Ruger's "New Vaquero" - a safety problem?!


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Jim March
November 12, 2004, 08:42 PM
http://www.ruger-firearms.com/Firearms/News-11-11-2004F.html

Until now, all 45LC factory Rugers have been built on the "44Mag frame size" common across all "New Model" Ruger SAs, OR were Redhawks/SuperRedHawks which are at least as strong as those if not stronger (beefier cylinder, but the crane introduces a weakness not found in the SAs).

As a result, some ammo houses have loaded 45LC"+P" fodder that meets or exceeds 44Mag spec. See also this page for examples of the power levels available:

http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm#45colt

Note that these do NOT meet the SAAMI definition of "+P" as being "10% over factory pressure". Hell no, they're WAY way over that. Which is why the stuff is captioned:

These Heavy .45 Colt loads are safe in all Ruger revolvers.
(includes Blackhawk, Super Blackhawk, Vaquero, Bisley, Redhawk)

These loads are also safe in all modern Model 1892 leverguns
as well as all Winchester & Marlin 1894's

Before 1973, Ruger had a smaller SA frame size for 357Magnum guns. This was the original first-issue Blackhawk 357 size, very similar to the Colt SAA frame size except of course with adjustable sights. From 1962 on back, the grip frame (XR3) was Colt SAA sized, and there was no transfer bar safety prior to 1973. Basically, those older 357s were a very close clone to the Colt New Frontier, except with a coil mainspring instead of flat.

This smaller frame size has been gone since '73.

Owners of Old Model 357s commonly had caliber conversions done to 44Special. For a writeup and description of such a piece, see also:

http://gunblast.com/Clements.htm

Especially since 1973, reputable gunsmiths would not convert such a pre-73, "three screw", "old model" gun to 45LC - because that would create a Ruger 45LC that is NOT anywhere near as strong as the rest. That's why the Clements conversion described above is a 44Spl - the smaller frame size is well suited to 44Spl power levels. I've heard of conversions to 45ACP on this frame, which also makes sense.

Anybody else spot the safety problem yet? :scrutiny:

With this "New Vaquero", Ruger has brought back the pre-'73 smaller frame size, this time with a transfer bar of course. They even provide the smaller pre-62 grip frame similar to a Colt SAA. They've basically produced a third "transfer bar SAA clone", the first being the Colt Cowboy, the second being the Beretta Stampede, and there's a fourth coming soon from Taurus called the "Gaucho".

Ruger made this "SAA near-clone" in 45LC.

As a result, the "warning labels" for the Bufallo Bore and other hot 45LC+P ammo are no longer accurate and will have to be re-written. New box labels describing this "New Vaquero" as a "gotcha" will have to be developed. Some ammo makers may even do a recall if their legal departments are feeling particularly queasy, just to update the warnings.

My opinion: I hope to hell Ruger's manual for the New Vaq covers this issue!!! I can make a pretty good case that this was a major mistake, and that Ruger should have stuck with the 357 and 44Spl calibers on this frame for the same reason Clements and other responsible gunsmiths have done so. It would have given Ruger a very slight market disadvantage but I don't think it would have been serious.

Anyways.

Heads up, y'all.

This issue aside, the New Vaq looks to be a good gun for those wanting an SAA size class. The big advantage this will have over the Stampede and probably the Gaucho is coil springs over flat.

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Cosmoline
November 12, 2004, 09:25 PM
Hmmm. Well they should put out a notice on this one way or the other. My instinct is to assume any new Ruger is tough as nails and can cope with +p. If that's not the case they need to proceed with caution. I'd go as far as saying they should market any true SAA clone under a different brand. But then again this new Vaquero isn't a clone--it looks beefier to me.

If anyone sees a FAX from Ruger on this, please post it. I'm seriously considering ordering one of these revolvers.

Jim March
November 12, 2004, 09:38 PM
My instinct is to assume any new Ruger is tough as nails and can cope with +p.

I rather doubt that. Ruger metallurgy isn't magic. This thing is SAA-sized. Until somebody like John Linebaugh says otherwise, the hottest thing I'd stick in there is maybe the Cor-Bon defense-grade 45LC with a 200gr JHP @ 1,100, or a 250 hardcast @ 1,000ish. Same as I'd treat a USFA, Stampede, etc.

