THE PERFECT CARTRIDGE IN THE PERFECT SIXGUN—

THE FREEDOM ARMS   MODEL 83

BY JOHN TAFFIN

 

            From 1956 until the late 1970s, only two .44 Magnums were available to sixgunners; the Ruger Super Blackhawk and the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum were the only .44 games in town. Even these were very hard to find in the late 1970s. Then in the early '80s, Dan Wesson started producing their mammoth DA .44, soon followed by Ruger's very strong Redhawk and Super Redhawk. In 1983 a small company in Freedom Wyoming started producing the finest single action sixgun to ever come from a factory, the Freedom Arms .454 Casull. At the time the .454 was most powerful revolver cartridge in existence far outdistancing the .44 Magnum. I started shooting one in 1985 and found it to be everything claimed by Freedom Arms when it came to power, precision, and accuracy. By the time the .454 was firmly established shooters had many single action and double action .44 Magnums to choose from and at that time I discussed in detail the offering of the .44 Magnum with Freedom Arms.

            With all of the available .44 Magnums, why would Freedom Arms also offer a .44 Magnum when they already had the more powerful .454 Casull chambering? There were several reasons. Many shooters are already set up to reload and cast bullets for the .44 Magnum and for some reason unknown to me seemed to hesitate to add more reloading dies, bullet moulds, etc. These same shooters however, were willing to invest in what would be simply the finest .44 Magnum ever offered to the shooting public, a Freedom Arms .44 Magnum.

            At this time frame Long Range Silhouetting under the IHMSA banner was extremely popular. I was using a 10” Freedom Arms .454 loaded with 260 grain Speer bullets and 1600 fps for this game and suggested to Freedom Arms they come out with a .44 Magnum with the same barrel length set up with special silhouette sights. They did and at the Internationals in 1986 I shot my .454 alongside the first Freedom Arms .44 Magnum Silhouette Revolver.

            The .44 Magnum from Freedom Arms is a sixgun, not a six-shooter, but rather a five-shooter just as the .454 Casull and all subsequent chamberings in what came to be known as the Model 83. The .44 Magnum is made with the same exacting care that is used with the .454 including line-boring the cylinder, that is reaming the cylinder chambers after the cylinder has been fitted to the frame and locked up under the same torque that is present when the revolver is fired. This results in as-near-as-possible perfect barrel/cylinder/frame alignment. The .44 Magnum is made of the same material, strength, and quality as the .454. An added bonus to .44 Magnum shooters is the fact that .44 Magnum loads in the .44 Freedom Arms revolver seem much lighter in recoil than they do in conventional single action revolvers; the reason being the specially designed grip of the Casull line of revolvers, which minimize felt recoil as much as possible.

With full house .44 Magnum loads, the FA .44 Model 83 is much more pleasant to shoot than the full house .454s and this is also a drawing card for many shooters who simply do not need the power that is possible with the .454 Casull. The .44 Magnum Model 83 being as strong as the .454, probably stronger since the walls of the cylinder are thicker, is handicapped only by the capacity of the .44 Magnum brass itself. Handloaders will run out of case long before they even begin to approach the pressures that this .44 Magnum is engineered to function with.

            Once that first .44 Magnum Silhouette Prototype was built and proven successful, and the ill-advised and ill-conceived price ceiling rule was dropped by IHMSA, the .44 Magnum Freedom Arms revolver began to be offered to competition shooters as a first class silhouette revolver. The Freedom Arms Premier Grade .44 Magnum is available with either adjustable sights or fixed sights in barrel lengths of 4 3/4", 6", 7 1/2", and 10" along with custom options, such as custom grips, tuned action, and scope mounts

            As I look back at my hunting over the past 20 years I find I have used the .44 Magnum more than any other cartridge and the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum more than all other sixguns combined. It has been used to take cougar, javelina, turkey, Ibex, and at more than a dozen whitetail bucks. For game under 200 pounds I prefer the Black Hills 240 grain JHP load as it is superbly accurate in my 7 1/2" .44 Magnum and drops everything immediately with lung shots. Almost. I do not take “Texas heart shots” and normally don't take anything but standing broadside shots with the .44 Magnum using hollow points.

