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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
NM Blackhawk 357 is inbound at a super price. It looks to be in fine shape so using basic proceedures outlined in prior builds and a few factory parts I aim to solve a series of issues that have come to confound a family members ability to defend herself.
Challenges include
1 small but recoil efficient grip for at least 38 Special +P
2 arthritus in small hands that requires 3 fingers to pull the current smoothed and reduced DA revolver trigger.
3 easy small hand actuation of the hammer
4 hivis front sight
Naturally the NM Blackhawk allows 6 carry, no slipped hammer when loading/unloading,safety of a trigger activated xfer bar and good heft (but not too much) for stable shooting
The Arthritis Project should be a very simple build. It will mostly be parts replacement and fitting. Selecting those that seem to work best with small and less dexterous and less strong hands.
Here it is....tracking across the Mountains into NC now. Should be here if a few days.

It will also need a rear sight, some parts are missing.

Not sure if it will need a reblue. Its going to be a night stand gun to lay in on long term duty.

And, its too long. But it'll probably stay long enough for full ejection stroke, arthritis can also mean a loss of dexterity, 38s drop well out of these old blackhawks. But the first priority is safe and easy cocking and a single action trigger.
 

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You've put some good thought into what you need. Should be a fun project. The Blackhawk has enough heft to reduce felt recoil, and the single action hammer is a lot easier to activate than pulling a double action trigger. You can also hold down the trigger and just cock and release the hammer if you're in a hurry.

Pachymawr or Hogue rubber stocks might give you the grip size you need. Be worth a try. Consider something stickier than polished wood stocks if your grip strength is reduced.

If you can't handle full loads, from the recoil, cowboy loads will give you softer recoil and the bullets are soft lead, so there will be expansion. Another thought is your own reloaded hollow point ammo, or with bevel base wad cutters loaded backwards. I wouldn't carry my own reloads, but we're talking last line of defense in your bedroom here.

All the best...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Doing some planning. Will someone with a NM Blackhawk equipped with the FACTORY RUGER BIRDSHEAD GRIP, please take the following measurements. (I intend to compare them with various other options before deciding on a grip frame).
1. Distance from the center of the trigger to the forward facing face of the trigger guard loop (in a straight line from center of trigger and proceeding to the rear)
2. Distance from the center of the trigger to the backward facing face of the backstrap loop (in a straight line from center of trigger and proceeding to the rear)
-- Note: Essentially, 1 and 2 help me to calculate a length of pull and to determine center of various grips along a line straight back from the center of the trigger.
3. If possible, a length in inches from the bottom of the grip in a straight line up to the top plate of the grip....i.e. the height of the grip including the metal plate just behind the hammer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Received the following measurements of various factory grip frames with wood and Hogue style open back rubber grips. It looks like the LOP issue is moot. All are about the same. Its also seeming, due to her love of the large rubber grip on the Taurus 66 at home, that an open backed Hogue on the factory plowshare grip might well be the control and retention ticket for weak hands. As for her, she's spending some time with the 66 and 605 comparing feel and retention and making notes. On arrival later this month she'll try out a series of plowshare and the lightning grip and we'll pick a final direction for the handle end. Needless to say, she's excited about being able to easily actuate the hammer and trigger and do some accurate steel slaying!
Standard trigger used in all grip frames, no bisley's in this case.
Grip Frame-----Front Strap & Rear strap from middle trigger parallel to bore
Birdshead--------------1.44" & 3.1"
XR3----------------------1.33" & 2.9"
XR3-RED---------------1.41" & 3.1"
Dragoon Hogue-------1.49" & 3.1"
Dragoon Wood--------1.53" & 3.1"
 

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You might want to consider installing a Super Blackhawk hammer with the lowered spur for easier cocking. I put one on my 45 Blackhawk conv. before I ever fired it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That or a Bisley. I'll most likely choose a stainless bisley hammer. It has the advantages of the Redhawks wider spur and the Bisley has the lowest spur of the available hammers. Plus you can actually buy it. The Redhawks are like hens teeth for the most part. The Bisley does need a bit of gunsmithing on it or the grip frame and that scares many folks off so I understand the allure of the Redhawk hammer with it usually being a drop in fit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Arrived today. Tight and clean. Perfect bore and cylinders. Light wear on the bluing and moderate wear on the wood.
Some interesting things about this old gun. By the SN it should be a three screw....but its not. So, probably a 73 or early 74 model but the SN does not show in the range published by Ruger for the NM Blackhawks. I know its early because its an NXR3-RED grip frame, and the grip frame is in good shape with very few marks.
So.....to the photos and the first temporary repair.
Overall good. Light wear on the bluing and thankfully, old enough not to have an entire manual roll marked on the barrel.

