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by Gregg Richter a.k.a. Gregg Richter Last updated: 2009-11-08 21:40:40
.500 WYOMING EXPRESS:
FUN GUN, STRICTLY BUSINESS,
OR KNUCKLE-BUSTING BULLY?
By Gregg Richter
When my attempt at purchasing a Freedom Arms 500 Wyoming Express from an on-line gun auction failed, (another SIXGUNNER story) the burning desire to own one only intensified, so I went straight to the source and ordered one from Bob Baker, President of Freedom Arms. Bob is my contact at Freedom Arms as they are one of the HHI Antelope Hunt sponsors.
I wanted a Premier Grade, 4 ¾ inch barrel with the action hone and trigger pull job, and the rounded grip butt. I also asked for the trigger over-travel screw, but Bob talked me out of it, and I’m glad he did. For a hunting rig, it is unnecessary and could possibly lead to trouble at the worst time, he said. If a piece of bark or weeds or any type of debris get caught up in the gap between the screw and the rear edge of the trigger, the gun may not go off when you want it to the most. It’s a good idea for a silhouette shooter, etc, Bob informed me, but really out of place on a hunting revolver.
When the shiny piece of superb pistolsmithing arrived at my gun dealer a short time later, I was really impressed. It was a beautiful gun. I was almost afraid to handle it, much less shoot those awful heavy 440 grain maximum hand crushing loads through it and maybe get it dirty.
But those thoughts went away shortly after, and soon I was handloading for it. I had bought a set of loading dies for it but at first was unable to find the recommended #41 shellholder for it locally. I finally ordered one but in the meantime I dug through my box of shellholders and found that a #5 or a #26 would suffice in the meantime for my particular batch of cases.
Loading data for the 500 came from Freedom Arms with the gun. The 500 cartridge was designed for bullet weights from 350 to 450 grains, and the data gives loads for the Hornady 350 gr. XTP/MAG bullet, as well as the 370, 400, and 440 WFNGC lead bullets. For those of you unfamiliar with lead bullets, those letters stand for Wide Flat Nose Gas Check.
I already had 2 of the powders listed on the data sheet in my loading room: Titegroup, which was used in the lighter loads, and H-110, the old stand-by for heavy bullet pistol loads.
I also had some 400 grain lead plain base Keith type bullets for my 500 S&W that I could use in the 500 Wyoming. The crimping groove however could not be utilized as the bullet nose would stick out too far in the shorter Freedom Arms Model 83 cylinder. The answer to this was seat the bullet in further and crimp over the “Keith” shoulder. This worked fine. I then bought the other 3 types of bullets, so I had all four bullet weights to play with.
I won’t go into minute detail here but I loaded up several different “light” loads with each bullet, using the starting loads with Titegroup. I then loaded some “medium to heavy” loads with H-110 with the 440 grain bullets, to give me a sampling of different recoil levels.
According to my reloading data, my “light loads” were pushing the 350 and 370 grain bullets at around 1000 fps, the 400’s also at about 1000 and the 440’s at about 950 fps, in the short barrel. My 440 grain “medium heavy” loads were breaking the sound barrier and then some, going around 1300 fps. This is not a maximum load. According to a recoil chart I found, this load would generate approximately 30%% more recoil than a full maximum .44 magnum load with a 300 grain bullet.
Let me digress a moment. When one goes to the Freedom Arms website home page, there are only two main photos there. One is of the new Reddot Sight Mount they now produce for their Model 83 and Model 97 revolvers for Trijicon and J.P. Enterprises Red Dot Sights. Think about it, this is a pretty darn major move for Freedom Arms. Literally they are suggesting and condoning taking the iron sights off their revered revolvers and putting on a Red Dot Sight.
Hey, no problem. This was the answer to a question that my sub-conscious had been struggling with but was afraid to ask: Here I am making a major investment in a revolver with a 4 ¾ inch barrel for a packin’ pistol, which I surely did not want to scope for obvious reasons. BUT: how good are these older eyes with iron sights? The honest truth that I had been avoiding was: not very D--- good anymore.
Oh, not that I don’t know how to use them. Actually, I have iron sights on a good many of my handguns, and have killed several antelope, a bull elk, and a whole lot of other game with iron-sighted revolvers. So lest I be critiqued for my Red Dot Sight choice, let me say this: I feel I owe it to the animal I am hunting to dispatch it as cleanly as possible. If I feel my 57 year old eyes are not up to the task of using iron sights, then I owe it to the hunting code of ethics to not use them on game. And in the past several years, I feel this time has arrived for the most part.
So….if Freedom Arms gives the Red Dot Sight their blessing, so do I. Without hesitation I ordered their Red Dot Sight Mount for my 500 Model 83.
This was followed up by also ordering a JP Enterprises Red Dot Sight from another company, and when the two arrived I mounted them up and have never looked back. Incidentally, my Model 83 weighs about 46 ounces empty with the Red Dot Sight on it. Put five 440 grain loads in the cylinder and that adds over six ounces, bringing this short barreled Model 83’s weight to about 3 1/4 pounds, fully loaded.
It is still winter here in Colorado and the few times I have made it to the gun range have been cut short by unpleasant weather. I have fired my 500 only about 80 times and can say that I am very pleased with it in general. I really do like the red dot sight, and find that the four m.o.a. dot is very easy for me to put on the target and still see the target plainly. The hits seem to verify that, although at this time I do not have any real definitive targets to show you, as I am still developing the loads and getting used to the gun.
My over-all comment on recoil with this 4 ¾ inch gun: really not all that bad if you are careful at how you hold the gun, plus are experienced at shooting some of the heavier recoiling revolvers and work up to the heavier loads with the 500. One thing I have found that for me, when I shoot the heavier loads, I’d rather do it offhand than from a bench. The recoil punishment doesn’t seem as bad, especially when your elbows get “slammed” against the bench. You will find new ways to ache if you aren’t careful with this gun and its recoil.
I have found that if I stay with the lighter loads, generally around 1000 fps, this gun is fun to shoot. But when you want to get down to business, the gun is definitely there for you. I can shoot about 5, a cylinderful, of the “heavies,” and that is about all I care for at one time. My large hands on the rather smallish round butt grip of the 83 tends to put my second finger up tight against the trigger guard. Consequently, that finger takes a beating from the recoil and is the pain I notice first. I have tried wrapping that finger with a leather strap to cushion it and it helps.
As the title suggests, the 500 Wyoming Express can be fun to shoot but will also take care of business when the chips are down and you really need the power it can readily provide. But hold it wrong or get careless with the heavier loads and it can hurt you.
Bottom line I feel is this: practice with and enjoy the gun with the lighter loads. And then when you need the extra horsepower, load it up, sight it in, and then go hunt with it. The gun is at your command.
Handgunning Mule Deer and Pronghorn Antelope
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