            This combination of sixgun and load accounted for 23 straight one-shot kills on Texas whitetails over the years; 22 dropped on the spot and one tough buck took off running. He made about 30 yards running lower with every step, hit a brush pile, did a somersault and came down dead. Then there was buck #24. I was hunting on the Penn Baggett Ranch outside Ozona Texas very late in the afternoon. It was cold but the setting sun was shining into the blind and I was about half asleep when I saw two sets of antlers coming through the brush.  It was obvious one was a very small buck, however the other was certainly worth taking. They were about 40 yards from me when they stopped. I braced my arms on the window of the blind, place the crosshairs of the Leupold 2x scope in the right place, and slowly squeezed the trigger.

            At the shot the buck took off running showing absolutely no signs of being hit. I got out of the blind and looked around but could not find any blood. I tried to convince myself I had missed but did not believe I could have. It would soon be time for Penn to be picking me up and when he arrived it was dark, however it was cold enough the buck was not going to spoil overnight if he actually was down. I asked to be put in the same stand the next morning knowing if the smaller buck showed up again alone, his buddy was lying out there somewhere. Sure enough he showed up alone. We turned the little dog loose to try to find the buck and it took him all of about 10 minutes. This buck, shot with the same load and the same bullet placement and the same gun and the same shooter, did not at all react the same as the other 23 whitetails. He went about 100 yards to my right, turned around and came back behind the stand and then traveled another 100 yards or so to my left and then went down. He simply did not know what he was supposed to do when that bullet hit him. Just about the time we have everything figured out, something like this happens. It serves to keep life interesting.

            I was also packing a Freedom Arms .44 Magnum on my cougar hunt. This time I had the 6” version with iron sights carried in a shoulder holster and loaded with the same Black Hills JHP load. A rancher friend about 40 miles north called me and told me to be ready and he would call me whenever he saw fresh cougar tracks on their ranch. About two weeks later he called to say I needed to be up there early the next morning. It was a dark, cold, snowy day and it looked like nothing was going to happen and suddenly the two little terriers treed a cougar way up, and I do mean way up the mountain. It took several hours for me to get up there with the two young fellows I was with continually encouraging me with “Just lay back in the snow and rest; he’s not going anywhere until we get there.” I took many rest stops and was also very happy I was only wearing a down vest and packing that easy carrying .44 in a shoulder holster.

            I finally made it to the top and found “my” cougar in the top of the pine tree, lying on a branch about the same color as that beautiful hide. By now it is late afternoon, very little light, and I’m shooting iron sights. I lined up the sights with the front sight right behind the cougar’s front leg, breathed a “Lord, it is only you, me, and this cat” and pulled the trigger. That cat started to lose its grip, slowly tumbled off the limb, hit a couple more on the way down, and landed dead at our feet. It doesn’t take many experiences like this to hold a sixgun and load in very highest esteem. 

            One or the other of these two .44 Magnum Freedom Arms sixguns has been used to take wild hogs and turkeys as well as whitetails and cougar. The .44 Magnum has definitely proved to be the perfect cartridge in this perfect sixgun. Most of my hunting has been with Black Hills 240 grain JHP, but for big tough animals, the answer is a hard cast bullet or a jacketed bullet such as Speer's 270 grain flat-nosed. Randy Garrett of Garrett Cartridges offers loads with both a 310 and 330 grain Hammerhead style bullet at over 1300 fps for really big game that requires a bullet that will penetrate through both muscle and bone. Cor-Bon also offers serious hunting loads in the .44 Magnum for big tough game, notably a 260 grain bonded core at 1450 fps; a 285 bonded core, 1400 fps; a 305 Penetrator; 1300 fps; and a 320 grain hard cast, 1270 fps. Buffalo Bore also now has Heavy Duty .44 Magnum loads using the 305 LBT, 1325 fps; 300 JFN, 1325 fps; and a 270 grain JFN at 1450 fps. Again, check the cylinder of the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum to make sure each load will chamber.

