Revolver Grip Alignment

All the Ruger revolvers I have been “involved” with have “locator pins” in the grip frame with matching holes in the grips to help keep the grips in position. This is necessary with grips only held in place by one screw, and usually does a good job. My old Herters .44, however, has very large locator “pins” – actually more like “studs” – that do not extend very deep into the grip holes, and these sometimes allow the grip to slip. I had entertained briefly the idea of adding an second screw, perhaps passing through part of the grip frame (as the one from the factory probably should have been set up), but hesitate to add another hole.

My AMT Backup .380, although a semi-auto, has only one grip screw and uses an inletted grip that snaps into the recesses in the frame to hold itself in place. This would be nice to have on revolvers, also, but would involve some “tricky” wood working to get it right. I had been thinking of another possibility, and saw a revolver done this way in a photo on www.sixguns.com – using a block fitted to the underside of the grip to hold it in position on the grip frame.

This polymer block glued to the underside of the grip fits inside the grip frame and keeps the grip from moving.

This polymer block glued to the underside of the grip fits inside the grip frame and keeps the grip from moving.

While it is nice to shape the block exactly to the opening in the grip frame, it is not necessary, as long as it "catches" on the frame and prevents the grip from rotating on the axis that is the single grip screw.

While it is nice to shape the block exactly to the opening in the grip frame, it is not necessary, as long as it “catches” on the frame and prevents the grip from rotating on the axis that is the single grip screw.

The first block I cut from a sheet of poly board I tried to match closely to the opening it would “fill” in the frame, but on the second I realized it only needed to make enough contact to hold the block in position

The grips I made for this gun now are easier to get in place, and stay there much better! I have some purpleheart wood on order to attempt another set of grips for this one that will hopefully compliment the “plum” color of the new rust brown finish on the cylinder frame.

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NEXT STEP ON THE HERTER’S PROJECT GUN: A DIY “RUST BROWN” FINISH FOR A HANDGUN FRAME

Although the blueing on the cylinder frame of my Herter’s project revolver was not in really bad shape, I wanted a “different” look to make it really distinctive. After considering a new blue with either a commercial product or even using Drano Crystals meant for unclogging sinks and Ceracoating, I read of the “rust brown” technique in a post on the Ruger Forum. This was interesting to me because it would not require a complete dis-assembly of the gun, excessive heat, nor completely submerging it in a hazardous chemical bath. Although there are “recipes” around for making your own rust brown solution, Laurel Mountain Forge – www.LaurelMountainForge.com – sells a ready made mix, with instructions.

While I originally removed the blueing from my Herter's project gun with oven cleaner and a Scotch Brite pad, Naval Jelly does the job easier and faster.

While I originally removed the blueing from my Herter’s project gun with oven cleaner and a Scotch Brite pad, Naval Jelly does the job easier and faster.

The first step for me would be to remove the old blueing from the cylinder frame, as all the rest had been removed previously. Instead of using oven cleaner, a Scotch Brite Pad, and a lot of “elbow grease”, Laurel Mountain recommended Naval Jelly to remove the old finish. I had never used this product – which I think was originally a breakfast “treat” for sailors in the old British Navy – but it is billed as a rust remover. It will take blueing off with ease and a minimum of rubbing!

At this point, another possibility for an interesting finish is basically no finish at all! A handgun left “in-the-white” but kept waxed and oiled will really not have many rust problems, and looks very much like stainless steel!

Although the Laurel Mountain instructions recommend painting areas where the brown finish is not wanted, taping with painters tape works well.

Although the Laurel Mountain instructions recommend painting areas where the brown finish is not wanted, taping with painters tape works well.

Another advantage to the Laurel Mountain solution (which is an acid, by the way), is that is removes most grease and is rather forgiving of fingerprints and other handling. The instructions suggest painting areas where the rust brown is not wanted, but I masked everything but the cylinder frame off with blue painters tape, and this has worked pretty well.

After the first application of the solution has been washed off, it is apparent that rusting has begun.

After the first application of the solution has been washed off, it is apparent that rusting has begun.

