Freedom Arms Model 97 & Single Action Service Custom Ruger Revolvers Chambered for the New .327 Federal Magnum


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

January 28th, 2008




It has been almost two months since I reviewed the new Ruger SP101 chambered for the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge. The little Ruger revolver was the first handgun to chamber the new cartridge, and it is intended and marketed as a defensive cartridge for those who want deep penetration and expansion, without the recoil and muzzle blast of the .357 Magnum cartridge. In that role, the little SP101 performs admirably.

Like many shooters, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of hunting revolvers chambered for the new cartridge. Freedom Arms in Freedom, Wyoming got on the project right away, and they are now offering their .32 H&R Magnum Model 97 with an optional .327 Federal Magnum cylinder, and Freedom will also fit a .327 Federal cylinder to existing .32 H&R Freedom revolvers.

The Freedom revolver tested here wears a five and one-half inch barrel, and I was anxious to see what that extra barrel length and tighter barrel/cylinder gap of just .002 inch would do for velocities, compared to the smaller Ruger with its three and one-sixteenth inch barrel. The quality of materials and workmanship on Freedom Arms revolvers is legendary, so coupled with the longer barrel and target style rear sight, I also expected better accuracy. The cylinder length of the Model 97 .327 Federal Magnum measures 1.628, and the cartridge case heads are recessed into the cylinder, allowing the use of cartridges loaded to just under the total cylinder length. The cylinder diameter measures 1.575 inches, and contains six chambers. The Model 97 weighs 41.4 ounces unloaded, and has an excellent trigger pull, measuring just two and three-quarters pounds. This Model 97 wears the exceptional Freedom Arms fully adjustable rear sight, and has a black ramped front. The majority of the sixgun is made of stainless steel, and wears Freedom’s Premier Grade finish, and their perfectly fitted wood grips.

About two weeks into shooting the new Model 97, I received a custom Ruger Single Six from Alan Harton’s Single Action Service, so I decided to review them both in one article, as they are both intended to be used as hunting and target shooting guns. The custom Ruger wears a six and one-half inch barrel, and also has a tight barrel/cylinder gap of just .003 inch. The standard .32 H&R Single Six cylinder is too short for the .327 Federal, so a longer cylinder was fitted, which required slightly shortening the part of the barrel that protrudes into the cylinder window of the Single Six. Mr. Harton fitted a new barrel to the frame, and installed a free-spin pawl that allows the cylinder to freely spin in either direction when the loading gate is open. The cylinder length on the custom Ruger is 1.538 inches, and the case heads are not recessed, allowing for a total overall cartridge length of 1.581 inches. The cylinder diameter measures 1.462 inches, and the custom Ruger is also chambered to hold six rounds of .327 Federal Magnum ammunition. The custom Ruger weighs 38 ounces unloaded. The trigger pull measured a clean, crisp one pound, fifteen ounces. The Harton custom wears an excellent adjustable rear sight, and a ramped front. Being a custom sixgun, barrel lengths, finishes, sights, and grips are all done to the customer’s specifications.

This review is in no way intended to compare the Freedom Arms revolver with the Harton custom Ruger. They are each just two different approaches to achieve the same result. That is, a high quality hunting and target sixgun chambered for the .327 Federal Cartridge. The .327 Federal is all that we hoped that the .32 H&R would be when introduced many years ago. The pressures on the H&R cartridge were limited by what the .32 Harrington & Richardson guns could handle. For years, shooters have been loading the .32 H&R in Ruger revolvers to true magnum pressures, but with the introduction of the .327 Federal, the case length is increased, increasing powder capacity and allowing higher velocities. As far as I know, there is yet no published pressure tested load data available, so when loading for the two single action revolvers reviewed here, I was on my own. Benefiting from my handloading notes from the review of the SP101, I had a good place to start. I made a couple of mistakes loading the little Ruger, so I did not try to push the velocities over safe limits here, but carefully watch for fired primer condition, ease of extraction, and measured case head expansion in developing handloads for these two sixguns. The loads listed here have not been pressure tested, but proved safe in the two revolvers. If loading the .327, start with lower powder charges, and pay careful attention to pressure signs. If extraction gets sticky, back off a bit. Hopefully, we will soon have good load data from a reliable source available. The handloads listed here were all loaded on a Dillon 550B machine using Lee .32 H&R dies, and all used CCI 550 Magnum Small Pistol primers. Unless otherwise noted, all bullets were roll-crimped at their crimp groove or cannelure. The sixty grain XTP has no cannelure, and was roll-crimped at the start of the ogive. The loads using the Mt. Baldy bullets that are noted as “ long” were crimped into the upper grease groove to increase case capacity. I found no advantage to seating the bullets long, as I achieved higher velocities using less powder crimping those bullets in the crimp groove, but it was worth trying. You can achieve roughly the same velocities with less pressure by seating them long, but with the powders chosen here, I prefer to seat the bullets normally. During velocity testing, the air temperature was between 42 and 47 degrees Fahrenheit, at an elevation of approximately 400 feet above sea level. All loads were fired over the electronic eyes of a PACT Professional chronograph, and thankfully, it worked well throughout the velocity tests. I believe that the chronograph was invented mostly to add aggravation to the lives of gunwriters, but it does come in handy for load development. Again, the loads listed below worked well in the two revolvers tested here, but should be reduced for any other firearm. I started low and worked up from there. You can too. 

