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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:31 am 
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I'm curious as to what the group's opinion is when comparing Freedom Arms Premium Grade Model 83s and 97s to true custom single actions (e.g., a Ruger Bisley) produced by Bowen, Clements, Linebaugh and others. Are the customs as rugged? Is the fit and finish comparable? Is the extra weight of the FA 83 an advantage? Does the FA grip design handle recoil better? Thanks.
Keith


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:47 am 
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If you have not done so already, buy Bowen's book: Custom Revolvers. It has just about everything you wanted to know about customizing Ruger single actions as well as a lot of info on S&W, colts & Ruger double actions. It includes pros and cons of the ruger as a base gun.

One of the benefits of the ruger that matters the most to me is the ability to use longer cylinders with the ruger frame. The FA 97 in particular has short cylinders, which is not a very good thing if you like long heavy bullets.

I think that the 83 is shorter than what you can obtain with a custom cylinder in a Ruger also, but cannot say with 100% certainty.

On a cosmetic level, the custom Rugers look 10X better to me. The FA guns all look alike and are rather plain and uninteresting to me.

On the other hand, the FA 83 may have the best grip of all sixguns.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:08 pm 
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Thanks Dave. Excellent points.
Keith


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:21 pm 
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A friend who is into six guns says FA comes out of the box better than any other makers, and it should for the premium they charge, he also says some of the USFA single actions, while certainly NOT as strong as the FA, come exceptionally well put together.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:59 pm 
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David Thomas wrote:

I think that the 83 is shorter than what you can obtain with a custom cylinder in a Ruger also, but cannot say with 100% certainty.




According to Bowen's book the 83 has shorter cylinders aslo. So the problem is not limited to the 97, although the 97 is considerably shorter than Custom Rugers or even standard Rugers.

I am not sure the 83 weighs more, but extra weight could be a benefit depending on the purpose of the pistol and your personal preferences or it could be a detriment. My Clements Bisley is a heavy dude with its Straight barrel and barrel band. If it had a 5 shot cylinder it would be even heavier.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Premier Grade FA 83 is the best production "magnum" single action that exists. The USFA guns are nice but in a much different catagory.

In my opinion, the thing that makes the FA83 such a great gun besides the obvious near perfect fit and finish of the guns, is the fact that the cylinders are linebored and the tolerances for the bolt notches are watched carefully. The true customs are also made this way, and both the customs and the FA's sixguns can produce amazing accuracy.

I am not sure what it takes to tune a Freedom Arms trigger, but I do know Ruger triggers and I would take a tuned Ruger trigger over a stock FA trigger. I am sure the FA triggers can be tuned, I just have never shot one that has or known of any that have been.


Last edited by David Thomas on Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 7:23 pm 
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There are a few things missing here.

First, the Freedom Arms Model 83 cylinder is only "short" relative to the full-length 454 Casull case. Also, considering its diminuitive size, how this (really) matters in the Model 97 is unclear.

In addition, I am pretty sure it was Mr. Bowen himself who once pointed out that a customized Ruger is still a Ruger. There simply is no comparison between a Ruger and Freedom Arms, particularly from a metallurgical standpoint.

However, I would concede that FA triggers are typically pretty bad (although so are those on Rugers...obviously). I've heard the factory can fix this, but I've never seen proof (the guns are not exactly common around here, and I've never handled one with the a trigger job, factory or otherwise).


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:05 pm 
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ArtCrafter wrote:
There are a few things missing here.

First, the Freedom Arms Model 83 cylinder is only "short" relative to the full-length 454 Casull case. Also, considering its diminuitive size, how this (really) matters in the Model 97 is unclear.

In addition, I am pretty sure it was Mr. Bowen himself who once pointed out that a customized Ruger is still a Ruger. There simply is no comparison between a Ruger and Freedom Arms, particularly from a metallurgical standpoint.



