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THE GOLDEN YEARS RUGER’S SUPER BLACKHAWK TURNS 50. WRITTEN BY JOHN TAFFIN

Taffin has long been a shooter of the Super Blackhawk and the 50th
Anniversary Model is no exception. It proved a fine handgun.

 

That wonderful year was 1959. Ike was in the White House, Hawaii and Alaska became states, and Charlton Heston won Best Actor for Ben Hur, which was also chosen for Best Film. Sports fans watched the Colts beat the Giants for the NFL championship and in the World Series the Dodgers beat the White Sox. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club went off the air, a young actor by the name of Clint Eastwood arrived as Rowdy Yates in the TV series Rawhide, and for Western fans Saturday night television was ruled by Paladin and Matt Dillon.

It was 6-degrees below zero on a February morning when this then young teenager and an even younger teenager now known as Diamond Dot crossed over the state line in a 1954 Chevy to be married. Yes, 1959 is definitely a year to be remembered.

 

Taffin has found the 10-1/2″ stainless steel Ruger Super
Blackhawk to be an excellent shooting sixgun.

Both the original .357 and .44 Magnum Blackhawks are now known to collectors as Flat-Tops. In many parts of the country Ruger’s .44 Magnum arrived on dealer shelves even before the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. A group of us teenagers, I was 17 at the time, used to gather every Saturday afternoon at Boyle’s Gun Shop or Shell’s Gun and Archery Farm to shoot. Both establishments had outdoor ranges and when one is young weather makes no difference, so we shot almost every week. Shell’s received an early 4″ Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum and he rented it out along with six rounds of ammunition. Each one of us shot it in turn. The recoil was awful, however we all lied and said it wasn’t bad; after all, teenagers are supposed to be invincible.

That experience was not easy to forget so when the first Ruger .44 Blackhawk arrived I bought it instead of a Smith. It sold for $96 and I still have it more than a half-century later. It started as a standard 6-1/2″ Blackhawk, was soon cut to an easier carrying 4-5/8″ length, and then returned to the factory for a 7-1/2″ barrel when I needed the shorter length for a custom .44 Special Ruger. When his Esteemed Editorship pinned me to the wall several years back and forced me to pick my one favorite sixgun, it was this old Ruger. It was an easy choice.

Evolution of Ruger’s .44 Magnum includes the Flat-Top,
Super Blackhawk and today’s Hunter Model.

 

The first time I shot that Ruger Blackhawk I found I had an even bigger and more ferocious tiger by the tail than that .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson. The experts at the time all seemed to think the Ruger would handle recoil better than the Smith as the grip frame was identical to the Colt Single Action Army, known for gently rocking in the hand under recoil. The problem was there was nothing gentle about the .44 Magnum. When I touched off that first round the .44 Ruger Blackhawk rotated more than 90-degrees backwards and the hammer dug a piece of skin out of the back of my hand. I went back to shooting the .44 Special and .45 Colt.

Eventually with more shooting experience I learned to handle both the S&W and Ruger .44 Magnums. However, my experience with the Ruger was apparently quite widespread and Ruger sought to alleviate the problem. The result in 1959 was the Ruger Super Blackhawk, with several changes. To add more weight the barrel was standardized at 7-1/2″ instead of the 6-1/2″, the cylinder was unfluted, and the grip frame was changed from aluminum alloy to a larger one of heavier steel.

To come up with the Super Blackhawk grip frame, Bill Ruger reached way back to the 1847 Colt Walker and Dragoon sixguns. These grip frames are not only longer than the original .44 Blackhawk grip, they also used a square-back triggerguard. Ruger also added a wide, checkered hammer spur and wide, grooved trigger to complete the package which was finished in a high polished bright blue. The original run of Super Blackhawks were packed in wooden boxes and sold for $120. When the boxes were no longer available the price was dropped to $116 at a time when the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum was selling for $140.

 

Notes: *Ruger 50th Anniversary 7-1/2″ Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum.
** Ruger Old Model 7-1/2″ Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum Groups the
product of 5 Shots at 20 yards. Chronograph screens set at 10′ from
muzzle. CCI 300 primers used in Starline brass.

 

I purchased my first Ruger Super Blackhawk in 1965 and still have it. I’ve carried it over many miles of Idaho’s sagebrush, foothills, forests and mountains, however I found I preferred the standard .44 Blackhawk with its smaller grip frame and which had been re-barreled to 7-1/2″. The Super Blackhawk was sent off to Larry Kelly at Mag-na-port for total customizing. The barrel was Mag-na-ported and cut back even with the ejector rod housing, the action was totally tuned, and the entire sixgun was finished in M-N-P’s satin nickel.