This is not a one-step process. After applying an initial coat of solution, it should be left alone for 3 hours. After that time, another coat should be applied OVER the first. When this coat has also set for 3 hours, the “rust” should be scaled or washed off with warm tap water. These steps are repeated until the desired color is obtained. The instructions suggest these steps should be repeated 4-5 times. When a stopping point is reached, the rusting process is halted by washing with a baking soda/water solution. If the color is not yet what is desired, the process can be started again.

Each successive coating with solution, letting it sit for 3 hours, washing, and repeating darkens the metal finish a bit more.

Each successive coating with solution, letting it sit for 3 hours, washing, and repeating darkens the metal finish a bit more.

If a “rust blue” finish is what you really want, after each step of “scaling” the finish, submerging the part in boiling distilled water for 15 minutes will cause the red to convert to black.

Because this process uses acid to “rust” the surface of the metal, as do several other types of finish, Laurel Mountain considers humidity to be an asset – so much so they suggest building a “humidity box” to do the process in. The Texas coast is a PERMANENT humidity box all on it’s own, so this step was not necessary for me!

When I began the first step, I was too impatient to wait until I had a minimum of 6 hours to work, yet too sleepy to stay up late at night until the time had passed! I actually only let the process go a little over 2 hours before the warm water wash – but did not neutralize with baking soda. The next morning I was surprised how much more “red” had appeared after the wash.

After several rounds of rusting and washing, the color might be getting close to what I want?

After several rounds of rusting and washing, the color might be getting close to what I want?

I am on my 3rd day of going through these steps at least twice a day, and maybe close to neutralizing to see where I am at on the color. The rust brown finish is perhaps most used on antique firearms – like old or old style muzzle loaders – and Laurel Mountain suggests a little different technique to get a “rougher” antique look. I would prefer a smooth finish, and for that they suggest after the color wanted is reached and the acid neutralized the surface treated should be oiled or waxed.

One of the reasons for this post, not to speak ill of Laurel Mountain, was that I was unable to find pictures of a completed “rust brown” finish, either on their website or elsewhere on the inna net. I hope the photos with this post will solve that problem for others.

As this is still an on going project, I will update as new stages are completed. One suggestion I can offer now, if you DON’T want to remove the blued finish on any gun, keep it away from naval jelly! Another is do not rely solely on the instructions that come with the bottle of browning solution! I misplaced mine, so I began reading from the longer set of instructions I downloaded from the Laurel Mountain web site, and found it to be significantly different in the final steps.

In this version, after the final neutralizing step, the instructions say to heat the gun or gun part with a torch (I used a hair dryer for this step, as I do not like flames on my firearms) to 120 – 130 degrees (F), to dry the water left from the final wash, then coat the part with motor oil while still warm and let it sit overnight. After this bonding step, the excess oil is wiped off and the surface is either oiled again with gun oil, or waxed or polished to finish. As the overnight oil soak begins, my cylinder frame is a nice, almost chocolate color, which set off my varnished wooden grips quite nicely. In retrospect, I could have stopped the browning process a step or so sooner and possibly gotten a lighter finish, but I think I still like it darker. It will definitely be a “one-of-a-kind”.

The cylinder frame has had the rust browning process neutralized, is coated with motor oil, and awaits final polishing.

The cylinder frame has had the rust browning process neutralized, is coated with motor oil, and awaits final polishing.

I now have added a Rust Brown Herters to my Ceracoated Ruger Super Blackhawk, a stainless model, a blued Blackhawk with a polished in-the-white cylinder, and a Target grey Super Redhawk. If nothing else, they are color-coded to make it easier to select the one I really want on any given day!

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Antler Growth Off To A Good Start!

It is very likely these pictures – taken a few weeks apart – are of the same buck, at different stages of antler development.

Evidently July is the time this year for seeing good antler development begin to show

Evidently July is the time this year for seeing good antler development begin to show

The wet winter and spring we experienced on the Texas coast appears to have been beneficial to antler growth.

This one is developing very nicely, for a "wild" deer not in a management program

This one is developing very nicely, for a “wild” deer not in a management program

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WOLF-ISH?

This canine critter captured eyeballing a deer stand appears to have at least some characteristics of the "Texas Red Wolf"?

This canine critter captured eyeballing a deer stand appears to have at least some characteristics of the “Texas Red Wolf”?

