The Keith Designed Cast Hollow Point Revolver Bullets


Mike Cumpston

(Click on any of the thumbnail images for a larger photo.)

The bullets designed by Keith, Croft and their associates between 1928-31 continue as a staple among revolver enthusiasts. The later years of that period saw versions in hollow based and hollow point form. The hollow-point .38 and .44 bullets were, for several decades, the most popular variation on the basic theme. Keith regarded them as useful on large game when great penetration was not needed and found them extremely effective on the small species even with less than ideal placement.

Over the decades, his recorded observations on the performance of these bullets were validated over and over again. Keith reported that the bullets would expand reliably at 1,000 fps when cast of a reasonable lead /tin alloy. He reported that the 358429 over a ” heavy” powder charge was the only .38 caliber load he had found that would drop a paunch -shot porcupine, dead at the shot.

In the 1960’s Texas gun writer, Gene West reported the same results. He was loading the 429 over 15 grains of 2400 for his 6″ Highway patrolman. West preferred to cast his bullets from wheel weight metal observing that the nose would scatter fragments throughout the varmint while the portion of the base below the hollow point would achieve deep penetration.

By the late 1950s, various companies were attempting to improve handgun bullet expansion by experimenting with pure lead cores swaged into half to ¾ length cups or jackets. Speer listed loads for such bullets in the Number 3 Reloading Manual of 1959. These bullets generally took a backseat to cast lead in the accuracy department and the Keith Hollowpoint remained popular. By 1963, Jacketed Soft Point loads such as the 210 41 Magnum were being applied to magnum cartridges. In 1965 Winchester-Western anticipated later developments with a .44 Magnum Carbine load capped with a ” Hollow Soft Point”. By that time, the Speer ¾ jacket design had developed to the point that no soft lead came into contact with the handgun bore. Throughout the 1960s and early ‘70s, bullet design proceeded apace but jacketed handgun bullets that would perform reliable at 1,000 fps and below were still many years in the future.

In Waco, Texas in the years between 1960 and the early 70s, I, along with several other adolescent handgunners, got started in reloading through a symbiotic deal with a local policeman who ran a reloading business on the side. His Star Machine produce consisted of Wadcutter practice rounds loaded in mass for a number of area police departments. He also turned out a scattering of duty loads using the Thompson Gas check designs in both solid and Hollow Point variation and the Keith 358429 HP loaded over 5.7 Unique for the .38 Special. The deeply hollow pointed 155-158 grain Keith was, by far, the most popular. He produced them one at a time with a single cavity Lyman mold and the labor of his gaggle of Street Arabs who were afforded a 50-50 apportionment of the bullets.

The 5.7 Unique load was supposed to get you 1,000 fps in a .38. The local policemen considered this an ideal load and they continued to carry a few in their belt loops even after upgrading to .357 and the new soft- point loads. By the late ‘60s, a lot of policemen had switched to the magnum revolvers and the fitfully expanding 158 grain soft point rounds that had recently come into use in the stretch .38. The old Special load had been relegated to the task of dispatching stray dogs.

The Speer #3 would let you use 10.5 Hercules 2400 for a claimed 1060 fps from a.38 Military and Police or K38. Various sources would sanction15 grains of that propellant with the Keith bullet crimped into the front driving band in .357 cases. They were massively destructive in that particular venue. It is in the nature of teenagers to want to create the maximum amount of noise and damage and the later load in particular suited us to a tee. They would thoroughly rend any water filled container and pulped the insides of many an armadillo splitting their exoskeletons from Dan to Beersheba. They would tear a hole the size and shape of a church key point through one side of a steel army helmet that the sharp full jacketed factory AP loads would only dent. There would be a delta of lead streaks on the other side. With a small machine screw threaded into the hollow point, they would punch a round .38 caliber hole through both sides.

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The more sedate .38 /10.5 2400 load became my staple field load for years to come. For several years, my only centerfire handgun was a 1959 vintage K38. Putting down a tough swamp rabbit or jack was dicey business with non- expanding bullets but the Keith Hollow point would anchor them reliably.

Throughout much of the 70s and 80s we were using 2400 and WW 630 loading the 429hp to velocities of 1150 fps or there about and observing dollar-sized exit holes on jack rabbits. The internal damage closely resembled what we were causing with 125 grain Jhp s moving several hundred feet per second faster. The .44 version of the Keith the 429421 driven to the same velocity range showed signs of full expansion on the same targets although the pulping of internal organs and exit wounds were often observed to be less extensive. Both bullets retain just over 1,000 fps velocity at 80 yards. We hit a couple of jackrabbits at that range with both calibers and observed that bullet expansion- true to the Keith observation, was still taking place. Long ago, I settled upon chilled shot as an alloy source for these bullets. They are somewhat tedious to cast but produce the same expansion characteristics as bullets cast from recovered jacketed bullets.

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Neither the .38 nor .44 Keith Hollow Points show any substantial expansion in the 700-over 800 fps velocity range regardless of the target hit. On game and various expansion media, both expand reliably at impact velocities of just over 1,000 fps. Driven to 1350 fps, the .44s are likely to produce expansion, fragmentation and considerable penetration on live game. At 1500 + fps, the .44s have become virtual bombs and will blow a double fists sized hole through a thin rack of pork ribs. These bullets seem most useful when impact velocities run between 1,000 and 1300 fps or thereabout. They are particularly useful when you want full expansion at sub- maximum velocities ranging from 1,000 to 1200 fps.

In 1991, I took cover inside a cedar bush next to a game trail with my 5.5″ Ruger Stainless Blackhawk .44. An old buck with stunted antlers stopped 30 yards from my hide and I shot him through the left shoulder with a 421 over 19.5 2400. This was a 1340 fps load from that revolver and clocked just under 12 from a 4″ 29. The shoulder was shattered and the bullet proceeded through about 14″ of chest muscle putting a 1″ cavity all the way through the right shoulder blade. The deer crumpled to the ground unable to use either front leg. A second shot tore a 1.5″ rend through both lungs causing the deer to drop its head and die instantly. I found the first bullet base and two nose fragments together under the skin on the far side. The bullet had started out weighing 235 grains and the recovered pieces totaled 165 grains. By contrast, a buck I shot through the lungs with a solid version of this bullet ran 50 yards before lying down.

Capturing the bullets in various media demonstrates several consistent findings:

Shot through four to eight inches of flesh (beef brisket) prior to passing through a foam-core /paper sheet, these bullets generally arrive at full expansion with no- or few separated nose fragments. The .44 signatures usually measure 90 caliber to just over an inch-as do those bullets that are recovered whole and mushroomed in the classic manner. The .358429s regularly reach sixty to over seventy caliber;

Fragmentation occurs most often when the bullets have fully penetrated the grocery store meat and enter water jugs or wet pack designed to stop them;

In animals weighing 20 to 40 pounds and upward, the base and fragments tend to travel together with a few sharp and jagged separate channels observed. These tend to occur when the bullet passes through tissue of different density.

There is no discernable difference in media performance at 25 and 50 yards.

The Keith Hollow Point molds have been out of production for two and perhaps three decades. At the height of their popularity, the molds were a bit hard to find and those surviving may now be regarded as relics of a bygone age. They have been superceded by new generations of jacketed bullets that perform much better than the jacketed bullets of just 20 years ago. They also have some competition in the form of commercial swaged lead hollow points which do not perform nearly as well as the original Keith designs. Several factors enter into the evanescence of the Keith hollow points. With the likely exception of the old Hollow Base designs, they represent the slowest and most tedious casting operation possible. The mold is single cavity with a bottom pin that has to be removed after each pour. Rejection rates can be high, as it is a bit difficult to get the hollow noses to fill out properly. Further, there is a body of literature- some of it from usually reliable sources- that says that the Keith Bullets will not expand. Many people accepted this as fact and avoided the hassle of casting them. Finally, with the plain based and relatively soft bullets, some degree of bore leading is to be expected. The practical consequences of this range from the need to apply a bore brush after every cylinder or so to practically nil depending on a number of factors that are difficult to pin down. In any case, it is not unusual to find that the 358429 and 429421 bullets, optimally loaded, produce groups that equal and exceed those obtained with jacketed bullets in the same revolver.

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I have long wished that some commercial concern would bring out a mass produced lead hollow point that copied the Keith design in overall form and had the deep hollow point feature that makes them so effective. Instead, they have concentrated on producing jacketed bullets that expand usefully over the full range of handgun velocities. All-in-all, this is probably a good thing.

It occurs to me that my odyssey with the Keith Hollow Points is now ongoing for forty- one years. It has not been a solo journey by any means. It is an increasingly small world and perhaps you will recognize some of the players. Maybe they will happen across themselves and be gratified. All were inveterate casters, loaders and users of the Keith Hollow Points. All are steadfast friends and all have left firm footprints on the palimpsest of time. Their shared experiences greatly enhanced my own. Pretty much in the order of their appearance, they are:

Louis James Ellis, Waco, Texas- We turned out many an alloy bullet for area police departments. He had the first Ruger Flat Top on the block and used the first issue Speer 146 Gr. Hollowpoints to explode railway pigeons and nutria-rats.

John Edgar Thorne circa 1920-1998. Sergeant Waco Police Department and Custom Reloader.-He taught us how while passing on the lore of Kent Bellah, Ron Power and others.

Dr. Richard K. Gunn , Newport News , Virginia USN Vietnam, USAMC Germany. He ran many a 429 through the Star Lubri-sizer.

James Miles Pickens 1946- 1994 Waco, Texas; FT Payne Alabama, Life Member NRA- Custom Handloader, Class III Dealer and encyclopedia of ordinary and arcane firearms knowledge.

Jim Stacy Albuquerque, New Mexico. An inveterate explorer of the various loadings of the Keith bullets and their effects upon animate targets.


The “Trade Knives” of Cold Steel

by A.K. Church, who is pretty cold himself

with gracious photography assistance from Doc Tom

(Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.) 

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The knives I will discuss here are slightly mysterious, not because they were produced long in the past, but because they were a commercially unsuccessful venture from a company big enough to move on without looking back after a product line fails to make money. 

These were readily available in the early to mid 1990s, and were essentially copies of Russell-Harrington patterns long established in their “Green River” lineup. The Cold Steel knives were, in my opinion, significant improvements over the Green River products in 2 respects:

 (1) Cold Steel’s proprietary Carbon-V is a really good mass production blade stock-I think better than whatever Russell uses. Cold Steel has tried to build up the image of Carbon-V as a dragon killer steel of mystery, which is a bit excessive, but it’s one of the better mass production high carbon steels. Edge holding is excellent, and the thin wedge grind bevel is easy to maintain.

 (2) The sheaths on these externally copy the original 19th century Prairie style of belt-over sheath. Leather quality is variable and at least one of my knives has really soft thin weak leather. This is much less of a problem with the Cold Steels because of a plastic hard liner hidden inside the sheath, which does much both for retention and protection. Again, this is superior to the off-the-shelf sheaths of the Russells.

Shown with sheath

Shown with sheath

Apparently four styles were produced, all using the same sheaths interchangeably. All are arguably derivative of Russell styles though the Russell patterns in many instances go back prior to the 19th century. I make no claim of being a knife historian, the point is that all 4 styles are old, tested patterns.

The first, and apparently most common, pattern is a clip point hunter. Blade length is 6 inches, length overall is approximately 10.25 inches. Construction is very simple with 2 hardwood slabs riveted with 2 brass rivets to an untapered tang. Most sources refer to the handle wood as hickory, and that is indeed what it looks like. This style also happens to be my favorite.

The second most common pattern is the butcher. Mildly curved, it carries a fairly blunt upswept tip. Blade length is 7 inches, l.o.a. is 11.25″. Handle details follow the clip point. This is the other easy-to-find style.

A third pattern, quite uncommon in the author’s experience, is a curved blade skinner. I do not have one to examine, but recall it as being of the same approximate size as the butcher. Obviously I may be wrong on this.

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Finally, a fourth style carried a finer-pointed blade greatly resembling a French Chef’s knife. I have only seen 2 of these. I believe these were of the 6″/10.25″ configuration, but again this is from memory. 

These knives were widely available at gun shows up ’til about a year ago at prices running $8-$15. Now they are starting to become scarce. I do not suspect these will ever be collectable. As utility knives they are hard to beat for the money.

They do have their failings. The steel is carbon and it will tarnish readily. This doesn’t bother me particularly, but I note jalapeno jack cheese will do the job in hours instead of days. The handle slabs on these are usually sharp cornered. User comfort will benefit greatly by eliminating these “hot spots”. This can be  easily done with a knife, file, sandpaper or , as I do it, with a wood burner.

These are also starting dry up. I’ve already mentioned this. But given the range of pricing, they are an item I specifically look for at gun shows and on electronic auction sites. I have acquired by quick count, 9 of ’em. 6 clip points, 3 butchers. 

They are worth seeking out.

Anyone possessing catalogues featuring these knives is invited to comment. For sentimental reasons the author also is looking for clip point hollow handle “survival” knives of the Lifeknife brand. 

CorBon Jacketed Hollow Point Loads

For the .45 ACP

by Mike Cumpston 

November 2002

Click on any thumbnail for a larger photo.

230 JHP Average Velocity 230 JHP Energy 230 JHP Extreme Spread 230 JHP Standard Deviation
975 486 44 feet per second 13

Recently, while I was plotting out an overview of the CorBon line of pistol ammunition with the editor of a famous print magazine, the editor mentioned that it would be beneficial to be as objective as possible. The gun magazines receive a fair amount of criticism for seemingly foisting off rave reviews of everything that comes through the door. I did the best I could and informed the readership that my deep-seated bias in favor of the stuff came about over a period of years and reached full strength long before Dakota Cartridge began sending me samples to test. A number of the loads in various calibers have become my first tier choice as serious carry rounds.

The CorBon line has grown quite extensive with a wide selection of loads geared toward defensive use and a large and growing variety of offerings specifically designed for hunting and other sporting applications. There are several distinctive elements that appear consistently across their entire range of products. Predictably, the cartridges provide greater velocity and energy than similar rounds from competitors in the industry. Likewise they exhibit higher velocity/energy than advertised while remaining within the pressure envelope established by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) for +P ammunition. These trends are consistently demonstrated over my personal chronograph and it is also significant that the rounds show a high degree of consistency in reference to low extreme spreads and statistical measures of variance.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Against this background, the arrival of a care package of the 230 Grain JHP variant was something of a case of deja vu all over again. One of my immediate concerns was neither scientific nor in perfect accord with the purposes of Dakota Cartridge. To wit: How do I do a thorough evaluation of this round and manage to end up with a couple of magazines of the stuff left over for my personal use? I was that confident of its goodness. The round consists of a markedly truncated jacketed hollow point loaded into a heavily cannulured case which should eliminate any possibility of deep-seating by the most vociferous of autopistol cycling sequences. A tapered “profile” crimp is visually evident and the overall length is only marginally shorter than Remington hard ball. The hollow point is extremely wide and deep bringing to mind the old Speer 200 grain Flying Shot Glass or the Speer Gold Dots designed for subsonic velocities. The jacket, consistent with the current generation of jacketed hollow points, completely covers the lead core and is serrated to augment expansion. By contrast an older version of the 185 grain CorBon JHP presents a slightly shorter Cartridge Overall Length, the bullet is less truncated and more tapered and the hollow point is much smaller than the load under observation. The arrival of a comprehensive sampling of the entire CorBon .45 ACP line reveals that all of the current JHP loads match the 230 grain weight in bullet profile and overall length. The only clue that the cartridges have different bullet weights is the location of the cannulure on the case.

Sub Sonics

Until relatively recent times, available jacketed hollow point bullets did not expand worth a flip until they reached velocities well in excess of the speed of sound. Across the board there has been observed a tendency for JHPs to fill up with barrier material such as heavy clothing and fail to expand. This factor seems to be more pronounced at lower velocities and far less significant at magnum velocities. Since the 230-grain .45 ACP load falls into the former category, I took this into account in selecting my bullet collection medium. I have an old thick canvas bag with the zipper out of it and a double thickness of blister-packed pork ribs fits neatly inside. I placed this in front of a Coleman cooler loaded with gallon water jugs. In this wise, I was able to collect several bullets and observe the signature of several more on the rib pack after the bullet had first passed through the equivalent of a tent cloth duster. In every case the bullet expansion in the pork rib back was immediate and gratifying. Those recovered bullets that did not fragment, expanded to .75″ and all recovered bullets retained the major portion of their jackets. There was no observable difference in bullets fired from ranges varying from 15 feet to 25 yards.

The CorBon line now provides enough of a selection for the customer to express his own ballistic preferences in regard to bullet weight, velocity and relative frangibility. I checked out the 165, 185 and 200 grain offerings with the above canvas bag, meat and water but substituting a 3-4″ thick fat-marbled brisket for the ribs. Recovered bullets demonstrated profound fragmentation of the two lighter weight bullets while the 200 grain expanded to 70+ caliber and more closely resembled the profile of the 230 grain bullets.


The 230-grain load is rated at 950 real world, 1911-A1 feet per second and, typical of CorBon products, exceeds the advertised performance. With the temperature in the high 60s my chronograph read off a ten round average of 975 fps with energy factoring in at 486 foot pounds. Extreme spread was 44 feet per second with the slowest round reading 954 and the highest 998. Standard deviation was a match load-cheerful 13 feet per second. This exceeds the nominal velocity of generic ball in a very +P manner. My 9.5″ Ruger Convertible revolver recorded a modest increase in velocity with velocity at 992 fps and energy registering 502 foot pounds. I had fired only five rounds and extreme spread was 35 fps. (Five round averages are only a reference check, so I didn’t include Standard Deviation.)

I spot checked five rounds each of the 165 , 185, and 200 grain loads as well as a five round sampling of PowRball finding that they exceeded the advertised velocities in the usual manner and gained substantial velocity fired in my Ruger Blackhawk with the custom 9.5″ Barrel.

