Clements Custom Guns .44 Special
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

 

The trend these days in revolvers, and the cartridges for which they are chambered, is toward larger and more powerful. In recent years, we have witnessed the proliferation of huge  handguns chambered for cartridges such as the .454 Casull, .50 Action Express, .475 and .500 Linebaugh, etc. 

There is nothing wrong with this, as more hunters are choosing to use handguns in the pursuit of big, and sometimes dangerous, game, the powerful cartridges are needed to insure deep penetration with heavy bullets. It also seems that some shooters just like to shoot the biggest and baddest handguns available, even if they never  intend to shoot an animal with such a weapon. 

There is also nothing wrong with this. Sometimes it is just satisfying to drop the hammer and hold on for the ride with a heavy recoiling sixgun. The main fault that I find with these powerful sixguns is the bulk and weight that must be built into the guns to handle the pressures generated by these cartridges. About the largest handgun that I am willing to pack on my hip is a Super Blackhawk, and really prefer the size of an old Flat Top. After walking all day  with a holstered sixgun, every ounce starts to ride heavy at days end. If I'm going to be packing much over three pounds of ordinance, I would rather carry a rifle. There is a real need for the large magnum guns, however, and they do have their place, but for most of my needs I can get by with a little less power and a lot less recoil. I find myself more often than not, unless I'm going into the woods for the purpose of hunting, packing something with less weight and bulk than even my .44 Flat Top Ruger, such as an Old Model .357. The Old Model Rugers were made in two different frame sizes, with the .357s made smaller and lighter than everything else. Ruger had initially intended to offer the original Blackhawk in .44 Special, but scrapped the idea with the advent of the .44 Magnum, which was built on a larger frame. This brings us to the subject of this article; a smaller, lighter, and handier Blackhawk in caliber .44 Special. 

The .357 size frame of the original Blackhawk is plenty strong enough to handle even stout .44 Special loads, and smaller and lighter enough to make a noticeable difference in a everyday  packing gun. With this in mind, I sent off to David Clements (Clements Custom Guns) a nice old Three-screw .357 Blackhawk for conversion into the ideal .44 Packing Gun. David is a specialist in this type of conversion, along with many other gunsmith services that he offers in his shop in Greenwood Springs, Mississippi. David Clements, while  being a talented gunsmith, is really much more  than that. He is a true custom gun builder, specializing in building beautiful, accurate sixguns.

I anxiously anticipated the arrival of the .44, and after a couple of months the package was delivered. I was not disappointed. Upon opening the box, I beheld one of the most beautifully finished sixguns that I had ever seen. David had installed, as per my request, a new 4 5/8 inch .44 barrel, blued to match the original cylinder, which was line-bored and re-blued in a deep, dark finish. The line-boring of the cylinder assures that each chamber will be in perfect alignment with the barrel when fired. This extra step in building the sixgun makes a real difference in achieving all the accuracy potential of the gun.

Before refinishing the frame, David carefully removed the original name and caliber stampings from the left side of the frame and restamped the words "Ruger Blackhawk" in the same place. On the left side of the barrel is stamped ".44 Special", and "CCG" (for Clements Custom Guns) is stamped on the right side of the barrel just above the ejector rod housing. Wanting to keep the gun as light as possible, I asked David to retain the original aluminum grip frame and ejector rod housing, which he refinished in a beautiful satin black.

The most striking difference to the finish of the gun, is the absolutely flawless color case-hardening of the frame. The range of colors and subtle hues is some of the best that I have seen, and the photos here do not do it justice. One small detail that is often overlooked is the ejector rod, which David also case-hardened,  along with the hammer. Every surface was refinished, except for the original walnut stocks. I am not sure what I want to do as yet for the stocks. I tried a set of Ruger imitation ivory  panels, but switched back to the walnut. I may try to locate a nice set of stags, if I can find a set that is not overly thick.

The little Ruger balances and handles even better than when a .357, due to the weight removed by boring the cylinder and the larger  bore in the barrel. It feels just right.

The proof, however, is in the shooting. David told me over the phone that this gun was going to be accurate, but I really was not expecting it to be any more accurate than any other .44, but I was  wrong. Every load I tried, from 200 grain flat point truncated cone bullets, to the classic 250 grain Keith bullet, was accurate. I expect with more load development, the accuracy would improve, but the groups fired to date are fine with me. As an example, the group shown here in the photo measures just 1.512" for 10 shots. That is as well as I can shoot an open-sighted revolver. Many 5-shot groups went tighter than that. This .44 can shoot. 

Another nice feature that David was considerate enough to include is a front sight that is tall enough to sight in any bullet weight. After I settle on a primary load for this gun, I will file the front sight down to a proper level, most likely to handle the 250 grain Keith bullet. Although the little Ruger wears adjustable sights, I like to get the front sight down so as to leave plenty of adjustment range. I have owned several revolvers that needed a taller front sight. Little details like this is what makes a custom gun worth the effort. David got the front sight just right.

As is befitting a custom gun of this quality, it needed a quality holster rig in which to pack it. I chose a classic 1920 Tom Threepersons holster with belt from El Paso Saddlery. This is a great holster for everyday use. It is fully lined with a closed bottom, and the belt has loops for twelve additional cartridges. And the quality of this rig is exceptional, as I have come to expect from El Paso Saddlery.

If you have an Old Model.357 Ruger laying around, Clements Custom Guns can build a sixgun like this with just a couple of months  turn-around time. These old Rugers are getting harder to find, but are still available with a little searching. It is definitely worth the effort to have David build one, as there is not a finer .44 to be had for anything near the price. For prices and information on this conversion and the multitude of custom gun services offered, check out David's website: www.clementscustomguns.com.

For info on the holster rig go to: www.epsaddlery.com 

I have a good feeling that when I strap on a sixgun, this will most likely be the one I choose. It is light, handy, powerful, beautiful, and shoots like a dream. All the attributes of a fine sixgun.

Jeff Quinn

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Clements Custom Guns .44 Special Blackhawk started life as a "small-frame" .357 Old Model Ruger Blackhawk. Workmanship is exemplary, with tight tolerances throughout. Color case-hardened frame, hammer, and ejector rod contrasts nicely with the deep, dark bluing of the frame and barrel. Aluminum grip frame and ejector rod housing are finished in a beautiful satin black.

 

 

"Tom Threepersons" style rig from El Paso Saddlery is an extremely practical, but beautiful, mode of carry for the Clements Custom .44 (or any other SA revolver). Author is very pleased with the quality of materials and workmanship consistently shown by El Paso Saddlery.

 

 

Built on the smaller Old Model Ruger .357 Blackhawk frame, the Clements Custom .44 Special makes a very handy-sized packin' sixgun. The excellent .44 Special cartridge is perfectly suited to this size gun, and David Clements' precision workmanship makes this a very accurate package.

 

 

Author admires the handling qualities of the smaller Old Model .357 Blackhawk frame, and the Clements Custom .44 Special was a joy to shoot.

 

 

1.512" 10-Shot group fired at 25 yards shows the excellent accuracy of this sixgun, and is a testament to the workmanship of David Clements.