I have since replaced the Super Blackhawk grip frame with one from a stainless steel Ruger Old Army and also fitted Eagle’s Ultra-ivory grips. Most shooters find the Super Blackhawk grip quite comfortable, but the square back triggerguard raises havoc with my knuckle. This custom Super is now a major candidate for the title of Perfect Packin’ Pistol. I mostly use it with 260-grain Keith bullets over 10.0 grains of Unique or Universal for about 1,150 fps. This is a powerful load yet still kind to the shooter.

The original Ruger Super Blackhawk was only offered as an all blue, 7-1/2″ .44 Magnum. Today this Super Blackhawk is known to collectors as the Old Model or 3-Screw. It did not immediately replace the standard .44 Blackhawk and both were available until 1963. When Ruger switched from the Flat-Top configuration to the Blackhawk now known as the Old Model, 3-Screw with wings on both sides of the rear sight, the standard .44 Blackhawk was dropped from production. New Model Rugers are easily recognized by two things; the three screws on the side of the frame were replaced by two pins and the trigger sits much farther forward in the triggerguard.

 

Before Ruger introduced the New Model with a long barrel Taffin had this custom
satin nickel Super Blackhawk made by Trapper Gun. The scope is by Bushnell and
the stocks, Herrett’s Single Action Trooper model, solved Taffin’s problem of being
bitten by the square backed triggerguard of the Super Blackhawk.

Ruger offers the stainless steel Hunter Model with both the
Super Blackhawk and Bisley Model grip frame.

 

Ruger’s New Model added a transfer bar safety allowing single actions to be safely carried hammer down with all chambers loaded under normal conditions. Traditional single action sixguns are loaded and unloaded by placing the hammer on half-cock, opening the loading gate, and rotating the cylinder; with the New Model action there is no half-cock notch on the hammer and simply opening the loading gate allows the cylinder to be rotated while the hammer remains in a down position.

With the coming of the New Model Blackhawks, the Super Blackhawk 7-1/2″ remained standard, however a longer 10-1/2″ barrel was soon offered for hunters and silhouetters. Both of these were all blue but were soon sided by stainless steel versions.

For nearly 30 years no factory produced short-barreled Super Blackhawks were available. This was corrected when the 5-1/2″ barrel length came along in 1987 and finally in 1994 both blued and stainless 4-5/8″ Packin’ Pistols in .44 Magnum were introduced. The shorter barreled versions are not easily recognized as Super Blackhawks as they are fitted with standard grip frames rather than the longer, square-backed Dragoon-style frames of the other Super Blackhawk barrel lengths.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Diamond Dot and I were both competing in Long Range Silhouetting and, since we did not see sights the same way, I ordered a pair of 10-1/2″ Super Blackhawks so we could both easily keep track of our sight settings. For a secure grip during competition both were also equipped with Pachmayr rubber grips. By the time the Super Blackhawk arrived in stainless, we were no longer competing and I also found I had the most accurate Ruger .44 Magnum I had ever experienced. With its interchangeable post front sight, I found I shot it very well with iron sights and have used it for hunting, taking a record book Aoudad. With its long barrel and black sights I can still shoot this sixgun as well as any I own.

Ruger also offers the Hunter Model Super Blackhawk in stainless steel with a 7-1/2″ heavy ribbed barrel with cutouts to accept Ruger scope rings. It is offered with either the Bisley or Super Blackhawk grip frame with a rounded triggerguard. Without a doubt the Hunter Model Super Blackhawk is the greatest bargain offered today for handgun hunters.
Over the past 50 years I would guess the Ruger Super Blackhawk has been chosen by more handgun hunters and outdoorsmen than any other sixgun. Happy 50th Birthday and Golden Anniversary to Bill Ruger’s grand offering. Unless everything unravels in this country, and it certainly could, I expect 50 years from now these pages will contain the Centennial Salute to the Super Blackhawk.

 

Taffin made this holster for his Old Model Super Blackhawk decades ago.
It also works perfectly for the Anniversary Model Super Blackhawk.

Super Blackhawks do shoot well! These targets were made with Taffin’s
pair of Super Blackhawks: the 50th Anniversary model (left) and an original.

 

The Ruger Super Blackhawk of 1959 gained immediate acceptance with shooters and especially handgun hunters. Commemorating that prestigious event of 50 years ago Ruger produced the 50th Anniversary Super Blackhawk for 2009. The Anniversary Model, except for the New Model transfer bar action, is the same basic .44 Magnum of 1959. The barrel length is 7-1/2″, the finish is bright blue, and the grips, instead of the original walnut, are a most attractive Cocobolo complete with a black eagle emblem and beautifully fitted to the frame.