If that's not the case they need to proceed with caution. I'd go as far as saying they should market any true SAA clone under a different brand. But then again this new Vaquero isn't a clone--it looks beefier to me.

There's no way to tell from the pics. We need more data on all this.

I agree, they should have at LEAST called it the "Old West Vaquero" or "Traditional Vaquero" or something. "New" is connected with the term "New Model" which means "44Mag-class frame" which this definately is NOT.

While not a true "SAA clone" due to coil springs and transfer bar, it's going to be pretty dang close.

Sidenote: I wonder if they sourced those grip frames from Power Custom? And how quickly will we see this grip frame show up on the 32Mag or 22 Single Six?

Jim Watson
November 12, 2004, 10:51 PM
I don't see any fault at Ruger. If Ruger makes the NV to SAAMI specs it is entirely incumbent upon Buffalo Bore and the other overloaders to label their hand grenades properly.

JNewell
November 12, 2004, 11:07 PM
I don't have any explanations or theories, but Steve Sanetti now runs the company, and he spent thousands of hours in court and depositions defending liability claims (admittedly mostly based on different alleged faults) involving the OM revolvers. I would be very surprised if they'd let something that was relatively easy to kB with current (albeit specialty) ammo.

But, I could be wrong!

J Miller
November 12, 2004, 11:15 PM
I have been thinking the same thing. Ruger is going to see a lot of these come back to them in pieces.

The gun is marketed to the CAS crowd, and will sell like crazy. However it IS a Ruger therefor brute strong and invincible. Or so a lot of people used to Rugers reputation will think.

They need to rename it somehow, and they need to keep the big frame Vaq in production. From what I've read over at The Ruger Forum, they are planning on discontinuing the large frame Vaq.

A bad series of moves for Ruger in my opinion.

Maybe we are getting woried over nothing. I hope so.

Joe

Jim March
November 12, 2004, 11:26 PM
I don't see any fault at Ruger. If Ruger makes the NV to SAAMI specs it is entirely incumbent upon Buffalo Bore and the other overloaders to label their hand grenades properly.

Yes, technically that's true. And I doubt Ruger could be sued if a BuffBore monster turns a "New Vaq" into a hand grenade (which isn't that likely; premature wear however IS and "grenading" isn't impossible).

But I still think Ruger should have looked more carefully at what's been going on in "Ruger ONLY!!!" ammo. Unless of course I'm wrong and these ARE strong enough for at least mild doses of wild-child loads (and at those prices, low doses are a given!).

I don't think it's too much to ask for Ruger to show the same degree of concern that Clements and others have displayed.

Cortland
November 12, 2004, 11:31 PM
What's the big deal? Call me stupid, but to me "new" means "new," NOT "capable of withstanding .44 magnum level loads." The now Old Vaqueros are way too big and clunky for some folks, and a lot of cowboy action shooters pass on Rugers for this reason (although some do opt for the .32 Mag Single Six). I see no reason for Ruger to continue the old Vaqueros. Let the New Vaquero be optimized for CAS, and the Blackhawk can continue to be the big behemoth. I don't see why Ruger's ability to innovate and respond to customer demands should be held hostage to reloaders and ammunition companies producing ammo way outside of SAAMI specs.

Jim March
November 12, 2004, 11:53 PM
Thing is, we've been down this road before...study the history of the 38-44 and why the 357Mag was created.

Somebody is going to screw up.

The good news is, there'll be a lot of info-sharing at CAS/SASS matches and hopefully in their paper newsletters, to make sure the non-Internet types keep up with the times.

I am in complete agreement that this gun is a fundamentally good idea, esp. for the CAS/SASS crowd.

Ruger is also doing this same frame size in a "Retro Blackhawk" - 357 only, blue 4.68" barrel only, and *Flattop* with a reproduction "micro sight"! This will supposedly be a one-year-only thing for collectors...for the most part, Blackhawks are going to continue on the "44Mag frame".

bubbygator
November 12, 2004, 11:58 PM
Is the handle size the same as the (larger frame) old model??

Old Fuff
November 13, 2004, 12:16 AM
So long as the new revolver will safely fire ammunition made to SAAMI specifications Ruger, and/or any other manufacturer of Colt clones is home free. No manufacturer can be held liable if someone has a Ka-Boom while firing cartridges that exceed industry standards. Same can be said about hot handloads.

