Each Year Mailbags To The Shooting Times Handguns Column Get Heavier. Here Are The Answers To Some Of The Most Frequently Asked Questions.
Q. Military ammunition in my .30 Carbine Ruger revolver causes more muzzle blast than I like, and is unnecessarily powerful for plinking and small game shooting. What do you suggest in the way of a light load and cast bullet for this gun? S.G.
A. In general, any load recommended for the 32-20 revolver will serve your purpose, loaded, of course, in 30 carbine cases. I used to get excellent results in a Colt SAA 32-20 from the Lyman #3118, 115 gr. bullet. Try a powder charge of 3.5 gr. of Unique, working up to a maximum of about 4.5 gr. of Unique for that light load. From 2-3 gr. of Bullseye should give approximately the same results. If leading becomes a problem, and it shouldn't at these low velocity levels, it can be cured by using the Lyman #311316 bullet, a 110 gr., gas-checked slug.
Q. I am having trouble finding a suitable holster for my 38 S&W. The ready made ones in the local sporting goods store don't seem to fit well. Can you recommend a custom leather worker who will make a belt and holster to my specifications? W.H.S.
A. Holsters should fit handguns as well as shoes fit feet. A custom job is always preferable, and I list below some of the best leather people in the business: Bianchi Leather Products, Inc., 212 W. Foothill Blvd., Monrovia, Calif. 91016; Berns-Martin, Box 250, Elberton, Ga. 30635; Don Hume Leathergoods, Box 351, Miami, Okla. 74354; George Lawrence Co., 306 S.W. 1st. Ave., Portland, Oreg. 97204; S.D. Myres Saddle Co., Box 9776, El Paso, Tex. 79988; Safariland, 162 E. Montecito, Sierra Madre, Calif. 91024.
Each of these firms offers a catalog, and one or more of them should have the rig you've been looking for.
Q. The bullet design of the issue 45 ACP round leaves a lot to be desired for game shooting, but I like the accuracy and compactness of my Colt Gold Cup. What do you recommend in a handload for small-to-medium size game? B.J.F.
A. A fine combination is the Speer 200 gr., swaged semi-wadcutter over 7 gr. of Unique. If you like to cast your own, the Lyman #452460, cast hard and used with the same powder charge, has proved great of jackrabbits for me. Make sure the recoil spring on your 45 is one of the full length type used with hardball loads.
Q. Automatics, in my opinion, are soon going to displace revolvers for all practical purposes, so I want to stay with them exclusively for all handgun work. Who makes a long barreled automatic in 38 Super or 9mm that will deliver the same accuracy as my Browning Medalist 22, and be as effective as a magnum revolver in deer hunting? J.C.E.
A. Nobody. At least there is no production model of such a gun now available. It may be that revolvers will be supplanted by the autos, but I doubt that this will happen soon. Any feasible load for the 38 Super or 9mm can be bested by existing factory or handloaded 357, 41, or 44 Magnum revolver loadings, both is accuracy and killing power. Your "long barreled automatic" in a centerfire will have to be a custom job. If you are willing to part with enough money, you can build up a very nice varmint gun by installing 6-8" heavy barrel of a 9mm Pistole Parabellum. Adjustable sights should be included, and your load should be either the Super Vel or Norma hollow point, or a suitable handload with Speer or Hornady bullets. You will probably have some feeding problems to overcome, and will wind up with a less effective gun than any of the magnum sixguns.
Q. My 38 S&W caliber Victory Model revolver was bought as surplus from Great Britain, and has been rechambered for the 38 Special cartridge. When I fire it, the cartridge cases usually swell and split. What's wrong? R.J.B.
A. These rechambered 38 S&W guns are far from satisfactory because both their chamber and groove diameters are too large for correct utilization of 38 Special ammunition. The 38 S&W has a groove diameter of .3595" - .3612", while standard for the 38 Special is .3555" - 3572". Chamber diameter of the 38 S&W is .388" - .389", as opposed to that of the 38 Special, .380" - .381". Thus, the 38 Special case must expand .008" - .009" to fill the altered chamber, and frequently splits in the process. Too, the nominally .357" bullet must slug out to a gas-tight seal in the oversized barrel grooves, which it seldom accomplishes, leaving accuracy a sometimes thing. You should note that some of these rechambered guns have been reamed so deeply as to permit the chambering and firing of 357 Magnum ammunition. Don't try such a combination if you value your hide.
Q. I've decided to buy a large caliber revolver. Which is better for my purpose, a single or double action? R.E.K.
A. This is one that only you can answer. There are many variables. The double is superior to the single action as a defense gun because of its slight edge in speed of fire at close targets and its faster reloading technique. For most shooters, the classic single action points a bit more naturally and "feels" better than a DA. Ruger's single actions are extremely strong and durable and cost less than double actions in comparable calibers. Colt's single actions have become quite expensive, but offer the western romanticist a lot more for his money, besides being the only remaining U.S. made revolver chambered for the fine old 45 Colt and 44 Special cartridges. The Colt Python and Smith & Wesson's 44 Magnum and 357 guns represent the ultimate in the sixgun maker's craft. Besides being slightly in the lead in defensive shooting, they will do anything the single actions will do in the hunting field. Make your own decision, it's strictly a matter of individual requirements and tastes.
Q. My infantry unit is scheduled for combat duty. A lot of my buddies are buying pistols, and I've decided to get one, too. After reading your stories on single actions, I've narrowed the choice down to a Ruger Super Blackhawk in 44 Magnum or the regular Blackhawk in 357. Which do you think is best? F.A.D., Jr.
