Custom Ruger Bird's-Head Single Seven 327 Federal Magnum by John Powers

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

February 3rd, 2020 Video Link


Click pictures for a larger version.









Fermin Garza custom front sight with square brass bead.



Smith & Wesson J-Frame adjustable rear sight.



Simply Rugged holster, hand-carved by Rick Gittlein.



A few months ago, my close friend Fermin Garza told me about a custom gun maker with whom he strongly suggested I become acquainted. Now, Fermin is not a man to throw praise about lightly, and he is a man who KNOWS revolvers and custom revolver work. A highly respected revolver guru, Fermin knows more about revolver accuracy, and how to obtain it, than just about anyone in the country. Fermin's company, Fermin C Garza's Customized Shooter's Resources, makes what I consider to the the best custom front revolver sights available; and Fermin has commissioned some of the finest custom sixguns I have ever seen. In short, when Fermin talks, knowledgeable sixgunners listen, so when Fermin told me I needed to make the acquaintance of a custom gun maker named John Powers of Duson, LA, I made it a point to do so.

When I contacted John Powers, I found a very personable and knowledgeable fellow, and we immediately hit it off. Fermin had previously told me about a custom revolver that John had built on spec, knowing that I would be interested in it, and as usual, Fermin was right. I love .32-bore cartridges, and own many 327 Federal Magnum, 32 H&R Magnum, 32 S&W, and 32-20 (32 WCF) revolvers, as well as a .32-bore rifle or two; I also love the feel of a Bird's-Head grip frame (at least, for mildly-recoiling cartridges), so Fermin rightly figured I would flip over John's interpretation of a 327 Bird's-Head Single-Seven. After some discussion with John Powers, and the requisite exchange of a quite reasonable sum of cash, the Powers Single-Seven came home to Papa.

The Powers Metal Works Bird's-Head Single Seven began life as a Lipsey's Exclusive Ruger Single Seven 327 Federal Magnum (catalog #08163), with Vaquero-type frame, fixed sights, and a 3-3/4" round barrel. I own one of these, and they are great revolvers, but John Powers really takes it to the next level, as a custom revolver maker should. Powers' build sheet included the following work:

1. Make 5" Octagon Barrel, Douglas Barrel Blank, 1-14" Twist Stainless

The octagonal barrel is a very nice touch. I am a sucker for the traditional look and feel of octagonal barrels, and this one is very well executed. Although Powers made the barrel 5", he faced it back to the traditional 4-3/4" and set the barrel / cylinder gap to a perfect 0.003". The quality of the raw material, and the quality of John's work with it, is proven out by the great accuracy of this revolver (more on that later).

2. Install Fermin Front Sight with Special Brass Insert

The Fermin front sight is a custom build; as indeed are all of Fermin's sights, as Fermin works with his customers to get the exact configuration they need, as well as the perfect height and blade width for their applications. The sight Fermin made for the Powers Custom 327 Single Seven is custom in two ways. First, the sight base is flat for use on an octagonal barrel, rather than rounded to fit a round barrel contour. Second, this sight features an experimental square brass bead; this is an ingenious idea, as a traditional round brass bead leaves something to be desired when coupled with a square rear sight notch. Fermin's square brass bead gives the contrast, low-light visibility, and speed of a traditional round brass bead, while affording the precision of a square sight post.  A masterful idea, masterfully executed.

3. Fit Power Custom Bisley Hammer & Trigger

Powers could have stuck with the stock Ruger hammer & trigger, but a custom revolver cries out for a custom treatment, and the utility and aesthetics of the Bisley hammer & trigger are beyond question. Rather than use Ruger factory parts, John opted for the superior and more precisely machined Power Custom Bisley hammer & trigger. Hammer / trigger engagement is therefore much improved, and this also contributes to the revolver's accuracy.

4. Fit Power Custom Free-Spin Pawl

Power Custom also makes a wonderful free-spin pawl, and John very wisely opted for its use on this build. For those who are unfamiliar with a free-spin pawl, its function is simply to allow the cylinder to freely spin in both directions. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a 32-caliber built on the 22-sized Ruger Single-Six frame, it is absolutely essential. The loading port for the Single-Six frame was designed to accommodate 22-sized cartridges, and the revolver's basic geometry means that if one advances the cylinder to the "click" for loading / unloading, then the cylinder has rotated just a bit too far; this is not much of a problem with 22 cartridges, as the loading port is wide enough to allow for this, but with the larger 32 cartridges, advancing the cylinder to this point means that the chamber has rotated just barely too far to align with the loading port, and the factory pawl will not allow the cylinder direction to be reversed. This problem is further exacerbated by the Single Seven's seven-shot capacity as compared to the Single-Six's six-shot capacity. Therefore, since the factory pawl only allows the cylinder to rotate in one direction, there is no choice but to rotate the cylinder back around to the empty chamber, advance the cylinder to slightly BEFORE the "click", hold one's mouth just right, and hope for the best. The free-spin pawl solves this problem, allowing the cylinder to be spun in either direction to the exact position desired to allow the cylinder to be easily loaded & unloaded.

5. Machine Topstrap and Install S&W J-Frame Rear Adjustable Sight

The Smith & Wesson J-Frame adjustable rear sight is right at home on a Ruger frame, especially on the smaller frame sizes, and are often used by custom gun makers for this application. I have several Rugers (and even Colt Single Action Armies) with J-Frame rear sights, and they work great as well as offering a nice appearance. In a revolver like the 327 Federal Magnum, which can also be used for many straight-walled 32 cartridges from 32 H&R Magnum to 32 S&W Long to 32 S&W and even 32 ACP, the ability to adjust the sights for different loads is essential, and the S&W J-Frame rear sight is a great solution. When properly fitted, the J-Frame sight aesthetically blends very nicely to the contours of a rounded fixed-sight Single-Action frame, and Powers did a great job fitting the S&W sight.

