For a time I thought we were witnessing the demise of the 10mm caliber. First Dornaus and Dixon failed in the production of the Bren 10. Then the FBI, after selecting the 10mm as the perfect caliber for the agency, subsequently decided it was too much gun/caliber for their agents. Following the FBI jumping ship on the 10mm, S&W stopped production on their double action semiauto pistols in 10mm and started chambering them in 40 S&W. As sales languished, it looked like the quest for a big bore semiauto pistol with magnum power potential was doomed. I think of two primary events that contributed to stopping the slide into oblivion. First, Colt chambered their Model 1911 in 10mm caliber, a pairing of gun and cartridge that should have occurred many years earlier. Second, a young former Marine started a high-performance ammo company called DoubleTap, and his first caliber was the 10mm.
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Several handgun companies are now making 10mm semiauto pistols with some of the models being more exotic than workmanlike. Ruger, always a manufacturer of serious working guns, apparently thinks the caliber is here to stay and is offering their customers a whole family of 10mm’s to choose from including the mighty Super Redhawk double action, the Blackhawk single action, and their 1911. All three are large, stainless steel guns with adjustable sights. Front and rear sights are black on the Blackhawk and 1911 while the Super’s front sight blade has a red plastic insert and a white outline around the rear sight notch. The colored accessories on the SRH’s give the bigger gun an advantage in low light conditions, but the sight picture is clear and precise with all three guns in daylight.
The Super Redhawk looks and feels like a big handgun — because it is. But with its 6.5″ barrel it weighs only 2 ounces more than the same size SRH in 44 Mag (54 vs. 52 ounces.) Combined with the rubber grips, the big revolver sucks up recoil and makes it feel like you’re shooting a much smaller caliber. The top strap has the scalloped cuts that accept the standard Ruger scope rings should you wish to add a pistol scope. Trigger pull is quite good when firing single action breaking cleanly just over 4 lbs. The double action pull is obviously longer and heavier, but it does lend itself to staging with an audible click slightly before the breaking point. Although all my shooting was done single action, the big Super can be used for defensive double action shooting if needed.
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Since it’s chambered for a rimless cartridge, the SRH comes with 3 full moon clips like those used in double action 45ACP revolvers. While I recognize the necessity of moon clips to achieve single-stroke positive extraction of fired cases, I’m not a huge fan. There’s no partial (or “tactical” if you prefer) reload possible; it’s all or nothing. And if you choose to save a partially loaded moon clip for future use, good luck getting it loaded back into the gun with fired cases still in the clip. The clips are rather fragile and easily bent at which point they become useless. The thing I liked about the Ruger moon clips is that there is a radial cut between each cartridge slot making loaded rounds or empty cases much easier to insert or remove. And, of course, the clips make for a much faster reload of all 6 rounds than is possible on a conventional revolver using rimmed cartridges. If necessary, you can load and shoot the rimless 10mm rounds singly without the moon clip — you’ll just need some kind of rod to eject them from each chamber when fired. I used an ordinary plastic ballpoint pen and it worked fine with no stickiness or resistance.
The 10mm Blackhawk is no lightweight tipping the scales at 46 oz. Muzzle flip was greater than the SRH when shooting the heaviest DoubleTap loads but still easily managed. Ruger Blackhawks have been one of my favorite guns for over 50 years, so the new 10mm felt and handled like an old friend despite being a few ounces heavier than my other models. It has the Blackhawk transfer bar so it’s safe to carry fully charged with 6 rounds. The laminated wood grip panels looked good but were poorly fitted to the frame. It was my only real complaint about any of the guns and is something that should be easy to correct at the factory. No moon clips required for the Blackhawk. Insert rounds one at a time through the loading gate and push them out individually with the ejector rod which slides inside each chamber as it is once again aligned with the loading gate. An interesting reloading technique for rimless cartridges in single action revolvers involves the use of a single stack magazine from a 10mm semi auto pistol; simply slide the top cartridge directly from the magazine into the chamber past the open loading gate. I first saw this done by Dave Biggers at a Gunsite event years ago: pretty slick solution for both carrying and reloading extra ammo. Be advised it takes a little practice.
