Ruger beauties round out list of ‘Holy Grail’ handguns

In my last two columns, I’ve been talking about what I consider Holy Grail handguns, the ones that are hard to find and worth keeping indefinitely, if not eternally, due to their function and craftsmanship.

After discussing some of my top choices – the Double Action Korth, the Colt Python and Peacemaker, and quite a number of Smith and Wesson models, led by the Model 58, which I discussed last time around, I went to the other end of the spectrum, the J-Frame Smith & Wesson small-frame revolvers.

This time around, I want to talk Ruger.

They have never made a stumble in their line of double-action revolvers. Every one of every vintage is a fool-proof virtual anvil. The newer ones have gotten a little “cheap,” as they have finally gone along with Smith & Wesson, Charter Arms, Taurus etc. in trying to cut every cost they can with MIM parts and various other techniques. Luckily, they all still make serviceable revolvers.

There are a few Ruger “HG” revolvers out there as well. If you need proof, go onto gunbroker.com and bid on some 2¾-inch barreled Speed-Sixes. If you can even find one in .38 S&W (stamped .380 cal.) or an export model in 9mm (yes, 9mm auto) with the lanyard ring on the butt you will pay dearly for it.

Even the lowly .38 Specials in stainless steel will run in the $500 area. You simply can’t get a stainless .357 Magnum for $500. Want one in 9 mm that was just a domestic version, and you can most likely add $200 to that.

I’m a little too stubborn  (and cheap) for that, so my .357 is blued and my .38 Special is blued as well. I’m not sure why they even chambered them for .38 Special, as the revolver is just as big and heavy as the .357 version.

These guns are “just right” when chambered for .357, however. The heft is befitting the chambering, all of them have full-length ejector rods despite the front locking system shared with S&W, and the round butt of the grip fits the hand well with either the nice rounded factory wood grips or the Compacs.

My .38 still wears the factory wood grip, as it has an excellent feel. The .357 however wears rubber. Smallish wood grips and full-power .357 loads do not for a happy hand make!

Sometimes irrationality wins out and you just have to give in and make what you want, whether it makes sense or not.

The Speed-Six was available with a 4-inch barrel but still carries a stiffer price tag than its brother, the Service-Six. The only difference is that the Service-Six has a square butt instead of a round one. It is basically a Security-Six without the adjustable sights.

So I got to thinking: If I put a set of Speed-Six grips on a Service-Six, I should be able to see if it is possible to grind, file, sand and polish the grip frame down into the Speed-Six contour. Eureka! It works!

Now all that was needed was to shorten the barrel to the desired 3 inches with a very deeply recessed crown at 11-degree off of center to give it a unique look from the muzzle, cut a dovetail for an easy-to-see fiber optic front sight meant for a 1911, do some action/trigger work, and it’s my dream carry Ruger .357!

Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and took the tricked-out hammer and trigger out of my retired Security-Six competition gun and slapped them in as well. This is definitely one of those projects that meets all of my expectations.

My wife has a “Holy Grail” Ruger as well, although I don’t think she really knows or cares. She loves the gun, just doesn’t see any need to be fascinated by such things. Hers is a 5-inch GP-100, stainless steel .357 Magnum. It’s carried only in a western-style rig (she’s a cowgirl) when trail riding and sleeps with her by the bed with six  “pretty” Winchester 145-Grain Silvertips loaded and 25 more waiting in the shell loops.

The 5-inch barrel is rare in just about any double-action revolver, but even more so in Ruger medium frames. That’s a pity, since it is a great compromise between the advantages of the long 6-inch and more portable 4-inch.

I hear rumors that the first batch sold so well that there may be more produced or it might even become a cataloged standard. This may be one “HG” that will be easy to get your hands on in the future.

Moving up to the big boys in Ruger’s stable, I always wanted a 4-inch Redhawk in .44 Magnum. I used to shoot so many .44s out of 4-inch Smith & Wessons that they were literally rattling apart. They could only be rebuilt so much before it became a lost cause.

The Redhawk has long been available with a 5½-inch barrel, I had one, and it was cool, but it never got used. I just liked the 4-inch better.

Finally, the S&W let me down one too many times and I had to build a 4-inch Redhawk. It probably would have been smarter to just cut down a Super Redhawk, as it has a round barrel, but the weird protruding frame that surrounds the barrel out forward of the normal “line” just makes the gun look strange with a 4-inch barrel.

If cut to 2½-or 3-inch (as I have done for customers), it looks kind of cool but not at 4 inches. The Super Redhawk also shares a grip frame with the GP-100, which is fantastic because it could then wear those awesome Compac grips, but I just couldn’t get over the look.

So, it had to be a Redhawk. It was pretty easily done: Cut down the barrel, re-crown it and mount a front sight. Throw in a trigger/action job and a bead-blasted finish and it’s good to go.

As fate would have it, two things conspired against me to cause the separation of me and that Redhawk.

One, I got married and,  through no fault of my wife’s, I quit shooting as much. And two, Smith & Wesson brought out a Titanium .44 Magnum revolver with a 4-inch barrel. The Redhawk was sold and the S&W was purchased.

I have no regret. That S&W is so handy with its 26-ounce weight and .44 Magnum power that it has a permanent place with me. It’s a gun that is elevated from want to need!

