Ross Custom Arms BFR 45 Colt Six-Shot Custom Conversion

by Boge Quinn

February 26h, 2024

YouTube Video Link

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BFR rear sight is fully adjustable for windage & elevation.



Front sight is custom fabricated by Ryan Ross.



Top of frame is drilled & tapped for scope mount.









Ryan Ross of Ross Custom Arms in Hickory Grove, SC, is quickly gaining a reputation as one of America's top custom revolver makers. He was mentored by the late, great John Gallagher, has cut his teeth on many custom projects, and is now taking his business in a new direction. 

I first became aware of Ryan's work after I received what was to have been my dear departed friend Terry Murbach's last custom revolver: a custom five-shot center-fire conversion of a Ruger® Old Model Single-Six® in 380 ACP (or 9mm Kurz, as Terry preferred to call it). My brother Shootist and great friend Fermin Garza clued me in that Ryan Ross actually did the barrel work on that project, and made an introduction between me and Ryan. Since that time, over countless phone and text conversations and a pleasant afternoon of shooting (both custom revolvers and The Breeze) here at my place, Ryan and I have become good friends. I always look forward to our conversations, as they are always instructive and indicative of Ryan's well-reasoned philosophies on custom guns, and on life in general.

The new direction Ryan has taken with his business is that, while most custom revolver makers base their offerings on Ruger sixguns, Ryan focuses his Single-Action revolver work on the Magnum Research® BFR ("Biggest, Finest Revolver"). Ruger's Single-Actions, at their introduction, revolutionized the sixgun, and the quality that Ruger still offers for the price is phenomenal. Thanks to the influence of gun writers such as Skeeter Skelton and John Taffin, countless Ruger "medium-frame" Old Model 357 Magnum sixguns have been converted to fire the wonderful 44 Special cartridge, to the point that Ruger now produces the "medium-frame" New Model Blackhawk in 44 Special as Distributor's Exclusives. Ruger's "full-size" Blackhawks, especially the Bisley model, have become the platform for five-shot big-bore revolvers capable of taking any game on Planet Earth, and several of America's top revolver smiths offer such revolvers based on the large-frame Ruger Single-Action. I own several of these big-bore Ruger conversions, from makers such as Hamilton Bowen, the late John Linebaugh, and Dustin Linebaugh, and I can attest that these are among the finest revolvers available anywhere, at any price.

So, why would Ryan Ross choose to specialize in the Magnum Research BFR instead of the Ruger?

When I discussed with Ryan his reasoning behind working from the BFR platform rather than the Ruger, I was treated to a half-hour lecture detailing why the BFR is a better custom-gun platform. We have reviewed several big-bore Magnum Research BFR revolvers in the past, including their Custom Shop "No. 5" in 500 Linebaugh, their BFR Bisley 500 Linebaugh, their 475 Linebaugh / 480 Ruger Bisley model, and their BFR 50 Beowulf, so I am well aware of the BFR's quality. While Ruger offers a great sixgun at a great price, the BFR is significantly better in many respects, with noticeably better fit and finish, tighter lockup, and better actions, while retailing for only a few hundred dollars more than the Ruger. Even more important from the perspective of a custom gun maker, the BFR's cylinder, and thus the frame's cylinder window, is larger than the Ruger's; this means that larger cylinders can be used in the BFR without the extra work (and extra labor cost) of opening up the Ruger frame's cylinder window (and thereby arguably weakening the Ruger's legendarily-strong frame). Also, because Magnum Research takes greater pains in manufacturing, there is less remedial metal work to be done; in fairness to Ruger (and I am definitely a "Ruger Guy"), this allows Ruger to offer their revolvers at a price most shooters can afford, and the greater pains taken by Magnum Research is why their offerings typically cost $300-400 more than the Ruger. Working from the BFR as a starting point is very wise from a practical perspective, and it has the further advantage of setting Ross Custom Arms apart from other custom gun makers.