165 Grain CorBon JHP Velocity/Energy/Extreme Spread

1911: 1261 583 40

Ruger: 1390 708 62

185 Grain CorBon Velocity/Energy/Extreme Spread

1911: 1162 555 14

Ruger: 1229 621 53

200 Grain CorBon Velocity/Energy/Extreme Spread

1911: 1085 523 33

Ruger: 1150 587 45

PowRball 165 Velocity Energy/Extreme/Spread

1911: 1265 586 45

Ruger: 1343 660 55

Hitting Things

The CorBon 230s arrived as I was in the middle of checking out and generally enjoying a profoundly accurate Springfield milspec, magically transmogrified by Alex Hamilton of Ten Ring Precision. I had recorded groups with generic ball of well under 2″ for five shots at 25 yards and had piled up a count of one inch and under groups with several target loads. Forget “combat accurate”: this pistol is as accurate as they come. I moved to the 25 yard bench and fired two consecutive groups with the 230 CorBon that measured slightly over 1.5″ and 1.6″ respectively. A subsequent ten-round string landed eight inside of 2″ with a couple of shooter-caused fliers expanding the cluster to 2 ľ”. Any load I can shoot this well from a casually assembled bench rest is rabbit and squirrel accurate if the shooter is up to the task.

My groups with the three sub-230 grain JHP loads ranged from 2.4- 2.7″ with the Springfield 1911. The largest group from the Ruger was 1.9″ with the 200 grain bullet load and the .90″ five shot cluster from the 165 grain load is the smallest fired from that revolver to date. I observed that all of the JHP loads were striking at very nearly the same point of impact at 25 yards–a boon to the fixed sighted utility pistol. In my two 1911’s the PowRball load has been providing “combat accuracy” with groups in the 2.7-3.5″ range and slightly better from the Ruger. This round is designed to provide ball-equivalent functioning in those semi-autos that are less than totally reliable with JHPs.

Truth in Advertising

CorBon has a long-standing and effective advertising program now extending to the internet at . In so far as I am equipped to test their claims, my results are fully in accord with advertised performance. This makes me believe that other declarations about performance against barriers and tactical effectiveness are valid also. The Company subscribes whole-heartedly to the Marshall Sanow School of Stopping Power. This is not surprising since the CorBon rounds occupy the upper reaches of calculated, observed and otherwise claimed effectiveness “on the street.”

At the beginning of this experiment the milspec had not yet been “certified” for any JHP load but had demonstrated excellent reliability with just under 1,000 rounds of factory ball and my hand loaded target rounds. In general, fully throated 1911s of current manufacture function JHPs with the same degree of reliability as ball ammunition and the CorBon fit this mold exactly. Dry cycling was smooth and uneventful and live fire was likewise uneventful. I had arrived at the range with a gun full of 230 grain generic ball. At the end of the day, my carry gun was filled with the CorBon 230.

The GP 100 and SP 101

Ruger’s Versatile Belt Revolvers

by Mike Cumpston

Click on any thumbnail for a larger view.

While the popularity of the revolver has been largely eclipsed in the official realm, interest in the revolver as a defensive and recreational tool remains strong. It seems that revolver lore doesn’t sell many gun magazines and the internet discussion boards pile up many more hits on their semi-auto forums. Nevertheless there are marked advantages to the cylinder gun. These benefits are recognized by both new and seasoned shooters who have enough interest in the subject to develop real skill with the sidearm. These are the shooters who are neither TACTICAL nor COMBAT nor prone toward stuffing excess loads of natural fertilizer into inadequate containers. They do have a pronounced tendency to actually hit what they are shooting at.

In the 1980s, before the mass migration of defensive shooters to the semi automatic pistols, the search for a durable.38/ .357 service revolver was in full swing. Smith and Wesson came out with the intermediate L Frame family and, in 1987, Ruger introduced the GP 100. The GP was a fairly thorough -going redesign of the already tough and durable Security Six family. It was followed soon after by the downsized SP 101- an obviously sturdy snub .38 that seemed to beg for high performance loading. When several experimenters began hot loading for the SP and converting it to the relatively short .357/125 loads, Ruger stretched the frame and chambered it for the full range of .357 factory rounds.

The search for the long-lived .357 package continues to the present day and has become a two-pronged effort. The Rugers have proven quite durable and Smith &Wesson has recently strengthened their traditional revolvers. At the same time, according to recent Speer Loading Manuals, the industry has reduced the approved operating pressures of the cartridge to 35,000 psi. This is a significant move as the loading manuals of only a few years ago regularly listed loads in the 40-47,000 psi range. Speer’s top listed loads now turn in .38/.44 level performance. Conversely, many current factory loads are significantly more energetic suggesting that the 35,000 psi figure is not set in concrete.

The GP/SP series has proven a resounding success. The heavy, solid frames and relatively massive lock-work and the rigid front crane lock combine to defy the traditional characterization of the Revolver as a fragile instrument. Available evidence suggests that they are holding up well. A few shooters report that they have shot their GP’s out of fix but many more report many thousands of rounds through the guns without noticeable deterioration. I have encountered a couple of credible reports of cracked barrels or forcing cones in the SP 101 series but top gunsmiths report few problem guns coming through their shops. Jack Weigand, American Pistolsmith Guildsman, is a strong advocate of the GP 100. He has developed protocols for removing excessive end-shake proving that even the Rugers can develop the situation. I have found only one second hand Ruger with significant wear. It was an early Security Six with the early signs of failure to carry up. Second hand shelves and gun show tables abound with competitive designs showing significant use- related wear. This is not the case with the GP and SP revolvers. The database here is sparse, as few of these handguns are available for observation. Their owners seem disinclined to trade them off. Either they lack the fickle nature of most gun enthusiasts or are so enamored of the Rugers that they will not let go of them.


Besides the robust construction, these Ruger small and intermediate frame revolvers have a number of features in common to recommend them to the enthusiast. The sights on both fixed and adjustable variations are highly visible and usable by shooters who need close-up vision correction with many handgun sights. The synthetic grips do much to tame the recoil of the magnum rounds. The grip angle and trigger reach of both the GP 100 and the SP 101 work well for a large number of shooters. An unadvertised but desirable aspect of the double action lock-work places the cylinder in full lockup well before the hammer reaches full cock. This, combined with the tactile clue of locking bolt engagement, permits rapid, accurate two-staged double action shooting. This pre-timing arrangement was considered a desirable feature on the old Smith and Wesson Safety Hammerless. It is also being used in advertisements for the new Taurus CIA (Carry It Anywhere) snub.

An interesting aspect of this is that it is relatively easy to eat the center out of a Standard NRA target center at 25 yards firing one handed and double action and to do so in the traditional rapid fire cadence. This, of course, defies the practical/tactical wisdom about loosing fine motor control under stress- but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. The SP101, fired in this manner will generally land most of its shots in a six to eight inch group at the same distance. Fired two handed with the trigger pulled in an uninterrupted manner, the SP turns in a most un-snub-like performance at twenty five yards and beyond.


Common complaints in ref: the Ruger actions in general usually start with the observation that the actions are neither as light nor as smooth as those found on say, Smith and Wesson. This is less true than in the past. Ruger’s usually come from the box with six or more pounds of single action trigger pull. Recent Smiths, in deference to legal concerns, now also approach that weight. The Ruger Double action has a much different feel than the Smith and Wesson but is generally very usable without modification. One caution is in order regarding double action cycling of these revolvers. After firing, the trigger must be allowed to return fully forward. Short stroking the trigger can lock up the action preventing a rapid second shot. When this occurs, releasing the trigger is all that is necessary to regain normal function.


Like the earlier Security Six revolvers, the GP/SP are of solid frame/modular construction and can be dismounted to major part groups without tools. They even put a little pin in the left grip panel to capture the mainspring on its strut. Disassembly closely follows the instructions in the Booklet and with a bit of practice, becomes quite easy. The necessary practice for this to occur may not be forthcoming as it is seldom necessary to break the revolver down for cleaning. Here occurs another cautionary note:

Upon reassembly, it is necessary to make sure that the pin that locks the action module into the frame is actually engaged. Otherwise, the revolver will try to dismount itself at some inopportune time. Best check is to tug on the trigger guard to make sure it’s really in place.

One task, seldom undertaken and rarely necessary, is removal of the cylinder from the crane assembly. Since this involves removing the frame latch and the ejector rod, it is a scary proposition until actually undertaken. Then, like most of the Ruger processes, it becomes transparently easy. After either removing the grips or the entire crane assembly, observe the relatively large hole in crane in front of the cylinder. Stick a small tool-( I used a large caliber, unbent paper clip) into this hole and depress. Then shove the through-pin out of the side of the frame and start picking parts out. This single pin, visible with the crane /cylinder assembly locked in battery retains the latch, the ejector rod and they cylinder itself. Everything goes back together in reverse and just won’t fit if you put them pointed the wrong way.

A sure sign of the popularity of this revolver system is the availability of after-market springs to fine tune the trigger pull. The Wolff Spring Kits offer a couple of replacement trigger return springs and a selection of main springs of varying weight. The object is to select a combination that will give reliable trigger return and ignition while reducing the trigger pull(s). They are easy to install. First. Disassemble the unloaded revolver in accordance with manual instructions. Carefully remove the mainspring from its strut and replace with the Wolff Spring. This is the tricky part since, if you don’t carefully capture the spring and retaining plate, one or both will go zing-whining off into the distance to become lost or put your eye out.

The Trigger Return Spring also drives the plunger that holds the trigger guard to the frame. It is not under load and will not spring away when released. Simply push out the little pin at the back of the trigger guard, pull out the plunger and change springs.

Since you now have the revolver apart, this is a good time to do some conservative polishing of the bearing surfaces in the lock-work. This will probably not do nearly as much to smooth the overall operation as a good dose of shooting and dry cycling.

Web sources suggest that double action reliability is not certain with the lighter mainsprings. Shooters in the know often say that reliable ignition begins with the ten pound weight. Some also report sluggish trigger reset with the lighter (eight pounds) of the two trigger return springs.


During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s I had a 6” Stainless Security Six which I used for everything from shooting bullseye targets, to early metallic silhouette competition to greasing jackrabbits to bouncing drunks at local honky-tonks. It was good and I never wore it out. I did finally trade it off. In the early 90’s I had a 6” GP 100 with the short under-lug. It would handle the full-gorilla handbook- sanctioned loads of the time and I was a fool to trade that one off too.

In 1996, after ten years of struggle, we managed to get a Concealed Handgun act through the Biennial, Bicameral, by-Jupiter Texas Legislature. One of the first things I did was to go get me a 2.25” SP101. This was and is my answer to the “ carry-it-anywhere” question and, by virtue of being a revolver, has completely taken over that role from my Walther PPK. It is a flame thrower with the Gold Dot 125, which leaves the barrel in the Middle 1200 fps range.

Not too long after that, I decided I had to have a stainless 4” GP 100 and it, also is a frequent carry gun. Until recently, I left the factory springs in place finding that I could stroke the double action with a satisfying level of accuracy and do credible work with the single action which settled in at five pounds after considerable shooting. The trigger pull and the 4” tube provided reasonable excuses for the occasional stray shot out of the 25 yard bull. I feel very well equipped with this 4” as it will drive the Speer 125 grain Gold Dot to 1441 and deliver groups ranging from 1.1” to just under 2” at 25 yards. It hardly kicks at all. This revolver has become so smooth with handling, that I tried the light 8# trigger spring from the Wolff Kit. This dropped the single action pull to 2.5 pounds with snappy trigger re-set.

The tantalizing accuracy of the 4” gun led me to go looking for a new and permanent 6” short lug. While my first two revolvers are extremely popular and obtainable, I seem to be the only customer who doesn’t prefer the full-lugged version of the six-inch. My dealer didn’t have any and neither did the Ruger factory. My new Hamilton Bowen rear target sight and Wolff Spring kit languished in a drawer while Ruger cobbled up a supply of the short-lugged GPs.

Immediately upon arrival and before any shooting, I installed the heaviest(12 pound) main spring and the heavier (10 pound) trigger return and followed up with some heavy-duty dry firing. The single action pull dropped from six plus pounds and stabilized at 3 pounds two ounces where it remains after some rather intensive shooting and dry cycling. The Double action pull is nice.

The revolver fulfills its anticipated role as a target arm. A wide variety of target velocity loads are accurate in the 1.1- 1.4” range at 25 yards. I have to work hard to drop the occasional double or single action offhand shot out of the NRA bullseye. My first-ever group was a 1.2” five shot spread with the 125 grain Gold Dot that also has the good grace to rip out of the 6” tube at an average 1530 fps. My second ever group was a 1.7” cluster with the 125 Grain Hornady XTP over 21 Grains of 296 and a WW Magnum Primer. It is pretty closely equivalent to the Speer load averaging 1541 fps. It leaves the .357 SIG wallowing in the ballistic dirt. Prior to wrapping up this report and after firing about 500 rounds of assorted loads through the 6” GP, I sat down and fired three consecutive five round groups with three very different loads. As close as I could read the caliper the 25- yard groups went 1.11”,1.18” and 1.14”

As mentioned, the shorter members of this triad are carried very frequently. The SP101 travels in various holsters according to the dress code of the moment. The 4” usually rides around in a Sparks Summer special with some kind of un-tucked shirt covering it. The 6” is also carried concealed in an old Bianchi spring-loaded X 2100-shoulder rig. This is more comfortable than you would think.


All this aside, it is the recreational attributes of these revolvers that makes them fun to own. The SP101 is pretty much a pure weapon but the other two are versatile and perform well with a number of loads. Here a while back I delved into various loading of the .38/ .357 wadcutter with the 4” GP. The long -seated Meister Swaged Hollow base design over light charges of Bullseye turned in a multi- group average of 1.85” with about a one tenth inch accuracy advantage going to the loads put up in .357 cases. The same loads from the 6” reversed the trend grouping .357 loads into 1.5” and .38 case loads into an average of 1.3.”

Similar group averages were demonstrated with factory approximate loading of 3.5 Bullseye and several 158 grain bullets including a flat point cowboy design and the Hornady Swaged 158 lead SWC. Some produced better accuracy from .38 cases and others grouped better from the magnum case. The only load that didn’t work at all well in the magnum chamber was a flush seated bevel-based wad cutter loaded in .38 Special cases. The 6” gun would throw three inch groups with these.

It is notable that, with the faster burning powders (Unique and Bullseye), the velocity difference between the four and six inch GPs is very slight. It favored the longer barrel but you could load the bullet between thumb and fore-finger and thump it across the sky screens fast enough to make up the difference. The same is true of the difference between .38 and .357 cases with the same load. The slight velocity and extreme spread advantage went to the short rounds.

In the spirit of the times, I decided to try out one of the kinder and gentler loads now infesting the loading manuals. I decanted the maximum (no need to work up to this one) listed 12.5 2400 into a magnum case topped with the 158 Hornady XTP. This is about 1.5 grains shy of reaching the base of the bullet and is not generally a good thing with 2400. I did a batch of these with CCI 500 Standard Primers and another with WW Magnum primers. (yep, it says for Magnum Loads on the box.) There was a difference. The standard primer loads did 1219 (6”); 1167 (4”),and: 1080(2.24”). The WW Magnum Primed loads clocked 1258, 1223, and 1194 from the descending order of barrel lengths. Here again, except for the short SP 101, you could heave a dead cat across the sky screens fast enough to make up the difference.

The real kicker comes in with a not unexpected gain in load consistency and fewer unburned powder flakes with the magnum primers. The maximum extreme spread with the standard primer was 108 fps while the magnum primers reduced this to 74 fps. Boy! From this it was easy to infer that the lousy standard primed load would group crummy while the more consistent Mag primed rounds would probably shoot pretty good groups. Imagine my surprise when the inefficient standard primer load turned in a 1.11” smallest group with a three- group average of 1.3” and the magnum primed groups averaged out at 1.5”. If an “expert” didn’t have a chronograph, he would never be aware that he was shooting a lousy load unless another “expert” told him that this was the case!

These Rugers were designed to stand up to immoderate firing with full loads back when everybody seemed agree that the maximum working pressure of the .357 was 40-47,000 pounds per square inch. Nevertheless, it would be useful to find a load of moderate power that would perform well on some of the tougher small varmints. The Hornady swaged semi-wadcutters had proven accurate at nominal .38 velocities so I ordered some of the hollow point version of this bullet. I loaded these bullets over 6 grains of Unique for mid to high 1,000 fps averages from both GP100’s. I was getting fifty five caliber expansion on beef brisket at 25 yards. There was no visible leading from the 6” and little with the 4” but the 1.9” – 3.5” groups wouldn’t do. “ Combat! Accuracy” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Dropping the charge to 5.5 Unique in .357 cases delivered 957 fps from the 6” and 927 from the 4” GP. Three 25-yard groups from the longer barrel went 1.6. 1.8” and 1.1”. Expansion on the grocery store meat was just as impressive as with the six-grain charge. These lead hollow points are visible more needle-nosed than the solid semi-wadcutter version and the walls around the hollow point are pretty thin. They should thump down a ‘coon or jackrabbit with good repeatability.

Last I heard, CorBon was using a 4” GP 100 to prove out their top performing loads and it soldiers along digesting them without complaint. Back in the good (bad) old days of 40,000 + psi handbook loads, Speer was using a Security Six for the same purpose.

The Ruger GP/SP line lacks much of the cache attached to the century-old designs of Colt and Smith and Wesson. Nevertheless, they are solid performers and will go the extra mile.


by AK Church

Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.

Some rifles you want, then go out and get. Some you look for over a lifetime. Some you sort of have thrust into your face. My Marlin M9 “Campus Carbinus” is one of the last type.

