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Mag-Na-Port's .44 Magnum hunting sixguns.

* Revolvers have always been the mainstay of handgun hunters, but in recent years their dominance of the sport has been hotly contested by a number of single-shot pistols. However, while there's a lot to be said for the single-shot guns and the hot cartridge for which they're chambered, there remain a number of hunting situations for which the revolver is the best possible choice.

It's for these situations that Magnum Sales Limited, a division of Mag-na-port International, offers a number of custom conversions and limited edition revolvers. Mag-na-port's owner, LArry Kelly, is himself an experienced handgun hunter. He's so dedicated to the sport that he recently opened the Handgun Hunters' Hall of Fame, a museum at Mag-na-port's headquarters devoted to the display of trophies, photos and awards related to handgun hunting. The Hall of Fame will present an annual award for the best handgun trophy of the year, the first such award to be given at the Outstanding American Handgunner Awards banquet in Milwaukee during the 1984 NRA convention. Kelly's handgun hunting experience is world-wide, and his custom and limited edition revolvers have features that reflect this experience.

All of Kelly's conversions, or most of them, are based on Ruger's Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum chambering. There are few stronger or more reliable single actions available, but when Magnum Sales gets through adding their custom features, the Super Blackhawk becomes one of the smoothest, best-looking and most functional single-action revolvers that are available at any price.

I recently had the opportunity to test two of the firm's latest offerings, the 4-5/8-inch barreled Predator and teh scoped Stalker with an 8-3/8-inch barrel. Both revolvers began as stainless steel Super Blackhawks. Then, the exterior is given a Velvet Hone finish--a uniform, matte surface that reduces glare in the field--and the issue stocks are cleaned up and refinished, adding considerably to their appearance.

Let's look first at the Predator. It' s a handy shorty--10-5/8 inches long overall and weighing 45 ounces--that will serve you well as a primary hunting handgun for close-quarters work, as well as a handy backup to pack on your hip when you're hunting with a rifle or just wandering the hills. The barrel has been cut to 4-5/8 inches and the muzzle given an inverted crown, a design that affords excellent protection for the rifling in the critical muzzle area.

Naturally, the barrel is Mag-na-ported. Two trapezoidal cuts are made in the barrel, one on each side of the front sight back .510 inch from the muzzle. Each port is approximately .07 inch wide, the long leg of the trapezoid being .565 inch long, the short leg .420 inch long. The idea behind these ports is to allow some of the gas behind the bullet to escape upward. As it rushes upward through the ports, the gas creates an equal downward force that reduces muzzle jump, yet does not adversely affect velocity. It works, and with a cartridge like the .44 Magnum it does a lot to make the recoil manageable. Porting does not reduce in-line felt recoil--that force exerted straight back into your hand--but since the felt recoil of a handgun is made up of both in-line force and muzzle jump, reduction of muzzle jump produces the sensation that overall felt recoil is reduced.

The hammer, trigger and base pin of the Predator have undergone no dimensional changes, but they have been given a very high polish. In the process, the sharp outer edges of the trigger are broken, making the gun much more comfortable to shoot. If you've done much extended shooting with a factory issue Super Blackhawk and heavy loads, you know that the edge of the trigger works on your finger under recoil and soon becomes bothersome. This is much less noticeable with the Predator's polished trigger.

I'm especially impressed with the open sights on the Predator, particularly the front blade. Of ramp type, the entire blade is made of pale orange Du Pont Acetal, a nylon-like material that's extremely tough and damage resistant. In the field this sight has a considerable advantage over a steel sight with a colored insert because the entire fixture picks up light and appears bright and clean even on dark days. The rear sight itself is the popular Ruger design, adjustable for windage and elevation, but the Ruger blade has been replaced by an Omega white outline blade.

While we're on the subject of these sights, I'll mention that the Omega blades, with either white or gold outline, are an accessory sold by Magnum Sales Limited. Available for Ruger and Colt guns as well as the Interarms Virginian Dragoon, they're easy to install and afford a sharp, clean sight picture. The Acetal blades are also a Magnum Sales accessory. Marketed as C-More sights, they come in a package containing five sights--red, pink, yellow, blue and green.

Now back to the Predator. Internally the revolver has been given a trigger job. For the most part this means installation of an Omega trigger spring and plenty of hone work on the sear and hammer to eliminate creep and produce a smooth 2-pound pull. However, other areas in the action, including parts like the trigger and hammer pins, mainspring strut and hand, also appear to have been smoothed up. The overall effect is an action that locks and releases without any apparent rough spots or catches.

Any time you think of a short barreled .44 Magnum, what comes to mind is almost uncontrollable recoil and fierce muzzle blast and flash. While the blast and flash are more noticeable with the Predator than with a long-barreled gun, it's not particularly objectionable--particularly with a powder like Blue dot. And recoil--well, it presented no problem at all, undoubtedly thanks to the porting of the barrel.

The accuracy of my Predator was excellent. Shooting from a bench, all of my handloads as well as the factory loads I tried shot well. One load in particular, 24 grains of WW 296 powder behind the 240-grain Sierra JHC bullet, shot especially well. Five-shot groups with this load at 25 yards ran close to 1-1/2 inches. To go along with the accuracy of the Predator, I recorded very good velocity. No, it wasn't on a par with 8-3/8-inch barreled Stalker, but as the accompanying table shows, the bone-crushing power of the .44 Magnum cartridge is still there in the 4-5/8-inch barreled Predator.

The Predator is the newest custom conversion from Magnum Sales Limited and it retails for $589.50. However, if you already have a stainless steel Super Blackhawk, and you'd like to have it converted to a Predator, Magnum Sales will do the job for you for $263.40.