This canine recently captured on a game camera appears a bit larger and darker in coloration than the average coastal Coyote? My friend, Chester Moore, the Executive Editor for Texas Fish & Game Magazine, agrees with me. Like myself, Chester is intrigued by wild canines, and does not believe the red wolf genes are completely extinct on the Texas coast. He feels this animal shows a lot of the wolf characteristics, which would make it at least a hybrid with coyotes, if not a full wolf.

Of course, if this particular critter continues to study deer stands after “the season” opens, HE may well be “extinct” soon!

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LARGE LIVE OAKS ARE FAIRLY COMMON IN BRAZORIA COUNTY

While Brazoria County boasts of several well known and public big oak trees, this one is on private land.

While Brazoria County boasts of several well known and public big oak trees, this one is on private land.

My wife – who by the way is a bit short, but NOT a midget (although I apologize to any readers who are, no offense intended!) stands next to an impressive live oak tree on our Brazoria County property. Looking at this tree always makes me feel better – no matter my mood!

Finally got around to measuring this tree. Circumference is 16 feet, 8 inches! That puts the diameter (circumference divided by 3.14) at 63.7″, or 5.3 feet. There is an accepted formula to ESTIMATE the age of large trees which multiplies the diameter in inches at about 4.5 feet above the ground times a set “growth factor” for the species of tree, The GF for live oaks is 5.0, by which my “Big Tree” would be an estimated 318 years old!

Those who tell me I am “older than dirt” may be onto something, but I am NOT older than this tree! It is common to think something like “Oh, if this tree could talk, the tales it could tell!”, but since this one has always been back in thick woods, it may have had a long, rather boring life?

Guess we’ll never really know?

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Hard Cast .480 Ruger Results

Recently I was re-arranging the stack of old truck tires that makes up my target backstop at the 50 yard distance on my “home range”. On the ground in the middle off the outside stack I found two .480 Ruger bullets that had been fired from my Super Redhawk with a 7.5″ barrel, at a velocity of around 1000 fps. These bullets would then have traveled the 50 yards to the target, went through the thin wood siding to which the target was stapled, and penetrated one side of the tire they hit. This penetration would have been through the tread portion of the tire. The bullets evidently failed to penetrate the other side of the tread.

These 375 gr Hard Cast bullets from Cast Performance were shot into the tread section of a truck tire at 50 yards. They lost little weight, and could be loaded for firing again without resizing - as the one on the left pushed into a new .480 case demonstrates.

These 375 gr Hard Cast bullets from Cast Performance were shot into the tread section of a truck tire at 50 yards. They lost little weight, and could be loaded for firing again without resizing – as the one on the left pushed into a new .480 case demonstrates.

As originally loaded, the bullets were Cast Performance flat nosed designs of 375 gr. After recovery, they showed rifling marks, and one had some black rubber embedded in a crack that had formed in one side. Recovery weight was 356 gr and 359 gr. I have fired other rounds into this stack, from 300 gr .44 mags to 376 gr coated “Thumper” bullets in .480 from Missouri Bullet Company, but have not done a thorough search to see if any of those penetrated both sides of a tire.

In my opinion, these bullets showed good penetration for the velocity they were fired at – certainly sufficient for hog hunting – and as the photos show, either could be loaded and fired again – with or without re-sizing and re-lubing!

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HUNTER BANDOLEER REVOLVER HOLSTER

For roaming the woods – or for a holster that can quickly be “donned” for any sort of action – I prefer a shoulder holster. I don’t use the concealed carry type holster for my hunting guns, I like something like the 1940 Tanker holster by El Paso Saddlery that works so well with my 1911 semi-autos. This holster hangs around the hunter’s neck and over one shoulder, and can be further secured to a waist belt. Getting the gun off the belt makes it much “handier” when riding a tractor or any type of ATV where a hand gun might be helpful. I think there IS a Tanker holster made for revolvers, but I have not been able to get my hands on one.

Since I recently added the old Herter’s .44 to my arsenal, I wanted/needed something to carry it in, and selected to bandoleer style rig from Hunter’s for the task. The Herter’s is a bit bulkier than my Ruger Super Blackhawks, and is a tight fit in this holster – but that is good, as it will “wear’ in just right.

This bandoleer style shoulder holster form Hunter's is going to make my Herter's .44 an easy to carry companion for woods walking!