I probably never would have gone out and purchased one of these. I took it in on a payday loan to a co-worker as security. A default made it all mine. I got into it cheaply enough that I figured it might be easy to turn it for a slight profit at the next gun show, especially since it is a terrifying;

campuscarbinus1.JPG (55896 bytes)


These rifles were introduced by Marlin back around 1985. They were a substantial departure from the company’s line of lever rifles, .22s and bolt action turkey guns. Intended as a light security firearm for wilderness use, they also see considerable use as centerfire plinkers using cheaper ammo than the once ubiquitous SKS. These excel as plinkers, and 9X19 will toss the can far higher than a .22lr is able. A limited number also apparently serve as patrol carbines for rural police officers, a role for which they might not be ideal. It would serve as a small to medium game rifle, but would not be my first, second or eighteenth choice for the role. You could kill a deer with it if you had to, but that doesn’t make it a deer rifle. Despite the federal classification as a dread assault weapon, it would not be my first or ninetieth choice to carry in an infantry assault.

Mechanically, these are 9X19mm caliber, blowback operated semiautomatic carbines feeding from a box magazine. Barrel is just past the 16″ Federal minimum. Length overall is a compact 35 ˝”, and Marlin declares weight @ 6 ž pounds. Mine weighs, in stock trim, a full ź pound more, leading me to believe that my piece of New England birch is especially dense. 7 pound 9 m/ms sure don’t kick much.

The safety is in the front of the trigger guard, and mimics the arrangements of the M1 Garand or Ruger Mini 14. This is a great manual safety, and works well with bulky gloves. The rifle also has a magazine safety, alas. Note: The trigger guard and magazine well are constructed of a plastic compound which can be DISSOLVED by several commercial cleaning compounds including Birchwood Casey’s GunScrubber.

Marlin builds another variation of this rifle in .45 ACP as the Model .45. These are thoughtfully set up to use cheap and abundant M1911 magazines. I’ve never shot one of these, but they have an appeal. Next to .38 Special, you see more cheap reloading components at gun shows for .45 ACP than any other cartridge. Rumors abound of a version in .40 Smith. This would involve some serious engineering as bolt velocities on the 9 m/m version are already pretty severe. My money says it won’t happen.

The condition of the early (1986 from the sales ticket) production carbine was nearly mint. The previous owner had equipped it with a Weaver K4 scope, one Marlin factory hi-cap mag, (interchanges with good quality specimens of the Smith and Wesson M59 series magazines), and a surprisingly functional 15 round Ram-Line brand magazine. 

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The latter purveyor also provided a truly ugly folding stock

It’s not my favorite to shoot, but it does render the little carbine noxious to our nation’s tooth-fairy politicians (who in turn are noxious to real Americans). The prominently protruding pistol grip and magazine render this firearm into an assault weapon under the definitions of the dishonest 1994 “Crime Bill”. While I love offending the sanity impaired with this configuration, the actual shooting of it is more enjoyable with the factory’s “walnut stained hardwood”. I occasionally do attach the folder to the rifle, and do not rob liquor stores, shoot up fast food dives or schools with it.

As often happens, I got interested in how the little pistol caliber rifle performed. The previous owner claimed to have less than 100 rounds through it, and a disassembly seemed to bear that out. I advise you to have the takedown & reassembly instruction section of the owners manual in front of you the first few times you detail this rifle. They are easier to disassemble than any Moisin-Nagant or Winchester 1897, but there are a couple of intersections where you can get lost trying to put it back together. Unfortunately, reassembly requires several pivoting things around the chamber and ejection port be reinstalled in exactly the right sequence and position. If the hammer strut on your Ruger Mark II frustrates you, this will frustrate you more

The rifle required a brief break-in period of less than 100 rounds. During that period I had a couple of stoppages, both of the failure to feed persuasion (Remington’s disappointing 115 JHP), and a stovepipe. Then it settled in, and hasn’t bobbled since, save one magazine related exception. I got rid of the ‘scope, the fold-o-matic commando stock, and commenced using the good factory stock and marginal factory irons. Accuracy was 1-2 inches at 50 yards, and it demonstrates the nice quality of printing half a dozen sorts of hardball at more or less the self same 50 yard zero. It hates Winchester white box generic, and throws buckshot patterns with it. Feed it Russian, Fiocchi Nato, UMC, S&B, Federal, or PMC, and it will print 2 inches or less.  After the break-in period, my sole failures to function came from a cheapo hi-cap mag I had mail ordered. It now sleeps with the fishes. I now have one Marlin factory 12 rounder, one JamLine (the only reliable one I’ve ever seen) , and half a dozen Model 59 mags of actual S&W manufacture. The rifle now is as reliable as a Honda Civic.

I have a couple of boxes of CorBon’s wunderbar +P 115 jhp. The Marlin Corporation is OK with +P ammo in this rifle, but not +P+. I’d love to zero the rifle with CorBon, and chronograph it. It is so expensive to replace I haven’t been able to brave doing that. I suspect if I were using this as a primary house gun instead of a Model 10 Smith, I’d just bite the bullet and zero it in with CorBon.

I ended up with a quantity of Winchester’s encapsulated 148gr subsonic load. I’m not a fan of slow bullets in this caliber, and the non-expanding nature of this bullet is another minus point. That said, this stuff will go in at 50 yards only about 2″ apart, and do it reliably. I don’t just shoot my supply of this stuff up. I have 3 rifles which will group their best with some Winchester factory load.

The factory open notch iron sights are, to my thinking,  marginal. They lack a lot of  adjustment, and aren’t very visible. 

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I’ve replaced them with a Williams Foolproof aperture rear sight.

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The receiver on these is tall, it makes the Williams sight sit way up there. A taller front sight is called for.

In the end I’ve used the tallest front ramp and FireSight bead they make. These sights are vast improvement in both visibility and precision. I recommend this setup. It will probably prove useful to Loc-Tite the mounting screws on the rear sight. It sits right over a bolt moving at atomic velocity, and screws do want to loosen up.

Trigger pull is acceptable. Mine is slightly long, awfully spongy, and surprisingly light. I have no trigger pull gauge, but I’ll guesstimate 6 pounds. It’s no Canjar, but it’s no real hindrance to decent work, either. My Mossberg 500 shotgun has a worse trigger pull.

I’ve read someone state that the 9 m/m cartridge will reach its maximum velocities at somewhere around 10-12 inches of barrel, and that past that the extra barrel will start slowing things down through bore friction. I can’t lay my hands on the data, but the one time the Miles Fortis and myself chronographed this rifle against his Browning Hi-Power and ten inch Uzi subgun, the Uzi beat the Marlin on all velocities. The Marlin was about the same speed as the Browning. This with several factory loads of 115-148 grains. 

note from the Miles Fortis: Following is a table from a test performed several years ago by the webmaster at sixgunner)

9 mm Velocity Comparisons

Colt Combat Commander vs. Marlin Camp Carbine

Colt Commander (4 1/2″ barrel) Marlin Carbine (16 1/2″ barrel)



115 gr. JHP 1175 fps 1318 fps +143 fps

124 gr. JHP 1098 fps 1292 fps +194 fps

147 gr. JHP 962 fps 987 fps + 25 fps



115 gr. JHP 1145 fps 1205 fps + 60 fps

124 gr. JHP 1148 fps 1296 fps +148 fps

147 gr. JHP 1017 fps 1047 fps + 30 fps

147 gr. FMJ 930 fps 1050 fps +120 fps


113 gr. JFP 1235 fps 1369 fps +134 fps

The Carbine averaged 107 fps faster than the handgun.

Here’s the plus to that velocity situation. Expanding bullets designed around handgun velocities are still basically moving at handgun velocities. They shouldn’t over expand or under penetrate.

Reliability has been good, and I have around 1500 rounds through this rifle now. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this with a good expanding bullet load as a house gun, at least within the limits of the cartridge. Be aware, Marlin states that this design requires a detail strip and thorough receiver cleaning around every 250 rounds. I’ve never run mine that far before cleaning, but the rifle will for a fact get absolutely M16 filthy inside after less than 100 rounds, especially if you shoot European ammo with mucho graphite in the powder. The AMERICAN RIFLEMAN test review ca. July-August ’85 had their bolt hold-open fail out slightly past 250 rounds, owing to it being choked on powder crud.

I do very little reloading in this caliber. I know of at least a couple of acquaintances who reload “nine em-em” in carbines. Powders well regarded for the purpose include Blue Dot and Accurate Arms #7. Friend Mic McPherson regards AA7 as the powder of preference. Be aware that the Micro-Groove rifling has a mixed reputation with cast bullets. I retain a beloved but dog rough 1949 vintage half magazine Marlin 336SC in .30WCF precisely because it is of the ancient and forgiving Ballard rifling, and likes cast bullet loads. I’ve not tried cast lead reloads in this 9 m/m Micro-Groove rifle, and likely never will.

I like this rifle. It’s fun for plinking. If I lived in a more remote location, I’d consider it as a house gun, even the primary house gun. Accuracy is surprising, and my Marlin will shoot rings around the one Ruger PC I’ve fired. That may be the huge aperture on the Ruger rear sight however. The Ruger is mechanically simpler to clean.

One other down side to the rifle is the spare parts availability-and that’s a pretty big down side. I like a spare extractor, firing pin, spring set, retainers, and easily lost anything, but Marlin restricts availability of parts pretty intensely on this rifle. I’m working on non-Marlin sources.

I live in a state which is not Class 3 friendly, and has a governor who loathes gun owners(not anymore ed.). That takes in a lot of them, doesn’t it? Those persons living in Free America should be aware that variations of the Model 9 are produced (outside of Marlin) with suppressors and much shorter barrels. I have heard a few were converted pre ’86 to select fire. I’ve not seen or shot these, nor do I know anyone who has. If you have done so LEGALLY, write me and tell me about it. The suppressor variants seems especially intriguing, but my concerns about the need to clean and detail strip rear up in my mind. Suppressed guns are noted for getting internally filthy in a hurry.

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As set up, my rifle carries 2 spare magazines on a buttstock caddy, a cheap gun show M14 sling, and the Williams iron sights. Ready to go this setup weighs over 7 pounds but, is pretty self contained. No gunsmithing at all has been done to this rifle. I transport it in a discontinued Galati padded case designed for the similar sized M1 carbine, which is nearly perfect for the job.

It’s a keeper.


Since this article was written in late 1999, Marlin has discontinued production of the series. It is my suspicion the Ruger 9 m/m PC carbine has everything to do with this decision

The Ozark Mountain Arms “Wildcat” .22 Rifle

By John Dunn and A K Church

Summer, 2001

(Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.)

The Ozark Mountain Arms .22 (with a $1 bill for scale)

On all photos, click for larger image. A $1 bill is shown for scale.

Miles Fortis staff writers John Dunn and AK Church have another article for you on an unusual gun you don’t see every day at the gun shop. John has long been intrigued by a rifle owned by an uncle who lives in Sparta, MO: the Ozark Mountain Arms Wildcat single-shot .22 rifle. Made by the long defunct Mountain Arms, the city of manufacture was Ozark Missouri where John hails from. 

The rifle itself was clearly of inexpensive manufacture and incorporates mechanically unusual construction.

Conjectural History of Ozark Mountain Arms

Verbal communication with a number of longtime Ozark area shooters has produced a vague outline of the Wildcat’s history. Nothing stated here is documented and is not stated as fact.

The mechanism appears to be very similar to the Garcia Bronco .22 and supposedly the patent holder was resident of nearby Nixa, Missouri. Production appears to have been in the early to mid 1970s. The building housing the factory is still intact, housing a cabinetmaker.

Primary distribution appears to have been through the established Springfield, Missouri concern of Consumers Hardware, now a single location retailer with no firearms component. In the 1970s it was a 2-location firm with large gun counters at both stores. Author AK Church remembers going with a high school friend circa 1975 to the south-side Consumers location so that the friend’s older brother could purchase a Wildcat. He still has it, by the way. It is probably the only Wildcat to ever go to Hawaii. 

At some point in the 1970s the manufacturer also appears to have produced good quality Hawken rifle reproductions. Supposedly, the rights to the design were ultimately sold to the Sterling Arms Company. From there it appears to have vanished, as has Sterling. 

As maddening as this is, no figures on production quantities can be provided.

The Test Rifle

After John requested to shoot his Uncle Bob’s rifle, which had sat respectfully in an otherwise lonely gun rack for years, he found Bob was quite helpful with the information he had regarding the gun’s background but for personal reasons he did not want it fired. We understood–it was a virtually irreplaceable curiosity–but this left us with no way to test it at the range to see how it prints on target paper. However by sheer coincidence, within a week!!…we found another one. It surfaced in an old gun shop north of Springfield Missouri, unfired and still in its original Styrofoam box, and John obtained it. Proudly stamped on the right side of the receiver are the words “MTN. ARMS INC, OZARK MO USA.” The other side bears the serial number F-0001XX. Whether a serial number below 200 is a low number or not depends entirely on the unknown figure of how many of these things were actually made. We may never know.

Neat little plinkin' gun

Neat little plinkin' gun

The rifle is a single shot gun fired by a rebounding striker. The barrel is twisted away from the receiver, and the forearm is pulled rearward to actuate the extractor. Ejection, if it can be called such, is best with the muzzle pointed skyward. 

Fore-end turned counter-clockwise to expose chamber

The striker is cocked by an actuator on the shooter’s right of the receiver. A conventional push button safety blocks the trigger.

Right side of receiver, showing the actuator just above the "Mtn. Arms Inc, Ozark MO USA" stamp

At the top of the left side is a rotating takedown lever. It fits into the barrel pivot, and the rifle may be readily broken into 2 parts:

Taken-down view


The fore-end and butt stock on this rifle are made of plastic unconvincingly colored to resemble walnut, very much resembling the Daisy “Legacy” .22 firearms of the late 1980s. The majority of the other rifles examined (actually all of the other 4 that AK knows of as well as Uncle Bob’s) are real black walnut of serviceable quality, certainly a common-enough commodity in the Ozarks. The butt stock is reinforced by a mandrel bent steel round stock surround and this is also present on the wood stocked rifles. 

Missing from the rifle is a tan takedown case in a heavy oilcloth seen with every other Wildcat. This was light in color and featured many latigo attachment straps fastened by nickeled buckles. It may well have been inspired by the Savage 24C case. This specimen came instead with a plain rectangular Styrofoam box.

Broken down into it's styrofoam box with original warranty card. It also fits just right in that camo M6 soft case.

The trigger guard is all steel (save the rear sight) and is finished in what appears to be thin zinc phosphate. The rear sight is blued, screw adjustable for elevation only (unfortunately) and is a simple square notch leaf.

Shooting results

The test rifle received no break-in of any sort. Three varieties of ammunition were tried during our first bench test: Remington Wal-Mart hollow point plinking ammo, CCI Stingers, and the very quiet Colibri Aguila .22 short. The rifle shows some preference for the Stingers. Accuracy so far is pretty mediocre. The lack of lateral adjustment on the rear sight immediately made itself felt. This rifle likes to print left for the eyesight of both authors.

The trigger pull on the test rifle is bad. Long, creepy, and somewhat heavier than it needs to be, it may well have served as another hindrance to good accuracy.

We reproduce herewith the following targets. Shooting was in 60 degrees weather, windless and beautiful. It was interesting to note the extremely thin barrel heated up even with the necessarily slow shooting sequence.

Target #1 with CCI Stingers The Stingers printed the best; this is a 4-shot group with 2 holes touching.

Target #2 with the imported Aguilas The primer-only Aguilas patterned better than expected despite their shallow trajectory.

Target #3...all over the place Third target was shot at with the Remington HP “Golden Bullets”.

Update: our Wildcat was fired again at an impromptu bench shoot on 3/19/02 and some different varieties of ammo were tested. I apologize that no target images are available but I would like to report that yet another slight improvement in group size, shot in a single 5-round group, was obtained using Remington Target .22LR ammo.

One light-strike failure to fire occurred with the Remington ammo. The round was re-struck with an Old Model Super Single Six (see the A K Church article) and the round fired. 

A friend of AK Church owns a Wildcat he purchased new and it is more accurate than Dunn’s thus appears. It prefers the out of print, hot, soft, and expanding Fiocchi .22 short hi-speed hollow point. Many a ‘possum and starling has fallen to this walnut-stocked Wildcat.

In role of truck and survival gun

Assuming the rifle can eventually achieve better accuracy, it’s compact dimensions will make it terrifically convenient to carry in a vehicle. Dunn’s rifle fits in Church’s spare M6 Scout carry case  about perfectly. Reliability needs to be tested much more. We suspect the misfire was an ammo related fluke, but would like to have a couple hundred rounds of ammo through the gun before accepting the reliability.


The lever on the left side of the receiver near the top is rotated. Pull forward on the barrel section and continue to rotate until a release point is felt. There is no detent on the takedown lever so this will be by feel. The barrel section will pull away from the receiver. To reassemble, insert the barrel extension back in the opening at the upper front of the receiver. Rotate the latch until it is felt to firm up against the extension.

Left side of receiver, showing the takedown knob. The safety button is just to the upper right of the trigger guard.

Receiver close-up showing takedown lever

Loading, Firing, Extraction

While holding the rifle, twist the barrel assembly counter-clockwise. A spring detent will not require a manual release. Barrel will pivot at a point at the top front of the receiver. Manually load a round of .22 Short, Long or Long Rifle into the exposed chamber. (Actually, if you have Longs, give them to a museum.) Rotate the barrel back down so the chambered round is back against the front receiver face. 

Cock the striker using the actuator projecting from the right side of the receiver. A manual safety is provided in a push button near the trigger. How well it works is untested. 

Pull the trigger to fire.  As with any firearm, do so in a SAFE direction.

Rotate the barrel back away from the receiver. Point the muzzle skyward (if safe) and press rearward on the fore-end. This actuates the phlegmatic extractor. Surest extraction is with gravity assistance while shooting .22 shorts. All rounds tested extracted without difficulty.


