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It all started with this…
… a 7 ½-inch-barreled Ruger Super Blackhawk. I had traded a 7 ½” Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt for it, long about 1980. My good friend Mitch’s dad, a military collector and owner of an original Flattop Blackhawk .44 magnum (before it became the Super Blackhawk), had me re-think swapping my gun by telling me that the .45 Colt was a pretty good manstopper – I’ll never forget that conversation. He’s gone now, but Ray was eminently sensible and knew whereof he spoke. I have since come back around full-circle to owning another .45 Colt Blackhawk, a 5 1/2 inch model that has an extra .45 ACP cylinder. A 260-grain hard-cast semi-wadcutter out of a .45 Colt is hard to beat, and I’ve taken deer with mine. But, this Super Blackhawk was a honey of a gun. I shot silhouettes with it and just generally loaded it to the gills with heavy, Elmer-Keith-style loads…you handloaders out there know what I’m talking about, his hard-cast Lyman 429421 245-grain (or more depending on alloy) semi-wadcutter over 22 grains of 2400 powder. (I don’t do that anymore. This load has been dropped back to 21 grains with the newer formulations of the 2400 powder Alliant is putting together now. This is a top load – proceed with caution). Anyway, this was all well and good until I noticed a bone in my hand by my wrist protruding a bit…OK, ‘nuff said…I dropped it back to a more reasonable level. It still put the metal silhouettes down with authority. This was before my deer hunting days, so I made do with other, inanimate target pursuits.
Cutting to the chase, I swapped and ended up with a gun that looked a lot like this:
This was the gun I REALLY wanted before I got the Super Blackhawk, a double-action Smith & Wesson Model 29. Never mind that it was pretty snappy to shoot, and that I don’t remember ever using the double-action feature…it was a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum and that’s all that mattered. I cast great, thumping bullets for it and reloaded hundreds of empty .44 cases (both Special and Magnum). It was (and is) a great gun. After all, Dirty Harry carried one! Well, I had that gun for some years but eventually traded it for some other whiz-bang gun I just couldn’t live without (or so I thought).
Jump ahead to the present…I now have this version of the venerable Model 29:
This is an 8 3/8-inch barreled stainless 629, circa 1982 vintage It’s pretty much a stainless version of the above Model 29, but with a longer barrel. This gem was a gift from a dear friend no longer with us. I will hang onto it and one day one of my sons will carry it to the woods. This revolver has accounted for over 15 deer over the years and shows no signs of slowing down. (And, a side note to reloaders…those yellow-topped cartridges are Speer shot shells loaded into .44 Special cases. You fill them with shot and load them like bullets. I haven’t seen them in stores for years).
Which leads me to our present subject, the Taurus Raging Hunter…
Before we get too far into the features of this gun, let’s look at its specifications.
|MSRP||$919.55, ~$700 real world|
Note the weight- 55 ounces. And yet, this is still about half a pound less than a Raging Bull.
And, oh yeah…did I mention that it was American Hunter Magazine’s 2019 Hunting Handgun of the Year?
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This gun incorporates the best features of top-quality double-action revolvers, then adds a couple of features not usually seen on standard revolvers. Here’s a list of features, with photos to illustrate:
Dual Cylinder Latch
The .44 Magnum cartridge can generate some wrist-thumping pressures. Taurus borrowed a feature from their Raging Hunter revolver in its top-pressure chamberings…a latch for the cylinder not only at the back, as is usual, but at the front of the cylinder as well. This really is nothing new – I had an original Dan Wesson Model 15 back in the early 1980s that used a front latch – but it does help keep the cylinder shut and latched when shooting high-pressure loads. This is a good thing.
There are four vents on each side. These holes direct gases outward and upward, thereby helping push the muzzle down during recoil. This goes a long way to help alleviate muzzle jump. (Speaking of muzzle jump – you definitely want to keep away from the hammer spur when shooting .44 Magnum loads…I saw a guy plant the hammer spur from a S&W .44 magnum in his forehead when he wouldn’t move his head further back when we warned him, away from the scope that was mounted on the revolver. He learned something). The .44 generates some pretty good recoil (about 18.5 ft./lbs. of recoil energy), but these vents help. And, in case you’re thinking that 18.5 ft./lbs. of recoil energy is nothing, bear in mind that the .243 Winchester only generates 9 ft./lbs. out of a 7-pound rifle. Another point about shooting the Taurus – wear good hearing protection. The vents do tend to increase the blast.
This rail allows the mounting of a scope, red dot sight or laser. With 13 slots, you can place your sight close to your eye or further away. This is one very versatile rail. Another point…you usually don’t see a long Picatinny-style rail on revolvers. If they have one at all, it is usually short. This one is long enough to be useful.
