Another Blast From The Past – George Herter’s Revolver/Cartridge

This is little doubt about which caliber this revolver was chambered for!

This is little doubt about which caliber this revolver was chambered for!

When the Herter’s mail order catalogue company was at the peak of its business period, they marketed a branded line of single action revolvers, based on the single action Colt “Army” revolver – as were most other modern handguns of the type. The Herter’s guns were made in Western Germany, by JP Sauer & Sohn, in .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and a propriatory cartridge – the .401 Herter’s Powermag. The .401 came before and probably influenced the .41 Remington magnum, but never acheived a lot of popularity. This is often blamed on the “looks” of the gun it was packaged in, which was heavier and less graceful in its lines than a Ruger. At the same time, the price of the Herter’s guns was considerably less than a Ruger, even though Ruger was pretty much a bargain in the handgun world. The quality of the Herter’s was not “cheap”, and it used German innovations and workmanship to good advantage.

On the left is my "new" .401 Herter's Powermag revolver, on the right my Herter's .44 magnum. Both guns were made in 1966

On the left is my “new” .401 Herter’s Powermag revolver, on the right my Herter’s .44 magnum. Both guns were made in 1966

I have gone over the Herter’s .44 magnum in other posts, as I have been restoring and updating one I traded for a couple of months ago. This has been so enjoyable that I noted in one of the posts I was looking another Herter’s to play around with. The first reply I got to my want-to-buy ad seeking Herter’s guns was a scam in which a bogus seller offered me a Herter’s .401 Powermag for $270, shipped. The gun in the pictures he emailed me looked pretty good, with a case color hardened cylinder frame – but it was some sort of Colt clone, with an obvious Colt front sight, no rear sight, and a Bisley hammer and grip. Even more telling was that the seller refused to send a picture of the barrel’s markings, which should have verified it was a Herter’s, and of what caliber. When I insisted as a condition of the transaction continuing, he sent a shot of the very end of a different barrel than the one in the previous pictures, stainless, and with the beginnings of the “lawyer warning” about reading the manual before operating the firearm, which was not done on 1960’s era guns! This person also was very reluctant to tell me where he was located, finally saying only, “Kansas” – yet his manner of speech suggested an internet thief from the far east! I suspect he pulled the photos off the ‘net, and did not actually have a handgun for sale!

After this disappointing experience, I was amazed when my next contact came from an actual Herter’s collector who lives in Santa Fe, Texas – about 30 miles from my home! This gentleman had a .357 Herter’s, a .44 magnum, and four .401 Powermags, and was willing to sell me one of the .401’s! He also had a large stash of brass and loaded ammo, but wanted to save this for his grandkids, so I ordered ammo from GAD Custom Cartridge, which had ammo loaded in original Herter’s cases – made by Norma – and also in cases formed from .30-30 brass. When I get this shipment in, I will be able to test fire the gun and chronograh loads. My seller also is a bullet caster, and has all the molds made for the .401, so I will likely have him mold some heavy hard cast for me to reload. Dies for “obsolete” cartridges like this can be pricey, but I am told 10mm dies will work for most steps of the process.

I think this Herter's looks better with the white oak grips, but overall is a nice looking revolver, for being made in 1966 - and used a bit.

I think this Herter’s looks better with the white oak grips, but overall is a nice looking revolver, for being made in 1966 – and used a bit.

This revolver is in better shape than was my .44 mag Herters when I found it. The action is tighter, and except for a slight turn ring on the cylinder, the bluing is better, It wears the original black plastic grips which are in good shape and are going in my gun safe. For now the gun is wearing the white oak grips I first made for the .44, but I will likely make another set of purple heart grips and use magnets to hold them in place as I did with the .44. What really stands out on this revolver is the trigger pull, which seems to have come from the factory at a crisp LESS THAN TWO POUNDS of pull! This contrasts considerably with the 4 pound pull of my .44! I really don’t care for triggers set so light, and especially in a gun with the original Colt style “half cock” lockwork, where the hammer is best kept down on an empty cylinder, extra care should be taken to performing this process with a very light trigger. I once had the hammer on an Old Model Ruger .357 wearing oversized grips “get away” from me when letting it down on a LOADED cylinder, and an “accidental discharge” – which luckily caused no harm – resulted. Also, the fingers should be kept safely away from the trigger on this gun, until it is time – for sure – to actually pull the trigger!