Length overall: 34″
Barrel length with takedown extension: 19.25″
Barrel only: 17.25″ breech to muzzle
Receiver and butt stock unit length: 17″
Weight: 4 lbs approx.

Twist action striker fired .22 rim fire single shot rifle. Manual extraction. Phenolic stock and fore-end. Manufacturer Mountain Arms, Ozark Missouri USA

Shipping container is a fitted Styrofoam box as seen above, sealed by mere scotch tape and with no outside labels. Warranty and operating instructions included.  For your amusement we scanned it too. The card itself is canary yellow, not rust red…for some reason John’s image scanner had trouble capturing this.


Warranty card front    Warranty card back

For all sorts of fun, click the above thumbnails to read the 25 year old operating instructions.


This is a charming little oddball. It may prove to be a useful little gun as well, if accuracy issues can be worked out, especially that stiff trigger. 

The S&W/Lew Horton Heritage Series 

Model 24 .44 Special

Shooting It. Carrying It. Looking At It.

and other interesting stuff coming from hands -on experience with the recent Hand Ejector Models from the, once again, American Owned Firm

by Mike Cumpston

(Click on any thumbnail image for a larger photo.)

It was late May 2001 and I clicked onto the Lew Horton site about five days after this traditionally styled, limited edition revolver saw light on the Horton page. The accompanying announcement strongly suggested that there would be only 150 of these available and my immediate goal was to get one- sooner rather than later as the popular neologism goes. Fortune smiled as Brad Burney heir and partner of L.M. Burney Distributors has hunted and bopped around Europe with Mike Horton, scion of the Lew Horton concern. There followed some scurrying about and exchanging of new and updated FFLs and by Mid June, I took delivery of number 130 of the original 150.

I had learned from Mike Horton and a Smith and Wesson Customer Service Representative that the Horton concern would receive 150 of these at a time with total production ultimately dependent upon demand. The current Model 24 with color casehardened frame would be followed by a model 25- Basically the same revolver in .45 Colt. Others in the series were in the works at the time but several were projected including variations of the K-22, the 1917 .45 acp, and a couple of variations of the Model 15 Combat masterpiece evoking such handgun luminaries as Walter Roper and Ed McGivern. Some would receive the color case treatment and some would be high-polish blue overall. (See for current production in the series.)

First Impressions

The revolver is delivered in a subdued gold cardboard and metal reinforced box of the traditional pattern. It is imprinted with a woodcut style image of the Smith and Wesson Factory and Portraits of founders, Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson. Other inclusions are a new-blue Master Trigger lock and a fired case to be delivered to the Massachusetts gun control bureaucracy. The tone of the color case was cooler and more subdued than seen in the Horton promo and the grips lacked the reddish tint . It was apparent that the marketing picture had been “enhanced” with a warming filter. Nevertheless, the esthetics of the arm were extremely pleasing with the cooler colors actually more in keeping with the traditional aspect of the revolver. The casehardening is a bone- charcoal process from Turnbull Restorations while the high-grade walnut grips come from Altamount. They are nicely figured having prominent “mineral streaks” and well laid –out fine-line checkering




25 Yards “NRA” Offhand



Owners of the earlier Hand Ejector revolver – another custom shop revolver made for Sports South as well as new owners of the Heritage Series Model 17 are reporting light trigger pulls and extremely smooth actions. My revolver, by contrast, came with a heavy six plus pound single action with the double action pulling through at almost twelve pounds. The trigger pull was not consistent one chamber to the next. I carefully removed the side plate and took one coil off the trigger return spring. – No other modifications were made. This caused an immediate drop in single action release to four and a half pounds with positive trigger reset. After firing approximately 300 rounds, the single action pull has settled in at about three and a half pounds and the double action is a smooth ten pounds, eight ounces. The action now exhibits the famous S&W crisp trigger release, smooth functioning and hitch-free double action delivery.

The Model 24 Is Very Accurate:

Before my first trip to the range, I whipped off the excellent Micrometer rear sight and replaced it with a Weaver base and Weaver’s 30mm two-minute electronic dot sight. This arrangement is compatible with all the current issue Smith hand ejectors having adjustable sights and never fails to produce better bench rest performance than I can demonstrate with iron sights. Firing over a rolled up carpet remnant at 25 yards, I found three extremely accurate loads right off the bat. The first was a 225-grain Magna machine cast flat point cowboy bullet obtained from the Houston Cartridge Company. This was loaded over 4.5 Bullseye and averaged 826 feet per second. The five round group did exactly one inch. Four of the shots were in a nasty little cluster measuring under half an inch as near as I could tell.

Another hand load with the Lyman 429421 Hollow Point over seven grains of Unique clocked 929 fps and turned in a .95″ group. The single factory load on hand was the 165-grain JHP Personal Protection Load from Cor-bon. The 6.5″ barrel gave this load 1353-fps with a group of exactly one-inch. I tried three additional loads using a Cast Lee case round nose and a Lee .44 / .429-sized full wadcutter weighing in at 215 grains. Load variations using the Bullseye and Unique charges produced groups of one point nine to two point five inches and were clearly not up to the accuracy potential of the Model 24.

Two handed Double action at 25 yards.

My 54 year old K-22 turns in excellent 25-yard bullseye accuracy in the double action mode. The Model 617, with its rubber Hogues and heavy underlugged barrel is even better- so close to single action shooting in its accuracy that the majority of my shooting is done double action. By contrast, My one handed double action work with the small-gripped 24 is an exercise in spazmodicity. Using two hands improves the situation markedly.

Just prior to putting together this review, I went to the range to do some work with another revolver. Realizing that I needed pictures to go with the story, I packed along the Model 24 and a small supply of cartridges. Standing and using two hands at 25 yards I fired a slow and deliberate ten round string on one of the Birchwood- Casey Shoot ‘N See ” combat centers” . The resulting double action group measured just over three inches. Also needing a good example of the revolver’s single action capability, I put up a Shoot ‘N See of the Standard slow fire bullseye type and put five rounds one handed single action into the black. The group measured two and one tenth inch slightly to the left of center demonstrating that I am not a perfect marksman. I had only taken enough rounds to the range for these two groups – earlier experience with the Heritage 24 made me confident that I would not need to repeat the shooting for photographic material.

Extra Care

The bone color case hardening on this and other Heritage Series Revolvers is rendered by Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Restorations. It is applied by traditional methods and then over-coated with piano varnish as preservative. Mr. Turnbull warns against use of chemical solvents or abrasives which will degrade the finish. My practice is to wipe the gun clean, Oil the blue steel barrel and cylinder and coat the frame and grip area with paste wax. To further preserve the finish, I obtained two Uncle Mikes ” Sidekick” holsters- a vertical shoulder rig and a strong -side belt holster. The synthetic material is extra kind to revolver finishes of all types. Many revolver enthusiasts complain that the color case treatment is not traditional on Smith revolvers. Maybe it should have been. Not to worry in any case, as a variation of the Model 24 will be issued with a high polished blue finish overall.




The M24 rivals the performance of this 1948 Model K 22

Modern New-Fangledness:

The 24 and other Heritage Series revolvers are, by no means, reproductions of anything. They are products of the very latest production techniques, design and material:

The Frame Mounted Firing pin is a recent variation from the Smith Performance Center. This set up readily discharges the hardest of primer in the model 24. My early Performance Center 627-8 pioneered the use of this set-up. It would produce frequent double action failure to fire with CCI Primers but was reliable with all others. No such problem is seen with my Model 24;

Ball Detent lock-up.- the ejector rod is free standing with no front lock. Instead a spring loaded ball fits into a frame recess locking the crane into the frame.. Not a “Triple Lock, the Model 24 is a two –point system. Tom Kelly of the Performance Center told me that this Detent ball is designed to press into the recess at an angle and that it will assure positive fit and accuracy even with considerable normal wear.

Durability and Injection Molded parts on the new Smiths-This is one of the unanswered questions and time alone, will tell My 617 has injection molded lock work. It has now fired about 3,000 rounds with no sign of wear; As an aside, My Mountain Revolver – produced before the current crop with MIM lock work is my best evidence that the circa 1990 Endurance Package REALLY WORKS. Most early and – non EP N frames that have seen any substantial use with Magnum loads, show substantial wear. My Mountain Gun has had significant use with Magnum loads and recently passed factory inspection with flying colors;

Accuracy– My three year old 617 with dot sight mounted obtained a .71″ average of three five round groups with CCI Green Tag Target rounds. The 627-8 shooting all eight chambers grouped several factory and handloads under the one inch mark. My early .44 Mountain Gun with hammer mounted firing pin grouped Cordon 165 Personal Protection loads into 1.9″ and clustered five rounds of Hornady 240 XTP over 24/ 296 into 1.6″.

The current production Smith Revolvers are exceptionally accurate.

The Heritage Series is a thoroughly modern item that embodies features evocative of the one hundred plus year history of the Smith and Wesson Hand Ejector line. It is not a copy of any artifact of revolver history. There is not and never has been a classic or original, pure-form Smith and Wesson Double Action Revolver. The design has undergone a bewildering succession of major and minor changes since the late 19th Century. Traditional hand fitting is now done by machine-the factor that makes the intricately designed Heritage Series an economic possibility. While hand-fitting is a thing of the past, art and artisanship remain very much a part of the Hand Ejector Equation. It is the element of human creativity that brings forth the design and translates it into reality changing production methods not withstanding.

Practical Shooting

One of the recurring criticisms of the Model 24 and subsequent Models 25 and 1917 is that the frame-fitting round-butt grip has no historical precedent. While the N -frame revolvers of history all had square grip frames, the arrangement on this Model 24 bears a reasonable resemblance to the grips on Early K and smaller framed Hand Ejector revolvers. The “feel” imparted by these grips brings to mind the handling characteristics of the early Hand Ejectors, round butt or square butt and without much regard to frame size. I was concerned that the small grip might make the revolver a real chore to shoot. After all, there has been a steady progression from the frame fitting grips to the magna style and then to the Roper-style target grips, their variations and beyond. These changes came about for a reason and the reason was a demonstrated need for an ergonomic assist to accurate shooting.

From my first shooting session and consistently thereafter, I have found the Model 24 to be capable of instinctive and repeatable fine accuracy shooting single action from the traditional NRA single-handed stance. This was true before the action ” shot in” to its current level of excellence when- the overall balance of the revolver, the high visibility patridge sight and the crisp but still heavy trigger combined to produce the shootability inherent in the Smith Revolvers since their earliest development. With its action now smoothed by usage, the 24 rivals my K-22 and Model 17 in its practical field accuracy.




Double action shooting is an entirely different story.



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larger images are available if you click on the thumbnails.

Shootout at High Noon on Main Street

a story about my Great Grandfather Edgar Blankenship

by John Dunn and Harley Dunn

Click on the outlined images and an enlargement will appear in a new window. Photos courtesy of my dad.

Edgar Blankenship, his Winchester and his dog

Edgar Blankenship shown here with his Winchester carbine and trusty hound.

I am inspired to tell this story thanks to our friend Mike Cumpston. I got my middle name Edgar from the man who ended the career of a would-be bank robber in the rowdy little town of Protem, Missouri. On June 3rd, 1932 he shot dead a notorious thief and bully with his trusty Winchester. Much of this work is derived from my father’s genealogical efforts regarding the history of the Blankenship family of my paternal grandmother’s side and reprinted here with his permission and assistance. This work would not be possible without the photos he provided for his book on the history of the Blankenship family or the numerous historical newspaper clippings he unearthed and provided for us here.

Edgar Blankenship was born, as near as we know, somewhere in Camden County, Missouri, because that is where his father and mother were living at the time of their marriage. He was about five years old when the family decided to move to Taney County, Missouri, which is now home of the famed “Branson USA”. Grandpa Edgar had brothers and sisters but they all died very young. He was the only surviving child.

Edgar could remember making that trip to Taney County in a wagon. The family settled somewhere near Kissee Mills, Missouri. His mother rode most of the way in the back on a make-shift bed because of her illness. This illness had been with her since she was a child and what exactly it was is not known for sure. Back in those days they called it “scroffet of the back”. In September of 1900 she passed on.

In the time following his mother’s death Edgar was known to “slip away to Lead Hill, Arkansas to attend dances and picnics and fights and other diversions.” It was in Lead Hill in fact that he met his best gal, Minnie Alice Bell. On July 22, 1914, they were married.


In the early days Protem resembled the Wild West, the Old South and the traditional Ozark Hill Country all in one setting. The buildings bore the “old west” type of construction. Before the Civil War its cotton gins and slaves resembled the Old South. It is located at the forks of Shoal Creek and the old Yellville, Arkansas and Chadwick, Missouri highway. Cold water from the town’s spring, combined with the offerings of the nearby stores, made it a pleasant place for “freighters” of both states to camp. The people who lived there were descendents of pioneers from the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Old Virginia. They were strong, energetic and individualistic.

A map of the Missouri/Arkansas border in Southwest MO, with Protem highlighted

By the turn of the century Protem was a thriving community. It had three general stores, a Post Office, a doctor’s office, two blacksmith’s shops, one drug store, several cotton gins, and a two-story schoolhouse. By the 1920’s the businessmen had organized a bank, called simply The Bank of Protem, in the days when people used barter more often than “cash money”. On one occasion a traveler stopped at the newly-formed bank and presented a check for $75. The banker had to lock the bank and borrow money from two of the general stores before he could cash the check.

The bank aided the financial convenience of the people, but it also opened the door to temptation. In 1924, eight years before Edgar’s own incident, a man named Bob Ramsey entered The Bank of Protem and robbed it of $125 while most of the townsfolk were attending a picnic. Sheriff Boles and two deputies tracked Ramsey with bloodhounds, but unfortunately for the sheriff they split up during the search and Boles had to apprehend Ramsey on his own. Ramsey, with the help of two women, managed to free himself and killed the sheriff with a pistol. Later Ramsey was trailed to Carthage, Missouri and returned to Taney County for trial and conviction. The women were also tried and convicted.

The Protem, MO schoolhouse c.1931-32. The top story was used as a “normal school” and the ground floor as a grade school. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Johnnie Strain.

A chap named Henry Simmons was appointed to fill out Bole’s term of office until 1928, when John “Daunt” Day was elected Sheriff. The papers of the day are filled with stories of Sheriff Simmons and his raids on moonshine stills. Perhaps this is why he wasn’t permanently elected to the post…

Protem had many killings, knifings and shootings which nearly tore the community apart. In each case lawmen made every effort to bring the guilty to justice. Most of the time that proved a very difficult thing to do. Everyone in town, according to the old stories, packed a gun for self defense.


After they were married Edgar and his new bride decided to “head west”. My father has often asked why, and the only reason anyone knows is that Edgar was looking for work. The Great Depression was in full swing and jobs were hard to come by. They walked and hitched rides across Arkansas until they reached the southeast corner of Oklahoma. In a little village called Bethel, on the Choctaw reservation, they stopped and rented a small cabin from the local Indians.

The Blankenships circa 1916-1917

Edgar and Minnie Blankenship, holding baby Ollie, my grandmother.

Edgar and Minnie stayed there for a time and made several friends among the Native Americans. No one is sure what it was Grandpa Blankenship did for a living, but what he did on the side is long remembered: the fine art of distilling home-made fermented beverages, the kind that, according to my dad, reportedly “sparked more than one psycho-zoological episode” among his Indian pals. By June of 1915 Minnie was great with child: my own grandmother Olive Blankenship. Because of his unofficial business ventures Edgar was greatly sought after by the “reven’ooers”.

Eventually someone reported his distillery enterprise to gub’mint agents and that just ruined the whole darned thing. Grandpa Blankenship had no choice but to leave his wife in the capable hands of their Indian neighbors and take an extended vacation into the Boston Mountains of western Arkansas. Later, when Minnie was able to travel after giving birth to her daughter, who had been washed and wrapped in soft deerskins, she rejoined Edgar in Arkansas in her home near Lead Hill.

A common Ozarks industry during the Prohibition days

This ended their dreams of “heading west”. Edgar worked a while afterwards in the lead and zinc mines in Joplin, Missouri where several other men flocked to in order to find work. This was jokingly referred to as the “Missouri Gold Rush.” Edgar worked in the zinc mines until it began to take its toll on his health and he gave it up and went back home. Times always seemed to be hard but the family lived the best they could. Edgar hunted and ran trap lines and Minnie learned how to harvest the wild things that grew in the woods and fields. There was always meat on the table of one kind or another.

While compiling his genealogy on the Blankenship family my father met an old man from Pyatt, Arkansas who remembered Edgar. He told my dad one time that Grandpa Blankenship was the “best damn shot with a rifle that he’d ever seen.” He said that he “never missed what he shot at and liked to walk everywhere he went.” We’ve been told that no matter how hard things were, Edgar was always willing to help out a friend in need. But, as the old man in Pyatt said, “he wasn’t a man you’d want to mess with, neither!”

After leaving the Joplin zinc mines and a subsequent unsuccessful try at raising cotton Edgar decided he wanted to be a peace officer. The family moved to Protem in Taney County, Missouri just a few miles north of the Arkansas border. Edgar got on as a deputy or local constable in Protem who, as we have seen, urgently needed lawmen. The Depression had no end in sight and Prohibition was still the law, as Edgar was painfully aware. Outlaws like the Barkers, Bonnie & Clyde, John Dillinger and others were gaining fame in the Midwest. Back in those days Protem was the kind of town that made Dodge City glad that it was in Kansas!


At some point in time afterwards Edgar made the unfortunate acquaintance of a young tough named Oliver Stephen Hart who’s father died when he was young. Everyone around Protem just called him Ol’ Hart. According to records my dad found in The History of Ozark County Oliver Hart was born September 9, 1892.

Oliver Hart & Family:

Hart family

Standing: sisters Florence and Polly Ann; brother Sterling. Seated: sister Florida, Oliver himself, his mother Emily and just barely visible on the far right, his brother Jerome.