            The .44 Magnum from Freedom Arms is also a natural for the reloader allowing parameters that were never before possible with the .44 Magnum; this revolver will easily digest loads using 300 grain bullets at 1600 fps which is the limit of the case capacity of .44 Magnum brass. At the same time, the Freedom Arms .44 will also give excellent accuracy with silhouette loadings of 220-250 grain bullets at moderate velocities favored by silhouette shooters. This is the strongest single action .44 Magnum ever made and will be hampered only by the brass as case capacity will run out long before the .44 Freedom Arms ever reaches the pressures that it is capable of handling.

            Freedom Arms .44 Magnums are tightly chambered and cast bullets must be of minimum size to chamber in the cylinders. Cast bullets of .431" or .430" may be found to be too large and it may be necessary to go to bullets of .429", which is exactly what the .44 Magnums of the 1950s were designed for. Tolerances have gotten larger in the ensuing decades; the Freedom Arms .44 returns us to the beginning.

            At one time Freedom Arms offered jacketed bullets for use in the Freedom Arms .44 as well as other .44 Magnum revolvers, single-shots, and carbines and also in the .444 Marlin. All of these bullets were made with a .032" copper jacket and a hard alloy core to allow them to be driven to high velocities and to give maximum penetration on big game. Bullets available were a 240 grain JHP and 260 and 300 grain JSPs. All of these .44 bullets were provided with two cannelures so the reloader could load according to the case capacity desired and/or the length of the cylinder or action of the gun they were being used in. Any supplier of custom jacketed bullets can provide bullets to these specifications, and bullets working well in other .44 Magnums will also give excellent results in the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum. Loads are included in the accompanying tables with 250-260 grain Keith style bullets; heavyweight cast bullets in the 290-340 grain range; and jacketed bullets through the 300 grain Freedom Arms jacketed soft point.

            The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum gives the reloader tremendous versatility; namely 180 grain hollow points for varmints and smaller big game, cast or jacketed bullets in the 240-260 grain range for deer and black bear, 220-250 grain jacketed bullets for silhouetting, and full-house loads with 300 grain bullets for the really big game. The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum will handle them all.

            The accompanying loads are for the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum only and are not necessarily recommended for any other .44 Magnum. Many of these top loads are well above the industry standard for .44 Magnums. The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum will handle them; other .44 Magnums may not. All loads for the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum should be assembled with full-length resized brass and a tight bullet crimp; and because of the exacting tolerances of Freedom Arms .44 Magnum revolvers, all loads should be checked for fit in the cylinder before large quantities are assembled. Muzzle velocities were obtained using the Oehler Model 33 and a PACT PC. Federal Brass and Federal #155 primers were used with all loads being fired in a Freedom Arms .44 Magnum with a 10” barrel.

 

Cast Bullet Loads For The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum Model 83.

 