This particular Magnum Research BFR started life as a six-shot 44 Magnum. As previously stated, the BFR's cylinder is larger in diameter than the Ruger's, which leaves plenty of steel between the chambers and around the cylinder's periphery to allow six shots of the heaviest 45 Colt loads to be fired safely. The additional length of the BFR cylinder over the Ruger also allows the heavier 325-grain to 360-grain specialty factory loadings to be used. Beginning with the cylinder, Ryan line-indexed and rechambered the 44 Magnum cylinder to a tight 45 Colt, with chamber throats sized to an optimal 0.4525". Line-indexing perfectly aligns the chambers with the bore, so that there is no deflection or deformation of the bullet as it travels from the cylinder into the barrel's forcing cone and out the barrel. This deflection / deformation caused by misalignment is a major cause of inaccuracy in revolvers, and Ryan has eliminated this possibility from the equation. The rear of the cylinder is cut for recessed case heads, which not only looks nice but, more importantly, fully supports the case heads when using the heaviest of loads.

The factory barrel is replaced by a 5.5-inch unit, fabricated by Ryan Ross from Douglas XX barrel stock, rifled at a 1:16" twist to allow heavier bullets to stabilize for longer-range accuracy. The muzzle is "stepped" as seen on Elmer Keith's famous #5 sixgun, and the crown is cut in the manner found on custom precision rifles, with zero run-out; the forcing cone is cut with this same zero run-out philosophy, resulting in absolute concentricity with the cylinder for maximum accuracy. Finally, the barrel is set to achieve a barrel / cylinder gap of 0.0015" - PERFECT.

Ryan's action work includes the requisite stoning / polishing to achieve smoothness as would be expected. He utilizes an increased-power hammer spring to assure reliable ignition of the hardest primers, coupled with a reduced-power trigger spring to lighten trigger pull. Speaking of which, the trigger pull was absolutely amazing, very crisply and cleanly letting-off at just 1.5 pounds; even at such a light weight, the trigger still felt very "solid", so much so that I felt the need to verify my pull measurement using a second gauge, and there is nothing unsafe about the trigger feel. Ryan was as surprised as I was about the lightness of the measured pull, as he doesn't own a trigger pull gauge; he learned from John Gallagher to set the trigger to a certain "feel", and Gallagher never worried about what the pull measured, as long as the action itself was light and safe. To aid in this, Ryan cuts an extra notch into the hammer and trigger to allow for more positive engagement, so that a lighter and crisper trigger pull weight can be achieved without sacrificing safety.

Properly timing a sixgun is not just a craft, but an ART, and Ryan excels at it. He corrects any minor timing issues inherent to the base revolver, corrects any end shake, and installs an oversized locking bolt, resulting in a tight and positive action with zero movement allowed.  The oversized locking bolt drops perfectly into its cylinder slot precisely when the hammer reaches its rearward position. This sixgun locks up like the proverbial bank vault, with no discernible movement, either laterally or fore/aft.

Precision fitting of a properly-timed cylinder doesn't account for much without a properly-fitted cylinder base pin, and this is a component overlooked by many shooters. Ryan hand-fits an oversized #5-style base pin, with an oversized set screw. The set screw prevents the base pin from moving forward or flying out under recoil, which can result in anything from a minor inconvenience to a violent death by hoof and horn, depending on the situation. Since the BFR does not include a cross-pin base pin latch, the set screw takes the brunt of these shear forces; Ryan uses an oversized set screw for this purpose, and firmly anchors it into the bottom of the barrel. The #5-style step-tapered head allows the base pin to be firmly grasped, as it takes a bit more force to remove the oversized pin once the set screw is removed. 

The excellent BFR adjustable rear sight is retained, as there is not really a way to improve upon it; this rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, is rugged and reliable, and features a serrated and angled rear blade that extends over the hammer, allowing a greater sight radius and glare-free operation. The front sight is REALLY cool, and again reminiscent of Elmer Keith's famed #5. Ryan fabricates a 17-4 Stainless base that is precisely radiused on the bottom to mate with the barrel; into this base, Ryan attaches his front blade with two pins, instead of the commonly-encountered single pin, for increased stability. The blade itself is blued steel, and stepped to allow multiple aiming points for precise shooting at various ranges, making it effective out to a good 800-1000 yards. Finally, if one wishes to mount an optical sight, the BFR's top strap is drilled and tapped for a scope mount.