Oliver was one of ten children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Recollections of him “show him to be a very good-looking young man and there were many folks in the area who liked him”. But he was impetuous. He was “dashing and daring”. He liked to drink and brawl and mix with the “dangerous crowd.” He wasn’t afraid of anybody or anything. It was inevitable that he and Grandpa Edgar would clash one day, because they say that Edgar Blankenship was the only man that Hart was “just a little bit afraid of.”

Now, as a deputy, Edgar interpreted the law in a very lenient manner…that is, “sometimes he’d lean to one side, and sometimes he’d lean to the other.” But there were some things he wouldn’t do. The old fellow from Pyatt, Arkansas, who made my dad promise not to give out his name, used to hang around Edgar and told my dad that Ol’ Hart had come up with the hair-brained idea to go rob a bank and wanted Edgar to “throw in with him.” Edgar declined and told Hart that if he did indeed carry out such a fool scheme that he’d come after him.

Hart didn’t take Grandpa seriously. Another fellow name of Burr Davidson took him up on the offer instead. Hart also talked some boys known locally as the Quick brothers (possibly related to Oliver’s brother Jerome’s wife’s family) into joining them in the robbery.

In August of 1931 the Bank of Gainesville, in nearby Ozark County, Missouri, was held up at gunpoint. What follows is the original story from the Taney County Republican that told the story right after it happened.



Three men hold up the cashier and flee with almost $4,000

Trail is lost in the hills

Thursday, August 27, 1931

On Tuesday afternoon this week, about 1:00pm, two men entered the bank at Gainesville. Hugh Harlin, cashier of the bank, and his brother Mearle, and the latter's wife, were in the bank at the time. While one of the robbers held the Harlins up with a gun, another of them scooped up all the money in sight. They then locked the Harlins in the vault and fled. It is believed that a third man was waiting outside for the two in a car, to use in making their escape.

The men who entered the bank were dressed in overalls and had on smoked glasses. One is believed to have had on a false moustache. They are believed to have headed west from Gainesville to the Taney County line.

In this direction there are no good roads, but telephone communication is also slow and difficult, so it is hard to warn the people in the country through which the bandits are fleeing.

Sheriff Day got the word about an hour after the robbery was committed and promptly arranged to patrol the roads that they would be most apt to travel on. Deputies were stationed at Brown Branch, Bradleyville, the Rueter-Protem Junction, and at all other points possible to reach.

That same evening some of the people from Gainesville who were pursuing the bandits got to Forsyth [the county seat] and reported that the trail of the robbers seemed to have left the main gravel road and to have gone through gates and private ranches. Large quantities of nails had been scattered on the ground in the vicinity of these gates to delay any cars that followed.

Watch was kept on the roads leading out of the county, and Sheriff Day is of the opinion the robbers did not escape through Taney County unless they passed through the woods. He thinks it is possible that they may have left their car in the woods and gone on by foot.

From the route taken in escaping, it is believed that at least one of the robbers must have been acquainted with Taney County as they would hardly have tried it through such roads if they'd had no previous knowledge of them.

We have just learned form Prosecutor JR Gideon that a filling station attendant reported to him the passing of a car by his place, which aroused his suspicion, after having heard of the holdup. He said the man stopped for gas and oil, and seemed to be in a nervous state and anxious to be on his way.


Although the sheriff of Ozark County conducted a man-hunt with what resources he had available to him, Grandpa Blankenship knew right away who’d done it and turned Hart in. The resulting investigation led to the arrest of Oliver Hart and Burr Davidson, as well as their wives for being the “brains” behind the outfit, along with the arrests of several of the Quick brothers.

It also eventually led to the final confrontation of Edgar and Ol’ Hart on the streets of Protem.


The trial took place in Gainesville. My father found the original newspaper article from the May 19, 1932 edition of the Taney County Republican that described the trial of Oliver Hart and Burr Davidson. It apparently ended as a hung jury, with 5 jurors voting guilty and 7 not guilty. Nothing else was found to indicate whether the jury was “hung” or that the men had actually been found not guilty, or that new charges were filed against them. This was probably due to the fact that in a couple of weeks later it wouldn’t matter anymore.



Tried at Gainesville

Taney County Republican, May 19, 1932

Last week a number of Taney County citizens attended Court at Gainesville as witnesses in the Hart-Davidson trial.

O.S. "OL" Hart, Burr Davidson, and their wives were tried as accomplices in the robbery of the Gainesville Bank, which happened last August.

The trial occupied two full days and something over 100 witnesses were used. At the close of the State's evidence the Judge instructed the jury to sign an acquittal for the two women, holding that the State failed to connect them with the robbery at the bank.

At the close of the Defense's evidence the jury went out, and after a short deliberation informed the Court that they could not agree. They reported that they were standing five for conviction of the two men and seven for acquittal.

The State's side of the case was represented by Paul Boone, Prosecuting Attorney of Ozark County, General Rogers, ex-Prosecutor of Gainesville, and Tom Moore of Ozark. The Defendants were represented by Attorney J.H. Ingenthron of Forsyth.


Edgar’s involvement with the investigation sent Hart into a murderous rage. Whatever Hart’s dreams were of becoming another John Dillinger or Pretty Boy Floyd were dashed, and the “Hart-Davidson Gang” would never go down in history alongside the Barkers or Bonnie & Clyde. Hart sent the word out that “Edgar Blankenship was a dead man” and that he would kill him on sight if they should ever meet again.

Grandpa wasn’t fool enough to think that Hart was just bragging. He knew that he meant what he said and that his life was very much in danger. And on the morning of June 3rd, 1932, Ol’ Hart arrived in Protem.

According to the old man in Pyatt, who witnessed the confrontation, Hart came back into town and caught up with Edgar in some building or other that he can’t recall, remembering only that Edgar didn’t have a gun with him at the time. Hart pulled a pistol out of his coat and put it up to Edgar’s head. The witness, who was just a boy at the time, told my dad that he was pretty scared and thought that Hart was going to shoot…”he acted like he was mad enough to do it.” Instead he just cussed Edgar real bad and then hit him with that pistol. Edgar told him that if he intended to shoot him, then he’d better do it right now, because he would never get another chance. Hart just laughed and cussed him again, then walked off.

Knowing what was coming, Edgar tried to get help from Sheriff Day, but there were few automobiles and no telephones. The way it turned out though, Grandpa Blankenship was on his own, and handled the situation the best way he knew how.

Main street of Protem, MO circa 1932 where the shooting took place. The old schoolhouse is seen at the end of the street.

Pictured above is a photo taken of what was then Main Street in Protem, MO. The general store on the left, behind the Model A and the pig, advertises “Nehi Cola”. At noon, on the third day of June in 1932, Hart walked out of the store. Across the street was a house that was undergoing some repair. Another man was outside the store chopping some firewood. Several other townsfolk were “hanging around” or otherwise going about their daily business.

Hart and his friend H. F. Owen decided to walk across the street and look at the house where a neighbor named Audie Reynolds was doing the repairs. They had just reached the edge of the yard and stopped beside a large shade tree (which you can just see in the background of the photo) when a rifle shot cracked. A bullet had struck Hart in the abdomen. He grabbed at his side and staggered towards the tree, but before he could get behind the cover of its trunk another shot was fired. Hart slumped to the ground with a second .30-30 hole in his chest.

Owen ran for dear life. Kermit Wood, the chap who had been chopping firewood (and who had previously declined Edgar’s request for a ride to Sheriff Day’s office) looked up and saw Grandpa Edgar standing in the alley between Hobart’s Store and the house next door, somewhere in the photo’s foreground, holding his Winchester in his hands.

After the first few stunned seconds some of the men in the street jumped up and ran to Hart’s body, and one or two tried to approach Grandpa. He warned them not to come any closer, to just “leave me alone!” Which I assure you they did. Then, they say, Edgar just calmly put his rifle over his shoulder, waded across the creek and walked home.

Sheriff Day was finally sent for and he, the County Coroner, and the local Prosecutor (a Mr. Joseph R. Gideon) rushed to Protem where the coroner held his inquest beneath the shade tree where Hart lay dead. Someone had laid him on a big piece of cardboard, placed a pillow under his head, and covered him with a sheet. A “coroner’s jury” was picked from the bystanders and seven people were called as witnesses. The following is a copy of the actual warrant issued for Edgar Blankenship’s arrest.

Sheriff John Day apprehended Edgar, presumably at his home, and he was taken to the old county jail in Forsyth, MO. The prosecutor charged him with first degree murder. The judge set his bond at $10,000. The following are transcripts of some of the original newspaper clippings from the Taney County Republican regarding the incident.



June 9, 1932

Last Friday, shortly after 12:00 noon, Edgar Blankenship shot and killed O. S. Hart in Protem. The shots were fired from a rifle, one [bullet] passing through in the region of the heart and the other through the abdomen. Circuit Court was in session at Forsyth when the word was brought in. Prosecuting Attorney Mr. J. R.  Gideon, Court Reporter Oscar Sanders, Sheriff Day, and Deputies Henry Simmons and Gordon Brown, accompanied by Justice S. E. Arnold, went at once to Protem. An inquest was held and the testimony of witnesses taken. Edgar Blankenship was placed under arrest and was brought to Forsyth and is being held under a charge of first degree murder.




June 30, 1932

Judge Arnold held a preliminary in the case of Edgar Blankenship, charged with the murder of Oliver Stephen Hart at Protem around the first of the month. The only question at issue was whether the accused was entitled to bail and how large the bail should be. The state was represented by Prosecuting Attorney J. R. Gideon and J. H. Ignethson. The Defense by Sharpe &Y Blunk, and Tom Moore. [Editor’s Note: ironically, these are some of the same attorneys who defended Hart in the original bank robbery trial.] Justice Arnold granted bail and fixed the amount at $10,000. We understand that Sheriff Day had taken the accused to Protem where he expected to get a bondsman. He is being held to answer at the October term of Circuit Court.




Date Unknown, early June, 1932

Oliver Stephen Hart was born to Mr. & Mrs. Dallas Hart on Sept 9, 1892 and grew up to manhood in Ozark County. On Dec 25, 1915 he was married to Miss Lou Duggins of Dugginsville, MO. To this union were born three children: Milo, now 15, and two daughters, Maude, 12, and Irma Lee, 9. He was a Royal Arch mason and had his membership at Lutie, Sampson Lodge No. 298 A. F. & A. M. After his marriage he moved to Taney County, five miles east of Protem where he was engaged in farming and stock raising. He died June 3, 1932 at Protem. He is survived by his wife and three children, his mother, Mrs. Emily Hart, two brothers, Sterling Hart of Dugginsville, and Jerome Hart of Jay, Oklahoma, five sisters, Pollyanna Hensley, Lou Hensley, Florida Farmer and Jane White. He was buried June 4, 1932 at the family cemetery on the farm where he was reared, at Dugginsville. Dr. Crockett preached the funeral sermon, after which the Masonic Lodge of Lutie took charge of the services.


The original jail house in Forsyth, MO where Grandpa Edgar was incarcerated following the shooting. It is believed he was held in the cell corresponding to the window just visible in the lower floor, far right, behind the hill.

Prosecutor Joseph R. Gideon, date unknown

Some of the locals after the trial. It is thought that the man on the far right wearing the light colored hat is Carl Woods, himself a known murderer and no’count.

Deputy Henry Simmons, Sheriff Day’s predecessor, a deputy at the time of Edgar’s arrest.

The trial was short and Grandpa was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Hart was buried in the family cemetery as noted in the above obituary. Most folks thought that this would be the end of it. But they were wrong.


The following April, in 1933, while Grandpa Edgar and Grandma Minnie and the rest of the family were attending church in Protem, some unknown person shot Edgar Blankenship in the back as he stood outside talking to his friends. My own grandparents–Edgar’s daughter Olive and her gentleman caller Charles Dunn–were going together then. Charles once said that when he thinks back, it seems that there were men present that night who were never known to attend church before.

It’s pretty obvious that people had an idea that “something” was about to happen. Charley (Grandpa Dunn’s birth certificate says “Charles Dunn” but he always spelled it “Charley”) said that he and Olive, or “Ollie” as he called her, were sitting up near the front of the church. He was 21 at the time and Olive was about to turn 18. He told my father that the congregation was just starting a hymn when the first shot rang out. One of the men who’d been standing outside the church came rushing in and yelled “They’ve killed Edgar! They’ve killed Edgar!” Then they heard a second shot.

Charley got up and ran outside and found Grandpa Edgar lying on the ground in terrible pain. Edgar looked up at the young gentleman who was courting his daughter and said, “Charley, help me take my shoes off, my feet are killing me…”


Left: Charley Dunn, my grandfather, age approx 16, photo taken c. 1928. Right: Olive Blankenship Dunn, my grandmother, date unknown.

Charley took Grandpa Edgar’s shoes off, then he and some other men helped him into a car belonging to a man by the name of Em Woods. They took off for Doctor Threadgill’s office in Forsyth, the county seat, but somehow, someone had already found a telephone and sent word to the doctor about what had happened. Dr. Threadgill immediately started for Protem, and the two cars missed each other en route.

Upon reaching Forsyth and finding the Doctor’s office closed, they continued on to Springfield and delivered Grandpa to the Baptist Hospital. He was admitted to the emergency room but they found that the bullet had grazed his spine and had lodged in his liver. Removing it would only hasten his death. There was not much more they could do but make him comfortable and hope for the best.

Grandpa eventually recovered, but was left an invalid for the remainder of his days. Eventually he would die at his home not far from Protem. It is reported that he foretold the date and hour of his own death, and called his wife Minnie to his side, giving her instructions of his final wishes.

No one was ever arrested or convicted of this attempted assassination, although there were several suspects. Theories were legion. Each person interviewed expressed a different opinion of who the guilty party might be. As always, a reporter from the Taney County Republican was on hand the next day and published the following story in the newspaper.



April 27, 1933:

Sunday night between 8 and 9 o’clock Edgar Blankenship was shot from behind by an unknown person. Blankenship had been acquitted for the charge of murdering Ol Hart by a jury in the Circuit Court last week. Sunday night he had gone to church at Protem. It is very difficult to get accurate information as to what actually happened. Our report is mostly taken from such information as we have been able to get from the Prosecuting Attorney Gideon and Sheriff Pumphrey.

It seems that Blankenship left the church and walked out to where some of his friends, including Bill Davis, were seated. Davis had been a very important witness for Blankenship at the trial. Blankenship made a greeting of an intimate and a friendly nature to the group and turned to walk back into the church. When he turned, a man who’d been with or near this group stepped forward and shot Blankenship in the back, the ball ranging from the spine into the liver.

A second shot was fired but did not take effect. The victim was rushed to Forsyth, but Dr. Threadgill had gone to Protem on learning of the shooting and missed the car carrying the injured man. Blankenship was then taken to Branson, where after emergency treatment he was taken to an emergency hospital in Springfield. Up to last night he was still living but was in critical condition. The would had bled internally. The doctors considered his condition as very serious.

Much confusion is apparent in the reports of the shooting. Sheriff Pumphrey went to Protem that night as soon as word was received. He took blood hounds with him but no result was secured. The next day he and Prosecutor J.R. Gideon went to Protem for further investigation.

Though several personas were near when the shot was fired no information of much value was learned. It is claimed by those present that the man who did the shooting is unknown to them. Though he appears to have been with or near them, no description of any value or accuracy was learned.

It appears that the man who is supposed to have fired the shot had spoken to some of Blankenship’s friends. One of the puzzling things of the situation is that the man who did the shooting should have put himself close to known friends of Blankenship. Though unknown to those present, he appeared to know who the friends of Blankenship were, and so stationed himself where Blankenship would be most apt to come out if he left the church. This is in itself a daring move, as it might have led to his being seized the instant he drew a gun.

In the confusion he made his escape notwithstanding that friends of the wounded man were near.


We never found out who shot Grandpa Edgar, though in later years it was quietly suspected that the shooter was one of Hart’s relatives. Edgar was a tough and capable man, and not even an assassin’s bullet could kill him. Or so the family legend goes…

Charley and Olive Dunn, at their 50th wedding anniversary, date approx 1985.

Rest in peace, Edgar.

The Tokarev Pistol

16 July 2003



tokinchicomrig.JPG (115575 bytes)

(Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.)

This pistol is a rarity in my stable. I bought it new, an early commercial import, obtained from a long dead left coast importer. It now looks well used because it’s been run around the track many times. This was in 1986, and was the first commercial “Tok” I ever saw. The unreliable ATF mandated thumb safety is the only hiccup on the otherwise classical, minimalist Stalin era pistol.

Finish on the pistol was inconsistent. The frame was well polished, and showed a nice, if ultimately fragile bluing. The slide was a different matter, and the front sight area showed a profusion of milling marks. Manufacturer markings on the slide were stamped about as crudely as possible.

Internally, there are plenty of milling marks, some fairly deep, mostly in places where they don’t show, and all in places where they don’t matter. Fit is very respectable, really much better than, for instance, my 1979 vintage Smith M39-2. It also displayed the admirable quality of working right out of the box. None of this “200 round break-in” business for this soldier of socialism. It arrived with its sleeves rolled up ready for labor.


The full and very interesting known history of the Soviet Tokarev is available from number of sources. My favorite is Remling’s book ” A COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO TOKAREV PISTOLS”. Suffice it to say that in the late 1920s the Soviet military was looking about for a service weapon more modern than the intrinsically weird Nagant gas-seal revolver. This semiauto would need to be capable of manufacture on limited complexity machine tools, and reliable. Caliber was chosen based on positive experiences with the Mauser C96 “Broomhandle”, though Soviet manufacture of the round is dimensionally a little off.

