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A modern guide to guns and hunting

Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan

Potent power provided in a portable package.

It has been observed that disaster insurance is a difficult sell to many people: you’re buying something that you hope you never need to use, and you probably never will. On the other hand, when you do need it, you’re going to need it in a big way. And by then, it’ll be too late to buy it. A similar argument could be made about the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan.

In 2005 Ruger introduced the Alaskan, a snub-nosed sub-model of their highly successful Super Redhawk line. The Alaskan was originally offered in .454 Casull and .480 Ruger calibers, and more recently, the .44 Magnum became the “light” cartridge of the Alaskan family. The Alaskan is appropriately named, for these guns are designed expressly as a backup sidearm when one is traveling in grizzly country.

When I first saw the Alaskan, I decided on the spot that I had to have one. No matter that I’d never been to Alaska, nor had any immediate plans to head for bear territory. In fact, the closest I’d ever come to a big bear was at the city zoo. This was not a purchase grounded in restrained thinking – one look at the polished stainless finish, the elegant lines and the huge hole in front, and I was convinced that I needed one. At least one.

I’ve owned my Alaskan (in .454 configuration) for about a year now, and have fired well over 1500 shots through it – not enough to proclaim myself as an expert, but probably more than most folks have done. You can find objective reviews of this handgun elsewhere; what follows are my thoughts on the Alaskan, based on my personal experiences with it.

First, a bit of history on the cartridge: the .454 Casull was developed in the mid 1950s by Dick Casull and Jack Fulmer. In a very real sense, the .454 is a magnumized .45 Colt, but this definition doesn’t really capture just how much disparity there is between a .45 and a .454. Consider this: the .454 cartridge will propel a bullet at over twice the velocity as a comparable bullet in a .45 Colt. It packs about 50% more energy than a 44 magnum, the cartridge from which it wrested the title of most powerful handgun cartridge in the world.

This amazing performance comes with a price, and that price is spelled R-E-C-O-I-L. This is true in any .454, but probably nowhere more so than in the Alaskan, whose 41-ounce package allows the shooter to, shall we say, fully experience the firepower of the cartridge. I would venture that, regardless of one’s proficiency with other calibers, it’s a good idea to allocate some time to getting used to this little guy. The amazing explosion, coupled with a 2 ½” barrel, makes for some interesting firing dynamics.

That said, I’m thoroughly impressed with the Alaskan. Its action and lock-up are as tight as the day I got it, and its finish has held up beautifully. (I managed to nick up the trigger guard during some gunsmithing. A few passes with an Arkansas stone rendered the nicks nearly invisible, and the work on the brushed stainless finish appears seamless.)

I’ve had quite a bit of opportunity to shoot the Alaskan over a chronograph. The detailed results of these tests can be found elsewhere in this site, but in general, you can expect about a 15% decrease in bullet velocity as a result of the very short barrel. While this may seem somewhat unfortunate, consider that 85% of a typical .454 load is better than 100% of just about anything else. Besides, if ultimate velocity is your primary goal, an Alaskan isn’t your best choice anyway (Ruger makes this gun in 7 ½” and 10 ½” barrel configurations, but prepare for even greater recoil.)

On the subject of accuracy: well, this gun will never be confused with a tack driver. Under the best of circumstances, I was able to get 2 ½” groupings of 5 shots from a rest at 25 yards, and I would not consider those results entirely repeatable. Those who would criticize this shortcoming of the Alaskan are missing the point, however: this gun is intended for one thing, and one thing only: the ultimate defense against a bear attack. Your target will (unfortunately) be much closer than 25 yards when you’re forced to use this gun, and the kill zone will (fortunately) be considerably bigger than 2 ½”. Moreover, Ruger considers the short barrel a feature that will minimize the gun’s intrusiveness while worn, which in turn will minimize the chances that the owner will be caught without it at a most inopportune time. Remember, this is a gun that you hope you’ll never use for its intended purpose.