Rear sight screw is missing, so is the rear blade. Scuffs and scars on the wood. (This one will require the low rear blade and a .530 high front sight when the barrel is shortened to 4 5/8")

The EHR is in fine shape cosmetically. Probably won't need to work on it at all, I hope.

A turn line on the cylinder but no pitting on the metal of this one....finally!!!!

Naturally, Johnnie Dorkwad just had to scratch a number on the gun......so.....it'll get reblued I'm sure.

And to the first temporary repair. When this one was made, the recoil cross pin hole was drilled to retain the firing pin bushing. Too bad but the hole does not intrude into the bushing space so, pin was driven in and entirely missed the bushing....only friction holding in the bushing, firing pin and spring all these years. Dry firing drove the bushing forward. So, in order to get the gun to the range, I drove it out.....rolled the bushing between two coarse files to lightly knurl its circumference. After cleaning the bushing hole in the recoil shield the bushing was once again a light drive fit into the frame. For the nonce, several light stakes help hold the bushing back in its hole. These stakes were lightly polished smooth to allow passage of the cartridges. This will get us to the range for test firing. If there is any slightest indication that the bushing will come loose, I'll drive it back out to enlarge the recoil shield pin hole and drive in a new and larger pin that actually bites the bushing and holds it firmly in place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ordered the following for the initial setup and trials.

Stainless Bisley Hammer.

New recoil plate to house the firing pin and spring.

Hogue open back rubber grip. Not the prettiest but gives a larger and softer grip for weaker hands without increasing the length of pull.

Williams fire sight .530 high...

Rear sight with the low blade.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Good work tonight. Settled on 4 5/8+ a touch inches for barrel length. Keeps some of the blast outta the face and not too heavy up front for weaker hands.
First cut is the hardest. Looks aweful but it cleans up nicely and will be as accurate as the shooter and gun can be. I use the dovetail sight jig to keep it straighter, less clean up later.

File work to clean up the hacksaws roughness.

Piloted 3/4" facing cutter. Squares the face to the bore. A properly fitted bore pilot all but eliminates chatter....the final passes are light and leave it almost babybutt smooth.


11 degree target crown cutter. Also on a properly fitted pilot. First turns are press in hard to cut away the rifling (those initial sharp edges will grab and chatter) and then progressively lighter to the finish for an almost baby butt smooth recessed crown.

The barrel, Shortened, Faced and Crowned....3/4 of the way finished.

A barrel beveler, to bevel the outside circumference of the barrel....no sharp edges there and no need to create a wavy line by trying to hand file the bevel.

Mounted in a drill, run SLOWLEY and rock it around like yer tryin to drill an egg shaped hole.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nifty neat-o a beveled edge, no lathe, nice and even and little or no final polishing work needed. At this point, if the gun were in good cosmetic shape, ya could blue the end of the barrel, install a front sight and go hunting.

Front sight dovetail is tomorrow or Sat but for now, back together and looking much nicer. The Hogue open back grip may look good with a shorter barrel, sorta making the gun look like its leaning forward into the target. We'll see....I won't be sold on rubber Blackhawk grips till the new handler says its the ticket for her weakened hands.


Ya know what that nice low mounted rear sight pin hole means don't ya? Could mean Flat Top!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Why hand tools? The $ investment is smaller. The skill investment is no larger just different. The time spent on a good job can often be the same or less than the set up and truing of a lathe, mill, table or cross slide. You can often readjust and correct mid pass....difficult with power tooling.
Many say they don't have the time to do home gunsmithing. Most every job ya see done in these threads are 30 minute to two hour engagements spread over weeks. Not bad. I can find the time.
So, the front sight dovetail. With photos, 30 minutes start to finish. Maybe 15 minutes adjustment to snug fit the actual sight when it arrives....as the dovetail is cut small to allow final and true fitting later.
Install the jig and level it to the topstrap or some other part of the frame. I use the top strap, its the sighting plane ya see and usually plenty close to the same level as the bottom of the cylinder window.