The Tokarev operates on the old familiar Colt-Browning principle of a dropping barrel on a pivoting link. The magazine release, slide release, and recoil spring guide are exactly the Colt 1911 style. One other interesting and useful mechanical touch appears to derive from the detachable hammer group in the Mauser C. 96. The Tokarev packages the hammer, mainspring, sear, disconnector, ejector and cartridge feed guides in a readily detachable subframe. This makes repair simpler, and allows the convenient performance of needed trigger jobs as the sear is even visible through a little window in the subframe. Mine went from 11 pounds to 5 1/2. 

                  tokapart.jpg (106452 bytes)

                                                            The sub assembly above the frame                                           

toksubassy.JPG (69231 bytes)

                                                                                                     a top view of the little bugger

Many other small changes have been made to internal parts and the Browning 1903 like frame to expedite machining. “Small Arms of The World” or Remling go into much more mechanical detail for those interested.

The Tokarev was chosen in 1930, and service showed a few shortcomings. These were corrected in the 1933 model, and this was the primary Soviet semiauto pistol of WWII. Production continued, according to most accounts, until the early 1950s. Mother Russia tooled up a number of her slave states to produce the pistol, and this included the People’s Republic of China (hereafter ChiCom or ChiComs).

The ChiCom manufacture apparently continues to this day, both for hard-currency export and for provision to “National Liberation” movements all about the 3rd World.


The Soviet 7.62X25 AKA Type P round is essentially a copy of the 7.63 Mauser. The loading is rated in a Soviet manual for the 1930 variant as firing a 5.52 gram (88gr.) bullet @ 420 meters/second. The variations of the cartridge from the Mauser seem to lie in a slight change in neck length, and in shoulder angle.

Interchange with the Broomhandle cartridge is a “usually” arrangement. The tiny quantity of old Winchester I located chambered fine. The first batches of Fiocchi .30 Mauser I ever tried wouldn’t fully chamber, but the last few boxes would.  I had a conversation around 1988 with Carlo Fiocchi at the Ozark Missouri plant on that point, and it would be gratifying to think I had something to do with it, but likely a change was already in the works.

For most users, the option will most probably be shooting surplus. First, a word of caution: The Czech ammo (brass cased, typically headstamped with BXN and a date) is loaded for the VZ52 pistols and Czech SMGs and is very hot (1610 fps. from my pistol), and should be fired sparingly, if at all, in new condition, stiffly sprung guns. This ammo is getting scarce-I understand that the ferrous jacket has caused the Batmen in Washington to classify it as “armor piercing”, and have prohibited further importation. It was no great bargain anyway-erratic and very corrosive. This stuff will produce the most beautiful 11″ ball shaped purple muzzle flash, and will ring your ears ’til the next inauguration. Possession of it is legally iffy-if you have it, don’t advertise it. It also has, like most arsenal made ammo in this caliber, very hard open-bolt SMG spec primers. That full length firing pin is needed.

Other stuff I’ve used, all corrosive, is the Bulgarian and the Polish. Both performed satisfactorily, with the Polish shooting pretty close to point of aim. Both are corrosive, and brass quality on the Polish is poor. Lotsa’ case splits with this stuff. The “surplus” of preference is Norinco. This will be in crude commercial packaging, has copper washed steel cases, stab crimped bullets, and will show late ’80s to early ’90s headstamps. This is good stuff-reliable, and in what little chronographing we’ve done, startlingly consistent. It is advertised as being non-corrosive, but I somehow don’t trust that.  Included in the purchase was a small quantity of repackaged Interarmco imported ammo of late ’40s Soviet vintage. True to a lot of the old ammo, it was filthy, apparently hot, and corrosive as can be. The Warsaw pact, believers in simplicity, do not appear to have been believers in flash inhibitors in their powders.

The Miles & I went by the JbarT Ranch range for targeting & velocity tests. We used my pistol & one of his. The following five round average velocities were obtained using a Pact chronograph, screens 10 feet from the muzzle. Air temperature, 75f. All loads with the 88gr fmj round nose bullet. 

A.K.’s  Tokarev  Miles’ Tokarev
Norinco “commercial”: 1397 fps. Norinco “commercial”: 1394 fps
Polish military surplus:  1448 fps Polish military surplus: 1433 fps
RSA (South African) :    1443 fps RSA (South African) :  1454 fps

Two things were immediately apparent in the test shooting:

One, is that these are sighted in the 19th Century blackpowder big-bore revolver manner. Set up to shoot HIGH. This isn’t a bad thing, as flash shooting with a rapidly acquired middle-of-torso sight picture will put you in the vitals. This isn’t, however, a pistol for the SWAT type who will be doing head shots around hostages. The pistol was aimed at 6 o’clock on the bull @ 25 yards& here’s what we got for our trouble. There is one saving grace to the sights. You have plenty of rear sight height to cut down to achieve a dead on hold.

toktarget.JPG (53012 bytes)

                  We think you can hold dead on & get a 200 yard zero.  

Two, is that the original slide and barrel of the pistol will group far better than the mail-order spares on my gun @ the time of firing. The spares aren’t serial number matched to each other, let alone the rest of the gun. They functioned 100% right out of the box, but driving tacks isn’t in the job description. It has grouped considerably better using the original slide and barrel, especially with the good Norinco ammo.

Brother Miles has acquired a genuinely neat El Paso Saddlery model 1920 Tom Threepersons rig for his pistol. 

tokin3personrig.JPG (107871 bytes)

It is likely the only lefthanded Tokarev Threepersons in captivity. The holster, belt and dedicated double magazine pouch are lovely and of superb quality. The rig was also much more expensive than the last dealer price of the pre-Clinton guns.

I like this pistol. It’s fun to shoot through both sides of junked cars, and impress even Contender shooters with the muzzle blast. The hot cartridge and the 26 ounce dry weight notwithstanding, the little pistol is very controllable. It’s not my favorite cartridge, but if I got caught in a fire fight with this gun, I’d not feel badly armed.

The New England Firearms “Tamer” .410 Shotgun

By A. K. Church

Photography by Doc Tom and Miles Fortis, edited by John Dunn

Completed 27 January 2003

(Some photos embiggen)

(Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.)

Some years ago, I was introduced to the Northwestern American idea of the “Mushroom Gun”. These were carried by mushroom pickers and consisted of whatever inexpensive, used single-shot shotgun was available. These were cut back to around legal US minimum (26 inches overall, 18 inch barrel). The butt stock especially is usually minimal in size as these guns were primarily used as 2-handed pistols. Commonly, owing to recoil concerns, these seem to mostly be .410 to 20 gauge.

One American concern had taken up this idea by the early ’80s, and introduced the “Snake Charmer”, a stainless steel .410, of minimal length, and with the added refinement of the pistol grip containing built-in storage for a few rounds of .410.

I briefly owned one and liked the reliability and corrosion resistance of the little gun. It was sufficiently compact to store unobtrusively aboard the VW Beetle I then drove. I could not, however, get used to the lack of a buttstock, and so the gun the gun moved on for a .22 semiauto rifle.

The “Tamer”

A few years back, the sporting goods manager in a major American retailer (Wal~Mart) showed me a New England Firearms gun obviously based very much on the concept of the Snake Charmer. Based on the standard action of all NEF shotguns in the range of .410 bore to 12 gauge 3″, it carried a short full choked .410 barrel, a rust resistant electroless nickle finish, and polycarbonate stock and forearm. The butt stock on this one was long enough to serve as such, and carried provision for the storeage of 4 rounds of .410 bore shotshell. Nominally rated at a 20″ barrel and 6 pounds weight, the gun borrowed for this test has a 19 1/4″ barrel, and seems to weigh a good bit less-we’d guess maybe 4 3/4 to 5 pounds..

The shorter barrel provides a fairly neutral balance, the center of mass lying about an inch forward of the trigger guard.  While the buttstock is short, I had no difficulty in using it as a conventional butt. The buttplate is rock hard, but the minimal recoil of the .410 makes it comfortable enough to use. No provisions are made for sling attachment, which is an odd oversight.

Even held at the side loosely, the muzzle is well above the ground.

Mechanical details

The action features a mechanically cocked hammer, connecting to a floating firing pin via a transfer bar, and is safe as an operational firearm can hope to be.

The barrel release is next to the hammer, and when pressed down allows the barrel to be pulled down for loading and ejection. True to all NEF rifles and shotguns I’ve used, this one ejects even loaded rounds with ferocious authority.

The forearm can be detached via one large Phillips screw, and when removed, the barrel can be tipped down and removed from the receiver. This allows compact storage in a space of approximately 19″x7 1/4″x4″.

(Take-down case from Galati International.)

The buttstock is attached to the receiver by a throughbolt. It appears the throughbolt on the test gun has a half dozen washers serving as spacers. The ammuntion storage has crudely adjustable tension via 2 Phillips screws applying pressure to rubber retention cylinders, which in turn press against the individual shotshells.

Firing the Tamer

.410s tend to get used in some roles over and over. As a trainer for children, in my opinion, the small shot charge counteracts the light recoil, and perhaps a 28 or 20 gauge would make more sense. Some users enjoy the light weight and easy carrying nature of these petite smoothbores, and the tamer certainly fills this niche. Finally, like the M6 survival gun, the minimum dimensions of both the guns and ammunition suit them to storage and carriage in limited spaces-and even 2 1/2 .410 can be an efficient game killer in the hands of a shooter who’s willing to learn its limits.

.410 ammunition generally is one of 3 types.

(1) Generally most useful is the shotshell load, which even in the 3 inch magnum round carries less than 3/4 ounces of shot. So generally ranges are kept close, and in my opinion the concentration of full choke is usually a fine idea. Commonly, 2 1/2 inch carries 1/2 ounce shot, the “magnum” 3″ 11/16 ounce.

Shot at 20 yards, these are representative of patterning.

3″ 11/16 ounce #4. Pattern density is marginally adequate. It would work, but you’d hope for better.

Not photographed owing to cold induced camera battery failure, 2 1/2″ 1/2 ounce #6 shot provided the answer, showing patterns both tighter and better distributed. I don’t regard this as a drawback at all. 1/2 ounce loads will kill small game quite well, and the 1/2″ of saved space may be a storage plus. This gun is destined to live its days launching a half ounce of #6 or 7 1/2 shot.

(2) Preferred by some for larger animals, especially dangerous animals such as feral pack dogs, multiball loads employ 3-5 subcaliber (.33) lead round balls. At least two brands are available in the US, Winchester, and the Argentine made Rexio. Both are pretty poorly distributed. Searching gun stores throughout a metro area of over 250,000 people, 2 boxes of each were found.

Winchester ammo was used.

This represents accuracy at 25 yards, fired over the bead sight:

Not very impressive, I’d leave this at home myself.

(3) The rifled slug offers a very light (1/5 ounce) projectile moving at a fierce 1850 foot seconds. Impressive at a glance, the severe lack of sectional density and ballistic coefficient means the slug sheds velocity faster than little black dresses at a Christmas party. Stories are told of deer being killed with this load, but presumably mighty close in. This would seem like a better load for anchoring tough smaller game at short range, and southern US hunters describe it as being good for swamp raccoon hunting.

The grouping, pretty close to 2 inches is surprisingly good. The regulation with the sights is way high (6″) and way left (3 1/2″). Not sure how useful I’d find it, but at 25 yards it would have it out at the edge of the vital zone on a whitetail. Photos were apparently an emailing incident victim.

OK, in the end I consider this a very light shotgun, whose chosen payload would be the 1/2 ounce short shell. This is acceptable to me.


The odd looking thumbhole/pistolgrip buttstock is actually pretty comfortable, and allows the storage of 4 rounds of ammunition in a position obviously biased toward the needs of right-handers.

The controls were well located. Loading did require the removal of gloves in +18 degree Fahrenheit weather. Firing and ejection did not, although the trigger finger is a tight fit inside the trigger guard. As stated the gun was easily shouldered, cocked, and fired one handed, and recoil with any of the ammunition used was predictably light. Frankly, it was only a little slower coming on target for me than it was 2 handed.

The factory accessory hammer extension for the Handi-Rifle series would be a significant plus for work with gloves, and this gun is going to get one.


The test gun is very definite in its ammo preferences, and is going to be most happy if fed a diet of the better-patterning 2 1/2 inch .410 shot loads. It is hardly the first .410 to show a patterning preference with the short case.

It is very compact, and shows no signs of being anything other than reliable. For someone seeking a camp gun, one to leave aboard a boat, carry taken down on a snowmachine, or otherwise needing an unobtrusive light shotgun, this would serve well.

For information on hand-loading the sturdy .410, have a look here. Remember that hand-loading is at your own risk.


THE LONG Moss500full.JPG (55815 bytes)


THE SHORT Moss12x12full.JPG (62632 bytes)

of it

A joint 2002 conspiracy of Miles Fortis and A K Church

The Mossberg 500 was introduced in 1962, and was directed at the low end of the slide-action shotgun marketplace. Construction is of many parts designed around simple construction, and useable without fitting. Early guns can be distinguished by a single action bar, and the absence of serial numbers.

The gun has outlived the contemporary competition. The tang mounted safety, excellent ergonomics, and great reliability have kept it going. These guns are now about as common as Ruger 10-22s. I do believe almost all rural residences eventually acquire a Mossberg by some sort of osmosis.

In the period since, Mossberg has introduced a companion line designated as “Maverick”, and as one would expect from a gun commemorating the Ford Falcon’s $1995 replacement, this is directed at an even lower price point. Primary difference is moving the excellent tang safety (whose slot requires a small amount of machining) to the polymer trigger group. Most parts are interchangeable with Mossberg 500 pieces. We have tested this with an available Maverick. By interchanging trigger groups it is possible to construct: (1) A Maverick with no safety; (2) A Mossberg with two safeties.


The bolt contains a cammed block which locks into a cut on the barrel extension. The actual lockup appears to be nearly identical to an older Stevens pump gun, save that the Stevens employed an actual cut through the roof of the receiver.

The trigger group itself is modular, and retained by springloaded pins. It is a marvel of efficient use of space, and, like the rest of the gun, it contains nothing in the way of fine milled forgings. Parts are either polymer, sheet steel stampings, or castings. Disassembly is straightforward, reassembly is of Byzantine complexity. Indeed, it may be impossible for one person.

The receiver is a milled aluminum forging, but one suspects it is forged very close to finished dimensions.


The test guns are: (1), A 1979 vintage military trench gun, the model 500-ATP-8SP, essentially an early model 590, and (2), A Cobray “manufactured” Any Other Weapon styled as “The Rogue”. The trench gun carries a full buttstock, a lug for M7 bayonet (M16 type), heatshield and 20 inch cylinder barrel.

The Cobray carries a Pachmayr Vindicator pistol grip (thank God for small favors), a 12 inch, heatshielded barrel, a severely foreshortened magazine, slide handle and a world of bad attitude. This was, if locally legal, the paradigmatic nasty car gun of the late ’90s through early ’00s

The trench gun was purchased new in the fall of 1979. In the period since, it has been shot until the wooden buttstock cracked, the plastic safety button shattered, the magazine follower began to split, and the finish turned crusty. The safety was replaced with an aluminum button crafted by the late Jack Clark (see my Remington 700 article). None of this happened precipitously though, as it has had over 5,000 rounds of full charge 12 gauge run through it.

The Cobray is a 1985 vintage gun, legally assembled as an Any Other Weapon on a Mossberg receiver. The barrel, magazine, action bar handle and action bar are specific to this series.

Miles later added an additional 15″ barrel cut to length so as to get that one extra round available with the standard length magazine. Cobray manufactured these guns for less than 2 years. By Law these are Any Other Weapons by virtue of original “manufacture” with short barrel, but with out buttstock. 


The 500 trench gun handles approximately the same as any other extended magazine riot gun. The excellent tang safety falls quickly to hand for activation, and is more or less ambidextrous. The action release is located at the rear of the trigger guard, and while presumably designed for right-handers, left-handed Miles finds both a satisfactory arrangement.

Recoil is on a par for a 6.5 pound pump 12 gauge. The buttstock is well shaped, the Choate replacement duplicating the drop and pull of the long gone “walnut stained hardwood”. Personal opinion is that you are in no danger of your teeth popping out.

The shorty is another story. The original manufacture pared away more than two pounds. Every ounce not there is felt in firing. The gun is a hard kicker, and recoil goes straight to the web of the hand. 3″ magnums require a supported firing hand-usually the hand is braced against the hipbone. Even standard 2 3/4″ field loads are unpleasant pretty quickly. It has perhaps 100 rounds run through it.


We herewith reproduce patterns fired at 20 yards using Winchester 2.75″ 00 buck and #6 field loads.
We attempted to use the 2″ Aguila ultrashort round, which- 
as the ammo box itself warned- proved a tangle of feed problems so that testing was suspended. 

Not a lot to say here. These guns pattern like cylinder bored 12 gauges.

 The ’12 by 12 as A.K. christened it.Moss12x12s00.JPG (155193 bytes) Moss12x12s6shot.JPG (154635 bytes)

and the ‘normal’ Mossberg
Moss500s00.JPG (144632 bytes) Moss500s6shot.JPG (168580 bytes)As you can see, the length of the barrel really doesn’t have a lot to do with pattern size no matter the mewlings of the talking heads in the anti-gun, main stream media. 


Make sure the gun is unloaded. Both the chamber and the magazine. This is for field stripping. Detail stripping is more involved, and will not be fully covered here.

(1) Retract the bolt about an inch. This disengages the locking lug from the barrel.

Mossstep1.JPG (132907 bytes)

(2) Unscrew the barrel retaining cap attaching the barrel to the front of the magazine tube.

Mossstep2.JPG (85947 bytes)

(3) Pull the barrel off the gun.

Mossstep3.JPG (152984 bytes)

Mossstep4.JPG (136321 bytes)

(4) Field stripping is complete, and reassembly really is in reverse order.

This ease in disassembly has also allowed the type to be one of the more versatile shotguns available. One can simple purchase different barrels and change them for the intended purpose. They are available from 18 1/2 inch length and longer for different hunting and social activities.