A. While the Ruger single actions are excellent arms when performing the work for which they were designed, they are hardly the best choice for a modern military sidearm. You would probably find recoil of the 44 mare than you would care to cope with during an emergency, and ammunition for either it or the 357, I am told, is in short supply in the area where you're headed. It is generally true that I favor revolvers for hunting and most law enforcement work. But if I were slated for front line infantry duty with the U.S. forces, I'd be compelled to take along a good 1911 45 automatic. This choice would be primarily based on the ready availability of replacement parts and ammunition, and partially on the superior reloading speed of the auto in mass attack situations.
Q. My uncle left me the 1917 Smith & Wesson revolver that he carried in WWI and later in Mexico. It is about worn out, and the barrel is rough. I would like to have a new 4" barrel and new cylinder put in and have all the worn parts replaced. Also I would like to add a ramp front sight and adjustable rear. With a rebluing job, what do you think all this would cost, and who could provide the parts and gunsmithing? V.C.H.
A. There are several good gunsmiths who could do the work you outline and parts for the 1917 Smith can generally be found, either from surplus parts dealers such as Numrich Arms, West Hurley, N.Y., or from the Smith & Wesson factory. If the old sixgun had been left to me, I'd reconsider the rebuilding project, which will certainly cost in excess of $100, and leave you with a revolver that is less desirable for using purposes than a new 1955 Target Model S&W 45 costing only a little more. Spend your money on a new gun and retain that family heirloom as is for its historical value.
Q. I am a pilot in the Air Force, and will be going to Viet Nam soon. What sort of handgun do you recommend for survival use in the event I am shot down? H.E.J.
A. Since I have never been in Viet Nam, my advice must be qualified. If I can infer from the word survival that your handgun will be used primarily for killing food and defensively only if you are ferreted from some jungle hiding place, then I would lean toward a first quality 22 semi-automatic pistol with a 4" barrel. I would carry this gun along with 3 or 4 extra magazines and several boxes of high velocity long rifle ammunition with both solid and hollowpointed bullets. The hollowpoints are better killers on medium-sized animals and man, and the solids leave more meat when birds and very small game are shot.
Q. My new job will have me doing surveying work in Texas and New Mexico. I was considering buying either a 22 Long Rifle or 22 Magnum revolver for snake protection and an occasional rabbit for the pot, but my partner says I should get a big bore gun and have someone load shot cartridges for it. Would you care to comment? R.F.
A. Yes, I would. Although interest seems high on handloaded shot cartridges, I consider them next to worthless. To do a job on a snake, the shooter must be within about 10 feet. At that range the rankest tyro should be able to kill a rattler with a head shot from a 22 handgun. The 22 will also handle rabbit-sized game at ranges up to 75 yards with little trouble - something no shotloaded sidearm will do. Long Rifle 22 ammunition is inexpensive and available everywhere. Its low cost makes it my choice over the 22 WMR, also, because of the much greater price and comparatively slight gain in killing power of the latter.
Q. I have a Colt Frontier Model revolver, serial number 37753, which I would like to shoot. The caliber is 45, and I notice that this ammunition is still being made. A friend tells me that my gun was designed for black powder shells and that it will blow up if I use the new cartridges in it. My gun is in excellent shape and I want to use it. B.L.B.
A. The serial number of your gun shows that it was manufactured in 1877, and it was, indeed, made for use with black powder ammunition as were all Colt single actions numbered below about 165,000. Steels and heat treating methods were changed in this serial range. While I have fired a great many of the old black powder guns with smokeless factory loads and handloads loaded to approximately the same pressure levels, it is probably not a good idea. If the old cylinder lets go it will more than likely warp the frame of your antique gun. It's a lot simpler and wiser to get a new cylinder of modern steel from the Colt factory to use with those modern loads.
Q. My new handloading set-up has been a disappointment. Even though I've stayed below maximum powder charges listed in the loading manual, I still get severe barrel leading in my 357 Colt Python with cast bullets. C.A.
A. I doubt the fault is in your equipment. The 357 Magnum cartridge is a notorious barrel leader when plain-based, cast bullets are driven at high velocities. The first thing to do is have your barrel slugged to learn its true groove diameter. Then size your cast bullets to not over .001" in excess of that diameter. Sometimes true groove diameter works well. Cast your bullets of a hard mixture of 1 part tin to 10 parts of lead, or use pure linotype metal. For hollowpoint bullets to expand, it is sometimes necessary to go as 1 to 15, but leading will increase. A good lubricant, such as Idea, is a must. If leading continues, you will probably have to change to a gas-check bullet, probably the excellent Lyman 358156, or to any of the outstanding new jacketed hunting bullets put out by Speer, Super Vel, Norma, Hornady, and others.
Q. In several of your stories you have mentioned extra cylinders for Colt single action revolvers that allow use of more than one kind of ammo with the same barrel. I have a late model, that is postwar, Colt in 45 Colt. It is in excellent condition. Can I get a cylinder such as you mention that will shoot 45 ACP cartridges in this gun? C.B.
A. You sure can. Christy Gun Works, 875 57th St., Sacramento, Calif. 95831, makes a whole line of parts for the Colt single action. Their new 45 ACP cylinder will also chamber 45 Auto Rim cartridges, thus outfitting your Colt for three different cartridges. Christy also makes barrels and cylinders for the Colt SA in a number of other calibers, including 44-40, 44 Special, 38-40, 357, 38 Special, 9mm Parabellum, 30 M1 Carbine, 22 Hornet, and 22 LR. I understand other calibers can be supplied on special order.
Dark Canyon Home Page