The Big-Bore Flat-Tops

Lipsey’s Rugers Are “Perfect Packin’
Pistols” In .44Special Or .45 Colt And
.45 ACP Convertible.

In 2005, I talked to the then president of Ruger about using the New Model .357 Magnum Flat-Top as the basis for a .44 Special version. He didn’t say yes, but then again, he didn’t say no. Thanks to Lipsey’s placing an order for 2,000 units, the .44 Special became a reality and 1 year later Ruger added it to the catalog as a standard item. However, Lipsey’s didn’t stop there, and they are now offering the same basic .44 Special Flat-Top Blackhawk with a Bisley Model grip frame, hammer and trigger. It is the closest thing we will find to Elmer Keith’s No. 5 without spending thousands of dollars for a custom version. In fact, for most hands, the Ruger Bisley Model grip frame works better than the Keith version, as his was made for his relatively small hands.

The Bisley Model .44 Special Ruger Flat-Top Blackhawk is an all-steel, blued sixgun available with either a 4.625-inch or 5.50-inch barrel. The Micro rear sight is fully adjustable and matched up with a Ruger ramp-style front sight. Even before Lipsey’s offered the Bisley Model Ruger, they combined with Ruger to offer 100 Shootists 25th Anniversary .44 Special Bisley Models with 7.5-inch barrels, which were available only to members of The Shootists. As founder of this group back in 1986, I was eligible for one of these and purchased five of them, with the other four going to my son and three grandsons. Every one of these Bisley models were beautifully built, except for the fact all the front sights were too low, which caused the gun to shoot too high. I had a new front sight blade put on mine to correct the problem and Ruger corrected this mistake before producing the current crop of Bisley Model .44 Specials.

Shooting the Bisley Model .44 Special can only be described as pure pleasure, as the grip frame really reduces felt recoil. My most used loads in .44 Special sixguns are assembled with the 250- or 260-grain Keith cast bullet over 7.5 grains of Unique. In the Bisley Model using the NEI version of the Keith bullet, muzzle velocity is just under 1,000 fps with five shots in 1.25-inch. Of late, I have been using the Speer 225-grain SWC-HP over 15 grains of 2400 powder as my heavy .44 Special load, and this one clocks out at just under 1,200 fps, while grouping in less than 1 inch. With results like this, it is obvious the Bisley Model Flat-Top .44 Special is right at the top of the list of candidates for Perfect Packin’ Pistol.

Personally I don’t care for the laminated grips on this Bisley, so I went to my parts cabinet, pulled out the drawer marked Bisley Model Grips, which holds a half dozen or more pairs of wooden factory grips (are the days of wood over?), thinking I would just unscrew the old and screw on the new. Silly me! The grip frame pins are just enough out of line to prevent this. It required opening up the pinhole on a pair of custom Bisley Model grips, filling in with bedding compound, and recutting the pinhole to make the grips line up the way they should. To have such a fine sixgun, I can put up with this minor inconvenience.


All three of these Rugers are built on the same medium-sized frame including (left)
an original .357 Blackhawk from 1955, a .45 Colt Flat-Top Blackhawk (middle) and
a .44 Special Bisley Model Flat-Top. The Ruger .44 Special Bisley Model Flat-Top
from Lipsey’s is reminiscent of the legendary No. 5 of Elmer Keith.


Ruger’s .45 Colt and .45 ACP are top candidates for the title of
Perfect Packin’ Pistol in leather, such as these rigs from El Paso Saddlery.

Again, this Bisley Model could’ve been the end except for the farsightedness of Lipsey’s. Lipsey’s took the next logical step and ordered the New Model .357 Magnum Flat-Top in a .45 Colt version in both blue and stainless steel and with 4.625- and 5.5-inch barrel lengths. And they didn’t even stop there, but went one step further and made them .45 Flat-Top Convertibles with an extra .45 ACP cylinder along with each sixgun. Just as with all the .44 Special Flat-Tops mentioned thus far, these .45 sixguns also looked like Ruger took extra care in fitting and finishing. They are all steel with the original Colt-style grip frame and Micro fully adjustable rear sight.

