Freedom Arms Model 97 .45

Freedom Arms Model 97 .45

The Model 97 produced this excellent 0.86-inch, five-shot group with Federal .45 ACP 230-grain Hydra-Shok ammo. It is the most accurate dual-cylinder revolver Greg has ever evaluated.

Like a lot of shooters, I grew up watching cowboy movies. Although AR-15s, big-bore hunting rifles, and 1911s occupy the majority of my range time, I have never stopped longing for a single-action six-shooter like my big-screen heroes packed. I"ve gone through a few sixguns over the years, but I never found one I liked well enough to keep until I put the Freedom Arms Model 97 through a review.


Although best known for its large-frame Model 83 and the .454 Casull, Freedom Arms introduced the mid-sized Model 97 in, well, 1997. Like its bigger brother, the single-action Model 97 is made from solid stainless steel with a brushed finish. The Model 97 has an automatic transfer-bar safety that puts a solid bar of steel between the hammer and the firing pin when the hammer is lowered.

All Freedom Arms revolvers are made to the tightest tolerances, and this one is no exception. The five-shot cylinder is line-bored, and many hours go into the fitting of each part. The quality is immediately apparent in the tight, seamless fit of the grip frame to the frame and the black micarta grips to the grip frame. The cylinder locks up nice and tight with no noticeable play. Its smooth action and crisp, 3-pound, 1-ounce trigger pull are further testament to the many hours spent making what many shooters consider to be the Rolls Royce of revolvers.


Although my revolver is chambered in .45 Colt, the Model 97 is available in six other calibers from .17 HMR to .44 Special. Extra cylinders are also available for some revolvers. For example, you can get a 9mm cylinder if you have a .357 Magnum Model 97 or, as I did, a .45 ACP cylinder for the .45 Colt Model 97. Considering the extra cylinder has a retail price of only $286 and I have a closet full of 230-grain .45 ACP ammo, the extra cylinder was a no-brainer.


You can order your Model 97 with fixed or adjustable sights and a barrel from 41/2 to 10 inches long. Because I plan to hunt with mine and carry it a great deal, I went with adjustable sights and the 51/2-inch barrel, which I think represents the ideal compromise for easy packing and iron-sight-range accuracy. With a scope, a longer barrel would be nice, but given my limitations with an iron-sighted revolver, 51/2 inches is long enough and still packs easily.

The ramped front sight has a black, serrated blade. It is replaceable, which allows a great detail of adjustment to compensate for the wide variety of .45 ACP and .45 Colt loads. The rear sight is drift-adjustable for windage and screw-adjustable for elevation, and it is a low-profile affair that resembles a fixed sight in profile.

The Model 97 On The Range
Impressed with the sample gun"s looks, fit, and finish, I was anxious to take it to the range. So I grabbed an assortment of ammunition, including a pair of my favorite accuracy loads and a few factory loads in both .45 Colt and .45 ACP, and set out to do some serious shooting.

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Freedom Arms Model 97

Model:97
Purpose:Hunting, target shooting, plinking
Manufacturer: Freedom Arms Inc.
P.O. Box 150
Freedom WY 83120
800-833-4432
wwww.freedomarms.com
Cylinder capacity:5 rounds
Frame material:Brushed stainless steel
Cylinder material:Brushed stainless steel
Calibers:.17 HMR, .22 LR, .32 H&R Mag.,
.357 Mag., .41 Rem. Mag., .44 Spl.,
.45 Colt (as tested)
Barrel lengths:4 1/4, 5 1/2 (as tested), 7 1/2,
10 inches; 1:24 twist
Sights:Ramp front with interchangeable
blades; adjustable rear
Metal finish:Brushed stainless steel
Safety:Automatic transfer bar
Trigger type:Single-action
Pull weight:3 pounds, 1 ounce
Grip material
and finish
Smooth black micarta
Overall length:10.75 inches (5 1/2- inch barrel)
Height:5.375 inches
Weight, empty:36.64 ounces
Accessories:Owner's manual, gun lock
MSRP:$1,772 with wood grips;
$2,096 with micarta grips
and extra .45 ACP cylinder
(as tested)

I usually start my handgun tests with some 7-yard slow fire, but I went straight to the 25 yard bench with the Model 97. From the bags, I started with a pet accuracy load featuring a 240-grain Sierra bullet over 8.7 grains of Unique. The first few shots from the Model 97 felt great. Recoil with the mild load was negligible, the trigger was very nice, and the serrated black front sight stood out well against the orange sticker and white backer. My first five-shot group was a bit high and right, but it measured an impressive 1.20 inches. Subsequent groups with that load and another load with the same bullet over 7.2 grains of W231 proved to be just as accurate.

I didn"t have much in the way of factory ammunition in .45 Colt, but I did have a few boxes of Winchester"s 225-grain Silvertip load in the ammo closet. Although it is not a hot load, I"ve dropped enough deer with it over the years to know that it"s deadly at reasonable ranges. The Model 97 liked it well enough, producing a five-group average of 2.28 inches.

I"ve had mixed accuracy results with multi-cylindered revolvers over the years. Some have shot pretty decent with the second cylinder, but none shot great. Still, given its high degree of fit and finish, I expected the Model 97 to shoot well when I swapped the .45 Colt cylinder for one marked .45 ACP. I am happy to report that the first five-shot group I fired with Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok ammo measured just 0.86 inch, and the five-group average barely broke the 1-inch mark. That"s not bad for any handgun, much less an auto pistol round that headspaces on the case mouth in the cylinder of a revolver.

I"ve carried and fired the Model 97 a great deal since my initial accuracy tests. I ordered it expecting to get a slick packin" piece with world-class fit and finish and top-notch accuracy, and that"s exactly what I got. Though not cheap, the mid-sized Freedom Arms Model 97 is a lot of gun for the money.

NOTE: All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

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Freedon Arms Model 97 Accuracy

BulletPowder TypePowder Grs.Velocity
(fps)
25- Yard
Accuracy
(inches)
.45 Colt
Sierra 240-gr. JHCUnique8.77961.26
Winchester 225-gr. SilvertipFactory Load8972.28
.45 ACP
Black Hills 185-gr. JHPFactory load9182.43
Federal 230-gr. Hydra ShokFactory load8461.10
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups
fired from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards.
Velocity is the average of 20 rounds
measured 10 feet from the guns muzzle.

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