This handgun came wearing the original black plastic grips, with a Herter's emblem. Those are going in the safe!

This handgun came wearing the original black plastic grips, with a Herter’s emblem. Those are going in the safe!

At this point, I want to spend some time shooting this gun before making drastic changes, and the .401’s do have some collector value – but I might strip the bluing and rust brown the whole revolver. Another option is that Numrich Gun Parts has a brass grip frame listed that fits a large frame JP Sauer revolver that might well “bolt up” to this one.

Numrich also has some parts still in stock for Herter’s revolvers, including new cylinders in .357, .44, and .401 calibers. Some folks have had .357 cylinders bored to 10mm, resulting in a “conversion” gun with a cylinder in a modern – and desirable – caliber. .401 cylinders can also be modified to shoot .38/40 rounds, and both these conversions match up to the original .401 barrel. I recently saw a Ruger “Buckeye” conversion Blackhawk revolver with cylinders in .38/40 and 10mm (but NOT .401) offered for sale at $800, and that is a reasonable price for such a Ruger – yet the Herter’s can be made even more versatile for less of an investment.

As noted, there is some collector interest in the Herter’s revolvers, and it seems to be growing. For right now, the guns CAN be found, and prices are reasonable. They probably won’t fund your grandchild’s college education, but it would be hard to lose money – and there aren’t many investments other than firearms that can be used recreationally and regularly and also put food on the table and provide home and family defense!

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Self-sticking Revolver Grips

As mentioned in the other posts about the grips I was making for “Deep Purple”, my old Herters .44 magnum revolver, the owner of Tombstone grips gave me the idea to use magnets to hold the grips instead of the “normal” one screw attachment system. To be honest, I had considered just epoxying the grips in place, as I figured I would be unlikely to need to remove them on this gun.

At this point in time, I have almost finished this project, using small, but very strong magnets of various sizes and shapes from K&J Magnetics. I need to do a bit more finishing to get them where I want them to be, but today I fired a shot from the old gun – using one of my low powered snake shot loads as a start – to see if this system would indeed hold the grips in place under recoil. With the light force of the snake shot load, the answer was a resounding “yes”! Dave at Tombstone had told me the set he made were held in place so well he had to cut a slot to insert a screwdriver blade in to “pop” them off. I can get mine off with my fingers, if I pull just right, but it is not easy. Easier and quicker than backing out a “normal” grip screw, however.

I really like the no-screw look that results from using magnets to attach the grips, and will be doing this again on the next set I make and fit to a revolver. The cost of the magnets is minimal, especially if the no screw effect is considered. When all the fitting is done, I expect these to hold up easily to magnum recoil!

The magnets seem to be doing a good job of keeping the grips in place on my Herter's .44 magnum - with no grip screws showing!

The magnets seem to be doing a good job of keeping the grips in place on my Herter’s .44 magnum – with no grip screws showing!

The combination of purple heart grips, in hand-rubbed oil finish, and no visible grip screws, give these grips on my Herter's .44 magnum a unique look.

The combination of purple heart grips, in hand-rubbed oil finish, and no visible grip screws, give these grips on my Herter’s .44 magnum a unique look.

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Uberti Cattleman .45 Colt

After finding my Herters .44 magnum, I remembered why I liked the “Old Model” action of the Colts and Old Model Rugers, where cocking the hammer to half-cock allows the cylinder to rotate for loading rounds or removing fired cases. Not as “safe”, certainly, but it does have a certain charm of its own. I have been searching for a good Old Model Ruger, but so far in vain. Instead, I found a very nice Uberti Colt clone in .45 Colt. This handgun is smaller than my Rugers, but nicely made, with a brass grip frame and color case hardened cylinder frame and well blued cylinder and barrel. The grips are walnut, and one piece, with no grip screws – which I really like – and well fitted and finished. If they ever need to be removed, the grip frame must be detached from the revolver first. True to the theme, sights are minimal, and my only complaint as a shooter is that the front sight blade is VERY narrow.

