Maximizing The Ruger Maximum


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 23rd, 2009




Back in 1982, Ruger introduced its brand new .357 Maximum single-action revolver. Looking much like a standard Ruger Super Blackhawk, but with a longer frame to accommodate the longer, fluted cylinder, the Maximum was to the .357 Magnum what the .357 Magnum was to the .38 Special; that is, a longer cartridge case to push a .357 inch diameter revolver bullet faster than could safely be done from the shorter cartridge cases. The Maximum was an instant hit with Metallic Silhouette shooters, and proved accurate enough and powerful enough to take down the targets, and also had a relatively flat trajectory when compared to shooting bullets of equal weight from a .44 Magnum. The Ruger Max was a good-looking gun, and Ruger produced approximately 7700 of them before production came to a screeching halt in 1984. Seems there was a problem of flame-cutting of the top strap just above the barrel/cylinder gap. As far as I can tell, what cutting there was went to a shallow depth, and then stopped. However, the damage to the sixgun’s reputation was done, and production was stopped, and has never been restarted.

The Ruger Maximum does have a loyal following, and collectors are also scarfing up the guns. Custom gunsmiths are using the long frames to build five or six shot handguns in more powerful calibers, but the .357 Maximum is a pretty good cartridge itself. I have owned a couple of the Maximums over the years, but sold them, as I found the long barrels, combined with the slightly longer frame, to just be more than I wanted to pack around in a holster. Being neither a silhouette shooter nor a collector, I found the Maximums sitting in the safe, and never carried afield. Ruger offered the guns with either a seven and one-half or ten and one-half inch barrel, and both seemed a little large to me for a packing gun.

I recently acquired another Ruger Maximum. This one, the seller said had a little holster wear at the muzzle, but it turned out that the “holster wear” was really rust, and it extended into the bore about one inch. This seemed to me like the perfect candidate for barrel shortening. I had wanted a shorter-barreled Max for some time, and this neglected sixgun was the perfect incentive to give it a try. A shorter barrel would sacrifice some muzzle velocity, to be sure, but I will gladly trade some speed for an easier packing sidearm. I sent the Maximum off to David Clements to have the barrel hacked off even with the ejector rod housing. While there, David recut the barrel throat as well. Losing roughly half the barrel length, going from ten and one-half down to five and five-eighths inches, really changed the handling qualities of the Ruger. It is now much better balanced, and carries well on the hip.

For packing the Max, I had Mike Barranti build a rig for it. Starting with a folded oiled chap leather money belt, which is soft and flexible enough for comfortable wear, Mike added twelve calf-skin cartridge loops on the right side, just as I like. The darker leather used for the loops and billet contrast nicely with the belt, and Mike’s Number Five holster is the same color as the loops and billet. The Number Five is Mike’s version of the old Lawrence 120 Keith holster, which is perfect for carrying a full-sized sixgun in the field. The whole rig is very easy on the eyes, and comfortable to wear all day. It carries the big Ruger securely, and the holster offers good protection to the sixgun as well, while providing quick access when needed.

To complete the package, I ordered a set of Super Blackhawk American Elk grips from Eagle Grips. They do good work with all kinds of grip material, including exotic woods, Sambar stag, and ivory, but American Elk seemed appropriate on this Ruger sixgun, and they fit well and look perfect to me.

I have a couple of favorite handloads for the Maximum, but one of my most-used loads uses the Remington 180 grain hollowpoint bullet pushed to over 1600 feet-per-second (fps) from a ten and one-half inch Maximum. From this shortened sixgun, I still get well over 1400 fps, which is plenty of speed for hunting most game that I hunt. For heavier game where more penetration is needed, Grizzly Cartridge Company has a 200 grain hard-cast lead bullet load that hits hard and penetrates deeply.

Chopping off the barrel to a more packable length, acquiring a dandy holster rig, and dressing the Maximum up with Eagle grips really changes the dynamics of the Ruger Max, and takes an excellent target gun and turns it into a great-handling, accurate, and powerful field gun that can now ride comfortably on my hip while hunting this Fall. These changes and additions to a really great sixgun make it even better, at least for me, maximizing the usefulness of the .357 Maximum.

Now, if I could just get somebody to make my .357 Maximum Winchester carbine feed properly, I would be eternally happy.

For a closer look at the excellent Barranti leather products, go to

To order Elk or other fine grips, go to

To order factory loaded premium .357 Maximum ammunition, go to

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

Jeff Quinn



American Elk grips from Eagle Grips really dress-up the Maximum.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Modifications to author's Ruger Maximum make the sixgun a very handy and powerful package.



Custom Barranti Number 5 holster and money belt is perfect for this sixgun.