bca monogram graphic

photos The Custom Revolver Book


The Custom Revolver by Hamilton S. Bowen
with foreword by Ross Seyfried

The Custom Revolver is essential reading for shooters, handgun hunters, collectors or anyone else with an interest not only in custom revolvers but revolvers in general. Many handgun-related books touch on the general topic of custom revolvers, but never before have the nearly unlimited possibilities available from skilled, custom revolversmiths been cataloged and covered in such depth and detail.

The Custom Revolver begins with a discussion of available revolvers, notes their strengths and weaknesses and proceeds to show all manner of sights, exotic barrels and custom cylinders for popular Colt, Ruger and Smith & Wesson revolvers. Other chapters contain valuable insights into such topics as the compatibility of various modifications, shooting techniques, revolver accuracy and testing, reloading high-performance revolver ammunition, wildcat cartridges, finishing, custom grips and much more.

Several chapters are devoted to truly exotic revolvers, many of which are one of a kind, such as a .577 Redhawk and a twenty-six ounce, ultra-lightweight .50 Action Express Blackhawk with a titanium barrel and cylinder. Other sections touch on the Colt Flat-Top Target model, the fascinating Sedgley take-out cylinder revolvers and many others. Not only is the fabulous Seyfried No. 13 revolver discussed and illustrated, but also the first chapter is devoted to the most famous custom revolver of all—the Keith No. 5.

Only Hamilton S. Bowen, founder of Bowen Classic Arms Corporation, could have written this book. No other revolver maker has produced a portfolio of gun work of such diversity, quality and sophistication, the product of the experience and skill gained from his thirty-year career in the trade. Publications the world over have featured the work of his firm.

The Custom Revolver is the definitive book on the topic and is destined to become a classic.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: THE KEITH NO. 5

Sturm, Ruger & Company
The Old Models
The New Models
Other Ruger Double-Action Guns
The Colt Single Action
Smith & Wessons

Chapter Three:
Mechanical Blueprinting
Accuracy: What to Expect
Simple Accurizing Methods

General Observations
Rechambered Cylinders
Generic Custom Cylinders
Auxiliary Cylinders
Five-Shot Double-Action Cylinders
Linebored Cylinders

Chapter Five: STYLE
Frames and Rear Sights
Front Sights and Barrels
Related Barrel Matters

Bowen Classic Arms Trade Label
Guild Project No. 12 Colt
Guild Project No. 14 Colt
.577 Bland-Pryse Revolver and
Dougall Howdah
Bowen Classic Arms Keith No. 5
Seyfried No. 13 .475 Ruger Bisley
Stainless 5-Shot .45 Colt Ruger Bisley
Light Weight .45 Colt SAA
.50 AE “Alpine” Redhawk

.50 AE Light Weight Ruger BlackhawkSedgley-Style Ruger Vaquero
.32-20 Flat-Top Target Colt
M1917 Ruger Redhawk.500 Linebaugh L-Frame Pattern Ruger Redhawk
Best-grade .32-20 Old Model Ruger Blackhawk
.44 Ball & Shot Single Action Army
.45 Colt Smith & Wesson Heavy Duty

Chapter Seven: FINISHING
General Observations on Metal Preparation
Color Hardening
Finishing Details

Chapter Eight: GRIPS
Some General Observations
Mechanical Consideratons

Lightweight Revolvers
The Sedgley Take-out Cylinder Gun
Paradox Revolvers
Colt Flat-Top Target Models
.577 Redhawk
Best-Quality Guns
Percussion Big-bore Revolvers



Custom Grip Makers
Holster Makers
Barrel Makers
Specialty Handgun Ammunition Mfg.
Reloading Equipment
Cast Bullets
Cartridge Cases



Book reviews: What the Critics Say

… Bowen writes in much the same manner as he talks, with a dry ascorbic wit that reminds me of Mark Twain’s writings. It makes the book very readable, even in the parts that might otherwise be very technical. For instance, when writing about a certain manufacturer who went through some quality control problems, Bowen described the finishing done to the guns at that time as the product of what appeared to be “…the handiwork of drunken visitors from a bumper chroming shop.”

