Sow's ear to silk purse?


February 7, 2013, 02:39 PM
In another thread comparisons are made between the Ruger Blackhawk/Super Blackhawk and the guns from Freedom Arms in terms of accuracy and handling.

So as a SBH owner that's recently been trying to wring as much potential accuracy out of my gun I'm wondering what I should be looking at for steps to fine tune and enhance the SBH into shooting as well as it is able to manage without actually swapping out the barrel for something else.

I'm thinking first off a trigger job to reduce the creep and slightly reduce the pull weight. I don't want to create a hair trigger situation, merely to move more towards a moderate 3 to 4'ish lb pull with a "breaking glass" like trigger. Think S&W revolver in SA mode and that's what I'm aiming for.

Check and tune, if needed, the cylinder lockup positions to ensure that the bullet is aligned well with the bore axis. Thoughts on how close is "close enough"?

Is it worth cleaning up or modifying the forcing cone angle? Or would checking for concentricity and cleaning up if needed enough?

I'd likely look at cutting a new muzzle crown to ensure that it's dead nutz square and concentric to the bore axis and very clean with no burrs or rounding off.

Anything else or comments suggesting that this stuff isn't needed?

The goal would be to get the gun so it shoots a "one ragged hole" of under 1 inch at 25 yards. Of course before I can confirm this I need to build my Ransom Rest clone... :D

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February 7, 2013, 02:53 PM
What sort of groups does the SBLH shoot now? My box-stock, flat-top, three-screw Blackhawk .357 will do 1.25" groups at 25 yards off sandbags if I have a good day. Before I spent money on the mods you suggest, I'd experiment with different factory and hand loads to see if there are any that will give you an inch at 25 yards. That said, a good trigger always improves my groups.

February 7, 2013, 03:12 PM
I don't know much about it, but a couple of my Ruger loving friends had their Blackhawks tuned up, which included having the cylinder throats opened up and reamed for consistency as well as the forcing cones recut.

If I recall, certain Rugers of a certain vintage had undersized and/or inconsistent cylinder throats, which limited their potential.

February 7, 2013, 03:13 PM
Check your throats to be sure they're the correct size. Slugging the barrel wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

How are the sights on the gun? You might gain some accuracy with a wider rear notch or narrower front blade. Installing a Patridge front sight might also give you a crisper sight picture.

Simply lightening the trigger presents a paradox - on one hand, it might make it easier to initially break the shot without affecting the sights, but lighter spring tension will increase lock time, making it just a little less forgiving if your followthrough isn't spot on. Bobbing the hammer's obviously out, but if there's any way to lighten the hammer, you can regain some of that speed with a lighter spring. As a bonus, hammer momentum is decreased, so the lighter hammer won't jar the muzzle quite as much.

Obviously, load development and trigger time will help a lot as well.

February 7, 2013, 03:17 PM
For the trigger job, I think a trigger of 2.5 to 3 lbs with a good letoff and overtravel stop would be best. 4 lbs. is too heavy for a single action you are trying to wring one hole accuracy out of. It's fine for a field gun.

You won't be able to do much about alignment. Not without spending some decent money. If you can find a person with the proper gauges to actually measure the alignment on each chamber, you would at least know what you're starting with.

Having someone knowledgeable about forcing cone geometry look at yours might be good.

I would also check for a barrel constriction at the frame where the barrel threads in. This is a killer to accuracy, especially with cast bullets.

Loads, good sights you can see, and trigger time are where your money is best spent, though.

I think it was Hamilton Bowen who said once in an interview that you'd have to pay him a lot of money to get a Ruger to shoot like a Freedom Arms, and then it would still be a Ruger. There's some sage wisdom in that statement.

February 7, 2013, 03:21 PM
PS, I'm sending you a PM about another forum I think you should join, where this issue is being discussed regularly as of late...

February 7, 2013, 03:40 PM
There's a lot you can do but much of it depends on how good or bad your Ruger is to begin with.

Ruger's barrels are typically very good. What they do sometimes suffer from are poorly cut forcing cones, forcing cones cut too deeply and bad crowns. They can also have under or oversized chamber mouths. The fix for one is cheap and easy, the other, not so much. They are mass produced guns and up until recently, chambers were gang-cut all at once and that resulted in inconsistency. Basic accuracy work will include recutting the forcing cone (which may require setting the barrel back a thread or two), cutting the crown, reaming the chamber mouths if necessary. You may also want to reset the barrel/cylinder gap which will require setting the barrel back anyway. The cylinder can also be bushed to minimize endshake. If alignment is good an oversized bolt can also be fitted to minimize rotational slack. Some of this is within the capability of some enthusiasts, much is not. Personally, before I'd pay a bunch of money to "fix" what's wrong with the factory barrel, I'd have a new installed from premium Douglas, Shilen or PacNor stock. It won't cost much more and results will be more consistent.