Unlike the Predator, the Stalker has been available for some time from Magnum Sales Limited and it's designed specifically as a revolver for big-game hunting. Its list of successes cover the field from the Alaskan bush to the plains of Africa, and covers animals from mountain lion to Alaskan brown bear.

The Stalker is a hunting handgun and you don't need to look twice to know it. To begin with there are no open sights. Atop the Stalker, anchored to the top strap, is a Leupold Silver 2X scope set in the sturdy SSK mount. Three rings hold the scope, eliminating movement and damage under recoil. The aluminum mount base and Bushnell rings are satin nickel finished to match the scope and the Velvet Honed finish on the stainless steel revolver.

The 8-3/8-inch barrel is Mag-Na-Ported and sports the inverted crown. On the bottom of the barrel, back 1 inch from the muzzle, is a sling swivel stud. Another stud has been screwed into the steel on the bottom of the grip frame. The revolver comes complete with a 1-1/4-inch wide nylon web sling which can be used both to carry the revolver and to steady a shooting position. With scope and sling, the Stalker tips the scale at 66 ounces, and the rig is 14-1/2 inches long. The center of the scope is 1.6 inches above the centerline of the bore. The Stalker has the same glass-smooth action as I found on the Predator. The trigger pull weight is 2 pounds and it breaks crisp and clean, reflecting good work on the sear.

The accuracy of the Stalker is excellent. My best load, 24.5 grains of WW 296 powder behind the 240-grain Hornady JCT-SIL bullet, grouped in 1-3/4 inches at 50 yards. 2 had intended to do some 100-yard work with the Stalker, but bad weather set in and I ran out of time. However, I'm certain its accuracy at 100 yards is more than adequate for big-game hunting.

If a single-action revolver intended primarily for hunting is on your list of "must have" equipment, I suggest you give the Stalker plenty of consideration. It's available right now from Magnum Sales Limited adn retails for $750. If you own a 10-1/2-inch barreled stainless steel Super Blackhawk, Magnum Sales will make a Stalker out of it for you for $428.

Some readers may wonder why Larry Kelly has chosen to work with revolvers chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge. The reason is simple. When it comes to hunting, the .44 Magnum is superior to any commercial straight-wall handgun cartridge available today. When you go up against a boar or bear in heavy cover, you want to be sure that the cartridge you're using is capable of putting the animal down with one well-placed shot. The .44 Magnum, with the right bullet, will do it. But despite its power, the .44 Magnum is a 100-yard cartridge when it comes to big game. I said earlier that there are hunting situations where there is no better choice than a .44 Magnum revolver. Well, those situations will involve heavy cover or hunting where your shots will come at 100 yards or under.

I think both the Predator and the Stalker reflect consideration for the .44 Magnum's limitations. The open sights and short barrel of the Predator are for work at close quarters in heavy brush--conditions where quick shots at a moving target demand a compact, fast-swinging revolver. The Stalker, on the other hand, is intended for those conditions where shots may come at any range out to 100 yards, yet the scope, because of its low power and relatively large field of view, can be used satisfactorily at almost any reasonable range.

Besides the Magnum Sales Limited custom conversions I tested, the firm offers two limited editions--the Alaskan Series and the Safari Series. The Alaskan Series contains four stainless steel Super Blackhawk revolvers in varying barrel lengths--the 4-5/8-inch Grizzly, 5-1/2-inch Dall's sheep, 6-1/2-inch Caribou and 7-1/2-inch Moose. The cylinder of each has the profile of the appropriate animal etched into it. Consecutively serial numbered, there will be only 200 of each produced. Naturally, these guns have received the full complement of Magnum Sales' custom work and each comes packed in a fitted walnut presentation case. Five guns, 200 of each, make up the Safari series--the Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino. If you'd like to know more about these limited editions, I'd suggest that you write to Magnum Sales Limited, 41302 Executive Drive, Mt. Clemens, MI 48045. And, do it today! Limited editions sell out fast.

Magnum Sales has another new service available that I feel deserves coverage here. Stainless steel handguns are popular today because they require little maintenance. However, the bright reflective surface isn't always what the doctor ordered in the field. Well, Magnum Sales has come up with a process for giving a stainless gun a matte blue finish. Called Mag-Na-Black, the process is similar to a standard blueing job. Larry Kelly sent me a Ruger Redhawk that has been Mag-Na-Blacked and with it came instructions to put is through its paces. This I did and I'm convinced that the finish is at least as durable as blueing on a 4140 steel gun, possibly more durable. It doesn't scratch easily and even though the revolver has been in and out of my holster a lot lately, there's no indication of wear at the muzzle or on the sides of the cylinder--wear spots that quickly show on a blued gun. The major advantage I see to Mag-Na-Black is that it eliminates the highly reflective characteristics of stainless steel which are often detrimental to the hunter. Then, too, unlike blueing, when Mag-Na-Black does begin to show wear you need not worry about the exposed stainless steel rusting or corroding.

Magnum Sales will give any stainless steel handgun the Mag-Na-Black treatment for just $89.50. Having worked with the test gun, my personal Redhawk is going to Larry immediately. I want that tough matte-black finish on my Redhawk before next hunting season.

As you can see, Magnum Sales Limited is more than just a custom handgun shop. It's a firm dedicated to the production of special handguns and a line of quality accessories--all aimed at bettering the world of the handgun hunter.
COPYRIGHT 1984 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Milek, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Aug 1, 1984
Previous Article:8mm Mauser ... Europe's .30-06.
Next Article:.303 Lee-Enfield Britain's classic battle rifle.

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