With that last thought in mind, I find it mildly ironic that the Alaskan has become the favored firearm in my safe. It’s certainly not my only handgun (in fact, it’s not even my only .454), but it’s the one I reach for the most when I want to go make some holes at the range. Its intended purpose notwithstanding, this is one fun little gun to shoot, especially with milder loads. Now, if I could just convince Ruger to make a matching carbine rifle!

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  • Craig

    I went with the .44 magnum because I can find ammo for it anywhere I may end up fishing. The .454 and .480 are both more powerful than the .44 mag. However, shot placement is the most important part of stopping a large angry animal in its tracks. I can shoot .44 magnom rounds all day and keep them in a tigt group. The .480 caliber Alaskan has been reported to kick so hard that some people shoot it once and sell it. While the .454 round is enticing, I can find a larger range of projectiles I can buy in .44 mag than I ever expect to see in .454. To me the choice is simple and that’s why I chose the .44 mag rather than either of the other caliber Alaskans.

    • Smithy

      Craig, I sold my first Alaskan (454) and now have its replacement (44 mag). At first I was shooting 45 LC in SASS so I figured 454 was the logical choice. I called it good enough when I fired “heavy loaded” 45’s out of it. I knew the 454 was going to be a one shot revolver. Kind of like my double barrel American Derringer in 45-70. Two rounds to fire, but not with a 10 minute “ouch ooch, geese, and dang that hurt” inbetween. 44 Magnum made much more sense. Smithy.

  • Patrick Mullaly

    I purchased the Ruger Alaskan in .454 Casull shortly before my June 2008 fishing trip to Alaska. We had a female grizzly and her cub show up while we were salmon fishing and my older, unarmed brother immediately asked if I had “my gun” with me. I didn’t have to use it but sure felt better with it sitting in the holster ready to go. I also purchased the Puma M-92 stainless steel lever action (16 inch barrel) in .454 Casull to go with it. What a great du0! Both are really fun to shoot! Thanks for your article.

  • Jason

    I own the 44mag version. I love it, however can anyone tell me where to find a carry holster for it? I have thus far struck out, also I would like to swap out the adjustable rear sight with a drop in fixed sight like one in the S&W Nightguard series but have not found one yet either, any help would be appreciated.

  • RamingtonStall

    Jason, Check out the holsters at Simply Rugged, in Wasilla, AK .

    http://www.simplyrugged.com/store/index.html

    I just ordered a Loaded Pancake Holster with a “Chesty Puller Rig” for my Ruger Alaskan .454 Casull. For the purpose of self protection when it is needed during a hunt, hike, fishing trip, these rigs seem to do the job best of anything I have seen. Plus the people there are really helpful.
    RamS

  • crosslay

    If you want the best (hands down) quality holster for your Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan… then you really need to be looking at this site http://www.davidjohnstonleather.com/
    Dave makes either a hip holster or a Alaskan Guide series harness holster. The craftsmanhsip is top notch and he uses the best quality leather. Each holster is made by hand and with attention to detail. I own one and am extremely impressed and know that if I ever need to draw my weapon in defense against a big ol’ bear, it will be there in one of Dave’s excellent holsters. Give him a call and tell him what you would really like to have and I am sure that he will put it together for you.

  • airhead1340

    Look at the chest rig that Ruger sells for this hand cannon, only $50. I think its made out of ballistic nylon with shoulder harness etc…

  • edward sullivan

    If you have an email list, please put me on it. Thanks.

  • .357Magnum.

    I just purchased one of these beasts (Alaskan) in the .44 Magnum caliber. To me it makes much more sense because with the range of 44 mag ammo out there, some being close in power to 454 Casull, it is far easier to find. For Bear defense I went with Double Tap’s 320 Grain WFN
    http://www.doubletapammo.com/php/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=21_35&products_id=118
    —-which is chronographed (by Double Tap) out of the 2.5 inch barreled Alaskan at 1125 fps (versus 1265 fps/1200 ft-lbs of muzzle energy out of a 6″ colt anaconda) this translates to 900 ft-lbs with a heavy 320 grain flat nose bullet out of a short barrel Alaskan—very suited to the task of Grizzly defense. Buffalo Bore makes an 44 magnum +p+ that delivers 1600 + ft-lbs of energy (about 1200 ft-lbs out of a Ruger Alaskan) for those who like 454 like power and recoil…I feel that 454 Casull is unecessary as 44 magnums have been killing bears for half a century! lol Plus shot placement is everything.
    For CCW (yes I will be carrying this), I am using Double Tap’s 200 grain XPB copper bullet which will deliver around 968 ft-lbs out of my Alaskan with a light bullet.

