My take on the 454 Alaskan

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Silent Sam

Blackhawk
Joined
Feb 26, 2006
Messages
728
Background:
No technical measurements were taken and I did not shoot for groups. So if you are looking for that info you’re in the wrong place. The point of the trip was a live fire function check and more so to see if this beast could be managed. I am not a high power handgunner. By that I mean I don’t hunt with handguns and am not confident enough with handguns to want to hunt with one. Besides, I don’t have enough time to even rifle hunt as much as I would like. I don’t own any large bore magnums. I have one 45 cal BH convertible and have shot mid range loads through it. I also have a full size 1911 set up as a 460 Rowland and have a Kimber Ultra CDP in 45 acp but semis don’t count for this discussion. I have shot big bore revolvers in 44mag, 480 Ruger and S&W 500 but just an occasional cylinder full so I am not ignorant of recoil but I am not “experienced” by any stretch. I do enjoy a little power as most who shoot do but I am decidedly against guns that involve pain to shoot, except one. Power as a challenge to shoot well - yes. Power that turns to bloody knuckles, torqued wrists, stinging palms and the possibility of forehead engraving- no. I have exactly one other DA revolver. A titanium Taurus snubby in 357. At 15oz “Little Evie‘s”(stands for extreme violence) recoil is fast and sharp and it is difficult to shoot. Most who try it at the range shoot one or two rounds and hand it back to me with “that look“. Nobody shoots all five, except me. It is nothing approaching what would be called comfortable. I have never shot a 38special round through it and probably never will. I have acclimated myself to the sting of firing it. I tolerate this gun only because as a last ditch, self defense as a contact sport proposition it gives me the best chance. It is not fun. It is my belly gun.

Initial Impression: A massive block of steel with a huge rubber handle. All my SAs have smooth wood, horn or antler stocks. No plastic, no rubber. This revolver is not “pretty” in that sense. Beefy brushed stainless SRH frame filled with a large unfluted cylinder of what looks like a different flavor of steel. The slightly different finishes complement each other I think and connote something special is going on in there. The huge grip makes it look almost as tall as it is long but it misses that by a couple of inches. What that something special going on with that cylinder is about triple the pressure of a std 45 Colt load and about double of a Ruger level heavy 45 Colt loading. The spec is set @ 65k psi although I believe most std factory ammo probably runs around 50-55k psi. Handling it and dry firing it I quickly lost the “massive” impression and was surprised how well it balanced compared to the way it looks. It certainly doesn’t settle on target as a 7.5” barrel but it doesn’t feel like a snubby either. It doesn’t weigh as much as it looks and not that much different from a steel BH. The frame has a fairly even brushed finish although on the flat top of the barrel shroud there is some unevenness. It almost looks like it has the start of a melt treatment and there were no sharp edges initially noted. I did find after looking it over after shooting that there are some sharp edges, but no where you would normally be handling it. The bottom edge of the barrel where it is cut out for the ejector is almost a knife edge. The only other areas that had any sort of edge was the cylinder opening and is of no consequence. I’ll probably stone that ejector rod opening just because. The trigger face is smooth and beveled with a good amount of curve. Double action pull was smooth, long and heavy commensurate with the gun weight and power and can be staged with a little practice. Double tapping this thing by accident is not desired. Single action was surprisingly light and breaks clean with just a little creep. The cylinder has some movement fore and aft and side to side. When cocked it locks tighter with only a tiny bit of play for and aft. The cylinder latch comes up almost as soon as it clears the notch so it will “ring” practically all the way around. The cylinder - barrel gap appears fairly large and I will have to measure that. Throats were checked with a .452 jacketed bullet and slid through like they were greased with no slop and all were uniform or at least so far as I could tell. Chambers were smoothly polished with no visible tool marks. Bore is smooth with sharp rifling. I think the 454 chamber specs are held tighter than Ruger’s std 45 Colt chambers in deference to the pressure involved. The ejector works smoothly and the rod does not turn with the cylinder. Sights are good w/ a white outline on the rear. I think the front will be getting some orange paint. Sight radius is a little over four inches so it is not as bad as I had anticipated for a “snubby”. The grip is full, finger grooved with palm swells and fits my hand well. Rooster Cogburn yelling “fill your hand you son of a ….“came to mind. This grip is a handful. The backstrap is fully covered and there is a good amount of soft cushion at the top. This gave me a bit of hope as I still remember shooting some stiff 44mag loads and the exposed backstrap on that gun left a lasting “impression”. This handle was made to be gripped, not “held” like a SA. I was hoping that was a good thing.

