Category Archives: Freedom Arms

Big Game Basics

 

Pulblished in “Shooting Illstrated” April 2007

O ne of the hazards associated with describing anything as “basic” is the preconceived notion that it implies marginal suitability or even sub­standard quality. Very few of us ask a real­tor to simply show us a basic house or tell a car salesman we want only a basic car. But many of the basic handguns on today’s market are exceptional products. Just look at the expensive custom guns you and your buddies own. Under all of those spe­cial touches there probably lies a Ruger or Smith & Wesson, or perhaps even a Freedom Arms revolver. Once we buy a gun, we tend to accessorize to suit our tastes or tailor the gun to more closely match our needs. Let’s establish some parameters and look at a few of the superb basic handguns avail­able today that are more than adequate for big-game hunting.

In its basic form right from the Ruger factory, the Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum is a solid handgun for big-game hunting. The author prefers the version with a 5’/2-ineh barrel, because it offers the best com­promise of velocity, portability and handling characteristics that moke accurate bullet placement easier.
Perhaps a good starting point is decid­ing which cartridges are suitable for big game. I know the .357 Magnum has taken big game, such as deer and feral hogs, and while I’ve used this caliber myself on both species, the animals’ deaths weren’t nearly as quick and humane as they should have been. In my opinion, big-game calibers start with the number “4,” and if neces­sary, I could spend the rest of my days happily hunting with the basic .41 and .44 Magnums. Using proper bullets, I’m not sure any animal could tell the difference between hits with the .41 Magnum versus the .44 Magnum. An advantage for the .44 is the incredible availability of ammuni­tion, even in small-town general stores and hunting locations overseas. The .44 is also available with heavier bullets, although these more specialized loads may not be found just anywhere. The .41 dishes out a tad less recoil, partly because it usually shoots lighter bullets and partly because there’s a bit more weight to the gun. Stan­dard bullets for the .41 Magnum are 210 grains, while the classic .44 Magnum load is 240 grains. With heavy, cast bullets, .41 Magnum loads feature slugs up around 265 grains and the .44 Magnum tops 300 grains. Stuffed with these heavyweights, both calibers provide great penetration.
To me, a basic big-game handgun has iron sights and is carried in a belt holster. I also believe a basic handgun is one I can effec­tively shoot offhand if necessary. I’ll take a rest whenever one is available, but I’m not passing up a reasonable standing shot if one is presented, and I can shoot iron sights much better offhand than any gun with a scope. My preference is for barrels from 4 3/4 to 6 inches in length, but I recognize one could make an argument for anything from 4 to 7 1/2 inches. I would have stipulated 5 to 6 inches, except the Ruger and Freedom Arms single actions have barrels that extend just to the end of the ejector housing. Per­haps my tighter tolerances are a function of advancing age, but it seems I can stretch my effective shooting range a bit using a 5-inch barrel rather than a 4-inch one. I’m certainly more comfortable with the sight picture offered by factory sights on a lon­ger barrel. On the upper end, a 6-inch barrel in a belt holster still makes it easy for me to take a seat while still-hunting without jamming the muzzle into the dirt. Access and comfort in a four-wheel drive, ATV or on a horse is greatly enhanced with a short holster, and as I get older, I spend more time letting something else do the walking.
Gun selection for the .41 Magnum is a bit more limited than for the .44 Magnum, which is not to say it is terribly restricted. Ruger offers the eternal Blackhawk in two barrel lengths. The short barrel touches my lower boundary of 4 3/4 inches, and while the other just misses my upper limit with its 61/2-inch tube, I’ll grant this gun a waiver. Both are six-shooters that represent excep­tional guns for the money and will still be running when your grandkids inherit them. For me, the short barrel packs more comfortably, while the extended sight radius of the longer barrel makes it easier to shoot. Velocity difference between the two barrel lengths shouldn’t be a concern, or you would be looking for a more special­ized hunting handgun.
Freedom Arms offers the .41 Magnum in two different frame sizes, and there are differences in the capabilities of the two guns. Both are single-action five-shoot­ers. The Model 83 in .41 Magnum has the same large frame and exacting tolerances as the company’s .454 Casull version, which means you can maximize the .41’s perfor­mance beyond other guns. Barrel lengths include both 4 3/4 and 6 inches, as well as shorter and longer tubes beyond my defi­nition of basic, The cylinder and frame of the Model 97 are not sized to accommodate long, heavy bullets, but the smaller gun is a joy to carry and is quite manageable with standard factory loads of 210-grain jacketed hollow points. While the Model 97 may lack the size of its big brother, manu­facturing tolerances are just as tight and ensure maximum accuracy.
Smith & Wesson offers some excellent double-action .41 Magnum revolvers that, although just outside my barrel-length parameters, may be perfect for you. There is a scandium framed 4-inch model that is as light as you’ll find in a .41 Magnum, and it’s called, oddly enough, the Model 357.