Bullet                            Load                                        MV

Lyman #429244GC     21.0 gr. #2400                         1586 fps

                                    22.0 gr. #2400                         1650 fps

                                    23.0 gr. #2400                         1750 fps

                                    24.0 gr. WW296                      1536 fps

                                    25.0 gr. WW296                      1630 fps

                                    26.0 gr. WW296                      1654 fps

                                    27.0 gr. WW296                      1708 fps

                                    28.0 gr. WW296                      1784 fps

                                    24.0 gr. H4227                        1509 fps

                                    25.0 gr. H4227                        1580 fps

NEI #295.429KT        19.0 gr. #2400                         1420 fps

                                    20.0 gr. #2400                         1504 fps

                                    21.0 gr. #2400                         1564 fps

                                    22.0 gr. #2400                         1599 fps

                                    21.5 gr. WW296                      1427 fps

                                    22.5 gr. WW296                      1483 fps

                                    23.5 gr. WW296                      1551 fps

                                    24.5 gr. WW296                      1580 fps

SSK #320.429             19.0 gr. #2400                         1458 fps

                                    20.0 gr. #2400                         1542 fps

                                    21.5 gr. WW296                      1476 fps

                                    22.5 gr. WW296                      1519 fps

SSK #340.429GC       18.5 gr. #2400                         1285 fps

                                    19.5 gr. #2400                         1366 fps          

The Lyman #431244 weighs approximately 255 grains; the NEI 295.429KT, 290 grains; the SSK #320.429, 310 grains; and the SSK #340.429GC, 340 grains. 

Jacketed Bullet Loads For The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum Model 83

Bullet                                                    Load                                        MV

Freedom Arms 240 JHP                       23.0 gr. #2400                         1507 fps

                                                            28.0 gr. WW296                      1665 fps                                                                                   28.0 gr. H110                          1659 fps

Freedom Arms 260 JSP                       23.0 gr. #2400                         1639 fps

                                                            28.0 gr. WW296                      1671 fps                                                                                   28.0 gr. H110                          1683 fps                      

Freedom Arms 300 JSP                       25.0 gr. WW296                      1533 fps                                                                                   25.0 gr. H110                          1515 fps

 

34-1) The whitetail buck is the #1 trophy animal for most hunters; this 11-point

Texas whitetail was taken with the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum.

 

 

 

34-2) The Freedom Arms performs exceptionally well with the 300 grain Speer at 1300 fps.

 

 

 

34-3) The Freedom Arms Model 83 was first available in .454 Casull; the

chambering of .44 Magnum was a natural decision.

 

 

 

34-4) The 6” Freedom Arms .44 Magnum carries comfortably in an

Idaho Leather #44 shoulder holster.

 

 

 

34-5) The .44 Magnum three great ways Freedom Arms-style: a 6” Perfect Packin’ Pistol,

a 10” set up with long-range sights, and a 7 1/2” with 2X Leupold LER scope for hunting.

Center sixgun has custom stocks by BluMagnum; the other two sets are by Charles Able.

 

 

 

34-6) The Freedom Arms .44 Magnum 7 1/2” Model 83 with 2X Leupold LER

is the author's favorite whitetail hunting handgun.

 

 

 

34-7) It may not be a shooting bench but this Idaho rock works just as well

when shooting the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum

 

 

 

34-8) The El Paso Saddlery crossdraw #1920 works well for carrying favorite

.44 Magnum single actions such as the 7 1/2” Ruger Flat-Top and

6” Freedom Arms Model 83

 

 

34-9) Taffin with one of two dozen whitetails taken with one-shot using the

Freedom Arms .44 Magnum and Black Hills 240 JHPs.

 

 

 

34-10) One of the author's greatest trophies, and hardest hunts, an Idaho mountain lion

taken with the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum. 

 

 

 

34-11) Belt Mountain offers their 300 grain .44 Magnum Punch Bullet for

maximum penetration. It fits the Freedom Arms cylinder whether the bottom

or top crimp groove is utilized.

 

 

 

34-12 As all Model 83 Freedom Arms sixguns, the .44 Magnum has a five-shot cylinder.

 

 

 

34-13) Taffin finds this altered front sight is much easier for his eyes to pick up.

 

 

 

34-14) The massive cylinder of the Freedom Arms handles .44 Magnum loads with ease.

 

 

 

34-15) Whether carrying the Freedom Arms .44 Magnum Model 83 or the smaller

.44 Special Model 97, Taffin prefers to load four rounds with the hammer down

on an empty chamber.

 

Chapter 33     Chapter 35