A Great Gunsmith For Sixguns.
You and I, and probably even Aunt Millie, know that today it is a fact of life that most sixguns, be they double- or single-action, domestic or foreign, can benefit greatly from an action job performed by a competent 'smith. Therein lies the rub--finding that gunsmith to whom you can trust your prized possession.
The great rise in the sport of cowboy shooting has brought forth many great leathercrafters and gunsmiths, but it has also revealed that anyone with a file, a stone or a sewing needle thinks he can tune sixguns or work beautiful leather.
I have mentioned several sixgun-smiths over the years in these pages and will continue to do so as I "discover" them. My latest find is Tom Sargis of Bozeman Trail Arms. Sargis is a one-man shop specializing in making single-actions sing a fine tune. He is also a grip maker who understands what single-action grips are supposed to feel like.
I first ran into Tom on the 'net, as he maintains a website answering questions from a gunsmith's perspective. About the same time, I found a used Third Generation Colt SAA .44 Special with a 7 1/2" barrel on a link to Tom's site. The gun was for sale at a very reasonable price. It turned out to be offered by a friend of mine in Missouri, so I purchased it without hesitation. Happily, it was also in better shape than advertised.
However, it did have one major problem for me, and that was the fact that the front sight had been filed down and was now placing my 250 gr. .44 Special bullets about 6" high at 25 yards. So, off it went to Sargis to build up the front sight blade. That seemed like too little work to have done when paying the extortion fees now required by UPS for shipping handguns, so we added an action job, one-piece walnut grips and, to complete the project, Kelye Schlepp of Belt Mountain Enterprises sent over one of his new #5 base pins with an Elmer Keith-designed head.
There is something almost sensuous about cocking the hammer on a properly tuned Colt, and Sargis creates that feeling with his action job. The action is smooth, the cylinder locks up tightly with very little play, the trigger pull is light and crisp, the re-cut forcing cone aids accuracy, and the one-piece walnut stocks and #5 Belt Mountain cylinder base pin complete a sixgun package that is near perfect.
I could not let my discovery stop there. So when I found a Second Generation New Frontier-- a .45 with a 4 3/4" barrel-- at Shapel's, off went the barrel and a 5 1/2" .357 Magnum New Frontier to Sargis to make it into one of my favorite sixgun types, a bigbore packin' pistol.
Sargis once again tuned the action, set the trigger pull at 3 1/2 lbs., installed the new barrel, re-cut the forcing cone and re-chambered the original .357 cylinder to .45 Colt. Another #5 base pin from Belt Mountain completed this project. This sixgun also shoots like a dream.
A Special Project
The old saying is that good things come in threes, so, to complete the picture, Sargis was called on to perform a most special function. For a long time now, I have been planning to do a total custom package on a Colt SAA, beginning with a New Frontier as the basic platform. The starting point would be a good-shootin' .44 Special with an action that is both tight and smooth.
Enter Sargis. Anyone who has had much experience with Third Generations and New Frontiers knows that the quality of these beautiful sixguns can be anywhere from excellent to very second-rate. My Third Generation 5 1/2" .44 Special fell somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. It shot well enough, but the action was rough, and the cylinder was quite loose. Actually, it is surprising that it shot so well.
Off it went to Sargis with instructions to tune, smooth and, above all, take as much play as possible out of the cylinder. The result is probably one of the finest Colt New Frontiers in existence!
Tom fitted an oversize bolt that removes all perceptible play, both side-to-side and fore-and-aft, in the .44 cylinder. The beginning of this project turned out so well that it has caused a major problem. I am a great believer in "Don't Fix What Ain't Broke," and this sixgun ain't broke. The beginning of this project may also be the end, as I do not believe I really want to use it as a platform for a custom sixgun since it performs so well.
I think I am going to have to find another New Frontier for the future project. Thanks, Tom, for causing such a pleasant problem.