Tag Archives: Model 97

New Life for the .32

Shooting Illustrated

As published in “Shooting Illustrated” January 2009

Freedom Arms Model 97 and Ruger SP101
The Freedom Arms Model 97 and Ruger SP101 illustrate the .327 Fed. Mag.’s versatility for both field and self-defense applications. Look for revolvers chambered in the new cartridge from Charter Arms and Taurus soon.

To be honest, it’s a bit of a surprise to me that the .32 H & R Mag. hasn’t been discontinued

Two of the big manufacturers have stopped producing revolvers chambered for this nifty little round, and to my knowledge, only Federal and Black Hills still turn out ammo. Although I refer to it as a “nifty little round,” I would be hard-pressed justifying continued production to any major gun or ammo manufacturer based on the feedback I’ve received over the last few years.

Suffice it to say I was stunned when Federal introduced the .327 Fed. Mag. and Ruger began chambering its SP101 for this hot new miniature magnum. But I recover quickly when there’s an opportunity to try a new handgun round.

I received two revolvers for testing the cartridge. The newest gun was Ruger’s all steel, six-shot, double-action SP101 with a 3 1/16-inch barrel. It’s Ruger’s small-frame gun, but it’s a beefy little guy weighing 28 ounces with a triple-locking system to hold the cylinder securely in place and in proper alignment. It also has a heavy under-barrel lug that tapers upward just before reaching the muzzle. Rubber grips with plastic panels featuring horizontal cuts improve the shooter’s ability to control the gun when firing Federal’s high-stepping .327 jacketed hollow points.

Contrary to most of the material I’ve read over the years, I’ve always rated the trigger pull on Ruger’s double-action revolvers as being quite good. Perhaps it’s a bit heavier than some other models, but the pull weight is consistent and smooth throughout the firing process. When firing a double-action revolver in a high-stress, self-defense situ­ation, consistently smooth and heavy is bet­ter than light and erratic.

The other gun was Freedom Arms’ single-action, stainless steel, small-frame Model 97. This downsized Freedom revolver was introduced in 1997, and when cham­bered in .32 caliber was available with two cylinders, each with a capacity of six rounds. One cylinder fired the .32 H&R Mag. and the other handled the vintage .32-20 Win. When the new .327 Fed. Mag. cartridge appeared, company president Bob Baker simply cham­bered an additional six-shot cylinder that can be swapped with the other two because all three cartridges shoot the same diameter bullet. (Don’t bother trying to fire the new round in one of the other Freedom Arms cyl­inders because it won’t chamber.)

When the .32 H&R Mag. was introduced a few years back, it was viewed as a minimum-recoil, self-defense round for small revolvers. Keep in mind small revolvers were, and still are, a favorite self-defense handgun for many Americans. It’s a simple rationale: For those of us who don’t consider ourselves “operators,” the small revolver is easy to carry in a pocket, simple to use and incred­ibly reliable.

In fact, at a recent lunch with a mix of retired and active-duty cops, and gunwrit-ers, a quick tally revealed every man present was carrying a .38 Spl. J-frame Smith & Wesson in his pocket. Everyone admitted this would not be his first choice of hard­ware if he knew a fight was coming, but on that warm, August day in southern California, it was the first choice of carry when leaving home in the morning. All of these guys had either been police trainers or been through extensive self-defense training, and yet they chose the .38 Spl. rather than the .357 Mag. The idea of the .32 H&R Mag. was to offer a credible self-defense cartridge in a small revolver to smaller statured. less experienced person­nel. The .327 Fed. Mag. takes that rationale to the next level, and in terms of perfor­mance, the next level is a huge step up.

The Ruger SP101 shot about an inch to the left at 15 yards. Looking at the white-outlined rear sight mounted in the revolver’s topstrap, it was indeed a bit left. Since the sight can be adjusted for windage, moving the point of impact slightly right was not a problem. Elevation with the 85-grain jacketed-hollow-point ammo was perfect. The rear sight notch is generously wide, leaving ample light on both sides of the black, ramped front-sight blade. A sight pic­ture is easily and quickly acquired as long as there is adequate light. Firing double action offhand at a reasonably slow pace, six-shot groups at 15 yards ranged from 2 to 3 inches without too much concentration on my part.

