At the 2001 SHOT Show, Ruger introduced their .45 Vaquero with a "bird's head" grip. After a few months of waiting
for a production piece, the sixgun finally arrived. It was worth the wait. "Bird's
Head" refers to the shape of the grip frame of the revolver. The revolver is
otherwise practically the same as their other Vaquero models, the main
variations being the cylinder base pin and the barrel length.
The cylinder base pin has been modified
to accommodate the shortened ejector rod, giving maximum useful length to the
ejection stroke without interference from the head of the base pin. That seems to
be a thoughtful touch, and in no way detracts from the looks and feel of the
sixgun. The barrel length is three and three-quarters inches.
The new revolver is offered in both a blued
/ case-colored finish and in polished stainless steel, with the latter sent here for
testing. Both sixguns are furnished with black micarta grip panels, and
chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge.
Fit and finish on the gun were absolutely
perfect, with no flaws or tool marks observed. The fit of the grip panels were
especially good; much better than I have come to expect on a production revolver.
The shape of the grip panels are slightly
different, and in my opinion better, than the ones on the prototype guns at the
SHOT Show. The grip of the little sixgun is both compact and hand-filling, resulting in a comfortable hold. The black micarta
panels are beautiful, with a black and silver Ruger medallion, and contrasts
nicely with the polished stainless grip frame.
The overall look and feel of the Bird's
Head evokes an image of a nineteenth century belly gun. While open carry of
sixguns was a practice in some parts of the world in the latter part of the 1800s,
much more common was the need to carry concealed. Many people, while
going about their daily business, did not want to advertise the fact that they were
going heeled. This resulted in the need for concealable handguns. Some carried
Deringers and such other small weapons, while the more knowledgeable saw a
need for a full-power revolver. In the late 1800s, just as today, if the need arises to
pull a handgun, one usually needs it to be both quick and powerful. It is
easy to imagine that the Ruger Bird's Head would fit in nicely with a
storekeeper or gambler in the Old West. While most eastern cities
had higher murder rates than did the western towns of the nineteenth century,
the single-action .45 will forever be associated with days of the western
cowboy, gambler, and lawman of the Old West, and rightly so. The Bird's Head is a
good compromise of portability, concealability, and power in a single-action
revolver. I predict that this gun will be extremely popular with the
Cowboy Action Shooters.
Weight of the Ruger Bird's Head is only
38 ounces with an overall length of nine and one-quarter inches. The gun has the
standard Vaquero fixed blade front sight and square notch rear, and a capacity of
six rounds. Having Ruger's patented transfer bar, the gun can be safely carried
with a live round in each chamber. The Ruger is supplied with a hard plastic
storage case, instruction manual, and cable lock.
The balance and feel of the Bird's Head
was excellent. The grip is long enough to accomodate all the fingers of my hand,
with the hammer within easy reach of my thumb. The trigger pull was initially pretty
good, but after performing a quick "poor boy's trigger job"
(see Jeff's article at Poor Boy's Trigger Job), it was just about perfect.
After much shooting at various objects, I
settled down at the bench with my standard .45 Colt loads using both 200
and 250 grain bullets to shoot a few groups. I was very pleased to find that the
front sight was high enough to place the heavier bullets at point-of-aim at 21 yards.
The groups varied in size from 1-1/4 to 2-1/2 inches at 21 yards. The chamber
throats were a bit under bullet size at .450", and accuracy might be improved a
little with careful polishing to .452", but the accuracy of this little sixgun was pretty
good as is.
Functioning was flawless throughout
testing. Velocity loss was negligible in the short barrel, in part due to the well-fitted
cylinder. Barrel / cylinder gap was a nice, tight .002".
Overall, I was very impressed with the little
Bird's Head .45; much more so than with the prototype. The grip is comfortable in
both handling and shooting qualities. The Bird's Head grip did an excellent job of
handling the recoil of the .45 Colt round.
For a new compact single action
designed and built to withstand a lifetime of heavy loads, carry comfortably, and last
forever, I can think of none better than this little Ruger. With the added
benefit of the fact that it is downright beautiful, well built, and backed by
Ruger's excellent service, it is a bargain at the suggested price of
I like it.
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