Gary's Gun Notes #67
Have you noticed how people are swaying toward the smaller calibers recently? This goes in cycles. For several years people just can't get a large enough caliber. The bigger the better and the sky is the limit. Then for several years they sway the other way and find themselves liking the smaller stuff.
I have found this has been creeping up on us for over a year now. Normally when I introduce a new caliber, if it is a small caliber, it is sort of ho hum. But last year when I introduced the new 256 GNR all of a sudden people sat up and said "hey this could be fun". That cartridge is simply a "magnum" version of the 256 Winchester, improved and reworked. It is based on a 357 Maximum brass and is chambered in converted Ruger Maximum revolvers and in Contender and G-2 barrels. Within a few months we had over a dozen of the Ruger Maximum revolvers in our safes at the gun shop waiting to be converted to the 256 GNR.
Other small calibers perked up too. Our 300 GNR, which had been around for 10 years or more and had been a mediocre seller, all of a sudden became very popular. People were shifting to the smaller 30 caliber again because it was fun to shoot, and a good small to medium deer size game cartridge.
The 300 GNR is simply a reworked 30 Herrett. Kase and I used the 30 Herrett in Contenders for several years and took quite a few animals with them. That was Kase's first hunting cartridge and he took just about as many trophy heads as I did. To make the 300 GNR I took the 30 Herrett, straightened the case a slight bit and took about .150 off the neck. This made it fit in a rechambered 30 Carbine cylinder from the Ruger Blackhawk. Or we have built quite a few full package guns using any standard Blackhawk and installing a new barrel and 6 shot cylinder.
The 300 GNR is perfect for the average size deer and I know of several black bear that have been taken with it. It is one of those cartridges that just work. Making the brass is a bit of a task but for those that have reloaded for any period of time, it is no problem. In one afternoon you can make enough brass to last you a long long time. And the loads are limited only by the length of the cylinder. In a Contender or G-2 barrel the loads are limited only by your imagination. The 300 GNR also excels for the young hunter or for the lady hunter as it has hardly any recoil at all.
Likewise, our 356 GNR, which has always been very popular, now is even more popular. People are finding out that they can take large deer, even black bear with the 356 GNR and not have it beat them up in recoil. The 356 GNR is simply a 41 magnum case necked down to 357. It duplicates the power and speed of the old 357/44 Bains & Davis from the early 70's, except in a revolver it works perfectly, whereas the 357/44 had major problems with set back and locking up the cylinder. The 356 GNR will put a 125 grain bullet out of a revolver at over 2000 fps, a 140 grain bullet out at almost 1900 and a 180 grain bullet out of a revolver at over 1700 fps. In the contender you can add over 200 fps to these figures. And it does it with minimum recoil, not much more than a 357 magnum. And we build either full packages on the customers Blackhawk or Super Blackhawk or we can rechamber the 357 magnum Blackhawk, the 357 magnum Redhawk, or the model 27 or model 28 Smith & Wesson.
Lately the interest in the 32 caliber has expanded considerably also. A few years ago you couldn't give the Ruger Single Six in 32 away. Nobody wanted them. In fact they were so dead on the market that Ruger dropped them from production. Now all of a sudden they are in demand again and when you do find one they are $400 to $500 used.
Another of our series of guns is sure to help keep the prices of the 32 H&R Single Six higher than normal. That is our new 38 Backpacker. This little gem starts out as a 32 H&R Single Six in either the adjustable sight version or the fixed sight model. We take the gun, as furnished by the customer, and install a new barrel to the customers desired length and then build a 5 shot cylinder in the new caliber, the 38 Super.
About a year ago I told a couple of friends that we were converting a 32 H&R to the 38 Super and both of them laughed and pretty much said the same thing. "From one useless caliber to another useless caliber". To say that they are not familiar with the 38 Super is an understatement. The 38 Super is, of course, a cartridge for a semi auto. But I happen to think it will do very well in a revolver. In our prototype revolver the gun shoots 2 inch groups all day at 25 yards and this is the fixed sight model.