As mentioned above, Magnum Research puts a lot of effort into assuring that all metal work is straight and true, but there is a limit to which any manufacturer must adhere in order to keep prices in line. To put the BFR over the top as a "Best-Quality" sixgun, Ryan does quite a bit of remedial metal work; he spends a good deal of time assuring that all lines are straight and true, all radii are precise, and all angles are sharply defined. Ryan draw-files the frame sides flat, and hand-cards (blends) the cylinder (main) frame to the grip frame so that the line between them can barely be seen, and not at all felt. As a final aesthetic touch, Ryan slots the action pins on the port side, so that they give the appearance of traditional screws. Such attention to detail is what gives a custom revolver the look of a Custom Revolver, and sets it apart from any factory-made piece.

The BFR's grip frame is reminiscent of Ruger's Super Blackhawk shape, without the squared Dragoon trigger guard, but is dimensionally unique, with a bit more drop-down and a bit more canted angle. The grips are American Walnut (a.k.a. Eastern Black Walnut), nicely figured, and superbly fit and finished using Tung Oil in the old Winchester style, yielding a very classy and beautiful appearance. The grip profile is a bit thicker than most, but not so thick as to make the grip uncomfortable. The extra bit of grip width will be welcome to the shooter who uses full-power Magnum-level loads, as the recoil force is spread out over a larger area of the palm. As a result, shooting the Ross Custom Arms BFR 45 was a joy, with even the hardest-hitting loads being memorable, but not painful.

Build Sheet - Ross Custom Arms BFR 45 Colt Six-Shot Custom Conversion

Action Job
Timing correction
Trigger and Hammer Modification
Oversized Locking Bolt
Increased Power Hammer Spring
Reduced Power Trigger Spring
End Shake Fix
Oversized Locking Base Pin #5 Style
Tight Chamber 45 Colt
0.4525" Throats
Douglas XX Barrel 5.5", Keith No 5 style muzzle

17-4 Sight Base, Precisely Machined to Barrel Contour, 2-Pin Style for Added Rigidity

Set Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.0015"
Considerable Metal Remediation
Draw-File Frame Sides Flat
Hand Carded (Blended)
Slot Hammer and Trigger Pin

American Walnut aka Eastern Black grips - Handcrafted and fit to gun, Tung oil Finished in the Old Winchester Style

Price (as tested): $2,500.00 on Customer-Supplied Base Gun

As for pricing, custom sixguns are just that - CUSTOM - so final price will be set depending upon the buyer's individual desires. To have Ryan Ross build a custom sixgun like this one, with all the bells and whistles, would cost about $2,500.00, as of this date, on the customer's base BFR. To get a version with all the basic work (tight re-chamber, new barrel, all action work), using a modified BFR sight base with a blade contoured as on this example, but without the extra metal prep and custom grips, would cost about $1,600.00 on the customer's base BFR. If you have done any comparison shopping or buying of custom revolvers, then you know that these prices are quite reasonable. Ryan Ross is doing some fine custom work, on both on the Magnum Research BFR Single-Action and the Ruger Redhawk Double-Action...more on that to come!...and I predict he will be famous, back-logged, and charging higher prices soon.

Certainly, Ross Custom Guns' work is not cheap - but the Best never is. 

Check out Ryan Ross' work at: (Web Site Currently UNDER CONSTRUCTION)


Magnum Research®:


Order Ammo Online at Lucky Gunner:


Fermin C Garza's Customized Shooter's Resources:


Fiocchi® Ammunition:


Double Tap Ammunition:


Buffalo Bore Ammunition: Digital Trigger Pull Gauge:

 Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.









Action pins are slotted on the port side to resemble screws.







6-Shot group @ 50 yards, benchrested.



6-Shot group @ 50 yards, benchrested.