SSK's groundbreaking guns.
In the late 1970s I saw a small ad for a new organization called Handgun Hunters International, or HHI. I sent off the money and application for membership and in 1979 received the first issue of The Sixgunner which was the club's bi-monthly publication in newspaper form. In the 1960s I had written my first articles, however I never got paid, so you might say my writing career lagged severely. I started writing for The Sixgunner and that was one of the best things I ever did. HHI was headed up by our own J.D. Jones who became a great encourager, telling me I should be writing for the major magazines. I started free-lancing and when Handgunner needed a writer in the mid-1980s for a column called Siluetas, J.D. recommended me and l have been here ever since.
J.D., who has become a cherished friend, is also SSK Industries. SSK specializes in custom single-shot barrels, first for the Thompson/Center Contender and then for the Encore when it arrived. If a factory cartridge can be sensibly and safely chambered in the Contender or Encore, SSK can and will do it. J.D. will also refuse to do any conversions which are not safe. In addition to factory chamberings J.D. has also designed a long list of JDJ cartridges. In fact J.D has chambered more than 200 cartridges in the T/C Contender. With the arrival of the Encore, new vistas opened up, as this action can be used for cartridges normally found only in bolt guns or the Ruger #1.
At the present time SSK has over 300 reamers for chambering custom barrels for the Encore. With that many possibilities in the two T/C actions you can bet we will only cover about 1-percent of what is actually available. Many of the chamberings offered by J.D. are wildcat "JDJ" cartridges of his design. I don't believe there is anyone alive who knows more about designing cartridges than J.D. Jones. When he speaks anything about firearms or hunting it is a good idea to listen!
I have several dozen JDJ barrels but I mostly go back to my favorite three. My all-time favorite is the 6.5 JDJ. This cartridge is on a blown-out and necked up a .225 Winchester. With a 14" SSK barrel on my Contender I get just under 2,500 fps using the Speer 120-grain SR and this bullet and load kills all out of proportion to the paper ballistics. I have a lot of animals mounted in my trophy room taken with this handgun, including Mule deer, turkey, whitetail, waterbuck, gemsbok, impala, zebra, mouflon, Catalina goat, Aoudad and exotic sheep such as Corsican, Black Hawaiian and Texas Dall. One of the hardest creatures to hunt with a handgun is the blackbuck, and this 6.5 JDJ has accounted for three of them.
J.D.'s first true wildcat big game cartridge was the .375 JDJ. which is based on a necked-down .444 Marlin. Mine is chambered in a 12" SSK Custom Contender barrel. This cartridge is now available chambered in factory T/C barrels and factory ammunition is also available. I was hunting with my good friend Frank Pulkrabek, in Texas, and we were after Ibex. I got up to a 100 yard shooting position with a good rest on a tree, picked out a big goat, put the crosshairs on him, and squeezed the trigger. I lost them in the scope for an instant as the gun recoiled, and when I looked again he was still standing there with the rest of the Ibex. I scolded myself for missing, got back down into position, and this time squeezed the trigger even more carefully. This time I saw him go down and the rest of the Ibex run away.
I motioned for Frank to bring the jeep up. As we were taking the customary pictures of my Ibex, Frank said "what's that over there?" Not 20 yards away in the tall grass was another Ibex. I hadn't missed at all. He just went down so fast I didn't see it. From that time I've never doubted my ability with any of my JDJ SSK Contenders.
It was my great pleasure to hunt Africa in 1994. I took along three handguns, two of which were my 6.5 JDJ and .375 JDJ. The first morning I opened my pistol case I could tell from the way he was talking to the white hunter the black tracker was quite upset. I asked for a translation of what was said and it came back: "gun no good; barrel too short." It was then I found no one had ever hunted that area with a handgun and he was concerned he would be chasing animals all over South Africa. The owner of the ranch was so curious he went along the first morning and when I nailed an impala at a long distance he just said "I wouldn't believe it was possible."
The tracker who had been so upset was with me the next morning when I got a shot at a wildebeest with a .375 JDJ. At the shot the bull dropped immediately and, as I looked over at the tracker, he was all smiles. He was my friend from then on, but there was a huge problem. If he could see it, he thought I could hit it. I had a hard time convincing him that conditions have to be just right and I needed a solid rest. I don't relate any of this to try to make out that I'm some kind a great shot. l am above average and J.D.'s cartridges and barrels simply make things easier.
The latest JDJ cartridge I've been shooting is one of the newest, the .222 JDJ MAG. This one is on a necked up, blown out .204 Ruger case and is chambered in a 14" SSK Custom Thompson/ Center barrel. I was just starting to get used to this one when winter settled in. Spring will soon be here and I hope to get in some long-distance shooting on our ground squirrels. J.D has shared with me some very impressive long-range results, so I'm really looking forward to varmint season.
Of course, as we said before, we can only cover a few of J.D.'s creations here. A most interesting concept is his "Whisper" line of subsonic cartridges which are not only relatively quiet but quite accurate. For example, his .300 Whisper is based on a .221 Fireball case and this cartridge is now offered by Cor-Bon as a factory chambering. The Whisper cartridges can be loaded sub-sonically for use in suppressed firearms, or loaded-up for hunting.
SSK is mainly known for single-shot barrels for the Contender or Encore as well as complete custom pistols, however they also do just about everything one could want performed on a sixgun. Many years ago I spent a great deal of pleasant shooting time with several SSK custom Ruger Super Redhawks, including those with an interchangeable barrel feature. J.D. called his dual-barreled .44 Magnum Super Redhawk "Beauty and the Beast." One of these barrels was a very slim, diamond-shaped barrel. Going back to his single-shot barrels one has a choice of a typical round barrel, a diamond-shaped barrel, long barrels or short barrels, barrels with integral muzzle brakes, even a Canon-style barrel with a large bell at the end. My .222 JDJ MAG barrel is finished in a snakeskin pattern.
When it comes to scope mounts for heavy recoiling handguns be they sixguns or single-shots, there are three categories. There are poor mounts which are a waste of money, there are good mounts which work up to a point, and then there is the best mount, the T'SOB, which is in a class all by itself. "T" stands for Tough, and you can figure out the rest. This mount was designed by J.D. to stay in place no matter what. If you've ever had a scope come off of a gun and fly over your head--or even lower--you will understand very well the merits of a T'SOB scope mount. I have them on both of my Freedom Arms' .454s, a 7 1/2" and 10" set up for hunting, as well as several hard recoiling Thompson/Centers. The T'SOB is not cheap, but then cheap often turns out to be too expensive. It pays to do it right the first time.
J.D. Jones has a long history of working with firearms, case design, and ballistics. He began working with the T/C Contender shortly after it was introduced in 1967. He founded SSK in 1977 and followed up with HHI in 1979. Even before this he worked with Lee Jurras in developing the SuperVel line of ammunition. He was the recipient of the Outstanding American Handgunner Award bronze trophy, and also later served as chairman of OAHAF. J.D. personally tests his cartridges in the game fields, has hunted all six continents, and probably has had more handgun hunting experience than anyone else, period. Again I say, when he speaks about firearms or handgun hunting it's a good idea to listen.
By the way--SSK comes from the letters of the names of his three kids. And that can tell you more about the man.
For more info: www.sskindustries.com.