THE LITTLE RUGERS OF ANDY HORVATH
As I leafed through the gun trade paper, a small one-inch by two-inch add in the top corner immediately caught my eye. It simply read: .44 SPECIAL CONVERSIONS. Now I am a pushover for a good .44 Special and had two Bisley Colt SA's and one Ruger Three Screw Blackhawk at the time, all of which had started life in a less desirable chambering than the grand old .44 Special.
What's so special about the Special? Yes, it has been heavily overshadowed by the .44 Magnum, .41 Magnum, and the .454 Casull, and even full house .45 Colts, but for easy packin' combined with real portable power, the .44 Special is still a great package whether it be in a Smith & Wesson Model 24/624 or Colt Single Action/New Frontier. At 900 feet per second, a 250 grain Keith bullet in a .44 Special is hard to beat as a defensive sixgun, and loaded up to 1200 feet per second, the .44 Special becomes a hunting handgun for close range deer and black bear.
I did not own my first .44 Special until three years after the first .44 Magnum was introduced to the sixgunning public. My wife presented me with the ideal present our first Christmas together, a Smith & Wesson .44 Special six and one-half inch barreled 1950 Target.
Since that first .44 Special, there have been many others, sixguns of both single action and double action persuasion: Smiths, Colt SA's, and New Frontiers, Great Westerns, five-shot Charter Bulldogs, and the above mentioned Bisley and Ruger conversions.
I immediately clipped the ".44 SPECIAL CONVERSIONS" ad and contacted Diagonal Rd. Gun Shop (14131 Diagonal Rd., LaGrange, Ohio 44050). Andy Horvath knew of me through my writings and I found a kindred spirit who also had enjoyed the sixgun articles of Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton. Andy told me that he had been working on guns since the age of thirteen at which time he restocked his .22 rifle with a discarded piece of walnut floorboard. His specialty now is custom sixguns and I can now attest to the fact that he does excellent work and his re-bluing is especially beautiful.
"Andy, I'd like a real special .44 Special, a round-butted, four-inch barreled .44 built on a Ruger .357 Three Screw Blackhawk. A real .44 Special packin' pistol."
Andy also had a soft spot in his heart, soul, and spirit for a good .44 Special and related that he had converted both Smith & Wesson and Ruger sixguns to .44 Special and also an old Winchester '92 that he had bought for parts that turned out to be so good internally that he relined the barrel to .44 Special.
Andy said he could round the butt of the .357 Blackhawk and cut the barrel and ejector rod housing to four inches with no problem. So off went a like new six and one-half inch .357 Three Screw Blackhawk. Along with the .357 Blackhawk, I sent a picture of a .45 ACP Ruger that leathermaker Thad Rybka had made up with a round butt and four-inch barrel.
The older Three Screw Rugers are smaller than New Model Rugers and would certainly make a dandy little Sheriff's Model Ruger. Along with the Ruger .357 , I also sent a seven and one-half inch Super Blackhawk barrel, and some special items I had been saving for just such a project. From my parts box, I pulled my last Ruger blued steel ejector rod housing, and my last 1960's wide Super Blackhawk hammer. I also sent a pair of Rosewood Ruger grips that I had picked up somewhere, I believe when Ruger had an over-run of .22 Single-Six Colorado Centennial stocks a number of years ago.
It seemed like a very short time before I received a package marked Diagonal Rd. Gun Shop. Eagerly unwrapping the little package, I found all I had asked for and more. It is not too often I get really excited over a sixgun anymore, but this was a case of love at first sight. I found a beauty of a Special sixgun. The bluing was deep and perfect, the round butted grip felt even better than I had hoped for. Horvath had polished the standard aluminum grip frame and round-butted it so it slipped into my hand perfectly. The grips were also rounded and tapered just right. Most single action grips are tapered the reverse of what they should be namely big at the bottom and small at the top. Horvath did it right.
In addition, Horvath had jeweled the sides of the hammer and trigger and made a cylinder pin with a flat face to allow maximum ejector rod travel to fully extract empties.
