Old Model Blackhawk .357 story

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plaster

Bearcat
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Oct 17, 2015
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So I have a story about an old model Ruger Blackhawk .357 that I am hoping someone here has heard before or knows more about it.
The story goes that back around 1958 one of the gunsmiths decided he wanted to make some blackhawks in stainless steel. The story goes that he put enough material in to make 2 stainless steel old model blackhawks. In order to get them out, it is said that the paperwork was changed to show these 2 pistols were blued finish and thus there is no real documentation about these two pistols.

Has anyone heard about anything like this? The .357 in question has a SN in the 12XXX range.

This is the story I was told to me by my father, who has since passed and I inherited this pistol. Looking all over the internet I have found no mention of this story anywhere. I do know that the man who supposedly owned the other one that was made stainless steel, and lived in California, offered my father $20,000 in the early 90's(I think, may have been late 80's) for this pistol.
My father bought and sold many guns in his lifetime, he was a dealer(with his ffl) most of my childhood. This is one of only about 5 pistols and rifles that my father never sold, and claimed he would never sell. the other 4 were pistols and rifles that were his fathers.

Has anyone heard anything like this before?
 

toroflow

Single-Sixer
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Jun 16, 2003
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411
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NW AZ
I've never heard the story of any stainless Rugers that old, then again, I do not know it all. But the gun in that picture sure resemble hard chrome to me, a finish I happen to like.
 

plaster

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Messages
5
I wish I knew more myself about this. I will likely never sell it either. Regardless of if it is really stainless or not. I am just hoping that if the story is true, which my father believed, that I can find someone else who has heard of something like this to help me corroborate the story.
I know they never officially made old model blackhawks in stainless. It also isn't hard for me to believe that someone at ruger decided to make a stainless steel one just because they could.

And to top it off I can't seem to find anybody that can tell me how to tell the difference between something that is stainless steel and something that is chrome plated. Without ruining the pistol. Everyone says check with Ruger, but as I said above, documents were (supposedly)mislabeled intentionally.
Any ideas on determining for certain, without actually harming the blackhawk?
 

Hondo44

Hawkeye
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Welcome to the forum.

I need help here. You wrote:

"The story goes that back around 1958 one of the gunsmiths decided he wanted to make some blackhawks in stainless steel. The story goes that he put enough material in to make 2 stainless steel old model blackhawks..."

Which gunsmith; a Ruger employee?
Whay does this mean, "...he put enough material in to make 2 stainless..."? In a mould? Barrels and cyls are turned from bar stock.

Sure, easy to tell. Remove the grip frame which I can tell by the miss-matched color is alum alloy (confirm with magnet). I don't know why anyone would make a stainless gun but not the grip frame.

With the GF off, you'll have plenty of surface area that doesn't show when the grip frame is assembled. In that area file or use a Dremel to get thru the finish no more than .003". Rub the spot with cold blue. If it gets dark, it's carbon steel, not stainless.

I never say never on guns. Employees have done stranger things than that. But there's nothing in the Ruger books about stainless flat tops, and there are references to employee 'one-offs'.
 

plaster

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Messages
5
When I say "put in enough material" I am being vague because I don't know everything about how they are made.

When I say gunsmith yes, I think, I mean an employee at Ruger. Again I don't know too many details and the one person I know I could ask is no longer with us.
I have always noticed that the grip frame seemed different. (edit: I just looked up ruger grip frames and it seems that in 1958 they primarily used aluminum alloy for the grip frames and they could be black anodized normally.)

It would be nice to have this mystery solved.
I have also read most of the Ruger books and they don't mention anything about there ever being a stainless OMBH. The story, to me, seems just strange enough to possibly be true.
Thanks for your input, and for welcoming me to this site.
I love Rugers, and always have. Either way this turns out, I think it is a beautiful gun and will always treasure it.
 

Hondo44

Hawkeye
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Well now you know how to test it. Please let us know what you find out!

The Reference of Ruger Firearms Lists all known Ruger variations including employee "specials" and no mention of any stainless guns; especially 15 years before any stainless guns were made at Ruger.

It's not impossible that an employee melted and poured stainless into two old model FT moulds, back then. But a lot of trouble and interruption to Ruger's investment casting process. Smith first made stainless frames in 1965. But they're forged.
 

plaster

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Messages
5
I will let you know as soon as I am able to test it. Either way it goes.
Might take me a day or two before I am able to get to it though.
 

chet15

Hawkeye
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Jan 22, 2001
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Dawson, Iowa
You can always try the magnet test in addition to the cold blue test.
Magnets don't stick as well as they do to chrome-moly steel.
It would be very surprising if Ruger worked on a stainless gun as early as 1958, at a time when Ruger was trying to make all the guns they could (standard production guns!) with so many backorders on hand, and in Ruger's small manufacturing quarters. Ruger's R&D at the time was primarily spent on getting the Bearcat to market and developing the Super Blackhawk and .22 Mag. Single-Six.
When Ruger first introduced their earliest models they always made quotes like "chrome plated guns will be offered in the future" or "color case hardening will be available in the future" etc., but this never happened because Ruger had more than enough "standard" guns to build at the time. In 1959 the an expansion to their lineup was the addition of other barrel lengths in the Single-Sixes and Blackhawks, but again this was based on Ruger's standard products.
Heard a story quite a while back that the primary individual responsible for getting WBR to introduce stainless steel firearms to his lineup was Mary Ruger, Bill's wife...but this was in the early 1970's.
Don't forget...stainless is also harder to machine...something Ruger really didn't improve with their processes until the early 1980's with manufacture of the Red Label shotgun (and one of the reasons Ruger went to stainless receivers nearly exclusively on these).
Making a couple stainless revolvers in the Red Barn complex of buildings would not have been beyond Ruger's capabilities of the time, but would not seem to be on a high list of priorities for them.
Chet15
 

71shooter

Single-Sixer
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Your picture is not great, but the lettering and eagle stamp look clear and crisp. If it's brushed Chrome, they did a darn good job of it!
 
