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Lead Head Bullets
Rifle Magazine
October - November 2004
Volume 39, Number 5
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 231
On the cover...
The Freedom Arms Model 1997 (bottom) is chambered for a variety of cartridges from the .17 HMR to the .45 Colt and is a scaled-down version of the full sized Model 83 (top). The round butt grip and shorter barrels are custom options. Pistol photos by Gera
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Peacemaker Specialists Base Pin Retention Kit

The Colt Single Action is a gun that has been a part of my life for more than 30 years. While I was still in junior high school, an SAA .45 was used to bag a deer, my first big game animal taken with a handgun. Since then a variety of game has fallen to the old six-shooter, including whitetail deer, elk, black bear, antelope, mountain lion and countless smaller game. When not using one in the field, or casually burning powder (plinking) behind the house, studying the prewar guns has been fascinating, offering a glimpse into our historical past that few, if any, guns can equal.

In 1896, the Mason patent changed the retaining mechanism that held the base pin screw in place. Guns manufactured from 1873 through 1896 featured a setscrew in the front of the frame that positively held the base pin in place. These are often described as black-powder frames, but Colt didn’t begin warranting guns for use with smokeless powder until 1900, above serial number 192,000. There was a four-year period from 1896 through 1900 where frames featured the Mason retaining mechanism or base pin latch but were indeed black-powder guns.

The base pin screw (used on the early black-powder frames) was a positive way to prevent the base pin from jumping during continuous firing and heavy recoil, but it was not particularly convenient to keep a screwdriver handy if the cylinder needed to be removed quickly in the field. Often access to the chambers to clean or take a look down the bore is necessary. For this reason frames that are fitted with the Mason base pin latch are preferred as working guns. A problem for those who shoot these guns regularly is that the forward edge of the base pin becomes battered, and the base pin latch allows it to jump forward while firing. The easiest solution has been to replace the cylinder base pin and the latch assembly, which we might say is scheduled maintenance, like changing brake pads on a car.

Eddie Janis, proprietor of Peacemaker Specialists (PO Box 157, Whitmore CA 96096), is offering an Improved Base Pin Retention Kit that has three important features to help prevent base pins from jumping. The kit contains an original style base pin, which is important so the forward edge has a square, sharp corner for the new latch to make positive contact. And the new latch is shaped to make more contact with the forward edge of the base pin. The threads of the latch are also tapered, similar to the threads of a revolver barrel. When tightened, it won’t work loose, which happens regularly with original Colt parts. And there is a stronger spring that keeps the latch positioned correctly against the base pin.

A few months back, I installed a Janis kit on my most used Colt Single Action Army .45 Colt, a 1900-era handgun with a 43Ú4-inch barrel. I have not kept track of the number of rounds fired since the installation, but it has been something in excess of 1,500. A mix of two handloads were used; the first consisted of a 260-grain Lyman cast bullet 454190 driven 860 fps with 6.0 grains of Alliant Red Dot powder. The second utilized a 285-grain cast bullet from RCBS mould 45-270-SAA driven by 11.5 grains of Hodgdon HS-6, a great hunting load that should only be used in smokeless-era revolvers. (Please note that the above gun has been fitted with a second generation .38 Special cylinder that was rechambered to .45 Colt.)

To date the base pin is staying in place and has not jumped crimp, even when using the heavier load. The heavier spring is noticeable when depressing the latch, but the cylinder is still easy to remove. A careful examination of the latch and base pin shows little or no wear on the contacting surfaces, and it appears future replacement will be unnecessary. Suggested retail is $28 and can be ordered direct.

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 Ruger Bisley .32 H&R

Q: I recently acquired a Ruger Bisley Single-Six chambered for .32 H&R Magnum with a 6 1/2-inch barrel. I now see why people who own .32 magnums are so fond of them, as it’s a fun and super accurate cartridge. I have been told it is possible to improve upon the velocities of the factory rounds but am hesitant to exceed data found in the Speer No. 13 manual without first finding out if it is safe to do so. Can you enlighten me? If possible, I would like to reach 1,300 fps with the 100-grain Speer jacketed hollowpoint (JHP). And can you suggest a small game and target load that would push a lead SWC-style bullet 900 to 950 fps?  - F.R., via Internet

A: I agree that the Ruger Single-Six .32 H&R Magnum is a wonderful gun and cartridge combination that is particularly well suited to hunting small to medium game. The Ruger revolvers I have tried were tack-drivers.

Revolver manufacturer H&R was largely responsible for the birth of this cartridge, and for it to work safely in its double-action revolvers, SAAMI pressure limits were established at 21,000 CUP. The Ruger revolver has greater cylinder wall thickness and a more rigid frame than the H&R and therefore can safely digest loads that develop 30,000 CUP.

You can reach 1,300 fps safely by loading 11.8 to 12.0 grains of Hodgdon H-110, ignited by a Federal 100 primer assembled in Starline cases. This load is compressed, so it’s important to make certain the expander ball measures no larger than .308 inch (which has been a problem with some dies) and use a heavy crimp. For a “plinking/target” load, try 3.0 grains of Alliant Red Dot behind the 95-grain, Keith-style cast bullet from Mt. Baldy Bullets (283 Road 20, Cody WY 82414) for 960 fps from a 6 1/2-inch barrel.

* * *

Extra Tall Front Sights for Ruger Revolvers

 There has been a trend the past couple of decades, at least with some handgunners, to use heavier than traditional bullets in .44 Magnum and heavy frame .45 Colt revolvers. Instead of using standard weight 240- to 250-grain and 250- to 255-grain bullets, respectively, bullets weighing from 270 through 340 grains are common. These heavyweight bullets spend considerably more time in the barrel, and as a result their points of impact are higher than standard weight bullets. The gun shoots high, and more often than not, the rear sight cannot be lowered enough to allow the gun to be sighted in at 25 or 50 yards.

Jae-Bok Young (57 Beard Road, New Boston NH 03070; or visit online: www.competitor-pistol.com/ jbyoung.html) is offering a replacement front sight for the Ruger Redhawk, Super Redhawk, Super Blackhawk Hunter and GP-100 that is taller than the original and allows correct sight-in with heavyweight bullets. There are two versions: the first being factory finished (blued) and ready to install, while the second is an unfinished (in the white) square blade that can be ground to the desired shape and height, then blued. Installed, the blades extend .365 inch above the rib. Both fit without wiggle or play in the factory sight channels. Prices are $28 and $25, respectively.

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