This bandoleer style shoulder holster form Hunter’s is going to make my Herter’s .44 an easy to carry companion for woods walking!

Obviously, this is also a good holster for a “BBQ Gun”!

Hunter’s leather quality is not fancy, but certainly good enough for a working holster. The price is very reasonable, and it is well constructed. I expect to get many pleasant miles of comfortable woods carry from this one!

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PAPA G’s GUN SIGHT TAPE

Most know that I am not a fan of open sights on my hunting hand guns, as my eyes do not see as well as they used to. The only set of open sights I have not modified somehow are those on my Ruger Super Redhawk, although the excellent bright orange insert on the front sight is really wasted as long as I keep the Ultra Dot sight mounted on it!

I have tried various type of paints to brighten my front sights, and all work at least reasonably well. A couple of times I have used orange vinyl tape cut to fit the rib of the front sight, and found that sometimes even better than paint.

Papa G’s Gun Sight Tape comes in three colors – white, green, and orange – and already cut for proper width on most revolver front sights, so the only cutting the user needs to do is for length. If the directions are followed as to cleaning the area to be taped properly, it applies easily and so far seems to stick very well.

Best of all – the price is dirt cheap!

The bright orange tape from Papa G's  is easy to apply, durable, and makes the front sight blade much easier for the eye to "pick up" when sighting.

The bright orange tape from Papa G’s is easy to apply, durable, and makes the front sight blade much easier for the eye to “pick up” when sighting.

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BIRCHWOOD CASEY GUN SIGHT PEN KIT

In my post on gun sight tape, I mentioned painting the front sight rib of a revolver to make it “brighter” and easier for the eyes to pick up. I have tried various types of paint, from those that are supposed to glow in the dark, to plain enamel, and the Birchwood Casey paint pens seem like a better way to paint front sights to me. This system eliminates the need for paint brushes and open bottles of paint – just uncap the pen, press it against a piece of scrap card board to start the paint flow, apply it, and clean the tip of the pen with alcohol or any paint solvent. This type of paint should be easier and more durable than plain enamel, as well as more visible.

The Birchwood Casey paint pens are a good solution to sight painting needs.

The Birchwood Casey paint pens are a good solution to sight painting needs.

First step in application, after cleaning the sight rib with a solvent to leave it free from oil or grease, is to apply two coats of the Bright White paint as a base coat to make the final color show up even brighter. Let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.

Birchwood Casey recommends two coats of Bright White paint first, as a "base" for whichever color is desired as a final coat.

Birchwood Casey recommends two coats of Bright White paint first, as a “base” for whichever color is desired as a final coat.

For my testing of the Birchwood Casey Paint Pens, I chose Fluorescent Red as my “top coat”. In actual use, it is more orange than red, but I prefer orange for my front sight color, so I have no problem with that.

The Fluorescent red on top of two coats of white makes for a very bright, easy to see front sight in most light conditions.

The Fluorescent red on top of two coats of white makes for a very bright, easy to see front sight in most light conditions.

Application of the paint was very easy, both pens worked as they were supposed to after following the simple instructions – and I WILL use these pens again!

Two coats of the red on top of two of Bright White, and the sight is good to go!

Two coats of the red on top of two of Bright White, and the sight is good to go!

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What “Goes Around”, Sometimes Comes Back Around: Herter’s .44 Magnum Revolver Project

I recently saw for sale an old Herter’s .44 magnum revolver. Now, I need another .44 mag like I need, well – another .44 mag! Although I have a couple of .44 mag revolvers, a Contender single shot (and extra .44 mag barrel), and a Ruger .44 mag semi-auto carbine, the big .44 is my favorite cartridge. I reload for it, so I keep a good supply of brass, powder, primers, and bullets for it on hand – and usually a supply of loaded ammo. The Herter’s asking price was reasonable, I thought, and the seller was willing to entertain trades. We ended up making a deal with him taking my old Charter Arms Bulldog .38/.357 that I originally bought as a truck gun after a disturbing incident found me unarmed when I would rather have been “carrying”, and these days it was mostly being used as a “door gun”, kept in a hideout in the front room of the house. Although a 5 shot, it was a double action with a 6 inch barrel, and pretty accurate for a gun with basically no sights. My justification for wanting to trade it was that I much prefer a heavier bullet at lower velocities – for both hunting and home defense.

