Ruger Vaquero: .45 LC or .357 Mag?


November 12, 2006, 11:24 PM
Alright everyone, came to the revolver people for help. I have a post up in the buy and sell section about wanting to find a Vaquero, and I've found what I'm looking for, but now I'm having second thoughts about caliber.

Anyway, on to my question, I can either buy an old Vaquero (pre-2005) NIB, with the extra cylinder for .45acp, or a new Vaquero in .357. Which would you pick? I like big bores, and I could hunt with the .45 if I should ever choose to. Ammo price isn't a concern, as I can use .45acp at the range for fun. But the .357 can share ammo with my brother's pistol when we go to the range, and I can use .38 special also. The .357 is powerful enough, but I can get more power with Buffalo Bore's .45 LC +P Heavy load.

I'm seriously lost here, and unable to come to a decision about which I really want. I've shot both, and don't really prefer one over the other, the gun won't be used for defense, except for maybe hogs, or whatever else I encounter while rifle hunting, so man-stopping is not a concern at all.

Any pros and cons of either choice other than the anemic factory .45 LC, and ammo cost of factory .45 LC?

Thanks for any advice.


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November 12, 2006, 11:30 PM
If your after an authentic 'Cowboy' vobie I'd say stick with the .45LC; Nothing else really says 'Badass Gunslinger' like the classic .45.

However I tend to reccomend .45LC to people who handload almost exclusivly, because there seems to be a rash of rather panziass factory LC about lately. So if you plan to just buy ammo off the shelf, I'd stick with .357 since it's proven, pound-for-pound; to be able to blow the ever loving HECK out of something with the proper off-the-shelf load.


November 12, 2006, 11:36 PM
Thanks Remmi. I think that usually I would be shooting .45 ACP at the range, and almot exclusively using Buffalo Bore's 45LC loads when there's something I actually want to shoot. I think you're right about the badass gunslinger thing, a .357 isn't cowboy. Hmmm.... Still undecided, but leaning toward 45, anyone else want to chime in?


November 12, 2006, 11:38 PM
Choosing between the two guns is hard, it really depending on what you are exactly wanting.

Do you want a gun that is basically the same size as a Colt SAA or does that matter to you?

I personally am wanting a gun that mimics my Colt New Frontier .44 special, so I am looking at getting a New Vaquero in .45 colt.

If you want a .45 Colt that can handle heavy loads then the old model Vaquero would be a much better choice.

Me personally, I would hold out for a New Vaquero in .45 Colt, you don't need the Buffalo Bore strength loads anyways. The .45 Colt will get it done with 250gr+ loads at around 900-1000fps.


November 12, 2006, 11:46 PM
Well, I don't do cowboy shooting or anything, I just like the look of a single action, and it's something different than my other assortment. It'll match up well with my 45-70 Marlin lever action for hunting as well, but it being a more accurate replica of a real cowboy gun isn't that important to me, the power is. My brother has a S&W Model 66, so I can use his .357 when I want.

I guess that sort of makes the choice for me, being that it would be something different, and I already have access to a .357 Magnum, so the 45LC would be something new and cool to take out. :cool:


November 12, 2006, 11:51 PM
Get the .357 mag New Vaquero, then you can always get the .45 Colt later if you still want it.


November 13, 2006, 12:40 AM
You obviously want the 45 so I'd go for it. Be warned though 45acp aint cheap. Winchester offers the exellent 45LC- 255gr LRN at 860fps in 20rd boxes for 9.99$. This round is far from enemic and cheap enough to shoot when your broke. Good luck

November 13, 2006, 12:44 AM
I feel the 45 Colt is a better round for just about anything.

November 13, 2006, 08:30 AM
I got one in .45LC and love it. Mine is the New Vaquero.