Mild alignment issues can be alleviated by Taylor throating.

The next step up would be to have a .41Mag cylinder fitted (.357's are too short) and linebore rechambered to .44Mag. This way perfect alignment can be achieved, coupled with a tightly fitted cylinder and the results will be very good. For the ultimate in accuracy, have a new scratch-built cylinder fitted and linebored. Here you're talking a lot more money in the $750 range, just for the cylinder.

Any sixgun, especially a New Model Ruger, will benefit from an action job. There are zero drawbacks. Trigger letoff and the hammer spring are almost mutually exclusive. Although I think concerns about light hammer springs are grossly exaggerated. I have four custom Ruger single actions and nearly two dozen other single actions with 99% of them fitted with light hammer springs. I have never felt there was an issue with locktime. Remember, when you alleviate the friction within the action, the hammer's resistance to falling is decreased dramatically and you can get away with a lighter spring without increasing locktime. Either way, I don't believe it to be an issue and if you do, you can always keep the factory 23lb spring or even install a Wolff 27lb spring. I use Wolff 17lb springs in all my Rugers.

A new front sight, especially a post, will absolutely improve sight picture and typically result in more accurate shooting. You never realize how poorly Ruger's front sight ramps are machined and finished until you feast your eyes upon a custom post made by a gunsmith. Couple that with a Bowen target rear sight and you're in business.

February 7, 2013, 10:03 PM
I want to thank all of you gentlemen for some fine additions to the list and thoughts on the other steps.

To be fair I was out and about for my errands after posting the first post and realized that the title isn't fair to Ruger or the SBH. I should have titled it "Gilding the Lily" or some other euphamism.

I only recently started testing my own SBH for accuracy. So far I've tested a few different types of loads at the lower end of the Magnum range of power. The best was about 2 or a little less inches at around 17 yards. I'd have kept the target but it was rather soggy that day and the paper fell apart while trying to peel it off the backing.

The most recent round of testing was indoors at 20 yards using some lower power yet loads that are probably around .44Spl +P in power. 6.6 and 7.0gns of Tightgroup behind a 200gn LRNFP cast. My groups with these were around 3.5 at best with fliers. But to be fair I was shooting with a rather full belly of dinner. And in thinking about other times I've shot better I realized that I hadn't eaten before the range session.

You see... I had a big operation almost 20 years back. As a result when I eat what many of you would consider a normal meal it's more like a 5 course banquet. But my eyes are bigger than my abreviated tummy and I try to pack in a regular meal. Then I pay for it for an hour or more afterwards. And I most certainly was in some background distress when shooting that evening... :D

The groups mentioned were rested. But I also admit to not having much experience with rested shooting. And much like freestyle shooting it still demands skill and control to do well. A human Ransom Rest I am most certainly not.... :D

Still since the best I've managed shooting rested while "hungry" was a hair under 2 inches at 17 yards I would say that there is room for improvement. 2 inches at 17 yards during my first test round is hardly anything to write home about.

The SBH in this story is the one I wrote about a while back which came to me with three throats sized at .432 and three (alternating oddly enough) throats sized at down around .423 to .424. Since my own shop is still a couple of months away from being set up I had a local smith ream the small throats out to match the bigger ones. The gun USED to shoot two distinctly separate 3 shot groups. At least now all 6 are in the same postal code.... :D

Still, I know that I have other guns which shoot better. Hell, when hungry I've managed on more than one occasion to shoot 2 to 2.25 inch groups FREESTYLE with my Single Six. So I know I can manage to do better both rested and freestyle if the gun cooperates.

I've loaded up a batch of my indoor special 200LRNFP/6.6TG loads to try out this coming Tuesday. And THIS time I'm going in either hungry or at least with only a small "holdover" meal earlier in the day to see how things go.

I like the idea of the new front blade. Mine has the usual ramp style. And I agree that if it's outdoors that the ramp tends to be less than ideal due to the reflection of the sky in the face of the ramp. I'll add a serrated back edge blade to the list.

The rear sight already has a new sight blade that I've made which has a pretty good sight picture. I sized the width of the groove to provide for a small but easily seen amount of daylight on either side. It's big enough to see easily but not so wide that they are hard to match up easily. Although I may look at the idea of making a stepped surface texture on a new blade aimed at avoiding glare.

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