September 2019

Wheelgun Wednesday Recapped

Interested in unique cartridges or custom firearms? Our September 2019 Wheelgun Wednesday features have you covered! Catch up on what you may have missed in this month’s newsletters.

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Freedom Arms Model 97

This little sixgun is Freedom Arms’ Model 97 chambered in .32 Magnum, with an extra cylinder available in .32 Winchester Centerfire (.32 WCF), or as it’s more commonly known, the .32-20. Arriving on the scene in the early 1980s, the .32 Magnum is about 100 years newer than the .32-20. It’s proven to be an exceptionally accurate little cartridge, especially in the heavy-barreled Dan Wessons. Thompson/Center added the chambering in their Contender and both the Dan Wesson and the T/C .32 were quite popular in IHMSA Field Pistol.

The .32-20 had long been a favorite cartridge of mine and when the stubby looking .32 Magnum arrived I made the mistake of considering it a toy. This attitude changed quickly. My friend Joe Penner had one of the early 9.5″ Ruger Single-Sixes for which we proceeded to build some loads. The first shot using an 85-gr. JHP over a heavy charge of #2400 was a real eye-opener. For targets, we had set up cans of outdated split pea soup at 25 yards. The first shot resulted in Joe, myself and my red Bronco all being covered with flecks and splatters of green pea soup. This was definitely no toy!

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Mag-na-port Your Guns

Last year, after passing through Detroit, things start looking “normal” as bait shops, gun shops and outdoor centers start popping up along the road. Doc Barranti, my compadre and leathersmith guru, hits the “seek” button, killing the static from a radio station we tuned into 200 miles back. The GPS shows we’re 20 minutes from our destination as the FM receiver magically zeroes-in on a local radio station, filling the Suburban with Christmas carols, even though it’s early November. It’s fitting, adding to the excitement, because Doc and I are going to Mag-na-port International.

Mag-na-port International was built from the ground up by the most unlikely of businessmen. Obsessed with guns, hunting and trapping in his home state of Michigan, Larry Kelly dropped out of school after the 8th grade to pursue his passions. A few years later, a recently transferred businessman looking for a local guide is referred to Larry. Living in a cinderblock A-frame garage he built himself, Larry impresses the businessman with his work ethic and skill and is offered a job. Larry is trained as a machinist and later in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Larry’s innovative mind makes him realize the same technology might work for gun barrels and he starts experimenting.

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Robar Rehab

I recently acquired a Smith & Wesson Model 64-5 K-frame revolver in .38 Special from an estate sale. K-frame revolvers are larger than S&W’s J-frame series and a tad smaller than the L-frame. It is a single action/double-action revolver with 6-round capacity. The trigger has a smooth face with no serrations, a 4″ heavy barrel, walnut grips, fixed sights and no ejector rod shroud. This particular 4″ barrel Model 64 had been well-used, but not abused. It had plenty of scratches and minor dings on the surface and the original walnut grips were scuffed up, but the bore was bright and overall it was quite clean. In short, it had a lot of holster wear. I suspect that it was carried a lot by a law enforcement or security officer.

The revolver shot to point of aim with the factory fixed sights. However, after only a few rounds fired, the pistol quit rotating the cylinder in double-action mode. It did, however still fire in single-action (hammer cocked manually) mode. I removed the side plate and found the action was filled with some sort of grease lubricant, but otherwise, I could not find the cause of the problem. I decided with a little maintenance, the Model 64 would make an ideal teaching gun, but first, this old veteran would need a little revolver rehab.

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Smith & Wesson N-Frames

In the early 1920s Remington came up with an excellent idea concerning the 1917. Instead of loading .45 ACPs into half moonclips, Remington decided to simply add a rim to the .45 ACP case. The result was the .45 Auto Rim (AR). It was basically loaded with the same bullets and specifications as the .45 ACP, however ,over the years we’ve learned the .45 Auto Rim is perfectly capable of handling the same bullets used in the .45 Colt and can match it in performance with some loads.

My friend the late Jimmy Clark was one of the top pistol marksmen of all time and he was also a superb gunsmith. He won many pistol matches and also developed many of the techniques and upgrades used by pistolsmiths today. When S&W brought out the 1950 Target in .45 Jimmy bought two of them and was disappointed to find they wouldn’t shoot his cast bullet loads. He complained loudly to S&W and as a result the 1955 Target arrived. The latter had several improvements, including a heavier bull barrel, target hammer and trigger, and a barrel cut to better handle cast bullets. The resulting 1955 Target is almost a dead ringer for the .44 Magnum.

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More Wheelguns

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