the Super Blackhawk, obviously this handgun could not be released before the year 2009. In the intervening years, Ruger has filled my life with a number of irresistible offerings, so it’s not like I had nothing to enjoy during those intervening years. But lets’ take a closer look at this return to yesteryear.
When I first saw the Commemorative, (I think it was in Ruger’s booth at the Dallas Safari Club in January,) it was the brightly polished blue finish that immediately caught my eye. I couldn’t remember seeing a production Ruger that looked like this since that original SBH escaped my clutches long ago. Except for the glossy steel finish on the sides of the hammer and the less reflective blue/black coloration of the rear sight, this luxurious blue finish covers the entire external surface of the gun. It’s as spectacular as my first one! The next two eye-catchers (and I’m not sure which one was noticed first,) are the gold bands around the cylinder and the smooth, beautifully grained rosewood grips. The gold bands are quite narrow, perhaps 1/16 inch wide, making them tastefully subdued but distinctly noticeable. (My apologies if I sound like a wine taster. I’m not, but this gun does generate some serious emotion.) The rosewood grips (with Ruger logo of course,) are elegantly simple and compliment the deep blue finish nicely. My initial thoughts were to possibly replace them with staghorn simply to recover the look of my lost Super Blackhawk, but the more I looked at the current grips, the less interested I became in changing anything. As a treasure, this gun stands on its own.
The last visual impact came from the gold lettering on the top of the Ruger barrel. In large letters that ran from just behind the front
sight base to the front of the frame’s top strap it said simply, “50TH ANNIVERARY SUPER BLACKHAWK – 2009.” I know that many of us have criticized Ruger over years past for the biblically long legal liability warning printed in small letters on all their modern guns about reading their instruction manual and washing your hands before meals. But before you work yourself up unnecessarily, consider this. The message here is extremely significant, and it’s delivered in gold. This is the 44 Magnum we’re talking about, and Ruger is acknowledging with the gold-filled date on the barrel that their luxury entry into the 44 Magnum market occurred 3 years after their competition and Ruger’s initial modification of their smaller frame flattop. I mean even the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments weren’t inlaid with gold! Sorry if I went a bit too far there, but as I said, this is a gun that generates emotion.
One might think that I would be reluctant to shoot this handgun, in which case, one would be incredibly wrong. I could not wait to venture a field with this recreation from my lost youth, (or young manhood,) and the instant I received a call from Doug Roth at Camp 5 Outfitters, it was Go Time! If you don’t know Camp 5, located near Paso Robles, California, you’re missing out on some great potential hunting adventures. Doug offers guided hunts on several species including deer, elk and turkey during their relatively short seasons in the spring/fall. Even better, he offers wild boar hunts year round, because California has no closed season on pigs. Good eating, good fun, great outing, and best of all, Doug can get handgunners in close on wild boar. With his fearless Jack Russel Terrier hunting companion Moose, few pigs fatally hit are ever lost. Hey, I’d spend two days at Camp 5 just to watch Moose work his magic. But in this case, I had both Moose and a recreation of a lost love with me, and while the three of us hadn’t hunted together before, I had hunted with both Moose and other 44 Magnums. It seemed like an unbeatable threesome.
The hunt location made it unnecessary to test numerous loads in search of the Commemorative’s favorite dish. Camp 5 is located in a portion of California where lead-free ammunition has been dictated for hunting. I had a couple boxes of Corbon and Federal 44 Mag ammo loaded with 225 grain Barnes bullets. Considering the lighter weight bullets reminded me of the only reservation I’d ever had about the square shape of the original Super Blackhawk’s trigger guard. That square back edge sometimes rapped my knuckle when firing full power loads with the heavier bullet weights. Admittedly that was more of an issue when shooting silhouettes with a one-hand grip from the creedmore position, and while it was not a crippling event, it was irritating in 40- or 80-round matches. Happily, using a solid two-handed grip, my knuckle remained untouched when firing the 225 grain loads in the new gun.
It required about 5 rounds to dial in the Ruger shooting from the rock-solid shooting bench/table that Doug has built near the Camp 5 guest cabin. Then, dropping to the ground in front of the bench and resting my back against a brace with my arms across my knees in my absolutely favorite field shooting position, a couple of confirmation shots ended up touching each other in the bottom of the small orange aiming point stuck on the 25-yard target. With a bit of a swagger, I left the range for two marvelous days of pig hunting.
While wind direction changes and fading light terminated some of our stalks, Doug was able to get the other hunters inside 25 yards on more than one occasion. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that on my stalk, I stretched my range beyond what was prudent considering I was hunting with a new gun and ammunition combination that I had fired less than 10 times. We followed the blood trail for perhaps 300 yards up a steep hill and through some heavy cover until it ended before giving it up with approaching darkness. Although a bit ashamed, I’m not discouraged. I miss just like everyone else, and on this occasion, it was clearly due to “pilot error.” I know the Commemorative Super Blackhawk and I will hunt together again albeit with some additional range time together between now and then. I was foolish enough to surrender this gun once; it won’t happen again.