The deal actually cost me more than the trade gun, as I had to drive to Dallas to get the .44, but we found a couple of other excuses to make the trip more worthwhile.

My main incentive for wanting the old Herter’s gun, was that a similar Herter’s revolver was the first .44 mag I ever owned – or shot. I got that one in a trade that also brought me a Ruger Blackhawk .357 mag. The Herter’s was a very heavy gun, but had a 4″ barrel – which made it a rough introduction to the big .44 – that thing kicked like two mules! It kicked so hard that after firing only a few rounds I had to tighten all the framing screws, and the cylinder base pin was prone to “jumping out”. Still, I enjoyed the feeling of sheer power that came with touching the thing off! Getting another one was a nostalgia thing at first, but then I refreshed what I may have known about the Herter’s revolvers – or maybe not, as there was no inna net in those simpler times.

The Herter's line of single action revolvers were made in West Germany, by J.P. Sauer & Sons.

The Herter’s line of single action revolvers were made in West Germany, by J.P. Sauer & Sons.

Herter’s was a big mail order sporting goods company, based in Minnesota, and the revolvers were made in West Germany, by J.P. Sauer & Sons, in the days before they began making semi-auto pistols and sub machine guns. This would suggest a level of quality above the average “mail order Saturday night special”. The first thing I noticed when getting reacquainted with these guns was that they are not made like the New Model Rugers – no transfer bar safety – and they still had the old 4 click cocking sequence that uses a “half cock” position as a sort of safety feature and as the free spin position for rotating the cylinder for loading. Interestingly, they also share the 3 screw frame construction – although the slotted heads of the screws are on the left side of the frame, instead of on the right as with an Old Model Ruger. They are, however in the same positions on the frame as the Ruger screws. As I intended from the start to “restore” this gun as much as my limited talents allow, I first tried to fit some extra Ruger parts on it. An extractor rod housing (and rod/spring) from a Super Blackhawk should work, although the one I had on hand was off a flattop .44 Special with a 4 5/8″ barrel, and was a bit too short. A Ruger cylinder base pin fits and presumably functions – good news in case this one wants to shoot out, and can be replaced with a locking base pin from Belt Mountain designed for the Ruger.

One disappointment was my “extra” nickel plated Ruger .44 mag cylinder does NOT fit the Herter’s. Overall size appears the same, but the gears on the end are cut differently. Grips are another difference that sort of disappointed me, since I have quite a collection of custom Ruger grips I could have used. The Herter’s grip is huge – at least a half inch longer than a Ruger Super Blackhawk grip. The overall shape resembles that of a Ruger “plow handle” grip frame, however. The grips that were on the gun were in such sad shape I did not even take photos of them as they were, and may have been “home made” from a piece of plywood. Until I could do something else, I sanded them down and refinished them, but still found them sadly lacking.

The grips on my "new" .44 mag revolver needed to be shaped and refinished before I could dare take a picture of them!

The grips on my “new” .44 mag revolver needed to be shaped and refinished before I could dare take a picture of them!

With the grips off, the main spring was revealed – a sturdy piece of spring steel instead of coil springs like a Ruger. This is NOT meant as an indictment of coil springs, as Ruger obviously switched to that type for a good reason – I am just pointing out a major difference in the construction of the two guns.

The Herter's uses a spring steel, one piece mainspring to operate hammer and trigger functions, instead of the coil springs used by Ruger and most other "modern" revolvers.

The Herter’s uses a spring steel, one piece mainspring to operate hammer and trigger functions, instead of the coil springs used by Ruger and most other “modern” revolvers.

Soon found I could not use any of my Ruger grips on my Herter's revolver!

Soon found I could not use any of my Ruger grips on my Herter’s revolver!

The Herter’s grip frame is longer, but otherwise the two revolvers look very similar – even though I have been told the Herter’s was more of a “copy” of a Colt revolver than a Ruger. Interestingly, Herter’s original trade name for their revolver was going to be the Single Six, until Ruger threatened court action!

