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Old May 1, 2013, 03:12 AM   #1
Cosmodragoon
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Join Date: March 18, 2013
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Custom Sp101 4" in .327 Federal Magnum?

Hi everyone. The .327 Federal Magnum is a really cool round that suffered from dim advertising and very poor timing. There are still quality guns in current production for it but there is nowhere near the selection we see with more established calibers.

The .327 occupies an interesting place in the shooting spectrum. The .32 family of rounds naturally lend themselves to lighter frames. The .327 pushes this little bullet to pressure extremes where it surpasses some of the heavier alternatives. All this extra power seems to call out for a slightly longer barrel and may benefit from a slightly heavier frame. However, when most people carry a heavier frame, they will naturally lean towards heavier rounds like .357 or beyond.

For me, the .327 Federal Magnum offers the perfect middle ground between heavy duty and heavy concealment. It is a powerful step up from pocket pistols in .22, .32, or .380. It is a closer step down when you don't need a full-on .357 or .44 magnum. It solidly eclipses its natural competitor in .38 special for this middle ground position, both in terms of ballistics and capacity.

So, I need just the right gun for the job. I started looking for a J-Frame six-shooter with a 4" barrel. Sadly, I found none. The SP101 and 632 both stop at 3" while the Smith has some questionable features. The seven-shot GP100 has the right barrel but with the same size, weight, and capacity as a 686+ (.357 magnum), why would I ever carry it?

So the only option is to go custom. Lacking the budget to build one from the ground up, we've got rechambering options. A gunsmith at Bowen told me that they often convert Smith and Wesson models 16, 19, and 66 to .327. One is far easier and cheaper than the others since it's already chambered in .32 H&R magnum.

That got me thinking. A while back, Ruger actually made a .32 H&R Magnum version of the Sp101 with a 4" barrel. If this is a viable option, it has everything I need right there. The barrel and weight should be perfect and with the right grips, it should fit the spot perfectly.

Another consideration might pull some additional weight off. Two things about Ruger barrels bug me. You'd be right to guess the warning embossed on the label comes first. The other is the full underlug. I can see it helping in heavy calibers but is it really necessary with .327? I love the tapered underlugs on many of the Smith and Wesson Pro series. In theory, a gunsmith could cut a taper out of the Ruger's underlug, running a sleek hypotenuse from just below the muzzle to just before the extractor rod housing.

So what are your thoughts on this project?

Last edited by Cosmodragoon; May 1, 2013 at 10:54 PM.
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Old May 3, 2013, 11:45 PM   #2
Cosmodragoon
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I just got an email response from Hamilton Bowen on this project. He has converted plenty of SP101s from .32 H&R Magnum to .327 Federal Magnum without problem. As should be expected, he suggested that it would need some some additional work to go along with the rechambering. I'd probably want some upgrades to the sights and action anyway. The problem is that they have too much "non-catalog work" right now to take on new special projects and that's exactly what the underlug modifications would be.

As soon as I got Mr. Bowen's response, I sent out feelers to track down a good-condition 4" .32 mag SP101. Do any of you have comments or recommendations?
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Old May 4, 2013, 12:47 AM   #3
Scorch
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Is 1" going to make that much of a difference?
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Old May 4, 2013, 05:45 PM   #4
Cosmodragoon
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In the SP101, I think the difference is just over an inch. That's just past a third more barrel. I know it will make some difference. The obvious difference is in look, feel, and sighting. Exactly how much ballistic or handling difference will there be? I don't know how much this plays out tangibly but it looks like you pick up around 150fps.

I know I generally prefer the feel of a 4" barrel. The idea of tapering is also limited by the distance between muzzle and extractor rod housing, making the slope more abrupt in a 3".

Last edited by Cosmodragoon; May 5, 2013 at 03:03 AM.
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