Ruger New Vaquero VS Ruger New Model Blackhawk


Alan Fud
February 10, 2007, 12:30 PM
I know that the original models were pretty strong but of the new models, which can handle the Buffalo Bore hot Loads?

The New Vaquero ( or the New Model Blackhawk (

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February 10, 2007, 01:09 PM
The NM Blackhawk is stronger than the slightly downsized New Vaquero. Not really sure if the New vaquero can handle Buffalo Bore rounds. If the rounds are within SAAMI specs, than either gun should.

February 10, 2007, 01:29 PM
Yep...if you are planning on shooting the hot rounds, I'd go with a Blackhawk. They are very well built.

Jim March
February 10, 2007, 04:31 PM
All Blackhawks and SuperBlackHawks post 1973 are built on the same larger 44Mag-grade frame. When set up in 45LC they can actually exceed 44Mag horsepower.

There is ONE exception: the 50th Anniversary 357 Flattop first made in 2005. That gun is an adjustable-sight version of the New Vaquero. The cylinders, base pins, ejector parts, action parts and grip assembly parts are 100% interchangeable. Both are basically the same size as the Colt SAA and ballpark similar in strength. The hot 45LC+P "Ruger ONLY!" loads cannot be used on this frame size. In 357Mag this new "mid-frame" can handle all factory 357Mag ammo including the wildest Buffalo Bore and Doubletap stuff, but if you have the larger-frame in 357 you can handload some really crazy stuff past what the mid-frames can take.

While it may be "weaker", the quality control on the new mid-frames has been consistently excellent - on average these guns are tighter and more accurate than their larger cousins. The pre-purchase inspection process on a larger-frame gun can be used to exclude "bad Monday guns" where everything is "in spec" but off in all the wrong directions, and get an above-average large-frame gun worth owning.

If you can live with the power levels available with the mid-frames, I would recommend that direction. I own a New Vaq in 357 and am very happy with it.

February 15, 2007, 10:43 AM
I did search but...
Can someone describe the difference between the <old> Blackhawk and the New Blackhawk?
There are still some Blackhawks around.
I would rather have a Redhawk in .45Colt but a Blackhawk will be easier to find and less expensive.

Jim March
February 15, 2007, 01:41 PM
Sigh. Ruger's naming convensions on the whole SA product line have gotten more and more stupid over the years.

PRE-1973 (also known as "three screw" or "old model" guns):

The "Blackhawk" was the mid-sized frame similar in heft to the Colt SAA or New Frontier. It was normally set up as a 357 and could handle 357 full-house loads. First shipped in 1955 with a "flat top" topstrap and a grip frame known as the "XR3" more or less identical in size to the Colt SAA. In the early 1960s the larger XR3-RED grip frame came along and the topstrap developed "ears" to protect the rear sight. This was the first "mid-frame" Ruger.

(Small-frame means Single Six.)

Experiments were done at Ruger on this frame in late '55 or early '56 to chamber this frame in 44Mag. It didn't work. So the upsized "SuperBlackhawk" (large-frame) was created.

POST-1973 ("New Model" or "two screw"):

The mid-frame was dropped, period. All centerfire SA revolvers by Ruger shipped on the large-frame converted to the two-screw transfer bar mechanism. (Exception: some 32Magnums were built on the small-frame.) So a 357Mag could be safely re-barreled to 44Magnum and have the original cylinder reamed bigger and the result was perfectly safe. Heat treats and metallurgy were identical across all calibers. This is also where the era of the 45LC+P came from - the guns were 44Mag-grade and could deliver equivelent power.

The term "Blackhawk" and "SuperBlackHawk" now referred only to minor differences in caliber, grip frame and hammer. The basic frames were identical and any Blackhawk could be upgraded to SBH spec or beyond.

Later the "Vaquero" was created as a fixed-sight version of the same large-frame, same strength.

All large-frame post-'73 guns can interchange cylinders, base pins, hammers, triggers, grip frames, etc.

2005: the mid-frame finally returns.

The New Vaquero and 50th Anniversary 357 Flattop are built on the same pre-'73 mid-frame as the original Blackhawk. First mistake (esp. on the New Vaq) was in the name - "Gunslinger" or whatever would have been WAY less confusing.

Second mistake with the New Vaq was in chambering it in 45LC. Gunsmiths had for years refused to chamber old model 357s in 45LC because doing so would have created a Ruger 45LC that couldn't take the monster loads. Which is exactly what you get now with a 45LC New Vaq.

