Bowen Classic Arms revolvers?

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by Saul, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. Saul

    Saul AH Veteran

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    I would like to know if anyone has any experience with Bowen Classic Arms. I have been invited to hunt in Alaska in the foreseeable future (nothing confirmed yet) and I have decided that I need (or maybe just want) a new revolver for grizzly defense.

    I have been looking at the revolvers made by Hamilton Bowen at Bowen Classic Arms and they are absolutely stunning. The one that I think looks best for my purposes is the Bowen GP44 Ruger SRH Alaskan, which is the Ruger SRH Alaskan but with a 4" Redhawk barrel attached. The gun has an option of either a 5-shot or 6-shot cylinder (not sure why the 5-shot cylinder is an option). I am looking at getting one in .454 Casull. The revolver is expensive at a starting price of around $2k, so I want to know if anyone has any experience/opinions on this gun (or any other Bowen revolver), I would love to hear it before I decide to purchase it.

    Now you cannot help but be in awe looking at the guns on the Bowen Classic Arms website (take a look and you'll see what I mean). Some revolvers that caught my attention were Ruger Blackhawks in .44 Special and one in .50 AE.

    I was also intrigued by the mention of the .50 Special round that many Bowen revolvers are chambered in. This is a different round than the .500 S&W Special, which is a shortened .500 S&W round. The description of the .50 Special listed are as a .500 Linebaugh that has been shortened to .38 Special length. This means that it can do 350 gr. bullets at 950 fps. The whole point of this round is as a low recoil alternative to the .500 Linebaugh that still hits with authority. I just do not know why anyone would go with this round over the factory produced .480 Ruger (which is also a low recoil big bore round). Does anyone have any experience with this .50 Special?
     
  2. Saul

    Saul AH Veteran

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    No takers yet? I thought for sure that someone here would have experience with these guns. A lot of what I have read online says that the Bowen revolvers in the Linebaugh calibers have been very sucessfully used to take big game, including some of the Big Five (never says which members of the big five taken) of Africa.

    Now I have no real interest in taking any of the big five with a handgun (although if anyone is offering me a shot at a free trophy I will). To me, it seems like the number of hunters who have taken any of the Big Five is a very small percentage, and the number of those hunters who did it with a handgun must be an even more miniscule percentage than that. If it is true that many of these select few hunters did so with a Bowen revolver, then it would be logical to make the assumption that the Bowen revolvers are the finest big bore hunting revolvers on the market (no one tell Freedom Arms) and would be the best place to go if I wanted to get a big bore revolver.

    Now on the topic of the calibers mentioned, I have always been a sucker for sort of oddball big bore cartridges in handguns (who here isn't) and I am very intrigued by the .50 Bowen Special (for the same reason that I was so intrigued by the .50 GI when that came out). The problem is that while I have heard a lot of buzz on the cartridge, I have never seen any real info on the cartridge or how I am supposed to load it myself (I really don't want to have to cut down .500 Linebaugh brass all day). I am also troubled by the fact that Bowen spent all of that time developing the .50 Bowen Special when the .500 S&W Special is already and readily available. On top of that, Bowen makes no revolvers for the .500 S&W, instead only building guns up to the .500 Linebaugh.

    Speaking of .50 cal Bowen revolvers, I am completely infatuated with the Bowen .50 AE Light Weight revolver (just look at those sheep horn grips). Now I am far from being a gunsmith, but putting a rimless pistol cartridge in a SA revolver and expecting it to fire and be able to be reloaded perfectly every time is simply beyond my comprehension (along with why anyone would want an ultralight revolver in .50 AE). I will give Bowen the benefit of the doubt, though, because it is a .50 AE revolver and I love the .50 AE cartridge (toyed with getting a L.A.R. Grizzly Mark V .50 AE 1911 for many years but never did).

    So basically what I am getting at is that I am finding some oddities/discrepincies in the Bowen products (such as offering a 5-shot cylinder instead of the factory 6-shot cylinder on a Ruger SRH Alaskan without and size difference) but everytime I run across something on the website that doesn't make sense, I am instantly am blinded by how beautiful these guns are (trust me, who have to see them for yourself) and I forget all and want one even more. Since I am not going to be an objective party when deciding on these revolvers (it has ivory grips and is a .50 cal, I want it!!!) it would be great to hear from some slightly more objective people that can give me an honest assessment of the Bowen revolvers.
     
  3. Bullthrower338

    Bullthrower338 SILVER SUPPORTER AH Senior Member

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    Saul,
    I have shot several of Hamilton Bowens revolvers, they are simply outstanding. He is in my opinion one of the finest pistol smiths out there. I am also a big fan of Gary Reeder and John Linebaugh, the 475 Linebaugh is my big medicine for griz in the back country.
    As for the 5 shot cylinders, if this is not done on the large diameter cartridges, the cylinder walls get to thin and will not withstand the pressure generated by these powerhouse rounds.

    Cheers,
    Cody
     
  4. Bert the Turtle

    Bert the Turtle AH Enthusiast

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    I had him work on my stainless Blackhawk. The work was pretty close to what he is calling the Kenai package now. I think at the time it was the "perfected" plus I requested a la carte other items (including freewheel cylinder).

    His book is excellent (and I'm now wondering what happened to my copy!) and besides being full of eye candy, it will help you understand the reasons for what he does. Unless you are in a rush, you should read it before deciding what you want.

    The 5 shot cylinder is to ensure cylinder strength for the very big cartridges.

    He builds some truly stunning "BBQ guns". But make no mistake, Mr. Bowen's is not just an artist who happens to work on firearms. He absolutely understands how a revolver should be built to do its job and he makes outstanding working guns.