The 38 Super has almost the same power as a 357 magnum has, but in our 38 Backpacker it comes in a small packin' size revolver. The prototype revolver we built sports a 6 1/2 inch barrel but of the 10 or 12 orders we have taken so far probably all but one or two have ordered 3 1/2 to 4 inch barrels, strictly for a small, compact packin' piece with plenty of power. I have a couple of folks that have called asking about ordering the new 38 Backpacker and want it built on the adjustable sight 32 H&R Single Six and plan to use it for small game hunting. The 38 Super should be excellent for fox, coyote and other medium size varmints. Plus you don't have to carry a 5 pound revolver on your hip either.
Another cartridge that is becoming very popular is the new 327 Federal. One has to weed thru the crap that the gun writers are spreading to get the correct information about this new cartridge but once you have that information, it looks pretty good. One other problem is the non-availability of the ammo. Federal is the only maker of it and they are dropping the ball. They aren't selling it to the distributors that the gun shops have to buy thru, instead they are selling it in large quantities to the mail order houses like Midway, Cabelas and such. The gunshops can't get their hands on any of it (or very little of it) unless we buy it on the grey market, then we have to sell it at above retail prices and this just makes the customer feel he's being raped. So Federal is screwing the folks that have stood by them thru the years in search for the quick buck. My respect for Federal went down the crapper a good while back.
But putting all this aside the new 327 will probably become very popular once the ammunition becomes available at a decent price. I have quite a few orders in the order book for either a full conversion on the customer's 32 H&R Single Six or to rechamber their 32 to the new 327. To rechamber the 32 H&R does pose a few problems as the old 32 cylinder is a bit short for some of the possible loads, but with some judicious reloading one can come up with a few good loads. The cylinders we are building are a bit longer and use up the entire window in the frame. This should allow full use of all the available space in the gun.
Another new cartridge we are working on right now for those that just want to have fun, is our new 250 GNR. The 256 GNR that we came up with last year proved extremely popular but the Ruger Maximum revolvers are a bit hard to find. Not impossible, but a bit hard. So to solve this problem, I took the figures from the 256 GNR, neck angle, length of neck, degree of shoulder and such and took a bit off the total length and the results were our new 250 GNR. This is like the old original 256 Winchester but improved. It holds about 25% more powder than the 256 Winchester and with the 40 degree shoulder, straight case walls and short neck it seems to work in the revolver very well. We are not finished with the test firing yet and once I get enough basic data I will send a gun and dies to Sean Harper for him to do our full ballistic testing as he always does. Sean has the full and complete Oehler Chronograph and pressure testing set up. With all this he can come up with proper loads that aren't hampered by high pressures. This way we can get you plenty of good data when you order the dies from us.
From the preliminary testing I have done, the new 250 GNR looks like it will be an excellent little deer gun. In my initial testing I am using an 88 grain lead bullet with gas check, which means we can put that little 88 grain pill out there at respectable speeds and not have to worry about leading up the barrel.
And yet another of our new cartridges that isn't really small but is smaller than some of our other cartridges is our new 340 GNR. This one is basically the 445 Super Mag brass necked down to 338 caliber. My initial testing proved very accurate in a converted Ruger Maximum revolver with new 8 inch barrel and 5 shot cylinder. Using a 215 grain LBT style hard cast lead bullet I am getting some very decent accuracy and penetration. Sean is working with this in the encore right now and will be working on the revolver loads within the next couple of weeks. Like I said, this is not a small cartridge like our 300 GNR, 256 GNR or 250 GNR, but is much smaller than a 41 or 44 caliber bullet, and recoil even in a full power load is still not much more than a 357 magnum revolver, yet has much more power.
So the times, they are a'changin' and the cartridges I am seeing in front of us look pretty good from where I am standing. Our next Gun Notes will probably be a bit late as Jim Taylor, my good friend and webmaster will be in Africa on a church mission from the middle of June til the middle of July. But we will make up for it in July.
Have fun with the small stuff, and good shootin'.