While the .44 Magnum (right) Is widely popular □mong handgunners pursuing big game, the .41 Magnum deserves credit for being an effec­tive cartridge as well. However, hunters traveling far from home should keep in mind that .44 Magnum ammunition is generally easier to find in local gunshops.

 The classic Model 57 has returned with a 4-inch barrel and blued finish. It’s the same size as the Model 357, but with its steel frame and classic adjustable sights, it’s more comfortable to shoot.

I would guess no hunting handgun is more common than the .44 Magnum, and the number of guns chambered for this caliber reflects its popularity. Freedom Arms doesn’t chamber the Model 97 in .44 Magnum, but it does offer the Model 83 in .44 Magnum with the same barrel lengths as the .41 Magnum. The Model 83 digests the heaviest factory loads with aplomb, and I’ve never seen a Freedom Arms revolver shoot loose from firing large quantities of full-power ammo. Ruger makes both single- and double-action revolvers in
.44 Magnum. The single actions are built on the Super Blackhawk frame, which is slightly larger than the Blackhawk and features the distinctive, flattened hammer spur. One of my favorites is the elegantly simple Super Blackhawk with 5 1/2-inch bar­rel, and if I ever get into that “one gun for survival” argument, this would be a candi­date. The incredibly strong, stainless steel Ruger Redhawk has been available over the years in a 5 1/2-inch barrel, and while the gun will digest any load, I have trouble managing the recoil with the small, wooden grip panels standard on the gun. Stepping up to Pachmayr rubber grips helps, but the overall grip becomes a bit large for my hand. But this revolver, and the new .44 Magnum Redhawk with a 4-inch barrel, are definitely worth considering.
Smith & Wesson continues its love affair with the .44 Magnum offering its N-frame revolvers in barrel lengths from 4 to 8 3/8inches. The 5- and 6-inch .44 Magnums meet all my criteria. In fact, the 5-inch Model 625 and Model 629 Classic would be my other candidates for the “one gun” argument. The 5-inch barrel offers a crisp, clean sight picture and superb bal­ance for offhand shooting. Their double-action triggers and, to a lesser degree, faster reloading capability may not be factors in hunting, but shooters who have mastered the double-action technique might prefer these guns. For the old-and-slow cadre of shooters like me, I’ll simply say their single-action trigger pulls can’t be beat for precision shooting.
I haven’t mentioned Taurus revolvers simply because I haven’t hunted with any of the company’s .41 or .44 Magnums, but I have hunted with a Raging Bull double-action revolver chambered in .480 Ruger and loved it. I’ve also shot two titanium Tracker revolvers in .41 Magnum and .44 Magnum, and have high praise for both. Their light weight, crisp, black sights, soft rubber grips and factory porting systems make them excellent candidates for a big-bore belt gun. However, I didn’t shoot them as well offhand as some of the other candi­dates, and that’s a big factor with me.
Finally, let me emphasize again how important it is to practice shooting off­hand. Besides the obvious fact that you may miss an opportunity trying to find a rest when one isn’t available, you will be pleased with the increased shooting skills and confidence that comes with your grow­ing ability to stand on your hind legs and shoot like a man.
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The Green Effect

As published in “Shooting Illustrated  December 2008
Hunting in California’s condor recovery range is limited to lead-free bullets. Fortunately, handgun hunters have “green” alternatives readily available.