Tom C.
November 13, 2006, 08:50 AM
I have Blackhawks in .45 Colt with .45 ACP cylinders and .357. The only problem you may have with Vaqueros, in either First Gen .45 or Second Gen .357 is the lack of adjustable sights. Particularly in .45, those mild cowboy loads will shoot substantially lower than full power Buffalo Bore hunting loads. I find it convenient to adjust the sights for different bullet weights and power levels.

November 13, 2006, 09:07 AM
You can hunt with the .357, deer anyway. Not a problem, great deer caliber IMHO. Of course, Texas deer are sort of, well, not Texas sized. But, I've taken several with the .357.

I don't know, I have one of each, but in the Blackhawk version. I don't care for the Vaquero and it's fixed sights. I have marks on my elevation screws on both Blackhawks for light load and heavy. I handload for both of 'em and sighted 'em in for a light and a heavy. Makes for a very versatile handgun. I think the .357 is the more versatile outdoor gun just because the light load is light and accurate enough for squirrels and other small game. But, the .45 is usually with me when I'm working down at my place, just in case I stumble on a hog. It's also my choice when hiking in bear country, which I don't do much anymore.

That .45 ain't going to shoot to the same point of aim with the acp cylinder. You might keep that in mind. I handload my own .45 colt and don't have any use for an acp cylinder anyway. But, my light loads are six clicks elevation off of my heavies. The Vaquero is great for cowboy games, but it ain't even on my list of desirable outdoor guns. JMHO of course.

Jim March
November 13, 2006, 11:02 AM
More info here:

Short form: the New Vaqueros are being built to a slightly higher standard than some of the older, larger guns. That may influence your thinking.

You might also consider tracking down one of the Ruger 50th Anniversary 357Mag Blackhawks. This is (so far) the only adjustable-sight gun built on the new mid-frame platform same as the New Vaquero. I considered going that route, and you can find them on Gunbroker or Gunsamerica for about $450/$500 unless it's one of the silly gold-engraved versions. But I like what I ended up with better: my sight picture is now the equal of a Blackhawk, I've got windage adjustability and I've got my front sight height dialed in for 135gr loads.

November 13, 2006, 01:47 PM

Great suggestion, I really wish that Ruger would build that 50th Anniversary gun in .45LC.


November 13, 2006, 02:09 PM
A good round- and less than half the price of BB Standard Pressure Heavy .45 Colt- is GA Arms ( They have a 260 HP advertised at 1200 fps, which I would think would do most of what you'd need doing, unless perhaps you're going in Grizzly or Brown territory.


Jim March
November 13, 2006, 03:13 PM
Steve: I'd be damned tempted to convert a 50th 357 BH into a 44Spl versus a 45LC. Slightly beefier cylinder walls for a bit more "beginner handloader forgiveness" and plenty of good factory fodder available.

Lots of the similar sized Old Model 357s (pre-'73) got converted to 44Spl.

Another interesting choice now that modern brass is available again is the 38-40. Ballistically it's a 40S&W, uses the same projectiles, but has a BIG bottleneck case so it operates at very low pressures. Tends to slide into and out of the loading gate REAL quick.

If we can ever convince Ruger to do a run of the mid-frame in a 40S&W/38-40 convertible, I'd HAVE to try and score one. If it was a triple cylinder with a 10mm as the third I *would* buy no matter what I had to do.

November 13, 2006, 08:50 PM

If I could get the 50th Anniversary gun in .44 special, I would consider selling my Colt New Frontier in .44 special.

I'm really liking this caliber, and have close to 1,000 240gr SWC and LRN bullets for reloading.


November 13, 2006, 10:27 PM
Wow! Got alot of info. Thanks all. Especially for the suggestion on ammo. I made up my mind today, and went ahead and ordered the 45LC convertible. This oughta make for good times hog hunting.;)


November 13, 2006, 10:48 PM
There's getting to be an embarassment of riches with Ruger SAs. That's the good news. The stickier side is that they tend to be better at one thing than another. You either have to choose one or buy a bigger safe downstream.

