I remember back in 2005 when the Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan revolver was introduced, and I have wanted one ever since. At the time, the revolver appealed to me because of its 2ó inch barrel and the radical .454 Casull chambering. I was living in an urban environment and owning an Alaskan was more of a novelty, to my mind, than a practical firearm I would actually carry for selfdefense. Thus I never purchased one.
Forward to 2017, I am living in Oregon and on a regular basis I journey deep into the woods, exploring, foraging, and collecting firewood. On these journeys I get to see deer, elk, and an increasing number of black bears. I have had several black bear encounters, some in my own back yard. It is because of these bear encounters that I decided to buy a Ruger Alaskan revolver.
I have found many times, before heading up the mountain, I chose to leave my rifle at home because I was tired of lugging it around. Almost every time I left the rifle behind, I sure wished I hadn’t, just like the folks who decide to leave their concealed carry gun at home because their 1911 pistol is just too big to carry to the restaurant. Guaranteed, that will be the evening they need it. So now I have a compact, easy to carry revolver I can use for protection against bears and humans that I will actually carry with me whenever I go exploring.
Another good reason to have the Alaskan revolver is because of all the times I am out in the forest during the various hunting seasons I don’t have tags for or after the tags are filled. I do not want to have to explain to an Oregon Fish and Wildlife game warden why I am wearing a blaze orange cap and carrying a rifle without a hunting license and tags! Just so you all know, the orange cap is because I don’t want to get shot by a hunter. I want a firearm for protection, and do my best to stay within the law when I’m out exploring.
The great thing about having a revolver chambered in .454 Casull is that it will also fire the .45 Colt round, which I am fond of for both fun and self defense. These chamberings give you a lot of options for usage and reloading. The .45 Colt cartridge dates back to 1872, when it was a black powder cartridge and the magnum of its day.
It was developed by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company and Colt for the U.S. Army’s use in their 1873 Colt revolvers. The cartridge was used by the military for 14 years. During the same time period the .45 Colt was being used, the Army also started using the .45 S&W Schofield revolver, which used a shorter cartridge case compared to the .45 Colt cartridge. In order to distinguish between the two cartridges, the .45 Colt was referred to as the .45 Long Colt (or .45 LC), which you will still find on some manufacturer’s boxes etc. To clarify, they are the same cartridge.
There has been a resurgence in the use of the .45 Colt cartridge because of its popularity in the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. Back in the 50s, Hollywood’s Westerns revived the interest in the .45 Colt cartridge. Though you can still buy black powder and reload with it, factory .45 Colt cartridges are currently loaded with modern smokeless propellant.
For many of the same reasons I love the Chrysler 426 Hemi engine, I have a great affection for the .454 Casull cartridge. The .454 Casull cartridge was developed by gunsmiths and wildcat creators Dick Casull and Jack Fullmer in 1957. The cartridge case itself is structurally improved (reinforced case head and walls) to avoid case head separations and it is one tenth of an inch longer than the .45 Colt case. The longer case prevents the high pressure .454 rounds from chambering in a .45 Colt revolver.
The .454 cartridge utilizes a small rifle primer to avoid ruptured primers, as the cups are strong and thick. The Casull cartridge remained a Wildcat until 1998, when SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) published the pressure spec standards for the cartridge. With pressures reaching 60,000 psi, the same as a .270 Winchester rifle cartridge, the .454 Casull cartridge makes a great round for hunting medium to large game with a handgun.
The Alaskan revolver is part of Ruger’s Super Redhawk line of large frame double action magnum revolvers, which date back to 1987. The Alaskan revolver was conceived by Ruger’s president Steve Sanetti while visiting Alaska, where he talked to many folks who wanted a short barreled, large bore magnum revolver. The compact high caliber revolver is meant to appeal to fisherman, guides, backpackers, or anyone who may end up encountering bears or other dangerous creatures.
The Alaskan six shot double action revolvers have cold hammer-forged 2.50” barrels with 6 groove rifling and a 1:24” right hand twist. The frames are made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel and are available in .44 Rem Mag, .454 Casull and .480 Ruger calibers. Recoil is managed by using Hogue’s Tamer monogrip, which has finger grooves and a cushioning backstrap. The overall length of the gun is 7.62” and it weighs 44 ounces.
