HANDGUN HUNTING – BACK TO BASICS, SORTA, PART ONE

A lot of my handgun hunting preparations and efforts lately have been in the area of semi-auto pistols – because I think serious hunting semi-autos are a fairly new field and an interesting option. This does not mean I have sold all my Thompson Contender single shots, nor did I entirely forsake my revolvers. I had owned a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum for several years, but never really hunted with it (although it did ride on my hip during many visits to the woods as a “back-up”). When testing the .460 Roland version of the 1911 semi-auto which is designed to give a semi-auto the power of a .44 mag, and with less recoil, I felt I should take the Ruger out for a shoot to compare the two guns.

My .460 is on a Springfield Mil Spec frame, and the trigger is a bit rough, so the Ruger came out on top in this category with its excellent trigger pull. I did feel that the Ruger had more recoil with factory loaded 240gr JHP ammo than the .460 did firing 230 gr JHP’s loaded by Georgia Arms, but the revolver did not have quite the earth-quaking muzzle blast of the .460 with the compensator on the barrel (of course, the comp is why the recoil was less!).

As might be expected when evaluating a single action revolver against a converted 1911, the revolver has to win in strength and reliability, right? Well …, on about the 3rd or 4th shot through the Ruger, the cylinder locked up and put me out of business! To get it unlocked required removing the cylinder from the frame and re-installing, and that (without shooting, of course) only lasted momentarily. Stumped, I took my Ruger and its sterling reputation for being one of the strongest actions on the market to a local gun smith, who found that one chamber seemed cracked. His evaluation was that either I had fed it a vastly over-powered hand load, or it had been dropped on a hard surface, like concrete.

I was, in fact, shooting hand loads when this problem arose, but… I am a careful hand loader, weigh each charge on a digital scale after taking it from my Hornady powder dispenser/scale. It is possible I could have over charged a round,but I don’t think so. A more likely solution was that I had fired a round with bullet set back causing over pressure. I watch for this carefully with my semi’s – even with factory loads – and also on the sub-sonic ammo I load for my suppressed .44, and use a Lee Factory Crimp Die in an effort to make sure my bullets are snug and do not get set back in the magazine while firing several rounds ahead of them. Still, this could have happened, and the rounds I was shooting that day had been in loops on the pistol belt for some time. I had noticed that some were hard to remove from the loops, so I might have put too much push on a bullet that was not as tight as it should have been and pushed it back towards the powder charge? Even Elmer Keith warned against this in his book “Sixgun”. Note to self: remove bullets from the belt after each trip in the future.

As to the gun being dropped, I don’t remember doing that, but I got it used, so it could have happened before I became the care-taker of this arm. I honestly haven’t shot it enough to rule this out. The ‘smith cleaned up the damaged chamber enough to allow the cylinder to rotate and told me I might use it as is, but only as a five-shooter – keeping a piece of empty brass or a snap cap in the damaged one to insure I didn’t try to use it.

My choice was to replace the cylinder. Problem was, no retailers of revolver parts seemed to carry replacement cylinders for Rugers. A call to Ruger Customer Service revealed that they do not sell cylinders as parts, because they want them to be fitted at their factory, by their personnel. OK, I need a cylinder, so if those are the rules, I’ll go by them and send the gun in. When arranging this, I asked if I could have an unfluted, stainless steel cylinder put in, if I paid for any extra charge. The answer was that Ruger does not have a “custom shop” so they would not do this unless a stainless cylinder was the only one available. Darn!

I shipped the revolver back to Ruger for a (plain-jane) replacement cylinder. This is legal for me to do without an FFL, and I can also receive it back directly from Ruger, because it was being sent in for repair. A couple of days later, I got a call saying Ruger would NOT repair my SBH, because the frame also seemed to be cracked, and in their opinion it was not safe to repair and fire. The Customer Service lady did, however, offer me a new SBH at a price well below retail price. I agreed to this, and was told it might be several weeks before I could get my new gun, as they would have to wait until it was made. My counter offer was to pay any extra charge for a full stainless gun, but this was not happening, either. Also, since this would be a new, untitled so to speak, revolver, it could not be shipped directly to me, but had to be received by an FFL holder. My son qualifies for this, but the local gun shop in Lake Jackson – Gulf Coast Tactical Supply, is much closer than his location in Nederland, and they have been good about receiving hand guns for me in the past.

While I waited for the new Ruger to come in, I read all I could about the company and their products, and found that I might be in rare company as one of the few people able to actually “break” a Ruger Super Blackhawk! These pistols are so strong that loading manuals keep separate load data for .45 Long Colt and .44 Magnum that are suggested for “Ruger and Contender Only”, because “lesser” hand guns cannot be safely fired with them. Generally, I feel that if something CAN be broken then I can do it, but I will certainly be more careful with the new one, as there would be no one else to “blame” if this one breaks!

