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American Handgunner March/April 2011 - Page 46
thE SiXGunnER John Taffin A Bit Of tOuchABle histOry Hamilton A s so many other things having to do with firearms it began with Elmer Keith. Keith was born in 1899 and during his growing up years quality sixguns as well as components were nowhere near as easy to access as they are today. As a teenager he mostly shot black-powder Colts. Celebrating the Fourth of July in 1925, he blew apart an old Colt .45 using black powder loads. These were not ordinary black-powder loads as he ground the powder granules to a consistency akin to flour looking for all possible muzzle velocity in his old Colt. The top of the chamber as well as the top strap blew and he decided to go with a different cartridge. The .44 Special had arrived in late 1907 but as of 1925 he was yet to see one. This soon changed as he The first two Bowen Ruger No. realized the .44 in a Colt Single Action 5s rest on a copy of cylinder resulted in more steel around Hamilton’s book, The Custom Rethe cartridge case, thus he shifted from volver — a mustthe .45 Colt to the .44 S&W Special. read for any This was to have far-reaching effects, revolver fan! which are even felt today. In September 1928 in the American Rifleman Keith wrote of a visit from Available Harold Croft of Pennsylvania. Croft from Bowen took the train all the way out to visit Classic Arms. Keith at his ranch in Durkee, Ore. He brought with him, as Keith describes it, “a whole suitcase full of custom sixguns.” These were all chambered in .45 Colt, however Keith liked many of the modifications he saw. Each man was affected by the other. Croft had four main sixguns, two built on the Colt Single Action and the other two on the Colt Bisley. All four of these featured special sights, and one, which Croft called his Featherweight No. 3, had a modified grip frame combining the Bisley Colt backstrap with the Single Action triggerguard. Croft went back home and Keith went to work designing the perfect sixgun. Bowen’s No. 5 The .44 Special Bowen Ruger No. 5 for those who prefer this classic caliber. The No. 5 Ruger Old Model with two cylinders in .41 Special and .41 Magnum. Below: The .44 Special Bowen Ruger No. 5 and the .41 both proved to shoot around 1". John feels with some more loading groups could easily shrink! THe LaST WoRd n the April 1929 issue of the American Rifleman, Keith unveiled his perfect sixgun, or as he called it “The Last Word.” Taking the best ideas of Harold Croft and combining them with his own, he came up what is now the very famous No. 5 S.A.A. When I was on the board of the Elmer Keith Museum Foundation in the early 1990s, I was privileged to examine all of Elmer Keith’s sixguns including his No. 5, then later to place it in the center of the sixguns section in the Elmer Keith Museum residing inside Cabela’s in Boise, Idaho. I still visit it, along with Keith’s other sixguns, at least once a month. The .41 Special Bowen Ruger No. 5. Elegance from the Bowen shop. I A bout 10 years ago, Hamilton Bowen built his first No. 5s on USFA mainframes with the first two examples being blued everyday working guns with walnut stocks, and the other the very image of Keith’s No. 5 complete with full engraving and carved ivory stocks. Now Bowen is offering the basic idea of the No. 5 on Rugers, both New Models and Old Models, and in a choice of chamberings. Taking The Reins Continued on page 82 46 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2011