The Sixguns Of Milt Morrison

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Milt Morrison’s custom crafted .45 Western Hunter The Shootists presented to John in 2014.

The Shootists commissioned Milt Morrison to build these custom .45 Rugers for John
in 1995 and 2014 celebrating John’s involvement with the group.

Back in the 1990s, Milt and Karen Morrison were visiting us and after supper I pulled out a few sixguns. I had the idea of coming up with a different kind of custom gun. I also had a few copies of old articles from the 1920s through the 1950s concerning customizing Colt Bisley Models. As a result, a Cimarron Bisley .44-40 was turned over to Milt for conversion to a real hideaway sixgun — single-action style. I wanted a true 19th-century-style belly gun, a term once used for short-barrelled, easy-to-conceal sixguns. Turned loose to use his artistic freedom, Morrison came up with the perfect single action for concealment and defensive use.

The result was a real single-action defensive sixgun. Milt removed the ejector rod housing and the ejector rod mounting slot on the right side of the frame, welding and re-contouring the frame in the process. The standard Bisley grip frame was removed and replaced by a brass Bird’s Head grip frame adapted to a Colt-style mainframe. At the same time, the original Bisley hammer was changed from its link system to a roller system to work with the new mainspring.

The action was tuned, all end-shake was removed, and a 2″ long heavy barrel fitted. For easier sighting when deliberate shots were called for, the rear sight notch was changed from its V-shape to give a square picture, and a new front sight was fitted. The trigger was also contoured to match the inside of the trigger guard.

To finish the project the mainframe was re-color cased, and the rest of the gun was finished in Milt’s high luster Black Diamond blue. To top it off an 18K gold band was inlaid around the cylinder. The result is one of the most beautiful and efficient single-action belly guns as ever existed. Chambered in .44-40, it’s potent but easy to shoot and control with the heavy barrel.

Whether using .357s or .38s, the stainless steel Smolt Morrison built for his wife
more than 30 years ago can shoot!

A Retro-Classic

We have many modern guns available, however the number one spot in my sixgunnin’ soul still belongs to the old classics. Alan Teague commissioned Milt to do a very special sixgun:

“It would be my take on the Colt Target Bisley. The frame would be a Flat-Top, barrel would be an octagon 6.5″ to 7.5″, rear sight would be dovetailed, adjustable for windage only.

And the front sight would be, somehow, adjustable for elevation. The cylinder would be unfluted, grip frame would be a Ruger Bisley style, the frame would be color case hardened and the barrel, cylinder and grip frame would be done in Milton’s Black Diamond finish. The grips would be ivory, and finally a grip cap would be steel, either Black Diamond or color case, with a silver medallion insert.”

Milt has taken one of our modern single action sixguns and turned it into a true classic. Starting with a Ruger Bisley Model the top strap is welded up and then recut to accept a rear sight patterned after that found on the Colt Flat-Top Target sixguns of the 1890s. In fact this model is called the Ruger Flat-Top Target. The front sight is in a dovetail and the rear sight — patterned after that found on the old Colt Target — is adjustable for elevation. The heavy 7.5″ barrel is hexagonal. The grip frame, hammer and trigger are reminiscent of the Colt Bisley Model Flat-Top Target from 1896.

The left side of the barrel is marked “Bisley Target” while the right side above the ejector rod housing is inscribed with the caliber, .41 SPECIAL. The frame is case hardened while the balance of this classic rendition, including the hammer, is finished in the deep Black Diamond bluing Milt is well known for.

Two gold bands encircling the rear of the cylinder add a classy touch. The grips are ivory micarta, and the butt is fitted with a special silver ring cap. The underside of the butt itself is scrimshawed with a head of a wolf. The combination of Bisley grip frame and heavy barrel makes this big sixgun very pleasant to shoot whether you choose the .44 Special or .41 Special chambering. All in all this is one of the most beautiful custom single action revolvers I’ve ever encountered.

Milt Morrison rescued this .44 Special Colt New Service from the boneyard and turned
it into a very special Special.

Milt Morrison’s “Smolt” conversions all shoot splendidly.

A Special .44 Special

Years ago Milt rescued a Colt New Service .44 Special and in the process fitted it with new sights, totally tuned it, and turned it into a 4.5″ Target Model. I had found a .44 Special someone had started to convert to a Target Model by installing an adjustable rear sight. It was not in the best of shape mechanically and the original front sight, which was too low for the rear sight, was still in place. This 4.5″ New Service was turned over to Milt Morrison for total rebuilding and the installation of a proper front sight. It’s not an original New Service Target but it will certainly do.

Whether Rugers or Colts, the Python conversions prove to be accurate and feel very good in the hand.

Shootists

In 1986 I invited a dozen sixgunners to gather with me in Wyoming for a week of shooting and sharing. We had such a good time we decided to make this an annual event and “The Shootists” was officially formed. Since that time The Shootists have met annually and they have twice honored me with special sixguns.

In 1995 Milt Morrison was commissioned to build a special sixgun for me as “Shootist of the Decade.” Starting with a Ruger New Model Blackhawk .45, Milt totally tuned the action, fitted a new front sight, finished this special sixgun in his Black Diamond finish with gold embellishments, and our mutual friend Dave Wayland made the custom grips. The top strap is engraved: “In Memory of Deacon Deason” who was the founder of BearHug Grips and a very special friend and Shootist.