I think the short cylinder issue has more to do with the heavy cast bullets in most of the larger calibers, including the 454, 475 Linebaugh, and 500 Linebaugh. Whether that matters or not is up to the individual. Could be an issue to some, and to others it might not matter at all. I was simply pointing out some facts I learned along the way.

The original poster mentioned both the 97 and the 83. At one time, I was very interested in the 97, but I decided against it because some of my 45 Colt loads were too long with my bullet set up and existing crimp groove. Again, with some it matters, and to some it does not.

Either way the FA 97 and 83 are excellent revolvers, which I like and tried to convey in my posts. I am not trying to denigrate them at all. I am just trying to point out some issue I have discovered over the past 10-12 years of shooting single actions and researching and reading almost everything I could find on these guns. I am no longer a fan of stainless steel in single action sixguns and therefore on a cosmetic level the FA gun no longer catch my eye the way a blued or case color hardened gun does.

Yes, a Ruger is still the base gun on the Custom, and if Bowen is the source of your statement, he details the fleas on the Ruger in his book and what can be done to address the problems that he has encountered. However, the final product is much more than just a Ruger. Similar to the final product of a full house build by one of the LTW smiths is much more than just a Caspian or just a Colt. Further, the original poster in not asking for opinions regarding the comparison of a Ruger to a FA. He is asking for people’s opinion on the comparison between a Custom Ruger from Bowen, Linebaugh, and/or Clements to a Premium Grade Freedom Arms.

I see it as being similar, although not exactly like it, to a comparison between the semi-custom 1911's like Wilson and Ed Brown and a true custom by one of the LTW Smiths.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:53 pm 
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David Thomas wrote:
I think the short cylinder issue has more to do with the heavy cast bullets in most of the larger calibers, including the 454, 475 Linebaugh, and 500 Linebaugh. Whether that matters or not is up to the individual. Could be an issue to some, and to others it might not matter at all. I was simply pointing out some facts I learned along the way.

The original poster mentioned both the 97 and the 83. At one time, I was very interested in the 97, but I decided against it because some of my 45 Colt loads were too long with my bullet set up and existing crimp groove. Again, with some it matters, and to some it does not.


This clarifies things a bit - and is appreciated - but I think it still leaves the impression that all FA cylinders in "most of the larger calibers" are relatively "short." This simply is not true: Some are (454 and 475 in the M83, and, ostensibly, "45 Colt" in the M97) and some are not (44 Mag and 45 Colt in the M83, and 44 Special in the M97).

In addition, the 45 Colt in the M97 is really a special case. For one thing, the gun is actually smaller than a Colt SAA (except, of course, in grip length).

This is not to say the M97 is weaker than the Colt (it is not). It is just to point out that the M97 in 45 Colt is probably not the best platform for launching heavy-for-caliber bullets. However, with standard-weight 250s it does just fine - and is really in a class by itself. (If anything, the M97 in 44 Special is even better in this regard.)

There also remains the issue of metallurgy. Whatever alloys and heat treatments Freedom Arms uses, the end result is a revolver that will virtually never shoot loose (even if consisitently run with loads exceeding 50 kpsi). There is more to this than just careful machining and fitting (i.e., the base materials of the FA are superior to those of the Ruger).

Can a custom builder somehow overcome this using (at a minimum) a Ruger frame? It might well be possible (e.g., special heat treatment, maybe even cryo), but I've never heard of it.

I also think the issue of esthetics is entirely subjective so I won't ponder it here. I will only say there are many ways to skin that cat (some obvious, some less so).

So what does all this mean? As usual, the potential buyer has to weigh the pros and cons for himself.

Personally, I chose a Freedom Arms Premier Grade Model 83 in 44 Magnum. It is handsome enough in its own utilitarian sort of way, powerful enough for anything I want to do with a handgun, and I have yet to encounter any bullet up to 320 grains in weight too long for the cylinder. In addition, the trigger has improved somewhat over time (although it could still be better).

