Ruger .44. Re-barrel or shorten?


March 6, 2012, 12:07 AM
Howdy guys,

Some 10 years ago, at a gunshow, I bought an old .44 SBH that had a "custom" barrel. The seller claimed that it had been his hog gun. The price "seemed" reasonable so I bought it.

Only after I fired it did I discover that something was wrong. Let me just say that if somebody were shooting at me with it at 25 yards the one place I'd want to be standing would be squarely in the sights because I'd know it wouldn't hit there.

Even at half that range I had to develop a very strange sight picture indeed, to get the thing to hit on a paper plate. I took it to a local gunsmith. He declared that it had not been crowned properly. I left it with him and he supposedly did some work on it. Some weeks later I picked it up. He had test fired it and gave me the target. Otherwise as I recall, he did not make any comment.

Thinking it was now better I fired it a few times. As best I could tell it was no better than before.

Upon examining the gun on a few occasions I've thought that maybe the front sight was not properly aligned with the top of the barrel. I've also wondered if the barrel might have been bent. It shoots ok. It just doesn't hit where I point it.

I've thought about sending it back to Ruger and I may do so. However, I'm also wondering if it might be worth having it shortened yet again and the front sight re-attached. I called a gunsmith today (a different one) but he hasn't called me back.

Can anybody hazard a guess as to what it might cost to have the gun cut down to about 4 5/8" (from about 6"?), and the front sight re-attached? I'd probably be best not even having it re-blued until it's test fired. On the other hand, I'm concerned it might be good money after bad.

Anybody have a thought about it?



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March 6, 2012, 02:17 AM
WAY too many mysteries to comment on from out here in Internet land.

First off if the rifling is not damaged then it doesn't need to be cut down anywhere near that much. If the rifling at the muzzle is dinged or flared due to truly bad cleaning options then shortening it to 4 5/8 is not a bad idea. Or if you just LIKE the short look then that's another good reason.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determin if the barrel is bent or not. So a visit to a decent handgun smith should soon answer that part of the question.

The other thing is that you're saying it shoots OK but not where you're aiming. First off if the gun turns out to be straight then perhaps it's how you are holding it. Do you shoot other SA style handguns with good accuracy and not have to adjust the sights way off? Windage in particular?

On the other hand if your SBH is shooting high but with proper windage then I sympathise. I found that my own SBH was doing the same thing with any loads that were less than full on strong magnum pressure. I cured this by cutting down the rear sight blade to sit lower. I can now shoot .44Spl like reloads and it hits to POA with the rear sight down near the bottom of its adjustment range. Yet I've still got enough movement to dial it up higher for full house magnum loads even shot out to 100 yards.

March 6, 2012, 04:21 AM
Good morning
Take a machinest square and verify that the muszzle is square.
Push a tight fitting patch down the bore and feel for tight or loose areas. You may have a bulged barrel.
Verify the barrel is mounted square to the frame. Have heard about some frames that were threaded off center.
Bought a 357 S&W down here that was bulged in the barrel. Cut it back to 3.5 inches and it makes a respectable 25 yard tool. But I got it mainly for the car anyway.
Mike in Peru

March 6, 2012, 06:11 AM

I think I would contact Ruger to see if they could install a new barrel. Several years ago a friend of mine bought a Vaquero in .44Mag that the barrel was not installed properly. The front sight was canted over to the right. Sent it back to Ruger and they custom built a new barrel for it because they no longer had any .44 Mag barrels for the older Vaquero. On top of that they polished the entire gun (stainless), so it would match the finish on the new barrel.

March 6, 2012, 08:12 AM
What you should have done the first time was send it back to Ruger...The barrel was 'canted', meaning the sight was not top dead center...

Now that it has been 'worked on', all bets are off whether Ruger will even work on it...

If they do, it will certainly not be free...

March 6, 2012, 10:04 AM
Ruger will install a new barrel and it will be much cheaper than any other alternative. This is the route I would probably take. They will not, however, change the barrel length from its original configuration. So if you want a different barrel length, I would send it to a reputable custom gunsmith (i.e. not the local hack) for a new barrel from premium stock. Along with a custom front sight.

March 6, 2012, 10:10 AM
"What you should have done the first time was send it back to Ruger...The barrel was 'canted', meaning the sight was not top dead center..."

To be clear, I am not the bird who pooped on this gun. I bought it this way at a gunshow. Once I shot it a few times I realized I'd been had!