The Uberti guns are made in Italy, where Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns spawned much interest in guns of the American west.  They are accurate clones of the Colt Single Action Army revolver.

The Uberti guns are made in Italy, where Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns spawned much interest in guns of the American west. They are accurate clones of the Colt Single Action Army revolver.

Uberti makes many other variations on the basic Colt theme, including one with a “charcoal blue” barrel and cylinder which I find VERY attractive. Overall, this gun is smaller than even my .44 Special Ruger, and with a 4.5″ barrel, would actually be a decent concealed carry gun.

The Uberti .45 Colt is smaller even than my .44 Special Ruger flattop Blackhawk (bottom), and considerably smaller than my .45 Colt Blackhawk (top)

The Uberti .45 Colt is smaller even than my .44 Special Ruger flattop Blackhawk (bottom), and considerably smaller than my .45 Colt Blackhawk (top)

The Uberti is definitely an attractive revolver, one made with a nod to nostalgia and American firearms heritage.

The Uberti is definitely an attractive revolver, one made with a nod to nostalgia and American firearms heritage.

The Uberti .45 Colt is certainly small compared to my heavy framed Herters .44 magnum!

The Uberti .45 Colt is certainly small compared to my heavy framed Herters .44 magnum!

While this revolver seems well made, and of “modern” materials, it is not the choice for firing the “hot” .45 Colt loads that some hand gunners push to near .454 Casull pressures and velocities. Mine came with a box of Sig factory loads, firing 230 gr hollow points at 825 fps, but I think these might be close to the upper limit for this gun. For now I am shooting hand loads I worked up with 200 gr cast lead bullets really intended for .45 ACP, at 750 – 800 fps. These shoot very well, with light recoil, and have so for been pretty accurate at 15 feet or so. I happily discovered that I not only had a box of these bullets in my stash, but also two boxes of 230 gr Hornady XTP hollow points and a box of 200 gr XTP’s – so I think the Uberti and I are going to have a lot of fun in the near future!

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Is There ANYTHING The .44 Magnum Can’t Do?

My wife and I recently encountered another large copperhead snake near our woods cabin. We don’t really see many snakes out there, and largely leave them alone if they aren’t venomous (yes, I know even that kind have their place in the environment, but just outside my back door is NOT that place!). When my wife urged me to shoot it, I tried to explain the difficulty of hitting a moving snake’s head with a .44 magnum revolver, but instead ended up demonstrating it by merely speeding the snake’s exit from our immediate area!

Once back at home, I decided that .44 caliber “snake shot” would be a handy thing to keep around, but soon discovered that all the online retailers were sold out of this item. Plan “B” was to load my own, using Speer .44 shot shell capsules. Long ago I had some factory loaded .44 shot shell capsules that I used in a Thompson Contender, but they were probably too long to use in a revolver cylinder. With the Speer capsules, the user can set the over all cartridge length he needs, and also choose the size shot to be loaded. I “chose” #7 1/2 shot, because I had a bunch of 20 gauge ammo in that size I don’t use much. Many prefer a smaller shot size, to get more pellets in the capsule, and thus a pattern that covers the target more completely.

Speer shot shell capsules, .44 magnum brass, and a few 20 gauge shot shells provide the "ingredients" for a snake removal tool.

Speer shot shell capsules, .44 magnum brass, and a few 20 gauge shot shells provide the “ingredients” for a snake removal tool.

For my purposes, I did not consider the “loaded” capsule’s weight to be critical, but they seemed to run 125 gr or so. They come with a cap to hold the shot in, which goes on the bottom when loaded. I found that even a light charge of Titegroup power held the capsules at just about the perfect OAL for my Ruger revolvers, without either compressing the powder or leaving a space between powder and capsule. I used the Factory Crimp Die with my Lee press to produce a light crip, just to hold the capsule in place – and I could hear a slight “pop” when it happened.

