Ruger’s New Vaquero - Revisited


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

September 25th, 2005




It has been almost ten months since I first reviewed the Ruger New Vaquero. Mine was a very early gun, and it had to go back to Ruger right after the article was published for a change that Ruger deemed necessary. I had no problem at all with the sixgun, but Ruger wanted to update the weapon, so I sent it back. I had noted in the article that the gun had a light spot in the finish, but that it did not bother me at all. While it was back at the factory, they refinished the frame anyway, and it does look better now.

Since the article was published on Gunblast back on December 4, 2004, I have received many emails from shooters who have purchased the New vaquero, and almost all of them have been very satisfied with the weapons. In fact, none had a legitimate gripe, but instead were worried after hearing gun shop experts claiming that the guns were defective, and that they all had to be returned to the factory.  If your gun needs to go back for any reason, Ruger will let you know. Keep shooting it and don’t worry about it.  I know several people personally who have the New Vaquero, and all love the weapon, myself included. 

I have been trying to get a New Vaquero .45 Colt with a seven and one-half inch barrel for a few months now, and it finally came in about two weeks ago. Many, perhaps most, shooters prefer the shorter barrels on a single action revolver, and I like them too. However, for shooting, I greatly prefer the balance, feel, and shooting qualities of the longer tube.  I love the way it seems to just hang there, right on target. I love the way the seven and one-half inch gun looks. It just looks right to me, like old Cavalry troopers’ sidearms. Like the sixgun that Matt Dillon carried for two decades on our old black-and-white television. Perhaps those were my formative years, but for whatever reason, I prefer the longer tube, and this newest New Vaquero just looks and feels right to me.

Just like the earlier gun, the new grip frame feels so much better to me than the XR3-RED design. The return to the old original XR3 shape and size was a wonderful change from the original Vaquero. The new grip feels like the old Colt Single Action Army and 1851 Colt Navy grip. While the new XR3 grip is sized like the Old Flattop Ruger XR3 grip, the new grip frame is all steel, adding a couple of ounces, but giving the sixgun a much better balance. This is probably the best grip frame yet from Ruger for light to moderate .45 Colt loads. For the hard-kicking stuff, their Bisley grip is a bit more comfortable to shoot. However, nothing from Ruger points as naturally for me as the XR3, and the New Vaquero has the perfect grip frame, at least for my hand.

Since I went into great detail regarding the changes to the New Vaquero compared to the original Vaquero, I won’t plow the same ground here again, but refer you to the original article of last December. I will, however, reproduce the chart here comparing the size of the New Vaquero to its competition:

  Colt SAA U.S. Firearms SAA Old Vaquero New Vaquero Old Model .357 Blackhawk
Cylinder Diameter 1.652 1.674 1.732 1.675 1.672
Cylinder Length 1.607 1.625 1.703 1.610 1.602
Frame Window Height 1.672 1.690 1.763 1.700 1.700

The New Vaquero seems to be a big hit with shooters. The first New Vaquero that I received was serial number 312, excluding the prefix, and this newest one is serial number 4386. While I was very pleased with the first gun, this latest one is even better. The finish is very good on this new gun, and the grip panels fit perfectly. The timing is spot-on. The barrel/cylinder gap measures only .002 of an inch, which is also tighter than on the earlier sixgun. The bluing is better than on any revolver that I have seen from Ruger in many years; almost as good as on the early Super Blackhawks. Almost.

Shooting this latest New Vaquero proved it to be plenty accurate, grouping five shots into one and three-quarters  inches at twenty-five yards with some handloads that I had on the shelf. Later, I loaded up some of Mt. Baldy’s 270 SAA bullets (which weigh 285 grains, lubed and ready to load) over nine grains of Hodgdon Universal powder, and they grouped even better than that.  The 270 SAA is a very good design, and Mt. Baldy produces them to perfection. The front sight is plenty tall for any load that I tried, and I will most likely file the sight down a bit to perfectly sight in this Mt. Baldy/Universal load. It hits just about one and one-half inches low for me. I am glad to see Ruger putting a nice tall sight on these guns. It sure does make it much easier to get the weapon on target than with a front sight that is too short. The trigger feel was also very good on this sixgun, measuring a crisp three and one-half pounds right out of the box. A quick Poor Boy’s Trigger Job had the pull down to an even two pounds, right where I like it to be.

There is little else to be stated here that was not included in the first New Vaquero article, except to say that the guns are in full production. However, demand is still exceeding supply, but search and they can be found.  Just about everyday, I get email about the New Vaquero, and each time I recommend the gun without reservation.  This is my second, but most likely not my last.

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Jeff Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger's 7-1/2" New Vaquero .45 sixgun.





Randy "King Ranch" Kent shoots the New Vaquero.



Serial number 312 (bottom) was used for the original test of the New Vaquero. The newer gun used for this test was serial number 4396 (top).



Jeff settled on a handload for the New Vaquero that uses Mt. Baldy's 270SAA bullet.



A first-class sixgun like the New Vaquero deserves a first-class holster, like this rig from El Paso Saddlery.



With their New Vaquero, Ruger proves once again why their sixguns are the "king of the hill".