The Ruger design team came up with a triple-locking cylinder that locks the cylinder into the frame at the front, rear, and bottom. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation and the front sight is a serrated ramped blade. The frames are robust and have extra metal in the top strap, sidewalls, and barrel mounting areas.
Safety from accidental discharges is insured by Ruger’s patented transfer bar mechanism. The double action trigger pull weight is around 13 pounds and the single-action trigger pull breaks at about 4-1/2 pounds.
When it’s time to clean your Alaskan revolver or you just want to see its innards, the disassembly couldn’t be easier. After making sure the gun is unloaded, take out the grip screw, pull the grip off, cock the hammer, and retain the mainspring by placing a pin punch in the hole in the mainspring strut. Next, with your thumb on the hammer, ease the hammer down by pulling the trigger and take the mainspring assembly out. Now you can pull the trigger rearward and lift out the hammer pivot pin and then you can take the hammer out of the frame.
All that you have to do to get the trigger assembly out is to depress the trigger guard lock plunger in with a punch and pull down on the trigger guard. The cylinder comes out by pushing the cylinder latch button, swinging the cylinder assembly out of the frame and removing it by pulling it forward. Reverse the above procedures to reassemble the revolver. Note; when putting the trigger assembly back into the frame, make sure that the pawl and the transfer bar are in their correct positions before pushing the assembly back into the frame.
The ammunition I selected for the Alaskan will be used for practice, home defense, and bear protection. Most of my practice shooting will be with .45 Colt rounds, as the .454 is quite stout and I’m getting old. Though I want to get used to shooting the Casull rounds, I don’t want to tear myself up too badly. For home defense, I have selected .45 Colt jacketed hollow point cartridges. I think .454 Casull fired inside the home would over-penetrate, temporarily blind me, and significantly hurt my ears compared to the .45 Colt.
When talking bear defense, I would choose the .454 Casull cartridge with a hard cast flat nose bullet weighing between 300 and 325 grains. I would not want to use a hollow point because you want a bullet that will penetrate a bear’s tough thick fur hide, muscle, and crush its bones. When using such a heavy projectile, you don’t want to load too hot because things at rest want to stay at rest. When recoil occurs from a .454 Casull, those big ole bullets want to stay where they are, which can cause a crimp jump. When a crimp jump occurs, the bullet jumps the crimp in the cartridge case and the bullet moves forward in the case. When using a revolver, a crimp jump will bind up your cylinder. When a bear is charging you, this is technically referred to as “a bad thing!”
Now, with regard to an actual violent bear encounter, I would like you to know I am not delusional, and I know stopping a bear who is already charging would involve well placed shots and a lot of luck to survive. Chances are good the bear would finish its assault even if the shots ultimately cause its death.
To tell you the truth, “shots” (plural) is probably optimistic, as you would likely only get one or maybe two shots off before the bear was on you! That is why I think the .454 Casull is a good choice, it is big and powerful. I have pondered carrying bear spray, but the conditions need to be right for it to be effective and bears have been known to charge unfazed through the pepper spray and maul or even kill the human. I believe the revolver gives me more options to keep a dangerous creature at bay. Even if the creature kills me, it would be good to know that the animal will also die from my gunshots as I take my last breath!
There are some accessories I bought to complete my backwoods protection package besides the ammunition, a good holster and a couple of speed loaders. The holster is made of leather and was manufactured by Triple K right here in the U.S.A. As a matter of fact, everything I got for this kit is made in the United States. The holster can be used for strong side or cross draw and the revolver fits into it perfectly. The speed loaders are CNC machined by 5 Star Firearms out of 6061 aluminum. Since I have two speed loaders, I also picked up a cordura (nylon) case with a belt loop, made by HKS.
I must say, I went all out for my “Bear Protection Kit.” My maiden voyage with the Alaskan revolver gave me peace of mind and it was nice to have both hands free to work with. Whether I go fishing, foraging, exploring, camping or hunting, the Ruger Alaskan revolver will make for a good companion during my backwoods adventures.