 

No one said it signaled the end of the world; they said it would be worse. Since I’m not much of a duck hunter, I didn’t get emotionally involved, but my recollection is that both hunters and non-hunters had the same ultimate objective; they wanted a healthy population of ducks. Despite the controversy, duck populations are as healthy as ever and duck hunting continues to thrive.

 

Today in California, some similar legislation has been passed, and emotional arguments much like those heard during the lead shot ban are raging across the state. Simply stated, in the California condor corridor, all ammunition used for hunting must be lead free. For those who aren’t familiar with the California condor, the bird feeds on the carcasses of dead animals, and many of the birds are allegedly dying of lead poisoning caused by ingesting lead bullets or cores located in the gut piles of animals killed by hunters. Since central California has many wild pigs that are hunted year round, the cause of these deaths has been blamed on the bullets contained in their remains. This same section of California is also highly populated with ground squirrels, and these little creatures draw a great deal of attention each year from citizens wielding rimfire rifles and pistols. Since shooting ground squirrels requires a California hunting license, the ban of ammunition containing lead also applies to the pursuit of these rodents. I have no wish to get into a debate on the merits of this ban, but having spent some wonderful days hunting various ranches in this area, I was curious to see if this signaled the “end of the world” in terms of hunting central California. Besides, it doesn’t take much of an excuse for me to schedule a visit to Don Geivet, vice president of Operations at the incredible Tejon Ranch—a haven for big-game animals of all kinds that’s located at the south end of the Condor corridor. The ranch is also the first location where the lead ban was put into effect. I was also interested in the impact this legislation would have on handgun hunting.

Some of my handgun-hunting buddies believe there is no substitute for a heavy, hard-cast, big-bore, lead bullet when hunting tough and potentially dangerous big game. While you might not think of pigs being dangerous or big, the really large boars can grow to a few hundred pounds and carry an extremely thick layer of gristle plate around their shoulders and rib cage. Fragile, fast-expanding, smaller-bore handgun ammunition is not the right medicine for these guys. And while most pigs will try to run away, there’s the occasional animal that will come at you, particularly if it’s wounded. I’ve only had it happen once, and unfortunately for the boar, the two of us were carrying Freedom Arms .454s with full-house loads. It slid to its death a mere 6 to 10 feet in front of us—a breathtaking sight! But at something less than 200 pounds of body weight, it, like most pigs taken by hunters, did not require a heavy, solid slug to put it down. On the other hand, anything with minimal authority probably would have resulted in some cuts and slashes on either me or my partner. Something tough and lead-free is required. The answer is not only simple, it’s been around for quite some time.

Barnes manufactures solid-copper bullets for pistol calibers from .357 Mag. up through the mighty .500 S&W Mag., and while I would not personally use a .357 Mag. to hunt wild boar, I’d be happy with any of the other magnum calibers, beginning with the .41 Mag., stoked with Barnes X bullets. Each X bullet is made with some slots cut in the nose of the bullet. Upon impacting an animal, the nose of the bullet peels back in six petals along these cuts. Each bullet is designed to peel back at specific velocities, depending on the caliber. Most of my handgun hunting with Barnes bullets has been with the .44 Mag., and the two bullets available in this caliber are designed to open at a minimum velocity of 1,050 fps. Final expanded diameter of the bullet depends on how fast it is traveling when it enters the animal. The petals on either the 200- or 225-grain .44 Mag. bullet entering an animal at 1,300 fps will peel back nearly parallel to the bullet’s body, resulting in greater penetration than the same bullet would have at 1,050 fps. At either velocity, the wound cavity is larger (sometimes quite massive) near the bullet’s entry point than further along the path of penetration. It takes a tough, extremely well made bullet to perform with this kind of consistency.

