Changing the Barrel Length on My .357 Maximum

By David Freeman

I picked up the Ruger 357 Super New Blackhawk 357 Maximum a few years ago when I was working at Cheaper Than Dirt. The gun came in on a trade-in and was priced reasonably. It was not something you see every day. I bought it, not because I needed it, but because I liked the way it looked.

I’ve read the history of Ruger’s venture into the 357 Maximum and know that Ruger recalled the revolvers some years ago because a few folks who loaded overly hot rounds for long-range steel plate competition experienced some issues with top strap burning. My revolver shows no indication of any such problems. Prior to my ownership, it doesn’t appear to have been fired much at all. I’ve put approximately 21 rounds of 357 Maximum through it along with a box of 357 Magnum and maybe a box or two of 38 special.

Mostly it just sat in my gun closet and looked pretty. As much as I liked owning it, there was something not quite right about it that kept me fromshooting it much. Then it hit me. It was that 10 1/2 inch barrel. I’m not into handgun hunting or long range target shooting with a handgun and that long barrel made the gun unweildy to carry and out of balance to shoot. I talked to my partner Jerry Colliver about shortening the barrel to 6 inches and he agreed to help me. Actually, Jerry had the tools and the experience so he did most of the work while I took pictures.

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We measured 4 1/2 inches back from the muzzle and marked the location of the cut with electrical tape. I wanted to make sure our cut was perfectly perpendicular, but Jerry assured me that at this point it only had to be close. Jerry cut the barrel using an air-driven diamond cutter. Next came touch up work on the small grinder. After the grinding came hand filing. The objective was to eliminate the courseness from the grinder wheel, leaving the metal surface as shiny as possible at this stage.

The factory barrel end had an inside bevel around the bore and an outer bevel around the outer circumference of the barrel. Jerry used a stone with his Dremel tool to grind the inside bevel to match the factory original as closely as possible. Then he filed the outside bevel by hand, carefully eyeballing the width of the bevel as he went around the barrel to make sure it was even and consistent. Final touch up on the outside bevel was done with the Dremel tool using a diamond bit.

When the bevels were done, Jerry went back to the grinder, this time with a cloth wheel and rouge to polish the end of the barrel before bluing. There were several steps in the polishing process before Jerry was satisfied. He used a cloth polishing wheel attached to his vertical drill press, periodically coating the wheel with polishing compound.

We blued the barrel, tapped out a hole for the sight mounting screw and put the original target front sight back on the gun. It wasn’t long before I figured out this wasn’t going to work. Since I could now carry the Blackhawk in a regular holster, I found the backward slant in the target sight hung on the holster when drawing. So, I ordered a non-target sight from Ruger, mounted it to the barrel using JB Weld (I know, but it will be there as long as I’m around) and re-blued the barrel using Midway’s Oxpho Blue and I’m a happy camper!

Author: David Freeman

Professional dedicated to training and equipping people to live safely in a dangerous world.

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