By the time you finish this book you will have a complete look at what goes into a first-class custom sixgun…one that not only looks very good, but one that is put together correctly and that shoots very well.

I do not believe that there is another book on the market that details the building of a custom revolver in the manner that this book does. Being written as it is by someone who is qualified to speak to the subject by his years as a Master at this trade makes the insights provided in this book that much more valuable. It is a worthy addition to every library.

Bowen’s Book Details the Making of a Custom Revolver, Review by Jim Taylor
The New Gun Week, Vol. 37 Issue 1717, May 20, 2002


Bowen’s Book, like the fabulous custom revolvers he is so famous for, is pure class from the first page to the last. If you like revolvers, custom guns or simply the pursuit of excellence for its own sake, you must add this to your bookshelf…

…The Custom Revolver is positively full of great information you’ll not find elsewhere, as well as being splendidly illustrated with crisp photography and stunning color plates. However it’s also very attractively written. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that someone who shapes steel with such grace shapes his text with equal care.

On A Positive Note, By Jim Gardner
Guns, August 2003


…So, if I consider most of the creations displayed in this book to be displays of extravagant, impractical gun nuttiness, why do I like the book so much? That’s easy! THere is more good information about revolvers in general than in any other book of its kind that I have ever seen. The intricacies, nuances and shortcomings of various revolver actions are discussed in detail, including troubleshooting and tuning. Bowen is not beholden to any advertisers, so he can pull no punches when it comes to discussing the shortcomings of various designs. There is an immense amour of practical advice on accuracy tinning, refinishing and remedying all the ills that a revolver is subject to. Even though revolvers have been a big part of my life for the last 35 years or so, I still learned a great deal from Bowen’s book. I was also gratified by how often Bowen’s views coincided with my own.

In addition, there is great deal of wit, wisdom and entertainment contained in this book. Consider the following: “More troubling is the certain fact that every gun has a soul. Some guns are simply infested with evil spirits, and no amount of study and adjustment will frustrate these malignant agents.” I had never heard it put that way before, but I knew exactly what Bowen meant…

Gun Thoughts by Jan Libourel
Gun World, February 2003


If you enjoy revolvers, or fine firearms of any sort, here a book for you. The Custom Revolver touches virtually every facet of fine revolvers, from utilitarian workhorses to some of the finest exhibition revolvers ever created. It is a big, beautiful “coffe-table” book full of fine photographs.

Within you will find sound advice on the choice of a reviver as a basis for a custom piece, as well as direction from the master to help you achieve your goals.

There is information on ammunition, loads, shooting and a source list for many of the “secret” ingredients in a fine custom revolver.

Along with the “normal” custom work, there is a revolver history and some delightful detours with pictures and stories about some very unusual kinds of handguns: the giant .577 bores, Howdah pistols, smallbores, percussion and even extraordinary “Paradox” revolvers that work perfectly with bullets or shot.

Something I said in the Foreword to this book bears repeating: It is a book written by someone who knows the subject intimatel, a grand master of the trade. This is in wonderful contrast to many current and even past firearms books that wre written by people who wanted to be called expert, because they wrote the book.

I believe this book is one of a kind, and enjoyable, timeless reference.

Review of The Custom Revolver, Ross Seyfried
Handloader, October 2002



now hear thisSeptember 1, 2012 | As some of our customers may already be aware, The First edition of The Custom Revolver has completely sold out. However, we are please to announce that a digital version of the First edition is finally available. Please see the book section of our parts store for more details.

The Custom Revolver e-book @ Amazon.com

Please Note: The digital version of The Custom Revolver has been designed to be as widely inter-compatible as possible; subsequently much of the formatting has been altered. It is compatible with all Kindle devices, Kindle for iPad/iPhone/Mac, and Kindle for Android/PC.


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