Non-handloaders fear not! Barnes bullets are available in loaded ammunition from both Cor-Bon and Federal. Federal handgun-hunting ammo with Barnes bullets range from the .357 Mag. to .500 S&W Mag., with one load offered in each caliber. Cor-Bon’s smallest caliber is the .44 Mag., but there are multiple loads in several of the calibers including a +P hunting load for the .45 Colt. Cor-Bon’s ammo generates 1,200 fps muzzle velocity with the .45 Colt +P and ranges up to 1,825 fps with the .460 S&W Mag. Federal’s trajectory tables show that when all calibers are sighted in for 25 yards, the smallest bullet drop at 100 yards is 2 inches for the .460 while the 225-grain .44 Mag. round drops just under 7 inches. Last year in Australia, I shot four pigs (three boars and one sovi) using the 225-grain .44 Mag. load in a Smith & Wesson Model 629 with an 8V»-inch barrel. All pigs were inside 60 yards, and all but one dropped in its tracks. As you would expect, the one failure was the result of poor shot placement. A follow-up shot did finish the job. Big-bore, big-boar handgun hunters need have no concerns complying with the new regulations while hunting the Condor corridor.

I was really more concerned with having acceptable ammo for the corridor’s squirrel population. As it turned out, this problem has been half solved in a sense because CCI is making .22 Mag. lead-free (or Green) ammunition. I have two revolvers chambered for .22 Mag. and took both up to Tejon. They did an admirable job nailing several ground squirrels, even though it was late in

the season and the critters were quite spooky. In my experience, the .22 Mag. seems to be a more decisive killer than the .22 LR, and that’s the good news. The bad news is .22 Mag. ammo is more expensive than .22 LR, but then the cost of ammunition has increased dramatically in the last year. As the deep-thinking philosophers say, “It is what it is,” and it’s still a cheaper solution than centerfire ammo.

As of now, I know of no plans to make green .22 LR ammunition. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it’s not in the works yet. I think .22 Mag. has always been a bit of a specialty niche product, just as hunting in those areas within the Condor corridor is a specialty niche market.

I’ve avoided getting into the condor issue, but there are a couple of things that puzzle me. First, did the studies show lead bullets in the carcasses of small rodents contributed to any condor deaths? If not, why is lead-free rimfire ammo being mandated? Secondly, if the issue is lead in gut piles resulting from hunting, why is there a ban on lead ammo for target shooting on the various ranches affected? On Tejon, no lead ammo is allowed on the ranch, period. The only rationale I can think of is a total ban is easier to enforce than a partial ban. I suspect the government bodies involved have dictated this policy, and I heard from more than one source that the implementation of the lead-free policies were handled more like a Mafia-style offer than a civilized dialog between two parties interested in wildlife conservation. The good news is big-game and small-game hunting are alive and well at the Tejon and other ranches throughout California. You might have to buy a new pistol, but you have legally compliant choices available in both factory and hand-loaded ammunition. And getting to buy a new handgun is always good news.

Special thanks to friend and fellow handgun hunter Brian Pearce for his introduction to the Handgun Section of the new “Barnes Reloading Manual Number 4.” If you plan to reload with Barnes bullets, get the Barnes manual and read the entire handgun section including Pearce’s introduction. Load data cannot be interchanged between all-copper Barnes bullets and traditional jacketed lead-core bullets of the same weight.’!?

Worthy of The Title

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Unfortunately for us taxpayers, there’s no news about tycoons and politicians downsizing their ambition, but a couple of years ago, the shooters and handgun hunters who run Freedom Arms donned their downsize thinking caps, and the end result may be the best 357 Mag. revolver ever. It’s designated the Model 97, and while it’s downsized to about 90 percent of the big Freedom Arms revolvers, the cylinder on the new gun holds six rounds instead of five.