This revolver is specifically aimed at cowboy action shooters that use reduced, not hot loads. It will also be popular with those that like the smaller Colt sized package combined with Ruger's safety features. Such individuals will have to be satisfied with standard level ammunition. Those that want nothing less then Magnum performance (other then the .357) will have to stick with the larger guns, which will still be available.

As Jim Watson said, the manufacturers that make Magnum-level .45 Colt loads will have to change their labels to read, "only in large frame Ruger Blackhawk, Vaquaro or Readhawk revolvers, or others specifically designed to handle P+P .45 Colt Cartridges."

SunBear
November 13, 2004, 12:36 AM
I think they will be a hit and I'm hoping they (the Blackhawk and Vaquero) will be carried on as a regular item, minus the 50th anniversary decor of course. Happy trails. :D

Jim March
November 13, 2004, 01:37 AM
Is the handle size the same as the (larger frame) old model??

No, these new "357 frame" SAs all (so far) come with a Colt SAA sized grip, known in Rugerspeak as the "XR3" grip frame shape last used by Ruger in 1962. (Well...officially anyways. Near as we can tell, some old-stock XR3s found their way into new guns as late as '63 or '64.)

I assume this new frame is compatible with all other Ruger New Model grip frames. Seems likely, as the same grip frames fit the smaller 22/32 Single Six frame and the larger 44 frame. These being in between, Ruger would have to be brain-dead to engineer a new grip frame interface. So eventually we'll see bird's-head variants, maybe Bisley?

Speaking of terminology: I believe it's proper to call this frame size the "357 sized frame", while all previous New Models *and* the Old Model SuperBlackHawk are a "44Mag frame". Until now, there's NEVER been a "New Model 357 Frame" but that's exactly what these are.

It's also proper to call these a "Two Screw 357 Frame".

The "caliber frame" doesn't refer to the caliber of the gun, but rather the most potent caliber available from Ruger in that frame size.

I'm pointing GunBlast's editors to this thread and I hope the terminology takes.

Because we're going to need a standard way of noting the relative size/heft/strength of these two platforms.

Dienekes
November 13, 2004, 02:28 AM
Seems to me that the only way to have a "safety problem" would be to stuff in what are essentially overloads, whether commercially sold or home brew. If someone wants to exceed accepted industry standards by loading ammo like that and the user blows the gun up--why would the maker be at fault? (Yeah, I know, lawyers don't think like us.)

Personally I have always been skeptical of these folks that want to "see how fast they can make it go" anyway. A portable sized .44 Magnum produces all the power I want out of a sixgun, and I guess some of the newer giant killer sixguns are even higher up the scale. The old .45 Colt pushes 250 grain SWCs out fairly briskly at standard pressures--enough for me, anyway. It's a great old cartridge, with the emphasis on *old*. I do not find that a problem myself.

I am somewhat impressed that Ruger went a bit retro on this to make a handier single action. They have sold a lot of OVs and would sell a lot more in any event. But I found them too big and hefty and let my (very pretty) 4 5/8" .44 Magnum gloss stainless go for that reason. This is hopefully a return to a sixgun that feels alive in the hand.

I hope they sell a trainload so my stock dividends go back up where they belong.

Jim March
November 13, 2004, 03:01 AM
Well the 45LC+Ps in a "44 frame" worked VERY well, and provided good service. They still will in the right guns. Just not these new critters :eek:.

I don't think Bufallo Bore, Cor-Bon or the other supporters of 45LC+P did anything wrong. Based on the rules as of yesterday, what they were doing was proper.

Today, Ruger changed the rules. The entire industry will have to adapt, quickly and with an eye to safety, hopefully with Ruger's assistance.

Ruger's website should be mentioning that the New Vaq in 45LC is not for "+P" loads.

Trebor
November 13, 2004, 05:38 AM
Ruger didn't change the rules. The speciality ammo companies changed the rules. The new gun is designed to use standard pressure ammo as designated by SAAMI. Ruger can't be responsible for every handload out there, or every overpowered speciality load. That's why there are SAAMI specs.

