Lipsey’s Exclusive Ruger Vaquero 44 Special Sheriff’s Model


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 12th, 2010




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It has been almost six years now since Ruger introduced their New Vaquero revolver. Very similar to the original Vaquero, but built on a slightly smaller frame, with a couple of improvements to the action. The New Vaquero is sized like the original Blackhawk 357, being smaller than the New Model Blackhawks and Vaqueros, which were built on the 44 Blackhawk-sized frames. The different sizes of frames can get confusing as to what caliber is built upon what frame, etc., unless you really stay on top of such things. I live and breathe single actions, so it is all pretty simple to me, but from the emails that I receive, there is a lot of confusion out there. Up until now, it was pretty easy to tell the difference on the Vaquero, as the smaller frames were marked “New Vaquero”, and the original larger frames were marked “Vaquero”. If it read “New”, it was the smaller, handier, Colt-sized frame. However, the 44 Special New Vaqueros are marked “Vaquero”, with no mention of it being the New Vaquero at all. Just keep in mind that every 44 Special built by Ruger is on the smaller-sized frame. This frame size is ideal for such a cartridge as the 44 Special. There is no need to build a 44 Special on a 44 Magnum frame, as the Special cartridge can always be fired in a Magnum revolver. Now, if I haven’t confused you to the point that your eyes are bleeding, read on about what has become one of the most popular, reliable, and accurate single action revolvers ever built: the Ruger Vaquero. 

Originally designed with Cowboy Action Shooters (CAS) in mind, the Vaquero has developed a large following with hunters, shooters, and outdoorsmen who want a rugged, reliable sixgun to keep on the hip. Cowboy Action Shooters wanted a revolver that looked like a Colt, but with the rugged reliability of the Ruger Blackhawk. The Blackhawk is a dandy sixgun, but CAS wanted the internals of the Ruger, with the look and feel of an old west sixgun with its high-swept hammer and fixed sights. After they got what they wanted, they further desired a gun that was also sized like the old Colt Single Action Army, and Ruger answered with the New Vaquero. I own several of the New Vaquero revolvers, and each one has proven to be a reliable, accurate sixgun. The Ruger New Vaquero replicates the look and feel of the original Colt, and has the grip frame shape that has been adored since its introduction on the 1851 Colt Navy, but has modern, rugged internal parts. It also has Ruger’s transfer bar internal safety that allows the Vaquero to be carried with a cartridge in each chamber. The old Colt SAA and the new Colt SAA and its replicas, as well as the "Old Model" Rugers, should be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer. The New Model  Ruger’s transfer bar eliminates the chance of accidental firing if dropped, and can be carried fully loaded.

For years, shooters have been prodding Ruger to build a 44 Special on the smaller Blackhawk frame, and Ruger delivered early last year with the 44 Special Flattop Blackhawk. While many folks, including myself, had been pestering Ruger for such a revolver for many years, even decades, Lipsey’s was instrumental in getting the guns finally built, by placing an order for 2000 guns. Nothing gets a manufacturer’s attention like an order.

With the 44 Special Flattops being a huge success, Lipsey’s put in an order for the New Vaquero to be built in 44 Special as well, and they are the exclusive distributor for the 44 Special Vaquero revolvers. These 44 Special Vaqueros are available in either a blued steel finish or polished stainless, with a four and five-eighths inch barrel, or as shown here with the three and three-quarter inch barrel, dubbed the “Sheriff’s Model”.

Traditionally, Sheriff’s Model sixguns have been offered by makers of single action revolvers, designating pretty much any barrel length shorter than four inches. I have seen as short as one-inch barrels, having no ejector rod at all. The three and three-quarter inch Vaquero, while having an abbreviated barrel, still has a practical and useful ejector rod and housing. With the shortened head of the base pin, the ejector rod on this Ruger Sheriff’s Model Vaquero is still able to be used to eject the cases out of the chamber. It cannot fully eject the spent cases if the sixgun is held horizontally, but holding the muzzle towards the sky, they fall out pretty easily. The three and three-quarter inch barrel length is a very good compromise between fast-handling and good velocities. The sixgun balances very well, and weighs in at 39.2 ounces on my scale. The gun is built primarily of all blued steel, including the ejector rod housing and the grip frame. The checkered plastic grips are very well-fitted to the grip frame. Having the New Vaquero design, each chamber lines up perfectly with the loading gate for easy loading/unloading of the sixgun. The barrel/cylinder gap measures five one-thousandths (.005) of an inch. The trigger pull felt good right out of the box, but was quickly and easily improved with a Poor Boy’s Trigger Job, reducing the pull weight to a crisp one pound, fourteen ounces.

