Is the Ruger New Vaquero the same size at the Colt SAA?


April 1, 2007, 12:31 PM
I know the old model Vaqueros were larger, but I have heard the new model is "close" to the same size as the SAA. But how close? Will holsters for one fit the other?

Also, can the internal lock be removed?

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April 1, 2007, 07:16 PM
The New Vaquero has been scaled back to the size of the original model Blackhawk Ruger released in the 1950s, which was just slightly bigger than the old 1873 SAA. Holsters for either should fit the other without complaint.

As for the internal lock, just don't use it. Pretend its not there.

Jim March
April 1, 2007, 07:43 PM
The New Vaq fits in all modern Colt SAA holsters. It is fractionally larger than a Colt; you'd need a very good set of inside and outside calipers to spot the differences. Of particular note: the cylinder has just a fraction more beef for safety; some reputable gunsmiths are claiming it's enough to allow 41Magnum conversions from rechambered stock 357 cylinders. This practice would be very "iffy" in a Colt 2nd/3rd gen and insane in a 1st gen.

The lock can be disabled. You have several choices.

First method:

1) Get an "Old Vaquero" length mainspring and mainspring strut, and an "Old Vaq" type mainspring "keeper". You can remove the existing mainspring, strut and lock mechanism (which acts as a "keeper") without removing the grip frame or any other parts: pull the grip panels, cock it, put any reasonably strong metal pin sideways through the strut right above the lock, and then de-cock. The mainspring and strut (with pin in place) can be removed with the pin in place.

2) Now find any pre-lock Ruger New Model with the large frame and an XR3-RED grip frame. Pull the grip panels on that gun. Measure the distance from the center pin of the hammer's "axle" to the middle of the mainspring keeper. That tells you where you need to mount the old-style keeper instead of the old lock. You're going to have to weld on the inside of the New Vaq steel grip frame to form a rest-point for the new keeper.

3) POSSIBLE alternative: mount the old-style keeper in the same place as the top of the lock. You could then use the New Vaquero-length mainspring and strut. There will still be some welding and shaping involved, as the grip frame's mount for the lock is very alien to how the keeper mount worked in pre-lock guns.

The other plan is to swap grip frames completely. Get a brass Bird's-Head or XR3-RED from Brownell's, or a Bisley, or an aluminum XR3-RED is you're trying to save weight. Add an "old vaquero" length mainspring and strut, and of course a keeper. No welding involved, and if you want a different shape grip this is the way to go. Aluminum grip frames are dirt cheap - under $30 last I checked, brand new.

Brass or aluminum grip frames are the easiest to fit with hand tools. Unfortunately there are no brass Bisley frames yet. MKTech (formerly QPR) supposedly have one in development. Also: the brass MKTech XR3-RED at Brownell's is neat because it's designed to be adjustable, all the way to Bird's-Head if you want. See also:

I am strongly considering getting the new variant MKTech XR3-RED in brass and doing my own custom pattern. It would be mostly a Birds-Head and take BH panels, but have a small extension acting as a "pinkie hook" which is also cross-drilled as a lanyard line mount. This "stub" would also form a really vicious skullcrusher point.

April 1, 2007, 08:20 PM
How does the Ruger internal lock work? How likely is it to fail and lock up the gun unintentionally.

I really hate the idea of internal locks on guns, but really have a hankering for a single action in 45 Colt.

Jim March
April 1, 2007, 09:17 PM
Open this thread in another window so you can refer to it: (use the "other mouse button" that you normally don't use much, his "open in new window" in the menu that appears.)

User "G2" posted a picture of two grip frames, assembled, with the grip panels off.

In those pics, the mainspring is coiled around the strut. The strut goes through the "keeper", seen edge-on the keeper looks like a small steel rectangle.

When the gun is cocked, the strut will be pushed deeper through the keeper's hole and the spring will compress.

The New Vaq lock (also used on the 50th Anniversary Blackhawks) replaces the keeper. Basically, when you turn the lock it blocks the strut, preventing the gun from being cocked. Since Ruger SAs load with the hammer down, you can still open the loading gate, unload and reload the gun. You just can't cock it.