While the .32 H&R Mag. loads were much milder than the .327 Fed. Mag. ammo, recoil was quite manageable with both car­tridges, and I had no trouble switching from the shorter .32 H&R Mag. to the longer .327 Fed. Mag. There was no need to scrub out the cylinder after shooting the shorter cases. It might be different if one were using heavily lubricated lead bullets, but with the self-defense oriented jacketed hollow points, the two cartridges were totally interchangeable in the SP101.

Bullets

The power offered by the .327 Fed. Mag. (second from right) is comparable to that of the .32-20 Win. and .30 Carbine, (both on left) outclassing the .32 H&R Mag. (right).

I was astounded when I chronographed both cartridges. I had expected an increase in velocities, but not nearly the 50 percent I measured. The 3-inch Ruger went from 968 fps with the .32 H&R Mag. to 1,400 fps with the .327 Fed. Mag. That’s a 45-percent increase in velocity shooting an 85-grain bullet from a case that’s only 1/8 inch longer. In the longer-barreled Freedom Arms Model 97, the increase was 48 percent, from 1,000 fps to 1,480 fps. No matter how you calculate energy, we’re talking about a giant improvement in performance.

Admittedly, it’s terminal bullet perfor­mance that really determines the success or failure of a small-caliber self-defense round, and I did not conduct any tests of this nature. However, I know manufactur­ers have achieved excellent results in controlling bullet construction to produce a specific effect in various target media at specified velocities.

When I called Tim Brandt at Federal, he confirmed the company has done such tests with the .327 Fed. Mag., which uses an 85-grain jacketed hollow point that is different from the bullet loaded in the .32 H&R Mag. to accommodate the higher velocity of the new cartridge. Brandt cau­tioned handloaders against trying to achieve .327 Fed. Mag. performance using bullets designed for the .32 H&R Mag. Next year, Speer will have .32-caliber Gold Dot bullets designed specifically for the .327 Fed. Mag. available for handloaders.

Meanwhile, the bare gelatin penetration tests conducted by Federal with the .327 Fed. Mag. and 85-grain bullets fired from a 3-inch barrel yielded an average pen­etration of 12.75 inches and a final diameter of .520 inch. The velocities that produced these results were right around 1,300 fps, and the retained weight of recovered bullets ran from 84 to 84.6 grains. From the same barrel length, 100-grain soft points expanded to about .55 inch, and penetrated the gelatin an average of 16.75 inches. Velocities for the heavier 100-grain bullets actually averaged about 40 fps more than the 85-grain hollow points. This is impres­sive performance for a “small bore” in a short barrel.

There is a penalty associated with the enhanced velocity of a high-performance round in short barreled handguns, as we learned when .357 Magnums were first fired in small revolvers and when Ruger introduced the .30 Carbine in its Blackhawk. They’re noisy! Be absolutely sure you are wearing adequate ear protection when fir­ing this round. And as usual, firing any round inside an enclosed space makes things worse.

One thing you might consider, particu­larly if you’ve already suffered extensive hearing loss, is to put on a pair of good elec­tronic ear muffs if you’re awakened at night and think there may be an intruder in the house. I recognize there may not be time to do this, particularly if you don’t have hear­ing protection immediately available, but there are advantages. Keep in mind that electronic hearing protection functions like a hearing aid, in that it also amplifies small sounds (like an intruder might make), which you might not otherwise hear. And if you have to fire your gun, whatever the caliber, you may be overpowered by the resulting acoustic assault on your senses. If follow-up action is necessary, you’ll be much more capable of performing if you’re not trying to recover from the overwhelming shock of your first round. If you prefer in-the-ear protection, fine, but I find it’s much easier and quicker to slip on a pair of earmuffs and switch them on.

So far the two revolvers I tested are the only ones available in .327 Fed. Mag., but I’m told Taurus and Charter Arms will both have compact double-action revolvers chambered for the round in the near future, possibly by the time you read this. I don’t know whether anyone will be making a lighter-weight, alloy-frame .327 Fed. Mag. While such a gun would be preferable for carry, the steel guns are great candidates for home defense for anyone who’s recoil sensitive. Personally, I’d love an opportunity to take the Freedom Arms .327 Fed. Mag. on a small-game hunt, but then I say that about most handguns. Meanwhile, I’m not surrendering the .45 on my nightstand, but my daughter, who has kept an older .32 H&R Mag. revolver by her bedside for the last several years, probably will be looking for an upgrade. It’s nice to have choices.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

1accuracytabel

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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