Loading port is located in the typical bottom of receiver location. Magazine capacity will vary between 2.75″ and 3″ rounds, the latter will reduce capacity. The test guns have magazine capacities of 8 and 4 rounds of 2.75″ respectively.

Action release is located on the operator’s left at rear of trigger guard. Pressing upward will allow the forend to be retracted. Shuck the forend rearward vigorously, pull it back forward, and gun is loaded.

The safety is located at top rear of the receiver. Pushing it forward is the “fire” position, rearward is the “safe”.


There are some mildly complex procedures which do not lend themselves to digital photography. For this reason we have not opted to include these instructions. They are laid out in the owner’s manual.

The trigger group is beyond mildly complex to reassemble. Mine was replaced after we gave up on reassembly. Theoretically Mossberg restricts the trigger/hammer module to factory replacement only-Gun Parts Corporation, last I was aware, will sell the part to anyone. They sold it to me, anyway.

In general, detail stripping will only be required if the gun has been fired a great deal, or in the unlikely event of required parts replacement. The Mossberg is right tolerant of dirt and filth.

Aerosol solvents and/or cleaners have developed to the point full detail stripping for cleaning is hardly needed.


Beyond 3000 rounds, the buttstock commenced cracking at the pistol grip. Acra-glas failed to halt this, so a Choate synthetic replaced the wood. I suspect it will last well past my life.

After years of loaded storage, the stamped sheet steel magazine follower developed a crack. It continued to work 100% until the Choate fiberglass/polymer unit was installed. It tops the original magazine spring, I will mention.

Eventually, the plastic safety button broke, after many thousands of operations. The late Jack Clark milled a replacement out of aircraft aluminum. Jack’s been gone a few years, but the safeties he made for my trench gun (and later Miles’ shorty) soldier on.

The trench gun came from the factory with a blued heatshield-although the gun is Parkerized. The heatshield will move forward under recoil, gouging the finish. I considered removing the shield altogether until the alleged President passed legislation declaiming heatshields to be components of Assault Weapons. I then decided the forbidden allure of these evil guns was too overpowering, so the heatshield remains.

Both Miles and I are well and truly taken with our Mossbergs. They have lasted well, are reliable, and we trust them.

Javalina Javoc

or; How I came to really hate cactus.

the camp





a scenic view of the area we hunted


January 2003; If anyone out there ever wonders why sometimes you never see, much less even hear, game in the boonies, I’ve discovered the answer. They’re lurking about in the middle of town! Herewith follows my exposition on the merits of in-town hunting as opposed to traveling deep into the great woolly wild-lands.

This whole escapade started about six months ago when Jim asked me if I might be interested in a Javalina hunt around Oracle, Arizona where he & Twyla had moved from nearly twelve years ago. I had always been interested in that area “Northeast” of Tucson and Jim said we would also have a chance to visit Paco Kelly & family as well as certain real Sonoran style Mexican restaurants! Yippee!

After getting all the hunting license and permit drawing shenanigans taken care of in November, Jim wanted to know if the idea of camping out for several days would be alright since the road into where we would be hunting was “sorta rough” & it would be more efficient to stay out a few days than to travel back & forth each day. I agreed that as saving wear & tear on a vehicle is an admirable aspiration, I wouldn’t mind roughing. ( I really wanted to campout a few days anyway) The kicker to this would mean that we would have to take Dad’s pickup as opposed to my Tahoe since we’d need the extra cargo space for Jim’s tent & all the other assorted goodies needed to survive camping out in the middle of a desert.
So far, so good.

It turned out we had packed about three times the amount of gear we needed, but needing a thing and not having it can quickly turn a minor inconvenience into an emergency out in the back country.

The day finally arrives, everything has been packed and away we go. The trip out was nice and I got to see new parts of Arizona. The last time I’d been through was in 1980 and that was the Flagstaff to Phoenix route on the way to California. We arrived in Oracle Wednesday evening and spent the night with friends of Jim.

biosphere 2, about 6 miles away

Thursday morning found us on the road to the Biosphere 2, waiting to pickup Rob Lundberg and venture off the blacktop and into the boonies. I cannot really describe the “road” we drove to our campsite. Jim had said he had driven his International Scout through here before without much trouble but, I can say that a standard two-wheel drive pickup would’ve had serious problems getting through some of the harder parts.


yipes, what a road!

After we had set up camp, Jim and I took a ‘short’ walk late in the afternoon to get me acquainted with the area we would be hunting. That night and the next day we discovered several things. Among them;

1, The Coyotes seem to have discovered that life is easier in downtown Tucson than out in the hills. We didn’t hear one solitary yip-yip until we were at Hacienda Paco.

2, You cannot have too many tent pegs and tie downs on a tent when the wind gets up. Also remember to tie the window flaps shut.

3, Keep a set of earplugs handy if your new hunting partner turns out to have a snoring decibel level approaching that of a Boeing 747 landing directly overhead. Be prepared to reassure him that he DID get quite a lot of sleep when he says that he didn’t think he’d slept much.

4, Sunscreen isn’t just for those who work in office buildings. I had a good burn going by Friday afternoon and I was still peeling in several places almost two weeks later! This oversight was remedied by Rob letting us use some of his humongous tube of SPF 30 that he’d brought along and was the main reason we put up with him staying in the tent at night instead of setting up his own about 200 yards downwind.

5, Lack of a pretty intense hiking, walking training plan can be a serious mistake. At the time I did some physically intensive work and also tried to keep in shape, but it wasn’t enough. I did myself in the first day of hunting by doing too much hiking around on uneven ground too fast & wound up pulling the muscle group in my left front thigh/groin. This proceeded to get worse and even taking Sunday off at Rob’s house didn’t help. By Monday I had serious problems walking uphill ( by the way 99% of Arizona is uphill ) .

6, Cactus is (are?) everywhere and in vast number. Sticks must be dealt with as soon as discovered. A small pocket comb can be used to rake off Choya and small Barrel cactus.

The weather however, was very enjoyable. Temps ranged from the high 40s at night to mid 80s during the day. Everyone we talked to before and after commented on the excellent weather for this time of year. I was thankful too. Jim & I had packed enough clothes to take us from tropical to arctic conditions and I really had no desire to look like Nanook of The North while hunting. On Saturday, I had set up about 40 feet above a fork in a dry wash to ambush a pig and heard Jim’s shots. Our agreement was to head toward the sound of the guns and I had set off to get up to high ground to try to spot them after I’d heard the first shots go off. I was still trying to get to a tall enough ridge when the second shots went off. I glassed every hill in the direction I’d heard them but, I couldn’t see a thing moving. After about a half hour or so of seeing nothing, I decided to climb out and head back to camp. I beat Jim & Rob there but not by too much.

I will however, finally get back to my beginning point. Jim & I had returned to his friends at Oracle to spend Sunday night and we decided to eat out again at the Mexican restaurant we’d gone to the evening we had first arrived. This wasn’t Taco Bell OR your typical chain restaurant. On the way through “downtown” Oracle, just as pretty as you please, two fair sized Javalina decided to jaywalk right in front of us. They had come out of a small dry wash and were sauntering across the road apparently to visit friends in a trailer park. We had stopped to let them pass and I had serious thoughts about plugging one of them with my .45 and riding back to the house with the thing on my lap. I figured that it was so dark that no one could’ve identified the car we were in well enough to give the Sheriff any meaningful information. In any case, we would’ve had a pig apiece.

Anyway though, no matter the lack of seeing any Javalina or, dealing with physical problems, the old saying still applies;

The worst day hunting is better than the best day working!

The Belt Mountain-Bowen #5 Base Pin

Belt Mountain Enterprises
Box 353
Belgrade, MT. 59714

Standard Diameter Blue or Stainless (warning – requires fitting)

A short treatise on the meaning of:
(warning-requires fitting)

In 2002, Dad and I rebuilt a Flattop Ruger .44 magnum into a .45 Colt ‘Packin’ Pistol’. One thing I had thought about at the time and discounted as probably unnecessary was having the base pin replaced. I figured that since the primary load for the gun was going to be Winchester factory, the pin should stay put. With factory loads, it did. Unfortunately, any hand load made the pin jump after two or three rounds at the most. I put off replacing the pin until, just recently, it started coming lose after ten or twelve rounds of factory ammo.

Dad and I were over at the J-bar-T Ranch and I mentioned to Jim that I was going to get a Belt Mountain base pin to solve the problem. Well, Jim hauled me into his shop and pulled out a little manila envelope with one of the new #5 base pins with Hamilton Bowen’s screw-stop. It seems Kelye had sent him one to see what he thought of it. Jim offered it to me in exchange for an article about fitting it up. 

 Dad and I found the time to fit the pin and screw one afternoon and by the time we were done, we’d spent a bit less than one hour getting the job done. I feel we were lucky as the pin itself fit the gun perfectly and no fitting to the receiver was needed.

The following illustrated steps should give you a good basic idea of how to do the job. You can click on any of the images to look at a larger view.

guninvise.JPG (170309 bytes)Lock up the gun in a medium vise. Use leather vise pads to prevent marring of the finish. Remove the screw and insert the pin into the receiver.

markingdrillstart.JPG (178181 bytes)Using a hardened tool steel center punch (centered through the screw hole) and light hammer, lightly whack a index mark on the barrel.

drillstartmark.JPG (167272 bytes) Jim told me that Kelye is developing some kind of  jig to eliminate this step. ( and he’s done it! )

The positioning of the index mark is the most critical part of the job. If the mark is off, you will drill the hole off. This is not good, this is BAD.

handdrillstarthole.JPG (181144 bytes)The tip of the screw measures .125″ Dad decided to use a worn .140″ bit to drill the hole. Using a hand vise, begin to drill the hole until the bevel of the working end of the bit has made a complete diameter cut.

drillpresshole.JPG (210985 bytes)Lock gun into a drill press vise. Check for level of both long and cross axis. Start up your drill press and slowly drill a hole approx. .05″ deep. You really want a hole just deep enough to have visible vertical sides. 

filescrewend.JPG (212814 bytes)Hand file the end of the screw down to fit the depth of the hole. This really takes at least three steps as you should make small cuts with the file. Put every thing back together, re-eyeball the fit and cut again until the head of the screw fits down through the pin as far as it does with the pin out of the gun. The tip of the screw should bottom out down the hole in the barrel. This does not have to be exact but, you do want as much of the side of the tip to fit the side of the hole as possible.

finished.jpg (154331 bytes)Put your gun back together and enjoy!


Thank you for your kind attention. We return you now to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

—-The Sixbarrels of the H&R Handi-Rifle


by AK Church

Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.

My first and second articles on the New England single shot in the .357 shorty configuration generated a fair bit of interest, not just in the short barrel, but in the NEF Handi-Rifles themselves. I have only one rifle, but I have six barrels total (so far) for the receiver.

The first barrel came on the original complete rifle as a .30-30 caliber. The rifle itself came more or less par for the current configuration-stocked in brown stained palletwood, heavy and somewhat gritty trigger, and a 22 inch iron sighted barrel in the fine old .30 WCF. The rifle came in at well under $200, including tax, and was replete with sling swivels. The iron sights from the factory are actually pretty good, resembling the Thompson Contender sights. They are fully adjustable for both elevation and deflection. Their only real failing is lack of radius at about 14 inches. The Williams Guide sights are better, however, so I went to those. They will require a taller front sight, and NEF thoughtfully has one in their parts catalogue for the .22 Hornet, serviceable and inexpensive.

Accuracy so far has been a disappointment. It’ll do as little as 2-2 ¼ inches at 100 with Federal factory 150 grain which, admittedly, is good enough for its purpose. I had, however, hoped for better. It will do about what my 50 year old Marlin will do. It does however allow great flexibility in handloading, and pointy bullets are no magazine problem in a rifle with no magazine. As soon as adult life allows, I’d like to try some of the 125-135 grain .308 bullets intended for the Mini-30. Something shooting more or less flat to 125 yards would be most pleasant. It also appears to have entirely acceptable rifling for cast bullets. I’m not satisfied yet that all the accuracy potential has been wrung out of this barrel.

A note to handloaders: All the NEF barrels I’ve had fitted to my rifle have ferocious ejectors. They’ll pitch your once fired brass well out into the weeds. Make a habit of having your hand there to stop it.

The second barrel is a .357 Magnum 22 inch. It has received the Williams sight treatment, and is otherwise stock. It does have the advantage of having several hundred rounds worth of jacketed ammo through it, which has unquestionably done some good things for the bore. How good? 1 ½ inches, 100 yards, 3 shots. This with Winchester’s wunderbar 180 grain Partition Gold. 2 inches or a little under with Georgia Arm’s 158 grain .357 +P “Deerbuster”, good for almost 1900 fps, and match ammo consistency. 2 inches or so with a pet handload of 13 grains of 2400, once fired Winchester unplated hulls, CCI 550 primer, and a Sierra 180 semi-spitzer. Max, and again the disclaimer that I’m only telling you what I’ve done, not that you can or should do this. You handload, as I do, at your own risk.

If the .30-30 barrel did less than what I expected, this one did far more. I shoot little if any .38 Special in it (don’t like scouring the chamber). I am looking at whomping up some .38 standard ballistics, cast SWC stuff for it in .357 hulls, as I have about half a million cases. This has been shown to be a fine small game arrangement, over’n over. Cast bullets for this rifle length bore, even at piddly velocities, need to be gas checked, or you will spend the rest of your days scouring out lead.

The third barrel is a 22 inch in the grand old .45-70.  .45 Army of 1873 is one of the finest things the US Government ever did for us-right on a par with .30 Government of 1906. You could get a Handi-Rifle for under $200 in this caliber, and have a serious pig or bear rifle most cheaply. Judging from the performance of my barrel, you’d not be disappointed in the groups, either. Before mine got the Williams sight treatment, I put it on the bench with the first ammo to come to hand, the lightly constructed Winchester 300 grain whitetail ammo. 100 yards, 3 shots, 1 ½ inches. Same as the .357, as it happens. How it would group with a 4 or 5 shot effort I don’t know. I can’t hold off the flinch much past three rounds. The down side to this set up is that the rifle weighs not much past 6 pounds in the big cartridge. The big hole doesn’t leave a whole lot of metal, and it’ll kick. I could have it ported, but that’d cost far more than the barrel. I’ve played with some cast handloads so far, but nothing so far puts a hurtin’ on the Winchester for accuracy.

Barrel number four is a shotgun barrel. 12 gauge 3 inch, 22 inches long, modified choke. This barrel is very light, and the “rifle” (“shotgun?” “gun?”) doesn’t weigh more than 5 pounds with this short light tube in place, it DOES kick. That said, NEF charged only $35 for that barrel, and it’ll pattern cheap Wal-Mart shotgun shells, the #6 field loads, at proper modified densities. I’ve had this one treated to a very rust resistant molybdenum disulfide finish. Set up on the similarly refinished receiver, and with synthetic stocks, a person would have a splendid subsistence hunting gun-tight patterning and very weather resistant. I don’t handload shotgun ammo, so what it’d do with carefully assembled, plated shot handloads is unknown. I am impressed by this barrel. Let me mention for our deerhunting readers in Northeastern states that it will pattern just as well with Fiocchi double-ought buckshot, and will spin you like a weathervane when you fire it.

Barrel number five is the shorty .357 caliber tube described in the previous article. My current approach is running jacketed rounds through it to polish out the bore. After a few hundred more rounds have zinged downrange, I’m hoping the accuracy will pick up. Let me note this for the curious: The Rev’d Jim has shown up with some surplus “data” powder-don’t recall the precise designation. Loading the case with this stuff almost full, hand seating a 160 cast, I got almost 2100 feet per second out of the 16-½ inch with no pressure weirdness. The bullet was seated so far out the cartridge would tolerate little handling, so this is a range stunt, not viable hunting ammo. At least so far …But these ballistics exceed the original 106 year old ballistics of the .30-30.

With this one the Williams sight treatment (or a much more expensive equivalent by Ashley) is essential. Otherwise sight radius drops to around nine inches.

Barrel number six is a 24 inch smoothbore 12 gauge, iron sighted slug barrel. It unfortunately is too thin for tapped holes, so the factory irons are what it will be. This was purchased for a trip to an eastern state, which fell through. Little range testing so far, but I suspect it’ll do better than the 3 ½-4 inches at 50 yards it’s done so far with the French Sauvestre fin stabilized discarding sabot slugs. I do believe me and my darned shoulder is the problem.

Thus far, no rimless cases, no really small bore numbers, and no scopes. I’m not a Luddite, but this seems like it might be the most practical setup for my needs. I’ve received a few letters from readers asking about rechambering the shorty .357 to .357 Maximum. My primary reason for not doing this is lack of components for that round. You don’t just walk in and buy 100 once fired .357 Max hulls at the gun show, and I suspect that cartridge will be out of print in the next 10 or 15 years. I do hope I’m wrong, since I have a friend with a Dan Wesson in that caliber, but I suspect the cartridge is doomed doomed doomed.

Another thought cropping up in my fevered brain is a wildcat found in the Barnes/McPherson tome, the .35/.30-30. .30-30 hulls are abundant, and this one yields some impressive ballistics-approaching the .375 WCF. A .357 magnum barrel could be rechambered with minimum effort, and I have a mighty array of .30-30 cases. But that would have to be on yet another tube. .35/.30-30 deserves a longer barrel than the 16 ½ inches the shorty provides, and the existing 22 inch .357 is too accurate to touch.

The last barrel is one which doesn’t exist, but which I wish did. A .45 Colt barrel, not the weird mutant .45/.410 shotgun jobber they have produced. It would be a simple matter mechanically to take the .44 Remington Magnum barrel they produce, and have it bored and rechambered to this fine, and ever more popular cartridge. Drilled and tapped to take either the William’s or Ashley aperture sight. A rifling twist compromised between the factory or equivalent 250 to 255 grain stuff, and the newer 300 grain hunting bullet loads (factory and homebrew) would produce a dream barrel. The problem is that reboring runs as much as the host firearm, and kinda blows the claims of this as a budget firearm. Still this would be a nice barrel, and I think about it a lot.