It is obvious Ruger spent extra time on this model not only with fit and finish but also the fact that all cylinder chamber throats are a perfect and uniform .431″, the barrel/cylinder gap is .003″, and the trigger pull is set at 3-3/4 pounds. This Anniversary Model is also embellished with two gold bands around the cylinder as well as “50th ANNIVERSARY SUPER BLACKHAWK 2009” in gold lettering on the top of the barrel. All in all this is one of the nicest, perhaps the best crafted sixgun to ever come from the Ruger factory. Shooting this new Ruger Blackhawk was pure pleasure and also brought back many memories over the past half-century as I ran it alongside my nearly 50-year-old original Super Blackhawk.

Handgun: 50th Anniversary Super Blackhawk
Maker: Sturm Ruger
200 Ruger Road, Prescott, AZ 86301
www.ruger.com

Action Type: Single Action
Caliber: .44 Magnum
Capacity: 6
Barrel Length: 7-1/2″
Overall Length: 13-1/2″
Weight: 48 ounces
Finish: High gloss blue
Sights: Ruger adjustable rear,
ramp front
Grips: Cocobolo
Price: $880

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Why The 45-70 is Still King?

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“I’D LIKE TO SEE THAT .357 MAGNUM” WRITTEN BY DAVE WORKMAN

Dave’s first magnum was this Model 19 Smith & Wesson, shown here with its
original classic blue box and wrapping paper but with a pair of Herrett’s stocks.

 

Warshal’s Sporting Goods was a downtown Seattle landmark, opening for business back in February 1936. It became known throughout the Pacific Northwest as the finest guns, tackle and gear emporium on the map.

Warshal’s was made even more famous in a John Wayne film titled “McQ,” in which The Duke can be seen buying a 9mm Browning Hi-Power and “borrowing” an old Ingram MAC-10 that became one of the main props in the film.

It was there, in the summer of 1973 after having saved up a wad of cash for the purchase of a .357 Magnum revolver, I encountered a handsome, deeply blued Model 19 Smith & Wesson with a pinned 6” barrel and Patridge front sight. I talked to the clerk a bit, and told him, “I’d like to see that .357 Magnum.”

After a brief chat during which we discussed ammunition, holsters and other subjects, I handed over a down payment, told him I’d be back in a few days after the paperwork cleared, and headed home.

I picked up the prize on a Saturday and drove south to Tacoma, where my grandparents were celebrating their 60th anniversary. It came in the classic blue Smith & Wesson box, wrapped in that tan S&W paper with the blue lettering. I still have the box and the paper, but the original sales receipt is gone.

 

Bluing is still in decent shape and the original wrapping paper is valued
by some collectors. Dave’s revolver is a working gun, not a safe queen.

 

The following day, I found a place in the woods to get acquainted using a mix of .38 Special semi-wadcutters and 125-grain .357 Magnum ammunition. It was and remains a superb shooter with which I won a couple of matches at a local gun range, shot some game and missed more. I often carried it in a Safariland shoulder holster during the winter and packed it along on my first trip to Alaska in 1977.

Once, on a visit to Tacoma to see an old high-school pal, I showed him the Model 19 and his eyes nearly jumped from his skull.

“That’s the biggest gun I ever saw,” he marveled (I didn’t tell him about the larger N-frame in .41 or .44 Magnum, so as not to leave him further awe-struck). This was the day I stopped at the old Chet Paulson gun shop downtown and bought a set of Herrett’s Shooting Star grips, which fit my hand better than the factory grips.

Another time, there was a bank robbery in one of the small towns my newspaper served. Naturally, I grabbed a camera and a bunch of film and headed for the crime scene. There were sheriff’s deputies searching all the local roads and one sheriff’s lieutenant of my acquaintance asked if he could jump in the passenger seat of my pickup to go check a report of an abandoned car at the end of a brushy road where his cruiser couldn’t navigate.
After a few minutes, I told him nestled in the backpack on the floor under his feet was my handgun. He didn’t skip a beat, told me to get it out and we motored onward to where the car was supposed to have been, only to find nothing. The bad guys got away.

I once allowed the teenage typesetter at the weekly newspaper where I worked to fire a few rounds in a gravel pit and surprisingly she did pretty good!

 

The Model 19 may seem big, but Dave’s N-Frame Model 57 is even more robust.

During the summer of 1974, the revolver in my backpack was never very far from my grasp. That was the “Year of Ted,” when prolific serial killer Ted Bundy was murdering women in the Seattle area. Months later, human remains of his victims were discovered at two locations in my coverage area.

It was the Model 19 that got me into handloading, first with an old Lee Loader, from which I graduated to a single-stage RCBS press. There would be Saturday afternoons when I would “mass produce” .38 Special target loads with 158-grain semi-wadcutters loaded over 3.5 grains of HP-38. They were wonderfully accurate.

Which brings us around to how a “legend” is born, or at least how a story can take on a life of its own. Late one very gray winter afternoon while stopped on a dirt road south of town with my bride and our first son, a couple of local twerps whom she knew from the local school drove up. I had just set a tin can on a log, paced back about 15 yards and, firing single action, sent the can sailing (it surprised even me).