Cylinders on .45 Colt sixguns are often found with oversized chambers and throats that are either way too small, a condition easily remedied, or well oversized, which can only be handled by using larger diameter bullets or replacing the cylinder. In years past, I have found Colt and S&W cylinders as large as 0.455 inches to 0.457 inches in the throat area and Rugers as tight as 0.449 inches. Current production sixguns from all three manufacturers are much closer to the ideal and these Ruger .45 Flat-Tops are just about perfect, all having uniform dimensions with the blued version cut at 0.451 inch for the .45 Colt cylinder and .0452 for the .45 ACP cylinder, while both cylinders of the stainless steel version have 0.451-inch throats.

Both of these .45 Colt Flat-Top Blackhawks are very nicely finished and tightly fitted with no overlapping edges where grip frame meets the mainframe. Actions are relatively smooth and cylinders lock up tight for firing. No reddish colored laminated grips here but rather faux ivory with Ruger medallions. These are easier for me to live with than the Bisley Model grips, however, these sixguns deserve nicer grips anyway, and I will go the custom route.

One of my most favored .45 bullets lately has been the RCBS 45-270SAA design. With my wheelweights these drop out of the mold at 280 or 285 grains. They are basically a Keith bullet with a little more weight in the body. Many years ago reloading manuals routinely listed 10 grains of Unique with the Keith .45 bullet for use in the Colt Single Action. In later years they backed off quite a bit from this and it is no longer listed, however, I feel safe using it in the Ruger .45 Flat-Top. This load clocks out at just over 1,000 fps with groups of 1 inch, while my lighter load of 8.5 grains of Unique does 925 fps and is just over 1 inch.

If anything, the .45 ACP cylinders on both of these .45 Blackhawks shot even better than the .45 Colt cylinders. I am constantly amazed by how well these relatively long cylinders chambered to accept the relatively short ACP rounds shoot. groups of 1 inch were not all that unusual. With the standard grip frame, the .45 Blackhawks are not quite as easy to shoot as the Bisley Model, but they are quite manageable at this level and, just as with the Bisley Model, they are high on the list of potential Perfect Packin’ Pistols.
By John Taffin

Maker: Sturm, Ruger & Co.
411 Sunapee Street
Newport, NH 03773
(603) 865-2442
Distributor: Lipsey’s
P.O. Box 83280, Baton Rouge, LA 70884

El Paso Saddlery Co.

2025 E. Yandell, El Paso, Texas 79903
(915) 544-2233

>> Click Here << To See More Photos, Specs and Performance Charts

Read More Feature Articles


Order Your Copy Of The GUNS Magazine April 2014 Issue Today!

Download A PDF Of The GUNS Magazine April 2014 Issue Now Only $2!

One thought on “The Big-Bore Flat-Tops

  1. Phil

    Got the Bisley 45 colt stainless with 5.5 inch barrel (on the super Blackhawk frame) a few years ago, going with Johns excellent article on loading the thing hot, and really love it. Then a couple years ago finally located the standard flat top 4 5/8 barrel, stainless with both cylinders and really love it as well. One is for packing places like the Whittington Center while hiking, saw a 450 lb bear there once, the other for actual hunting. My experience is the same as brother John, it shoots the cheap Walmart 45 acp, like a house afire. Only $16 bucks a box, or less for one of Johns pet loads, I think a 255 wc with 8.5 grains of Unigue, although I sometimes run 9 grains, at a much cheaper rate if I mold my own. Can you see I steal all Johns loads? I am 68 and only developed a real craving for the big bore single actions about 5 years ago. I have 5 now and leaning toward the Bisley stainless flat top, 44, and really like the sound of Johns 225 grain bullet at 1,200 fps. That is my favorite speed for any serious bullet, 38 super, 357, 44, and 45, just seems to work well for me. Shot completely thru a whitetail with a 240 grain and 1,200 at 70 yards and that seems about perfect. Why should I reinvent the wheel when John has done it for decades. Anyway another good article and probably another gun I don’t need headed by way. Keep up the good work John, always enjoy your work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(Spamcheck Enabled)