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Back in the mid 70s we had a gun shop in Cleveland,Oh and did many guns for customers, both civilian as well as law enforcement and the finish was done by Ron Mahovsky over in Reno ,Pa, called it "metalife SS" an improvement over the original armaloy , out of texas, who we first had do some guns, but Rons finish was far superior, looked like stainless and as Hondo, tells you above that is what we would do to check out if its carbon steel under the finish, stainless will NOT 'cold blue", and a magnet WILL stick to stainless gun alloy,not a fair ,good or proper test.............yes, the stainless guns back then were forged, ,and Ruger did not 'cast" stainless till the early 70's.....so the old "my gun was stainless steel" has been thrashed around for many years, same goes for the early Colts and many S&Ws, until they finally actually did make them in stainless, back then most of the makers hated working on that material, hell on tooling 8) :roll: :wink:
 

street

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I was told that to work Stainless Steel that one needed special tools for Stainless Steel and that the machines needed to run at a different speed then the speed that was needed for the blue steel guns. If that is the case I don't see that it would have been possible for an employee to stop production on the standard guns and run 2 guns in Stainless and then change the machines back for the blue guns.

Now I'm not a machinist and I don't know if what I was told above is true or just BS. But if it is true then I don't see that it is possible to make the 2 Stainless guns. After all the frames would have to be milled from solid Stainless Steel because the frames for the blue guns were cast in another factory and shipped into the Ruger Factory, so how would this employee get this done and then get it shipped to him. And if he milled it from a solid piece of Stainless that would take a lot of operations and his boss would not let him get away from regular production long enough to do this. Then where would he get the barrel as Ruger was not using Stainless at that time.

I think your Father was told a nice sounding story that everyone would want to be true, but I doubt if it is. Another thing to consider. Even if it is true but if you cannot get a letter from Ruger, then it just as well not be true, without that letter.
 

tylosaurus

Bearcat
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Jun 18, 2015
Messages
14
Hondo44's test will work, unless the grip frame is aluminum. That's my guess, since it looks different. A magnet will tell you that.

If the grip frame is aluminum, you will have to remove the grip and test a part of the frame that gets covered by the grip frame.
 
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from the picture above it is obvious that grip frame is indeed "bare" (non anodized) aluminum........
and no, the magnet test for that is out............though a strong magnet can and will draw THROUGH to any carbon steel parts, the areas where the grip frame screws attach is fairly thin..........
and yes , any GOOD machinist,with enough tooling, and time can replicate a gun frame from a piece of solid stock ( billet) then how does one get the proper roll marks serial number, etc after that...big difference from a "roll mark" and a cut ( panto graph) replication machine or even hand cut, "engraved"......nah, I doubt it the time frame (era) of firearms casting of steel alloy ( 4140 chrome moly in this case) and the company doing work in "stainless" is too early......maybe today in this day and age, but not in the late 50's...they were still getting over the difference of "steel and aluminum", and "plastic and hard rubber" 8) :roll: :wink:
 

ADP3

Single-Sixer
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Dec 23, 2001
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481
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SC
Another thing to keep in mind is that S&W didn't even introduce their first stainless handgun , the Model 60, until 1965. It was a machinist nightmare during its early years due to tooling wear and the stainless alloys of the time.

Best Regards,
ADP3
 

jehu

Bearcat
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Apr 30, 2015
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3
I'd try to find the guy who wanted to buy it for $20,000 and let her go!!! :roll:
 

woodperson

Single-Sixer
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Sep 27, 2004
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Knoxville, TN
Logic would be that it would still have an Al grip frame even if the the gun were machined out of stainless since the grip frames are probably cast and there would not have been any stainless grip frames around. My guess is it is carbon steel with a finish.
 

DGW1949

Hunter
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woodperson said:
Logic would be that it would still have an Al grip frame even if the the gun were machined out of stainless since the grip frames are probably cast and there would not have been any stainless grip frames around. My guess is it is carbon steel with a finish.

I'd bet a pay check that you are right.

DGW
 
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I seriously doubt that Ruger had the tooling available to manufacture any stainless steel frames, let alone barrels, in 1958 and I would bet IF they did, WBR would have had to approve ....

Sorry to doubt the story of the OP's father....
 

Hondo44

Hawkeye
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woodperson said:
Logic would be that it would still have an Al grip frame even if the the gun were machined out of stainless since the grip frames are probably cast and there would not have been any stainless grip frames around. My guess is it is carbon steel with a finish.

As I posted above, I agree with you, but not for that reason. Because if a main frame was cast in stainless steel, it would be even easier to pour a grip frame in stainless. And all the other parts, hammer, trigger, etc., would have to be cast in stainless as well. And the most difficult: chunks of stainless bar stock would be needed to turn a barrel and cylinder from. Ruger only buys barrel and cylinder bar stock in 12 foot lengths.
 
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