The old Vaqs are bull strong, but awfully big and heavy for some of us. The fixed sights can be a quandary, especially with light/heavy loads or the ACP cylinder. Which is why I never got one of the convertible ones...

The new Vaqueros are awfully nice (my new SS .45 Colt is just about a dead ringer for my 1882 Colt--they feel the same and from a couple of feet away they can't be told apart). But they won't take the buffalo killer loads as well and of course need to be sighted in for one favorite load. Not a problem, in my view.

The new Flattops are also very nice. Make that *very* nice. Have only looked at the .44s but have a .357 which is a real winner and very practical.

Have a circa 1996 NM .45 Convertible which does not have the fit and finish of the more recent guns but is one sweet shooter. Some tweaking including cylinder throating was required, but it paid off big time. As mentioned sight changes are in order when switching around but the thing shoots one-holer groups at 20 yards if I am up to it that day.

Sort of keeps you hopping.

Ralph Bryant
November 13, 2006, 11:32 PM
Will have to admit, the production of dual calibers/cylinders in a fixed-sight revolver was kind of a lame idea from the start. I suppose you "might" fiddle with your loads and come up with a couple that would both hit POA fairly close, but the true versatility of dual cylinders is still in the adjustable sight models.

That having been said, I think I would opt for the early model fixed sight Vaquero in a straight, single-cylinder .45 colt, and find the ONE load that best suits the particular gun, and then stick with it. There is alot to be said for consistency in your ammo, and it tends to remove one more obsticle in the way of a good shooter, as does going with a fixed-sight revolver in favor of one that can have the sights knocked out of adjustment in harsh extremes. With both variables out of the way, the performance of the gun is then almost entirely up to the shooter.


Jim March
November 14, 2006, 08:02 PM
You don't fiddle with the loads to get POA right, you fiddle with the gun, esp. on an SAA/clone/near-clone.

There are enough misconceptions on this that I finished the following:

November 14, 2006, 08:51 PM
which may or may not be of interest to you. If you want a 7 1/2 inch barrel in the New Vaq that only comes in 45 calibre, not 357. The two shorter barrel lengths come in both calibres but NOT the longest barrel in the New Vaquero.

November 14, 2006, 10:14 PM
You don't fiddle with the loads to get POA right, you fiddle with the gun, esp. on an SAA/clone/near-clone.
A competent reloader can fiddle with the loads to get the POA right. In fact he can find a load for the .45 ACP cylinder to match the .45 Colt cylinder's POA. Fiddle with only the gun and you are still stuck with one chambering shooting where ever it wants. It's amazing what changing all the components can do.

Jim March
November 15, 2006, 12:17 AM
Elevation, yeah, to some degree. Not windage though.

Only a handloader should consider standardizing on an odd bullet weight for the caliber and in my opinion that's a bad idea unless you're deliberately experimenting with something odd. Like, say, 350gr+ 45LCs in a 44Mag-class gun, or 200gr loads in 357.

November 15, 2006, 07:03 AM
I think you'll enjoy the .45 Colt more. I bought a 4.6" SS BHG .45 Vaquero three years ago. It started a trend... I liked the size and the BHG. I ordered a .357M version - still available then. It was a shocker - significantly heavier - and a real ho-hum shooter - much ado about nothing, at least to me. I had also bought a new 4.6" SS SBH in .44 Magnum - and a QPR BHG, which I fitted before I ever tried the new SBH. What a gun! The .357M Vaq is gone now, but that .45 - and the .44M - have a home.

If you want a decent thin-skin hp, try the Speer 250gr Gold Dots - they work well at 800+ fps. For more serious work, that 'deer-stopper' 260gr load from GA Arms should do. They are fine folks, too. Of course, a 255gr LSWC at 850+ fps is no slouch, either.

