This article, "'Bisley is Best" appeared originally as a Tech Wisdom column in the September 2017 issue of Shooting Illustrated. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select Shooting Illustrated as your member magazine.
My love for the Bisley Grip frame on Ruger single-action revolvers got me to thinking while I was out shooting yesterday. Why doesn’t Ruger offer that type of grip on all the single-action revolvers it produces? That style of grip fits my hand like a glove and makes even the heaviest-recoiling loads at least tolerable—if not comfortable—to shoot. I have three New Model Ruger .45 Colt revolvers with 45⁄8-, 5.5- and 7.5-inch barrels. The 7.5-inch variant sports a Bisley grip while the others have the more traditional style grip. What parts do I need to convert the standard-grip guns to Bisley grips, assuming they will fit the standard frame? In my opinion, the Bisley grip is without question the best for a single-action revolver.
Henri Girard, Van Buren, ME
I too am a fan of the Ruger Bisley grip frames, especially on hunting revolvers using heavy loads that generate significant recoil. The short answer to your question is yes, the New Model Bisley grip frames will fit the cylinder frame of a gun that was manufactured with the standard grip frame.
The longer answer is that it may be a bit more complicated than it appears initially. Usually, a conversion such as this pushes the limits of the hobbyist with a modicum of mechanical ability and available tools.
I’ll list the parts needed, laying out some of the areas that require a little extra attention and leave it up to you as to whether you want to tackle the job or have a revolver-specific gunsmith with the tools and expertise to do it for you.
The parts needed for the conversion are: the Bisley grip frame itself, the two screws that thread into the rear of the cylinder frame to hold the grip frame in place, the grip panels, the hammer and the trigger. Since the grip frame is available in stainless and alloy steel, make sure to order the one applicable to your conversion project. The three screws that hold the forward portion of the grip frame to the cylinder frame are the same in both applications and can be reused, although I prefer to install new ones in all five locations.
The pawl, which attaches to the hammer on one end and rotates the cylinder on the other, is one of the few parts in today’s modern revolvers that may require a bit of fitting. This works in concert with the cylinder latch to ensure proper alignment of each chamber in the cylinder with the forcing cone of the barrel each time the hammer is cocked. Since the hammer is being replaced, it is a good idea to order a pawl just in case the original comes up a bit short when testing the timing and lockup of each of the cylinder’s six chambers.
I should make it clear, when ordering the stainless or blued Bisley grip frame from the factory, it is not unusual for a little metal work to be required to blend the lines of the cylinder frame and the grip frame. In the case of the blued alloy steel version, matching the parts so they look like they belong together will most likely require re-bluing the revolver. With respect to the stainless models, once assembled and tested, a little polishing will be necessary to make the parts blend together aesthetically.
There are a number of well-known and competent revolver smiths that could handle this type of conversion in short order and return the gun to you looking like new if doing it yourself has lost its appeal due to the aforementioned revelations.
As an aside, the Ruger engineers may have been thinking in the same vein as you in that they are adding the Bisley grip frame to an increasing number of their existing models and adding a few newer ones as well. One of which is chambered in .454 Casull, which will allow you to shoot your .45 Colt loads for practice and the heavier loads when the game animal being pursued requires the extra power.
Not that you need an excuse to buy another gun, but it would be adding another Bisley to your collection.