These shot cartridges are in .44 mag brass, with an OAL similar to other .44 ammo, so they will work in a revolver cylinder.

These shot cartridges are in .44 mag brass, with an OAL similar to other .44 ammo, so they will work in a revolver cylinder.

When I test fired a couple of these rounds from snake killing ranges of 10 and 15 feet, I got what I think was an acceptable blend of good coverage of a target area that would hit a snakes head, with a shot size that would offer good penetration when it did hit.

While a scoped handgun is not necessary for normal snake killing, this was the "handiest" .44 magnum on the day I tested the shot cartridges!

While a scoped handgun is not necessary for normal snake killing, this was the “handiest” .44 magnum on the day I tested the shot cartridges!

My first shot at 10 feet seemed to “throw” a bit low – but that could have been operator error. It still would have done the job, I think, Even the plastic shot capsule penetrated the light cardboard box holding the target – with most of the shot also hitting the box below the target.

This first try with the "snake shot' was a bit low, but still would likely have done th3 job. The larger hole towards the bottom of the cardboard box is probably where the plastic capsule hit.

This first try with the “snake shot’ was a bit low, but still would likely have done th3 job. The larger hole towards the bottom of the cardboard box is probably where the plastic capsule hit.

My second shot – at 15 feet – produced a much better pattern, and would have without a doubt ended a threat.

The second shot - at 15 feet - gave much better results, and would have ended a threat easily.

The second sot – at 15 feet – gave much better results, and would have ended a threat easily.

While I won’t be dove hunting with these loads, I do feel they would be better for squirrels or rabbits than a 300 gr hard cast bullet from a .44. I will be loading some up in .44 Special cases, also, and might try to find the capsules for .45 Colt. These loads would be VERY handy to have when woods walking, either in a pocket or in the first position in the revolver cylinder, where simply cocking and letting the hammer down, then cocking again would rotate a more potent round under the hammer if something larger than a snake or small varmint was to be the “target of opportunity”.

Once again, the .44 magnum is one of the most useful cartridges ever produced!

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AN ANNIVERSARY RUGER!

The anniversary logo is on top of the barrel, filled in gold.

The anniversary logo is on top of the barrel, filled in gold.

I recently was able to acquire a LNIB Ruger Blackhawk 50th Anniversary edition Blackhawk.

I recently was able to acquire a LNIB Ruger Blackhawk 50th Anniversary edition Blackhawk.

Personally, I don’t have the funds or the temperament to be an ardent collector of much of anything, however I can be considered an “accumulator” of various firearms, especially Ruger Single action revolvers. In this classification, I only have one that is not chambered for the .44 magnum caliber, and that one is a .44 Special. I like .44’s! When I got a chance to add this 50th Anniversary Edition to my holdings at what I thought was a very fair price, I grabbed it.

The 50th year .44 mag Blackhawk is on the same frame as the .45 Colt models, with a 6.5" barrel

The 50th year .44 mag Blackhawk is on the same frame as the .45 Colt models, with a 6.5″ barrel

the 50th edition comes in an appropriate case.

the 50th edition comes in an appropriate case.

For the 50th anniversary version, Ruger went back to the “original” New Model Blackhawk Flattop, and others have remarked that these revolvers seem to be more precisely fitted than normal factory runs. They have good adjustable rear sights, ramp style front sights, and the Ruger lock system under the grips, which can be ignored. I had read that the grip frame was maybe Ruger’s most comfortable, but it is smaller than the Super Blackhawk or my .45 Colt Blackhawk. The custom Holly grips on my .44 Special Blackhawk fit almost perfect, for a perspective.The seller of mine said the grips hurt his hand – it HAS been fired, but not much. The grips furnished with the gun are the black, hard rubber type with an inset Ruger medallion, and I would have replaced them with something from my collection of custom grips, but none of mine except the Holly mentioned will fit. I’ll either have Zane Thompson make a set for me of some exotic wood, or make a set myself from my left-over Purple Heart. In their favor, though, the black rubber grips are a near perfect fit on this gun.