    http://www.doubletapammo.com/php/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=21_35&products_id=447

    The 44 magnum is pleasant to shoot in the lighter loads and in my opinion the more practical choice. I have a smith and wesson 460 magnum that weighs a 1.5 lbs MORE than the Alaskan and 454 Casull is pleasant to shoot out of it but NOT out of the Alaskan!

  • mark

    Have had an Alaskan for 3 yrs–vac. in the rockies with bears , moose, etc. but never had to use it. Several times I pulled it with really bad feelings, but all went well. Having said that, My personal feeling is that the 454 is best because in a clutch, firepower is paramount so an off center shot will still do a lot of damage and, or stop the target. Two things to remember, in a panic you will NOT feel the recoil and even better, you can shoot 45 long colt in the 454 Alaskan for practice with minimal recoil. My wife uses 45 LC all the time.

  • Jame Troy

    Randy Garrett of Garrett Cartridges, Inc. has more experience concerning large, dangerous animals shot with 44magnums than anyone else on the planet. He has trancended theory and actually tested. Coupled with his real life experience, his company only produces two calibers: 44mag and 45-70. His 44 magnums will penetrate both sides of a large bear’s skull and lodge in the bear’s hip. His website has an immense amount of info to guide those of us who spend time in places the big bears roam. What he does not mention is that he has been instrumental in in decreasing casualties in the Park service, Yellowstone and elsewhere, for the last 25 years. He is also a nice guy, pleasant to work with. Sorry if this looks like an advertisement but I am only a satisfied customer with no company affilation.

  • ken snyzyk

    How accurate is this gun firing 45LC?

  • admin

    Hi, Ken –

    I never noticed much difference in accuracy between .454 and .45 Colt. With either, the gun’s more accurate than I am (mostly due to the small sight radius). Given its intended purpose, pinpoint accuracy is not a high priority, anyway.

    Thanks for visiting the site.

  • ken snyzyk

    I have 45acp’s and a ruger vaquero in 45lc and a mod 29 in 44 mag and I’m interested in buying this gun for defensive purpose whether hiking my property or in the home or for carry.The 454 is a nice option to have but which is a better practical choice for my purpose with this gun a .44or45 as far as handling and accuracy.Thats my consideration before buying the gun as I have no way of testing either before I commit .Not looking for pinpoint accuracy,just a tight group at center mass.Thanks for your opinion.

  • admin

    Ken –

    For the purposes you describe, we’re really splitting hairs. Either .44 or .45 will give you more than adequate stopping power for most anything you’ll encounter. Handling should be a wash, though you’ll likely have more muzzle rise in the .44. As far as accuracy…I can’t help with that one, but again, I don’t think there’s going to be much difference. You could try contacting Ruger customer service and asking a techie for their advice; they have some very helpful people there.

    Good luck with your decision.

  • pdg

    Don’t forget, you can also pick up a wide range of .45 Long Colt rounds if you look around enough. Not only is .45 LC a pleasure to shoot, in my opinion, .45 LC hollowpoints loaded to +P pressures (such as Corbon offerings) make formidable personal defense rounds. I actually have an easier time finding .454 or .45 LC rounds locally than I do finding .44 mag or .44 special rounds.

  • Wayne Militante

    can u shoot a .45 acp bullet on the super redhawk alaskan? just asking, cause i’m a bit curious.

    • admin

      Let’s make sure we’re clear on terminology. You can’t shoot a .45 ACP cartridge from the SRH. You might be able to load a bullet intended for .45 ACP, however, into a .45 Colt case. I’m not sure what you’d gain by doing this, though.

