I own several custom handguns, as well as factory-stock ones suitable for hunting. The Freedom Arms line was one I never really gave much consideration to, until recently. It is held to high enough tolerances to qualify as a custom gun, and it definitely performs like a full-on custom revolver. I acquired my first FA, from an acquaintance in a trade for some optics. The FA 97 impressed me immensely with the accuracy it was capable of out to 100 yards. Even though the barrel was the short 4.25” version, it provided velocity close to 1400fps with handloaded 210gr. bullets. Using a Burris Fast Fire 3, gave accuracy on the order of 4 inches at 100 yards.
After using the 97 for only a short few months, I was notified by a friend that he had a model 83 he was looking at getting rid of. His 83 was actually a Freedom Arms 555 which is the model 83 chambered in 50ae. It turned out to be a MagNaPort custom Stalker made for Safari Club International and it was unfired. After speaking with him about it, terms were agreed to and plans were made for me to acquire the gun. As it just so happened I was looking at having a custom Ruger made in 500JRH, so the funds from it were used to get the 555.
Once we were able to get schedules in sync I made the 3+ hour drive to his ranch to spend the day with him, pick up the revolver and do some shooting. I used his makeshift range and bench and was able to quickly get a decent zero on it with the factory ammunition at 40 yards. Then taking the reported velocity for the factory load, I entered the necessary data into a ballistic program, there was a steel target that was hanging at 115 yards, that I intended on verifying the data on. I carefully took aim as I rested the gun on sandbags, and settled the crosshairs of the Burris scope at the top of the 8×10 plate. Carefully pressed the trigger, while maintaining crosshairs on the target and when the gun went off I was rewarded with a good solid “thunk” and an impact on the target about 5” below the top of the plate. The impact splash was centered and right where it should have been, I decided to try again just to ensure it wasn’t a fluke. The second attempt only repeated the results, the splash on target was touching the first. This verification would prove useful 6 hours later when a 150-pound pig would show up.
Evening hunts in Texas in June, July, or August can be unbearable when you’re confined to an enclosed blind. As well as leading to a very late dinner, since dark often arrives after 8:30 pm, and getting back to camp and settling down brings things to 10:00 pm. On this ranch, there was a corn feeder set up 130 yards from the camp porch, and almost 125 yards from the shooting bench I’d used earlier. It is set up with lights that illuminate the area for 25yds all around the feeder to allow viewing of whatever comes to the feeder at night. So we sat in camp in the evening, enjoyed a fine dinner, and would chat about hunts, past and future; as well as guns owned and desired. We were just about ready to call it a night since we intended on leaving early the next morning.
The pig had come in by itself and was noticed by its dark color against the white stone that is prevalent in the Rocksprings area. When I saw him I announced “pig” to the only other person still sitting with me, as the others had gone to prepare for bed. I asked if he could see him through his binoculars and got up to walk to the shooting bench where the FA 555 was loaded and waiting. When I got up, my companion said ”he just moved off”. I decided to continue to the bench and wait, ready to shoot in case he came back.
As I leveled the 555 at the feeder, he walked back out completely clearing all the brush and I placed the crosshairs just on top of his back and pressed the trigger. I wanted to deliver a high shoulder shot, which should sever his spine and keep him from running off in the dark and possibly down into one of the many canyons and draws that surrounded the camp area. As the shot broke, the crosshairs were where I wanted them. When I recovered from recoil I asked if the pig was still there because through the 4x magnification it looked like it was still standing there unfazed. His reply was “yes it’s still there but on his side kicking”, with that description, I knew I’d done what I wanted. The .50 caliber 300gr. SP had landed right where I wanted and anchored him on the spot and completely passed through the pig. When we walked up to it, a final shot was delivered to dispatch it as the severed spine shot had simply anchored it. I had just taken possession of this gun and fired 10 rounds through it with 3 of the shots being hits at distances beyond 100 yards.
Having acquired this very nice and special revolver. I don’t know much about it except that it shoots fantastic and it is destined to have another cylinder made for it in 500JRH, essentially a 500 Linebaugh only in .500 as opposed to .510. I was interested in finding out more info about this special gun. A quick stop at the Freedom Arms factory while I was in the area, provided me with the date of 11/22/93 as when it was sent to MagnaPort. They converted it from the 10” barreled factory gun to their Stalker configuration.