Snide posts in other sub-forums have suggested that I have to be wrong about this because there's no way Ruger would create the potentially explosive confusion of creating a single weak specimen of 45LC gun among a sea of high-strength monsters. But they damned well did. See also Buffalo Bore's specific warning on this in reference to their high-powered 45LC+P ammo if you don't believe me:

Buffbore also sells lower-powered 45LC appropriate for SAA-class strength including the New Vaq - note the difference in horsepower:

Ruger should have jumped into the 44Spl with both feet. Gunsmiths have been chambering old mid-frame 357s in this caliber successfully for years. There is also a lot of speculation and (apparantly) a few successful attempts at setting up the new mid-frames in 41Magnum...apparently there is enough cylinder wall beef. I am a bit leery of this mod, esp. if very stout loads nudging 44Mag power levels are involved. True, there's more cylinder wall "beef" but...hrm.

Anyways. This is the situation we have.

The good news is, the quality control on the new mid-frame series is excellent. They're some of the best and tightest wheelguns Ruger has ever made. They took the opportunity to reengineer the manufacturing process and put it to very good use. All mid-frame cylinders are bored with a single drill bit instead of six-at-once, so variances between cylinder bores (esp. in 45LC) are eliminated. All other machine tolerances are excellent. Ruger hasn't quite hit FA quality levels but they're ahead of where they were.

If you can live with the horsepower available in the mid-frame, highly recommended.

Parts interchange:

The new mid-frame guns can still swap hammers, triggers, pawls, most assorted springs and fiddly bits, grip frames and ejector housing parts with their larger post-'73 cousins. I am told (but cannot confirm) that the barrel threads are likewise compatible, so that's one obvious source for a 41Mag or 44 (for a 44Spl) barrel if you're interested.

Cylinders and base pins are (very) different.

I don't know if pre-'73 mid-frame cylinders will fit the new mid-frames. It would be interesting to find out - some shipped with both 9mm and 357 cylinders and the 9mm cylinders turn up on EBay once in a while...

I know the base pins won't swap with pre-'73 anything.

Alan Fud
February 15, 2007, 07:08 PM
So, I guess that I can assume that the old/original Vaqueros are no longer being produced.

February 17, 2007, 12:01 AM
"So, I guess that I can assume that the old/original Vaqueros are no longer being produced."

And I much prefer the old to the new. I stopped buying (new) Vaqueros when the (new) Old models ran out. I think the new models are probably good guns...but I think I read somewhere that you're not supposed to use the "ruger only" hot factory loads in them. (?) That was enough for me. I love the old models, as well as the "new model" blackhawks.
I think the CASS crowd prefers the new, smaller size.


Jim March
February 17, 2007, 12:25 AM
Oh God. This is why Ruger's marketing department all ought to be hogtied in skunk pens for their naming conventions.


What that means is, they were designed from the get-go with transfer bar safeties. They can be identified with two cross-frame screws above the grip frame and trigger guard instead of three, and by the fact that you reload them with the hammer fully down.

It doesn't matter if they're small-frame (Single Six), mid-frame (New Vaq and 50th Anniversary 357) or large-frame ("Old Vaquero", "Blackhawk", "Bisley", "SuperBlackHawk").

There is only one mid-frame New Model Blackhawk unable to take wild-child loads: the 50th Anniversary 357 Flattop.

Trust me. Any other Blackhawk post-'73 is built on the large 44Mag frame. And these ARE still in production in several flavors: Blackhawk, Bisley, SuperBlackHawk, SBH Hunter. Dropped is the Old Vaquero 44Mag-class large frame fixed sight series. The production runs of large-frame 357s may be reduced some as Ruger will expect a lot of 357 buyers to opt for mid-frame guns. And such buyers in my opinion should: the gun is handier and made on a more modern process with higher average QC.

The "Old Models" pre-'73 were not intented originally to have transfer bar safeties. A setup for adding one was thunked up after the fact - after some lawsuits and accidents - and done as a free retrofit. But it was a bit of a "hack". The New Model was the real solution and also strengthened the action and lockwork parts considerably. You really don't want an "old model" unless you want to have the original no-safety-at-all system retrofitted back on.

February 17, 2007, 09:08 PM

Was the short life of the three-screw .45 LC Blackhawk due to changes for the 'New' Blackhawk such as the Transfer Bar? Geez, they made the older version (.45 LC) less than two years? Guess that was due to the late introduction of the three-screw BH in that caliber?


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