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Freedom fanatics need not panic; downsizing the gun’s dimensions has not affected quality. Existing manufac­turing techniques and processes like line-boring, close tolerance fit, and meticulous hand-finishing are all being applied to the new gun.

Barrel-cylinder gaps are still set .003″ and trigger pulls at 3 lbs. Like its big brothers, sight options on the Model 97 still include the fixed sight (notch in topstrap and silver front blade), and the same style adjustable sights with black front ramp and blued rear sight scaled down to fit the small­er channel cut in the topstrap. The adjustable sights on the Model 97 are like those on the large Field Grade guns rather than the Premier Grades (i.e., a clamping screw must be loos­ened to adjust for windage).

Little Big Gun

Barrel lengths are either 5 ½” or 7 ½”, both with either fixed or adjustable sights. The rear notch on the fixed sight version is square rather than a “U” or a “V.” The stainless front sight is also square, but not as wide as the black blade on the adjustable sight­ed gun.

Interestingly, while the fixed sights are more difficult to see (at least for older eyes), and less precise than the adjustable sights, the stainless front blade is more visible in dim light condi­tions. Sight picture with the adjustable sighted Model 97 was indistinguishable from that of the big frame guns.

Ergonomics, balance and handling characteristics are superb on the smaller gun. It rivals the original Colts (and imported clones), while offering a slightly longer grip for proper posi­tioning of the little finger of the shoot­ing hand as opposed to having the pinkie pushed under the gun butt.

At the same time, the Model 97 doesn’t have the overly large “club” feel of a full size Bisley grip. It’s the right-sized grip to handle the recoil of full .357 Mag. ammo, or even some­thing heavier like a .41 Mag. or what­ever caliber Freedom next offers in this gun.

In short, the grip is “right” for the gun because it will allow the shooter to handle any level of recoil suitable for this size revolver. This may not be of much interest to cowboy shooters who will hold velocities to something under 800 fps, but it’s important to handgun hunters, and in the adjustable sighted version, this is one dandy hunting gun.

 Semi-Serious Informal Shooting

I acquired an adjustable sighted gun with a 5’/2″ barrel because I envi­sioned spending some relaxed “trail time.” along with doing a bit of semi-serious hunting, and 5″ to 6″ barrels are my preference for these kinds of endeavors. As long as I can see iron sights, (and my vision is still OK in daylight hours), unscoped belt guns are my number one passion in hand­gun hunting.

Despite preferences, the little gun was equipped with a scope for sighting in and a trip to the YO Ranch involving both a hunt and a handgun hunting-style match. The petite Model 97 was fitted with the smallest handgun scope on the market, Leupold’s 2x EER pistol scope, and a modified T’SOB scope base from SSK. SSK will be making scope bases properly sized for the new gun soon.

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The 2x was entirely suitable for my purposes, and anything bigger tends to overwhelm the gun, both aesthetically and in terms of handling characteristics. However, the balance of the small­er frame gun with the 7.5″ barrel is also excellent, and the longer barrel offers a couple of advantages to the handgun hunter. You will eke out a bit more velocity from the extra 2″ of bar­rel, and the gun’s longer overall dimen­sion encourages, or at least allows, the use of a larger scope, perhaps a vari­able power. Your choice.

 Too Good For His Own Good

Prior to the hunt I put a few hun­dred rounds of cowboy ammo through the gun. Cowboy action shooters like smoke; so factory ammo for cowboy shooters produces smoke along with lots of cruddy residue. This is not a problem for the gun functionally, but over time, it makes the gun filthy. Not dirty, filthy!

This is the one occasion where the tight tolerances and stainless steel of Freedom Arms’ guns may not be fully appreciated. To avoid problems, just clean and lubricate periodically, espe­cially the cylinder pin, to insure the cylinder rotates freely. Also, clean the barrel after shooting lots of lead cow­boy ammo before you start popping jacketed bullets down range

I failed to do so before sighting in and the first 20 or so rounds of factory jacketed ammo produced depressingly large groups at the 50 yard range. When the barrel had finally been scraped clean, things settled in, and the little gun started turning in 1″ to 2″ groups with the 2x scope, depending on what ammo was being consumed.