I have to admit, though, when it comes to bluing, color case hardening, and walnut, the nod here goes to a Colt (which I would also rather have than a Ruger).

I guess that's what makes horse races! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:41 pm 
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ArtCrafter wrote:
So what does all this mean? As usual, the potential buyer has to weigh the pros and cons for himself.
...I guess that's what makes horse races!


Agreed.


Since the OP mentioned weight as a concern, any idea what your 83 actually weighs and what set up is it? 7.5" round barrel?

My Clement's Bisley (6 shot 45 LC) with 6.5" bbl weighs
3 pounds 1.3 oz.

My Ruger Super BlackHawk 44 with 7.5" bbl weighs:
2 pounds 15.8 oz.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:17 pm 
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Mine has a 4.75" bbl (I bought it some years before the presbyopia set in...). It is a "standard" model ("Premier Grade" but no options).

Not sure of the weight, but i would guess around 48-50 ounces (or pretty close to your 7.5" SBH).

FWIW, I was also originally thinking of the 4.75" as a "belt gun." However, I never did buy a holster for it. Just didn't seem to make much sense once I had the gun in hand (and compared it to a S&W M29, etc.). Long story short? Considering the size/bulk/weight of the gun, I think a longer barrel probably makes more sense on a M83. (Perhaps someday I'll have mine rebarreled; the factory does offer this service).

Also, one more thing RE: the M97 in 45 Colt: IIRC, the cylinder will not accommodate the original Keith bullet unless crimped over the shoulder (which certainly qualifies the cylinder as "short" in my book).

In contrast, the M97 in 44 Special readily accomodates 429421s and similar 250s (which is about as long/heavy a bullet as I think makes sense in that caliber).


Last edited by ArtCrafter on Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: FA P&C Cont'd
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:47 pm 
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FA P&C Cont'd (on a roll here...)

Pro

The FA front sight blade is secured with an Allen setscrew and is readily replaceable. (Some customs have this capability, others do not.)

Con

Relatively few sight blade options are available from the factory.

Con

Like modern Colt 1911 autos, FA revolvers are delivered with a plethora of nearly razor-sharp edges.

Pro

Thankfully, the guns are (mostly) stainless. (Still, remediation of the problem still requires patience or money...or both.)


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:08 am 
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I have an FA 83 in .454 Casull with the 7.5-inch barrel and two FA 97s, a fixed-sight 5.5-inch .357 Magnum and a 5.5-inch octagonal-barreled one in .22 LR. I have owned a custom Ruger, a Predator from Mag-na-Port in .44 Magnum. I also once owned a 4-3/4" FA 83 in .44 Magnum and a Field Grade 454 (before they were called 83s) with a 7.5-inch barrel.

Unless you are loading heavy for caliber, the FA 83 .454 cylinder is long enough for just about any use. I have gone as large as 300-grain although I now mostly load 260-grain as I just do not need the penetration the 300-grain pills provide. The FA 97 .357 will allow me to get 180-grain bullets to fit, but it is tight. Handloading is a must for the 180-grain pills. I mostly run 158-grain SWCs at 1100 fps in it, and it excels with those. I had to learn where to place the front sight to get elevation dead on target. The one thing I really wish is that the fixed front sight sat in a dovetail, so it could be blackened carbon steel with a gold bead. That will happen someday.

As far as workmanship and materials, I cannot see how any Ruger can be better than the FA. The FA uses 17-4PH steel and the workmanship is evident. At best, the custom smiths can equal what FA does.

My most-used FA is my FA 97 in .357 Magnum. It gets carried during farm chores in a Sparks cross-draw holster, so it sees some use. I last wore it on Saturday while working on the pasture fences. It has more than a few scratches, but it is insanely accurate.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:33 pm 
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My Ruger Bisley from David Clements is still very tight, and I can load bullets of up to 360 grains (45 Colt) without length issues. The FA guns are amazing, but still not perfect (of course, neither are the custom Rugers).

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