This model has the internal  lock, which is under the grips

This model has the internal lock, which is under the grips

The custom American Holly grips from Zane Thompson that grace me .44 Special Flattop are a near perfect fit on the anniversary model.

The custom American Holly grips from Zane Thompson that grace me .44 Special Flattop are a near perfect fit on the anniversary model.

Three Blackhawks - .44 Special Flattop, 50th Anniversary .44 mag Flattop, and .45 Colt.

Three Blackhawks – .44 Special Flattop, 50th Anniversary .44 mag Flattop, and .45 Colt.

While both these revolvers are on Ruger's "large frame" Blackhawk, the cylinder area of the .44 mag seems "beefier.

While both these revolvers are on Ruger’s “large frame” Blackhawk, the cylinder area of the .44 mag seems “beefier.

My anniversary model shows to have been begun in Newport, New Hampshire and final assembly completed in Ruger’s facility in Prescott, Arizona. The legal warning rollmark on such guns was placed under the barrel, and there were supposedly only 1,200 made in this fashion.

The 50th Anniversary model was introduced in 2006, and the last were produced in 2008, so they are not exactly rare as hen’s teeth. Probably of more value as a regular shooter than to be stuffed in a safe as an “investment”, they are still well worth having, and a tribute to a piece of Ruger history.

Note: Ruger also produced a 50th Anniversary SUPER BLACKHAWK!

(Sadly, no special 60th anniversary edition was issued in 2016!)

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Herter’s Revolver “Earns” A Purple Heart!

After the grand experiment of rust browning the cylinder frame on my old (1966) Herter’s .44 magnum single action revolver, I began having ideas of fitting a set of grips that complimented the purplish, “plum brown” hue of that part of the gun. I liked the look of the oak grips I previously made for it, just began to wonder what might look even better.

My

My old friend and mentor, “Uncle Vic Roy”, always cautioned that “the enemy of good, is better!” But whom am I to take advice?

I didn’t really have to look far for something to try. Many years ago I was buying a good quantity of teak to use as covering boards on my old Bertram 31, BLACKSHEEP, and I stumbled on a bin of purple heart boards in the lumber store. The color of this wood was so deep and unusual that I have often pondered what it would be really good for? Since then I have actually seen a set of purple heart grips on a custom revolver or two. After making the decision to go this way, I shopped online and found a business, WOODCRAFT, that not only stocked this wood, but sold in small quantities – and shipped!

First try at a set of grips made from purple heart, which is a hard wood to "carve".

First try at a set of grips made from purple heart, which is a hard wood to “carve”.

On my first attempt, I cut the grip pattern out with my jigsaw, then began shaping with first a dremel tool, then a palm sander. I finished with hand sanding, then added about 10 coats of polyurethane varnish, burnishing with steel wool between coats.

The purple heart is an attention-getter, and does compliment the plum colored cylinder frame, I think.

The purple heart is an attention-getter, and does compliment the plum colored cylinder frame, I think.

When I began to “show off” the grip photos, a friend suggested maybe a more subdued finish might be better, something that looked like a more tradition oil finish? I had sort of been thinking that myself, so I first tried going over the varnish with Birchwood Casey’s Stock Sheen. That did look better, but in the process I was trying to make the fit “perfect”, and of course messed up one side! At the same time, I thought I’d like to have one side with a “blind” screw, so the grip was smooth, with no holes. Tombstone grips had experience in this, and sent me the hardware to do it, but unfortunately I had forgotten to tell Dave what I was working on, and the setup he sent would probably fit a Ruger, but would have needed modification to work on the Herter’s. About this time I did some fine tuning on one side and messed that one up, so I started over on a new grip set, having ordered enough wood to get through such a problem.

This time, I broke down and bought scroll blades for the saw to make cuts easier and more precise, and also acquired a “mouse” sander to replace the Dremel for shaping. This time I also decided to do something to make the finish look more like an oil finish – by actually using Linseed oil!

