THE SINGLE ACTION
by John Taffin
( continued )
.454 CASULL/ THE CARTRIDGE: The .454 Casull is the creation of Dick Casull who at the time was a Utah based gunsmith who spent many years experimenting with the .45 Colt. Casull disproved the still existing myth that ".45 Colt brass is weak" by using .45 Colt brass for all of his experimenting for nearly thirty years. It is only when the .454 Casull became available in factory guns that the .45 Colt was lengthened to become the .454 Casull and keep it out of .45 Colt sixguns.
A seven and one-half inch .44 Magnum will deliver a 240 grain bullet at 1400-1500 feet per second and a 300 grain bullet at 1300-1400 feet per second. A .454 will take the 240 grain bullet to a full 2000 feet per second and the 300 grainer to 1700-1800 feet per second. This is definitely the cartridge of choice where the big bears roam. And not so bad either when happening on a moose or elk is a possibility during the daily chores.
Recoil of the .454 is extreme and this is not a defensive cartridge that will allow the firing of fast repeat shots by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, one well placed shot should be all that is required.
.454 CASULL/THE GUNS: Freedom Arms manufacturers a full line of .454 revolvers in standard barrel lengths up to ten inches with others available on a custom basis. For this project, the only ones to concern ourselves with are the easy packin' four and three-quarter inch gun and the new three inch Deputy Model.
Both of these guns are relatively light in weight and easy to carry all day especially for outdoor jobs. The .454 comes as close as possible to carrying rifle energy on the hip. A perfect sixgun to carry when the possibility of defending oneself against larger nasty animals could be a real possibility.
As all Freedom Arms guns, these are five-shot stainless steel revolvers built to exacting tolerances and built to give a lifetime of reasonable but hard service. When one considers that they are not much larger than a Colt Single Action, the power that is delivered from such small guns is astounding.
Freedom Arms.454 Casull
4 3/4" .454
|FREEDOM ARMS 240HP MED.VEL.||1024||1 1/2"||1117||1 1/2"|
|FREEDOM ARMS 240JHP||1715||1 1/2"||1798||2"|
|FREEDOM ARMS 260JFP||1687||1 1/2"||1752||1 1/2"|
|FREEDOM ARMS 300JFP||1553||1 7/8"||1621||2 1/2"|
|BRP#454629/31.0 GR. WW296||1418||1 1/2"||1506||2 1/8"|
.475 LINEBAUGH and .500 LINEBAUGH/THE CARTRIDGES: We have now reached the apex in defensive sixguns, the biggest bores, the Linebaugh Magnums in .475 and .500 caliber. Created by gunsmith John Linebaugh of Cody Wyoming, the .475 is made with .45-70 brass cut to 1.400" while the .500 uses the .348 Winchester as the basic case. Heavyweight bullets of 380 to 450 grains are the fodder for the Linebaughs.
.475 LINEBAUGH AND .500 LINEBAUGH/ THE FIVEGUNS: John Linebaugh builds his guns on the Ruger Bisley using a five shot cylinder. Hamilton Bowen also offers the Linebaugh cartridges on either the Bisley, Redhawk, or Super Redhawk, all of these also are five-shot sixguns. Both Linebaugh and Bowen are real artists and offer beautifully made revolvers. The great things about these guns is that they can be run full bore or cut back to easily handled 800 feet per second loads.
|.475 LINEBAUGH 5 1/2 " BISLEY|
|LBT 395/10.0 GR. WW231||823||1 7/8"|
|LBT 395/20.0 GR. BLUE DOT||1285||1 1/4"|
|LBT 405/21.0 GR. H4227||1002||1"|
|LBT 405/18.0 GR. BLUE DOT||1216||1 1/2"|
.500 LINEBAUGH 5 1/2" BISLEY
|LBT 405/10.0 GR. WW231||863||1 1/8"|
|LBT 405/31.0 GR. WW296||1201||1 5/8"|
|LBT 445/9.0 GR. WW231||820||1 1/2"|
|LBT 445/20.0 GR. BLUE DOT||1123||1 3/4"|
357 MAGNUM/ THE CARTRIDGE: Last, but certainly not least in the minds of many shooters, we have the first Magnum, the .357. The .357 has seen double duty as an outdoorsman's cartridge and combat cartridge since its inception. Unlike other Magnums, this one is controllable in full house loadings. Many excellent loadings for the .357 Magnum abound and my favorite load is the Lyman #358156 over 15.0 grains of #2400, a standard loading for decades. While too small should the sixgun be called upon against large animals, it is still one of the best, some would say the best, combat cartridge going. With proper loads, it has an excellent record of one shot stops on the most dangerous game, and is an ideal cartridge for those whose requirements along with self defense include use against varmints and small deer.
.357 MAGNUM/THE SIXGUNS: At this writing there are no American made .357 single action revolvers available except the overally large and heavy Ruger Blackhawk on their .44 frame. Much better .357's to my way of thinking are the old Flat-top Rugers, their original .357 or the Three-Screw model made from 1963 to 1973. The latter is readily available at reasonable prices.