The 6-incher was joined by a snubby sibling back in the 1980s.
t is also is a classic and a pretty decent shooter.

 

One of our visitors was quick to declare “lucky shot.” I nodded in the affirmative, then turned and shot the can five more times.

I wasn’t trying to show off — truth be told, a couple of those shots were pure luck — but I later learned those two clowns drove back to town and told everybody what they had witnessed. It was amazing what the story accomplished. The right people suddenly wanted to be buddies and the wrong ones left me, and my young family, alone. I only learned of the unintentional favor those talkative boneheads did for me months later, purely by accident.

My 6” Model 19 has a few mileage scars, but it is still a marvelous shooter. I’ve known people who killed fairly large black bears, at least one mountain lion and plenty of small game with Model 19 revolvers. The .357 Magnum is a great cartridge, and even today, nearly 50 years after I bought my wheelgun, I still find time to churn out handloads. However, nowadays I use a progressive press.

I bought a second Model 19 some years later, with a 2 ½” barrel. It became my primary carry gun for a long time, but the 6-incher has a special place in my heart. I suppose every gun owner has at least one particular rifle, shotgun or handgun he or she favors. This one has shared a lot of time with me. I expect we’ll share a lot more.

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458 Winchester Magnum vs 458 Lott: What’s The Best Dangerous Game Cartridge?

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5 MORE Strange Soviet Weapons

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DUKE’S YEARS AS A VARMINT SHOOTER REMINGTON TO ROCK CHUCKS, HE’S TRIED IT ALL WRITTEN BY MIKE “DUKE” VENTURINO

Duke’s sole varmint rifle today — his Remington Model 700 ADL .222 Remington
Magnum — is used to stop coyotes from making a meal of their dogs or cats.

 

Readers of my work over the decades may be surprised to learn my primary rifle interest in the late 1970s to early 1980s was varmint rifles and many of my early articles concerned them. Prior to moving lock, stock and barrel to Montana in the mid-1970s I was mostly a handgun shooter. In southwestern West Virginia where I grew up, there simply was not much purpose for rifles. I did buy a Model 1903A3 Springfield with which I made my introduction to bullet casting for rifles. Before moving to Montana I doubt if I’d ever fired any rifle at a target more than 75 yards distant.

About 15 years ago Duke was invited on a “ground squirrel safari” in Oregon. He attended
with this Savage Model 11F .223 Remington and fired over 1,000 rounds in five days.

Target-Rich Environment

 

The area of Montana where I made my home had prairie dogs, “gophers” (actually ground squirrels), rock chucks and coyotes. In order to hit the ground running so as to become a rifleman, I bought a dedicated varmint rifle ahead of time. That’s when I learned buying anything with no experience in the subject was bound to be a mistake.

The rifle I bought was a Ruger No. 1 single shot with varmint-weight barrel chambered for .22-250. It wasn’t too much of a mistake. The real problem was I put a 20X Lyman Super Targetspot scope on it. I discovered my error on my very first outing. Two local fellows invited me along to shoot “gophers” out to about 200 yards. I don’t remember the makes of their rifles except they were bolt actions chambered for the .222 Remington. I do remember they had moderate power scopes. They would call out the location of a “gopher” such as, “Look just to the left of that boulder!” In the narrow field of view with the 20X scope I couldn’t even find the boulder before one of them zapped the gopher. I didn’t get off very many shots that day.

However, the experience launched me into varmint shooting. Quickly the Ruger single-shot rifle and Lyman scope were traded and I purchased a Ruger Model 77 .22-250 bolt action. Its scope was a 6X Leupold. With this outfit I could at least hit a few gophers on my next outing. However, a little math showed I was burning about twice the powder my cohorts were using in their .222 Remingtons. So the Ruger was sold and replaced with a .222 Remington Model 700V (heavyweight barrel). For its scope I purchased one of the new Weaver T10s. Instead of using ordinary reloading dies and press, I switched over to Bonanza’s competition dies and one of their nifty presses with its seating-die/shell holder alignment system.

Finally, with a bit of load development trying different powders and bullets, I hit upon a load combination that would consistently shoot 1″ five-shot groups at 100 yards. Still I wasn’t satisfied. Next I bought a slightly used Model 700V .222 Remington because it had a synthetic stock with an aluminum bedding block. Brother, was that thing accurate!

Sub-1″ groups were common. For a time I turned into an accuracy nut. I wanted tighter groups and by selling off some “stuff” I bought a Remington 40X-BR .222 Remington and a case-neck-turning kit (brand unremembered). Atop the Remington I mounted a Lyman LWBR 20X scope. (LWBR stood for light weight bench rest.) Now I could shoot half-inch 100 yard groups and sometimes quarter-inch groups. It was fun and educational but I was back to too much scope and a difficult rifle to pack about.

