One the first page of this thread I shared that John and I did a trade where he ended up with a bisley 44 mag back in Alabama and I ended up with one of the 44 Special OM conversions he did based on Skeeters original conversions. I mentioned that in honor of John I wanted add some special touches to this revolver in honor of John. I made a phone call to John's god friend Hamilton Bowen and shared what I wanted to do and he graciously agreed to help me complete this project. I sent the gun to Hamilton and he removed the original barrel and fabricated a 5 1/2" ovate barrel for the gun. The gun needed some minor welding on the nose of the top strap to properly meet the ovate and in doing so part of the Gallagher logo had to be altered. While he was doing this, Rob Rowan was making a set of special grips for the gun and while the original plan called for fleur di Lis checkering, the devastation of the local wild fires altered those plans in order to help fire victims with part of the set aside funds. Once Rob was done it went back to Hamilton for final fitting then Hamilton shipped the gun back to Isaac Gallagher so Isaac could redo the Gallagher logo and re-blue the entire gun.
Isaac shipped the gun back last week and it just arrived today. This will be one of the heirloom guns that will stay in the safe once the rest start finding new homes. While it truly is a collaboration of arts from Johns original conversion to Hamilton's barrel work to David Clements elegant hammer to Rob Rowan's beautiful grips and even Isaac's finish work and approval of the final project, it is still my John Gallagher Quest gun.
Thank you gentlemen for helping me honor and remember a special friend.
I unfortunately just learned of John's passing, between work and life getting in the way I've been fairly oblivious to the happenings in the gun world. When I found this thread while looking for something else I immediately joined the forum so I could share my experience with John.
In June of 2015 I took an NRA short term gunsmithing class taught by John on tuning Ruger single actions at Montgomery Community College in Troy, NC. At the time I signed up for the class I had one New Model Blackhawk in .45 Colt that I had inherited from my dad. I signed up for the class because I had an interest in gunsmithing and it seemed like it would be an interesting class. I bought a brand new New Model Blackhawk in .45 colt with a 5.5" barrel for the class. A month or two before the class I got a call from John to discuss a little of what I was wanting to achieve in the class so he could make sure and bring any tools/materials that might be needed. I was interested in doing a 5 shot conversion, but changed my plans upon learning that the 1 week class wasn't long enough.
When I got to the class I had 2 New model blackhawks in .45 colt (dad's 7.5" gun and my 5.5" gun) and a single six I had managed to acquire. I spent most of my class time working on my 5.5" gun (the other 2 got nice action jobs done). John as it turns out made an excellent teacher, he taught in such a way that I understood it quickly. He started us out taking apart the guns and putting them back together several times, then started showing how to tune the action. What parts to polish, how to ream the frame and cylinder for an oversized basepin, how to adjust the timing, and how to modify the gun for a free spin cylinder without having to install a free spin pawl (a trick that I will be using on my next blackhawk build). Around the same time he explained how to fit new grip frames to the guns.
Once we were all working on our guns with the action work and what not, John spent some time with each of us helping us with our specific projects. Several people in the class wanted to do caliber conversions (all were flat top .357 to .44 special conversions). We all took a break while John taught us the process for the conversion. At the same time we got a lesson on lineboring a cylinder. One person wanted to shorten their barrel and resolder on the front sight, again we all gathered around for John to teach us the process.
When he got to me for the 1 on 1 work, I was installing a new grip from (steel instead of aluminum). I asked about doing scalloping the recoil shields on my 5.5" gun. After a couple minutes of discussion, he went over to his tool box and got and endmill and a fixture, I grabbed my frame and loading gate and off to the machine shop we went. He spent the time showing me how the fixture was set up and then how to cut the scallops. After cutting the scallops, he gave me some pointers on fitting a set of grips to my frame since I was fitting the frame to the gun anyways. Taking his advice I made them a very smooth transition between the grips and frame so there was nothing to pinch when shooting heavy .45 colt loads (I was fortunate a classmate had a set of take of laminates and needed a free spin pawl that I had so a trade was made). When it came to refinishing the gun I was fortunate in that the school fired up their bluing tanks for us on the last day of the class. After discussing finishes with John a little bit (and because I hate polishing), I decided to bead blast the gun the the finest media the school had (I believe it was 320 grit glass bead), then hot blue it. It was at this point that we discovered that my "in the white" frame was actually a stainless frame...oh well, with John's help the gun still turned out beautifully.
While we were cutting the scallops he said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that after watching me work I was the one person in the class that could do this for a living. It has stuck with me ever since. I'm a machinist for a living now. I'm almost finished setting up my home machine shop...once it is completely set up I think I'm gonna start working on guns and maybe even get an FFL and start building and tuning ruger single actions.
The course was excellent, I learned a lot from John. I always intended on taking the class again but life got in the way and I have never been able to.
I apologize for the long post, John just made a big impression on me, to be honest he is probably a large part of the reason why I stuck with my gunsmithing interests. When I work my way through 1 or 2 other previously planned projects I'll be using the skills learned from John's class to build anther blackhawk, though the next one is going to have a Keith No 5 grip frame fitted.
Anyways, here some pictures of the gun I built under John's tutelage. I carry the gun often when I am tramping around my land, so it sees some use.
sorry for the poor photos, I'd just wiped the gun down and the oil makes it look shinier than it actually is, in reality it has a beautiful satin blue finish (or satin stainless for the grip frame)
Thank you for the write up and sharing your story. I agree with you on John being a good teacher. The few days I got to spend in his shop a few months before he died was full of explanations as to the whats and whys of revolver work. From the looks of the pictures of your gun you did in his class, I can see why John encouraged you to go down the path you have choosen.
thank you gentlemen, looking back I think it was the most enjoyable gunsmithing class I've taken.
Now the more I think about it, I think I'm gonna finish my 10/22 that I have all the parts for when I get my chamber ream in, put my model 70 and my Mosin Nagant express rifle projects on hold and jump straight into a blackhawk build...I forgot how much I enjoyed working on them until I wrote up the post about my class with John...time to start sourcing parts...who knows, maybe I'll get a wild hair and make an octagon barrel
Post by 6gunsonly on Sept 22, 2021 13:12:11 GMT -5
This is my first post here, appropriate that it's on a thread dedicated to John's memory and work. I knew John for several years before his passing and was at his shop many times (I live in NW Alabama, about an hour and fifteen minutes from John's home in Arley). I have four Ruger Blackhawks John built for me (well, one is actually a single six). None are, or will be for sale. One is an original 7.5" old model flattop .44 that someone had drilled and tapped for a scope. John TIG welded the holes, installed a steel OA gripframe and steel ERH, and reblued it. Another was a cosmetically challenged flattop . 44 that I had John cut to 4 5/8". We then sent the gripframe to Turnbull for CCH. Installed a steel OA gripfame and steel ERH on this one as well. Third is an OM .flattop . 357 to . 44 Special conversion John did for me, 4 5/8" barrel, black powder chamfer on the cylinder leading edges, reblued. We retained the alloy gripframe and ERH on this one for weight savings. It is truly a PPP. Last I have an old model single six John cut to 4 5/8" (yeah, there's a theme there) and installed a brass bead front/wide shallow V rear with white center line. It usually has the . 22 WMR cylinder in it loaded with the 50 grain Federal stuff. John also worked on a couple of S&Ws and Browning Hi-Powers for me over the years. He was a great gunsmith and a good friend. I miss him. P. S. I bought the Ruger 77 Safari . 223 that was offered by a friend of John's on Ruger forum, with the proceeds going to John and Beverly. This was before his passing.