Anticipation / Apprehension:
I have read a few articles about the 454 and they always include the terms massive and powerful or something to that effect. Hunting dangerous game is often mentioned. Descriptions of shooting the 454 run from “may be unpleasant to the inexperienced shooter” to “wicked recoil”, “not for the faint of heart”, and “a necessary evil if you want to hunt with it”. These are all descriptions of shooting hunting size pistols w/ 7.5” barrels or longer by someone presumably more experienced at this sort of thing than I am. Any photos accompanying those descriptions usually show the gun in full recoil - read near vertical with shooter holding on with what looks like a grimacing death grip. The original 454 was a five shot single action that weighed 50oz. and has since earned the reputation as one of the finest revolvers ever manufactured. I have not shot one but I think that is where the 454 earned its reputation for recoil. When it came out few were experienced enough to handle that level of power in that type of gun. At the time the 44mag was the most powerful handgun around and I would guess a lot more 44special rounds went downrange than magnums. The 454 bested the 44mag by about 50%. What was I thinking messing with a 454 DA revolver that weighs in the low 40 some oz range with a 2.5“ barrel? I was thinking I should have a wilderness “belly gun” and for that comfort I would try to learn how to tolerate the punishment enough to use it effectively.

Shooting:
I started with 45 Colt 250gr lead FP cowboy load. A total waste of time. No familiarity with this revolver can be gained with soft loads. It felt about like a 9mm out of a full size auto. A gallery load for kids to bust balloons. I figured a 250gr or heavier bullet at 900 - 1000fps would have been about ideal to start with to see how the gun handles when fired. I didn’t have that luxury. I cleaned the chambers and swabbed the bore out. No visible leading in the bore and I wanted those chambers spotless for the next step. The only other load I had was a Speer 300gr GDHP factory load that is around 1600fps out of a 7.5” barrel. I read a review somewhere that this load was good for around 1300fps out of the Alaskan’s 2.5” barrel. I didn’t chronograph anything this trip. Next time. The moment of truth with full power ammo was actually fun. Don’t get me wrong it pushes hard and fast with a good amount of torque. It gets your attention. The muzzle does come up but nothing as onerous as the descriptions I have read. That wraparound grip works. No cuts, no stinging, no twisted wrist, no marks on my forehead. I was almost disappointed. Almost. There is unmistakably some serious power at work. It barks and blasts and spectators feel the concussion but compared to what I had anticipated it was easily controllable even in double action. I put the last three SA shots into about 2” at 25 yds. The gun will probably do that at twice that range or more. I was smiling like a kid in a candy store (or busting balloons at the county fair with that chained down pump rifle). Fired cases needed a bump on the ejector to fall free. The bore shows light even copper on the lands. Brass looks good. Full house 45 Colt power out of a 2.5" barrel and I survived. I think I’ll keep it.
 

MMichaelAK

Single-Sixer
Joined
Mar 24, 2009
Messages
361
Location
Alaska
First time I fired 365 grain hard cast bear loads out of a friends Taurus Raging Bull Shorty, I was IMPRESSED.

The recoil isnt overwhelming like some say and its a darn accurate round.

Man Sam, you've made me jealous! :)
 

bigboredad

Blackhawk
Joined
Oct 6, 2007
Messages
733
Location
ut
Hey silent sam
sounds your first outing with the gun was a good one and left you wanting to shoot it more. jmho a big heavy cast lead bullet such as cast performance at around 335 or bigger would be perfect for your bear load. You wont need a lot of velocity with the bigger slugs and they are much more of a push not at all like your belly gun. Great review and have fun
 

G2

Hunter
Joined
May 8, 2006
Messages
2,237
Location
UT/AZ
I think your review is spot on. I have the same gun and had broader range of ammo to shoot the first time out. Federal Fusion, was the mildest 454 load, Winchester in the middle right around the Speer GD, while Corbon's the hotest and they did zing out of there. I also had some Buffalo Bore 45 colt 325gr and they were just under the Corbon's. All in all I prefer the Speer Gold Dot 300gr that you shot.