Heck, I don't there is even a SAAMI spec for +P .45LC. If I understand correctly, the "+P is anything up to 10% over standard pressure" is NOT an actual SAAMI guideline. SAAMI actually only lists +P specs for a relatively small number of rounds. The "+10% rule" is a handloaders rule of thumb, but is NOT codified in SAAMI. Or, if the +10% rule is codified, it is only in reference to those specific +P SAAMI certified rounds. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

Ruger shouldn't have to give up any market advantage to protect someone from blowing up a gun by using overloaded loads. Someone who loads the wrong ammo in the wrong gun is no more Ruger's fault then someone who overloads their reloads.

Tom C.
November 13, 2004, 09:33 AM
I have several NMBHs in .45 Colt and .357 mag. I have big hands and can live with the bulk. I currently use the .357 Blackhawks in CAS. In addition to the new Vaqueros, the New Model 50th Anniversity NMBH Flat Top .357 looks very interesting.

c_yeager
November 13, 2004, 09:48 AM
Is the actual cylinder wall thickness of the New Vaq different from the older version? It seems to me that is the location where a KB would generally occur. If its just a change in the grip frame i don't see that it would significantly weaken the revolver.

Update: The ruger description has this to say about the size change re: the cylinder "Frame and cylinder scaled down to original 1955 Ruger Blackhawk size". So the question is are the ultra-hot loads safe in the original 1955 blackhawk?

Jim March
November 13, 2004, 10:47 AM
Update: The ruger description has this to say about the size change re: the cylinder "Frame and cylinder scaled down to original 1955 Ruger Blackhawk size". So the question is are the ultra-hot loads safe in the original 1955 blackhawk?

NO. They aren't.

OK, some history:

Ruger's first centerfire gun of any sort was the '55 Blackhawk. It was in most respects a "Colt SAA near-clone"...metalurgy was maybe a slight improvement, coil springs were added, other than that...

Ruger got ahold of some scrap 44Mag development brass and rushed a 44Mag gun into production *ahead* of S&W by a few months. That gun was the '55 frame beefed up very slightly. It wasn't strong enough for the caliber - cylinder wall thickness was one issue, frame strength another. The "SuperBlackHawk" on a bigger frame very rapidly came out for the 44Mag; that was what the "New Model" of '73 was based on (with transfer bar of course) and when bored even bigger to 45LC (which Ruger didn't support AT ALL until 1973) proved capable of the 34,000ish psi loads that BuffBore and others ship today.

The '55 frame died out in 1973, and came back yesterday (literally). The 45LC on the '55/357 frame is a brand new development. If that frame couldn't take 44Mag, then the cylinder wall thickness in 45LC will be even worse. The heaviest of the BuffBore loads could very well grenade this gun; at a minimum, wear will be really, really bad...BuffBore sells ammo 50 to a box, it may not survive all 50 without shaking itself apart.

c_yeager
November 13, 2004, 11:43 AM
The '55 frame died out in 1973, and came back yesterday (literally). The 45LC on the '55/357 frame is a brand new development. If that frame couldn't take 44Mag, then the cylinder wall thickness in 45LC will be even worse.

Is there an improvement in material streangth between the Ruger revolvers of that era and todays Rugers?

Jim March
November 13, 2004, 12:40 PM
In the New Models prior to yesterday's resurrection of the '55/357 frame, not really. A 1961-era SuperBlackHawk in 44Mag can be re-barrelled to 45 and the stock cylinder hogged out to 45LC and you get strength basically identical to a current model 45LC Blackhawk on the New Model '73/44Mag frame.

That said, they *might* have done extra-strength-for-the-size bits in the new 357 frame...that would mean an upgrade to the cylinder's metallurgy from previous New Model guns. We won't know for certain until John Linebaugh or similar tests one clean to K'Boom deliberately.

I doubt it though.

seeker_two
November 14, 2004, 05:45 PM
If they mark them "SAA-level loads only", I would hope that would be enough warning for most shooters....

...but, to paraphrase Einstein, "The only two things infinite are the Universe and Stupidity." :rolleyes:

Personally, I would hold them liable if they DON'T offer a .44Special on this frame. Because I'd want one to go with my .357 version.... :D

:D :D :D !!!Yeaaa Ruger!!! :D :D :D

wanderinwalker
November 14, 2004, 09:56 PM
Wow!! If they become available in my neck of the woods, I may just have to scrape up the dough for one for my birthday.