Duke’s varmint choices: (L-R) .222 Remington, .223 Remington and the .222 Remington Magnum.

Duke kept his .222 Remington Magnum M700 because it shoots groups such as this.

It’s Only Money

 

Being unmarried in those days, when cash was available it went for more varmint rifles. Walkabout ones with standard-weight barrels became my fancy such as a Remington Model 700 .222 Remington Magnum. A Remington Model 600 6mm, a Ruger Model 77 .243 Winchester, a Ruger Model 77 .220 Swift and a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 .220 Swift were purchased. I even got a couple of .25-06s loading them with 75-grain bullets at very high velocities.

Then I burned out and my inborn interests in history returned. All those rifles were sold bar one — the standard-weight .222 Remington Magnum Model 700 ADL. I still have it.

About 15 years back I was invited on a ground squirrel shoot in Oregon. There wasn’t enough brass for my .222 Mag so I bought a Savage Model 11F .223 Remington. I shot over 1,000 rounds through it in five days, then later gave it to a friend’s son when he turned 13. My only varmint rifle now is my trusty .222 Remington Magnum. It serves for the occasional coyote trying for an easy meal with one of our pets.

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Cut Slugs

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Bolt-Action .22 Rimfire Beauties

While bolt-action .22 Rimfire rifles are commonplace today, it took quite a long time for that action type to arrive on the scene.

Bolt-Action .22 Rimfire Beauties

Repeating rifles in .22 Rimfire of American design have been with us for a very long time, but it took a while for the bolt action to arrive. The first repeater on the scene was the Winchester Model 1873 lever action introduced during that year. At that time the .22 Long Rifle had yet to be introduced by J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co., so during the first 14 years of production, the ’73 was available only in .22 Short and .22 Long.

Winchester’s second repeater, the slide-action Model 1890, was available in .22 Short, .22 Long, .22 Long Rifle, and .22 WRF. It was followed by the Model 1903, a semiautomatic rifle chambered only for the “22 Winchester Automatic Rim Fire Smokeless” cartridge. During the first two decades of the 20th century, Winchester introduced several .22 Rimfires on turnbolt actions, but all were inexpensive single shots loved and cherished by farm boys all across America.

Winchester finally got around to offering a bolt-action repeater in 1920, and the company did it big time with the Model 52 target rifle. During the next 60 years, it was offered in many variations, including the Sporting Rifle, which still ranks as one of the all-time great small-game guns. The Model 52 was discontinued in 1980 and was followed by several less expensive bolt-action repeaters.

Remington introduced its first multiple-shot bolt action, the Model 34, in 1932. Many others followed, with the Model 40X (1955) and the Model 540/541 (1972) considered by many to be the cream of the crop out of the Ilion, New York, factory. The 40X was Remington’s rather belated target-rifle reply to the Winchester 52, and the 540/541 series was aimed at the Winchester Model 75. The Model 541-T was less expensive than the 40X, and while not as accurate, mine carves out extremely small groups when fed match ammo. One of the more interesting rifles from Remington was a member of the company’s “Nylon” family of rifles called the Model 11. It and its lever-action and semiautomatic mates came and went during the 1960s.

 

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Bolt-action .22 Rimfire rifles are commonplace today and include some classic models, but in the beginning, it took a long time for that type of rimfire rifle to arrive on the scene.From left to right:1. 1922 Springfield2. Winchester M52 Sporter3. Kimber M824. Remington 541-T5. Ruger American Rimfire6. Kleinguenther K-227. Remington M5048. Ruger 77/22

Marlin’s first bolt-action repeater, the Model 80, was introduced in 1936, and that company went on to produce more rifles of the type than any other company in the United States. In those days, Harrington & Richardson, Mossberg, and Stevens were also big players in the game. When Daisy introduced its Legacy 2202, I looked into my crystal ball and saw immediate success. After all, many of us started out with BB guns built by Daisy, so it seemed only logical that everyone would want a .22 Rimfire built by the same company. Unfortunately, no.

 

The very first repeating rifles had detachable box magazines of single-column design, but later, the tubular magazine also had its time in the limelight. And while most tubular magazines were attached beneath the barrel, Winchester chose to place it inside the buttstock of the 1960’s Model 141. Like the classic Browning Autoloading Rifle of yesteryear, it was loaded from the rear. Some companies offered the same model with either type of magazine, and the one with a tubular magazine was usually a bit more expensive because it cost more to build.