Initial hacksaw cuts establish the front and rear undercuts. (357 mag Blackhawk barrels are plenty meaty enough for a very safe install of a dovetail sight. No worries, lotsa roof left over the bore)

Hacksaw plows out the bulk...hardened jig prevents going too deep and keeps the dovetail depth nicely the same from side to side.

Big mean file plows out whats left and bottoms the barrel dovetail at the jig bottom....file sings instead of cuts, yer at the bottom.

An triangular file cleans up the last of the undercuts. A safe edge triangle file also gets under the undercut all the way into the corner eliminating the flat spot left by the 3 sided file....essentially, making the dovetail as big as the jig and saving on some free hand fitting of the slot later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The tools for the job. Jig, allen wrench, level vials, hacksaw, big file, triangular file, safe sided triangular file. Confidence.

The Try Sight. An old worn, butsted and loose fitted sight in the undersize dovetail....shimmed with a touch of electrical tape so it'll stay in while I sight the gun. For trying the sight...Try Sight.

Quick tour with the Try Sight. Lots of options out front. If the inbound sight is too ugly, perhaps it'll get an XS Big Dot Marlin front sight instead. Big dot oughta be good for older eyes too.


Operational View....Nice and straight up and down. No problem. Easy job. No mill, no power, no mistakes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Parts arrived. The open back Hogue grip is nice. Not too fat and tackey enough to feel secure with even a light grip. They fit pretty well too....not the easiest to install though. Still a long reach to that high Ruger hammer but its very easy to thumb it back and even easier to let go of the trigger and palm the hammer back with the off hand. I believe these will do fine and no choking down on a smaller slicker grip, should be about right for controllability with some arthritis in the hands and fingers. GoodWife even says she likes the grips...then snugged in the gun close to the right side for retention and palmed the hammer back with ease for the short shot.....incidently, we dry fired it about another 50 times and the refitted and staked recoil shield is holding in place just fine. But, a new recoil shield arrived and we'll see if we can straighten out the crosspin hole and get the new one properly retained for the long haul.



As for the new rear sight. I like it a lot. Very nice and a complete package for $15. The sight, blade (I need to add the white for the outline in the groove), screw, springs and cross pin. Best thing about it,.....it ain't broke and it ain't got all the color wore off of it.


 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Some folks don't like fire sights. I love em. Only ever broke one. ... I reinforce them at final assembly with a drop of clear super glue along the bottom. Even if a light pipe breaks, most of it stays in and yer still hunting. To remove, just warm it up and put in a new one. All in all, plenty rugged and great for older eyes. Most of my rifles are scoped now but everything that has backups or simple irons usually has a lite pipe site for best work.
A bit square but sturdy. I mount them backwards....angled side toward the shooter. Makes a slightly larger dot and I think it glows better. Looks fine on there. About 10 minutes work with a safe sided file to under cut the angles of the dovetail that last little bit and it was thumb push for 1/3 and light taps with a brass rod to drive it home. At final assembly, I'll sometimes put on a drop of black max to keep it from moving later but mostly, friction is all that's needed to keep the sight in the dovetail till ya tap it out.




The whole view....

Updated operational view....looking over and thru both new sights.

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Fitting a Bisley hammer to a Ruger is another one of those simple jobs that can be done in a couple hours with some simple power tools and stones.
Differences in the Bisley hammer are: The big lower loop that needs contoured to match the old hammer. The nose will need stoning to ensure proper firing pin protrusion when installed. I have never needed to stone the sear notch. The wider and lower spur up top is great for ease of access and gives great purchase for thumbs or heal of the off hand when drawing the hammer back. This one is stainless steel, so once polished and jeweled, its fire and forget. Sometimes the nose of the hammer needs tapered so it doesn't hit the edges of the frame.
I start by marking off the metal to be removed using the hammer pin and old hammer as a guide.
The green area is for removal.