Although I still need to shoot a few hogs with my 10mm and .460 Rowland semi-autos, the new Ruger will be in the mix now, also. For that use, I ordered the Weaver 301 scope mount and fitted a T/C 2.5 x 7 variable scope to it. I originally mounted a Weaver 2x scope, but my wife and a friend did not think the sliver scope looked proper on a blued hand gun. Of course, I still had not given up hope for a stainless gun, or cylinder! The T/C scope, though, has nearly as much field of view as the Weaver – with the option for a higher power at the twist of a wrist. I also has a (red) lighted reticle which should be handy for early morning, late evening shots. After mounting it in a set of good, 4 screw rings, I have to admit it is pretty handsome.

I thought the silver scope looked good on the Ruger, but bowed to peer pressure and replaced it with a blued tube.

I thought the silver scope looked good on the Ruger, but bowed to peer pressure and replaced it with a blued tube.

This T/C 2.5 x 7 power variable scope in blued finish was judged a better match for the Ruger SBH.

This T/C 2.5 x 7 power variable scope in blued finish was judged a better match for the Ruger SBH.

My last Ruger had factory Rosewood grips, this one seems to have maybe walnut “handles” as the color is much darker. The right hand side one is actually well figured and pretty handsome, but the one on the left is much darker. Rather than having mismatched grips, I am looking a a custom pair from Cary at CLCCustom Grips. He offers an amazing variety of woods and stunning workmanship, and as soon as I make up my mind between Honey Mesquite and Spaulted Maple, I intend to order a set. He had a pair – sold – on his website made of Lacewood that were VERY nice, but Lacewood is not featured among all the blank grips he has displayed. I used some Lacewood on my old 31 Bertram for fancy trimmings, and found it an extremely hard wood which should make excellent grips IF it were available. Thought I might have saved a piece, but can’t seem to find any, so Mesquite it is, maybe. When I can make up my mind – and wait for them to be made, I’ll report back on them.

Now, for ammo for the new gun. My experience with loading sub sonic ammo for the .44 have shown that a 335gr Hard Cast bullet launched at 1050 or so feet per second will penetrate fully through even a big hog, or through 2 smaller ones. Other guys with more hand gun hunting and loading experience have told me that a heavy-for-caliber bullet at 1000- 1100 fps from a .44 or a .45 LC will kill critters up to Moose, and do not punish the gun – or the shooter – as much. With this in mind, I have loaded up quite a few rounds that should be in this velocity range with Sierra Jacketed Soft Nose and Nosler Jacketed Hollow Points in 300 gr weight. If this velocity proves to be too “slow” for jacketed bullets, I might goose it up a little. The Ruger should easily take the extra strain, and I’ve been shooting .44 magnum handguns of one type or another for a couple of decades.

When the rain stops long enough, I have some shooting to do over the chronograph with the 10mm Glock and the .460 1911 to accompany articles I have already committed to, but then the Ruger will step up to the plate. I’ll be posting results of various loads, scope evaluation, and also a handy holster I have found for scoped revolvers.

Ruger SBH Part two:

When it rains,, it truly does pour! My “new” Ruger SBH seems to have arrived flawed! Noticed before even firing it that something was wrong with the cylinder timing. If I open the loading gate as if to load rounds, then rotate the cylinder slightly counter clockwise until it stops in between two cylinder flutes as recommended to avoid getting scratches on the cylinder, and the close the gate, instead of locking up tight – as my older New Model Blackhawk does, it will still rotate about another flute’s worth on the cylinder. It does stop at this point, but will go back forward the same distance – nor= locking up as it is supposed to. If the gun is cocked, however, the cylinder locks solidly in position with the barrel, so I don’t think it is unsafe to fire, just poor finish quality for a new revolver. Ruger Customer Service has been contacted a half dozen times about this, now don’t even reply – much less offer a solution (such as sending the gun back?). I found that there was a “groove” under the top frame portion that looked like a tool mark that did not get polished out that could be causing at least some of the problem – but since Ruger no longer “talks” to me, I cannot get an opinion from them about it. Since I seem to have no other option right now, I guess I’ll just keep the thing and not let anyone else handle it, so they don’t see my shame in having such a poorly fitted Ruger. I almost wonder if maybe when their Customer Service offered me such a cheap price on a “new” gun, they fully intended to send me one that was flawed and could not be sold for full price in a retail store? I know that had I been shopping for a new Ruger and handled this one, it would have gone back to the counter while I looked for another that functioned properly – which would be my recommendation for other potential buyers.

More “work” with the Ruger, and it still is not “right”. Seems as though the cylinder is not lining up correctly, as if I put pressure on it to force it further down in the frame opening, SO THAT THE PROJECTION THAT IS SUPPOSED TO CATCH IN THE BOLT CUT IN THE CYLINDER AND HOLD IT LOCKED UP TIGHT – catches better, it seems to lock properly. To that end, next i am going to replace the cylinder/belt pin with one from Belt Mountain that is designed to fit better and eliminate the possibility of the pin working loose and falling or “shooting” out as the pin on my first .44 magnum – an old Herter’s with a 4″ barrel that really had a recoil problem – began to do before I got rid of it (actually lost the pin while shooting). The replacement pin should fit tighter, which I am hoping will encourage proper cylinder alignment. More on this when I get the pin.

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
This entry was posted in Rifles and Other Things That Go Bang!. Bookmark the permalink.