————————-Handi-Rifle Revisited

AK Church

Postscript to the Handi Rifle project;

Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.

Since the original article was written, I’ve tried a couple of changes to the rifle.

The front Swivel was never secure, even after using semi-permanent adhesive to stick it on.

I converted to one of the “noose” type slings that loop around the barrel. So far, it seems to be working fine.

I’ve added a set of black synthetic stocks from NEF.

Upside: This looks very nice against the DuraGuard finish.

Downside: Difficulty of installation. The bolt-hole in the buttstock wanted to capture my 9/16″ socket. I finally had to squirt WD-40 down the sides of the hole to wriggle the socket out. The forearm screw hole is about 1/8” too far back, requiring enormous effort to get the retaining screw started. This has placed the forearm and barrel under great tension, exacerbating a tendency the rifle already had to string shots vertically. Although it has a much better shape than the original forearm, it’s a disappointment to me.

Once in place, the stocks look & feel great! The interior space is large enough to store beaucoup survival items & even the pistol grip has enough room under it’s cap to put a box of boat matches in. Both open up with the same Phillips head screwdriver used to take the rifle apart.

With the new furniture it’s too long to allow the disassembled carbine to fit behind my truck seat so, for now, I’m staying with the ugly wood stock. There is supposedly a youth length synthetic stock but, I’ve never seen it. If the primary use was to be a wall hanger, I’d keep the longer stock on but then, I’d keep the 22″ barrel on too. I do like it though. The gun has a less toy like feel & heft. The stock also has enough “give” to reduce the recoil with the 12 gauge tube on, even though the gun actually weighs a little less.

Duren Gunsmithing has since refinished my 12 gauge barrel, right down to the brass bead. Patterning was unaffected & appearance is great with the synthetic stocks. This would be a dynamite arraignment for a subsistence hunting rig – very weather resistant.

I have had pointed out to me an all steel sight package from Ashley Outdoors. The problems with these are that they they are around twice the price of the Williams, and emphasize huge ghost ring apertures. Ghost rings don’t work for me. So I’m staying with the Williams.

I hauled the rig out deer hunting this year but, to kill a deer you first have to see a deer.

But that is another story.





Free permission to quote Church’s articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.

Earlier, this carbine was New England Firearms’ .357 Handi-rifle, a breakopen singleshot already of compact dimensions. With  a 22″ barrel  and an adult size buttstock, the rifle is only 38″ long. Having almost no action length, you can get some real size efficiency. Takedown is accomplished w/ a single phillips head screw. Operation is familiar to anyone who has used a breakopen shotgun.

These single shots are solid, useful, well designed budget centerfires. Locally, WalMart discount stores can order them (as of October 1999) for under $190.

I had a goal. I wanted a centerfire rifle I could conveniently stash, cased and taken down, behind the seat of my pickup along with a fair supply of ammo.

It had to be concealable behind the seat as a theft deterrent (legal where I live). And, it had to be enough rifle to kill a whitetail deer at close range. I’ll call that 100 to 125 yards. Later I also found it should be pretty close to rustproof.

The original rifle was purchased new as a .30-30. I later added a .357 magnum barrel to get into cheap and plentiful reloading components. This caliber  was more like it. I went from a 2 1/2 – 3″, 100 yard, 3 shot group rifle (with .30-30 barrel) to 1 1/2″ with the 357 barrel! This using Winchester’s superbo 180 grain Partition Gold bullet. The Partition Gold ammo is designed around a much heavier constructed bullet than average handgun loads. I feel more confident of it holding up to rifle velocities. If anyone has used this load to take game, please contact me with particulars. Another fine load out of this rifle is Georgia Arms’ 158 grain +P load, which is good in the 22″ barrel for 1900 fps & 2- 2 1/2″ groups at 100 yards. My only concern is if the Speer Gold Dot JHP will hold together while being driven more than 400 fps faster than the already hot 1400-1500 fps revolver velocities for which it was designed .

The barrel is box stock save for a Williams Guide receiver sight, and a taller front sight to allow for the height of the Williams sight. No bore lapping, no trigger work, just a good barrel, with good sights, and good ammo. The need of taking long trips in the confined space of a compact 4X4 and the possibility of getting stuck in winter weather got me thinking about a drastically more compact version. I had about 21″ of storage available. I did several things:

I sent the rifle back to NEF to get a 2nd .357 barrel fitted (the original .357 barrel was too accurate to touch). At the same time I got their parts catalogue and ordered the shorter 12″ pull buttstock for the youth model. I commenced waiting.

I had misgivings about the rather shapeless youth stock, as it has a slightly swollen straight wrist, and no comb to speak of. Recoil pad fit was crude. It reminds me of the US M1917 rifle buttstock, which is certainly ugly enough. In fairness it was not designed for adult shooters. In the meantime, I ordered another William receiver sight.

After a while, rifle and parts were returned. I installed the William rear sight, and taller front sight. This job is so simple than even I can do it. The barrel was then shipped to Williams with instructions to cut the barrel to 16 1/2″, recrown the muzzle, and re-install the front sight.


Federal law on these matters requires a rifle to be at least 26″ overall, and have a barrel at least 16 inches. My rifle in its finished form would be 30 1/2 inches. A letter from BATF (the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms [diatribe left to Miles]) stated they had no problems with the project. Your state, county, city, residential subdivision or library board may have different regulations. The unfortunate victims of Canadian oppression, would, I believe, find this too short for their tyrannical laws. I feel sorry for Canadian shooters. I have heard this expression before; “The law may confound reason but reason may not confound the law”.  I received the barrel back lopped off as requested, attached it to the rifle & changed out the buttstock. I now had a compact little rifle. It has shown itself capable of acceptable but not outstanding accuracy. It will group 3 shots nicely under 1″ in deflection, then vertically string 3-4″, at 100 yards. This is not as good as I had hoped, but is adequate for minute of deer. The most accurate load is the Georgia Arms rocket ammo. It has also done well with a handloads using 180 Speer bullets over an near max load of Alliant 2400. I’m still experimenting with accuracy, and want to try the CorBon hardcast ,load. I have not yet been able to chronograph any loads through the shorter barrel. 

The feel is interesting. First, be aware that NEF’s contour for the .357 barrel is pretty heavy. Amputating 5 1/2″ has left me with a carbine which is STILL muzzle heavy. With an M1 carbine sling and 10 rounds of ammo in a buttstock carrier, it weighs 6 1/2 pounds, but looks like it should weigh 4. Proportions are rather squat, the plug-ugly buttstock not helping matters at all. I am 5’11” tall, and have gorilla length arms. 

As you can see in the photo, holding the rifle down by my side, the muzzle is 11″ off the ground. With magnum ammo, there is no question that you are not firing a .22, however recoil still seems subjectively a good bit lighter than the average 170 grain .30-30 out of a lever action. I have no idea how recoil would feel with a better shaped buttstock. As it is, .38 Special is hardly felt at all.

I’ve taken care of a final problem. The rifle got wet once and couldn’t be dried off for some time. I was faced with rust. Patina is fine on century-old Colts. It is uncool on 5 year old rifles. “DuraGuard” is a heat applied, molybdenum disulphide surface treatment. It meets most military standards for rust and corrosion resistance, including the well known 2000 hour salt spray test. It is available in a number of colors, none of which look much like bluing. I chose the one designated “flat stainless”, which actually has a dull pewter appearance. To conceal the slight pitting, all surfaces were first bead blasted. Some parts, especially pins, cannot be treated with this as it will cause enough surface buildup to make them oversized. The slicker internal parts have improved the trigger pull slightly, but it’s still not great. I am happy with his workmanship. I have no question the warranty evaporated with this work. Or with the first reload fired.

Later on I want to have a 22″ 12 gauge barrel I have treated with this finish too. I’d like to cut it down to 18 inches, but rechoking the barrel adds complication and expense I’d rather avoid. As is, the barrel shoots nice patterns at the density specified for modified choke using cheap promo #6 shot. The thinwalled tube does shed over a pound of weight, so the gun is a kicker. The sling swivel base location on the forearm can draw blood, so I installed a band mount on the barrel, which is better.

NEF lists synthetic stocks in adult and youth length. As with rechoking a shortened barrel, it’s a fair question of how much money the average shooter wants to put into a utility gun.

I’m happy with my little .357. It’s perfect as an onboard firearm and while accuracy is not world class, it’s sufficient for the job. It might be considered an almost perfect gun for cabin cruiser, aircraft or motor home.

Much of the inspiration for the gun derives from the April 1978 “AMERICAN RIFLEMAN” article by C E Harris “Planning for an Extra Gun”. A fine article, like all C E Harris work, I wish copyright would allow me to attach it to my article. Actually, if it were available on the Internet, I’m not sure my article would be needed. 

New England Firearms

60 Industrial Rowe

Gardner MA 01140

Williams Gunsight Co.

7389 Lapeer Road

PO Box 329

Davison MI 48423

Georgia Arms Inc.

15 Industrial Court

P O Box 238

Villa Rica GA 30181

NOTE: Author Church regrets that he is unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun. 



Dear Readers: AK likes to attach useful or interesting letters from readers to his articles. Please state in your letter if he may use your correspondence. He can do this with or without your name or address, according to your wishes. Email him here.

Dear AK, 

I purchased the NEF HandiRifle in .357 before I read any of your articles (which were very informative, by the way) because of what I read by Paco Kelly regarding the .357 out of carbine/rifles.  At $140, it was too good to pass up.  Since then, this gun has become my choice for a “one gun” senario, excluding assault rifle situations.  For a living off the land, survival type gun, I have yet to find one that will top it for versatility and economy.  Loaded with 148 gr. wadcutters and 2.4 gr. of Unique, it is quieter and much more deadly than a .22 for small game/ varmints, and loaded up with H110 and 180 gr. hollowpoints or hardcast lead, it is capable of taking all but the largest game.  It accomplishes this while delivering much less felt recoil than a .30-30 of similar weight.

Then there is the mystique of the single shot, the “one shot- one kill” mentality that it instills in one as it becomes a trusted sidearm.  It requires a discipline that is similar to that of the muzzleloader, and also those intrepid souls who tread here before this land was tamed. 

Thanks again for sharing your experiences with a well-made, economical firearm, and also for bucking the trend that bigger is always better.

Neil K

Wonderful and eminently useful information on the Hand-Rifle.  I have been infatuated with this outfit for years even though I have several very fine “repeaters.”  I have recently been toying with the idea rather seriously again and have wondered about the accuracy.  I want a .45-70 (I have absolutely no need for one) and thought this would be the way to go without committing too much in the way of gun-habit money.  Adding a .30-30 barrel chopped to 16.5″ would provide a nice little knock-around piece.  I shot a Savage 24-V extensively as a young kid and found that the Sierra 110 grain HP was excellent when not impinged by the tube mag. restrictions.  Accuracy was exceptional – well above what gun-writers have ever given the old round credit for.  I think you will get what you expect out of a round.  On the .357 Max.  Too bad, eh?  I wonder if Marlin and Winchester would chamber a short lever-gun for the round if it would revive it a bit?  Much to be said for the simple, straight-walled case that turns up ballistics that rival the wonderful old .35 Remington.  There’s another potential Handi-Rifle round!  The .35 Remington!  A 6.5×55 would be nice too.  Well, If wishes were horses we’d all be feeding horses! 

Thanks for the good reading. 

Jeff Hamilton

(include in your article if you wish)

Added 03 Oct 2002:

Dear Mr. Church,

I have a NEF Handi-Rifle in .357 MAX that has gone thru a lot of changes, some of which you may find interesting.

It has been cut to 16 1/2″ barrel, has a hand-made drift adj. only peep sight and an AO tritium center white bead front sight. (These sights have survived pick-up and horse back travel as well as a “horse-wreck” or two.)

It has been partially “poacher-stocked” (a form of skeletonized buttstock in use since flintlock days), and three cart loops screwed over spaces inlet for the cart. to about 1/2 their depth at the front of the comb. (This is much flatter and less protuberant than a butt cuff). LOP was shortened as well. 

I couldn’t stand the plastic trigger guard so it now has a percussion era J & S Hawken guard.

The front sling hanger is silver brazed in a slot cut for it in the very thick barrel.

The rear of the sling is attached to a loop which slides on the “poacher stock”, and is self-adjusting whether I wear it diagonally across my back, or slung muzzle down of the shoulder.

I carry this rifle horse back, and it so convenient that I don’t even bother with a scabbard, just carry it slung or in my hand.

Slung diagonally, the barrel does NOT stick up high enough to foul in branches or trees so a horseman would get dragged off over the back of the cantle. (It can be pretty much “dog-hair” around here, particularly on the north slopes or wooded draws.)

I also carry it doing chores, fixing fence, in the pick-up, or watering and feeding stock. 

The Hornady 200 gr. RN leaves the muzzle at 1,800 fps with 25.5 gr. Rel.7. (30-30 150 gr. from similar length barrel does 1,900 + fps.)

This load hits considerably harder than 30-30 and should kill noticeably better.

My 1st front sight was a bit short and I was maybe 3 or 4″ high at 100 right on at 150 and I could “favor” high just a hair and get hits at 200.

My new AO white bead front is a bit higher and seems to be right on the mark at 85 to 100 yds., which should be just perfect.

I also load 1 1/2 gr. Red Dot in modified cases that accept Win. 209 shotgun caps.

I seat a roundball of .360 dia. in the sized case mouth and use some LEE liquid alox lube on the lead just ahead of the case neck and let dry.

These loads are pellet gun level noise-wise, do 600 fps, and will knock a squirrel or grouse kicking. (Should do fine for cottontail, but we have so few around her I do not shoot them.)

These roundball loads hit to the same POA at 20 to maybe 25 yds. and are nice for practice, checking that my sights are still “on”, as well as small game.

I am going to develop a high speed jhp load for feral dogs and cougar, as well as a cast bullet load of moderate speed. 

I am also starting work on some Rossi single shots that are lighter derivatives of the NEF.

18 1/2″ barreled .357 weighs 4 lbs. as opposed to the cut-down NEF MAX which weighs 6 lbs.

The receiver of the Rossi is smaller dia., as is the barrel.

I am going to put a lanyard ring on this rifle and carry Cavalry style.

I will probably cut a dovetail in the standing breech to mount a peep sight as the barrel is not thick enough over the chamber area like it is on the NEF.

Since there is plenty of “gape-of-action”, this should work well. 

The NEF is like carrying a stout shovel handle at the thick end. The Rossi is like wrapping your hand around a walking stick.

Both are a joy for every day “shoot what you find”.

I think the Rossi will get more off-season use, and the more powerful MAX, wind up being what I pack for deer or black bear (about $50 cheaper than the NEF). 

I consider the std. length .357 out of a rifle at least equal to 30-30 150 gr. as to killing power with in reasonable “iron-sight range”.

All but 3 of the deer I have shot over the years have been within 100 yds., well within “iron sight range”, so I don’t feel handicapped by such a rifle and such sights.

Also, any deer or black bear that needed a second shot when I was hunting with repeaters did not need it so quickly that a single shot could not have been reloaded plenty fast enough.

I like the very short OAL and simplicity of these rifles.

You get a lot of bang! for the $, too! 



Added 27 March 2003:

Hey A.K.:

I have had a Handigun 2 in 20 gauge and .357 since the early eighties. Everyone laughed when I would take this little gun from it’s case. But with my hand loads and at reasonable ranges it never failed to take home the venison or wild pork (which mixed makes great sausage). My two daughters took their first deer with it. The gun was later passed on to my nephew who learned to shoot and hunt with it. He is now in the Marine Corps in Iraq. The gun was later passed on to my grandson and now back to me. I can hardly wait until next season to hit the woods with it. Kids and grandkids may grow up and leave but a good reliable gun will never let you down. Glad to hear about a subject so dear to my heart…Keep the faith…Gene

Added 04 June 2003:

Dear Mr. Church,

I linked to your article about the NEF in .357 from the NEF Singleshot site. I had a H&R 158 in .30-30 and 20 ga (the old Topper package) for years, sold it and bought the NEF in .30-06 about 10 years ago. It is the nicest shooting .30-06 I have had, and I have had a bunch since my first Springfield in 1964. I put on the Williams rear sight and had a ramp front installed by my local gunsmith. Bought the straight grip stock from NEF for it, and had a Teflon finish applied to make it water proof. Then it started having problems with popping open every time I fired it. I sent it back to NEF, expecting to pay for repairs but they fixed it free. I also had them do a trigger job, also free. It has accounted for its share of table meat here in SE Alaska, rain or not. The wood stock broke at the wrist and I have gone with their plastic stock and forearm.

If you want to post this to your site, please leave off my e-mail address. Thanks!

-Kees- (email withheld by request)

Added 12 July 2003:


I thought you might like to see my own 2 Handi-Rifle projects.  Here is a link (so you don’t have to worry about attachments):

The shorty one that I have named ‘THUD’ is a .44Mag that has had the barrel cut down to 17″, and the front sight remounted.  The stock is the standard NEF polymer stock with a home done ‘Krylon’ camo job.  I was inspired by your short .357 that I found on the web after building my .308 ‘Survivor’.

BTW, what exact model Williams peep sight did you use on your .357?  I want to extend the sight radius on mine, and gain a peep.  They list a few on the web, but I can’t tell which one would fit the NEF scope mount holes.

(name withheld by request)

Added 3 SEP 2003

Hello A.K., 

Just thought I’d write a quick note to tell you how much I enjoy your web site. I like your emphasis on cheap customized firearms. I was inspired to pick up a .223 Bull Barrel NEF Handi-Rifle due to your interesting articles about them.  (At a pawn shop of course. ) Now if I could only find an .22 cal Ozark Wildcat. 🙂 

Thanks, and keep up the good work !