Ruger's Baby Vaquero


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn


Since the introduction of Ruger's Vaquero revolvers a few years back, the production of the sixgun has not been able to keep up with the demand. The growing popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting across the country, along with hunters and plinkers, has made the Vaquero one of the most wanted revolvers in the U.S. today. While most serious handgun hunters prefer the Blackhawk with it's fully adjustable sights, many like the smooth lines and simplicity of the Vaquero. In the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting, the Vaquero is the most popular sixgun around. While the Vaquero is slightly larger than the Colt Single Action Army revolver, it closely replicates the lines and handling qualities of that great sixgun, in a stronger and more durable design. The use of coil springs and modern manufacturing techniques enables the Ruger to withstand more use and abuse than the old Colt. The same efficient design and manufacturing methods allow Ruger to build a stronger revolver at a much lower price. The Vaquero sells for about one fourth of the price of a new Colt Single Action Army, and is even priced lower than many of the Italian imports.

Since the introduction of the .32 H&R Magnum cartridge in the 1980s, Ruger has occasionally produced revolvers chambered for the little magnum in its popular Single-Six line. Recently, Ruger made a limited run of .32s on the Single-Six frame that were built in the Vaquero style. These little Vaqueros have been selling at a premium at gun shows and on the various internet auction sites, sometimes bringing as much as five hundred bucks. As the result of the popularity of this little .32, Ruger has decided to bring it back as a regular catalog item. 

The gun I tested as the subject of this article is from the earlier limited run, but the current production guns are identical. Ruger offers this sixgun in four versions, all weighing 35 ounces and wearing four and five-eighths inch barrels. The gun is offered in either a blued and case-colored finish or a highly polished stainless steel, both with imitation ivory grips. Also new for this year, Ruger is offering both the blue and stainless guns with a grip frame that is one quarter inch shorter to benefit shooters with smaller hands. 

Having no ammo or components available for the .32 Magnum, I got on the phone and ordered the various items needed to assemble a couple of hundred rounds to run through the little Single-Six. Using Starline cases, I first loaded some plinking rounds with 3.2 grains of WW231 powder and Magnus 100 grain semi-wadcutter lead bullets. For a bit heavier load, I ran off a batch using 11.1 grains of Hodgdon's excellent Lil' Gun powder, all other components being the same. In both loads, I used Winchester small pistol primers. The plinking load using the 231 powder clocked over the Pact chronograph right at 950 feet per second and shot to point of aim with the fixed sights. The load using the Lil'Gun powder was somewhat faster at around 1200 fps. Both loads were a real pleasure to shoot. Being accustomed to shooting the larger magnums with stout loads in my Blackhawks and full size Vaqueros, the light recoil and low noise of the .32 was a welcome relief. While the faster load was a bit louder than the plinking load, neither was bothersome with a set of lightweight muffs.

The little Ruger .32, being smaller and lighter than than the Vaquero models, is a delight to handle. Like the other revolvers in the Single-Six line, the .32 has the same grip frame as the Vaquero and Blackhawk, but a smaller frame and cylinder. Unlike the .22 models of the Single-Six, the .32 has a steel grip frame and ejector rod housing, giving it a balance and feel all it's own. This is one good looking little gun, that exudes quality in both fit and finish. I personally like the feel of this gun over the full-size Vaquero. The weight and balance feel just right.

When the .32 Magnum was first introduced, I didn't see much need for it. Now, however, with the introduction of this little Ruger, I can see that it fills a special niche between the rimfires and the larger centerfire rounds. Some Cowboy Action Shooters like it for the reduced recoil and lighter weight than other popular revolvers in that sport. I prefer a full size .45 Vaquero myself for that application, as I think that it more closely relates to the spirit of the game. But for a plinking gun with a bit more power than the .22s, but less bulk, noise, and recoil than the larger sixguns, I can think of nothing better than this little Ruger. It's a fun gun.

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.


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The Baby Vaquero is a Vaquero version of Ruger's  New Model Single-Six in .32 H&R Magnum.









Author thinks the Baby Vaquero is a fun little sixgun that makes the .32 H&R Magnum a useful little cartridge that fills the void between the .22 rimfire and the more conventional centerfire cartridges.