Nearly identical in size to the Colt Single Action, the first and second model Ruger .357's pack quite easily. The first Ruger .44 magnum was built on the .357 frame and was found to be too much for too little. Now the .357 is built on the .44 frame and is too little for too much.
RUGER BLACKHAWK 4 5/8"
| RUGER BLACKHAWK FLAT-TOP
4 5/8" OLD MODEL
|BLACK HILLS 125 JHP||1473||1 7/8"||1473||2 1/4"|
|BLACK HILLS 158 JHP||1169||1 1/4"||1184||1 5/8"|
|FEDERAL 180 JHP||1070||2 1/4"||1112||1 1/4"|
|FEDERAL 158 LEAD SWC||1189||2 1/2"||1187||2 1/2"|
|WINCHESTER 125 JHP||1415||2 1/4"||1397||1 1/2"|
|WINCHESTER 145 SILVERTIP||1264||2"||1217||1 3/4"|
|WINCHESTER 158 JSP||1261||2 1/8"||1217||3"|
|LYMAN #358156GC 15.5 GR. #2400||1483||2 1/2"||1506||1 1/2"|
SINGLE ACTIONS/ THE GRIPS: The traditional single action is the one sixgun that comes from the factory with comfortable grips if the maker doesn't get carried away and make them too thick. Most Ruger grips coming through now are much too thick at the bottom for my tastes. The original Colt Single Action grip is still excellent for cartridges up to around 1200 feet per second with a 250 grain bullet. After that recoil starts to become very noticeable.
Two excellent improvements in the single action grip for those sixguns that do produce substantial recoil are found on the Freedom Arms .454 and the Ruger Bisley line. Both grips are longer than the standard single action grip and give plenty of room for all the fingers of the shooting hand.
When I re-stock a single action it is normally to get a better looking grip not radically change the grip profile. One exception is the grips available from Blu-Magnum (2605 E. Willamette, Dept. AH,Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909) that fill in behind the trigger guard on hard-kickin' Super Blackhawk and Freedom Arms single actions. If one is a victim of knuckle-dusting, the Blu-Magnum grip will cure it. They also offer standard grips, including one piece style for Colt single actions, in walnut and exotic woods.
An excellent source for standard single action grips in ivory, micarta, and exotic woods are Paul Persinger and Roy Fishpaw. Both of these men are craftsman of the highest order and both fit and finish of their grips leave absolutely nothing to be desired.
SINGLE ACTIONS/ THE LEATHER: Many early holsters were really not holsters at all but soft sheaths that swallowed the whole gun. This offered maximum protection and security but made a fast draw impossible. A Cherokee Indian and lawman of the early part of this century, Tom Threepersons, designed a rig for the single action that sill bears his name. Threepersons took his idea to Tio Sam Myers of El Paso. Myres made the Threepersons holster of stiff saddle skirting, wet formed to the sixgun. The hammer and the trigger guard were completely exposed and the trigger guard rode on a welt that ran the full length of the holster. The holster rode high and tight on a belt with no extra trappings. Nothing except enough leather to accept the barrel and cylinder of the Single Action Colt. Everything included in the holster was all business. Serious social business. Myers Saddlery is now El Paso Saddlery and they still make the original Threepersons rig. Bianchi makes it as their #1 Lawman and Lawrence offers it as the #120 Keith.
El Paso also makes a #88 pancake style holster with no safety strap but rather a spring clip holding the barrel. The butt and hammer ride high and clean with just the front part of the trigger guard covered. Fast. Secure. Concealable.
Rick Waltner (P.O. Box 626, Dept. AH, Columbus, Montana, 59019) offers a take-off on The Threepersons design that has worked out quite well. Instead of folding over the back flap to make a holster loop, Waltner cuts the holster off square at the top and sews the belt loop on both top and bottom. This allows a very flat belt loop. Waltner's rigs also feature a built in rear sight protector.
The Duke, John Wayne, was one of the few reel cowboys to wear a sensible rig. It slipped on the cartridge belt and had a partially enclosed trigger guard and a small back flap. It is now available from Bianchi and El Paso, as The Duke, and G. William Davis offers an excellent rig patterned after the rig worn by John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" and naturally calls it The Rooster. All three of these rigs feature a roughout finished belt with a smooth finished holster. All three are first class rigs.
For a more traditional, 1880's style holster, both El Paso and Red River offer beautifully crafted and styled holsters. I have a Red River rig for a four and three-quarter inch Colt Single Action that I especially like as it seems to literally squeeze around the sixgun but still leave it ready for fast access.
Ted Blocker offers the TR holster, TR standing for Thell Reed, that is patterned after the rigs that Reed has used for so many years. It is much like the Duke style but rides a little higher with a slight backward tilt. Very comfortable to wear and very fast.
Single action sixguns are not for beginning pistoleros but for accomplished sixgunners. I never recommend a single action sixgun as a first gun. That recommendation is always the same, a double action six-inch barreled .357 Magnum unless conditions and requirements dictate differently. I consider the single action more suited to those that are knowledgeable about and very proficient with handguns. One that knows single actions and how to handle them well does not need to feel he is under-gunned in any situation that demands a big bore revolver.