Saturday, January 19, 2013

Freedom Arms Model 97 in .45 Colt

FA 97 .45 Colt in Simply Rugged holster
I bought, several years ago now, a Freedom Arms 97 in .44 Special.  At the time I really wanted a .45 Colt because I wanted an example of the best .45 Colt single-action revolvers made in the US.  The .44 Special was sort of a stop-gap and a redirection to the .44 Special cartridge for my "best single-actions" collection.  I have Ruger and USFA but still no Colt and until now, no Freedom Arms gun.

Then, the other day, Glen F______ unexpectedly listed this one for sale.  "Unexpectedly" is important here as I didn't have quite enough for the gun thusly described.
Premier Grade Freedom Arms Model 97, .45 Colt, 4 1/4" barrel, complete with box, manuals, 2 spare front sights (different heights to allow for a wide range of bullet weights), and 2 custom made holsters (made by Tracker Leather, out of Sisters, Oregon -- one RH leather vertical belt holster, and one RH leather shoulder holster). $1600 shipped to FFL. Pictures available upon request. First "I'll take it" posted here gets it. If no takers by next Monday, I will put it on consignment here in a local shop.
This gun set up this way with fluted cylinder, micarta stocks and the extra front sights is $2173.50. Add the holsters and you have a real deal. THEN Glen threw in a Simply Rugged holster.  What a guy!  What a gun!  Then I had to wait!

Glen was kind enough to pass on some other information on the revolver:
Tracker Leather Holsters
The shoulder holster is a clever design that can be worn several ways. It's currently set up to go over the left shoulder (only), but it can also be set up to go over the head and shoulder as either a shoulder holster (i.e. under the arm) or a cross-draw over the belly. The belt holster is a traditional vertical rig, with an added "semi-pancake" loop which snugs the holster up to the hip quite nicely. It rides very well. They are both very well made.

The timing and lock up are tight -- classic Freedom Arms.

The throats are a snug .452", smooth and uniform throat to throat, and match up with the groove diameter nicely (I haven't measured it, but I *think* it's a .451" groove diameter) I have shot a wide variety of cast bullet loads in this gun and have had ZERO leading. I generally size cast bullets .451" since some cast bullet designs (with lots of bearing surface forward of the crimp groove) can be sticky to chamber if sized .452" (recall the close tolerances that FA uses to cut their chambers -- brass and loading dies are not held to the same tolerances, so if the crimp results in a slightly off-center .452" bullet, it won't go into a concentric .452" throat). I kept meaning to try some .4515" cast bullets in it, but I never got off my duff to do those experiments. For bullets with little or no bearing surface forward of the case mouth (e.g. the classic 250 grain RN-FP), this is a non-issue.

FA added the .45 Colt to the line up after they had already started production of the Model 97. The cylinder length is long enough to accept any round loaded to SAAMI OAL specs. Factory ammo and jacketed bullets generally conform to this spec (in terms of OAL or cannelure location), and so are no problem. Cast bullets may, or may not. The Keith 454424 SWC does not, and if crimped in the crimp groove, the loaded round is too long to fit within the cylinder (i.e. the nose pokes out the front). You can seat the Keith SWC deep and crimp over the forward driving band, if you'd like. The classic 250 grain RNFP works just fine, as does the 452423 and the SAECO 300 grain GC-SWC. I am sure there are others, I just stopped looking after I found these 3 worked. I can give you dimensions, if you want dimensions.

FA used the same 1 in 24" twist rate in this barrel that they used in the 454. Very cast bullet friendly. However at the slower velocities that this gun opereates at (relative to the Casull), accuracy is not at the same spectacular level that we've come to associate with the 454 unless you step things up somewhat, or move to lighter bullets. I've gotten my best results with velocities over 1000 fps (and a 300 grain bullet at 1000 fps out this light 5-shot revolver will definitely get your attention!). Not to worry, the metallurgy of the FA M97 is such that this little gun will handle any pressures that the large-frame Ruger Blackhawk will (confirmed by John Taffin), but my hands/wrists will not!

There are some very interesting moderate weight RNFP's that have come out for cowboy shooting (200-225 grains) that look like they might be just perfect for the FA M97. Again, I haven't tested them, but I think they have great promise. Lee have a couple that look great.
 Needless to say, this is a bunch of good info that can be trusted. Glen is a well known cast bullet "expert" and has experimented and written extensively on the subject. I do have some bullets on hand that I want to try even if I do have to crimp over the driving band. If they will work so loaded in my other .45 Colt revolvers that is all to the good as I'll be able to stick with a single load for all of them and won't have to change things up if I decide to sell a couple.

I'm very much looking forward to being able to carry this gun.  The 97s are as easy to carry as just about anything and the .45 Colt cartridge can handle any game or "critters" I am likely to encounter.


zac0419 said...

Hobie, glad you finally got your 45, I enjoyed the read. You've got me thinking about cutting my 5.5 down to 4.25.

zac0419 said...

Hobie, glad you finally got your 45. You've got me thinking about cutting down my 5.5 inch 97.