Two Custom .327 Federal Ruger Single Six Revolvers From Bowen Classic Arms


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

November 30th, 2008




It has been right at a year since I reviewed the first handgun chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge. Ruger introduced the new cartridge to the world in their compact SP101 double action revolver. The SP101 is a tough little weapon, mostly encountered in the five-shot .357 Magnum version, but it wears a six-shot cylinder when chambered for the .327 Federal. While there was a lot of “what’s it for?” conversation on the internet before the little .327 started shipping to dealers, the revolver has been well-accepted, and supply of .327 Federal ammunition still has yet to meet demand.

A few weeks after the SP101 review, I had the opportunity to also review the Freedom Arms Model 97 .32 H&R Magnum revolver that had been fitted with an extra cylinder chambered for the .327 Federal, along with a custom Single Six from Single Action Service. In each of those earlier reviews, I went in depth regarding the cartridge and handloading, and will not get into that again here, concentrating upon the two custom sixguns instead.

Hamilton Bowen is highly regarded among the elite true custom gunsmiths in the US, and is respected as the “best of the best” among many shooters who use his skills to build their finest revolvers. Hamilton Bowen builds highly useful works of art, as well as plain and rugged, but highly accurate hunting guns. These two Single Six revolvers shown here highlight Mr. Bowen’s skill at crafting elegant working guns that are also aesthetically pleasing, exceedingly accurate, and very useful hunting revolvers. When the .327 Federal was first introduced in the SP101, it was, and appropriately still is, marketed as a defensive handgun. However, when I first saw the little cartridge, I regarded it as everything that the .32 H&R Magnum should have been; a dandy little cartridge for small game and varmint hunting, akin to the .32-20 of a century ago, but with more power and better accuracy. There is no handgun better suited for this cartridge than the Ruger Single Six. In its factory .22 rimfire version, and also in the .32 H&R magnum Single Six, the cylinder is too short to house as a .327 Federal. A longer cylinder is needed, which seems like a natural to me, and to many others. However, Ruger has yet to introduce the .327 Federal into their Single Six, so it has been left to custom gunsmiths to do so. These two Ruger Single Six revolvers from Hamilton Bowen are as perfect as any Single Six that I have ever seen. Both are chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge and have custom cylinders of 1.4965 inches in length, which is almost one-tenth inch longer than the factory .32 H&R Magnum Single Six cylinder. The case heads are countersunk on the Bowen cylinders, and the cylinder almost fills the cylinder window in the frame entirely, which, in addition to accommodating the longer .327 Federal cartridge, looks a lot better as well. The custom Bowen cylinders are radiused at the front, commonly called a black powder chamfer, and the barrel/cylinder gaps are very tight. Both revolvers wear a target version of the Bowen Rough Country rear sight, and are fully adjustable. The Bowen Single Sixes wear steel XR3 Flattop grip frames and Bisley hammers. The hammers, frames, and loading gates have been case colored by Doug Turnbull. The rest of the steel is polished blue, and the grips are Ruger New Model Flattop grip panels. Both sixguns wear fitted oversize locking base pins. The hammer and trigger pins on one of the revolvers have been given a screw-look, and another added, to make the New Model frame resemble a three-screw Old Model Ruger or Colt Single Action frame. Interesting touch. That revolver wears a seven and one-half inch barrel, and should prove to be a dandy little varmint gun. The other sixgun of the pair is my personal favorite, and is one of the best-looking sixguns that I have ever held in my hands! Everything about that little revolver is, for lack of a better word, balanced. It just looks “right”, and handles as a sixgun should. This trim little revolver is fitted with a Smith & Wesson K22 barrel that has been bored and rifled to .32 caliber by Delta Gun Shop. The K22 barrel wears a full-length rib, and measures 4.473 inches in length. I have never seen a more beautiful, perfectly executed Single Six. At the bottom of the grip frame is a Bowen lanyard ring, adding to both the looks and practicality of this little sixgun.

Shooting the Bowen Classic Arms Single Sixes was a delight. Both proved to be exceedingly accurate in offhand shooting at targets of several varieties, including paper, swinging steel, and rocks, sticks and stumps. I clamped the long-barreled sixgun into my Ransom Master Rest for accuracy testing, and it exhibited target grade accuracy with the American Eagle factory loads, grouping into less than one inch at twenty-five yards, every time, all day long. The accuracy of the Federal hollowpoints was excellent as well, but not hardly as accurate as the American Eagle ammo. I did not place the short-barreled Single Six into the Ransom Rest, as to do so I would have had to remove the roll pin that holds the lanyard ring and swivel in place. I was not willing to risk scratching this little sixgun removing that pin, as the gun does not belong to me. However, from informal plinking and shooting over an improvised rest, the short-barreled sixgun seems to be just as accurate as its brother. Shooting the two factory loads that I had on hand, the American Eagle 100 grain softpoint clocked 1667 feet-per-second (fps) from the seven and one-half inch gun, and 1574 fps from the shorter gun. The Federal Hydra-Shock 85 grain load clocked 1600 fps and 1574, from the long and short barrels, respectively. All chronograph readings were taken at an elevation of approximately six hundred feet, with an air temperature of forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The chronograph was set at ten feet from the muzzle. Both revolvers have honed actions, and the trigger pulls on the long and short Bowen Single Sixes measured two pounds, eight ounces and two pounds, two ounces, respectively. Being built on the Single Six frames, these two revolvers are perfectly sized to the .327 federal cartridge, and either would carry well in the field. With all-steel construction, the longer revolver weighs in at thirty-seven ounces, and the shorter gun is three ounces lighter. While both are handy enough for carrying afield, the shorter of the pair could very well be the ideal trail gun to carry in country where large bears are not a concern. With it’s flat-shooting, efficient cartridge, this handgun is perfectly sized for packing while having ample power for harvesting small game, and taking vermin and predators at a considerable distance.

If you have a hankering for a Single Six chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge, Hamilton Bowen can build for you a revolver just like one of these, or with whatever modifications you like. I think that with these two, Hamilton got it right. The combination of the XR3 grip with the Bisley hammer, make the guns easy to handle, and balance well. The Rough Country sights are easy to see, and easy to adjust to suit your load and shooting style. The Turnbull case colors are beautifully executed, and that ribbed K22 barrel and lanyard ring add a real touch of class to that short-barreled sixgun.

Bowen does it right, and I highly recommend his work.

For a look at Hamilton Bowen’s other work, and to get information to have him build your perfect sixgun, go to

You never regret buying the best.

Jeff Quinn


Jeff tested the Bowen guns with Federal and American Eagle factory ammunition.



25-yard groups fired from the Ransom Rest show the Bowen guns shoot as well as they look.





Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Bowen Classic Arms custom Ruger Single-Six revolvers in .327 Federal Magnum.







Bowen Rough Country rear and custom ramp front sights.





Bisley hammer.



Lanyard ring.



"Black powder" cylinder chamfer is a nice touch.



Locking base pin.



Recessed cartridge case heads.