Initial and very rough grinding is done on an 80 grit sanding wheel. I dip in water but never fear, ya just can't hold on to it long enough to reach tempering heat. I dip enough the steel doesn't even turn straw colored at the edges.

Stoning with a medium oil stone brings the shape and finish up to about 90%. I like a touch of convex curve on the back of the hammer....it makes a nice curved line under the hammer spur.

There is plenty of room in the guard slot, so I left the lower curve of the Bisley hammer a bit larger than the factory hammer. Here you can see how much lower the Bisley spur is compared to the original hammer. Better for small hands or perhaps weak thumbs.

Shooters eye view of the two hammers side by side.

Installed in the frame and function checked. Fingers are tiered so I won't cut the hammer nose back tonight. I have a touch of arthritis too and it can make long sessions and fine work difficult to do except in small batches. But, this weekend I'll get the nose pared back so that the firing pin can reach out and smush primers with the new and more functional hammer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
With the cylinder installed, there is .063" clearance between the rear of the cylinder and the face of the recoil shield.
With the original hammer installed and pressing forward on the transfer bar/firing pin assembly (no transfer bar pinch) the firing pin protrusion into the area occupied by a primed case is .025".
The nose of the new Bisley hammers must be fitted as they are usually left long for this purpose and due to changes in transfer bar thickness over the years.
Carefully stoning the nose of the hammer, spotting it in against the frame with Prussian blue I pared the nose back to where the firing pin protrudes into the space occupied by a primed case .030" when the hammer is compressing the transfer bar/firing pin assembly (and without creating transfer bar pinch). I have found a range of .030" to .035" protrusion thru contact with the transfer bar provides very reliable ignition with all primers I've tried (American makes and Fiocchi....never tried Wolf or other cheepies). It has been my experience that under .025" protrusion with transfer bar contact leads to occasional to regular failures to fire. Naturally, the firing pin is a free running fit and spring loaded so it can fly further under inertia and eventually onto its stop thereby protruding further than the transfer bar can move it.
Test it your self. If a new Bisley replacement hammer is giving light strikes, a layer or two of electrical tap on the second step will likely result in perfect ignition (by adding the shim you effectively created a shorter hammer nose/shallower second step and consequent better contact between hammer step and transfer bar). If the tape trick works you know for sure the nose of the new hammer is too long and the firing pin protrusion is likely less with the new hammer than it was with the original and fitted hammer. Or you can just measure the pin protrusion with the old fitted hammer and set the new hammer up to provide the same or a scooch better.
Here it is. Nose stoned flat, shorter and in full contact with the frame. No transfer bar pinch. Good firing pin protrusion off the transfer bar and the edges of the hammer nose back beveled slightly so there is no hammer contact with the frame edges. 30 minutes or less. Easily done.


 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ready for the range. Much dry firing going on in the fitting to date and the recoil shield, knurled and staked, remains unmoved and unmoving, even without contact from the factory miss-drilled cross pin.
No more work now until its test fired on the range with at least 50 each 38 +P and full house 125g and 158g 357 Magnums.
A couple final tweaks bringing the fitting of action parts for arthritic hands up to the 90% level.
To provide greater purchase and more reliable actuation of the loading gate, I have back cut it, much like the 1860 Army Colt project. If it works better for cold stiff fingers, it stands to reason it will be a more positive functioning gate for stiff arthritic fingers.....jam in a thumb or finger and lever it out and down with ease.

Much more room to jam a finger behind the gate for quick and positive opening to load or reload.

The fitted SS Bisley hammer is placed against the buffing wheel and brought up to a mirror shine. It'll get jeweled on the sides later. But for now, the dull look is gone and so are all the fitting marks from converting it to be used on this frame.

A brief review of the work done so far to help tailor this handgun for smaller, stiffer and somewhat weaker hands.....
1. Shorten the barrel to 4 5/8", square it, crown it and bevel its outside circumference to eliminate the sharp edge. Dovetail it and install a .538" high Williams Fire Sight (backwards so the orange dot looks a bit larger and brighter). The overall weight mimics the favorite DA Magnum currently in the nightstand. Balance should be about the same and the barrel is long enough to help mitigate some of the disconcerting blast that occurs when any caliber round it touched off.

