Ruger Redhawk vs. Super Redhawk: what’s the difference?

Posted by:

David L. asked on Facebook about the design differences between the Ruger Redhawk and the Super Redhawk. He says “I love the classic lines of the Redhawk, but the Super Redhawk completely took over. When you feel like a change of subject is in order, please consider a little “under the hood” comparison of these two revolvers.”

The Redhawk (often abbreviated ‘RH’) and Super Redhawk (herein referred to as ‘SRH’) are both large caliber double action revolvers. I’ll start with the SRH, because – believe it or not – it fits into the evolution of Ruger revolvers better than does the regular Redhawk.

The SRH is best thought of as an enlarged GP100, for that’s really what it is. In fact, a large percentage of the internal parts between the SRH and GP100 are the same and therefore completely interchangeable. Anything that can be done to a GP100 can be done to an SRH, with equal results. An SRH can have the same action quality as the GP, which is to say quite nice. Anytime you read of action or custom work done to a GP100 (or an SP101, for that matter, as it’s nothing more than a shrunken GP100), you can have the same thing done to an SRH.


The SRH frame is massive and easily up to handling incredibly powerful cartridges, such as the .454 Casull. The SRH is unusual in that the front of the frame, where the barrel would normally be attaches, is extended forward. What looks to be a barrel reminiscent of the SP101 is really the frame extension, into which the barrel is screwed. This makes for an extremely strong and well-supported barrel/frame interface, and also tends to stiffen the barrel a bit without the need for a heavy underlug. The gun is heavy enough without that! Like the GP and SP lines, the SRH uses a stud grip frame which allows for a wide range of grip sizes to be mounted.

The Redhawk, on the other hand, is a unique design in the Ruger line and owes very little to any of their other guns; very few parts are interchangeable between the RH and SRH. The first thing you notice is that the RH has a more conventional frame design than any of the other Ruger double actions, having a grip frame reminiscent of a square-butt Smith & Wesson (or one of the Ruger Service-Six revolvers.) It uses conventional grip panels rather than the one-piece grips of the other Rugers. The action, too, is completely unique.


Unlike the other Ruger guns, which have a mainspring powering the hammer and a second powering the trigger return, the Redhawk uses a single coil spring for everything. This is achieved through a rather novel lockwork design whose operation is not at all self-evident when looking at a parts schematic. To this day I marvel a little bit at the ingenuity of the design, even if on a practical basis it brings with it a few limitations in flexibility.

Gunsmithing the Redhawk must be done carefully. The mainspring, in my experience, cannot be lightened at all without compromising ignition reliability. This isn’t all bad, as the Redhawks generally have fairly good triggers out of the box; in fact, the as-shipped RH double actions are generally better than the SRH actions.

The Redhawk trigger generally responds very nicely to general action work, getting even smoother and feeling lighter than the equivalent SRH. It’s a tedious yet very rewarding gun to work on.

The Redhawk’s conventional frame is said to not handle the fire-breathing calibers as well as the SRH, and given the nearly one-pound weight differential you’d think that to be true. That isn’t quite the case, however, as it’s been successfully rechambered by custom gunsmiths to rounds as big as the .500 Linebaugh! That conventional frame also makes custom grips easier to obtain, and you’ll find many gripmakers who can indulge the desire for the rare and beautiful; the SRH (or the GP or the SP) is very limited on such offerings. Many people prefer the square-butt profile of the Redhawk, finding it more comfortable with the heavier-recoiling rounds.

Frankly, I think the Redhawk is a better looking gun than the SRH. Don’t get me wrong: I love the SRH Alaskan series, but the Redhawk has a timeless look to it. It also feel it makes a better platform for extensive customization. All one needs to do is look at the gallery at Bowen Classic Arms to see the work that Hamilton Bowen and his team have done to get an idea of how beautiful (and versatile) the Redhawk really is.

Today the Redhawk is made in very limited numbers compared to the Super Redhawk. In fact, as this is being written you won’t find the RH on the Ruger site. According to them, they had to take it offline “temporarily” because demand for other guns necessitated suspending production until they can get caught up on orders. The Redhawk will supposedly return sometime in 2014, and I predict pent-up demand will result in very tight supply even then.

So, how to choose between a Redhawk and a Super Redhawk? That’s easy: buy both!

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
  Related Posts
  • No related posts found.