Some readers may remember that my Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt wears custom grips made from a piece of Lacewood that was once on my beloved Bertram 31. No more of that wood exists, but I did find a piece of what I think must be white oak that was a part of the stringer/engine bed system in Curtis Boler’s old 39 Post – “The Rascal”. I think this piece was removed during remodeling – maybe to make better room for the generator? It fits my “theme”, and cleaned up pretty nicely. Doesn’t have a lot of fancy figuring, but shaped well into attractive grips.

In keeping with a personal theme of using wood from old boats tied to my past as hand gun grips, these blanks I cut of white oak from the stringers of an old Post sport fisherman I spent some time on will be fashioned into new grips for the old revolver.

In keeping with a personal theme of using wood from old boats tied to my past as hand gun grips, these blanks I cut of white oak from the stringers of an old Post sport fisherman I spent some time on will be fashioned into new grips for the old revolver.

The front sight would warm the soul of disciples of the late, great (at least according to HIM!) gun writer Elmer Keith. Keith wrote a lot about long range shooting with revolvers, mostly in .44 magnum caliber. His “secret” seemed to be that if you employ a very tall front sight blade, and sight the gun in to hit zero at 25 or 50 yards with the top of the front sight nestled snuggly in the “vee” of the rear sight, then when you move that front blade up in the rear sight it raises the point of impact (and the barrel). If you have the front blade high enough to be almost sighting down the barrel, you move your shots out to 400, maybe 500 yards – IF you believe that raising the line of sight that much with a short range pistol cartridge will do that. Personally, I don’t.

Of course, in the real world, a .44 magnum does not have the ballistics to shoot consistantly at 400 yards from a rifle with it’s much longer barrel, and certainly not from a 4″ hand gun barrel, as Keith used. I actually read Elmer’s book on “Sixguns” – and not an easy task that was – and when he discussed “lobbing” shots at such distances, he admitted it was “stunt” shooting, so I suspect old Elmer wrote with tongue firmly in cheek.

The tall front sight of the old Herter's would have caused Elmer Keith to smile!

The tall front sight of the old Herter’s would have caused Elmer Keith to smile!

The Herter’s rear sight is adjustable, and has a gold semi-buckhorn blade.

The rear sight on my Herter's  is a "semi-buckhorn" style with a gold blade - and adjustable.

The rear sight on my Herter’s is a “semi-buckhorn” style with a gold blade – and adjustable.

The cylinder of the Herter’s features recesses for the cartridge case heads – something normally found only on custom revolvers these days. These recesses allow the case head to lie flat against the face of the cylinder – or maybe even a bit lower – and is mostly the reason the cylinder-to-frame fit on this gun is so tight for the rear of the cylinder and the loading gate. This system also offers more support for the entire cartridge, adding needed strength for firing heavy magnum loads. Of course, as that old “sixgunner”, Albert Einstein, once observed, every “action” can have an equal and opposite “reaction”. In this case (pardon the pun!) some clearance is probably a good thing. I found that a couple of chambers did not seat the cartridge deep enough, causing it to “hang” and lock up the revolver instead of rotating properly. Part of this was easily diagnosed as carbon build up inside the chambers from a previous owner shooting too many .44 Special loads without properly cleaning the gun. The shorter “Specials” will shoot just fine in a .44 mag chamber, but because of their reduced length unburned powder tends to collect in the chamber, in the area where a magnum case would extend further to the end of the chamber. If this area is not cleaned thoroughly and regularly, a “ring” can form that will make it difficult for full-length magnum rounds to chamber properly. Running a wire brush chucked into my cordless drill over these spots after wetting them well with Hoppes #9 got most of it out, but them I found a “scar” in one chamber where it looked as though someone had used a screwdriver and hammer to “extract” a cartridge at one time. This was also keeping a round from seating properly, until I went over the spot with a small, half-round gun smith’s file.

At this point, all was pretty good, but one chamber still had some drag when rotating – sometimes still locking up the gun. I cleaned the recessed area as well as I could with a variety of tools and cleaners, and finally settled on using only new Star-Line brass, and making sure the primers were well seated. Of course, if I want or need to shoot other ammo than my tailor-made hand loads, I can simply NOT load a round into the chamber that gives me trouble. This is not a bad practice, actually, since this type of action (without the Ruger transfer bar safety) should really be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer, for safety purposes.

