I first encountered Tyler Gun Works a few years ago while searching for a Christmas gift for a close friend, one of the proverbial guys who is very difficult to buy for. Jeff Quinn of Gunblast.com wrote about a high quality tomahawk that piqued my interest. Its blade was case hardened and its handle was made of hickory. I went to the manufacturer’s website and found several models to choose from and they were all made of stainless steel.
“Wait a second,” I thought, “Stainless steel can’t be case hardened.” Apparently it can, but there’s just one alchemist on the planet who figured it out. His name is Bobby Tyler and he’s located in Friona, Texas in the big state’s panhandle. When asked how he does it, Bobby smiles slyly and drawls, “Very carefully.”
In the Beginning
Bobby Tyler has been a custom gunsmith for many years now. He was raised with firearms and hunting as a way of life. After attending Texas A&M University, he earned his gunsmith degree from the Colorado School of Trades. Founded in 1947, this prestigious college offers an Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Gunsmithing.
Bobby discovered his passion for metal finishing, which led to his restoration and embellishment business for all manner of firearms. While custom work for individual clients led to a successful business due to word of mouth praise, Henry Repeating Arms was the big gun maker that challenged Tyler with a much larger scale of work. Henry’s Big Boy lever action rifle with the color case hardened finish was an instant success. So much so that, in addition to the first two original rifles, they now offer six more color case hardened models.
Many other firearms makers utilize Tyler Gun Works for color case hardening and other handsome finishes he provides these days. Bobby’s shop offers nitre blue, standard blue, bright blue, and his hallmark color case hardening. He can also provide Colt style case hardening as well. I have an original Stevens Favorite .22 youth rifle made in the early 1900s. It’s original case hardened finish is just like the wavy lined hues Bobby Tyler’s versions display.
Custom Limited Edition Rugers
Tyler has a unique relationship with Ruger Firearms that led him to offer a limited edition version of their Shopkeeper Bearcat .22 single action revolver. With a 3.5-inch barrel, birdshead grip, and fluted cylinder, each gun was marked on the top of the back strap with its unique number “X of 200.” A few were engraved and elk stocks were an option. These fine little .22s sold out quickly. One of the treasures that comes with a Tyler Gun Works exclusive like this Shopkeeper Bearcat is that since Bobby has to take each gun apart, he puts them back together properly timed and fitted with a superb trigger pull.
The second limited edition offered by Tyler Gun Works was a run of 200 Ruger Vaquero single actions chambered in .357 Magnum. In addition, each revolver came with a matched 9mm cylinder. This means that the 4 5/8-inch barrel gun can fired .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and 9mm ammunition (and even shorter .38 cartridges that fire in a .38 Special too like the .38 S&W).
Similar to the Shopkeeper Bearcat, a case hardened frame, loading gate, hammer, and trigger add Tyler’s own style, along with the option (for a very few guns) of engraving and elk stocks. The Vaqueros are also numbered to match their limited run of just 200 revolvers. A shooting friend of mine purchased one of these and he raves about how well it shoots. Again, Bobby goes over the action to provide his customers with an outstanding all-around firearm that shoots as good as it looks.
The Original RSSE
Alexander Sturm and William Ruger began shipping their first firearms in 1949 (with the semi-automatic Ruger Standard .22 pistol). Ruger’s Single Six, a single action .22 caliber revolver, came out in 1953. Their success brought forth a limited number of around 258 special Ruger Single Six .22 long rifle single action revolvers made from 1954 to 1958.
These special guns had 5.5-inch barrels with blued frames and cylinders. The grip frame was silver colored aluminum. Each gun was hand engraved and fitted with fancy walnut stocks and came in a black leather presentation case lined with green felt. Today, these incredibly rare and desirable firearms are valued at over $10,000.
Ruger and Tyler Gun Works RSSE
For the 65th Anniversary of the Ruger Single Six, Bobby Tyler is at it once again, offering just 100 limited-edition Ruger Single Six, Engraved revolvers. Tyler’s RSSE Single Six is a blued, fixed sighted Single Six with a polished aluminum frame. Each of the 100 guns is hand engraved by Rocky Sharp in a style similar to the originals.
Even Tyler Gun Works initials are incorporated into the engraving in a subtle manner on the top of the barrel. The originals had their engraver’s initials. Fancy walnut stocks are hand fitted to each grip frame by Scott Kolar and include factory Ruger medallions. Bobby adds a flat loading gate like the originals, and a perfect copy of the black leather and green felt presentation case comes with each revolver.
Each of these special sixguns has a hand honed action, trigger, forcing cone, and cylinder chamber alignment by Tyler Gun Works. These are one of the most handsome and finest shooting .22 single action revolvers that a RevolverGuy can ever own.
The carbona blue is a high polish as the guns were shipped to Tyler “in the white” from Ruger. The grey plastic factory box describes the finish as “high gloss” and each revolver’s serial number begins with RSSE (Ruger Single Six Engraved). Each individual grip frame was shipped to Scott Kolar and he expertly fitted each walnut stock panel to its particular grip frame and the stocks are numbered to the gun on the inside. The grips are not thin, but also not too wide. They provide a very solid grip on the gun and have a stain finish instead of a glossy, sealed varnish look. I rubbed some gun oil into them and they’re very reminiscent of how wood stocks were finished 140 years ago.
The modern Ruger Single Six has a wide and smooth trigger that gives excellent trigger control (the original 1950s guns had thinner triggers). The RSSE is a fixed sighted single action revolver with a large square notch rear sight cut into the top of the frame. It matches up well with the rounded front sight post.