The Raging Hunter (and other hard-kicking Taurus revolvers) use this grip (taken from the Taurus website): GRIP RUBBER RED 454,444,45, 22 HORNET
The black, rubbery finger-groove-molded grip allows for a firm engagement with your fingers and hand, while the red strip is harder and helps to soak up recoil. As it says above, they put this grip on their large, .44 Magnum and .454 caliber revolvers. It must work or they would have changed it out by now…this has been around a while. I did notice the grip when I shot the gun. It does work.
If you look closely at the older S&W Model 29 above, you’ll notice that the firing pin is attached to the hammer. Taurus doesn’t do that with this gun. The firing pin is frame-mounted and is on;y struck by the hammer’s force when the trigger is pulled and the transfer bar is in place to transfer the hammer’s energy to the firing pin. Aptly named, for sure.
The front sight is pinned…let’s look at that photo again of the barrel vents, only this time we’ll look at the sight:
Notice the pin under the sight. This is good – you could conceivably change it out for a taller one. I couldn’t find that to be the case in my research, but in my experience anytime you see a pin below a front sight on a handgun, that says that the sight is removeable and possibly replaceable. If I owned this gun, I might change it out to some sort of night sight – that would help it stand out against the black rear sight. Speaking of rear sight…
A good, square notch set into an adjustable housing. (I’m not sure how all that oil got on there – I hadn’t shot it yet when these photos were taken. I like to keep my shootin’ irons clean. Probably whoever reviewed this gun before I got it put that oil there).
The adjustments are about as plain as day. No special tool or tiny jeweler’s screwdriver…a plain ol’ flatblade screwdriver will adjust your rear sight. My only concern is that the sight is very old-school black-rear-black-front…like target guns. I tend to paint front sights a bright orange and outline rear sight notches on other guns I own in order to make them more visible to my aging eyes. This is doubly important on a hunting gun, where shots will more than likely be taken in dim lighting conditions. Whether dawn has just dawned or the sun is fading fast in the evening, most deer that I have taken have been in not-so-great lighting conditions. But…you can always stick a red dot sight on one of the 13 barrel rail slots.
Cylinder Wall Thickness
My beloved 629 has a cylinder with walls that aren’t so thick. I’d always heard to keep the 29/629’s loads under the maximum because the cylinder wasn’t that sturdy and the single latch could be problematic. Whether that’s true or not (I have shot many wrist-thumpers through this gun), I like moderate-level loads anyway so that’s not an issue. The cylinder on this Raging Hunter, though…well, that’s a different issue. Look how beefy the cylinder is:
Not bad at all. And, while we’re looking at the cylinder, look at the star on the rear of the cylinder – pretty well-built here, too.
Two-Part Barrel Assembly
The barrel on a Raging Hunter is, unlike that on a Raging Bull, a two-piece affair. The actual barrel is screwed into the frame and then the barrel shroud is affixed to the front of the barrel, a la Dan Wesson except the barrel is not replaceable by normal mortal humans unless you work for Taurus. This saves weight – the Raging Bull weighs about a half pound more than the Raging Hunter, and most all of that is in the barrel. Here’s the muzzle:
These are the areas that I think Taurus did a really good job when designing the Raging Hunter. It truly is a very good revolver for its intended purpose. The nice part is that they make it simple to add a sight by putting a really long section of rail on the barrel shroud.
They even considered the hunting environment in terms of finish. Whereas the Raging Hunter could be had in an all-stainless, fairly shiny finish, the Hunter is matte black with a stainless frame (or black) and barrel. This makes it pretty invisible in the field. The finish is a very flat, utilitarian black that you wouldn’t mind taking to your deer stand and bumping around…it should be fairly simple to touch up. Look at the photos above and examine the finish – I do think this beats a very shiny coat.
Here are a couple of shots of the barrel and frame engraving…
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Shooting This Beast
I couldn’t wait to get to my shooting bench in the back yard, but I had to exhibit patience…we had a cold front move through right after I picked this gun up from Duane’s shop and it was nine…yes, nine…degrees for a few nights with attendant cold days. We also got about three inches of snow, covering all my targets and bench. Now, there are those of you out there who live in areas that would laugh at just three inches of snow. I get it. We usually get a lot more than that, just not at this time of year. We still have farmers trying to get their corn picked due to a very wet spring that delayed planting. So, it is with great anticipation that I look forward to conditions favorable for sending lead down range. I also hope to take this gun to our deer ground blind when our states’ firearms season comes in mid-November…I will report on what happens with that venture after the season is over. I can at least ventilate some paper targets.