After putting nine different factory loads through the gun over sandbags. I had what I wanted: a variety of suit­able factory loads, up through a 180 grain deep-penetrating bullet, for hunt­ing small to medium-large game.

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The accuracy of Freedom Arms revolvers is not surprising, nor is it a mystery. The precise alignment of each chamber with the barrel results from the Wyoming factory’s line-boring manufacturing technique, allowing bar­rel forcing cones of only three degrees to be used on Freedom revolvers.

Typical forcing cones on mass-pro­duced revolvers are much higher to compensate for misalignment of cham­bers and barrels that result from loos­er manufacturing tolerances. Use of a higher power scope might have pro­duced even better accuracy, but as stat­ed, my search was for a compact hunt­ing handgun.

 Whacking Everything In Sight

The trip to the YO Ranch could hardly have been more successful. With the Leupold scope in place and using Winchester’s new 180 gr. Partition Gold ammunition, I collected a Sika buck at about 70 yards and went through the handgun hunting match successfully, whacking almost all the targets I saw. 

While my performance at the match was less than stellar, it was vision failure on my part in locating tar­gets, and nothing that could be blamed on the Model 97. The Nosier partition bullet performed perfectly on the Sika, giving every indication that the gun, when matched with appropriate heavy­weight bullets, can be used satisfacto­rily on larger game animals.

One other major caveat is required, and it’s not about a shortcoming in the Model 97, but rather a recalibration of the handloader’s mindset when work­ing with a Freedom Arms revolver. The Model 97’s cylinder is smaller than those on the large frame wheel-guns, but it has six chambers instead of its big brother’s five. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that since there is less metal around each cham­ber, our pressure vessel will not handle the same pressure levels that we rou­tinely deal with when loading the five-shot revolvers.

If you have handloads for your five-shot Freedom Arms .357 that generate in excess of 50,000 psi, do not shoot these in your Model 97! You now have a normal size .357 that was built to deal with normal .357 ammunition. Follow the load limits contained in your load­ing manuals for regular .357s, which is somewhere in the 30,000 psi range.

Besides abhorring a vacuum, nature isn’t terribly fond of anyone who doubles the recommended pres­sure levels in revolver cylinders. Stick with standard .357 loads for the Model 97, and make sure you can tell the dif­ference between the standard stuff and your Cape buffalo .357 loads.

My personal trick is to use brass-colored rifle primers in the high pres­sure loads and silver-colored, magnum small pistol primers for normal loads. Do what works best for you, but be sure it enables proper identification of ammo when separated from its box.

 What More Do You Need?

To my way of thinking, no hunting handgun is ready to go afield without a holster, or at least a reasonable carry technique. I threw in the “carry tech­nique” because some single shot hand­gun hunters like to use a sling. That works for the longer barrel, scoped single shots, and even long barrel scoped revolvers, but not for the beau­tiful little Model 97.

Sans scope, the small frame gun is perfect for a belt holster, preferably one with minimal bulk. I used a suede-lined Bianchi lawman for the 5.5″ bar­rel for a strong side carry. The only drawback is that the lawman and the Model 97 aren’t compatible in barrel length, but the 6.5″ holster worked well and shouldn’t be too difficult to shorten.

For a cross draw, perhaps best for belt carry of a 7.5″ revolver, you might try the Bianchi Cyclone. This rig can be worn either cross draw or strong side simply by sliding your belt through a different slot on the holster.

For the scoped Model 97, or any other scoped gun, market offerings for the handgun hunter are bleak. There are rigs available, but they seem to be saddle scabbards altered for people carry. They are incredibly bulky and rigid, and they either severely restrict physical movement or flop loosely with any change of body posture or position.

