Back in the 1900's when there
were still some Constitutional liberties being practiced, my Dad walked into a
hardware store one day and walked out a bit later with a brand new Ruger Single
Six. He did not have to fill out any paperwork or sign any documents. (I relate
this for you younger ones who may believe such stories to just be myths. It
actually used to be that way, back when we were still mostly a free country.) He
gave the man cash. The owner gave him the gun and asked if he wanted a
receipt. He said "No, thanks." and took his new gun and departed. As it should
Ruger made only one Single Six
in those days. It was sort of fixed sights (the rear sight was adjustable for windage by moving it in the dovetail using a brass drift) and in .22 rimfire.
In those days .22 Shorts were the cheapest way to shoot and Dad had a car load
of them and planned on using the Ruger with them. Taking the gun to a range he
sighted it in, but found it would not group. Mostly it shot patterns. No matter
what ammo he tried.
Checking the gun over he could
not find what was wrong, so at home he slugged the bore. The rear of the barrel
seemed to feel funny, and eventually he discovered that the rifling broach had
not rifled the first 2" of the bore... it had scratched some lines in it but the
rifling was distorted and basically non-existent. He called Ruger and they said
they would replace the barrel at no charge if he would send them the gun.
Never one to act hastily, Dad
mulled this over a few days and decided to decline Ruger's offer. Instead he
decided to re-barrel it for himself. He had a Model 52 Winchester target rifle
barrel that had only 50 rounds put through it before it was pulled off the gun.
The Model 52 would only shoot 1 1/2" at 100 yards and Dad's cousin who liked to
shoot Smallbore Benchrest was disgusted with it. He re-barreled the rifle with a
new Winchester barrel and gave the old one to Dad. (It turned out to have a
chamber slightly out of line with the bore.) Dad figured he would use the barrel
for the Ruger.
In the machine shop he cut a piece
long enough to make a 6 1/2" barrel, turned threads on it so it
would mate with the Ruger frame, and put it into the gun. He fitted
it with a tight barrel/cylinder gap. While he was working on it he
straightened the trigger, lightened the hammer to speed the fall,
and re-chambered one chamber to .22 Magnum. Carried with the hammer
down on an empty chamber the Magnum chamber is the perfect one to do
it on. Keep a few Magnums in your pocket for long shots or bigger
targets and you are set. Dad numbered the chambers and marked the
Magnum chamber with a bevel so it could easily be seen. The trigger
pull was set at about 10 ounces.
On the range this gun
proved to be extremely accurate... with almost any kind of ammo. Dad
mostly shot Shorts in it during the 60's and into the 70's... but then
they became more expensive and so the practice was stopped. I personally
witnessed him - shooting from a sitting position, resting his arms on his
upraised knees, his back supported by leaning against the car tire - keep
15 out of 20 shots on the end of a beer can at 80 yards... using Shorts.
He took a lot of rabbits and small game with it over the years and used it
at least one time to successfully defend himself against some young punks
who thought they were going to run him off the road.
Some years ago Dad came
to me and said he wanted me to have the gun. We talked it over and I
accepted. It was an honor to do so. I carried it around the high Sonoran
desert country of Arizona for about 12 years before we moved to
Missouri. I shot coyotes, foxes, skunks, dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes of
various types and one Mule Deer with it.
The Mule Deer shooting
happened this way: I had filled my tags earlier in the week and was taking
several friends hunting who had not killed a deer yet. I carried the .22
Single Six with me for personal use and it had come in handy earlier in
the day. Coming up over a rock ledge I met huge diamondback rattlesnake
face to face. It was coiled up on the ledge above me and as I came up it
reared it's head up. Without thinking I jerked the .22 and shot it in the
head. Thicker than my arm, the snake was so long that when I held it up
above my head it's tail drug the ground... it was near 6 foot long!
I had sent the two
hunters around some canyons and while I was going the other way I heard 4
shots off in the distance. I decided to head over there and see who it
was. As I worked my way toward where I heard the shots I noticed someone
standing on a hill and waving his arms. Getting in closer I recognized the
man. He signaled to me that the deer was down below him and in front of
me. I gathered he had wounded it and that his gun was empty!
I worked my way into
where he was pointing, taking my time. As I came up near a small brushy
wash the Mule Deer made a bid to get away from me. As it went past me I
put the sights on it's head and shot it between the base of the antler and
eye with a .22 Magnum HP. The deer jerked, stiffened and turned away from
me, dragging it's hindquarters. I put the next shot, a Winchester .22 HP,
right into the middle of the back of it's head. At that one the buck
Turned out the hunter had
been sleeping under a Mesquite tree and woke up to find some deer around
him. He panicked and started firing, missing a couple shots but breaking
the pelvis of the buck with his last bullet. He had no more ammo with him
and until I showed up was considering trying to jump the buck and kill it
with his knife. (Which I would have liked to have seen, but would not have been
a smart move on his part).
My first shot with the Magnum round went under the brain pan.. through the
sinus cavities apparently. But the .22 did a good job never-the-less, in
spite of my poor shooting.
Over the years we fired
hundreds of thousands of rounds through the gun. And over the years it
began to loosen up. Yes, even a .22 will develop end-shake. Every time you
fire a revolver, the cylinder sets back and rocks upward, ever so
minutely. The metal-to-metal contact, even in thousandths, gradually will
get larger. It took over 30 years of constant use and hundreds of
thousands of rounds of ammo, but eventually the cylinder gap became larger
and the gun began to "spit". By this time the finish was long gone. In
1994 I decided it was time and sent the old pistol down to Hamilton Bowen
at Bowen Classic Arms for rebuilding.
Hamilton set the barrel
back one thread, cut a new throat, and removed all the end-shake from the
cylinder by installing a new bushing on the cylinder and refitting it.
Then he polished and re-blued the gun. When I got it back it looked better
than it did when it was new!
And it is still accurate! More so than I can shoot it
This gun is a treasure
that will stay in the family. One of these days I will call one of my kids
and say, "I have something to give you." They will get the gun along with
this story. Hopefully it will be passed from generation to generation...
no matter what the rest of the world does.