Recessed "case heads&#039

Recessed “case heads” Allow the revolver’s cylinder to need less clearance between the cylinder and frame, and also provides the ultimate in case support for the cartridge when fired.

No need to have a custom shop mill in recesses for the case heads in the old Herter's .44 mag cylinder - they are already done!

No need to have a custom shop mill in recesses for the case heads in the old Herter’s .44 mag cylinder – they are already done!

Another pleasant surprise was found when checking the trigger pull – my gauge showed it “breaking” at 3 – 3.5 lbs, which is in the range I personally prefer.

I will want to do something to the finish of this old gun – even though it really was not all that bad. There was no surface rust at all, and when I rubbed it briskly with a silicon-impregnated rag, it shined up nicely. I like the concept of removing all the blueing and leaving the gun “in the white” – when done properly and kept polished it looks almost like stainless steel – and since anything I did to it would require the old finish to be removed, I used oven cleaner and a Scotch Brite pad to get started. It did not come out bright and shiny, though – like the cylinder on my Ruger Flattop did. This one ended up more of a grey, similar to the Target Grey of my .480 Ruger Super Redhawk. I think it contrasts nicely with the blued frame. What it looks like is that if the finish is scrubbed off with a WET pad, I will end up with the gray color. If the metal is allowed to dry, then worked with a dry Scotch Brite pad, it will polish out bright and shiny. Actually, I think I like the grey better. When I put on a coat of a stainless steel polish and then buffed it a bit with a Dremel wheel, it actually looks a lot like pewter! I plan on either leaving it the way it is, stripping the finish completely from the gun and leaving it that way, re-blueing the blued part, or CeraCoating it. The beauty of a project gun is trying different things to see which you like best.

Old blueing may be removed with oven cleaner and Scotch Brite pads - and some patience!

Old blueing may be removed with oven cleaner and Scotch Brite pads – and some patience!

To properly refinish any firearm, the old bluing needs to be removed, in this case on my cylinder I used oven cleaner and a Scotch-Brite pad.

To properly refinish any firearm, the old bluing needs to be removed, in this case on my cylinder I used oven cleaner and a Scotch-Brite pad.

Next in refinishing is to remove the blueing from the barrel.

Next in refinishing is to remove the blueing from the barrel.

Removing the finish from the grip frame and trigger guard area was a bit more tedious than the same task applied to the cylinder and/or barrel, but I like the result. As noted, the “unfinished” steel after polishiung looks a lot like pewter. At this point, I am considering a “rust brown” finish on the cylinder frame, for contrast.

Polishing the metal after removing most of the blueing with oven cleaner results in a finish that looks a LOT like pewter!

Polishing the metal after removing most of the blueing with oven cleaner results in a finish that looks a LOT like pewter!

This is only the second set of grips I have made, and I feel certain the guys who do this “for money” have more tools available than a Dremel, a Skill Saw, and a sander! Still I don’t think these look half bad, and certainly better than what was on the gun when I got it!

The Herter's grip frame does not have normal locator pins to keep the grip panels in place, but instead uses two larger lugs - one on each side.

The Herter’s grip frame does not have normal locator pins to keep the grip panels in place, but instead uses two larger lugs – one on each side.

Best method I've found for correctly seating the locators is to cut a larger hole than necessary in the general location, fill it with a thick epoxy, and allow that material to harden around the pin with the grips in place and screwed on tight. When removed, the "hole" needed should be the correct size and in the right spot.

Best method I’ve found for correctly seating the locators is to cut a larger hole than necessary in the general location, fill it with a thick epoxy, and allow that material to harden around the pin. When removed, the “hole” needed should be the correct size and in the right spot.

The new grips were cut from pieces of white oak, then shaped, fitted, sanded, and ready to finish

The new grips were cut from pieces of white oak, then shaped, fitted, sanded, and ready to finish

Since this was to be a true project gun, using only my somewhat limited abilities, I fashioned my own grips - and got them to fit decent on the first try!

Since this was to be a true project gun, using only my somewhat limited abilities, I fashioned my own grips – and got them to fit decently on the first try!

Naturally, the proof of any gun is in the shooting. My first effort with this gun was more of a function test than one of accuracy. I first fired six rounds of .44 Special semi-wadcutter rounds at around 15 yards, offhand. While the results were not anything to write home about, all the shots DID hit somewhere on the target.

