I ordered this beauty back in September with the understanding that they were backed up at least a year. Well, as my luck would have it, my new revolver shipped to my FFL last week. These Freedom Arms 83 Premier Grades represent the finest “production" single action revolver available today, bar none. In fact, I don’t think anything else even comes close. They’re also the only American revolver currently being manufactured that I would spend money on. They are just incredible pieces of machinery. I’ve owned a Freedom Arms 97 in 45 Colt for the last 10 years and I love it. However, I’ve been wanting the larger Model 83 for years. I had one 20+ years ago in 454 Casull and foolishly sold it.
Freedom Arms was founded in Freedom, Wyoming, in the late 1970‘s by Dick Casull and Wayne Baker. At first they were only producing very small rimfire revolvers that could be worn in their patented belt-buckle holsters. This design was later sold to North American Arms and is the predecessor of the modern day NAA Pug revolver. In 1983 a large and very powerful revolver was introduced by the company that was chambered in Casull’s own 454 cartridge. This revolver was simply named the Model 83. It was available in both the Premier Grade and a less expensive Field Grade. The differences were mostly cosmetic. Over the years the 83 was chambered in a wide variety of cartridges from 50 Action Express all the way down to 22LR. The Model 83 was always a 5-shot revolver, despite the caliber. Yes, that included the rimfire model. The Model 83 starts at about $2800 for the Premier Grade and $2400 for the Field Grade. Of course, all the custom options Freedom Arms offers will send prices north. Options include an octagon barrel, honed action, crowned barrel, different grips, different sights, etc.
In 1997, the company introduced a medium framed revolver. Not surprisingly, it was called the Model 97. Unlike its big brother, the 97 was only available in Premier Grade form. This revolver was likewise chambered in the less powerful rounds, 45 Colt being the largest. The cylinder of the Model 97 was not limited to five rounds, so the smaller chamberings were 6-shooters. The model 97 is a bit less expensive with retails starting at about $2300. The options mentioned above are available on both revolvers.
The Freedom Arms manufacturing processes are amazing. The are built one at a time and entirely by hand. The tolerances are extremely tight. In fact, the company will not even send you a set of grips to change yourself. If you want new grips, you have to send the entire firearm to Wyoming so they can be precisely fit. The cylinder gap is virtually nonexistent at two to three thousandths of an inch. Just looking over the entire and you can see how much craftsmanship goes into each revolver. In fact, I truly feel they are a bargain even at the near $3000 base price. Parts are made from cast aircraft grade stainless steel, while other parts, such as the cylinder, are machined from solid bar stock. The cylinder is line bored straight through the barrel receiver, which leads to incredible accuracy. For safety, the transfer bar is built into the hammer.
This short video from Freedom Arms is a bit dated, but they are still doing the same thing to this day. Enjoy.
For my gun, I chose not to go with another 454 that I had in the past. I just don’t shoot those calibers much these days. I decided to buy one in my favorite revolver round, the 357 Magnum. While, its a huge gun for 357 (especially being a 5-shot), I wanted the ultimate range revolver in a caliber I shoot a lot of. I wanted the finest single action 357 Magnum available, if not the finest 357 Magnum available period. With the way the cylinder looks and the incredibly beefy action designed for much more robust cartridges, I don’t think its possible to wear out this revolver. I could honestly see it firing a half million rounds with no ill-effects other than barrel wear. Its very heavy and solid. Shaking the gun feels like 55oz of solid stainless steel. Those with Freedom Arms experience will know exactly what I mean. Just picking them up and you know its one of the finest guns you’ve ever handled. These revolvers have been in production for almost 35 years, so chances are that many of you have handled or shot them in the past.
I specs I asked for were simple. I chose rosewood grips, so it could match my Model 97, the 6“ barrel, which seemed like the best balance, and the honed action. The action isn’t much different than the already fine stock action, but the trigger is a bit lighter. I went with the standard adjustable sights and round barrel (I’m not much for the octagon look). The barrel is recess crowned to protect the rifling and the cylinder chambers are also recessed in vintage Smith & Wesson fashion. The entire gun was $3014 out the door. Again, for the build quality you get, I think these guns are a bargain. I really do. Nothing else in the single action world really comes close, other than the custom builders. In fact, I haven’t seen any of those that I’d take over this revolver either. I very highly recommned one to somebody who wants to splurge a bit. You will not find a stronger, more refined, or higher quality single action wheelgun anywhere.
Who here owns a Freedom Arms revolver? If you do, what are your opinions?
Please enjoy the pics and share your thoughts.
Here you can see the 25 yard test target with three rounds...
Here it is with my Model 97 Premier Grade...
Now for some macro pics.