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As big a fan as I am of Ruger revolvers, my real enthusiasm for this project was generated by the 10mm Model 1911. Here we have a handgun designed for and tested in combat for over 100 years, has won prestigious bull’s-eye competitions proving itself to be one of the most accurate pistols in the world, and is now being chambered in a serious hunting caliber. There’s nothing frivolous about the SR 1911. It’s a Series 70 design with a bull barrel, guide rod, adjustable sights, rubber grip panels with “checkering,” a checkered mainspring housing, beavertail grip safety, and a single thumb safety on the left side. Ruger lists the gun on their website as a target pistol which accounts for the skeletonized aluminum trigger with an adjustable over-travel stop. While my preference on a full size 1911 is for a short trigger, I was happy with the crisp pull and positive reset on the SR 1911. It’s not your lightweight CCW weapon weighing almost half a pound more than the 10mm Blackhawk. And like the other Ruger10mms, recoil with the biggest loads (DoubleTaps 230-grain hard cast bullets) was manageable.
Hunting With A 10mm
I received all three guns from Ruger just before a hog-hunting trip to Texas, and it was the hog hunt that pretty much dictated my planned activities for the handguns. We had an event with Mike McNett of DoubleTap at Gunsite Academy and he brought me some of his heaviest 10mm loads that fired 230-grain hard cast bullets with flat points. Fired in the SR1911, the chronograph showed average velocities of 1,108 feet per second vs. 1,000 fps from the Blackhawk and 1,175 fps from the Redhawk. Group sizes (5 shots at 25 yards) ran from 1.75″ to 2.75″ with the 1911. The Blackhawk and SRH shot around 2.75″, but to tell the truth, I wasn’t concentrating on them as intensely as the 1911 nor did I spend that much time on them. Mainly to get some other numbers, I ran some 180-grain Federal Hydroshoks and 180-grain PMC JFPs through the guns. The 180s shot slightly less than 3″ in all three guns and averaged about 50 to 100 fps slower than the 230-grain DoubleTap ammo.
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My preferred handgun carry technique is on the strong side hip outside the waistband. If I switch from revolver to semi-auto, the gun is always in the same place, so I don’t have to learn new dance steps to bring it into action. The draw stroke is the technique taught at Gunsite and is the same for every gun. My hand recognizes what gun I’m carrying the instant it touches the grip, so when the gun reaches a horizontal position and is pointing down range, I’m either thumbing off the 1911 safety or cocking the single action revolver’s hammer with the supporting hand thumb. Whether or not I cock the hammer on a double action revolver depends on how close the target is and/or how much time I have. On this trip to Texas, the 1911 model was the chosen weapon, so I went with a heavy-duty rig from Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged.
As it turned out, I saw the pig first at around 30 yards, so a fast draw was replaced with my idea of stealthy movement. The 230-grain hard cast bullet smashed through both front shoulders touching the spine in between and exited the far side of the animal. He went down on the spot and despite a few spasmodic kicks, went nowhere. That was exactly the performance I wanted.
I’m not trading in my favorite wheel guns, but if I could only have one handgun, Ruger’s new SR1911 in 10mm would be near the top of my candidate list. It is perhaps the all-time classic defensive handgun design with proven reliability. It has enough power to perform multiple missions with manageable recoil in it’s most powerful loadings yet remains rather gentle with lighter weight loads. It can be carried for long periods of time in relative comfort with reasonable concealment capabilities. Looks like this gun has discovered its purpose and found a home!
Editor’s note: As this article goes live Ruger now offers the time-tested GP100 Match Champion 10mm. The trio of 10’s is now a foursome.
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