I used three jacketed and four cast bullets in the two revolvers. Many more loads were tested than those shown here, but these represent the best of the bunch. From my earlier experience loading the .327 Federal in the SP101, I chose Accurate Number 9 and Hodgdon H110 as the powders to use in these two revolvers. In almost every load, the powder charges were compressed, some heavily. I have had good results with Lil’Gun, but did not try it with these two revolvers, as I have heard that Lil’Gun can accelerate forcing cone erosion, and until I can do further testing to prove or disprove that, I will not use it in guns that do not belong to me. Also, these two powders used here will do anything that Lil’Gun will do in the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge. In the table below, XTP is a Hornady controlled expansion jacketed hollowpoint bullet. The cast lead bullets are all of LBT or semi-wadcutter shape, and all have flat nose designs. CP is Cast Performance Bullet Company. Mt. B is Mt. Baldy Bullet Company. GC is a gas checked bullet. PB is a plain base cast lead bullet. K is a cast bullet designed and cast by John Killebrew, and he was kind enough to run off a batch for me. He does not sell them. Bullet weights are listed in grains. Velocity is listed in feet-per-second (fps). In the velocity listings, FA is Freedom Arms Model 97 with a 5.5 inch barrel, and SAS is the custom Single Action Service Ruger with a 6.5 inch barrel. I also had all three of the currently produced factory loads available, and their velocities are included in the table.

Bullet Powder Charge Weight Velocity FA Velocity SAS
100 XTP H110 16.5 1604.3 1707.7
CP 113 GC H110 16.5 1658.8 1691
Mt. B 120 GC LONG H110 16.5 1617.1 1641.8
Mt. B 120 GC LONG AA#9 14.3 1602.7 1613.1
K 135 PB H110 14.8 1579.3 1588.6
85 XTP H110 17 1726.7 1742
60 XTP AA#9 17.4 2142.1 2192.7
Mt. B 120 GC AA#9 13 1643.4 1649.9
100 XTP AA#9 14 1692 1703.5
CP 113 GC AA#9 14 1617.6 1752.4
AE 100 Factory Load NA NA 1579.9 1649.6
Federal 85 Factory Load NA NA 1552.4 1611.2
Speer 115 Factory Load NA NA 1462.6 1578.4

In handloading the .327 Federal, pay careful attention to bullet design. The location of the crimp groove is important. Depending upon the location of the groove, the powder capacity is either increased or decreased. Just because a bullet weighs the same as those listed here, does not mean that powder charges will be the same.

Accuracy with both revolvers was excellent. I clamped the Harton Custom Ruger into my Ransom Master Rest, but had no insert for the Freedom Model 97, so it was accuracy tested handheld over a solid rest. Both revolvers proved accurate, but due to different testing methods, cannot be realistically compared. That really is not important, however, as both sixguns exhibited superb accuracy with favored loads. Testing a wide variety of handloads for accuracy, most of the largest groups fired were in the one and one-half inch range at twenty-five yards. No group fired exceeded two inches, and the best loads found for each gun are pictured here. Both sixguns would group at or under one inch all day long with the loads that it liked. With the worst loads tested, both revolvers were still very accurate. I did not have enough factory ammunition to test those for accuracy. Looking at the velocities achieved with these two sixguns, I am even more impressed with the little .327 Federal Magnum than I was when testing the SP101. I am curious to see what the cartridge can do in even longer barrels. A seven and one-half inch sixgun would still carry well in a holster, and I know that Freedom Arms has produced at least one Model 97 with a ten inch barrel. That gun will be going to my friend John Taffin for review, so look for it in either GUNS or AMERICAN HANDGUNNER magazine soon. Hopefully, someone like Marlin will produce a handy little carbine chambered for the .327 Federal magnum cartridge.

For a closer look at the Freedom Arms Model 97, along with price and options information, go to

To inquire about having a custom sixgun built by Alan Harton, give him a call at 713-772-8314 or 713-907-603, or send an email to

For more information on the .327 Federal Magnum cartridge, go to

To order the bullets tested here, go to,, and

Jeff Quinn

Single Action Service custom Ruger (top); Freedom Arms Model 97 (center); Ruger SP101 with Sack Peterson custom American Elk grip inserts (bottom).



Factory loads tested.


In both sixguns, .312 bullets fit snugly into the throats.



Bullets used in handloads (left to right): 60-grain Hornady XTP, 85-grain Hornady XTP, 100-grain Hornady XTP, 113-grain Cast Performance gas-check, 118-grain Cast Performance plain-base, 120-grain Mt. Baldy gas-check, 135-grain Killibrew plain-base.



Ransom rest.



Both sixguns proved to be exceptionally and consistently accurate.


NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Single Action Service custom Ruger (top), Freedom Arms Model 97 (bottom).



Freedom Arms Model 97.



Single Action Service custom Ruger.