On the side of the frame, the original ".357 Magnum" had been replaced with "44 SPL". I have seen a number of conversions from big-name gunsmiths that still had ".357 Magnum' stamped on the side. To me, it spoils the whole conversion.
My Little Ruger arrived just as I was leaving for the first Shootists Holiday and I took it along with a generous supply of Lyman's #429421 Keith bullet over 7.5 grains of Unique. They proved capable of making the little Ruger sing but before we even had a chance to shoot it, other Shootists were trying to talk me out of it. After we shot it, I knew I had a winner.
That was in 1986 and since that time a number of other pistoleros have also had Andy Horvath build up Little Rugers for them in various calibers. I recently called four of these in and put them through their paces in calibers .44 Special, .45 Colt and .41 Magnum. The Three Screw Ruger .357 is too small in cylinder and frame for the .45 Colt and .41
Magnum, which should only be built on New Model frames.
Two significant additions have been made to my special Little Ruger. For packin', a Thad Rybka M81 Crossdraw holster has been added and the .44 itself has been beautifully engraved by Tedd Adamovich of BluMagnum Grips. Both the holster and the engraving enhance pride of ownership of the .44 Ruger.
I find myself more and more reaching for this no-nonsense sixgun and holster combination when I head for the mountain, foothills or desert. I usually pack a Colt Commander .45ACP or a Ruger GP-100 when I am testing other guns, but lately they seem to be taking a back seat to the Little Ruger.
For this special gathering of Little Rugers, fellow Shootist Jerry Danuser of Missouri sent along his .44 Special and .45 Colt Sheriff's Models and friend David Dworsky of Texas contributed his .45 Colt and .41 Magnum Horvath Little Ruger sixguns.
Danuser's .44 Special Ruger is built on a .357 Three Screw Blackhawk that I located in a local gun shop. The alloy grip frame has been polished and fitted with ivory micarta grips, the hammer is jeweled and the balance of the gun is richly blued. Since this Ruger was already retro-fitted with a Ruger transfer bar at the factory, the action is not quite as smooth as my own .44 Special.
A second Little Ruger from Missouri is in .45 Colt chambering and started life as a New Model .357 Blackhawk. The entire sixgun has been done in satin nickel highlighted by a jeweled bright nickel hammer and trigger, and all screw heads, frame pins, cylinder flutes, ejector rod head, and base pin have all been brightly polished. Contrasting nicely with the satin nickel finish is a pair of ebony grips. Since this was originally a .357 Magnum, the cylinder is too short for some .45 Colt handloads.
Texas's contribution to the testing project consisted of a Ruger Stainless Super Blackhawk cut to four inches and fitted with standard stainless grip frame. Since it started as a .44 Magnum, its cylinder is long enough to handle the longest of .45 Colt handloads. The round butted grip frame has been fitted with ivory micarta grips. The Ruger Stainless Blackhawk .44 would also be a good candidate for a conversion that maintains the original caliber but with four-inch barrel and rounded butt.
The second Horvath Little Ruger sixgun lent by David Dworsky is a Three Screw .41 Magnum, round butted, finished in bead blasted nickel, hammer and trigger jeweled , and barrel cut to three and one-half inches. Again, grips are ivory micarta that look and feel particularly good.
Single action sixguns have always been my passion, but these round-butted Little Rugers redefine the shooting of big bore single action sixguns. The simple act of round butting the grip frame changes the perceived recoil significantly and the heaviest loads can be shot in relative comfort.
The four-inch or shorter barrel make them particularly fast out of a properly designed holster, and I would certainly not feel that I was giving anything away to those armed with semi-autos or double actions revolvers, at least for the first shot. No gun is any faster for the first shot than a single action sixgun.