After the first coat of linseed oil has dried, the color is similar to what I got  with varnish, and it isn't as "shiny".

After the first coat of linseed oil has dried, the color is similar to what I got with varnish, and it isn’t as “shiny”.

From previous work with oil finishes on rifle stocks, I think after several coats, hand rubbing and burnishing with steel wool between each, the finish should get a nice, natural shine. The oil also seems to bring out the character of the wood, rather than over-power it. I think I will be happy, and will post progress here.

Think I'll stop here with the linseed oil. This is maybe 5 coats, hand rubbed with both a soft colth and fine steel wool between coats.

Think I’ll stop here with the linseed oil. This is maybe 5 coats, hand rubbed with both a soft colth and fine steel wool between coats.

Now we go back to fit and fastening. With my oak grips, I had discovered that the locator “post” on the Herter’s grip frame did not really do the job, so I fashioned blocks that glued to the backs of the grips to hold then in place – and they really worked!

  • Small blocks of poly board glued to the back on the grips nest inside the frame and keep them from rotating on the single axis formed by a normal grip screw.

    Small blocks of poly board glued to the back on the grips nest inside the frame and keep them from rotating on the single axis formed by a normal grip screw.

    When discussing how to modify the hardware I had for a blind screw set-up, Dave of Tombstone grips mentioned he had once fitted grips on a Ruger to be held in place by small, but strong magnets (steel grip frame, obviously!). This idea appeals to me very much, as it will result in both grips being un-marred by screw holes. I have magnets on order, and will begin this phase as soon as they arrive.

    Small rare earth magnets will be used to hold the grip panels on - with no holes in the grips!

    Small rare earth magnets will be used to hold the grip panels on - with no holes in the grips!

    A magnetic appeal? Got my small rare earth magnets today from K&J Magnetics (www.kjmagnetics.com). Next step will be to drill small holes in the back of the grip frame and glue the magnets at the correct depth!

    The best source I found for small, strong magnets of assorted shapes and sizes was K&J Magnetics

    The best source I found for small, strong magnets of assorted shapes and sizes was K&J Magnetics

    Small, but strong magnets of various sizes were combined with spacer blocks to align and hold grips to the heavy steel grip frame of the big Herters revolver

    Small, but strong magnets of various sizes were combined with spacer blocks to align and hold grips to the heavy steel grip frame of the big Herters revolver

    The cylindrical magnets were set in drilled holes and then epoxied, the rectangular ones simply held in place with epoxy putty.

    The cylindrical magnets were set in drilled holes and then epoxied, the rectangular ones simply held in place with epoxy putty.

    The final step on the magnetic grips is a coat of flat black paint on the back side, to give them a more "professional" look.

    The final step on the magnetic grips is a coat of flat black paint on the back side, to give them a more "professional" look.

    With magnets holding the grip on, there are no unsightly screws showing or rubbing on the shooters hand.

    With magnets holding the grip on, there are no unsightly screws showing or rubbing on the shooters hand.

    The Herter's grip frame is much larger than that of a Ruger Super Blackhawk, meaning the grips will also be larger. This set was made thick, which actually gives the shooter a more solid "hold" on the gun when firing.

    The Herter's grip frame is much larger than that of a Ruger Super Blackhawk, meaning the grips will also be larger. This set was made thick, which actually gives the shooter a more solid "hold" on the gun when firing.

    More to come .... but I have already decided to risk a lawsuit and "name" this revolver "Deep Purple" after the old rock song "Smoke On The Water" by the band of the same name. If I fired it from a boat, the on the water part would probably be appropriate, as well as the next line about "fire in the sky". My previous Herter's, when fired at night, created quite an impressive flame out the muzzle!

    (I am searching for another Herter's gun or two to try more of these ideas on, so I don't resort to messing around with my treasured Rugers!)

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    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!

    Posted in Rifles and Other Things That Go Bang! | Leave a comment

    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

    Posted in Deer Hunting | Leave a comment

    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!

    Posted in Picture Of The Week | Leave a comment