  • pdg

    The .45 ACP cartridge is what they call a ‘rimless’ cartridge, which is to say that there’s no rim at the base of the cartridge. Instead, there is an indentation around the rim of the cartridge where the extractor, usually on a semi-automatic pistol’s slide or a rifle’s bolt, catches and pulls the cartridge out of the chamber. Rimmed cartridges, like the .22 long rifle, as well as other .22 rimfire rounds, .44 special and magnum, .45 Long Colt, and .454 Casull all have a rim, or lip, around the base of the cartridge. Usually, the rim helps to properly seat a bullet into a revolver cylinder or rifle chamber, as well as, aid in extraction. Without a rim, the .45 ACP cartridge would just drop so far into a .45 Long Colt or .454 Casull cylinder that there would be no way for the firing pin to make contact with the primer of the cartridge, rendering the round unfireable. There are revolvers out there that will accept .45 ACP rounds through the usage of half-moon or full moon clips (the Smith and Wesson 625 is one of these guns), but I’m reasonably certain that the Ruger Super Redhawk is not one of them (at least not out of the box, although I’ve read that some gunsmiths were able to mill the backs of .45 caliber revolvers in such a way so that they could accept .45 ACP rounds with half or full moon clips). You can, however, shoot a .45 Long Colt round out of a Ruger Alaskan if it’s chambered for .454 Casull.

  • john max

    can i use an 45 acp with moon clips on the alaskan? would it fit?

    • admin

      can i use an 45 acp with moon clips on the alaskan? would it fit?

      I really wouldn’t try. I don’t think the cylinder would close with moon clips on the cartridges, you’d expand the brass to the point that it might rupture, the jump to the chamber throats would be huge, and the bullets aren’t the right size for that gun. Plus, you just don’t need that much gun for the .45 ACP, so you’d be carrying around some unnecessary weight. And cleaning the cylinder would likely be a nightmare if you were using lead bullets. It’s just not a good idea.

      If you really want to shoot .45 ACP from a revolver, you’re better off getting something like a Smith & Wesson model 25.

  • james M

    I really like the alaskan some much, but the bad thing is the ammunitions are way to difficult to find especially the casull. And even worse is that some gun store don’t have the 45 colt. I like the 44 magnum version though, but still there is something wrong, the camber or shall we call the revolver of the 44 mag. is not the same as of the 454 casull which really sucks.. i like the more smooth finish compare to the curve style of the 44 mag.

  • nick

    @ admin: What do you think of the smith and wesson 325, is it a good substitute for the alaskan?

  • admin

    Hi, Nick –

    Remember that the Alaskan is intended to be grizzly medicine. For that application, the 325, because it shoots .45 ACP, would fail miserably. If, however, you’re looking for a compact gun for personal protection, the 325 is probably a viable choice. And, it’s considerably lighter than the Alaskan.

    Never forget: different applications call for different guns.

  • nick

    @ admin: thanks for the answer, and the advice.

  • pdg

    Using.45 ACP moon clips for the Alaskan would entail having the weapon gunsmithed. From what I understand, that entails milling down the back of the cylinder and ejection star. Even if I found a competent gunsmith to do that job, I wouldn’t be comfortable with having that done to the gun. Plus I agree with Admin. in that shooting .45 ACP rounds out of a .454 cylinder would at the very least foul up the cylinder and possibly even damage the headspacing since there’s such a discrepancy in cartridge length. Shooting .45 ACP out of revolver is fun, but I’d get a gun dedicated for that caliber instead of convert one. If a person was inclined to, I’d suggest taking up reloading (if they don’t already). With a good reloading kit, all a person would need is brass, slugs, powder, primers and time and they could make .45 Long Colt and .454 Casull to their heart’s content.

  • Ian

    …The 45 Colt cartridge can be had in loads ranging in power from very mild Cowboy shoot loadings (power level equivalent to the 45 acp round), up to mid range power( at the lower end of 44 magnum power), on up to +P pressure loadings, that boost power just over 44 Rem .Magnum level, and finally, on up to the 454 Casull that doubles the muzzle energy of the 44 Rem Magnum . From mild ,to wild, to woolly whomper wicked, this is a gun that can cover many bases and intended applications.From two legged bad guys to four legged beast’s that can pop Rottweilers for snacks, the Ruger Super Red hawk in 454 Casull can do it all!