HORVATH SHERIFF'S MODEL RUGERS
CHRONOGRAPH: OEHLER MODEL 35P
TEMP: 80 DEGREES
GROUPS: FIVE SHOTS @ 25 YDS
.45 COLT X 4"
|255 LEAD||CCI BLAZER||761||2 1/4"|
|225 LEAD HP||FEDERAL||814||3"|
|230 LEAD RN||BLACK HILLS||780||2 1/4"|
|LYMAN 260 KT||10.0 GR. UNIQUE||1011||1 5/8"|
|BULL-X 255 KT||18.5 GR. #2400||1025||2 1/8"|
|NEI 310 KT||21.0 GR. H110||1018||1 1/2"|
|BRP 300 FP||21.0 GR. H110||1001||1 1/2"|
LYMAN 260 KT IS #454424
NEI 310KT IS #310.451KT
BRP 300 FP IS LYMAN #454629GC
BULL-X 255 IS COMMERCIAL CAST
.45 COLT IS JERRY DANUSER'S BLACKHAWK .357 CONVERSION
.44 SPECIAL X 4"
|240 BULL-X||11.0 GR. HS-7||926||3/4"|
|8.0 GR. HERCO||1005||2 1/2"|
|16.5 GR. H4227||1033||1 5/8"|
|15.0 GR. #2400||1017||1 3/4"|
|7.5 GR. UNIQUE||967||1"|
.44 SPECIAL IS AUTHOR'S .357 CONVERSION WITH .44 MAGNUM BARREL
.41 MAGNUM X 3 1/2"
|200 JHP||CCI BLAZER||1067||2 3/4"|
|210 LEAD SWC||WINCHESTER||915||4 3/4"|
|SPEER 200 JHP||19.0 GR. H4227||1136||2 3/4"|
|LYMAN #410459||19.5 GR. #2400||1388||2"|
|BULL-X 215 SWC||13.0 GR. BLUE DOT||1213||1 3/4"|
While testing the .44 Special Little Rugers, I stumbled onto an excellent .44 Special load, namely the BULL-X 240 grain semi-wadcutter Keith style bullet over 11.0 grains of HS-7. At just over 900 feet per second in a four-inch barrel, this load proved to be exceptionally accurate. I expect to be using this load in the future in longer barreled .44 Special sixguns, expecting it to break 1000 feet per second in seven and one-half inch barreled sixguns.
For the .45 Colt, the long time favorite load of Lyman's 260 grain Keith bullet, #454424 over 10.0 grains of Unique proved to be very accurate at 1000 feet per second, as did both the 300 grain NEI #310.452 Keith and BRP's 300 grain Lyman #454629GC. Both gave the same 1000 feet per second over 21.0 grains of WW296.
The Bull-X 255 proved to be a good bullet with 18.5 grains of #2400 at, again, 1000 feet per second and the same bullet performs well over 10.0 grains of Unique. The .45 Colt has always been a most versatile cartridge and continues to be in the Little Ruger .45's.
I did not spend as much time with the .41 Magnum Sheriff's Model as the others, but it proved to perform well with 13.0 grains of Blue Dot under the Bull-X 215 grain semi-wadcutter bullet giving groups under two inches at 25 yards which is excellent for a three and one-half inch barreled sixgun.
Horvath does all the standard sixgun work, trigger jobs, action tuning, custom barrels, sights, etc. He can also provide steel ejector rod housings for those who, like myself, detest alloy housings on single action sixguns. His finest work however is his Little Rugers. His last .44 Special conversion went through Thad Rybka to well-known sixgunner Hank Williams Jr. who I understand does something else on the side. That alone should speak highly of Andy Horvath's work.
For those who may be interested in .44 Special conversions, Horvath offers the following:
On Large Frame Smith & Wesson and Ruger Revolvers Converted to .44 Spl.
Cylinder rechambered, chambers polished, front of cylinder trued
Barrel bored out and relined, recrowned
Forcing cone cut and polished to match chamber throats
Barrel/cylinder gap set at .003" to .005"
Rugers can be rebarreled with Shilen blanks instead of relining
Little Ruger Conversions
Cylinder rechambered, chambers polished, front of cylinder trued
Four-inch Shilen barrel and steel ejector rod housing installed
New cylinder base pin with short head for longer ejector rod travel
Mill caliber designation off and restamp with new caliber
Round butt and polish grip frame
Mill grip frame sides flat and refit grips
Jewel hammer sides
Finish in Hi-lustre blue
Diagonal Rd. Gunshop
14131 Diagonal Rd
LaGrange Ohio 44050