Years back I got out of .44 Magnums. I didn’t reload, I wasn’t hunting and commercial ammo had gotten too bloody expensive to shoot them for pleasure. Times change though- I’ve taken up reloading and am hunting again. The property I hunt has a lot of brush and heavy cover- typical shots are 7-20 yards and you almost never get a shot over fifty yards. A handgun seemed a natural choice for the conditions, so I decided it was time to get another .44 Magnum.
A couple of years ago I went looking. The budget was, as always, limited so I expected a long search for something cheap enough but suitable. Nope- first time I walked into Pinto’s there it was- a US Arms Abilene .44 Magnum with a 7-1/2″ ported bull-barrel. It’s in remarkably good condition- the finish looks like it’s made out of black glass, there is no end-play and the cylinder locks up super-tight. The cylinder gap is .002 inches, and when you cock it the clicks are super-sharp and almost musical. Moreover these guns were popular with silhouette shooters for their accuracy and durability. $375? Shut up and take my money!
In the 70’s and 80’s long range silhouette shooting was the big game. In 1972 Sig Himmelmann founded United States Arms and designed the Abilene revolver. United Sporting Arms and United States Arms were originally one company, but in 1977 the company split, with United sporting arms producing the Seville, and United States Arms producing the Abilene. Unfortunately U.S.Arms did not prosper, and in 1980 Mossberg’s AIG division bought them out. They continued producing the Abilene from parts on hand, and people immediately began noticing quality-control issues. Production stopped when the parts on hand ran out, and the Abilene faded into the past. Though mostly forgotten now, in their day these were a top-quality premium revolver. Now they go cheap because nobody remembers what they are. On the one hand that’s a shame, because these really are superb revolvers. On the other hand it meant I could afford one, so it’s not all bad.
I’d been thinking I’d shorten whatever I got to 4-5/8″ for packability, but I think I’m going to leave this one alone. Despite the bull-barrel it hangs very nicely in the hand. I tried it out at the range and using Sellier & Bellot 240gr. JSPs I was able to shoot a 2-5/8″ off-hand group at 25 yards with one flyer-
Unfortunately I had issues with the Sellier & Bellot ammo- I had a misfire about once per cylinder. The primer strikes looked good, they just didn’t go off until I re-struck them. I tested the gun with primed brass and it got 100% ignition. I’m a little surprised; S&B ammo has been my go-to cheap ammo for years. I suppose anyone can have a bad day, even ammo manufacturers. I said cheap ammo, but this stuff is expensive- after tax it was going to be $40 for a box of suitable ammo. Thor and I (yes, that’s his real name) poked around the store and came up with a set of used RCBS steel dies, a can of case-lube and 100 bullets for total of $55. What the heck, I was going to buy dies anyway.
The bullets are 260 grain HC-LSWCs at about 15 Brinell hardness. This is about right I think; Hard enough to retain weight well but not so hard it acts like FMJ. I loaded this on top of 9.3gr. of Unique with a CCI Large Pistol primer. This ought to get 1175-1200 fps. for around 800ft./lbs. of energy. More than adequate for local Blacktails.
Works a treat- recoil is not trivial but not bad at all; like a stout .357 magnum in a medium-frame revolver.
The gun isn’t perfect- the grips are very fat. This handles recoil well but isn’t all that comfortable in my hand. I narrowed them at the front and center but left the back fat for recoil management. I also refinished the grips with British Tan leather dye and a hand-rubbed wax finish. Much more comfortable. I made a holster for it- nothing fancy, but functional. It’s been hunting with me a couple of times, but no luck yet. Next month I’ll be east of the mountains hunting coyotes, and the Abilene will be coming along.
I really love this gun; great shooter, very good looking and it practically oozes quality. And for the price? Very happy indeed!
Michael Tinker Pearce, 20 February 2020
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