I am used to shooting a long-barreled .44, given that mine has the 8 3/8-inch barrel so this won’t be anything new. It will be different, though, and I am looking forward to being on the bench with this beast. I’m hoping the extra weight (55 ounces vs. my 629’s 49.5) and the porting help tame recoil to a considerable degree…we’ll see.
After scraping a few inches of snow off my shooting bench, I finally got to shoot this gun. I wanted to try it with one of my hunting loads – a 260-grain, hard-cast semi-wadcutter over 6.5 grains of Tite Group. This load has been a consistent performer on deer. It is not a “pedal-to-the-metal” type of load – it chronographed at 1080 f.p.s. out of the Raging Hunter, long barrel – but it hits with authority. It produces 680 ft./lbs. of energy, which is more than enough to put a deer down this side of 100 yards or so. Over the 30 or so years that I’ve hunted with my long-barreled 629, I’ve found that I didn’t need a heavy, hard-cast bullet moving at 1300 f.p.s. to put a deer down for good…a velocity between 1000 and 1100 f.p.s. works just as well and is easier on the shooter and the gun.
This is not exactly a 100-yard load in terms of accuracy, as the target shows, but around 50-75 yards it will work. Also, this is just one of a few loads that I put together to hunt with. Others would probably print differently on the paper. This was the first time I’d shot this gun, and that can have a bearing on accuracy. When I have the chance, I’ll try it with my other loads. I just needed a quick photo, hence this target. After putting several dozen more rounds down range, it will be dialed in and ready for the hunt. If I connect with the gun, I’ll edit this piece to reflect that and post photos.
Yeah…But How’d It Shoot?
How’d it shoot…it did very well. In terms of recoil, it was like I was shooting a lighter-bullet, slower load. Heavy bullets tend, with all else being equal, to generate more recoil than lighter bullets. This bullet, from an older Lee mold, casts right around 260 grains as I pointed out above. The barrel ports really helped tame the muzzle flip, but to be honest, a 55-ounce revolver putting a 260-grain bullet out of its muzzle at 1085 f.p.s. won’t have a whole lot of muzzle flip to begin with. Out of my 49.5-ounce 629, it is more pronounced.
This gun is a bit muzzle-heavy, what with the full-length underlug and the rail on top. That really helps tame recoil. I did not notice any torque when I pulled the trigger…sometimes, heavy-bullet loads will twist the gun in your hand. I didn’t see any of that. As for muzzle blast, with the hearing protectors in place, I didn’t notice an increased blast. (Yes, I can tell the difference between different loads’ levels of noise with muffs on…I couldn’t tell a difference here). The gun was a pleasure to shoot, and would be welcome in a deer blind.
I like the Raging Hunter. I guess an 8 3/8-inch-barreled .44 Magnum is no stranger to me, but even so, I was anxious to see how it compared to my S&W 629. The recoil level was less, to be sure as the extra 6 or so ounces of weight that the Taurus has over the S&W made that difference apparent. Another point – the gun was specifically made for hunting, to be sure. A big plus is the finish…the Raging Bull was available in stainless steel, barrel and all. The Hunter has an optional stainless frame (the one I had), but barrels are only available in black (as of this writing). Stainless is great – my 629 has needed less care than the 29 I had – but if the sun were to hit a stainless gun, brightly-polished or not, it could possibly spook a deer. I’ve had them run off for less a reason. The matte finish would be easy to repair, as well. A hunting gun is going to be subjected to conditions that might allow scratches, scrapes or other accidental blemishes to happen. This gun’s finish would be easily repaired.
About the only thing I might change would be the sights – not the way they operate, just their visibility. Many handgun hunters don’t want to put an optic on their favorite revolver for several reasons, so maybe the iron sights that come on the gun could be a bit more visible. A front tritium sight would help the shooter acquire it more quickly in the dim light of most hunting conditions. I can vouch for the adjustability of the rear sight…the gun was shooting high (shot the metal-rod “arm” off a target stand), so I got my decades-old little Smith & Wesson screwdriver that came with some revolver I’d owned over the years and screwed the sight down a few turns. The shots printed just where I wanted them to…a bit high at 25 yards. That way, they’re just a touch high at 50 and just about right on at 75. (I know, there are many ballistics trajectory calculators out there, but for an open-sighted .44 Magnum throwing great big gobs of lead downrange, it will be close enough. I’ve shot these loads long enough to know where they will hit at different yardages.
All in all, it’s a great gun for the deer woods. I can’t help but think Elmer Keith would be proud. As always, go shooting and stay safe!