Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weigand Combat Custom Ruger SP101 357 Magnum

Last year I bored you all with a story about a personal tradition I started back in the 1990's where I would buy myself a special or custom gun for my birthday each year.  I kept that going for a few years, but priorities changed when I started shooting competitive ATA Trap.  By the late 90's I was spending all my play money on fine Italian target shotguns, practice targets, shotgun reloading supplies, travel expenses to shoots, and entry fees at the various shoots I attended.

I got that tradition started again in 2010 with a custom serial number Seecamp LWS380 that rolled out of Larry's office the day after my birthday in 2010.  I know the date because Larry will sign(engrave) and date your second magazine on the day your Seecamp is packed for shipping.  There is a very long story associated with that pistol, but I wasn't blogging back in 2010 so only a few folks know the background on that transaction.

Last year I took delivery of a Robar customized Kahr P45.  It too had a long back story that I covered in detail in this blog post from last October.

I had every intention of skipping my birthday gun this year because next year is my 50th birthday, and I thought I would save up this year and get something super special next year.  I have many ideas floating around in my head for the 50th, but all signs point to a custom hand made 1911.  I thought engraving would be nice and then I saw a Nighthawk Custom with a Damascus slide.  It looked so nice that I might be changing my plans.

I was still considering my 2013 birthday gun options when I went to my dentist for my semi-annual cleaning last month.  I'm not really fond of the dentist and luckily for me I've been blessed with some fairly trouble-free choppers.  I do my part to clean them each day and twice a year I have to let someone else take their turn cleaning them too.  I'll circle back to this dentist appointment in a minute.

One of my first birthday customs was dreamed up while scanning through the pages of the many popular gun magazines of the early 1990's.  I must have subscribed to every gun magazine back then.  At some point in 1993, I was reading about a gunsmith named Jack Weigand and what a magical job he was doing on deep cover carry packages for the  Ruger SP101.  Jack had come up with his own porting methods to tame the beast known as the 2.25" Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum.  He also bobbed the hammer, bead blasted the pistol, chamfered the cylinder charge holes, and gave it a super smooth and light double action trigger pull.  I inquired about prices, but a Weigand Combat Handguns custom SP101 was way out of my price range at that time.  So instead, I purchased a box stock Smith and Wesson model 65 and sent it off to Mag-na-port International for many of the features included in the Weigand package.  When researching the details for this post, I found my Mag-na-port receipt from October 1993 with the total customizations final price of $185.  I doubt they even port a pistol for less than that now let alone do all the other custom finishing work I had done.

As you can see, after 19 years it hasn't been shot very much.  After porting and bead blasting, I had them add the bling factor with polished cylinder flutes and jeweled and polished hammer and trigger.  When I saw it, I decided it was just to pretty to shoot very much.  I had the same customizations done to a S&W Model 60 (less the porting) for my birthday gun 1994 so the "matching pair" have pretty much been safe queens for their entire lives and have survived at least two purges.

Maybe one day I'll tell you the story of the Purges, but I'll save that for another day.

So I'm at the Dentist last month.  The one upside to keeping the cleaning appointment is that it puts me in close proximity to a gun shop that I don't go out of my way to visit very often.  Run by "Glock Guys" it's always interesting to see what they pick up on trades from the various shows they attend on the weekends.  With a mouth full of freshly cleaned teeth, I stopped in at the store.  On the bottom shelf of the revolver case I spied a Ruger SP101.  I had to stoop down for a closer look.

I asked the Owner/Clerk if I could see the pistol.  It looks almost new except it's got a beautiful bead blasted finish, 3 circular ports cut into the top strap, and it wears the distinctive Weigand Combat Pistols logo right under the cylinder release.  Almost 20 years of cobwebs and dust have settled in my brain since I first learned about the Weigand Combat SP101 package, but I instantly recognized the maker's mark.  I pass the pistol back and google Jack Weigand's website just to be sure it's one of his pistols.  It is.

At that point I walked back to the case and looked again at the price marked on the pistol.  I thought maybe I read it wrong when I first looked at it.  Nope, $325 is what is on the tag.  Being a good guy, I ask the Owner/Clerk if he has any idea who's maker's mark is on the pistol.  He has no idea so I tell him it's a Weigand.  No recognition of the name from him.  I ask about box and paperwork, but there isn't any.  I then tell him that I'll take the pistol and he breaks into a broad smile.  I probably could have tried for $300 if I had some cash on me, but I gladly paid full marked price and hopefully banked some equity with the owner for some future deal.

You probably want to see the pistol now, so here's my 2012 birthday gun that I've waited for since 1993.  I really didn't find it, I think it found me. When I brought it home, it was wearing a Hogue Mono-grip and the original grips were not with the gun.  I found a sale on Crimson Trace grips and ordered a boot grip set.  Isn't it beautiful.
The picture above shows the three main external customizations.  The progressive Hybra Porting of the barrel, bead blasted finish, and bobbed hammer that has been converted to DAO.  What you can't see is the awesome trigger job that's been done on the pistol.  It's got a very sweet trigger.

After 1993, Jack Weigand continued to progress as a gunsmith and was named The American Pistolsmiths Guild "1999 Pistolsmith of the Year".  Jack stopped accepting new custom work several years ago and that made me even happier that I happened to find one of his SP101 conversions available at such a reasonable price.  Jack's website is still active and he offers several scope and ring mount options of his own design.

While waiting for the replacement grips to arrive, I happened to notice that Matt Del Fatti had a horse hide ISP PH3 Convertible holster available on his web site in-stock list.  Matt is arguably one of the best custom holster makers around, and his backlog of work shows it.  He's tops in my book, but you are free to agree or disagree with me.  Finding this holster randomly available was an unbelievable coincidence and was the icing on the birthday gun cake.  



Even though I was ready to shoot the pistol for the first time weeks ago, I made myself wait until I had at least hit my birthday month before trying it out.  It's every bit as good as I expected it would be.  I shot a short video of my first shots with it.  I also have a Ruger LCR 38 +P with similar Crimson Trace laser grips installed on it.  I want to shoot both back to back soon, but I really think the ported SP101 is easier and more pleasurable to shoot quickly and accurately even with the 158 grain magnum loads. 


In retrospect, I'm actually glad it took so long for this pistol to find me.  I'm afraid that if I had purchased one at full price in 1993 or 1994, it may have ended up in the safe like the S&W Model 65 I mentioned earlier.  Based on it's overall condition, I think that's where this SP101 has spent most of it's former life.  That's no life for a pistol.  It needs to be out on the range or strapped to a hip.  I'll do my best to make sure it has a great second life.

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