A “Skeltonized” Trio Of Ruger Flattops Summons Memories Of A Sixgun Master

Far from being just a way of expending ammunition, guns mean much more to people like you and me. They’re sentimental links from our past, reminding us of special people or events, as they work themselves into our very being.

We live vicariously through our guns, dreaming of going to faraway places, or simply emulating a hero of ours every time we pick them up.

Getting the same gun as our role model—or maybe emulating custom work they’ve done—deepens the connection. Sometimes we build a gun on what we think they’d appreciate. This was the case with me and Skeeter Skelton.

Tank’s Flattop family: the 7.5-inch Skeeter gun, the 5-inch Little Skeet and the 4-inch Skeeterito.

Skelton Knew…

What true sixgunner wasn’t taken with Skeeter Skelton? He was our amigo from bygone days as he entertained us with his stories, knowledge and humor of the Southwest. We just felt good reading his articles. It was like catching up with an old friend.

Skeeter had a penchant for custom guns, building them the way he thought they should have been in the first place. But he was no gun snob. Some factory models suited him just fine. Bill Ruger’s original Flattop Blackhawk .44 Magnum with a 7.5-inch barrel was Skeeter’s favorite for hunting. With less than 1,000 made, they weren’t all that common.

Skeet fashioned his own walnut stocks, expertly fitting them to the grip-frame and sanding them thinner than factory grips. A simple action job completed the works. I was fortunate enough to shoot Skeeter’s Flattop a couple of years ago, during a visit with his son, Bart. What an honor!

Managing to wrangle my own 7.5-inch Flattop, I gave it the same treatment. It’s now my “Skeeter” gun.

Mag-na-port’s luster blue was possible while still keeping the plum color of the loading gate.

Little Skeet And Skeeterito

Little Skeet was the first Flattop I ever owned. Having a Super Blackhawk hammer, trigger and brass grip-frame bolted on it, it had been cut back to 5 inches before I rescued it from a local gun store. As it had been altered, I got it for a song. So I swapped the grip-frame out and “Little Skeet” was born.

Then my compadre, Doc Barranti, surprised me one New Year’s Eve, giving me a tired old Ruger Flattop Blackhawk with a 6.5 inch barrel. Displaying a pretty patina while being a straight shooter, it was in need of a makeover. So I summoned Ken Kelly from Mag-na-port International.

Besides putting holes in barrels using Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) for recoil reducing ports, Ken does some mighty fine gunsmithing too. Here’s how “Skeeterito” was created…

Southwestern still life: The Skeeterito, served on a silver platter.

A Spruce-Up Of Sorts

Ken cut Skeeterito to 4 inches and gave it an 11-degree bull-nose crown, while trimming the ejector rod housing back flush with the barrel. He expertly shortened the base-pin head, allowing the base-pin to clear the cylinder for removal without having to remove the housing. A longer ejector rod stroke is possible with the shortened base-pin head as well. A notch provides positive purchase.

The aluminum grip-frame and ejector rod housing were matte finished, while the barrel, frame, cylinder and trigger were given the Mag-na-port high-luster blue job that dreams are made of. Ken even managed to preserve the aged plum-colored loading gate Ruger aficionados love so much.

Cocking the hammer is delightful as each audible “click” informs you this baby is timed like a Swiss watch. The trigger breaks at a measured 2 pounds, 4 ounces with positive ignition every time the hammer drops.

This alteration makes Skeeterito a pure packing-piece with plenty of punch. A steady diet of 265-grain Powder Coated Keith bullets, crimped over 10 grains of Unique will get the nod, without overstressing this fine relic. At 1,100 fps, Elmer’s finest will poke through about anything needin’ to be poked. This moderate load is a joy to shoot, thanks to the recoil reduction of Mag-na-port gas vents.

Two of my Skeeter guns stylishly and sheepishly ride in “shucks” by Doc Barranti of Barranti Leather. Skeeterito will ride in a hammered Longhorn companion bearing the Bar-T brand, Skeeter’s own. A two-piece rig, it allows the wearer to conveniently remove the holstered gun without undoing your belt.

Guns, whether factory made or custom built, honor and bring meaning to your shootin’ irons as my family of Flattops show. They embody “Sixgun Soul” every time they’re shot or simply picked up.
Think I’ll whittle some stocks this winter, just like Skeeter did…

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