The barrel is inscribed with Safari Club International, so it is obviously something done for them. However I need to contact MNP or SCI for more info, Freedom Arms donated the gun, Burris the scope, SSK Industries the mount, and Mag Na Port the work. Given my affiliation with Burris, the fact that they were involved in the project adds to its value for me. Since I am not one to collect guns and let them sit on a shelf, I had decided even before picking it up that it will go hunting.
The MagNaPort porting on the gun does effectively reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip. The recoil impulse in the revolver feels much like a scoped Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter I have in 44 magnum when shooting 300gr. bullets at 1300fps, yet the factory 300gr. ammunition is running 1550fps. I’ve never really cared for porting or muzzle brakes on hunting guns, but since I always strive to use hearing protection even when hunting, the extra noise created by them is of no consequence.
The accuracy provided by the 555, once I was finally able to get it to the range and spend some time behind it, has proven to be very good. Some shooters may be able to get better accuracy, but I’m quite pleased with 5-shot groups at 50 yards being 1.5”, and 3 shots at 100 yards at less than 4”. This is from the factory 300gr. ammo, reloads thus far have been unnecessary since the gun came with 14 boxes of ammunition. However, the experimenter in me couldn’t resist playing with a few other bullets. Surprisingly both SP and HP ammunition land at the same point of impact at 50 yards, and chronograph 1547fps and 1542fps average. A combined group of five shots, three SP, and two HP produced a group measuring 1.3”x1.6” at 50 yards.
The factory ammunition needs to be shot in order for me to have empty cases to reload for anyway. The trajectory of the short half-inch bullets is quite acceptable, despite them having a length only slightly better than the width. The bullets I’ve loaded are the 275gr. Barnes monoHP, 325gr. Swift A-Frame and 350gr. Speer Unicore. Given the velocity generated by the factory ammunition and the availability of good quality bullets, the 50ae should be suitable for our larger deer species, elk, and moose, as well as big black bear.
The 275gr. XPB was used on a 240-pound Feral hog at about 80 yards. The bullet landed high on the point of the shoulder, broke 2 ribs, traversed the chest, traveled under the spine broke another rib, and was stuck in the hide. The total distance was 20-24 inches, and the bullet produced adequate expansion. Considering the XPB was probably made for 500SW velocities, penetration, and expansion like that is quite ample.
In the Desert Eagle, it’s limited in length by the magazine, in our current revolvers that limit can be increased. This allows heavier bullets to be used as well as allows room for more powder. The overall lengths of the below pictured rounds are 1.587 inches for the factory rounds located at both ends and 1.775 inches for the 50ae round loaded with the Speer 350gr. I’ve used bullets weighing 240gr. to 350gr. in my 50ae, bullets of similar weight are also available for the 480 Ruger. Searching through load data for both calibers shows velocities to be running neck and neck with those bullet weights. The 275gr. XPB bullets are going almost 1600fps in my gun and accuracy is equal to the factory 300’s. Bullets as heavy as 380gr. could be suitable for the round, given the extra length allowed by the cylinder.
These loads are safe in my gun, reduce powder charge by 20% and work up from there for your use.
275gr. Barnes XPB / 32.5gr. H110 / 1585fps
325gr. Swift AF / 32.5gr. / H110 / 1515fps
350gr. Speer UC / 30gr. / H110 / 1425fps
300gr. Samson factory SP-HP / 1545fps
In the meantime, the 50ae has gained some respect from me as a legitimate hunting caliber. It may not be in the same class as most of the other 50 calibers, but for medium game and some of the larger non-dangerous animals, it is a capable round. I think it suffers from being made to fit into the magazine of an auto loader, thus it is chained to bullets that do not project much from the case mouth.
The Freedom Arms revolver does not suffer from that issue, this allows much more room for improvement, as well as a larger bullet selection. I eagerly look forward to using it on more game.
I mentioned earlier that Freedom Arms guns are equal to custom guns, the fit and tolerances are certainly up to custom work. The accuracy given by quality ammunition is second to none and the factory available accessories hold the same quality and tolerances as the gun itself. The options available for caliber, barrel length or style, (octagon or round), grip type or material, iron sight configuration, scope mount type, etc. all allow the customer to customize this factory revolver to their own tastes. An added bonus to the FA555 platform is that an alternate cylinder can be fitted in another suitable caliber, such as 500JRH or 500 Wyoming Express. This turns the gun into one suitable for global hunting, a quick note to another friend succeeded in finding a 45acp cylinder, which was fitted and rechambered by JRH gunsmithing. If even after all those options you decide to fully customize your new Freedom Arms revolver, the MagNaPort Stalker configuration makes for a very nice hunting gun.
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