This cylinder of .44 Special rounds was fired more to check function of the revolver than anything else.

This cylinder of .44 Special rounds was fired more to check function of the revolver than anything else.

Next I ran through 6 rounds of my “mild” .44 magnum loads – 310 gr Hard cast bullets pushed to just over 1000 fps by a charge of Titegroup powder. These were more interesting. As expected, the heavier bullets hit high with the same hold at the same distance – still offhand – BUT, the first three holes were almost touching. This is not the type of accuracy I normally get offhand with open sights – so I was impressed! The next three I experimented with the sight picture, but I think I am confident of hits in the vitals on hogs at 15 – 25 yards.

The first shots of .44 mag handloads were more accurate than the .44 Specials - possibly because of the quality of the bullets. They also shot a bit higher, as would be expected, but those 3 grouped closely together were the first 3 shots, the other three were when experimenting with the sights.

The first shots of .44 mag handloads were more accurate than the .44 Specials – possibly because of the quality of the bullets. They also shot a bit higher, as would be expected, but those 3 grouped closely together were the first 3 shots, the other three were when experimenting with the sights.

By a lucky coincidence, I had a fairly large supply of 292 gr cast lead bullets I acquired with the vague expectation of loading them for use in my .44 Special – before I realized they were a bit heavy for that use. These should be near perfect for the old Herter’s revolver. Loaded to 900 – 1000 fps they certainly will not strain the gun – or require me to have additional Carpal Tunnel surgery. Bullets in this weight class should put a good whack on hogs, also.

UPDATE ON SHOOTING THE HERTERS .44:
When trying to solve the problem on the one chamber that did not allow the shell to seat deeply enough to properly operate, I tried the loads I just mentioned, and they clocked right at 1000 fps on my chronograph. Then I loaded some .44 Special power level loads averaging 750 fps using 255 gr Hard Cast flat nosed bullets in new Star Line .44 MAGNUM brass. This gives me a .44 Special load that will not result in a carbon ring in the chambers. These round fired well, and operated perfectly as far as cylinder rotation. My next batch of reloads will be with the 292 gr cast lead bullets loaded “down” a bit, to maybe 700 – 800 fps. These should operate well in the gun and provide a little more “knock-down” power than the 255 gr bullets.

At this point in the Herters .44 "project", it is time for reloading and shooting.

At this point in the Herters .44 “project”, it is time for reloading and shooting.

What it seems I am doing here is making a “Special” .44 Special out of this old .44 magnum, and I don’t think this is a bad thing. I had already checked some .44 Special loads that chronoed 770 fps out of my .44 Special Flat top Ruger with it’s 4 5/8″ barrel, but increased to 800 fps out of the 7 1/2″ barrel of a Super Blackhawk .44 mag. The Herter’s 6 inch barrel should fall between these tow with a similar charge and bullet weight, but the apparently heavier construction of the gun should handle the heavier bullets better than most purpose-built .44 Special revolvers. I LIKE .44 Specials! Using the Herter’s as just a big Special is not a problem for me, especially since I have a several .44 magnums to hunt with – allowing me to reserve the Herter’s as strictly a gun for “fun’ and opportunity.

Reloading without using a chronograph is an exercise in futility.

Reloading without using a chronograph is an exercise in futility.

With the finish removed from the grip frame, the "back strap" now  matches the cylinder and barrel. The ammo shown is recently loaded 292 gr cast bullets in .44 magnum brass, at a power level estimated to be between a .44 Special and a sub sonic .44 "magnum".

With the finish removed from the grip frame, the “back strap” now matches the cylinder and barrel. The ammo shown is recently loaded 292 gr cast bullets in .44 magnum brass, at a power level estimated to be between a .44 Special and a sub sonic .44 “magnum”.

My next “shoot” will be with loads using powder charges at a level in between .44 Special and sub sonic .44 “magnum”, with 292 gr cast bullets in .44 magnum brass. When I checked these in the gun for function, the cylinder rotated freely, with no rounds rubbing. Should be good to go for another session with the chronograph!

Project guns, of any age and type, are pure fun – and make it very hard to see a firearm as “evil”!

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