My dad used to have a 3-screw .357 with the smaller frame. It was a joy to handle and shoot, even if my pinky didn't quite fit onto the grip. We had a pair of .44 Magnum SuperBlackhawks that were just ginormous. Both are gone now, hopefully to people with bigger hands.

The question for me isn't one of how much pressure the .45 Colt will take on that frame, as a SAAMI-spec .45 Colt would suffice for my wants. The question is, do I want one in .357 or .45 Colt? :D

P. Plainsman
November 15, 2004, 01:31 PM
The New Vaqueros seem cool as heck ... except for the internal safety lock, nondescriptly buried in a list of mostly desirable features on the Ruger press release.

Sigh. I love my GP100, and am seriously thinking about a SBH Bisley Hunter for my first .44 Mag. Ruger vs. S&W revolvers have been a "pick your poison" affair: Rugers may have an irritating safety manual on the barrel, but at least no doofy lock like the Smiths.

But now both? On a freaking transfer-bar, single-action cowboy gun?

Yeah, better get that gun lock in there, cause "hot" Vaqueros are so big with the gangbangers out on the streets. :rolleyes:

But I really like everything else about the New Vaqs. But the gun lock sucks. But ...

Jim Watson
November 15, 2004, 03:18 PM
I recommend you quit whining about guns with a key lock you can leave unlocked and ignore and stock up on them before you have to buy "smart guns" that read your finger print or the microchip imbedded in your forehead.

P. Plainsman
November 15, 2004, 03:52 PM
Thing is, Mr. Watson, by that standard, there's basically no handgun design in existence today that one can object to as over-safetied, without being called a "whin[er]."

targetshootr
November 15, 2004, 05:49 PM
This is a liability issue for Ruger that I'll be interested in seeing how they handle. You have to figure before they decided to put out the new Vaquero they had more than a couple of meetings about the heavy-load thingy.

Jim Watson
November 15, 2004, 06:42 PM
P.P.

Adding mechanical devices to try to protect the careless and ignorant from themselves is a progressive problem. What seems excessive now will be taken as normal in the future. Ruger went from a modernized Colt design to transfer bar action in response to multiple lawsuits from people who did not read the instructions. Also the warning printed on the barrel. Now they are adding a key lock so they can keep selling guns in an increasingly regulated market. There have been recent news reports that the "smart gun" has been perfected. Riiight.

Check out the thread on the SASS Wire.
http://www.sassnet.com/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=098189;p=1

One interesting quote from Rusty Marlin, who apparently works at Ruger:
"Internal lock. You will never know it exists. You need to remove a grip panel to access it. There is no need to remove the lock as some have hinted, as you will never know its there. Nothing is visable from the outside of the revolver; we wanted to preserve the lines of the gun and keep it traditional looking."
Now there is a fine example of adhering to the letter of the (anticipated) law and evading the spirit. I love it.

Also note that they are dropping the big Vaquero in all calibers except .44 Magnum. So if you want a fixed sight gun to overload .45s for, better buy now.

P. Plainsman
November 15, 2004, 07:52 PM
One interesting quote from Rusty Marlin, who apparently works at Ruger:
"Internal lock. You will never know it exists. You need to remove a grip panel to access it. There is no need to remove the lock as some have hinted, as you will never know its there. Nothing is visible from the outside of the revolver; we wanted to preserve the lines of the gun and keep it traditional looking."
Now there is a fine example of adhering to the letter of the (anticipated) law and evading the spirit. I love it.

That is an interesting thread. I admit, invisible locks bother me less than zit locks, especially on a fun gun like a Vaquero.

Still, the rumors 'round here seem to say that the locks are coming on all Ruger wheelguns. That is annoying on a defense/hunting gun. One more mechanism to break.

We've all heard these arguments before. What's the street reality of gun locks -- have they been breaking?

P.S. Wow, just 101 posts and now I'm a "Senior Member" at THR! :) Ah well, a little title inflation isn't going to hurt anything ...

Jim March
November 15, 2004, 08:27 PM
10 minutes with a Dremel and it's gone, I'll bet :). Ruger SAs are stone axes inside, really basic engineering...it would shock me if the lock couldn't be ditched in a matter of minutes.

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