Back in 1982, Ruger
introduced its brand new .357 Maximum single-action revolver.
Looking much like a standard Ruger
Super Blackhawk, but with a longer frame to accommodate the
longer, fluted cylinder, the Maximum was to the .357 Magnum what
the .357 Magnum was to the .38 Special; that is, a longer
cartridge case to push a .357 inch diameter revolver bullet
faster than could safely be done from the shorter cartridge
cases. The Maximum was an instant hit with Metallic Silhouette
shooters, and proved accurate enough and powerful enough to take
down the targets, and also had a relatively flat trajectory when
compared to shooting bullets of equal weight from a .44 Magnum.
The Ruger Max was a good-looking gun, and Ruger produced
approximately 7700 of them before production came to a
screeching halt in 1984. Seems there was a problem of
flame-cutting of the top strap just above the barrel/cylinder
gap. As far as I can tell, what cutting there was went to a
shallow depth, and then stopped. However, the damage to the
sixgun’s reputation was done, and production was stopped, and
has never been restarted.
The Ruger Maximum does have a loyal
following, and collectors are also scarfing up the guns. Custom
gunsmiths are using the long frames to build five or six shot
handguns in more powerful calibers, but the .357 Maximum is a
pretty good cartridge itself. I have owned a couple of the
Maximums over the years, but sold them, as I found the long
barrels, combined with the slightly longer frame, to just be
more than I wanted to pack around in a holster. Being neither a
silhouette shooter nor a collector, I found the Maximums sitting
in the safe, and never carried afield. Ruger offered the guns
with either a seven and one-half or ten and one-half inch
barrel, and both seemed a little large to me for a packing gun.
I recently acquired another Ruger Maximum.
This one, the seller said had a little holster wear at the
muzzle, but it turned out that the “holster wear” was really
rust, and it extended into the bore about one inch. This seemed
to me like the perfect candidate for barrel shortening. I had
wanted a shorter-barreled Max for some time, and this neglected
sixgun was the perfect incentive to give it a try. A shorter
barrel would sacrifice some muzzle velocity, to be sure, but I
will gladly trade some speed for an easier packing sidearm. I
sent the Maximum off to David Clements
to have the barrel hacked off even with the ejector rod housing.
While there, David recut the barrel throat as well. Losing
roughly half the barrel length, going from ten and one-half down
to five and five-eighths inches, really changed the handling
qualities of the Ruger. It is now much better balanced, and
carries well on the hip.
For packing the Max, I had Mike Barranti
build a rig for it. Starting with a folded oiled chap leather
money belt, which is soft and flexible enough for comfortable
wear, Mike added twelve calf-skin cartridge loops on the right
side, just as I like. The darker leather used for the loops and
billet contrast nicely with the belt, and Mike’s Number Five
holster is the same color as the loops and billet. The Number
Five is Mike’s version of the old Lawrence 120 Keith holster,
which is perfect for carrying a full-sized sixgun in the field.
The whole rig is very easy on the eyes, and comfortable to wear
all day. It carries the big Ruger securely, and the holster
offers good protection to the sixgun as well, while providing
quick access when needed.
To complete the package, I ordered a set of
Super Blackhawk American Elk grips from Eagle
Grips. They do good work with all kinds of grip material,
including exotic woods, Sambar stag,
and ivory, but American Elk
seemed appropriate on this Ruger sixgun, and they fit well and
look perfect to me.
I have a couple of favorite handloads for the
Maximum, but one of my most-used loads uses the Remington 180
grain hollowpoint bullet pushed to over 1600 feet-per-second
(fps) from a ten and one-half inch Maximum. From this shortened
sixgun, I still get well over 1400 fps, which is plenty of speed
for hunting most game that I hunt. For heavier game where more
penetration is needed, Grizzly
Cartridge Company has a 200 grain hard-cast lead bullet load
that hits hard and penetrates deeply.
Chopping off the barrel to a more packable
length, acquiring a dandy holster rig, and dressing the Maximum
up with Eagle grips really changes the dynamics of the Ruger
Max, and takes an excellent target gun and turns it into a
great-handling, accurate, and powerful field gun that can now
ride comfortably on my hip while hunting this Fall. These
changes and additions to a really great sixgun make it even
better, at least for me, maximizing the usefulness of the .357
Now, if I could just get somebody to make my
.357 Maximum Winchester carbine feed properly, I would be
For a closer look at the excellent Barranti
leather products, go to www.barrantileather.com.
To order Elk or other fine grips, go to www.eaglegrips.com.
To order factory loaded premium .357 Maximum
ammunition, go to www.grizzlycartridge.com.
Check out the full line of Ruger products
American Elk grips from Eagle Grips really dress-up
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