The Ruger Redhawk Alaskan is an impressive gun out of the box. This snub-nose .44 Magnum is built on Ruger’s largest revolver frame, and weighs a portly 45 ounces. Nothing about this gun is small, including the muzzle diameter.
Even the name evokes the large size of the revolver. Although a member of the Super Redhawk family, this configuration gets a special moniker—the Alaskan. Without a doubt this gun would be well suited for duty in the arctic wilderness, but it has far more potential than just being a bear defense gun. A revolver chambered in .44 Magnum is an amazingly versatile firearm, and the Alaskan platform has tremendous potential.
Gemini Customs and Ruger Revolvers
As impressive as the stock Alaskan may be, master gunsmith Marc Morganti at Gemini Customs sees this big bore revolver as a starting point for a lot more. Gemini Customs is a high end shop that has been customizing 1911s and revolvers since 1997. For the last decade or so, Marc has mostly limited his work to revolvers, and primarily Ruger revolvers. The Alaskan has become the canvas for some of his best work.
Gemini Customs offers a wide variety of custom work on the Alaskan, with an emphasis on making this .44 Magnum a better tool for personal protection and concealed carry. Although some may scoff at the idea of an Alaskan for self-defense, I would suggest the idea is not as crazy as it may first seem.
As a defensive gun, the Alaskan has two major drawbacks—the massive size and the potentially violent recoil. There is not too much that can be done about the size and weight. Gemini Customs does, however, smooth and dehorn all the sharp edges for carry. Gemini Customs also provides excellent hand crafted wooden stocks that can be fit to your particular hand size. These stocks are far better for carry than the rubber Hogue grips that come standard. Rubber grips are nice for shooting, but are usually poor for concealed carry because they tend to snag on cover garments, and make the gun less concealable and harder to draw.
- Model: Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan (Modified by Gemini Customs)
- Frame Size: Large
- Caliber: .44 Remington Magnum
- Action: Double Action / Singe Action
- Capacity: 6 Rounds
- Barrel Length: 2.5 in.
- Front Sight: Bowen Classic Arms Front with 14k Gold Dot
- Rear Sight: Bowen Classic Arms Adjustable
- Overall Length: 7.62 in.
- Grip: Wood, Custom Fit
- Weight: 45 oz.
- Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
- Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel
- Frame Material: Stainless Steel
- Finish: Matte Glass Bead Blast
As for the recoil, Gemini Customs has at least a partial solution—V-8 Hybra-Porting. This proprietary porting technique, originally developed by Jack Weigand, involves drilling four ports on either side of the barrel, at approximately the 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions. As with any type of barrel porting, the Hybra-Ports re-direct a portion of the hot, expanding gasses out of the top of the barrel, causing a downward force on the barrel, which counteracts the natural inclination of the barrel to rise sharply on recoil. Contrary to popular belief, porting does not actually reduce recoil, but does reduce muzzle rise and the “snapping” of the wrist that is part of the recoil impulse.
A big bore revolver like the Alaskan benefits greatly from Hybra-Porting. Full power .44 Magnum loads will always get your attention in a snubby revolver, even a very big one. However, the porting makes this revolver far more tolerable to shoot. The porting significantly reduces the unpleasant snapping sensation, and makes follow up shots much quicker. There is still significant muzzle rise with Magnum loads, but it seems far less violent. Having shot the Alaskan both before and after the Hybra-Porting, I would opt for the porting every time.
Even apart from recoil issues, snubby revolvers are notoriously difficult to shoot accurately. Gemini Customs has a prescription for some of the other snubby shortcomings as well. You can’t shoot well without a good trigger. Ruger revolvers are not known for the smoothest of actions out of the box. However, the Ruger lock work can be excellent with proper attention from a gunsmith. The Gemini Customs complete action tuning process results in a smooth 10 pound double-action pull, and a light 2.5 pound single-action pull. The DA trigger pull is buttery smooth, and about as good as a revolver can get. The SA trigger is as light and crisp as you could expect on any target gun. It is amazing what a talented gunsmith can do to tune this Ruger action.
Another typical problem with snubby revolvers is the sights. Gemini Customs can’t make the relatively short sight radius any longer, but can offer sight upgrades so you get the most out of the sights. The adjustable factory sights are not bad, but you can opt for various upgrades, including a Bowen Classic Arms “Rough Country” rear sight. The Rough Country rear sight is adjustable, but has opposing tension screws for windage and elevation, making the sight much more durable than the factory rear target sight. Gemini Customs also offers your choice of a fiber optic front sight, a tritium front night sight, or even a 14k gold dot front sight. One of these options should work for you, and will provide a marked improvement over the standard black front ramp sight.
Gemini Customs also offers various finishes for the Alaskan, starting with a superfine matte glass bead blast. I personally like this type of traditional finish on a stainless steel gun. However, if you are looking for something different, Gemini Customs also offers premium finishes like mirror polishing or hard chrome. You can finish your custom revolver most any way you prefer. The Alaskan pictured here has the bead blast finish.
How much does it cost?