The "remove the lock" instructions I gave all work by removing the lock and replacing it with the older "keeper" system. One hitch though: the lock is a longer piece than the keeper, therefore the mainspring and strut parts on the New Vaq type grip frame are a new shorter type. That's why most solutions involve replacing those. Fortunately they're dirt cheap, about $5 for the strut, $3 for the keeper and under $10 for the mainspring.


So far I have seen NO reports of the Ruger lock accidentally engaging. And as an owner of one (New Vaq 357, lock still in place) I have been watching for same very seriously, even searching the SASSNET forums every so often.

The detent between the "locked" and "unlocked" positions is very solid.

The left side factory panel isn't drilled for external access to the lock, BUT a dimple has been put in at the factory on the inside left panel. The drill bit width needed is in the manual, allowing the end user to create an external access hole if they wish to use the lock frequently.

If a gun has to wear a lock, Ruger has done it right. The lock is reliable, unobtrusive, there is a level of user choice about it via the "drill an access point if you want to" plan, and it can be completely disabled via grip frame swap as the gun was deliberately made as compatible as possible with older series parts such as the grip frame, hammer, trigger, pawl, transfer bar and more.

Even if you don't like locks, that's not a good reason to snub the New Vaq and it's cousins. The New Vaq is an interesting gun: handles like a Colt SAA but is MUCH more amenable to customization via compatibility with most of the Ruger SA product line. Mine wears a SuperBlackHawk hammer that dropped in and made the gun fit my hands and shooting style much better. I shoot "pinkie under" and the stock hammer reach was just crazy.

Bisley is also possible if you wanted to go lower.

The other two "transfer bar SAAs" (Taurus Gaucho and Beretta Stampede) don't have anywhere near as many drop-in options, and their quality control isn't as good. The New Vaq is among the best Ruger designs ever, with new manufacturing processes. A BIG change is how the cylinders are made: New Vaq cylinders are drilled one bore at a time on a machine with just one drill bit that makes all bores. The large-frame guns were made with a six-bits-at-once process and the bits weren't always identical in width. That issue has been eliminated with the New Vaq, and other changes are producing fewer "bad Monday guns". They are generally tight, right and accurate. I still recommend "the checkout" on any new gun this side of a Freedom Arms or Korth, but the New Vaq is very likely to pass and not have issues down the road.

The New Vaq also "clicks" as each cylinder bore passes the loading gate, rather than halfway as on the large-frame series.

(Everything I've said about the New Vaq also applies to it's adjustable-sight cousin, the 50th Anniversary 357 Flattop.)

One downside: real Colt SAAs use the slower half-cock load system - half-cock unlocks the loading gate. The Ruger system isn't as traditional, but it's faster - throw the loading gate open, do your unload/reload cycle, close the gate, cock it. You touch the hammer once in the Ruger cycle, twice with the Colt.

The Taurus and Beretta are half-cock guns.

April 1, 2007, 10:20 PM
I have had an 1882 vintage SAA (renickelled sometime before I got it in 1962) in .45 cal and 5 1/2" barrel, in nice shape.

A few months ago I picked up a New Vaq .45 in 4 5/8" gloss stainless just because it seemed so well made and was so good looking. Didn't bother to throw a caliper on these two guns, but I can say that from a couple of feet away they are just about indistinguishable in appearance (saving the Ruger's trigger, if you look). Even nicer, they handle exactly the same.

I did mike the throats and they came out uniformly at .4525 which is good.

Haven't shot it much, and I plan to lighten it up, but it has all the makings of a very nice gun.

Not to mention it's a helluva lot prettier than tactical plastic.

Jim March
April 1, 2007, 10:34 PM
I did mike the throats and they came out uniformly at .4525 which is good.

They will ALWAYS mike uniform now. Most are coming in at a good bore size. It appears to be easier to keep a single drill bit per cylinder making machine in good condition versus six.

April 1, 2007, 11:31 PM
Jim, where can I find a new aluminum XR3-RED grip frame?

I cant find it at Brownells.

Jim March
April 2, 2007, 10:34 AM
It's in the schematics:

$33 - it's gone up a bit, still not bad.

But damn, according to the "buy" button, out of stock.

What about Numrich:

Yeah, they stock it, same price, You want part number 473870B - the one for SuperBlackHawk is the XR3-RED in blue steel as shipped with SBHs with 5.5" or shorter barrels.

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