Many years later Ruger brought out a factory 4-inch Redhawk – cool, but I no longer had the need for its durability. Then along came a package one day from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Inside was a 4-inch Redhawk wearing a Hogue rubber Monogrip. On the side was the RMEF logo.

The tie-in to the RMEF, for which I have done their banquet guns for many years, and the history of that specific model of revolver was just too much.

At the banquet I told my wife I “wanted to bid on that gun.” It was an oral auction and I did so, until the price went $100 above what I thought it was worth, even to me. My wife encouraged me to keep going, but I come from a long line of cheapskates.

When the winning bidder came to claim his booty at my shop, I told him I was the one bidding against him and if he ever wanted to sell it, to let me know. As it turned out, a couple of years later it came back.

I couldn’t stand the Hogue grips on the gun, so I removed them, stuck them in the factory box and replaced them with a set of standard model wooden stocks. They feel better in the hand but can draw blood when shooting some stout 300-grain hand loads.

Unfortunately, no one has ever made a rubber grip that feels good to me on a Redhawk, probably should have just gone to the Super, too late now!

There are also so many single-action revolvers made by Ruger over the years that qualify as “HG” versions that I can’t possibly even know them all, much less write about them.

I would love to have an Old Model Blackhawk back that I re-built and sold many years ago. What I call a “pocket dealer” came into my shop with this particular Ruger many, many years ago. He had just picked it up for a song from another dealer not far away from me.

I wish I had a picture of it in that sad state but alas, I don’t. The poor thing was an Original Blackhawk “Flat Top” chambered for .44 Magnum with 4 5/8-inch barrel. It had been turned into a “quick-draw” special.

Both sights had been removed and the rear “flat top” had been ground down into some semblance of a Colt SAA lookalike. Well, if you had really bad cataracts, it looked like a Colt SAA.

The hammer had also been reconfigured to stick up like the tail of a skunk when defending himself, so it would be easy to “fan.”

I started the resurrection by draw filing down the hideous top strap as flat as possible. The problem was that it was so wavy that I was afraid to take that much material; this was a .44 Mag., after all! To make it look good, I checkered the top-strap to break up the surface and hide the slight angles. It worked perfectly; the 40 lines-per-inch checkering made the top strap look as flat as glass.

Said top strap was then milled out to accept a Smith & Wesson revolver adjustable rear sight. It was also checkered to match. A Ruger Single-Six front ramp sight was screwed to a drilled-and-tapped 6-48 hole at top dead center right above an 11-degree re-crown on the muzzle to set it off.

The grip frames of all of these early Blackhawks were aluminum and this one had plenty of surface wear. Since I have no way to anodize aluminum, I just bead blasted the grip frame and left it “in-the-white.” This gave a nice two-tone contrast. The checkered top strap was then masked off and bead blasted as well.

The rest of the gun was polished out and fully re-blued. I really had no use for it when it was done, so I put it up for sale. One of the greatest men I have ever met, Cal, bought it from me. So even though I regret selling it, at least it went to a great person.

I had been looking for an “HG” Smith & Wesson for a while and it was really pre-Internet times, as far as I was concerned, because I wasn’t “plugged into the interweb.”

The customer/friend that I got the Model 27-2 mentioned above from walked through the door with exactly what I wanted: a blued, 4-inch .45 Colt Model 25-5. Another customer/friend bought it right out from under me, right in front of me, in my shop. I was not happy.

Back then I paid good money to have a shop open with a big sign out front, advertising, light bills etc. to draw people into my shop so I can make a living. You don’t jump into someone’s deal in their place of business. If you don’t know this yet, now you do and now you know why.

Anyway, I was mad but didn’t make a huge deal out of it and just pushed the fury inside. Buried, but not forgotten. That “friend” didn’t get nearly the royal treatment he used to get around the shop. I told that story to Cal one day, since he is the exact opposite type of person. He was not too impressed by the other’s behavior.

A few weeks later Cal came by with the pictured six-shooter. It’s a perennial favorite, for a couple of reasons. In the end I got even with both of them, but in Cal’s case, it was in a good way. I love that guy.

Two single-action Rugers I was smart enough to hold onto are a blued one with the Bird’s Head grip brand new and re-chambered it to .327 magnum as soon as it came out. Just like the S&W, its cylinder is a little too short.

I bought a bright stainless one from a friend/customer who knows I’m a .32/.327 nut. On this gun I purchased another .32 H&R cylinder for it and re-chambered it to .327. This was the better way to go, as these revolvers have skyrocketed in price due to their discontinuation as well and this one can be brought back to original spec.

My last “Holy Grail revolver” used to be attainable to about anyone. After all, it was just a strange military gun in an even stranger caliber: the Webley .455.

Thousands of these revolvers have been brought into the U.S. by various means and since the original caliber was scarce here, enterprising gunsmiths just turned the cylinders down to accept the venerable .45 ACP cartridge in World War I “moon clips.” (This is a whole other story.)

Since these revolvers are top-break and self-ejecting, they are about the fastest revolver in the world to reload and would be a real dandy in a modern revolver. These revolvers came in two basic styles, round and square butt.

I’ll bet you can’t guess which one I want…

Try to guess again: Which is rarer and more expensive?