By John Taffin
No matter how large or small one’s gun collection — actually … “accumulation” — there are two, possibly three, absolutely basic firearms. Many years ago Skeeter Skelton did a Dobe Grant story in which the old Texas Ranger shared what his favorite firearm was. No surprise, it turned out to be a .22 rifle. In addition to a .22 rifle, a good .22 handgun is absolutely essential. It may be a sixgun on a semi-automatic, actually probably both. My first .22 handgun was a Ruger Single-Six also purchased in 1956. At my tender age of 17 I thought I basically had all the bases covered. As I look back nearly 60 years, I did.
Today the .22 Long Rifle is our most used cartridge. At least it was until the election of 2008, followed by a repeat in 2012. Ammunition may be in short supply right now, however there’s no shortage of factory produced high quality .22 rifles and handguns. Personally, I have a hard time passing up a good .22 and especially look for some of the older classics as well as new production items. Whether it’s by S&W or Ruger or another maker, shooters gain exceptional value with production guns. These days, we even have custom gunsmiths offering some really neat custom .22 handguns. Two of those gunsmiths are Bruce Warren and Gary Reeder.
The innovative Bruce Warren Model 617 .22
Long Rifle is a 10-shooter with some very
Sights on the Warren Model 617 consist of an 8-MOA
Burris Red-Dot Optic but can be customized
to meet a shooter’s needs.
Bruce of BC Armory says his is a shop “Specializing in 1911-style autos, S&W revolvers and Glock pistols for competition and/or concealed carry. If you compete in bowling pin shooting, IPSC, IDPA, ICORE, IPSA, GSSP, steel challenge or American Handgunner-type matches and require a space gun, race gun, open class, limited class or a tactical weapon with the utmost in reliability for concealed carry, you can rely on the BC Armory to build the weapon you need to compete.”
In receiving the test gun from Bruce my first reaction was “Wow! This is really 21st century stuff.” Built on a 10-shot S&W Model 617, Bruce’s creation makes my 30-year-old blued 10-shot Model 17 look positively stodgy. Diamond Dot pegged it years ago when we were involved in Cowboy Action Shooting when she said “Even if I don’t shoot very well, I want to look good.” Warren’s .22 not only shoots well, but it also looks great.
Bruce sponsors a family of shooters, one of whom “… is a very good revolver shooter.” They were discussing building a lightweight .22 for him to use in steel challenge matches. In the past Warren
has lightened barrels on S&W sixguns, however this time his goal was something even lighter and especially distinctive, and he has succeeded.
The ultra-lightweight Model 617 was test-fired with a
variety of .22 ammunition. It’s not designed to be a
tack-driver, but to be very controllable during
fast competition shooting.
Starting with a S&W Model 617, Bruce removed the factory barrel, cut a lightweight Tactical Solutions .22 barrel to length, in this case 4″, added a highly effective compensator and threaded it for installation in the S&W. Flamboyancy is obtained by the highly attractive fluted barrel which is an anodized blue with aluminum flutes. The revolver itself is stainless steel and to add to the lightness afforded by the Tactical Solutions barrel, Warren has also machined metal from the front two-thirds of the cylinder so the back part of the cylinder is full diameter while the front is smaller.
Bruce can provide any type of sights, such as a Weigand front sight base and choice of sights matched up with the S&W factory rear sight. This Model 617, which is Warren’s personal sixgun, came equipped with a Burris Red-Dot optic. Normally when testing a firearm of any kind I spend a lot of time shooting groups at varying distances. When it comes to .22’s I especially prefer to shoot as many different varieties of ammunition as I can come up with looking for the best, spelled tight-shooting, load I can find.
However, this BC Armory gun was not built for that kind of precision shooting. It’s for fast competition shooting, as is the Burris Red-Dot 8 MOA, and that big red dot pretty much rules out shooting very tight groups, at least in my hands. It’s built for very fast shooting on relatively large targets, and to add to this goal Bruce has made it double action only. All groups pictured were shot at 15-20 yards rapid-fire double action. And this double action is just about the finest I’ve ever experienced on a S&W revolver. Over the years, rapidly approaching 50 years as a gunwriter, I’ve tested about everything there is to shoot from .22 Mini-Guns up to various hyper recoiling .50 handguns. Most of them have been some fun combined with a lot of work. This sixgun from BC Armory is nothing but pure unadulterated fun, 21st century style.
Reeder .22 Mag.
Gary Reeder, of Reeder Custom Guns, offer some of the most powerful hunting handguns imaginable, built on Ruger Blackhawk and Redhawk platforms as well as Thompson/Center Single-Shot pistols. Many of these are chambered in cartridges of Gary’s own design. Gary also has a highly pleasant shooting side to his personality, offering some especially pleasing and exceptionally desirable 21st century .22’s.