While I am certain that many Cowboy Action Shooters will take to the new Sheriff’s Model 44 Vaquero, this sixgun should appeal to those wanting a relatively handy and light single action working sidearm as well. The Ruger is plenty strong enough to handle loads that are above the mild pressure limits at which the 44 Special is usually loaded. This Sheriff’s Model is compact enough, powerful enough, and reliable enough to make a pretty decent defensive arm, and would carry concealed high and tight in a Mernickle PS6-SA or a Simply Rugged Sourdough Pancake holster. There is nothing at all wrong with carrying a single action sidearm for defense. For many years, the single action revolver was the sidearm of choice, and it works as well or better today as it did in the late nineteenth century. In a defensive firearm, reliability is paramount, and a good single action sixgun is about as reliable as it gets. There is no good reason that what was once the state-of-the-art fighting handgun should today be relegated to a weekend toy for plinking powder-puff loads at close-range steel targets. The Ruger Vaquero is rugged, reliable, powerful, and accurate, offering six quick shots. The single action is not as slow to reload as some folks would have you believe, but in reality, most of us who carry concealed do not carry extra ammo anyway. I usually do not carry spare ammo when carrying concealed, preferring to just carry an extra gun instead.

I fired a lot of ammo through the Vaquero Sheriff, loading up some of my new Shootists brass with some new-to-me Rimrock bullets. I had not tried these bullets before, but they seem to be of high quality, and were certainly very accurate. Even from the short barrel, these 240 grain bullets clocked an average of 900 feet-per-second (fps) when pushed out the muzzle with a load of nine grains of HS-6 powder. This load is a full grain above Hodgdon’s listed maximum. It is plenty safe in this revolver only. Do not use it in a weaker design, and always start lower. I began at 7.5 grains and worked up from there, testing for accuracy, velocity, and ease-of-extraction. At nine grains, the empty cases still fall out of the Ruger easily, and were match-grade accurate. For accuracy testing, I secured the Vaquero into my Ransom Rest, and fired for accuracy at twenty-five yards. This Ruger is accurate! My worst group with the HS-6 load that I settled upon measured only one and one-eighth inches at twenty-five yards, center-to-center, and most groups were at or under one inch. That is some real fine accuracy, and attests well to the quality of both the sixgun and the Rimrock bullets.

This new Sheriff’s Model 44 Special Vaquero is a limited run of revolvers, and is only available from Lipsey’s. For the location of a Lipsey’s dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at or have your favorite dealer contact Lipsey’s at 1-800-666-1333.

To order any of the wide assortment of Rimrock bullets, go to

Jeff Quinn

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to:




The 44 Special Vaquero comes with a hard case, padlock, and instruction manual.





The Vaquero Sheriff's Model proved to be very accurate.





Warning has been moved to the bottom of the barrel on Ruger's single-action revolvers.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Lipsey's exclusive Ruger Vaquero 44 Special "Sheriff's Model".



Sights are fixed.



Base pin is shortened to allow for a longer ejector stroke.



Ruger's patented "transfer bar" safety allows the Vaquero to be safely carried fully loaded.





Checkered plastic grips are well-fitted to the grip frame.



Internal key lock is hidden inside the grip, where it is easy to use or easy to ignore.



Chamber throats are sized perfectly for a snug fit with .430" bullets.



One of the privileges of being a Shootist is enjoying our own Shootist-branded 44 Special brass.



Rim Rock premium hard-cast bullets.