As to the very valid question one of you asked (could it be the shooter?) I prefer to believe the answer is "no". I inherited the "dead-eye" gene from both my paternal and maternal grandparents. My paternal grandfather taught me to shoot when I was a wee lad of about 5. He explained how to get the sight picture, handed me a .22 single shot rifle, and suggested a target: a bumblebee hovering above a flower about 10' away. He laughed raucously when I pulled the trigger and the bee vaporized.

Also, once I figured out where the bullets were going, I was able to adjust the sight picture enough to get the bullet to hit a plate. However, it was so skewed, even at "bumble bee" range that I put the thing away again as I have several other .44s. I just liked that one because I considered the barrel length to be perfect - although I don't now remember what it is.

Thanks to each and every one of you for the very good ideas. My wife and our older son are newly minted machinists. I will ask them to pull out their precision squares and such. I will also check for a bulge. That's an especially fine idea.

If none of that gives any joy I will send it back to Ruger. I do not expect it to be free.

Best to all.


March 6, 2012, 01:19 PM
Fair enough on your shooting ability. It's the web so none of us know who we're talking to or how capable they are at first read.

Your WIFE is a machinist? She's a rare one then! And well done for her to take up such a trade.

Given this they should have the knowledge and skills and tooling to be able to set up the gun in "V" blocks and other tricks to check and find what is out with the gun. This would include checking both sights for alignment with the barrel bore line and alignment of the barrel to the frame. Simpley removing the extractor housing from the gun should give you a constant diameter outer barrel surface to set into the V blocks. Although even there I'd check the diameter at various spots to ensure that the diameter is consistent.

A hint, if it's needed common household alumium foil is .001 thick if some shimming is needed to compensate.

March 6, 2012, 02:59 PM
"Fair enough on your shooting ability. It's the web so none of us know who we're talking to or how capable they are at first read."

Point well taken and no offense taken. One can hardly go wrong by making one's default assumption about people that they're er.. misinformed at best and complete fools (or worse!) at worst. But yup, back when I was young and could see I was a pretty good marksman.

"Your WIFE is a machinist? She's a rare one then! And well done for her to take up such a trade." Yup. Or at least she soon will be. She is still in school side by side with our older son. But they're finishing up and will graduate in early May. My wife is also a certified locksmith, as is our younger son. I've now created a monster and there's no place to hide... even if I lock the door. And throw away the key.


Doubting Thomas
March 6, 2012, 03:38 PM
Some years back I had an original flattop .44 that I had cut from 6 1/2" to 4 5/8". Eventually the ejector rod stud persisted in coming out under recoil. Hated to do it but Ruger agreed to replace the original barrel with a newer production 4 5/8" one and refinish the gun. Cost was reasonable.

I reinstalled the original action parts they took out.

March 6, 2012, 03:47 PM
When I wanted to have the barrel of my .45 Colt NMBH shortened from 7 ” to 5 ”, I looked into having it cut and having it replaced by the factory. The price came out to a wash and I had it replaced. Worked out well for me.

March 6, 2012, 03:59 PM
.44 SBH that had a "custom" barrel.
First slug the barrel and see if it is .429" like you think it is.

Then stuff a marked cleaning rod and patch down it and try to determine the rifling twist.
It should be 1/20" if it's Ruger, or a little slower if it isn't.

More then one old blackhawk had a "custom" barrel made from a cheap Numrich Arms .44 muzzle loader blank they sold back then with a very slow round ball twist rate.

Or a 44-40 WCF barrel blank with 1/38 twist..

If that's what it is, that right there is your problem, and only a new barrel with the proper twist will fix it.


March 6, 2012, 05:06 PM
The custom barrel issue also brings into question the straightness of the frame.

If the original gunsmith had a tough time getting the barrel loose and just jammed a board into the cylinder window it is possible that the frame has been "tweaked".

I would say that your best bet, hands down is to send it to Ruger and have them look at it. They would also be in the best position to replace any parts that may be out of spec or damaged.

March 6, 2012, 05:13 PM
It's been a while, but I had a 10.5" SBH cut down to 6". Didn't cost too much.

You could mount a scope on it.

March 6, 2012, 07:00 PM
I need to find a smilie of a Texan doffin' his hat to all of y'all. Thanks!


March 6, 2012, 11:13 PM
Reminds me of John Taffin's story about a custom .44Spl that had been rebarrelled with a stick from a Marlin .444 take-off with a painfully slow 1-38" twist.

March 7, 2012, 03:45 AM
If you live in Texas you might give Alan Harton a shout. He probably has a take-off barrel that he can fit for you at a very reasonable price.

March 8, 2012, 08:15 AM
Clark Custom Guns is great but not who I'd use for single action work.

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