When Bill Ruger introduced his Convertible Single-Six with two cylinders it required more than just adding a second cylinder chambered in .22 Magnum. The two .22 cartridges do not use the same diameter bullets, with the Magnum version being slightly larger. Originally the Single-Six used a bore diameter of 0.216″ while the Magnum version was cut at 0.223″. To chamber both cartridges for shooting through the same barrel Ruger compromised at a bore diameter of 0.219″.
Starting with Ruger .22’s, Gary makes them even more versatile by converting them to .22 Magnum. Because of the difference in bore diameter simply re-chambering an existing .22 Long Rifle cylinder and using the same factory barrel does not guarantee good accuracy.
I have currently been testing two Reeder Prototypes both of which are marked as such on the right side of the barrel. The Gary Reeder Pocket Packer starts as a standard .22 LR Ruger Bearcat, however a new cylinder is machined for the Magnum cartridge and a new barrel is installed with a bore diameter of 0.224″. This ensures the best accuracy possible with the .22 Magnum. In addition a new front sight is installed, the barrel is marked “Gary Reeder Pocket Packer” and the left side of the frame is marked “.22 Magnum.”
The entire Bearcat is then finished in Black Chromex, Reeder’s special blue which absolutely has no equal. The lettering is highlighted in white, screws are nickeled and the grips are the ivory-like, though much less expensive, Corian. The action, of course is tuned to perfection, and the lock-up is exceptionally tight. For testing the little Reeder/Ruger .22 Magnum Bearcat I was able to come up with five different types of .22 Magnum ammunition.
The highest velocity out of the 4″ barrel was recorded with the CCI Maxi-Mag +V HP at an amazing 1,650 fps. The best accuracy came with CCI’s Gold Dot HP Personal Protection at 1,390 fps and a 5-shot group at 20 yards of 15/8″ while the Winchester Super-X HP came in at 1,260 fps and an even better group of 13/8″. Exceptional performance for me with such a small, short-barreled .22.
Reeder’s Pocket Packer delivered surprising
groups at 20 yards for such a small gun.
DA or SA, Gary Reeder’s .22 Magnum Pocket
Packer and Striker have you covered.
Reeder’s Striker is built on a stainless steel Ruger SP101. Just as with the Bearcat Gary fashions a new barrel with a bore diameter of .224″ and also a custom 8-shot cylinder. The Stryker is larger and heavier than the Bearcat, however offers more versatility for shooters by having adjustable sights. The left side of the barrel is marked “Gary Reeder Custom Striker” while the right side is marked “.22 Magnum.” A very nice touch is the striking cobra head etched on the left side of the barrel below the front sight and the full striking cobra on the left side of the frame.
All this is mated up with a polished stainless steel finish resulting in a most attractive and relatively small sixgun weighing in at 2 pounds. The panels on the Ruger factory rubber grips have been replaced with those fashioned from Corian. Whether with the deep blue Black Chromex finish of the Pocket Packer Bearcat or the stainless steel Striker SP101, the ivory-style Corian grips provide a nice contrast.
The Reeder Striker was test-fired with the same five .22 Magnum loads and as expected the resulting accuracy in my hands gave tighter groups due to the adjustable sights and longer sight radius. Groups are also seven shots at 20 yards instead of five shots as in the Pocket Packer. Both the CCI Maxi-Mag HP at 1,290 fps and the Winchester Super-X HP, 1,135 fps, grouped their seven shots into 13/8″. This Reeder Stryier makes a very practical varmint hunting pistol or a plinking pistol providing quite a bit more range than afforded by the factory chambered .22 Long Rifle. With the built-in ruggedness of the Ruger platform, the custom tuning and chambering by Gary Reeder, this is a .22 Magnum sixgun built for decades of tough service.
The Pocket Packer is appropriately named and is very easy to pack and remains a potent package where weight is very important. I remember when the .22 Long Rifle Bearcat first came out in the late 1950’s Elmer Keith wrote of his son Ted carrying it as a smoke jumper. By converting it to .22 Magnum Reeder has provided a Perfect Packin’ Pistol .22-style.
I mentioned earlier carrying a deep pocket .22 Magnum Mini-Gun. The Pocket Packer won’t fit in the tiniest places a Mini-Gun goes, however it is much easier to hit with. Weighing only 11/2 pounds, it could well be the Ultimate Survival .22 fitting neatly into a backpack along with a couple boxes of ammunition and taking up very little space and adding very little weight.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index; BC Armory Ph: (269) 729-5508; Reeder Custom Guns Ph: (928) 527-4100