  • Nathanael

    I am looking to pick up a 454 Casull in a snubbie. I have shot my brothers 454 Casull with a 9.5″ barrel quite a few time and it is definitely a hand cannon.
    It is nice to hear that there is a slight recoil difference between the snubbies and the long barrel Alaskans.

    Just a thought for all of you that are mentioning the cost of the rounds. This is a great round to reload, we usually go with the 45 Long Colts with a 300 grain bullet. The best powder so far seems to be Trail Boss, the donut shaped powder helps fill the casing more if you are reloading lighter loads.

    Happy Shooting

  • Richard

    Great article, and great gun. I was offered the Alaskan as a trade and didn’t hesitate. I truly enjoy everything about the gun except the ammo issues. About the only affordable choice it appears is investing in a reload system. As a long haul driver I’m able to see a variety of suppliers and it is still hard to get the Casull rounds. Ok, at a decent price that is. Some real nice comment to ponder here also.

    Thank, Richard

  • Papa Joe

    I just got my Alaskan in .454 and only shoot .454 ammo because I fear the cleaning required after using .45 colt ammo. Will the chambers fill up with carbon after using the .45 lc rounds to the point where you can’t load the .454 rounds unless you scrub the cylinder first? I have had that problem with .357/.38 spc and .44mag/.44 spc. BTW I have a collection of handguns from Glocks to Kimbers and the Alaskan is the only gun my wife thinks is pretty. We both have and make good use of our concealed carry permits. I want to carry the Alaskan but I’m having problems finding a holster I can afford.

  • Kleshmire

    I just got an Alaskan 44 Mag @ $900. I tell the guys I have snub and they all sniker until they see it. They say “holly crap, I thought you ment you have a little gun.” On fella said he would be proud to have been shot by it hahahaa. Its such a gorgeous revolver and still looks meaner than their 4″ semi’s. btw having been to Kechikan Alaska on a busisness trip made this a no brainer. Yes it’s heavy, Yes it’s a felony in Canada, No the 44 doesnt recoil, Yes a revolver requires extra cleaning, but when you hold one, yes…your in love. Oh and YES, it’s open carry/unlocked glove boxx loaded legal in Virginia. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?101+ful+CHAP0841 I just wish I could get a Fobus paddle holster for it…sighs…

  • Papa Joe

    $900.00 Wow! I got my Alaskan in .454 Casull for $791.00 brand new in the plastic box from the local PX (that means no tax) It pays to be retired military!

  • ken snyzyk

    what causes the 454 round to become lodged in the cylynder after being fired?I have to use a small punch and tap them out.Is this common or is it the bullets being fired?45 lc are no problem at all.

  • ken snyzyk

    I don’t have this problem with jump crimp,my problem is getting the fired cartridges out of the cylinder.the ejecter rod can’t push them out.I have to tap each one out with a punch and hammer.I guess I’ll try other brand ammo to see if its all brands or just this one.Anyone else have this problem?45lc’s no problem at all.

  • Admin

    Oh, I’m sorry…I misunderstood. I’m guessing you only have this problem with fairly heavy loads. Mine does that, too. After discussing it with Ruger, what I think is happening is the pressure is causing the chamber to expand a bit and then “snap” back to position, grabbing the case tightly. Remember that Ruger needed to have a special, somewhat elastic steel made to withstand the pressures of the .454.

    I don’t know for sure that this is the cause, but it’s the most plausible explanation I’ve come across. And for me at least, it only happens with the heaviest of loads.

  • ken snyzyk

    so what can I shoot in 454 that won’t cause this to happen?The loads that I fired were hornady custom 300 gr.jacketed hollow point.I mainly load it with 45’s as this is my #1 house gun,but I would like a problem free 454 load too.And if anyone’s looking for speed loaders for this gun,hks s&w n frame’s will work.The m29 and the alaskan’s cylinder holes line up the same.And for a holster I like galco’s doa alaskan,can be worn strong or crossdraw.