The spectator reported concussion is real and probably the most unpleasent thing about the Alaskan. When I first shot it everybody reacted and I could not figure out why, Untill I handed the gun off to my Son for a few shots and then I understood the reaction.

I have never shot a 454 in any other gun but the Alaskan, but the recoil is not bad at all. I have often wondered if people relate the "454" to the big O'l chevy 8 cylinder power, Because in the Alaskan it's just a 45 colt magnum IMO.

Fun, Accurate, Quality Gun.
 

dougader

Hunter
Joined
Jun 18, 2008
Messages
3,108
Location
OryGun
Your evaluation of 454 loads in the Alaskan mimic my own.

I will add, however, that I have fired full house 454's from a couple 7.5" SRH revolvers and the felt recoil was much more intense than it is with the Alaskan. That Alaskan snubby with the Hogue Tamer grip handles 454 recoil very well IMO.
 

bigboredad

Blackhawk
Joined
Oct 6, 2007
Messages
733
Location
ut
oh come tek 4260 you don't need to get wood to have fun give the goodyears a try so you can at least have a little fun :lol:
 

batmann

Single-Sixer
Joined
Dec 6, 2004
Messages
307
Location
Indianapolis, IN USA
Excellent review! Your comments echo mine, but mine is in .44M. They are great handguns. Mine also blances well, so well in fact, my son has my S&W .44M Mountain Gun on permenent loan at his house.
 

Silent Sam

Blackhawk
Joined
Feb 26, 2006
Messages
728
Thanks for the comments. A few more observations...

I wish the "billboard" was less obtrusive or non existent. There is room on the bottom of the barrel shroud. Common Ruger complaint.

Trigger guard could have easily been made a lot roomier to accommodate gloves which jives with the whole design concept. It wouldn't look any stranger than it already does.

This gun should be chambered in 480. I like the 454 and it is definitely enough. Plus I have other 45s and that is nice. I just think the 480 has the smack factor required and less recoil. Same reason it should have been chambered in a lot of other models but that's whole other discussion.
 

batmann

Single-Sixer
Joined
Dec 6, 2004
Messages
307
Location
Indianapolis, IN USA
FYI----Some 2000 grit emery and some Mothers Mag polish and the 'billboard' goes away. You will wind up polishing the entire piece, but once you are done, it looks very good IMHO.
One other thing you might consider is replacing the Hogue's with some of the original Lett's. Midway had some and you can now get them from Ruger. If you get some, be sure and get the grip placement pin. Some sets come with them, but the one from Ruger don't. I ordered mine from Ruger with the silver black inserts, but I had a pin from another set.
I have fired hot 320 gr .44 Magnum from mine, but I didn't feel any difference in recoil between the grips, with .454C, that might change.
 

454gun

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 21, 2010
Messages
6
Location
Gainesville Ga
does any one have pictures of their alaskan thats a cool sounding gun. I assume everybody hunts with them, or just to have ?
Jon
 

cwegga

Bearcat
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
87
Location
Helena, MT
454gun":3cvcxoqf said:
does any one have pictures of their alaskan thats a cool sounding gun. I assume everybody hunts with them, or just to have ?
Jon

Mostly people carry the Alaskan for bear protection in the woods. It is compact for how big of a gun it is so it can be easier to carry than something with a long barrel. In many places it is not legal to hunt with because it has a short barrel and many places have a minimum barrel length requirement for handgun hunting.
 

dougader

Hunter
Joined
Jun 18, 2008
Messages
3,108
Location
OryGun
Here's a pic of an Alaskan that was up for sale on Gun Broker:

Alaskan454.jpg


I could hunt with the Alaskan here if I wanted to, but like cwegga said, mostly we carry for defense from big animals. Its what I sometimes carry when I go fishing in Alaska.
 