    Mr. Bowen does things right. For example, I had my Blackhawk built specifically as a working gun after I found a bear had torn apart one of my bee hives. Even though he knew it was going to be carried around on a farm and spend its life as a tool, he polished out a scratch on the frame that it came with from the factory so it would look decent when it left his shop. I didn't ask him to, as it was sure to acquire more in its life, and he fully understood what the gun's future held in store. Still, he didn't want it leaving his shop not looking right and if the factory wasn't going to properly finish the gun, he was. I don't recall a charge for that, but it is certainly a situation of the quality remains long after price is forgotten so maybe he did although I sincerely doubt it.

    I recommend him without hesitation.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014 at 11:13 PM
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  5. Bert the Turtle

    Bert the Turtle AH Enthusiast

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    I have no knowledge regarding whether Mr. Bowen makes anything in 500 S&W, but remember, he was making these revolvers in big chamberings long before the 500 S&W came out.

    The 500 S&W is a gigantic revolver, best suited to carrying in a pack or on a sling or some such. It is in reality a very specialized tool. If you want something suited to holster carry, a Bowen makes a lot more sense.
     
  6. Bullthrower338

    Bullthrower338 SILVER SUPPORTER AH Senior Member

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    Did you leave your Blackhawk in factory clambering or change caliber? I like the idea of a free wheel cylinder, now I can't figure out why I've never had that option worked into any of my SA guns!
    My 460 X-frame should arrive today, you are spot on about the use of this revolver. I bought it to shoot hogs with, or should I say that is how I justified the purchase in my mind. If nothing else it will make a dam fine boat anchor!
     
  7. Bert the Turtle

    Bert the Turtle AH Enthusiast

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    Mine is in 45 Colt. Loaded to the max with 325g bullets it is as powerful as I have need for.
     
  8. Velo Dog

    Velo Dog AH Fanatic

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    Hi Saul,

    Hamilton Bowen enjoys a well earned fine reputation as a man who builds very sturdy revolvers (among other work he is no doubt capable of).
    However, I do not know anyone that has any of his work except .357 magnum and .44 Special caliber revolvers, for shooting two legged varmints, if need be.
    The two mentioned revolvers from Bowen's shop that I have seen, appear to be the best of the best.

    Re: grumpy bears:
    I have lived in Alaska for 32 years now and have hunted/fished here very much.
    These days, I still enjoy fly fishing for salmon in remote rivers (bear freeways) but I do not hunt big game here anymore (I save that money now toward yet another trip to Africa).
    All of my closest friends here are pretty much cut from the same cloth, except that a number of them have not heard the sweet siren call of Africa yet and so, they still hunt here - also known as: "Glassing & Hoping" (sometimes when it's raining and/or snowing sideways).
    Virtually none of us carry a large caliber handgun when already carrying a powerful rifle.
    Those of us who do (or did) carry a handgun in connection to rifle hunting for big game here, typically it is/was a .22 for grouse and snowshoe hare.

    Most of us have also used our .22 pistols to fire into the mud or water, a couple feet to one side or the other of an occasional nosey/pushy bear.
    This is typical of young males, very much like our teenage male humans.
    Generally, most every outdoor type person I know here does own a large bore handgun though and we tend to carry them while fishing, when we know we are going to be walking many miles, so don't want the extra weight and hassle of a long gun and/or have not seen any fresh bear sign lately - in whatever place it is we plan to fish.

    Two guys have 4 inch, S&W caliber .500, most of us have 4 inch, S&W caliber .44 Magnums.
    The rest carry an assortment of this and that, including Ruger Redhawk .44 magnum, Glock 10 mm, EAA 10 mm, Ruger Blackhawk .41 Magnum and I do not remember what all at this moment but, that is most of them.
    Two of my friends had the Freedom Arms .545 Casull revolvers but both sold them due to fierce recoil and they bought S&W .500's to replace them.
    I guess the idea is that the .500 is such a heavy revolver that even though more powerful than the .454, it is not as uncomfortable in recoil.
    They carry the .500's in a "chest rig".
    It's like a backpack strap design but the object of this design is to carry the weight (bigass revolver) on your chest, instead of on your back.

    Personally I find the recoil from both the .454 Casul AND the .500 S&W revolvers to be more than I can tolerate, for more than 2 or 3 shots (that's why I carry the .44 instead).

    Most of us who carry .44 Magnums have our revolvers sighted in for Federal 300 grain "Cast Core" ammunition.
    It does not really have a "core" as I know the meaning of that word but instead, is a very hard cast / flat nosed projectile.
    Recoil is stout but I shoot it well and it penetrates like an oil rig.
    So far only one of my friends has been armed with nothing but a handgun when his charge came.
    It was a sow black bear and he knocked her down with one shot from his .500 S&W, then finished her with a 2nd shot but, I do not recall what load he was carrying (he is an avid handloader).

    At the end of the day, and after all my rambling, it is worth mentioning that, your chances of being mauled by a bear in Alaska are about the same statistically as being struck by lightening, in the Midwest region of the USA.

    It happens but not too often.

    My parting shot is that it appears to me that if your bell is to ring while hunting or fishing in Alaska, it will probably be from the float plane you hired, smashing into the side of a mountain, due to over-loading the tail section or from unexpected 80 to 100 mph wind shears.
    Look up Alaska wind shears or Alaska williwaw (native word for sudden powerful swirling wind out of nowhere).

    In re-reading my post here, it seems like I'm trying to discourage you from hunting here but, I am not.
    I just became too long winded about Alaska and bear repellent options.
    After many trips to the bush here, no bear has ever charged me and no wind shear and/or float plane has killed me.
    You will have a great adventure here.

    If you do make it up here to Anchorage some day, please look me up.

    Cheers,
    Velo Dog.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM
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