  • Admin

    Hi, Ken –

    It’s been too long since I wrote this article to remember for sure, but I seem to recall having less of a problem with lighter bullets. If you’re a Hornady fan, maybe you cold try their 240-grain offering.

    Sorry I can’t be more help on this one.

  • 454Alaskan

    Hello all i guess i will add some info from mine…
    I Bought it for my birthday this year,and it’s funny ,I went to the movie’s and seen it in “faster” with The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson.. anywho, I went all over the net, no one had it in stock except for Cabelas… They had both calibers
    44 mag and 454 casull…869.99 so it was really a now brainer i call got them to hold the 454 alaskan and picked it up…
    So went to the range 454 casull horandy 300gr, HSM 325gr & 45lc…
    Shooting the full power 454 one handed wasnt as bad at first,but i’m not going to lie, it did hurt my hand after shooting it after 20+ rounds…
    Shooting 45lc was like shooting 45acp…No biggie…
    Now some of you were asking for a holster for this …I bought a holster from Galco at my local Gunstore..
    http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productNumber=199609
    Also i have replace the front sight with Hi-viz..
    http://www.hivizsights.com/RA2010-Ruger-Alaskan-P184C10.aspx
    I did not buy it from Hi-viz as i found it cheaper on http://www.midwayusa.com
    Installed it my self…http://rugerforum.net/optics/37501-hi-viz-alaskan-454-a.html
    Well i hope to help and share my alaskan 454 with all….

  • Raechel

    I have to give my opinion on the Ruger Alaskan .44. My husband just bought me the Alaskan .44 for when I am out and about with my kids so I don’t have to worry. I live in Alaska by the way….In bear country. Just the other day there was a grizzly in my yard. And black bears are seen all the time. I was a little nervous to buy it before shooting it. But I have shot several different kinds of .44’s just not a snub nose. I finally was able to go out and test it today….Man, oh man do I love this gun! It is the best .44 I have ever shot. Ruger did an awesome job on this gun! This is a great gun to have. I was practicing with bear loads today and I was getting them all in the the same area. I did not think the recoil was that bad. I have had a lot worse. All in all it was a great gun to shoot and any woman can handle this gun too.

  • ken snyzyk

    I have a question about the hiviz sights,how good are they at night?I’m looking for a good night sight for my alaskan as it is my primary home defense gun.Any other good sights out there for this gun?

  • Death of Jewish hiker on Mount Rainier - Stormfront

    […] Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan The Alaskan was originally offered in .454 Casull and .480 Ruger calibers, and … for one thing, and one thing only: the ultimate defense against a bear attack. … […]

  • 50cal_magnum

    Does anyone familiar with the .454 Casull also have experience with the Smith & Wesson 500? As a 500 owner, I am interested in knowing how they compare other than on paper. I own the 4″ barrel model and have to believe this with the 2.5″ barrel would make a much better carry gun. Look forward to hearing from anyone. Thanks!

  • matto13

    Get it! My girlfriend owns the 4″ 500 and I have the Alaskan 454. Side by side the Alaskan looks tiny. It’s way lighter not to mention 6 rnds vs 5. Also if you reload the 454 is way cheaper to load. Swap the houge grip for smaller one and it’s very close to concealable. It can also be a good house pistol. I load Thompson contender 45c loads which are close to 44mag . 300gr @ 1100fps. That’s out of the book though haven’t bought a chrono to see what I’m actually getting. I hope they make a model with a trough rear sight and a speed loader that works good.

  • oz7com

    Does anyone have a suggestion on an effective .454 Alaskan cartridge for me. Fishing is Michigan in June, looking for a black bear defense round and wild hogs. Either in .454 or .45 Colt?

  • oz7com

    What’s an optimum cartridge for Black Bears in .454 Alaskan?

  • oz7com

    My query is solved. For black bear in Michigan I have purchased Buffalo Bore .45lc in 300 grain for my .454 Alaskan. They claim it will kill big game up to 1,000 lbs. I’ll be fly fishing for brown trout.

    As always, I will also carry my Attwood Bellow Horn around my neck. It’s Light and loud deterrent. I’ve seen video of Grizzly bears being scared away in Alaska with “fog horns.”

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