The only answer I’ve found, and it’s a dandy, is a nylon shoulder rig designed by handgun hunter Phil Briggs and now manufactured by JoAnne Conn in Montana. She’s a handgun hunter that stopped by the Wyoming factory in the summer of ’96 to shoot the handmade prototype guns and give some “female feedback” to Freedom president Bob Baker.

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The holsters, or pouches, are avail­able in two size holsters. The small one comfortably accommodated the Model 97 with the 2x Leupold pistol scope, but will handle scoped revolvers with up to 7.5″ barrels or scoped single shots with barrels up to 10″. The longer barrel holster handles up to a 10.5″ revolver or 15″ single shot.

Once the straps are adjusted to fit the owner, the rig can be carried com­fortably all day and hides easily under an outer jacket or rain poncho for pro­tection from the elements. I never encountered any inclement weather at the YO Ranch, but the scoped revolver rode in the nylon shoulder holster for three days in total comfort.

Freedom Arms did a great job in their downsizing effort. The end result is an outstanding combination of trail gun, hunting handgun, and cowboy “hogleg.” Although the hue and cry has already started about what would be the best next caliber for the Model 97, the .357 Magnum now being offered is arguably the best general purpose handgun caliber ever devised.

Skeeter Skelton once wrote an arti­cle about the one gun-caliber dilemma. He selected the .357 Mag., and while he chose a different manufacturer’s gun, it would be interesting to see what his selection might have been if the Model 97 had been available. Freedom’s new .357 certainly is a can­didate for the one-gun man or woman.

Published:  GUNS – September 1998

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NRA 1992 Long Range Pistol Championships

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Radical new scope mounts debut at national champs!

For an old silhouette shooter, attending one of the national championship matches it is a bit like going to a family reunion: you get to visit with folks you’ve known for years, meet some new family additions and catch up on recent developments.

The extra ingredient at a match is that you see the finest long range handgunners in the world.

Held at the Los Angeles Silhouette Club this summer and directed by long­time participants Ron and Lee Cottriel. the match featured all six of the NRA events which include: unlimited and con­ventional standing, full-scale and half-scale unlimited, conventional single shot, and revolver.

Competitors were greeted with heavy rain early in the week and finished in typ­ical summer California sunshine (spelled h-o-t!) But the temperatures were mild compared to the hot performances turned in by many of the shooters.

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Ron and Lee not only know how to run a smooth match, they know how to shoot one. Lee swept all the women’s cat­egories and took the overall runner-up titles in both unlimited events setting a new woman’s national record in half-scale with a 78/80.

Ron was in the top three of every event except conventional standing, and won unlimited full-scale, grand aggre­gate, and freestyle aggregate.

And he didn’t just win unlimited full-scale: he beat 23 other perfect scores by winning the shoot-off!

John Glennon shot the only perfect score in revolver with a mixture of great showmanship and concentration. John had a one shot alibi on the last ram bank. With everyone on the line watch­ing and knowing this last shot was for the gold, John had 24 seconds to think and deliver.

When the bullet kicked up a dust cloud high above the ram 200 meters down range, the crowd groaned collec­tively, not knowing the bullet had split on the edge of the ram’s back. But as the ram slowly toppled backwards, the groans turned to cheers and applause. It is rumored that John declined to demon­strate his split bullet trick a second time!

Marvin Tannahill set a national record in unlimited standing by leaving one turkey out of 80 targets. Marv said a fly landed on his nose, “and he flinched as the gun went off.” I’m not sure whether it was Marv or the fly that flinched, but if I had come up one target short of the first perfect score ever fired in standing. I’d still be out hunting for that fly!

Manufacturers’ Row

While Manufacturers’ Row was quite a bit smaller than the SHOT Show, many of the game’s dedicated supporters were in attendance. For wheelgun fans. Free­dom Arms’ Randy Smith was there with an assortment of what many folks believe is the world’s finest revolver. Included was the new Model 353 in .357 Magnum that Randy feels will be dominating the winner’s circle in next year’s matches.