6. Action Job, Wolff Springs, Hammer and Trigger, Polish Internals

The action on this revolver is nothing short of phenomenal. The trigger breaks cleanly at 2.5 pounds, with no discernible creep or overtravel, smooth as glass. The hammer retains plenty of power to solidly dent any primer I have tried, and there were no misfires or malfunctions of any kind. A Wolff spring kit is always a nice improvement, but John's polishing of the internals is what really makes the action something special. Ruger does a great job at the factory making revolvers that work reliably while remaining affordable, but it takes the touch of a Master to achieve the revolver's full potential.

7. Make Mesquite Grips, Slightly Oversize

I have always been a great admirer of Ruger's Bird's-Head grip frame for lightly-recoiling calibers; the feel of a Bird's-Head grip is just naturally comfortable to my hand. Ruger's "standard" or "plow-handle" XR3 & XR3-RED grips do very nicely for moderately-recoiling calibers, and Ruger's Bisley grip shape has become the industry standard for the real heavy hitters, but for milder recoil the Birds-Head is hard to beat. Powers managed to even improve upon the Bird's-Head by making custom mesquite grips of a slightly fuller profile; these grips have just the right taper to fit a larger hand such as mine. The beauty of the wood used, and the quality of its shaping and fitting to the metal, lend a touch of class that is much desired on any custom revolver.

8. Install Belt Mountain Sheriff's Model Locking Base Pin

Our friend Kelye Schlepp of Belt Mountain Enterprises is famous for his custom Single-Action revolver base pins. Belt Mountain pins are more consistently and precisely manufactured than the factory parts, and slightly oversized in diameter. For ultimate accuracy, it is important that a revolver's cylinder have as little lateral play as possible, and one or two thousandths of an inch can make quite a difference in both the tightness of the cylinder to the base pin, and in the precision of the cylinder's rotation around the base pin's axis. Such tiny but significant changes contribute to true revolver accuracy. Another feature of the Belt Mountain design is that their base pin locks to the barrel with a set screw, which supplements the moderate strength of the standard-design base pin latch and prevents the base pin from slipping forward under recoil. The recoil force of the 32-bores may be a bit mild for this to be much of a concern, but it certainly does no harm to lock the base pin into position, and some of the heavier 327 Federal Magnum loads can be quite snappy.

9. Cylinder Throats Opened to 0.313"

Powers opened the cylinder throats to 0.313" to work perfectly with jacketed or cast bullets. Cylinder throat diameter is another often-overlooked contributing factor to a truly accurate revolver, and for this revolver, the proof was in the shooting!

10. Fit New Stainless Ejector Rod Housing to Match Octagon Barrel

An obvious result of using an octagonal barrel is that the ejector rod housing, which is contoured to a round barrel, will no longer work. So, Powers fit a new stainless ejector rod housing, which is a bit more complicated than simply flattening a rounded contour; because of the location of the corners of the barrel flats, a corresponding corner has to be cut into the ejector rod housing and fit to the barrel. As shown in the accompanying picture, Powers flawlessly accomplished this task. A wonderful aesthetic choice was the length of the ejector rod housing: rather than use a longer housing that extended to the front of the barrel, Powers used a 3-3/4" ejector rod housing. This length allowed the factory-length ejector rod to be retained, and thanks to the Belt Mountain base pin's short head, to still have enough length to push the empty cartridges most of the way out of the chamber. The ejector rod housing's length worked out great aesthetically, as the smaller Single-Six frame coupled with the 4-3/4" barrel length makes the revolver look rather like a slightly-miniaturized full-sized Single Action Army with a 5-1/2" octagonal barrel. The result was a visual balance that I find quite appealing.

All the above is well and good, but none of it amounts to warm hamster spit if the gun doesn't shoot...and shoot it does! The above factors in sum, coupled with the skilled hands of a Master craftsman, equal one fine revolver. I have not yet tested the Single-Seven at longer ranges, but out to 50 yards it has thus far proven to be very accurate indeed. Whether plinking at stumps and horse-apples in the pasture, plinking at pine cones in the yard, or shooting at targets both formal and informal (such as playing cards), John Powers' Bird's-Head Single Seven has proven to be more than up to the task. I am proud to have made his acquaintance, thanks to my friend Fermin Garza. I look forward to continuing that acquaintance in the future, as well as wringing out further examples of his work, and watching his star continue to rise with great interest.

I highly recommend John Powers' work. Visit his web site at:

Ruger Firearms:

To find a Ruger dealer in your area, click on the DEALER FINDER at Lipsey's distributors:

Fermin C Garza Customized Shooter's Resources:

Power Custom gunsmithing and parts:

Belt Mountain Enterprises, Inc.:

For the finest holsters available, check out Simply Rugged Holsters: and Barranti Leather:

Buy ammo online at Lucky Gunner:, Buffalo Bore ammo:, and Double Tap ammo:

Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Base gun: Lipsey's Exclusive Ruger Single Seven 327 Federal Magnum.





Custom mesquite grips by John Powers.



Belt Mountain Sheriff's Model locking base pin.



3-3/4" stainless ejector rod housing was custom-fit to the octagonal barrel.



Power Custom Bisley hammer.



Three-shot groups, fired standing offhand at five yards.



Simply Rugged carved holster on Barranti Leather "Northwest Hunter" shoulder rig.