In addition to having a huge capacity advantage, the tubular magazine won’t go astray in the field whereas the detachable design was fated to be lost. Filling that long tube with cartridges adds enough weight to deflect the muzzle of the barrel slightly downward, and while there may be some difference in bullet points of impact between the first shot and the last shot in that type of magazine, most rabbits, bushytails, chipmunks, and empty tin cans have failed to notice through the years. An exposed tubular magazine should be more easily damaged by hard knocks than the detachable magazine, but a few decades of exploring used-gun racks in gunshops have revealed very few that actually were.

Most rifles today have detachable magazines, and with the exception of the rotary magazine of Ruger’s Model 77/22 (and its imitators), most are of single-stack design. To my eyes, a rifle with a detachable magazine is a bit more pleasing to the eye than one with a tubular magazine hanging beneath its barrel. Another advantage of detachable magazines is quick reloading: simply replace the empty with the full and keep on shooting. On the negative side, with that little box magazine removed, its feed lips are subject to damage, although it is not a common event. When the capacity of a single-stacker exceeds five or six rounds, it extends below the belly of the rifle to interfere with one-hand comfortable carry. It also seems to vary more in reliability from maker to maker than a tubular magazine. Some are most definitely easier to load than others.

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Breech lockup of many thousands of .22 Rimfire rifles built through the years has been accomplished by nothing more than the root of the bolt handle bearing on the front of the receiver bridge. While strength has proven to be more than adequate, the designers of some rifles added a locking lug on the bolt body opposite the bolt handle.

The All-Important Chamber

Most factory rifles have a sporting chamber dimensioned large enough to ensure trouble-free functioning even when the chamber becomes quite dirty. At the opposite extreme is the match chamber that has much tighter dimensions. In addition to having a diameter that more closely matches that of the .22 Long Rifle case, its shorter length causes the bullet of a chambered round to be engaged by the rifling. That along with the higher quality of match-grade barrels improves accuracy far beyond what is commonly achieved with a barrel of lesser quality having a sporting chamber.

Competition rifles made by Anschutz, Bleiker, and others have match chambers, and match-grade barrels with the same type of chamber are available from several sources. (Lilja is one of the most popular.) A couple of my small-game rifles have match chambers, but be aware of the fact that with the bullet of a chambered round wedged tightly into the rifling, the extractor of a rifle may slip over the rim of a chambered round should unloading become necessary when crossing a fence or for other reasons of safety.

The shorter the match-dimensioned chamber, the deeper the bullet seats into the rifling of the barrel. As you can see in the Pacific Tool & Gauge reamer chart shown on page 42, the chamber introduced by Winchester many years ago in the Model 52 is the shortest commonly available. When a cartridge is pushed into it, an additional 0.020 inch of its bullet is engaged by the rifling as compared to a standard match chamber.

Dimensions of the Bentz chamber are tighter than those for the sporting chamber but a bit more generous than for the match chamber. And while its length places the bullet of a chambered cartridge closer to the rifling than in a sporting chamber, it is not engaged by the rifling as in a match chamber. This is why it is often chosen when seeking the best accuracy possible from a semiautomatic rifle. As illustrated by the reamer chart, there are many options in chambers. Some are from firearms manufacturers and barrelmakers, while others are from gunsmiths who specialize in building extremely accurate rifles.

Before leaving the subject, I will add that due to their longer cases, Aguila Super Maximum as well as CCI Stinger and CCI Quik-Shok should be fired only in a chamber with sporting dimensions or in a custom chamber sized specifically for them. Chambering one of those cartridges in a match, Bentz, or other short chamber forces the mouth of the case hard into the rifling leade, and that increases the grip of the case on the bullet for a dramatic increase in chamber pressure.

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For various reasons explained in the text, the locking strengths of some bolts ended up being far greater than necessary for the .22 Rimfire. The bolt of the Remington 541-T (left) has nine locking lugs, while the bolts of the Remington 40X (center) and the Ruger 77/22 (right) have two massive lugs.

Lockup Variations

The maximum chamber pressure for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge is only 24,000 psi, so the strongest of actions is not required for containing it during firing. Breech lockup in thousands of rifles chambered for it through the decades is accomplished by nothing more than the root of the bolt handle bearing on the front of the receiver bridge, and it has proven to be quite satisfactory. The .22 WMR operates at the same pressure, but due to greater surface area of its case, it pushes against the bolt with a bit more force. The same goes for the .17 HMR at 26,000 psi.

Most centerfire cartridges operate at considerably higher pressures, so a front-locking bolt is best for them because it minimizes momentary receiver stretch and bolt compression. The use of lugs at the front of the bolt requires positioning a detachable magazine quite some distance from the breech end of the barrel, and coaxing the stubby .22 LR cartridge across that space and into the chamber is an engineering challenge commonly eliminated by positioning the locking lugs toward the rear of the bolt. Back thrust applied to the bolt by rimfire cartridges is much lower than for most centerfires, so rear-locking bolts have proven to be quite successful through the years.

