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GUNS Magazine Digital May 2011 - Page 82
Let’s try an obvious fix first. recently received a call from my friend Jim Martin. Jim I is an even older guy than I am, an expert in fast draw and gun spinning, a top-notch tunesmith when it comes to colt Single Actions. He is also the man who rebuilt the great Western .45s, which appeared on the cover of the first issue of GUNS in January 1955, so I could shoot them for the 50th Anniversary issue. Jim had recently tuned and tightened a 3rd generation 7-1/2" new Frontier .44 Special and informed me the owner said it wouldn’t shoot. “He will sell it for $600…” and that’s where I immediately interrupted him and said, “I will take it!” I had a pretty good idea why it superbly in the new New Frontier. The wouldn’t shoot and made arrangements reason this sixgun couldn’t shoot was for it to be shipped to my FFL dealer, easily traced to the ammunition. Buckhorn Gun & Pawn. It arrived In my early sixgunnin’ years, I the next morning and within an hour, religiously measured the groove I had it shooting 1-hole groups. Martin had done a magnificent job tuning it to perfection and tightening up the cylinder by installing an oversized bolt. When I received it the first thing I noticed was the rear sight was cranked high enough it was obvious the previous owner had been shooting 200-grain bullets, which were probably intended for the .44-40 and also probably sized at .427". The latter is precisely why it probably wouldn’t shoot. Using plug gauges I Match the bullet to the sixgun’s chambers. Here, .431" found the cylinder throats bullets grouped this well in a Smith & Wesson Model 1950 of the New Frontier to be Target .44 Special. a uniform .433". Shooting .427" bullets through such a cylinder diameter of sixgun barrels by tapping is a guarantee of mediocre accuracy. a pure lead slug down the barrel with The largest bullets I had loaded in a wooden dowel and then trying to .44 Special cases measured .431", and measure the diameter of the bullet. over 7.5 grains of Universal they shot Enlightenment came when I finally “ThIS GUN WON’T ShOOT!” realized the barrel diameter was not the most critical measurement. The chamber throats of the cylinder matter the most, as cast bullets pass through these tunnels long before they arrive at the barrel rifling. The less distortion when they get there the better. When this became apparent to me, I stopped measuring barrels and with .44 and .45 sixguns, gathered sizing dies from .428" to .432" for the .44, and .451" to .454" for the .45 and simply used the largest bullet which could be pushed through the cylinder throats. Several years ago, I received a phone call from a distressed local reader who related he had been on the phone practically every day the last week with Smith & Wesson complaining about his three Model 629s. He had all three barrel lengths, 4", 6" and 8-3/8". None of them would shoot. Now right away I knew something had to definitely be wrong. You might get a new revolver that would not shoot, but three of them at the same time? He asked if I would be chronographing anytime in the near future and if so, if he could chronograph his Smith & Wessons. Now I didn’t have the slightest idea what chronographing would prove, however, I did set up an appointment. I already had a pretty good idea of why his sixguns wouldn’t shoot. I surmised it had to be either poor ammunition or poor shooting on his part. So just to be sure, I took along some of my own .44 Magnum reloads. Break The Rule We rendezvoused, he shot his three revolvers and he was right, they certainly did not shoot very well. “Well, let me try them.” I did and they still did not shoot very well. Since we were in such a dire situation, I broke an almost unbreakable rule of mine, which is: never shoot my reloads in someone else’s guns. However, continued on page 81 82 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2011