March 04, 2019
Have you ever lusted after a gun? Dreamed of having it? For many years the object of my desire was an engraved pistol. Unable to afford to have one made I could only admire from afar and dream of owning one. Here’s how I finally realized my dream.
Another dreamer of my acquaintance is Jason Cloessner. Jason works at Lipsey’s, a large firearms distributor, where he plots and schemes and cajoles manufacturers into creating limited edition versions he’s dreamed up. Jason and I have several things in common, among them a love of the .44 Special cartridge and Ruger Flattop single action revolvers, so when he got Ruger to make a Bisley version in stainless steel I immediately snapped one up.
Bobby Tyler is a dreamer too and his dream was to create a custom gunsmithing and refinishing business. Among his many accomplishments, Bobby figured out how to do the impossible. At least people said it was impossible - to color case harden stainless steel. Bobby also manages to keep several really good engravers busy and after seeing some of these pieces at Gunsite during an industry and writer’s event I handed over my Ruger .44 Special and asked Bobby to have his way with it.
While waiting impatiently for my revolver to come home I next worked on getting some suitable leather gear. Another of the folks in my circle of dreamers is Rob Leahy, owner of Simply Rugged Holsters. Rob dreamed of one day having a successful holster business, beginning with hand stitching holsters while holed up in the Alaskan winter. He had a bit of an epiphany that really launched his business. While fishing a salmon stream he was charged by a big grizzly bear. Realizing his holstered .44 Magnum was inaccessible under his waders he invented his Chesty Puller rig that suspends a Sourdough Pancake holster on the chest. I asked Rob to make something special, and he did, inlaying snakeskin from a Mojave Rattlesnake taken at Gunsite into a belt, holster and cartridge slide. The finished product is stunning.
Next I needed to round up some ammunition. As a long-time fan of the .44 Special and reformed reloader and bullet caster I wanted to see if I could find a factory load equivalent to the Skeeter Load, something of a Holy Grail among .44 Special folks. You see, Skeeter Skelton was a popular gun writer and another fan of the .44 Special. He concocted a load using Elmer Keith’s 255 grain hard cast lead semi-wadcutter bullet traveling at 1,000 feet per second. He went on to propose this as a near-perfect police and self defense load as well as one suitable for hunting most game animals. Skeeter was a dreamer too, he spent years trying to persuade gun manufacturers to make medium frame revolvers in .44 Special. Fortunately Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore Ammunition makes this load using a Keith bullet; more on that in a bit.
To say that I’m pleased with the revolver Bobby would be an understatement. Stocked in stag with the hammer and trigger color case hardened, the revolver has had Bobby’s action and accuracy tune-up. Engraver Dan Dzivi did the full coverage scroll engraving in a unique pattern and it’s absolutely perfect –and stunning – and includes a Gunsite Raven logo. While some might conclude a revolver this nice shouldn’t be fired, doomed to being a safe queen, such is not the case. I shoot all my guns and this one is going to be shot a lot. On Gunsite’s North Range I set about seeing how the revolver and ammo got along. First up, I chronographed the Buffalo Bore load from the 4.5 inch revolver barrel. Now, as an aside, I applaud the fact many ammo companies print the velocities for their ammo right on the box. I’ve found, in some cases, this information is right on, and in other cases it isn’t even close. Sundles says this load achieves 1,000 feet per second and my average velocity came out at 1,003. Perfect! Because I intend to use this load in a lever action carbine as well I chronographed it in a 16-inch barreled Marlin 1895 Cowboy. The load averaged 1,168 feet per second, a 165 fps increase, and that’s knocking on the door of pistol velocities for a .44 Magnum.
This .44 Special load is fairly stout but it’s easy to shoot in the big Ruger. The revolver weighs 45 ounces empty and 50 ounces fully loaded. The stag stocks are hand filling and recoil is easily managed. And while some may think it’s on the light side, the perfect trigger Bobby achieved, breaking crisply at 2 ¼ pounds, helped my shooting. From either standing, unsupported or shooting over bags I managed to consistently shoot 3 and 5 shot groups in the 2 inch and a little under range. That’s pretty good for me using iron sights and a tribute to the inherent accuracy of the revolver and ammunition. It’s a great combination.
With the help of a group of friends and fellow dreamers I now have my dream revolver, leather and ammunition. If you happen to be around Gunsite during single action classes you might see me sporting it about, as well as at social events held at the school. After all, everyone needs a BBQ gun!
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