While root-of-bolt-handle lockup alone works fine on plinking and hunting rifles, a rifle with opposed locking lugs does a better job of concentrically stabilizing a bolt during firing, and builders of upper-level rifles tend to utilize them. Winchester handled that very nicely with the Model 52 by adding a locking lug on the opposite side of the bolt, adjacent to the root of the bolt handle. Through the years that same style of lockup has been seen on quite a few other high-quality rifles from Cooper (Model 57M), Kimber (Model 82), Remington (Model 504), Anschutz, and others.

The rear locking lugs of some .22 Rimfire rifles were made more massive than they had to be for various reasons. When designing the Model 40X target rifle during the early 1950s, Mike Walker of Remington built it around the Model 722 centerfire action. He gave the rifle a two-piece bolt of the same diameter as the Model 722 with the front, non-rotating section containing twin extractors and the rear section having extremely large, dual-opposed locking lugs.

When designing the Model 77/22 during the early 1980s, engineers at Ruger envisioned a future centerfire version of the same rifle chambered for the .22 Hornet, .44 Remington, and others. To handle the additional strain, they utilized the design of the Model 40X bolt.

Back to Remington, the Model 788 centerfire introduced in 1967 has nine rear-positioned locking lugs. Remington introduced its 500 series of rifles during that same year, and the bolts of all of them, including those in 5mm Remington Magnum, were a scaled-down version of the Model 788 bolt except with six locking lugs rather than nine. This is why shooters often referred to those rifles as “baby 788s.” They were accurate.

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The Kleinguenther K-22 has a couple of locking lugs at the front of its bolt, which is quite unusual for .22 Rimfire rifles.

Each time I shoot my 1922 Springfield with match ammo I am reminded that if a rear locking lug is quite large, just one will be enough for achieving excellent accuracy. There is something else unique about that wonderful rifle; mine is the M2 version with an adjustment screw resting parallel to the bolt body inside its locking lug. The armorer who assembled the rifle back in the 1930s used the screw to adjust headspace and then locked it in place. It is doubtful that the rifle will ever develop excessive headspace, but if it does, the adjustment screw can be used to correct it.

Not all .22s have had rear-locking bolts. One of the finest and most accurate small-game rifles in my battery was built by Robert Kleinguenther who founded Kleinguenther Distinctive Firearms of Seguin, Texas, in 1970. Called the K-22, its barreled action was made by the German firm Voere, and it is one of only two .22 Rimfire rifles I have shot that has dual locking lugs at the very front of the bolt. Cartridge feeding from its detachable magazine has always been smooth and trouble-free.

The Mauser Model 201 is pretty much the same rifle as the Kleinguenther K-22, including front locking lugs. During the 1990s it was being brought into the United States by Precision Imports. I used one of those rifles on a prairie dog shoot, and it was chambered for an experimental cartridge made by Federal by necking down the .22 WMR case to .17 caliber. The cartridge did not have an official name, so when writing about it in 1992, I called it the .17 FMR. I’m sure the folks at Hornady are glad Federal never got around to loading the cartridge because about 10 years later Hornady introduced it as the .17 HMR.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bolt-action .22s made by CZ-USA. I have worked with several in the past, and in my experience, they were all excellent guns. The company’s Model 455 line has grown to include numerous versions, and its switch-barrel design allows the user to own one action and barrels in .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR. I have found these rifles to be quite good.

Not long back, several fellow gun club members and I were discussing favorites when the question of which rifles of American design are the finest ever built. The Winchester Model 52, Kimber Model 82, Remington 40X, Ruger 77/22, and Cooper Model 57M got the most votes. Those of us who started out with .22s seem to never outgrow them.

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All About Guns Ammo

PERSONIFICATION OF THE PERFECT PACKIN’ PISTOL THE .38 SPECIAL WRITTEN BY JOHN TAFFIN

The S&W Military & Police .38 Special rests on a copy of early advertising.

 

From the Taffin Dictionary of Sixgunning — “Perfect Packin’ Pistol is a title given to a sixgun or semi-automatic with a barrel not less than 4″, nor more than 5-1/2″, which can be carried easily all day in a well-designed holster, placed under a bed roll comfortably at night and can be expected to handle any situation which should arise.”

This definition takes in a lot of territory and obviously it depends where the bearer of such a PPP normally finds himself/herself. Whether daily travels take one on concrete, sagebrush, foothills, forests, or mountains, the encounters likely to occur have a great bearing on the caliber chosen have the duty. We will be taking a look at the epitome of Perfect Packin’ Pistols, namely the 4″ Double Action Smith & Wesson.

 

This pre-war long action .38/44 Heavy Duty is probably the finest
double-action shooting sixgun ever offered.