Re the use of .45 ACP, I had a BH conv, catalog item, many moons ago. It actually introduced me to the .45 Colt - and that ACP cylinder sat on the shelf after that. I love shooting ACP's from a revolver, however... just a DA, like my 625. I also load .45 Auto Rim cases for it at higher than .45 Colt levels - easy to do since the ACP/AR is a 22kpsi round vs the old Colt's 14kpsi. Of course, those AR's won't fit your ACP cylinder, so you'll have to go with ACP's only. Still, what a 'fun' combo you have 'on the way'. Congratulations!


Ralph Bryant
November 15, 2006, 10:52 AM
"You don't fiddle with the loads to get POA right, you fiddle with the gun, esp. on an SAA/clone/near-clone."

That's the point exactly and why dual cylinder/caliber fixed sight revolvers are rarely optimal for the task at hand using both cylinders. Elevation between different loads is usually more of a problem than windage variations between loads, and that is where load specs can come into play. The variation in elevation between loads will usually be greater than the windage variations. To even get close, you work the loads to get the elevation match (or close) and adjust the gun itself for windage. But in the case of dual cylinder/caliber, adjustable sights are the preferable route.


November 15, 2006, 03:34 PM
It arrived today! I'm glad I got the 45, it just looks right with the wide barrel. Brand new in the box, it's flawless. Haven't gotten to shoot it yet, but it looks great next to my Marlin 1895CB, and my 1874 guitar. I'll be making a range trip this Friday for sure, as my brother and I both have off, and he wants to sight in his new Savage 30-06. Hogs have a surprise coming this year.

One thing I've found a little troublesome is that the transfer bar seems to get caught up alot on the pin, which I think will work itself out as the bar gets tapered at the top from using it. Anyone have experience with this?

I'm sorta nervous about the recoil, as the ammo I've selected is a 325 grain at 1325 FPS, and a 260 grain at 1450 FPS, but I'm not a small guy, so I'm sure I'll manage, it's just alot more than I'm used to in a pistol.

Jim March
November 15, 2006, 03:44 PM
The transfer bar is supposed to be pushed backwards by a spring-loaded pin in the end of the base pin - the "axle" that the cylinder spins on.

OK. Pull your cylinder. On your gun I don't think the base pin will come completely out of the gun without taking the ejector rod and housing off. But don't sweat that yet. Look at the end of the base pin. Make sure that the springy tip isn't broken off or is gummed up. if it's in there but "jammed in" and gunked, put a drop of oil in that tip and wiggle a paperclip around in there to try and free it.

If you can't get it free or if it's broken off, you'll have to replace the base pin. I strongly recommend Belt Mountain:

Their own page is often down:

November 15, 2006, 03:50 PM
thanks for the help. My base pin seems to be fine, the pin sticks out and is springy as it should be, I don't know what's with it, I'm gonna drop some oil on it anyway.

November 15, 2006, 04:28 PM
Recoil on the .45LC is not that bad. Don't worry about it.

Jim March
November 15, 2006, 06:30 PM
Ryedaddy: URGENT: Make sure your base pin is seating all the way into the gun!!!

It is impossible to overstate how important this is. I believe earlier in this thread I talked about base pins "jumping the latch" on recoil. It's possible this has happened with your gun and the base pin no longer wants to seat all the way in.

If that's the case, you could have a problem. It may be as simple as some extra pressure needed to seat it all the way. But if this is going on, I recommend an upgrade to a Belt Mountain pin with a set-screw to make sure it doesn't jump the latch again, and run the checkout in detail to make sure the frame hasn't been boogered by the base pin holes being twisted and hammered under recoil by a loose base pin.

Trust me: if that "springy pin" is OK, then the transfer bar should NOT glitch itself against the bottom of the firing pin as you cock it. Try cocking it with the gun unloaded and barrel pointing down to make sure you don't have interference between transfer bar and firing pin.

You must get this matter fully sorted out and understood before firing that gun again. It's mainly an issue of not damaging the gun (or not damaging it further) but worst case it's possibly a safety hazard if the base pin is twisted hard enough on firing to break.