2. The broken and beaten rear sight is replaced with a new factory assembly, ready for service and the rear notch is grooved so I can add the white outline before final assembly.

3. The new, lower, wider Bisley hammer in place and passing all initial function tests. This hammer with the original trigger and slightly tweaked legs on the trigger return spring is providing a consistent 4 lbs 2 ounce trigger pull. Range testing and safety checks are pending. Cocking the wide and low hammer is much easier with thumb (s) or off hand palm than the skinny and stiff hammer of the Taurus 66.


5. Soft and sticky Hogue open back grip doesn't increase length of pull and should allow a hand no longer able to close firmly on a small grip to retain and control the handgun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
50 rounds of 357 mag at 10m. No issues.
Another 100 rounds of 357 fired at steel, no issues!
The grip is wonderful for recoil control!

Time for an ejector button. We will try this one which is undercut to hook the finger into and we will try the story large bullseye. Which ever one she likes is the one we'll go with.
Remove the old ejector button, usually takes heat and some grinding or even slotting first.
Cut a new ejector shape and drill for the ejector rod.

After soldering, filing, fitting and polishing....


 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
A little cold bluing tonight to see some of the changes better and to help my old eyes see where more polishing and shaping needs done. That bright steel is hard to figger and if ya miss a spot, it glares when it gets blued.
Combine Ruger/Story ejector rods with a warm gun and thick brass and dirty chambers and the ejector rod can often pinch the case against the cylinder wall....ties up the rod and the extraction becomes a fumble fest.
I like to do two things. Back cut the ejector rod on the face that tends to pinch the case. Makes more room and a freer running ejector rod even in a dirty hot gun with thick brass. I also chisel point the tip of the ejector rod so it sticks less when it hits the cylinder face,,,,sorta cams around the edge and slides on in even if the cylinder is a bit too far in one direction or the other. (Sometimes ya even get a dog hair on the part yer working with.....dayum dogs.)

With the black on to hide the silver its easier to see how the new finger button is shaped. The under cut grabs the finger tip and at least my finger don't slide off the button like it does with the tiny ruger buttons.

A little better photo of the shaped part installed.....again, black shows up better. And if ya look close at the last photo ya can see I got a bit more polishin to do inside that index finger relief.

A better shot of the back and bottom of the button.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This is one of those repairs you should never have to make. The jig that positions the drill for cross pinning the recoil shield just should never miss like it did with this one leaving the recoil shield free to move forward with every shot or dry firing.
It was a big miss. I'd decided in advance how much I was willing to go and I had to go all the way on diameter to get the new recoil shield cross pinned. But its in and I now have a secure and neatly enough, stainless steel recoil shield.
Lovely. And I am quite confident in the repair.
Not for the faint of heart.
Here is the old recoil shield, after drilling clear to my larger bit choice....finally kissed the recoil shield and cut in the pin groove which positively retains the firing pin assembly.
I pushed it forward after each drill pass to confirm whether I hit it.....only drilling deep enough to just pass the shield. No need to go out the other side....its already got a hole and due to the angle at the bottom, its thin walled enough down at the bottom. No worries, the new pin can still be punched back out.

Removing the now obsolete and worn old carbon steel recoil shield, here it sits by the new SS one. Measurements indicated it would fit, need a bit of trimming and should be a light tap into place fit...it was.

After cleaning and inspecting the firing pin and spring, and reinstalling them, the new ungrooved recoil shield is started into place.

Light taps get it in straight and to the bottom. One good smashwack seats it. Check for firing pin function and ready for the next step.

I am running a drill into a hole that butts up against a half of a round surface....the drill bit WILL BREAK OFF IN THE HOLE. Run the drill slowely backwards and cut the groove in the recoil shield....when yer through, run it forwards for good measure in the now full diameter hole.
Push the recoil shield out slightly to ensure I did in fact make a groove in it for the new and larger diameter cross pin.

Reseat the recoil shield, check pin function and run in a snug fitting pin with a tapered nose to fully fill the half depth hole just drilled and to retain that recoil shield as the cross pin is supposed to. Just a whisker more stoning to do and it'll be perfect.
 
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