In The Beginning

To come up with the .38 Special, D.B. Wesson, along with his son, took a good look at the .38 Long Colt, the official U.S. Military Chambering at the time. The brass case was lengthened to accommodate 21-1/2 grains of black powder instead of the standard 18 and the bullet weight was increased from 150 grains to a round-nosed 158-grain bullet.

The new revolver was the first K-Frame and was given the name of Military & Police. For the next half-century plus, it would be found in the holsters of thousands upon thousands of police officers. Over the decades it would be made in the standard barrel configuration as well as a heavy barrel model in both blued and stainless finish. Bill Jordan especially liked the 4″ Heavy Barrel Military & Police in his exhibitions of fast double-action shooting.

With the coming of smokeless powder, the .38 Special was found to be especially accurate and from the very beginning the M&P was offered with target sights. Production of all civilian revolvers was shut down during WWII, however with the end of the war S&W began the development of what would become one of the finest target revolvers ever offered — the K-22.

The Personification of the PPP is the epic S&W Combat Masterpiece.

A Masterpiece

 

The K-22 was introduced in December 1946 and six months later the first K-38, followed almost immediately by the K-32, arrived. These were all given the title of Masterpiece, which was definitely fitting. I have examples of all three revolvers chambered in .22 Long Rifle, .32 Smith & Wesson Long and .38 Special. They were and are excellent target pistols but too long to be classified as a PPP. This matter was handled in 1950 with the arrival of the 4″ Combat Masterpiece. This magnificent revolver was available in both .22 and .38 with a few examples and .32 Long.

In 1957 the .38 Special Combat Masterpiece became the Model 15 with the .22 Long Rifle version known as the Model 18. For situations where either one of these chamberings will suffice, it would be pretty difficult to find a better choice than the Combat Masterpiece.

The .38 Special, although a great choice for target shooting or plinking, left a lot to be desired in its original round-nosed 158-grain version. After WWI ended, our society was rapidly changing from an agrarian one and many of those who had been content to stay on the farm were now gravitating to the large cities; couple this with Prohibition and the easy money to be made outside the law — as well as the arrival of a new breed of criminal robbing banks escaping in a super-fast V8 powered sedan — and peace officers certainly found themselves behind the times.

The standard .38 Special that had served law officers for nearly 30 years suddenly had to compete with criminals firing .45s and automatic weapons from an automobile. Those little slow moving .38s either bounced off car bodies and windshields or at the very best, offered shallow penetration. Something had to be done to help officers. Smith & Wesson decided a newer and, more powerful, .38 Special was needed and the result was the .38/44 Heavy Duty.

Smith & Wesson, in conjunction with Winchester, in 1930 changed the standard .38 Special using a round-nosed bullet at around 850 fps to a flat-nosed semi-wadcutter design traveling 300 fps faster, and also added a metal-penetrating version. To house this new round, S&W simply used their 1926 Model, or 3rd Model Hand Ejector .44 Special with a .38 Special barrel and cylinder. The result was a much heavier sixgun than the S&W Military & Police and it did an excellent job of dampening recoil even with the new load.

The Military & Police has always been a relatively easy gun to shoot, however this new .38/44 had such a slick action and heavy cylinder it almost seemed to shoot by itself once the trigger action is started. From my perspective it is the finest .38 ever produced; and I am certainly not alone in this assessment. The following came from Elmer Keith.

“About a year ago Smith & Wesson heeded the demand for a heavier .38 with their new .38/44. This weapon was designed primarily as a police weapon and brought out on their .44 Military frame, to my notion the best sized and shaped frame of any double action for my individual hand.”

 

 

Whether in the standard barrel configuration or the Heavy Barrel
version at right, the .38 Special M&P delivers.

A New Start

 

The introduction of the .38/44 sixgun and cartridge did get the .38 Special up off its knees. However, this was only the beginning. The fixed-sighted .38/44 Heavy Duty was offered in barrel lengths of 4″, 5″ and 6-1/2″. In 1931 this latter model was upgraded with the addition of adjustable sights and introduced as the .38/44 Outdoorsman. Just as its name suggests, it became very popular as a field and hunting sixgun. A few were made with the 5″ length and I am certain there were those who shortened the barrel to an easy packing 4″. I had planned to do this someday, however someday has not yet arrived. My itch has been scratched with the use of .38 Special loads in the 4″ S&W Highway Patrolman.

In the early 1930s Col. Doug Wesson and writer/ballistician Phil Sharpe began working together on a new project using the .38/44. Sharpe had the .38 Special lengthened and their work together resulted in one of the finest sixgun/cartridge combinations, the .357 Registered Magnum and the .357 Magnum itself. Smith & Wesson Historian Roy Jinks called it the greatest sixgunning development of the 20th century. I will not argue with the assessment!

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Ammo

10 Most Underrated Cartridges and Why?