Silent Sam

Blackhawk
Joined
Feb 26, 2006
Messages
728
That's what it looks like. I think I'm going to learn to shoot it with the factory grips. I know about polishing out the billboard, don't really want this gun shiny and don't want to change the finish. I didn't buy it to hunt with.
 

Medo

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
6
Location
Edge of the Frontier; Alaska Territory
Greetings from Alaska,
Despite being "the new guy" on the forum, I live in the interior, and spend a good deal of time in the outdoors, especially in the summer time. Between remote camping, prospecting, woodcutting, and general screwing off on the Frontier, I am constantly on bear land. I have property on the North Slope haul road, right in the middle of some of the best bear hunting in the state. I carry a Browning 100th anniversery model 86 in 45-70 on the atv and as often as humanly possible for a 12 pound portable cannon. But when your cutting wood, digging dirt into a high-banker, or just futzing around in the bush, its impossible not to sit down the long gun. For the last 25 years I have carried a 7.5" superblackhawk .44 mag. Now, that Im reaching 50ish, and knowing how long it takes me to clear leather, level and fire, I have retired the SB from active bear sidearm duty, and replaced it with a .454 Alaskan. It is small enough that I can put up with it on my side while doing pert near anything I need to do while out in the bush, and that was a major selling point to me, having a gun that could unleash some halfway decent whoop arse at close range, while being compact enough that I could wear it 24/7 when outside.
My initial impressions has been very positive. It is just what I was looking for, and will fill its role perfectly, which is the last ditch "oh crap its gonna eat me bang bang bang" scenario. Shooting 45s threw it is like shooting a 44 special, just a treat. And it fits my hand like it was made for me. I just plain like it. It is definitely a mans gun that's for sure. So, I now have the perfect sidearm to carry for an event I hope never ever occurs.
In my humble opinion, it is an outstanding weapon for the role it was intended to be used for.
FYI
I bid you all a great day!
 

Tommy Kelly

Buckeye
Joined
Apr 24, 2008
Messages
1,045
Location
MISSISSIPPI
I have a 454 alaskan and love it. I was concerned with the reciol at first but after shooting it I really like it. I haven't tried the 45's in mine just 454's and it's a pleasure to shoot. I also have a 500 4" smith and it's a good shooter also. I have some 700 gr tyranasaurus thumpers loaded for it it isn't that bad even with them. I think the snubbys in big guns are the ticket. The 500 is really a 3" bbl with a 1" muzzle break on the front. I killed a deer with the 500 a couple of years ago. It did a awesome job with the 350 gr reloads as far as internal damage but the deer ran about 50 yds before dying. I put the bullet behind the front shoulder and it went into the off shoulder. I don't like for deer to run so I went to the 700 gr bullet and will try to center the shoulder on the next deer and push bone fragments through with the big flat nose bullet to see if that won't anchor them down where they stand. The 500 has a good bit more recoil than the alaskan even with the 350 gr bullets but the 700 grain ones aren't any worse recoiling and are plenty manageable. Now I'm on the lookout for a s&w bear survival kit that they made with a 2 1/2" 500 I believe I have seen they come in a bright orange box.
 

JSam

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
84
Location
Utah
I've had the Alaskan in 454 for about three years now. I carry it any time I'm out hunting, hiking or on my atv. The Simply Rugged pancake holster makes it a joy to carry.

A word to the wise: Don't shoot .454 loads without earplugs.
I was out hunting elk last fall with my boy when we stumbled on a forest grouse sitting under a big pine at about 20 yards. I decided to have some fun and shot at it with .454 loads. Two shots later my eardrums were aching something fierce and my ears didn't quit ringing for three days.

What happened to the bird you ask?.... Let's just say I need to practice shooting more. FUN gun.
 

Medo

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
6
Location
Edge of the Frontier; Alaska Territory
Yo, JSam,
I have a simply rugged pancake coming for my Alaskan, as well as the chesty straps to wear it mid chest. 2 of my buds use them, so I took their word on it and it will be here in time for my 50th birthday, next month....
A great day to you all
 
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