It has been right at a year since I reviewed the
first handgun chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge. Ruger
introduced the new cartridge to the world in their compact SP101
double action revolver. The SP101 is a tough little weapon,
mostly encountered in the five-shot .357 Magnum version, but it
wears a six-shot cylinder when chambered for the .327 Federal.
While there was a lot of “what’s it for?” conversation on
the internet before the little .327 started shipping to dealers,
the revolver has been well-accepted, and supply of .327 Federal
ammunition still has yet to meet demand.
A few weeks after the SP101 review, I had the
opportunity to also review the Freedom
Arms Model 97 .32 H&R Magnum revolver that had been fitted
with an extra cylinder chambered for the .327 Federal, along
with a custom Single Six from Single Action Service. In
each of those earlier reviews, I went in depth regarding the
cartridge and handloading, and will not get into that again
here, concentrating upon the two custom sixguns instead.
Hamilton Bowen is highly regarded among
the elite true custom gunsmiths in the US, and is respected as
the “best of the best” among many shooters who use his
skills to build their finest revolvers. Hamilton Bowen builds
highly useful works of art, as well as plain and rugged, but
highly accurate hunting guns. These two Single Six revolvers
shown here highlight Mr. Bowen’s skill at crafting elegant
working guns that are also aesthetically pleasing, exceedingly
accurate, and very useful hunting revolvers. When the .327
Federal was first introduced in the SP101, it was, and
appropriately still is, marketed as a defensive handgun.
However, when I first saw the little cartridge, I regarded it as
everything that the .32 H&R Magnum should have been; a dandy
little cartridge for small game and varmint hunting, akin to the
.32-20 of a century ago, but with more power and better
accuracy. There is no handgun better suited for this cartridge
than the Ruger Single Six. In its factory .22 rimfire version,
and also in the .32 H&R magnum Single Six, the cylinder is
too short to house as a .327 Federal. A longer cylinder is
needed, which seems like a natural to me, and to many others.
However, Ruger has yet to introduce the .327 Federal into their
Single Six, so it has been left to custom gunsmiths to do so.
These two Ruger Single Six revolvers from Hamilton Bowen are as
perfect as any Single Six that I have ever seen. Both are
chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge and have custom
cylinders of 1.4965 inches in length, which is almost one-tenth
inch longer than the factory .32 H&R Magnum Single Six
cylinder. The case heads are countersunk on the Bowen cylinders,
and the cylinder almost fills the cylinder window in the frame
entirely, which, in addition to accommodating the longer .327
Federal cartridge, looks a lot better as well. The custom Bowen
cylinders are radiused at the front, commonly called a black
powder chamfer, and the barrel/cylinder gaps are very tight.
Both revolvers wear a target version of the Bowen Rough Country
rear sight, and are fully adjustable. The Bowen Single Sixes
wear steel XR3 Flattop grip frames and Bisley hammers. The
hammers, frames, and loading gates have been case colored by
Doug Turnbull. The rest of the steel is polished blue, and the
grips are Ruger New Model Flattop grip panels. Both sixguns wear
fitted oversize locking base pins. The hammer and trigger pins
on one of the revolvers have been given a screw-look, and
another added, to make the New Model frame resemble a
three-screw Old Model Ruger or Colt Single Action frame.
Interesting touch. That revolver wears a seven and one-half inch
barrel, and should prove to be a dandy little varmint gun. The
other sixgun of the pair is my personal favorite, and is one of
the best-looking sixguns that I have ever held in my hands!
Everything about that little revolver is, for lack of a better
word, balanced. It just looks “right”, and handles as a
sixgun should. This trim little revolver is fitted with a Smith
& Wesson K22 barrel that has been bored and rifled to
.32 caliber by Delta Gun Shop. The K22 barrel wears a
full-length rib, and measures 4.473 inches in length. I have
never seen a more beautiful, perfectly executed Single Six. At
the bottom of the grip frame is a Bowen lanyard ring, adding to
both the looks and practicality of this little sixgun.
Shooting the Bowen Classic Arms Single Sixes was
a delight. Both proved to be exceedingly accurate in offhand
shooting at targets of several varieties, including paper,
swinging steel, and rocks, sticks and stumps. I clamped the
long-barreled sixgun into my Ransom
Master Rest for accuracy testing, and it exhibited
target grade accuracy with the American Eagle factory
loads, grouping into less than one inch at twenty-five yards,
every time, all day long. The accuracy of the Federal
hollowpoints was excellent as well, but not hardly as accurate
as the American Eagle ammo. I did not place the short-barreled
Single Six into the Ransom Rest, as to do so I would have had to
remove the roll pin that holds the lanyard ring and swivel in
place. I was not willing to risk scratching this little sixgun
removing that pin, as the gun does not belong to me. However,
from informal plinking and shooting over an improvised rest, the
short-barreled sixgun seems to be just as accurate as its
brother. Shooting the two factory loads that I had on hand, the
American Eagle 100 grain softpoint clocked 1667 feet-per-second
(fps) from the seven and one-half inch gun, and 1574 fps from
the shorter gun. The Federal Hydra-Shock 85 grain load clocked
1600 fps and 1574, from the long and short barrels,
respectively. All chronograph readings were taken at an
elevation of approximately six hundred feet, with an air
temperature of forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The chronograph
was set at ten feet from the muzzle. Both revolvers have honed
actions, and the trigger pulls on the long and short Bowen
Single Sixes measured two pounds, eight ounces and two pounds,
two ounces, respectively. Being built on the Single Six frames,
these two revolvers are perfectly sized to the .327 federal
cartridge, and either would carry well in the field. With
all-steel construction, the longer revolver weighs in at
thirty-seven ounces, and the shorter gun is three ounces
lighter. While both are handy enough for carrying afield, the
shorter of the pair could very well be the ideal trail gun to
carry in country where large bears are not a concern. With
it’s flat-shooting, efficient cartridge, this handgun is
perfectly sized for packing while having ample power for
harvesting small game, and taking vermin and predators at a
If you have a hankering for a Single Six
chambered for the .327 Federal cartridge, Hamilton Bowen can
build for you a revolver just like one of these, or with
whatever modifications you like. I think that with these two,
Hamilton got it right. The combination of the XR3 grip with the
Bisley hammer, make the guns easy to handle, and balance well.
The Rough Country sights are easy to see, and easy to adjust to
suit your load and shooting style. The Turnbull case
colors are beautifully executed, and that ribbed K22 barrel and
lanyard ring add a real touch of class to that short-barreled
Bowen does it right, and I highly recommend his
For a look at Hamilton Bowen’s other work, and
to get information to have him build your perfect sixgun, go to www.bowenclassicarms.com.
You never regret buying the best.
Jeff tested the Bowen guns with Federal and American
Eagle factory ammunition.
25-yard groups fired from the Ransom Rest show the
Bowen guns shoot as well as they look.
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