Wesson Firearms had their newest addition on hand called the Compensated Barrel Assembly or “CBA” for short. Clever idea: cut ports in the barrel shroud and let it extend 1.5 inches beyond the barrel.

If you already have a Wesson, just buy a new barrel assembly with the built-in port system and slap it on your revolver frame. Should be great on their 445.

Jim Rock of RPM was on hand with a couple of new items for his XL single-shot pistol. His new latch lever greatly eases opening the gun without adding serious bulk or weight. Beneficial to both the multi-round silhouette shooter or the one-shot hunter utilizing max loads that might occasionally stick, this little goody can be retrofitted on existing guns.

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And since the latest approach to unlimited standing has gone beyond the “taco hold” to using elevated optical sights, Jim had his newest “scope riser” on hand. It’s an aluminum parallelogram that raises the optical sight about four inches above the gun and moves it slight­ly toward the muzzle.

According to Jim, the milder calibers suitable for unlimited standing (e.g. 270 MAX) no longer require a muzzle break. because the gun rotates under the chin and the scope stops short of the face.

Available from RPM drilled and tapped for different single-shot pistols, the riser is selling like hot cakes for $40 because it saves the cost of a muzzle break which is around $100+.

Since Jim regularly competes with his XLs and swept all but one event in the seniors class, I’m not arguing with him.

Ron Cottricl had his variation of the riser, called a ladder, on a Wichita bolt gun. Have I mentioned that Ron did pret­ty well at this match?

The Old And The New

Representing perhaps the oldest and newest players in silhouette shooting were, respectively, some examples of the XP artistry available from Remington’s Custom Shop, and the BF Pistol from E.A. Brown Mfg.

What can I say about Remington’s XP? A great shooting gun that just gets better and better.

Although I haven’t personally worked with the relatively new BF single-shot, a situation I hope to remedy, the little falling block pistol has reportedly worked out most, if not all, the initial manufactur­ing bugs and has evolved into a beautiful firearm.

International Flavor

The international flavor came from Down Under with teams competing from Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s Tim Anderson, David Dewsbury and Mike Pomerenke excelled in all events to capture 3rd, 6th, and 10th places respec­tively in the Grand Aggregate.

I didn’t catch up with the Aussie con­tingent, but I did get to chat with Carl Rofe of the New Zealand National Pistol Council about laws and possible handgun hunting opportunities there. Interesting.

If I’m reading my notes right, there were no restrictions in New Zealand until the 1930s when “registration” came into being. At that time handgun ownership became restricted.

Since then, gun owners have been working diplomatically through police to obtain more allowable handgun events. In case you didn’t know, New Zealand has no constitutional guarantee of gun owner­ship like our second amendment.

The final evening offered a sumptuous BBQ, and as usual, I made a big pig of myself, but since I seemed to be among my peers, it apparently went unnoticed. There was an over abundance of meat, (even after I finished) so these incredible slabs of beef were sold at a pittance to anyone who could carry them off. For a few frenzied moments, the traffic from the BBQ to the camper area looked like a parade of troglodytes returning from a successful mammoth hunt. When you fire 500 rounds of high power ammo in a week, some of the trophies should be edible!

Published:  American Handgunner – January/February 1993

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IHMSA 15TH Anniversary Match

The southern Arizona scenery was spectacular coming out of the Baboquivari Mountains toward Tucson.  In addition to the giant Saguaros, mesquite trees, and various cactus plants I couldn’t identify, there was an abundance of lush ground cover from the late summer rains that enhanced the high desert’s beauty.  I thought that this would be a great place to introduce handgun silhouette shooting to the world.

 Like most of my great ideas, this one was a little late.  I was on my way to participate in the 15th Anniversary of handgun silhouette shooting at the Tucson Rifle Club where the first match was held in 1975.  I missed that first match but managed to catch the next one, called the First Western Regional, which was held in southern California during the summer of 1976. Continue reading