Revisiting A Rebore

Is This The Perfect Revolver?

With lines sure to have a positive impact on your heart rate, Roy’s Bowen
conversion of a classic 38/44 Heavy Duty to .45 Colt is notable for its
singularity — and ability to whisper to whoever sees it.

Behold — the revolver. It appears I have peers among you who also suffer — perhaps not quite the right word, there — from an affliction I affectionately call “Um, uh … I really like revolvers, do you?” Leading me directly to the part where I have to laugh when I hear people say, “Wow, there is sure a lot of interest in revolvers these days, isn’t there?”

These days? I think for a certain segment of we die-hard “gunists” (may I call you fellow Guncranks?), the revolver renaissance supposedly occurring today isn’t newly minted. It’s been going on in my own life for, well … 60 years or more. I’ll also wager a significant bet on the fact it’s been going on for some time prior to then too. I think what we have here are people who are suddenly discovering these marvelous contraptions in which cylinders go round and round. “Wow, these are great, aren’t they?” they exclaim in wonder!

Cue we ’Cranks smiling in unison as we nod our collective heads.

If you still have your Nov/Dec 2000 issue of American Handgunner, go dig it out. I’ll wait. To kill time though, I’ll enlighten those who weren’t savvy enough to subscribe back then. You see, even then in the “very dark ages, a long, long time ago” there were revolvers of all sorts, and yes, some were even marvelous. The one in question here is, I feel, more “marvelouser” than most. Just maybe, dare I say it — “The Most Excellently Marvelous of All?”

Okay, if you’re back with your magazine, you’ll see a feature I wrote called “The Ultimate Outdoorsman,” which is, I might add, an incorrect title. It should have read, “The Ultimate Heavy Duty” but for some reason the then-editor called it by the wrong name. Oopsie. I wasn’t the editor at the time, but confess when I saw it I thought, Oopsie, that’s not right. It’s neither here nor there now, but I know what it is, and it isn’t an Outdoorsman. Now you know.

Roy Fishpaw’s unmatched craftsmanship with the grips defy the ability
of a sensitive finger to feel the juncture between metal and ivory.

Yes, your eyes don’t deceive, those are .45 Colt cartridges. An unexpected
benefit of the conversion is a lighter, more active feel to the revolver.

The Back Story

I always thought S&W fixed sighted 4″ N-Frames to be purveyors of all things good about fighting revolvers. Just enough heft, just enough authority in look and feel and even enough power to solve problems handily. At the top of the pyramid would have been a .44 Special and, more rare than common sense in Congress today, one chambered in .45 Colt — be still my racing heart.

As time passed, S&W brought out the Model 58 in .41 Magnum but alas, to me it was a swing and a miss. The heavy barrel, longer cylinder and more “clunky” feel wasn’t quite the right number of notes, if you will. Yet some did convert them to .45 Colt, and to his credit, the shop of revolver sage Hamilton Bowen turned the heavy barrels down and orchestrated other magical machinations turning even the challenging 58 into a semblance of loveliness. But to me, it was still an almost proposition.

Then I found an aging, beater of a .38/44 Heavy Duty with a 4″ barrel calling to me softly from a display case. Perhaps sensing someone was close by who would understand and rescue it, it whispered “Take me … take me …!”

So I did.

As I looked at it under the harsh fluorescent lights of the gun shop I saw past the nicks, scratches, worn blue and flattened checkering of the original small S&W “Service” stocks. This hardy gal had likely taken good care of a beat cop, then languished in a bedside drawer for how many years protecting a family? What I saw there in my mind’s eye on that olive-colored felt pad was the ghostly image of a richly blued, ivory-gripped, elegant lady with no small amount of experience in life.
I also saw her in .45 Colt.

Using the original barrel and reboring it allowed the original contours to remain unmolested.
Bowen’s attention to detail shows in the .45 Colt marking and new, pinned front sight.

The Smith & Wesson name is restored as it should be. Note the thin barrel walls and
serious .45 caliber bore looking back at you. An undeniably eye-catching combination, indeed.

Bowen Understanding

Hamilton is a teacher, author, accomplished pundit, genial soul, old friend — and the best revolver pistolsmith in the world. I told him what I had and asked if a .45 Colt would be possible. Hamilton said it’d be a tragedy to install a heavier barrel on the svelte gun so I grinned and said, “Heck, let’s rebore and re-rifle the existing barrel, take off the caliber stamp and turn it into a .45 Colt barrel.” When your skills can keep up with your imagination, saying such things earmark what follows as something to often wonder at.

Time passes, slowly I might add. Eventually, after administrations at Hamilton’s shop, a trip to Roy Fishpaw for ivory grips — the junction of metal and ivory isn’t discernible by touch — the old girl came home.

Hamilton and his gremlins turned the beater into a beauty, magically erasing those hard-living decades. The custom pinned front sight, 600-grit hand polish, case-coloring on the hammer and trigger and sublime yet meaningful blue conspire together, creating something triggering most who see it in the flesh to simply sigh, look at me, back at the gun, at me again, then sigh again.

I understand completely.

I do shoot it, have been known to carry it now and again thanks to Thad Rybka and the Milt Sparks shop, and it often spends weeks on my desk simply being there to enjoy. If you don’t own such a thing, do not pass go and do not collect $200, but sell some safe queens and put the money to use while you still have time to enjoy it all. Trust me on that.

Is this the best revolver ever? Some might argue the point with me, but I confess to smiling often knowing at least this one — is mine.

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