Rocky Sharp’s engraving is all hand cut and blends seamlessly between the blue frame and the silver grip frame. It’s just the right amount of coverage, not too much and not too little. The circle cut around the muzzle is a nice touch, as are the engraved portions under the trigger guard and on the bottom of the grip frame.
Each revolver comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Bobby Tyler. There are many custom gunsmiths from the past and many excellent contemporaries today. Bobby Tyler is superbly talented, a perfectionist, and a really terrific guy. Some gunsmiths have reputations of being a bit cantankerous, but Bobby is a family man with a passion for his work and for fellow shooters who appreciate a fine firearm. Decades from now, his work will be even more revered that it already is today.
Other Touches to Tyler’s RSSE
Mike “Doc” Barranti is an old school leather craftsman who makes works of art in holsters that will last several lifetimes. He has re-created classic styles from defunct holster companies and he has created his own styles that set him apart from all others. An option for purchasers of the new RSSE is a floral carved Border Ranger holster, serial numbered to the gun.
My other Ruger Single Six revolvers have 4 5/8-inch barrels so I needed a holster for this 5 1/2-inch RSSE. The quality of craftsmanship with this holster is jaw dropping. The leather is thick and the carving is detailed. I really like the look of the gun inside the holster, but I also enjoy taking the Ruger out and just inhaling the smell of the leather.
Operating the Tyler Gun Works RSSE
The factory Ruger springs are still in the RSSE. Stiff springs guarantee .22 rimfire ammunition will go off every time. However, I have lighter Wolff springs in my other Single Sixes and I’m used to their light hammer pulls and lighter triggers. I may swap a set of Wolff springs into this RSSE if I seem to shoot it a lot.
The trigger pull measured just an ounce over five pounds on a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. There is some staging of the trigger as it engages the transfer bar safety. When the trigger drops the hammer, there is the slightest bit of over travel.
The custom flat loading gate harkens back to the early days of the Single Six. Tyler cut a fingernail groove into it to make opening it easier. This RSSE would have looked out of place with a standard rounded loaded gate, but the flat one is still difficult to open. I use a stiff piece of plastic to pry it open for loading and unloading.
Putting Rounds Downrange
The .22 long rifle is a fun little cartridge to shoot. It’s relatively inexpensive to shoot and has little recoil/kick. I shoot a Henry lever action Golden Boy at an 8-inch steel gong 100 yards away from a patio chair under the shade of my pavilion. I smile every time I hear that ding and I’m getting better at hearing that ding more often the more I shoot. I’ve found that firing fast on my four metal hanging targets with my Ruger SR22 semi-automatic pistol is great practice. I warm up with the little SR22 before switching over to a larger 9mm pistol. I don’t think I could ever have enough .22 caliber firearms. The cartridge is accurate and every shot is loaded with fun.
Of course, this RSSE will fire .22 short and .22 long ammo too, as most .22 long rifle revolvers will. I seem to have picked up quite a few boxes of shorts and longs over the years. Some are worth more as collectibles than they are to shoot, but some aren’t and I can shoot them up in this Single Six.
I set up a target holder fifty feet downrange from my shooting table. I stapled a pink (easier to see black holes punched by bullets than with regular black/white targets) bullseye target to the center. I sat down and rested the barrel of the RSSE in the v-notch of a HyScore pistol rest. Loaded up with Federal High Velocity Match .22 long rifle ammo, I put my 54 year old eyes to the front sight. The bright sun made it difficult for me to align the top of the front sight with the top of the generous square cut notch at the rear of the single action’s frame. None of this is the fault of the gun, but falls on me.
Keeping the front sight aligned for windage side to side in the rear notch was easy because both are just the right size. With the Ruger cocked, I pressed the trigger. The transfer bar safety rose up and the trigger minutely hitched twice as it performed this mechanized maneuver. Then the hammer fell and the first shot was fired. Five more went exactly the same. So much exactly the same, that I quickly became accustomed to the two little hitches and I could stage the trigger for a more precise shot when the hammer fell.
Five out of six through that first cylinder hit the bullseye and I called the one shot that went out slightly to the right. Fixed sighted handguns may not hit directly to point of aim and correctly single action revolvers to do so can be difficult. Changing front sights (by filing them down or swapping the out for taller versions) and turning barrels for windage corrections are time consuming as well. However, this custom RSSE hit smack dab in the middle! While I was using a rest, I was still impressed with the fifty foot accuracy I obtained with this revolver.
After a few more targets, I peeled and pasted a Shoot N C target and fired five more cylinders full of Federal .22 ammo. Those 30 rounds continued to hit pretty much in the middle. As I sped up my cocking of the hammer and pressing of the trigger to drop the hammer, some of the rounds went a bit low and to the right. But all in all, the Tyler Gun Works RSSE is a shooter!
I tried six shots on a steel plate I have hanging at 160 yards. I was frustrated that I was unable to hit it. I knew it was me and not the gun. When I was finished with my 100 round shooting session, I packed up and found two .22 cartridges in the bottom of my shooting bag. I don’t know what velocity or weight they were, but I loaded them into the Ruger’s cylinder and cocked the hammer to move them into firing position. I raised the gun one handed, bullseye style and fired at that orange painted circle of steel way off in the distance.
I hit it with both shots, each echoing with a metallic ding to signal the bullet finding its mark. My smile was the result of both bewilderment and bemusement.
A hundred lucky shooters will become collectors when it comes to this limited edition, custom Ruger revolver. They will most likely be safe queens, brought out for special moments and viewed while resting in their green felt lined cases.
However, shooting one is a special kind of fun and I foresee mine eventually earning some holster wear on its muzzle and sharp edges from riding on my hip in its Barranti holster.
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