Book Review: The Custom Revolver by Hamilton Bowen


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

July 3rd, 2005

UPDATED September 27th, 2012





As many of you may know, the first edition of The Custom Revolver has completely sold-out. First, we would like to thank everyone who purchased a copy, but for those earnest seekers of the truth who were not able to procure one; fear not. The Custom Revolver is now available as an e-book through for only $9.99. The e-book contains all of the content and beautiful images of the hardback edition, but it has been reformatted to work all Amazon Kindle devices, Kindle for iPad/iPhone/Mac, and Kindle for Android/PC. For those of you who believe books should have only paper instead of electricity in them, I have tried a Kindle Fire and was impressed. Just be careful--you might end up wanting one.

Hamilton Bowen

Hamilton Bowen is an artist. His canvas is steel. He has, for many years, created fine works of art, starting with raw material or a basic gun, and elevating that piece to the status of fine art. Some of his works show lavish engraving and attention to the finest detail, while others appear rather plain, but show a subdued elegance in its mechanical precision. Hamilton Bowen is a master of his craft; the craft of building the finest custom revolvers that money can buy.  While Bowen’s  guns can be as highly embellished as any, they are not meant to be wall-hangers; they are built to be used. Some of his guns are built for heavy loads and hard use.  Some of his creations are built for better utility on a standard gun, such as his excellent replacement sights. I have known of Bowen’s work for several years. As the saying goes, "His reputation precedes him". What I did not know until recently however, is that he is also one of the nicest, most down-to-earth gentlemen that you could ever meet.

This review, however, is not about Mr. Bowen or his guns, but about his book entitled "The Custom Revolver". The Custom Revolver is indeed a very special piece of literature, for it was written by a true revolversmith. There are very few men who possess the talent to build such fine custom conversions as Bowen. However, Hamilton Bowen is also an excellent writer. Combining these two skills, the result is a book that is written by a master of his craft. It is much like finding the original stone tablets containing The Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God himself.

In this book, Bowen illustrates with words and pictures the art of the custom revolver. He also discusses in great detail the "why" of certain modifications, whether it is to achieve more power, better function, or finer accuracy. It is not a technical "how to" manual, though much can be learned from reading the text, and it should greatly benefit any revolversmith who wishes to attain a better knowledge of his craft. Though most of the firearms pictured in the book reflect Bowen’s work, the book is not about showcasing his aptitude, but rather a discussion of the possibilities and reasons for such customization. Throughout the book are many pictures, both in full color and in black and white, and each exhibits expert photography. The pictures shown here on Gunblast are pictures of pictures, and do not adequately show the beautiful photography as exhibited in the book. I have to keep the resolution low to quickly download for those internet users with a dialup modem. The photos in the book are of art quality.

Some of the topics covered are polishing, shaping, welding, bluing, casehardening, plating, grip-making, rechambering, and many other custom details to perform on a revolver, in addition to more detailed work such as custom cylinders, line boring, parts fabrication and metallurgy. Bowen discusses accuracy often, and explains what to expect and how to achieve it. From reading the text, it is very obvious that he has employed the procedures about which he is writing. His expertise shows.

In The Custom Revolver, Bowen expertly conveys his message in simple, easy to understand terms that fully describe the modification, without being written like a technical shop manual. The book is informative, yet holds the reader's attention very well. Hamilton Bowen understands the revolver, and how to achieve the ultimate in power and accuracy from the machine, but he also has a keen eye for style. His weapons are not merely tools, but are functional works of art, and he skillfully relates that impression throughout his book. This book, aside from its value as an informative and entertaining tool, can be used as somewhat of a shopping list for those shooters  contemplating having a bit of custom work done to a revolver, or even commissioning a full-blown custom.

If you can’t tell by now, I was really impressed with  The Custom Revolver, as was Ross Seyfried, who wrote the foreword for the book. I have handled and fired custom revolvers built by Hamilton Bowen, but have never personally owned one; I hope to be able to correct that situation before too much more time passes. However, reading his book, I can admire and appreciate his work much better than I could before, whether it is a complete gun, or just a custom touch or two to an ordinary revolver. With the detailed explanations and excellent pictures within The Custom Revolver, it is almost as good as holding the gun in my hand.

Again, for those who are thinking about a custom gun, or for those who just truly appreciate a fine revolver, I highly recommend this book. It is also a "must read" for any revolver shooter who wishes to improve his shooting skills. The Custom Revolver by Hamilton Bowen is destined to become a classic.

You can view Hamilton Bowen’s custom work online at: or use this link to go directly to the book order page:

For just under 40 bucks plus shipping, it is worth the price for the pictures alone. If you are a revolver fan, you need this book.

Jeff Quinn

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Following are snapshots of some of the lavish color plates in the book. Many more color plates, as well as many black-and-white pictures, are included.

Click pictures for a larger version.