Then in 2014 friends in the industry honored me with a banquet and I was again presented with a special sixgun from The Shootists, also built by Milt Morrison. This is also a Ruger New Model Blackhawk .45 albeit this time it’s a Bisley Model patterned after Milt’s Western Hunter package. It is of course totally tuned, fitted with a new front sight, finished in Black Diamond bluing with a case hardened frame and gold embellishments.

The gold lettering is a very special touch that includes my “4Fs” — Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms — engraved on the cylinder. The whole package is topped off with custom grips with my initials. Both of these .45s are cherished sixguns and the only problem will be figuring out which grandkids they will go to.

Milt Morrison converted this Bisley Model .44-40 into a very effective 19th Century-style “belly gun.”

Smolts

About 30 years ago Milt set about to build a special sixgun for his wife Karen. Starting with a stainless steel .357 Magnum S&W Model 66, Milt expertly fitted a 4″ stainless steel Python barrel to the K-Frame S&W. The resulting “Smolt” has a totally new balance, heavy in the front, and well-suited to DA shooting.

For many decades sixgunners argued the merits of Colt versus S&W DA sixguns. The majority of aficionados felt the DA mechanism of the Smith could not be topped, while the Colt was better suited to single action firing. Even Fitz, John Henry FitzGerald, who was Mr. Colt during the two world wars, privately said the S&W had the better action for DA shooting. The .357 Python not only had a heavy barrel but was also tighter as to bore diameter than most .357 sixgun barrels and seems to shoot a shade better. Combining the two, as Milt did way back then, resulted in the best attributes of both.

Milt did much gunsmithing as the S&W armorer for the California Highway Patrol and then moved to Colorado and opened his own shop, Qualité Pistol & Revolver. Now, he’s back in my neighborhood. Since he’s arrived here we have talked about many possible projects, one of which was building my own personal Smolt.

I had a 4″ blued Python barrel on-hand resulting from re-barreling my Python to 8″. I have been holding onto this barrel for just the right project for several years. Then a while ago, Jerry Moran, the well-known Python ’smith visited me along with his family and dropped off another 4″ Python barrel. Now it was time to get off the dime and get these projects going. And the combination of Jerry’s contributing another barrel and Milt arriving here told me it was time to do this.

Milt Morrison resurrected the Colt Flat-Top Target of the 1890s with this special custom Ruger .41 Special.

Smolt Vs. Couger

Starting with a 2.5" S&W Model 19 .357 Magnum, we began the project. Milt prefers the shorter barrel version as a base gun as it’s easier to match up the top of the Python barrel with the top of the frame of the S&W. Now, what was I to do with the other barrel? One of the old Classic Sixguns we rarely see, or at least I rarely see in my area, is the Ruger Security-Six. More than 1 million of these were made, however they are not readily found on the used gun market. Then it happened — I found not one but two used Ruger Security-Six .357 sixguns, one a 4" stainless while the other was a 6" blue. Since the Python barrel was blue, the latter was the only choice.

There’s no question about my liking the conversion on the S&W Model 19. With the barrel change it becomes a totally different sixgun as to balance and shooting DA. I knew without question I would like this “Smolt.” However, I did not realize how much I would really like the “Couger.”

The Security-Six is an excellent sixgun, however it becomes especially special with the addition of the 4" Python barrel. The transformation as to balance and shootability is even more pronounced with the Security-Six Couger than with the Model 19 transformation. When Ruger stopped production of the Security-Six to bring out the GP100, a heavily under-lugged barrel was added. Now, I know what the Security-Six gains with the same style barrel.

The “Couger” is a Ruger Security Six with a Python barrel. The combo works just fine.

Shooting Fun

I especially enjoy shooting these custom conversions with .38 Special loads, as they are so pleasant shooting. Switching to some of my favorite .357 Magnum loads, the Smolt performs especially well with the Lyman #358429 Keith bullet over 14.0 grains of #4227 for 1,065 fps and five shots into 1″ at 20 yards. With the Couger, my .357 Magnum loads assembled with 6.0 grains of Unique performed well with Lyman cast bullets. The Lyman #358429 Keith load resulted in 1,081 fps and a 5-shot group at 20 yards of 13/8″. Lyman’s #358477 SWC clocked out at 1,022 fps and 11/4″, while the Lyman #358311 RN has a muzzle velocity of 1,074 fps and a 11/8″ group. With factory .357 Magnum Loads I found the Winchester 145-gr. Silver-Tip performed well, with muzzle velocities in both sixguns right at 1,325 fps.

Converting to a Smolt or Couger is not simply a matter of unscrewing the old barrel and screwing in the new. The threads are different and the frames require some special machining. The conversion is certainly not inexpensive, plus you need a Python barrel and a base sixgun to start with.

Is it worth it? With these two special Python-ized .357 Magnums by Milt Morrison now in my possession — I would say definitely so.

For more info: www.qualitygunsmithing.com, Ph: (208) 465-0071

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