The basic Gemini Customs carry package for the Alaskan is $895, plus return shipping. This includes the action and tuning work, dehorning, a Bowen Classic Arms rear sight, a fiber optic front sight, and the bead blast finish. My review gun included the optional V-8 Hybra-porting, a 14k gold bead front sight, custom Bolivian rosewood grips, and removal of various lettering and engraved warnings. All in all, my total charges came to about $1,800 in parts and labor. And, of course, you have to provide a Ruger Alaskan, which will cost you around $800 at typical retail prices. When finished, you have a serious investment in a firearm, but certainly nothing all that unusual. It is fairly common to pay $3,000 or more for a semi-custom 1911 pistol, and there is nothing “semi” custom about this Alaskan.
The end product is a very accurate and shootable big bore snubby revolver. The action and trigger are as smooth as I have ever experienced in a revolver. Between the smooth trigger and the excellent sights, this Alaskan shoots like a dream.
All that being said, the recoil on the Alaskan may be an issue for some shooters. This is a .44 Magnum, and the felt recoil is significant. Each shot transmits significant force to the body. I find that shooting a single round is not particularly unpleasant, but repetitive shooting does start to beat on your hand and wrists. The weight of the Alaskan helps, and the porting helps—but even a couple thousand dollars of custom work can’t repeal the laws of physics. I found that keeping a hard crush grip on the revolver helps, and with good form, shooting 25 to 50 rounds in a session is tolerable. Of course, if you are very sensitive to recoil, no snubby .44 Magnum is going to be the right gun for you.
How does it shoot?
Another option is to shoot .44 Special ammunition rather than .44 Magnum. Although .44 Special is a bit harder to find, I tested two different brands in the Alaskan. Without a doubt, shooting .44 Special is quite pleasant. The felt recoil and muzzle rise is minimal, and rapid follow up shots are easy. The weight and size of this revolver are probably overkill for shooting .44 Special, but at least you have the option of shooting lighter loads. My only caveat is that the .44 Special loadings I tested (Blazer 200 gr. GDHP and Hornady Critical Defense 165 gr. FTX) both achieved less than about 850 feet per second from the snubby barrel of the Alaskan. This is likely not fast enough for reliable hollow point bullet expansion. While you still have a large projectile, you are not likely to get maximum performance from expanding bullets. Those who load their own ammunition may be able to tailor a hot .44 Special load that would exceed 1,000 feet per second and make a great defensive load.
I also fired about 200 rounds of premium defensive Magnum ammunition through the Alaskan, including loads from Federal (240 gr. JHP and 240 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP), Hornady (240 gr. XTP), and Winchester (240 gr. Soft HP). Each of these rounds averaged over 1,100 feet per second, even from the short barrel. Every round performed flawlessly, and any would be a fine choice as a defensive round in the Alaskan. Even at 25 yards, this snubby revolver has no problem shooting in the black of a standard NRA bull’s eye target.
Carrying this beast
So can you carry an Alaskan concealed? Size is the real issue, but the Alaskan may not be as big as you think. A standard Series 70 Colt 1911 weighs about 38 ounces, while the Alaskan weighs only 45 ounces. The weight is manageable, but definitely requires a good belt and holster. The width of the cylinder can also be an issue, especially for inside-the-waistband carry. I preferred to carry the Alaskan outside-the-waistband for better comfort. For concealed carry I primarily used the Simply Rugged Sourdough pancake holster pictured. This holster is very versatile, with options for both inside and outside the waistband carry. So long as you have a proper cover garment, carrying the Alaskan concealed is definitely possible. In short, I would say—if you don’t think you can carry this gun, you probably can’t. On the other hand, if you really want to carry a gun this size, it can be done.
Even if you are not up to carrying a big bore revolver concealed, the Alaskan makes a great car gun or home protection gun. A .44 Magnum revolver provides plenty of power, along with a lot of versatility. One of the true advantages of a revolver is the ability to shoot all manner of loads reliably, including snake shot, lead round nose, jacketed hollow points, and frangible bullets. You are certain to find a defensive load that meets your particular needs.
As you can certainly guess by this point, I am exceptionally pleased with the work done by Marc Morganti and Gemini Customs. This is the third custom revolver from his shop that I have tested, and they have all been impressive. Although custom work is never inexpensive, personal attention from a master gunsmith can turn an ordinary revolver into an amazingly accurate and efficient weapon. And while Marc’s work is certainly beautiful, it is also very functional and turns a basic revolver into a custom defensive firearm that is worthy of protecting your life and your family.
You can learn more about the services provided by Gemini Customs, and view more photos and pricing information, at www.geminicustoms.com. As you might expect, there is a waiting list for custom work, and your turn-around time will likely be at least three months. However, Marc is very good about communicating with his customers and keeping you informed on the status of your work.
I understand that many readers will see this Alaskan project gun as over the top, and frankly, I understand the reaction. The Alaskan itself is an “over the top” kind of gun in an “over the top” caliber. Then add in a few thousand dollars’ worth of custom work, and you have what many readers will see as a whole lot of excess. However, you also have an exceptional defensive weapon that will protect you for the rest of your life and can later be passed down to the next generation. A Gemini Customs Alaskan is a rare but obtainable luxury. To quote Ferris Bueller: If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.