November 15, 2006, 07:33 PM
you don't have to take off the ejector rod housing to get a new Belt Mountain base pin in the gun but I don't know if this holds true with the shorter barrels.

Jim March
November 15, 2006, 11:12 PM
If it's a New Model on the larger frame (includes the "Old Vaquero") and it has a 5.5" barrel or less, it's a sure bet the ejector has to be removed to swap base pins.

Some of the longer barreled guns came with the "long stroke ejector", including the SBH Hunter models and who knows what else.

If you buy and install a Belt Mountain "Sheriff's Model" base pin with the shorter head, it MIGHT be short enough to remove and install without tools on the shorter barrels (other than unlocking the set screw of course). I'm not really sure about that but the overall length on a "sheriff's pin" is less.

The New Vaquero and 50th Anniversary 357 Blackhawk can swap base pins with no tools. The cylinder is shorter, therefore the base pin is shorter, therefore it drops free.

November 15, 2006, 11:20 PM
Well, the base pin is seated, but it has some play in it, as though the notch for it to clip in is too large, so I can pull it out a little under a millimeter when it's all the way in. If I push in on the base pin while cocking it, it's 100% reliable, but it I'm not pushing on the base pin while cocking the pistol while the barrel is pointing at the floor, it gets hung up 100% of the time. Like the base pin is less than a millimeter too short. Odd... this is a NIB gun, but I don't want to go through the hassle of returning it, and waiting. I guess I'll have to get another base pin. How do those locking base pins work as opposed to a standard base pin? I can see it differs in that the locking one has that screw, but what does that screw attach to?

November 16, 2006, 12:28 AM
in that the tension on the bottom of the screw against the gun holds the pin in place. I believe Belt Mountain encourages you to turn the set screw down somewhat tightly at first and this puts a slight depression in the gun metal and therefore the screw has a permanent seat in which to sit. The principle of the "set screw" has been used in many, many applications. Meaning, not the seat I am referring to above but simply the pressure of the screw against another piece of metal below it will create enough pressure to hold something in place. I should add that I have a Belt Mountain base pin and have used it for perhaps 500 rounds in an almost new New Vaq and it works fine for me. I would have used it more but I had to send the gun off to Ruger to work on a headspace problem with the gun. (Of course, I sent it to Ruger with the Ruger base pin in it, not the Belt Mountain pin.)

Jim March
November 16, 2006, 12:42 AM
RyeDaddy: I'm kinda disturbed by what you're saying about your base pin fit.

It's impossible to overstate how crucial that fit is for your safety, the gun's longevity and the gun's accuracy.

Three possibilities here: this gun's stock base pin had a habit of jumping the latch on recoil and the owner kept shooting it that way, or it's a bad frame from Ruger, or the base pin was ground wrong. OR...maybe the cross-pin latch for the base pin is junk or worn, ain't real likely.

You need to CAREFULLY evaluate what's going on here. And quite possibly return this gun as a complete lemon. At a minimum you're going to have to get a GOOD set of screwdrivers proper for Ruger SA screws and without nicking anything, take the base pin completely out and examine both frame holes with a light and magnifying glass to see what the problem is. It *might* be a bad base pin, in which case a Belt Mountain pin may solve it.

Brownells sells a Ruger SA-specific screwdriver set pretty cheap:

If you test-fire this gun, you MUST check the base pin set after every shot. Firing the gun with the base pin dislodged by the recoil of the previous shot is unsafe.

Worst case, you must be prepared to give up this gun and start over. A gun with a bad frame just can't be trusted.

Jim March
November 16, 2006, 12:50 AM
If it's not clear yet: this is why I won't buy a Ruger sight unseen. Only if I can lay mitts on it and perform the checkout will I buy *anything* new or used other than a new Freedom Arms '97 or '83 frame.

Ruger sometimes ships bad guns, and sometimes get owned by fools. And no, RyeDaddy, I do NOT mean you, I mean whoever shot it with a loose base pin which is most likely what caused your problem.

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