Improving Upon Perfection: The Freedom Arms Model 97


by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

February 14th, 2011




Click pictures for a larger version.


Freedom Arms Model 97 "stock" base pin / ejector assembly.



The Model 97 design will not allow the base pin to be pulled out far enough to remove the cylinder.



To remove the cylinder for cleaning / maintenance, first the base pin locking screw must be loosened...



...then the ejector housing screw...



...then the ejector housing, ejector rod and spring must be removed.



Once the ejector assembly is removed, the base pin can be slid out and the cylinder removed.

Freedom Arms, I can say without fear of contradiction, makes the finest factory revolvers available today. In fact, it can be said that Freedom Arms makes the finest factory revolvers ever made. From the immaculate fit and finish, to the precision line-boring of the cylinder, to the perfect timing, to the absolute bank-vault lockup, everything about their revolvers screams QUALITY. Sure, they are not cheap, but if you compare them to their only competition - fully custom revolvers available from some of the world's finest gun makers and costing thousands of dollars - the Freedom Arms products are a bargain. Plus, Freedom Arms revolvers tend to hold their value very well, even better than most custom guns, because they wear amazingly well; you will not batter them loose with heavy loads over an extended period of time. I personally know of Freedom Arms guns that have had literally hundreds of thousands of heavy loads run through them for commercial load development; they still lock-up as tightly as a new gun, and still exhibit Freedom Arms' legendary accuracy. Freedom Arms makes their guns not just for us, but for our grandkids.

Freedom Arms introduced their Model 97 as a smaller alternative to their original large-framed revolver (now called the Model 83). The Model 83 is available in calibers ranging from .22 Long Rifle to high-performance calibers such as .454 Casull, .475 Linebaugh and .500 Wyoming Express; the smaller-framed Model 97 is available in calibers ranging from .17 HMR, .22 Long Rifle, .32 Magnum & .357 Magnum (as six-shot revolvers), through .41 Magnum, .44 Special and .45 Colt (as five-shot revolvers). The Model 97 is every bit Freedom Arms, with the same exemplary level of fit & finish as can be seen in its larger-framed sister.

I am privileged to own examples of the finest work available from our custom revolversmiths, and some Freedom Arms revolvers as well. As fine as all my other revolvers may be, there is one revolver in particular that stays with me in the field, and gets shot and handled, more than any other: my short-barreled Freedom Arms Model 1997 in .45 Colt. My Model 97 .45 sports a 3-1/2" barrel, round-butted grip frame, and fixed sights with Freedom's replaceable drift-adjustable front blade. This is truly, as John Taffin would say, a Perfect Packin' Pistol. I have even been told by retired lawmen who have shot it that, despite being a Single Action, it would make a wonderfully-balanced fighting revolver. The balance, the feel in the hand, the lighter weight, and the grip frame's ability to tame the recoil of heavy loads all combine to make my Model 97, at least to me...PERFECT.


The only flaw I have been able to find in the design of the FA 97 relates only to the 3-1/2-barrelled version, and it is admittedly a minor one: because of the shortened ejector rod, the ejector rod and housing must be removed before the cylinder can be removed for cleaning or maintenance. The base pin simply will not pull out far enough before contacting the ejector rod head to allow the cylinder's removal. So before the cylinder can be removed, the base pin locking screw must be loosened; then the ejector housing screw; then finally the ejector rod housing, ejector rod, and spring must be removed. Although this is a minor design flaw, it can be quite annoying at the bench, and can be disastrous in the field; anyone who has ever lost a spring or screw in the field knows how aggravating it can be, and how impossible it can be to find such small parts on the ground.

Handling a 3-1/2" Cimarron Thunderer that belongs to my friend Jared Schmidt got me to thinking about a possible solution: the Thunderer design simply has the ejector rod housing's cam cut offset to the outside just enough to allow the ejector rod head to bypass the base pin. Not only does this allow the base pin to be easily removed, but it also allows for a longer ejector stroke for more positive case extraction. I thought something similar to this solution would work well for my Model 97, but figured that a design change in the ejector housing slot location would require either a change in the entire Freedom Arms line, or would be an expensive custom modification requiring a new ejector housing specially milled for the short-barreled revolvers.

At last year's Shootist Holiday, I was visiting with Freedom Arms honcho and brother Shootist, Bob Baker, and I mentioned my ideas for this improvement to the Model 97. Bob asked to see the revolver, and I happened to have it with me, as I usually do when I go on a shooting trip. Bob studied the revolver for a while, and I could almost see the wheels turning. Bob asked if I would mind if he took my Model 97 back to the factory with him and tried some things, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Barely a couple of weeks later my Model 97 returned, and Bob had once again showed the quiet genius that has made Freedom Arms the makers of the world's finest revolvers, and has recently seen Bob awarded the "Innovator of the Year" award from the Shootists for the Freedom Arms single-shot pistol.

Bob's solution is superbly simple and effective, basically involving the milling of a semicircular cut in the ejector rod head. This allows the ejector rod head to bypass the base pin entirely, thus allowing the base pin room to clear the ejector rod head once the ejector rod is pulled back far enough to cam over. This simple modification also allows for a much longer ejector stroke, giving ample room to remove empty cases; in fact, during actual use I have found that the ejector stroke is now long enough that a smart thrust will completely eject all but the most stubborn cases entirely.

This change has now been implemented to the 3-1/2" Model 97 revolvers, and new revolvers are now being shipped with this modification. Existing 3-1/2" Model 97s, as well as 4" Model 83s, can be retrofit for very little cost. If you have a short-barreled Freedom Arms revolver that you'd like to have modified in this manner, please note that the entire gun need not be sent back; only the ejector rod needs to be sent, so you can send back the ejector rod only or the entire ejector assembly if you prefer. This will save you a great deal of money on shipping, as the parts can be sent through the U.S. Mail for a very small cost. Contact Freedom Arms at (307) 883-2468 for more information.

Once again, Bob Baker and Freedom Arms have risen to the challenge, and improved upon perfection.

Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Freedom Arms' modification to the Model 97's ejector is simple and brilliant, involving a semicircular cut in the ejector rod head.



This semicircular cut allows the base pin to be pulled out once the ejector rod is pulled back far enough to engage the cam cut in the ejector rod housing. In this way, the cylinder can be removed without removing the ejector assembly.



This modification also allows for a much longer ejector rod stroke, and more positive ejection of empty cases.